Monday, October 10, 2011

Birthday weekend

(Consisting of Friday 7th & Saturday 8th Oct...)

On Friday morning we went into London again, this time going straight to Leicester Square to try and get cheap tickets to Legally Blonde the musical that night. Janet & Caitlin were happy to come see it again, & Rose was going to come in just to see it - for the 3rd time; unfortunately we had to get 2 groups of 2 tickets in the upper circle, but it turned out fine.

I was possibly going to be meeting Gen from VET last year that day as she was travelling with 2 friends and was heading home on Tues, but that didn't end up working out :( We headed to Portobello Rd though and spend a good 2 hours making our way up the market. G & J bought me a pair of earrings I was going to get as a present, and I finally made it up to Janet for her birthday by getting her a couple of pairs of cute studs, and a single tiny feather stud for myself. I also ended up with a huge floral dress - yep, the kind I got lots of a couple of years back and altered - plus a bright pink blazer type thing I'm not sure I'll ever wear but I couldn't not get it for £3, a lambswool light blue jumper which was very welcome later on in the day when the sun faded, and a flowery sheer shirt thing from an actual shop. Janet also found a really nice white cardigan with pearls on the front on a £2 rack, which I was a bit jealous of.

We got lunch on the way up the road, I had a fairly average olive/rocket/sundried tomato/mozzarella roll & the others got felafel wraps. After all our shopping we headed back, stopping in a frozen yoghurt place Alex & I went to in summer, and sat in there for a good while, just needing to relax for a bit. We're still getting back into working mode even though it's been a few weeks since holidays, and we could barely contemplate doing anything else.

We ended up going to Green Park where we knew there was a Starbuck's we could sit in, although the first one was too crowded so we had to find another. We literally sat in there for 2 hours, the others bought drinks and we just sat and/or read.

Eventually we headed towards Chinatown & got dinner at the Vietnamese restaurant we went to on our first Friday this term, and again it didn't disappoint. Still not sure quite what the 'soya bean drink' I got was, most likely just soy milk.

We met Rose at Leicester Square, got her some food then made our way to the Savoy Theatre. It's actually a huge hotel, and there were loads of groups of women all dressed up for their night at the theatre. We went up to the grand circle, as they call it, we had to work out who would sit with me in the middle, while the other 2 were a row back right on the left. Fairly, Rose sat with me and even though we were high up, they were still good seats (for £23.50). Anyway, I LOVED it! I'd been listening to the soundtrack for a good 2 weeks straight (and still am) and it was really good to know the songs. I eventually got a program, as they ran out quickly, as a memento.

After the show, we took the train back and went to the flat via Highlands to get dressed and went out! It was a lot later than we've ever gone, since we got back about midnight and didn't leave till 1am or so, but it was still fun. The girls got me a birthday shout-out from the DJ which was nice :)

I was working in the morning of my actual birthday, the Saturday. The boarders sang happy birthday to me in the house, then at breakfast, then again back at the house - Amanda sent me off to do some photocopying at school and when I came back they were all in the common room and started singing and there was a cake and cards. It was so cute! We spent the rest of the morning making clay pots, Georgie was over helping as it was Open Day, and colouring in patterns for our Diwali Festival-themed service this sunday.

I went to lunch, and then I was off work so I skyped Mum & Dad, and had a nap for a bit as I wasn't feeling very well. I went back over to the flat and Georgie, Aisling, Rose, Em and I went down to town to have an early-ish dinner and see a movie. I was hoping we could go Zizzi's, an Italian place Sam & Amanda had recommended, but they were booked out so we ended up at the 'New York Italian' place called Frankie & Benny's up near the cinema. It was so. good! I got cannelloni and the others all enjoyed their pizza/pasta/steak/bruschetta. We also got 'the godfather' dessert to share which consisted of ice-cream, cream, brownie bits, malt balls, chocolate & toffee sauces. YUM!

We went and saw Midnight in Paris, which was good since I've now been there and recognised a lot of the shots, especially from the first 2-minute montage. We all mostly liked it, in a Woody-Allen kind of way. Then we headed back up the hill, and guess what was waiting at the flat for me? Well, apart from Louisa?! A whole lot of chocolate, a cake and more pressies, organised by the boarding gaps who'd all been working! I can't say it was exactly a surprise, as we've done it for everyone on their birthday, but it was so nice! Except, as usual, I ate too much chocolate in many different varieties. But it was my birthday, so it was okay.

So basically, I had a great birthday - thanks girlies!

Thursday 7th

Had a great day last Thursday in London meeting up with Sue & Charlotte (& Paul eventually), neighbours from home. I'm really glad I've been going more to London since summer, but wish I'd done it from the start of the year!

I met Sue and then Charlotte outside Topshop at Oxford Circus, which I realised I'd never actually been to! Sue went to a shop I can't remember the name of and Charlotte & I spent half an hour wandering through the 3 floors of Topshop. It is seriously huge and amazing; if only I had lots of money to spare (I have decided I'll get myself something there for my birthday though). Charlotte ended up getting a really nice skirt after we met Sue again, and even got a student discount with my international student card. I may have encouraged the purchase and mentioned that I would be borrowing it when I get home. Also, I'm glad I wore my heeled boots today, since Charlotte would definitely now be taller than me without them. Unfair.

We wandered a bit along Oxford St/Circus until we got to Rathbone St and a little cafe/lunch place that had been recommended to them for coffee. I had butternut & coconut soup and a delicious rich, deep (I can't think of the right word but it was damn good!) hot chocolate, then we shared a piece of what we thought was sponge cake but was actually kinda boring non-sponge.

We found a nearby tube station and went to Liverpool St for Spitalfields Market. I'd gone there (well, the 'old' market) back in June or so and hadn't found it particularly interesting - basically just stalls of unknown designers, most of which didn't interest me. But I discovered today there was a whole part I hadn't been to, and even the part I had been to was totally different today! Within a couple of stalls I got orange shaggy denim high-waisted shorts - £7 as the zip is totally busted, but they're still fantastic - and these 70s-inspired sunglass frames with 6 different-coloured lenses for £20. So good! Charlotte found a dress for her friend, Sue got a scarf & they also found a bamboo t-shirt of the 'up-and-coming band' Sex Pandas Against The Masheen (their producer/stall keeper told us to look them up on facebook) for Tim. Overall, we all loved it, even though a lot of the stalls were just full of junk. There was an old camera stall as well that Charlotte & I hung around for a while, wishing film & development weren't so expensive.

We took the train to meet Paul & Charlotte's friend Claire at Marble Arch, then got back on the train and had a very brief goodbye as they went on to Abbey Rd and I headed back to Marylebone to catch the train back to High Wycombe to work.

Monday, October 3, 2011


Last weekend was our second last EXEAT (weekend off) and we headed off to Brighton, but more on that later...

On Friday Janet, Caitlin & I went to Cambridge for the day! We caught a train into London at 8.30am, then got ourselves to King's Cross to get a 45 min train out there. We found a bus to the city centre from the station then wandered towards the tourist info centre via Market Square, where the daily Cambridge Market was being held. On the way we stopped in an amazing shop called Ark. I literally loved everything in there, even though the few jumpsuits I tried on looked better on the hanger. I even went back at the end of the day for a cute cropped t-shirt I'd tried on.

At the market we had a look around & got a few things - juice, dried banana, cake (banana, honey, date & walnut) and studs/ear cuffs. We found the tourist info centre and decided to book a punting tour, which are flat-bottomed boats that take up all the little rivers in Cambridge. Then we went to find a veg restaurant for lunch which had been in a couple of guides. Caitlin enjoyed her enchilada but unfortunately the spinach, tomato & cottage cheese lasagne Janet & I both got was a little boring. I'd also already filled up on cake so that probably didn't help.

The restaurant was right across from King's College so we decided to go there next. We had to walk around to another entrance for tickets/admittance and it was pretty warm by this stage; it was meant to be 28! And it's been around 26 every day since then! It feels like the start of Summer not the end!

We headed inside the chapel, which was of course beautiful but I think these things are wearing off on me a bit. Then we had a little walk around the grounds, got mistaken for 'freshers' which was pretty exciting, and got told off for standing 'on the grass or where the grass would be if people like us didn't stand there'. Geez, I was just taking a photo of the other 2.

So we got out of the grounds and found the punting place. The ride was nice and relaxing, and not too hot as it was on-and-off under the shade of trees. We saw a bunch of the colleges along the river, Kings again, Queens, Trinity, St John's (whose clocktower is missing its clock as they ran out of money) and probably some others. We also went under the mathematical bridge, which is made up of no curved pieces of wood, & the Bridge of Sighs, which is named after the Bridge of Sighs in the Doge's Palace in Venice, but is a little less serious than prisoners taking their last breath. Our tour guide/punting guy had such a posh accent, we loved it. Can't believe this is pretty much the pastime of the students there - there were people in their punts just drinking and bumping into the sides, and others sitting on the grass on the riverbank, just relaxing. There was also a bride and groom taking a ride. Basically, living in a uni town would be amazing, especially one with rivers.

We headed back to the centre of town, on the way passing St Catharine's College (I took a photo for you mum), a musical bin (a busker who had somehow got himself inside it and just had his arm/guitar neck sticking out) and Jesus Lane. I got a fairly crappy hot chocolate from a 'Chocolate House' then we saw the Round Church and walked past St John's again. We got Camille a birthday present, I got my t-shirt then we caught the bus back to the station and caught the train back; this time it took an hour 20 min with lots of people and stopping - gotta love peak hour. We all eventually got seats though, plus Hamish & Andy and Legally Blonde music (which I am hopefully seeing next week for my birthday!) kept me entertained.

We ended up getting back about 8.10pm and went up to the flat, then went to bed about 11pm.

On Saturday some of the gals got up at 5am to watch the AFL grand final but I had to work 8am-2.30pm so I wasn't so keen. Had a pretty chilled out time, just getting the girls outside to enjoy the sun while it lasts. In the night, Aisling, Janet & I were thinking of going out as it's been a few weeks, but in the end decided against it and instead got takeaway (I got a vegie burger wrap) and watched The Breakfast Club, so it was a nice night.

Had yesterday morning off and then in the afternoon I supervised all the girls decorating masks they made Saturday afternoon for a competition, unfortunately not out in the sun, but in the art room :(

Currently planning our trip to Stockholm & Copenhagen in 3 weeks, possibly staying in a hostel which is a boat in Stockholm! And I cannot believe it is already October, home in 2 and a half months!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Markets, Mexican & a musical

We went into London for the day again yesterday. Left a bit later than last week, and by the time we took 3 underground trains to Camden Town it was already something like 11.30am. I LOVE the Camden area, it's so funky and really different from inner London. We explored the market and the stalls along the way; Janet & I both bought dresses for about £12... I tried mine on last night, it is so tight across the chest I honestly don't know who it could fit. But we'll see how we go.

Alex & I had come to Camden when she was here so I sort of knew it, and I took the others to the foody area along the river/canal, where you fill a box with whatever Japanese/Indian/Chinese you want for £4 or £5. I got a vegie burrito this time with chickpeas on the side; so filling, I was not even hungry by the time dinner came around! Anyway, so we sat in pretty much the same place Alex & I had, on the edge of the river then explored the smaller market area there. I finally bought a belly ring! I haven't taken my original out since I got it done almost 2 years ago, and I'm a little scared to in case I can't get it back in.

We headed over the road where there were more of the same food places plus lots of (semi) permanent places selling cool things. We came across 'The Stables' which you would've loved Dad, all these horse statues at the entrance to another market-y section. I'm kinda regretting not getting a pair of round tortoise-shell sunnies but oh well.

We took the tube straight to Leicester Square to find out about shows. Most of the good discounted ones were sold out (we need to go much earlier next time) and we ended up with tickets for Jersey Boys.

We sought out a Maccas to make use of a free toilet and a place to relax for a bit, then Janet went to find a park to sleep in again & we went off in the direction of the Tate. While walking to Green Park for the tube station, we turned into Regent St instead of continuing down Picadilly (sounds like a Monopoly game, hey?) and decided we couldn't be bothered looking at art and just felt like a wander. The buildings in this street seemed extra big and grand (forgot to mention, I didn't have my camera as all my memory cards were still full from Summer, but it wasn't too bad, just a little lighter than usual!). We stopped in Zara just to see if they had anything more than the High Wycombe store, then in this big toy store called Hamleys, as they had all this Harry Potter stuff in the window. The main attraction was that they sold all the characters' wands, with or without illuminated tip.

We turned up Carnaby Street, which was a bit quieter than being on the main road. We needed a coffee break so we found an expensive-ish cafe called the Garden Cafe, which we thought would have a garden out the back. It didn't but our hot chocolates/teas weren't too bad.

We headed back to Chinatown to meet Janet for dinner. Apparently the place they ate at last time for dinner was disappointing, but we ended up next door, and not even sure what ethnicity it was. I just had a soup which was nice and a little bit of Caitlin's huge fried rice (poet right here). Then we went on a search for the theatre, the Prince Edward. Greer left to go back and we sat in the bar for 20 mins or so until the doors opened.

I can't quite work out if or how much I liked Jersey Boys. It was definitely different from other musicals, as they didn't just burst into song to tell the story, they only sang songs as actual 'performances' like in their real life story. I also hated the main guy's voice, I know it's meant to be high but it was just so harsh. I'd like to know if Frankie Valli's voice was actually that unlikeable. I was bopping along by the end of it though.

We headed back as soon as it finished and got back just after 11pm, then went straight to bed.

This morning I was half planning to go for a run but I was just so exhausted I stayed in bed till 10.30am. I started work at 12.30pm, and the afternoon's activity was decorating flower-shaped photo frames, which are going to hold portraits of the girls I've been taking over the last few days. We haven't done much else, but now we're watching Megamind and eating popcorn (Caitlin brought me back some chocolate popcorn from Tesco in town which I discovered the other day when Janet & I went to see Friends With Benefits). Tomorrow we head to a safari park, so that should be good, even if exhausting.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

First weekend of final term

Had a fairly good weekend. I worked Saturday morning and for 'Saturday Morning Club' (like a creative class) we got the girls to find pictures in magazines/off the internet of things they liked and make collages, then cut the collage into the shape of another favourite thing. We were actually really impressed with some of them. Don't know if I mentioned at the start of the year, but the art done by the girls at this school is just amazing, so above the standard you would expect from up-to-14 year olds. We didn't really get up to much else, lunch came and my shift ended :)

I went down to town with Aisling, we just did a bit of a Primark jewellery scavenge and ended up with a couple of things each. Speaking of jewellery, one of my girls from last year who's now in an older house gave me a ring the other day, which she thought was 'really my style' and I love it. So sweet!

We headed into the shopping centre and came across some random fashion show. We watched a few struts then moved on. It was a bit rainy so we headed for Tesco, got some drinks in case we decided to go out (we didn't). On the way to get a taxi (hey, alcohol is heavy) we popped into a new place where everything is £10 or under and I got yet another skirt and Aisling got a top for £5 each. Score! And obviously a trip into town isn't complete without a visit to Poundworld, and I was not disappointed - came out £2 poorer with 2 packs of Halloween false nails!

I tried to clean my room for over an hour then headed over to the flat to join Aisling and Rose, with my bed completely covered with piles of random crap. We watched How I Met Your Mother and Friends and just generally chilled. I stayed over since I couldn't be bothered going back at any stage.

This morning I slept till 10am then went for a run. I know! I'd brought all my running gear over with me last night to motivate myself. It wasn't my best run ever but even the fact that I'm actually out there is, in itself, an accomplishment. Came back and did some stretches, showered, put washing on and tried to fix up my room a bit. Productive morning :)

I started work at lunch time. Lunch was sunday roast as usual, or for us vegetarians, lentil/potato bake. After lunch we had a bit of a relax, the girls did what they wanted, etc. Then we went over to school and played games with the other houses. There were some getting-to-know-you games, which I needed too, considering there are so many new girls! Our new ones are settling in pretty well, apart from the occasional homesickness. They also had to mummify a member of their groups - they looked so good all lined up, wrapped in toilet paper, with jewellery/glasses/lipstick for added effect - and answer some quizzes. Hardly any groups knew the capital of Australia and even less put down Aus as one of the continents. Very disappointed.

Then we had a surprise birthday dinner for Amanda, whose milestone birthday was a couple of weeks ago, in the holidays. It didn't work quite as well as we'd hoped, we weren't quite ready when she came in but it was still good. Dinner itself wasn't that special but Sam had made yummy cupcakes for the staff for dessert. I gave Amanda my present when we got back, 'birthday biscuits' from Fortnum & Mason. A few of the girls decided to raid the dress-up cupboard and came in in scary masks/fluro construction worker vests/silly hats and I ended up with a Santa ho ho ho hat on.

Summer still to come :)

Friday, September 9, 2011

London 090911

Just got back from a day in London, I have to work for a couple of hours tonight (normally our day off) which is disappointing as the others - Janet, Caitlin & Greer - are still there & are seeing Legally Blonde the musical tonight.

We arrived in London about 10.30am and headed for Picadilly Circus, where Caitlin knew of an Australian illustrator's exhibition happening in a little studio. I took them into Fortnum & Mason on the way, where I'd gone with Mum & Dad last week, and is like a less busy/smaller Harrod's. The exhibition was mainly of Shaun Tan, who's from Perth but works in Melbourne, but also some other childrens' illustrators, my fave being Shirley Hughes, who did Alfie and Annie Rose. I got a little bit excited reliving one of my favourite book series as a kid. There were a couple of Wallace & Gromit images in there too.

We went to chinatown and ate at the first place we came across, a Vietnamese restaurant. We were all pretty hungry and were glad the food came quickly. It was really good too, we were all very satisfied. I had rice/vegies/tofu which was actually called 'vegetarian on rice'. Glad it was just a translation error. We were talking about food places in Melbourne Central & QV and this guy at the table behind was like 'are you from Melbourne?' He was flying home tonight, turns out he's actually on Angry Boys, which none of us have seen yet, and was doing promotions over here for a few days. Cool story, huh?

We headed to Leicester Square to get the girls cheap tickets for the show and on the way came across M&M's World! I'd seen a few people carrying around yellow bags from there and was keen to see it for myself. It was basically walls of colour-separated overpriced M&M's, lots of squishy cushions of different coloured M&M's, different toys like M&M's flying a plane, a slot machine, t-shirt with cute things like 'Who's your candy?', big figures of princess/royal/other M&M's, personalised bracelets/keyrings/jewellery (weird right?) and lots more. We were a bit like kids in a candy store - oh, I guess that's exactly what we were - but because of prices didn't get anything.

We realised we hadn't visited platform 9 3/4 yet so we took the tube to King's Cross. There's a little hideout kind of thing, with half a trolley sticking out of the wall so we took a few photos before a big family came. Yay!

We were all getting a bit tired so headed to Green Park and had a bit of a relax. Then we went to Starbuck's, where Caitlin got coffee and we made use of a free toilet then tried to find a Maccas for a shared wanting of McFlurry. We walked past about 5 'Pret's & 2 more Starbucks' and only found our destination when we got back to Picadilly Circus! 3 of us got the limited addition Cookie Crumble Galaxy McFlurry and then sat downstairs for a bit. It was mainly my feet in new, slightly heeled boots rather than tiredness but we all wanted to sit. Pretty sad. It was 4pm, Janet went to find a park to relax in, the others headed back to Tr. Square to get obligatory shots with/of the big lions and I came back here.

So we didn't really actually get much done but still it was exhausting. We're all agreed on making the most of our time off this term, mostly to London but next time we have to have more of a plan!

I will try and do a brief overview of summer very soon... which was FANTASTIC by the way!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Last Friday, Greer, Caitlin & I met at 5am (I woke at 3:50am) to catch the first train from High Wycombe at 5:32am to go to Wimbledon! Caitlin & I had made a couple of yummy salad and mozzarella rolls the day before to take for lunch, plus snacks like peanuts (which we can't eat openly at school because of allergies amongst the girls), sultanas and apples. It sounds healthy when I write it like that...

As we walked to the station we were pretty excited - it was so light already, I was in shorts due to the nice weather the last couple of days, and we even saw the cute sight of a man dropping off glass milk bottles to people's front doors! We bought train tickets from the machine for the first time, since no-one was up that early to sell them to us. From Marylebone, we caught a train to Waterloo, then onto Wimbledon. Something I'd printed out which was supposed to show us the journey told me it'd take 28 minutes to Waterloo even though it was only about 4 stops. Luckily it didn't take nearly that long. At Wimbledon station there was a little stall set up where the man and woman inside called out to us 'going to the tennis?' then gave us the advice 'there's a good way to get there and a bad way: the bus is more expensive and doesn't get you to the back of the queue and the taxi is cheaper and gets you right at the end of the queue' so obviously we took the taxi (£2.50 each) after collecting some info from them.

The taxi ride was probably less than 10 minutes. We headed in the direction everyone was going and had our first glimpse of 'the queue'. So. Many. People. We followed directions to sit/stand in one line for over an hour, then we all moved and sat/stood in another line for a long time. Finally we started on the final movement towards the grounds, which was a long slow walk. Security checked our bags (luckily they didn't pull out the bigger of Greer's 2 Aussie flags as there was a size restriction) and then we finally got to the ticket sellers and bought our grounds passes! By the time we'd got in it was 11:30am and we'd arrived at 7:30am. Luckily it was beautiful and sunny most of that waiting time.

Games didn't start until 12 noon (that's weird, right? They start in the morning at the Aus Open, don't they?) so we looked at the Order of Play and then went and found the court where Hewitt/Luczak would be playing the second game, and where Aussie Jessica Moore was playing doubles in the first game. That was a pretty weak game all round and Moore & her partner lost. Casey Dellaqua and another Aussie were playing on the court behind so when the people in the row behind us vacated their seats, I moved back and had a view of both courts. Dellaqua's game was pretty bad too, I don't think I saw a rally the whole time I watched. The courts were really cute and intimate though, only 3 rows of seats on each side. You could see (and hear!) the crowd for centre court from where we were sitting. Oh how I wished I was part of it. Usually it's around January every year I get nostalgic about Tennis, when the Aus Open is on, but this year it was in June.

The Hewitt game was much better, the Germans they were playing against were really good, especially one's serve! The Aussie boys came out with their backwards caps of course, and it was really funny when they were letting each other know whose ball it was - 'yours mate' could be heard by everyone. We heard 'come on' a couple of times too, and not just from Hewie; the German got into it too. Unfortunately our boys lost that one too.

We'd already started eating our food during those 2 games, and then we went to check who was playing elsewhere. We bought our strawberries and cream which were yummm, and only £2.50 so not totally ridiculously expensive. We wandered around to court 3, the biggest one that ground pass holders can see, where Tomic was finishing his game from the day before, but there was even a queue there to get in and we had no chance.

We found the court where Sam Stosur was playing doubles against Jankovic, which was also a good game, and Stosur WON! These woman are so strong, just watching their serves, shots and muscles! Stosur's partner was really smiley and Sam even gave a little bit at one stage. The losers were also really gracious and friendly at the end. As we headed away from the court, Sam was signing autographs/taking photos and I just missed out! So shattered. Literally one girl caught her before she totally got away but I didn't want to be too harassing.

Anyway so then we checked out court 3 again, where Monfils was now playing but we were told we had pretty much no chance to get in. So we looked at the game schedule again and saw that there were some singles games on another court (I was kind of sick of doubles by this time). We queued again (pretty much my life on this day), and the weather got horrible and started raining. People started coming out from the court in ones and twos but there were 3 of us so no good. Then they covered the courts to keep them dry and eventually we got in but only to decide that that game was definitely not being finished that day. The guys who controlled who went in and out were from the fire brigade and I think they had to be there as part of work and were told nothing about whether the game was ever going to be restarted. So we waited for a bit once we got in, put the Aussie flags on to keep dry/warm and then headed back out, via the shop. The cashier looked at my flag and said 'you're not going to see Murray by any chance?'. Um, no. There is more to this flag than a Union Jack, lady!

On the way out of the grounds one of the workers told us we shouldn't have been let in with a flag that big, but whatcha gonna do. We caught a double-decker back to Wimbledon station, through Wimbledon town which looks quite cute, then caught the trains back. We were pretty tired by this stage and by the time we got back it was about 9:30pm and raining as we walked up the hill. Pretty much had a shower and went straight to bed at 10:30pm. Good day though.

All the gaps between Turkey and last Friday will hopefully be filled in before I head off for Summer, next Friday 8th July to Athens!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Turkey part 2

So, after that crazy night we woke up at 7am on Saturday 23rd April. J & I both felt pretty horrible, although Janet managed to make up some funny little songs while packing - with a bogan accent rhyming 'today' with 'me' and other things like that. I'm glad I wrote that down to remember actually... We had breakfast about 8am - just felt like basic stuff: cornflakes, plain bread, and stupidly a boiled egg and a piece of cheese.

We left about 8:45am (with me managing to throw up on the bus, over all my stuff but thankfully not on anyone else) for Pergamon, another ancient city which we had to take a cable car up to. It went really high, a bit scary but really amazing views. We saw more cats up the top. We had fantastic views the whole time we were up there, walking around through ruins, discovering a gorgeous lake from high above it. Also another huuuuge theatre. We took the cable car back down after a couple of hours.

We stopped at a restaurant/service station area for lunch, where I got a cheese and tomato pide for 10TL. I regretted that, though, when others got a yummy-looking buffet of rice and vegie sauces for 15TL which ended up being 12TL because a lot of the food was apparently gone by the time we arrived. Obviously I wasn't feeling so sick by this time (although nothing keeps me from yummy food)!

Our next stop was the ex-Greek island of Cunda (Choonda) just as I was falling asleep on the bus. I'm thinking we either must have gotten on a ferry or gone across a bridge. Probably the bridge. It was absolutely gorgeous. There were little market stalls (the ring and bracelet I got both broke that day, but fixable, but the vendor wouldn't give me a discount on another broken ring), restaurants along the water, and a few boats - SO. PRETTY! I have a couple of photos from this place that are possibly the best of the whole trip.

We arrived at our hotel about 7pm (I can't remember where - the itinerary says Bergama but that doesn't really ring a bell), with 5 people in each room this time so I was with Janet, Caitlin, Rose and Kate. I washed my clothes that I'd thrown up on (lovely, huh?)and tried to make them dry by hanging them outside. This was the coldest place we'd been though so not much luck there. We half-packed our day packs for the next day - night at Galipoli - and enjoyed the fact that there were hammocks outside and we were right on the beach again.

We went down to the fancy-schmancy dining room where individual bowls of beans and salad were already on the tables. Then we got our soup (with Janet making animal noises and gestures to ask if it was vegetarian - even though the Turkish word for vegetarian is very similar and we didn't get why he didn't understand!) and vego meal of rice and chips and tomato/cucumber. The desserts sat in front of us for the whole meal - sweet balls of deliciousness which made me so full!

We went back to our rooms, finished packing, walked to the beach to have a look with Caitlin. Had a horrible shower with no light in the bathroom, the showerhead wouldn't stay up so had to hold it the whole time and NO hot water. Slept don't know what time.


The next 2 days are kinda mixed together because I didn't get much sleep. On Sunday 24th April we got up at 7am after a freeeeezing night when no-one slept very well. For breakfast I had 2 pieces of toast (on an ingenious toaster which you put the bread onto a rotating grate and the bread falls through at the end), honey, feta, more cheese, Nesquik (!), olives.

We left at 8.15am, stopping at Troy for a bit, where we saw 4000 year old ruins, a fake Trojan horse which we took photos in the windows of, etc.

Then we drove on and stopped at a shopping centre/supermarket to get food for lunch and dinner that night, breakfast the next morning and possibly lunch the next day. We were to be at Galipoli for the ANZAC dawn service that night. So I bought really healthy stuff like a loaf of bread, Nutella to share, biscuits with Smartie-type things, Snickers & Twix (it was Easter after all although there were no eggs anywhere!), pretzels, corn cakes, pesto to share, bananas and apples. For lunch I bought a huge (didn't realise it would be that big) baked potato with cheese, corn, olives and carrot which was absolutely delish.

We drove about 15 minutes, then onto a ferry for another 15 mins then a bit longer to Galipoli on the other side. Once we arrived we were in a big bus queue so we had to wait a while. We eventually got out, got our bus number tags and walked along the unmade road to a grassy area near the entrance. It was something like 2pm but we weren't going to be let in till 6pm - but you needed to get there early to be near the front of the line to claim a big enough spot for 300 Topdeck travellers. We sat on the grass for a while, it was really sunny so stripped down to t-shirts and cranked out the sunscreen. The portaloos around the place were horrible; I managed to grab a bunch of toilet seat covers thinking they were paper hand towels and then had nowhere to put them, whoops.

We started lining up at the entrance gate eventually, only to be totally squished, have to squish even more for trucks to come through the crowd, and eventually be told NO-ONE THROUGH TILL 6PM so we sat back down only after being promised chocolate cake by one of the workers. I lost my thumb ring at some stage, I think when I was heading to the toilet and took off my rings before I went. Devo :( I also lost my Murano pendant and a Turkish bracelet the first night out in Kusadasi, not doing well.

We 'lined up' again about 5:15pm and the gates were opened a bit before 6, so slowly though, about 8 people let through at a time for security checks. We picked up arm bands and info packs then rushed to find the hopefully awesome spot that other Topdeck-ers had claimed. We weren't right at the front where apparently we normally would be but they'd laid out a big tarp so we quickly jumped on a bit of that.

We sat, ate, walked around, gradually building up our layers again as the sun went down. Everyone got into their sleeping bags and I was freezing and upset since I didn't have one (couldn't fit it in my backpack). Caitlin had brought some 'space blankets' though so we shared those although they ripped and didn't do much for the temperature.

I think music and things started about 8pm, possibly some before that. Some woman with a great voice kept returning with the Aus/NZ orchestras every now and then. Documentaries on the big screens started something like 9:30pm. Everyone started going to sleep, hoping to be semi-awake for when the dawn service came around. I got about an hour's sleep then woke up freezing and decided that trying anymore was just not worth it.

I went with a couple of women next to me to see a Today Show reporter (Sarah Harris I have discovered) interviewing a few people. Pretty sure I was in the background of a lot of the filming but had no time to let anyone in Aus know to turn on the TV. It was really hard to get back to my sleeping spot without stepping on lots of sleeping people, but I was warmer from standing anyway. I found Rose awake and we just walked back and forth along the road for a couple of hours just trying to stay warm. A young Turkish worker even asked for a photo with Rose, just a little bit funny. While we were still up and walking, a random film came on the screen which looked like a really bad movie trailer but we couldn't work it out.

Eventually everyone was told to wake up and we saw the speeches from the Prime Ministers. Then we saw picture and heard descriptions of ANZACs who had died, the youngest being 15 years 10 months plus mainly 18-23 year olds which was very sad. I didn't really cry though which I was very surprised about, considering my tired state. Following were speeches, odes, the Aus, NZ and Turkish national anthems, 2 minutes silence and The Last Post.

The sun had really started coming up at this point and it was now definitely into Monday 25th April, ANZAC day. It was still really cold, most people packed up and got ready to head up the road for the memorial services. As you can imagine, the line for the toilets was ridiculous but moved quite quickly, thank God. We started walking towards Lone Pine, where the Australian service would be held, and saw a few pretty beachside cemeteries on the way, with flowers around and between all the graves. Caitlin found her ancestor's grave in the first one. Continuing walking, now uphill, we all ended up with really burnt faces. We got to the Shell Beach cemetery - something about a famous cricket game there? - and eventually got to Lone Pine. It was a bit of a tiring walk, but that definitely added to the feeling of empathy towards the soldiers who had walked the same route 96 years before us. We found a spot on the grass in front of the stands and the orchestra was already playing, although we were a bit early. The ceremony started at 10:05am; I lay down with my knees still up but ashamedly I kept falling asleep - and waking up to every applause. We heard the same kind of things as at the Dawn Service - the anthem, silence, Last Post plus a couple of emotional poems.

We started towards Chunuk Blair (the site of the NZ service) where the buses would collect us from. It was a long steep walk, with a couple more cemeteries along the way; this time Rose found her ancestor's grave. We got stopped for a few minutes at the Turkish memorial site then headed onwards and upwards. I power walked the last 10 minutes or so and was hot and sweaty by the time we reached our destination. The grandstand for the service was crowded so we found someone with a big Topdeck flag and sat outside on the grass. We finished most of our food as it was lunchtime by now. Try Nutella and banana in a roll, so yum. Definitely ate too much Nutella overall though.

Our whole group eventually came together and we waited for bus 384 to be called out. Tolga said we'd be third but we weren't... as we drove away, though, we could see hundreds of buses still lined up on the other side of the hill so we did pretty well.

On the bus we had a competition - we paid 1TL to guess what time we'd arrive and the closest person would win all the money. It was 2:08pm and I had absolutely no idea, I ended up being about an hour and half off. We stopped a couple of times for the toilet - I can proudly say I squatted a total of twice the whole trip. I fell asleep a couple of times; Old School and Eurotrip were put on but I didn't see much of either.

We arrived back in Istanbul at 7:34pm and Felicity/Flick (christened Flaps at the start of the tour) won the munnay. Everyone grabbed bags, went inside the hotel (same one as start of tour), got room keys and headed up. There was no real group goodbye which was a bit sad. We had showers then went downstairs to say bye to some people heading out for final drinks - I think we were just tooo tired. We got free baklava from the hotel which was nice. We got to sleep about 11:15pm.


So that was basically the end of the tour. But Caitlin, Janet and I were staying a few extra days in Istanbul. On Tuesday 26th April we got up at 8:45am, got dressed and went down to breaky. Not that many people from our group were down there so not many goodbyes :( Delicious breaky but ate too much as usual - chocolate chip bread, olives, cheeses, more bread, yoghurt and fruit syrup, different corn flake-type cereal. We went out and sat in the lobby with Kasia for a bit, hoping to see some more of the group to say goodbye to, but hardly saw any.

We went up to our room, packed our stuff then headed to Georgie, Aisling & Kate's room which G, A and Rose managed to book for that night as well, lucky ducks.

J, C & I walked to our hostel, a good 40 minutes or so (near the restaurants we'd gone the first couple of nights) which was hard with a heavy backpack. The receptionists pretended they didn't speak English at first, thought it was pretty funny. They were actually really nice though, let us leave our bags, gave us maps and things.

We walked back to the hotel to meet the others and then we all went to the Grand Bazaar again. We went via some Turkish baths but they wouldn't do facials without the whole service. I bought some cushion covers for home, bracelets for friends and we all randomly got given free African scarves at a shop where Aisling and Georgie bought awesome hippy pants. We wandered through the bazaar, bought a few things (jewels mostly), got outside and ate at the same place we had the week before. As Kate said, it was like a circle, that we started and ended doing the same thing but we saw a whole lot of Turkey in between. Kind of weird to think about actually, it was crazy that we'd been gone that long!

Kate left to relax, catch a taxi and then fly back to London town and we went back in the bazaar. We said goodbye to G, A & R, they went back to the hotel and we went to check in at our hostel. We had an 8 bed dorm, I lay on the bottom bunk for a while before the others told me I was on the top, whoopsy. We relaxed for a couple of hours, using the wifi, etc., then went to meet any others from the tour who were still in Istanbul in the same area as those restaurants. We sat in the 2nd storey of a shisha bar on cushions which was a nice atmosphere. Some people bought drinks then most of us headed out for dinner not too far away. We got free apple tea and puffy Turkish bread and I had a veg pizza. The view from the top of the restaurant was of the mosques lit up against the sky, again just like Disneyland. I got charged less for my pizza than thought so that was a nice end to the meal.

We went back to the bar, some people had left but we filled out 2 circles of cushions. A couple of fish bowls were drunk (that sounds really weird - we all drunk a couple of 'fish bowls'). A lot of the cocktails were brought out with sparklers which was cool.

We eventually headed across the road to where we'd had drinks on our second night in Istanbul but it was midnight - and therefore closing! Some more of our tour was there so we said goodbye and to others who were now next door to the bar.

We found that our hostel was literally a 1 minute walk away - it took us 15 on the way there because we thought we had to go all the way around the mosque, no thanks to the guys working at our hostel! Still, I found the fact pretty funny. We all had showers then got to bed about 1:30am.


I pressed snooze a few times on my alarm on Wednesday 27th April, got up at 9:20am, dressed, headed upstairs to the 'rooftop terrace' for breakfast. Had yummy brown bread with 2 cheeses and tomato, egg, dried apricots, chocolate cake (what's with having dessert for breakfast in Turkey?), muesli with yoghurt and delish fruity syrup stuff. We checked out the view outside - over the sea and the mosques but with lots of ugly being-renovated or needing-renovation buildings in between plus lots of cats as usual.

We went back down to our room for a relax (still recovering from no sleep at Galipoli) and journal sesh. The workers started making beds so I followed Janet and Caitlin back upstairs to the terrace, and used the wifi and computers up there. The workers were cooking something for lunch and it smelt reeally good. After eating too much of Caitlin's leftover chocolate muesli we went out for lunch near the Grand Bazaar, past lots of tempting baklava places. Caitlin got really salty pasta for 4TL and Janet and I got a plate of 3 things - mine were rice, beans, and cabbage dolma - for 5TL. Yum but smallish.

We walked through the bazaar to find a bracelet place from the first day we were there, then decided we were too tired to think of anything particularly to do so we headed back to the hostel, stopping for baklava and Turkish delight on the way. Amazing stuff. I was still full from muesli/lunch so didn't eat it for a bit but when I did...!

We went back up to the terrace, sat inside and wrote postcards, looked through photos, used the internet.

We went out for dinner about 7:30pm at a restaurant nearby. There was one cheapish cute-looking place with a plastic-covered bit - it was raining so would have been perfect - but it was full so we found a nice restaurant. All the waiters we passed were really nice when we said we needed cheaper places, suggesting others. We got yummy bread and oil with cheese, then I got a tomato soup with mozzarella and C & J got veg noodles.

We went back to the hostel, still laughing about how close we were to all the restaurants/bars. Had showers then hit the sack at 10pm (although I wasted precious sleeping time wifi-ing so it was more like 11pm).


The next morning, Thursday 28th April, we got up about 9am and got breakfast a bit before half past. I had cheeses/tomato on bread, olives, sundried tomatoes and a delicious orange. We walked along the tram tracks (the only directions I remembered) to the Spice Bazaar, where we'd briefly gone on one of the first days after the cruise.

We went past lots of cheap funky little jewellery shops where we went a little crazy. We found the Bazaar, and had LOTS of Turkish Delight samples while Janet worked out which ones to get for her house mistresses (C & I had bought scarves for ours a couple of days before). The place she ended up choosing actually let us try whole pieces until the guy was ready to serve us, which was a long time - this place was popular. I obviously took advantage of this but definitely ate toooo much.

After that we walked through a tunnel which goes under the road where there were more shops and we all bought 5TL watches just for the sake of it. We followed the tunnel through to the other side which was on the waterfront, and fish and bread were all you could smell. We sat in one of the little places connected to boats where fish was being grilled and C & J got fresh fish rolls which were apparently very good.

We walked back underneath the road, bought some more rings then headed back along the tram line. We stopped so I could get a plate of rice with chickpeas which was tasty but weirdly greasy. These stupid Turkish guys who were definitely younger than us were harassing us as we walked so we stopped in a ceramics shop to get away from them.

We found a park and sat down for a bit, still struggling with what to actually do with our time. There were tulips everywhere plus bridges and fountains so we spent some time taking photos.

We continued on back the way we'd come, stopping at a guy on the footpath selling 1TL bracelets and all bought one. We got back to the hostel at 3:30pm - such bad tourists - and napped and used the wifi.

We went to dinner at 7:30pm, this time to the covered-in place we'd seen the night before - kind of felt like we were intruding on a possible date before another table vacated. I got potato borek which actually looked like 2 really long spring rolls but was still nice.

We were thinking of walking to the water/actually doing something but Caitlin was getting sick and we didn't think it was a good idea just 2 of us walking around Istanbul in the dark. Instead we went back to the hostel, packed our stuff, found out about the bus to the airport the next day, had showers and got to bed at 11pm.


Friday 29th April - got up about the same time as yesterday, breakfast about 9:30pm: we sat outside that morning and I had muesli, yoghurt, jam, dried apricots and an orange. Wasn't too cold so therefore quite pleasant. We finished packing totally, paid for the shuttle to the airport. We were told that we could just chill upstairs all day if we wanted, even though we'd checked out which was nice. It was Royal Wedding day and we were a bit annoyed we were missing it, while the others back at High Wycombe were heading into Hyde Park.

We headed out, with not really any plans again, looked at some shops in a little mall-type place nearby. Walked to the Spice Bazaar again. We went to find an ATM and found a whole strip of stores on the outside of the Bazaar full of cheeses and things - the one sample of Turkish mozerella made our day. Then we went inside to the same stall as the day before and I bought a bag of Turkish Delight for myself (which I still haven't opened almost 2 months later, how good am I?).

We went through the tunnel again, and the others got the same lunch as yesterday but from a different place. I bought spinach borek which didn't have enough filling :(

We headed back, buying a couple more bracelets and a ring, and a little bowl which I'd wnated the whole trip. Back at the hostel we went upstairs and watched the balcony part of the wedding on TV.

We caught our bus to the airport with a few other people from different hostels and I was really glad I sat backwards and could not see the scary driving, because I could definitely feel it!

We got to the airport at 4:50pm; our plane wasn't till 8:30pm so we waited, checked in our luggage, waited some more, headed to our gate which was changed 3 times. We were meant to start boarding at 7:30pm but didn't actually until 8:15pm and didn't leave till 9:20pm, since we were "15th in line for take-off".

The veg meal was okay - eggplant and a tiny piece of tomato with rice, salad, fruit salad, and for some reason didn't get the tomato olive dip that Caitlin got in her non-veg meal. I slept a bit. At the start the lights in the plane were off so you could see outside.

We arrived 10:50pm London time (12:30am), which was actually only 20 minutes late in the end. We went through passport control (the line for 'other nationalities' was actually shorter than the EU line this time), collected our bags and headed out to the taxis. We were told it would cost £85 and it ended up taking less than half an hour so that was ridiculous and kind of a crappy end to the holiday.

We checked out our new bathroom, which couldn't be used till Monday, grrr. Got to bed about 1:30am (3:30am for what we'd been going with).

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Turkey part 1

On Sunday 17th April we got up at 5:30am to give us lots of time to catch our bus to the airport from Rome to Istanbul, via Budapest (crazy, I know). The bus left a bit late, after 6:50am, but it still got to the next stop early and arrived at the airport early, about 8:00am. We found our terminal, and the check-in gate eventually. I got patted down at security - do I really look that sus? We got breakfast at the airport but my chocolate croissant was disappointing.

Eventually we got on our plane, via another bus. We left 20 minutes late which was quite worrying seeing as we only had 35 minutes leeway to catch our connecting flight at Budapest. We literally had to run from one end of the airport to the other for the 'last call' for our flight, but, luckily, we made it! We got a cheese roll for lunch, nothing compared with Lufthansa on our Berlin trip.

Descending at the end of the flight, it felt like we were going to land on the water, the airport was that close to it. The queue for VISA/passport control took ages, then, after we waited for the whole conveyor belt full of luggage to go through and no hint of ours, we got a bit worried. At lost & found they told us our luggage was still in Budapest. Of course it was - we'd had to run to catch the plane, how could our luggage have got there? One of the guys working there came with us to find our Topdeck representative who was picking us up for our 9 day ANZAC tour, to get the address of the hotel we'd be staying at so they could send our bags.

We got a shuttle with a few other people to our hotel (yes, HOTEL, no 's'!). I sat in the front and it was a very scary ride - the driver drove like the worst drivers in Melbourne, weaving in and out of gaps, on the phone, almost ran people over.

Once we checked in, we took our bags up to our room... verrryy nice! So good after a bunch of hostels. We went back downstairs to 'meet people' but as you can imagine we were all very tired, so I had a short nap then Rose, Aisling & Georgie arrived and we all headed out for dinner. Since we'd arrived a day early, we were with a lot of Aussies/NZers doing the 10 day tour plus our tour leader Michelle and Turkish guide Tolga. We walked a fair way, on a pretty confusing route. We got to a little strip of restaurants/bars and Rose, Caitlin & I ended up sitting with some Tassie guys and some others. Instead of boring bread you get while you wait for your meals, we got REAL TURKISH BREAD! So yummy. Then I had cous cous with tomato and vegie sauce which was tasty too.

We got tired and left eventually, finding our way back somehow. It started raining a little bit and the mosques looked incredible all lit up against the night sky, almost like Disney Land (is that disrespectful?)! Luckily I'd packed my toothbrush and toothpaste in my carry-on bag so I could feel somewhat clean when we went to bed at 11pm.


We got up before 9am on Monday 18th April, chucked on the only clothes we had and went down to breakfast. It was so different from any other breakfast we'd had at places we'd stayed - 3 different types of olives, bread with choc chips, real honeycomb (crunchy but soft at the same time), delicious cheese, dried apricots, sultanas, dried figs, fantastic breads, chocolate brownie thing, some sort of soup, scrambled egg, tomato, cucumber, weird Cocopops. Yum!

We went back up to our room and, still quite tired, relaxed for a while. We went down and sorted out our change in accommodation - 2 double rooms plus a triple (Georgie's friend would be joining us) for the next 2 nights instead of 2 triples.

We headed out to check out the Grand Bazaar and by now it was raining. The place was amazing though - a big indoor market with over 4000 stalls full of gorgeous jewellery, scarves, lamps, plates and so much more, with all the vendors trying to get our attention by calling us 'Charlie's Angels' or 'Spice Girls'. Pretty funny. We weren't really sure what a reasonable prince was yet, plus the courtesy is to haggle (but we didn't know how much), so we just looked. It was VERY crowded as you can imagine.

After a couple of hours of being amazed mostly by jewellery we came out at a different exit from the one we came in. We found a place on the street to eat, I had a cheese/egg/vegie pide for 7 Turkish Lira (less than half for £, about 3/4 for $AU?) which was yummy. Almost made me feel like I was back in Sydney Rd.

We walked back to the hostel via one of the many baklava shops. Janet and I swapped a piece each but for some reason they tasted weird and almost fishy to me. When we got back our luggage had finally arrived so we had showers, got into new clean clothes and relaxed a bit more.

We headed downstairs for a briefing at 6:30pm then headed out to dinner about 7:30pm, just like the night before. We even ended up eating at the same place as the night before (as a group this time) - I had a vegie kebap - before moving next door for more drinkies. There was another ANZAC tour group there called Fanatics and they were already totally out of it, but very funny, a huge blowup kangaroo and cheap Turkish hats included. And I drank more than a sip of wine for the first time, which we felt a bit when we got up to go to a karaoke bar across the street. Didn't stay too long, some of the Fanatics were dancing on verrry precarious tables. So Caitlin, Sarah & Kasia (on our tour, who we met that night) and I headed back. I got ready for bed then took our room key down to reception so Janet could get it when she came back. Realised just 3 glasses of wine makes you a lot tipsier than the same amount of other drinks. Slept about 11:30pm.


We went down for breakfast at 8:30am on Tuesday 19th April, where we met G's friend Kate who arrived late last night. We started our walking tour at 9:15am, which took us down the main street past the Constantine Column, traditional Turkish baths, the Grand Bazaar and the Blue Mosque, where we all lined up, took our shoes off and carried them in plastic bags inside. It was dark with beautiful ceilings, candles hanging down, stained glass windows. Outside stood a tall obelisk, complete with Egyptian writing. Kate & I decided that we would go to the expensive (125TL = £50) traditional Turkish dinner that night so we paid for that and got a bit excited.

We had from 11:30am till 2:15pm to do our own thing so we went back to the Bazaar. Kate was really good at haggling (we found out you should be able to haggle down to about 1/2 the asking price) so we all got into it and I ended up with a scarf for Mum for fairly cheap. Some more funny salesmen: 'Are your eyes from your mother or your father?' and 'Are they real?' while gesturing at his eyelashes. Also ended up getting pretty matching bracelets with Kate since we got the price down a lot.

We went outside for lunch, us vegos got vegie wraps with lots of sauces, salad plus chips - inside the wrap! - for only 4TL. We also bought yummy honey sweets from a little stall on the road on the way back to our meeting place. After meeting with the rest of the group we walked a fair way to the sea and caught a ferry down the Bosphorus, which separates Europe and Asia. It was a bit hard to hear Tolga explaining things over the PA but it was just nice to relax. We saw a castle-type structure, graveyard, few bridges and biiiig buildings. An hour and a half later we hopped off. We went inside the Spice Bazaar with lots of free Turkish Delight samples, plus lots of teas and, you guessed it, spices. Like the Grand Bazaar but smaller, and almost more crowded because of that.

We followed the tram tracks all the way back to the hotel. It was about 6pm and we had until 8pm to meet for dinner so we just relaxed some more, utilised the free wifi, had showers, tried on Mum's scarf and ended up wearing it out. The bus took about half an hour and Kate and I chatted all the way.

The place was pretty amazing - a dark and crowded restaurant (not just our tour group), with a stage in the centre, chandeliers. Over the night the entertainment was 4 belly dancers, a couple of traditional dance groups, a Turkish singer and a magician (awesome). Getting food for vego (me) and gluten free (Kate) was a bit of a hassle but we ended up with 4 dishes each - for me antipasto platter to start with, cheese/potato samosas, vegies/rice/chips/salad, and fresh fruit and ice-cream for dessert. Plus we managed to get through a bottle of wine just the 2 of us, even though neither of us liked wine. So full by the end!

After the acts they started playing mainstream music so the section where the stage was turned into a dancefloor and we all had fun dancing all the food off. The bus ride back seemed a lot shorter, I guess there was more traffic and we were hungry and desperate on the way over.

I picked up the key from reception, assumed Janet was still out but after turning on the lights, had a bit of an 'oh s*!t' moment when I saw her in bed. Slept about 12:15am.


Had to wake up at 5am the next morning, Wednesday 20th April, to get packed, take our bags down and have breakfast at 5:30am. Felt like I was still full from the night before. We all got our tour hoodies which was very exciting. They were really warm and snug but left fluff on whatever you wore underneath.

On the bus I sat next to Margot, a woman in the group, and opposite Rose and Caitlin. We drove about an hour and a half to the seaside then drove onto a ferry and were on there for half an hour. We went upstairs to watch the journey from higher up but it was very windy outside, although the cold sort of woke me up. We all got back into the bus before we hit land again then we drove a bit more. A car drove into the bus as we were nearing our stopping place so that slowed us down: had to wait ages for the bus driver to fill out forms, etc. Apparently the car's driver was intoxicated and ran away from the car because it is a huge offence in Turkey.

Eventually we stopped in Bursa; the Grand Mosque we were supposed to be visiting was closed to tourist groups on that day - bad planning? I think yes. We did have a bit of a wander through the silk markets and went with Kate to find a padlock (which we discovered is 'kilit' in Turkish), finally we found one at about the 3rd place. We wandered back through what we supposed was the silk market, felt nice scarves and piles of silk/wool. I got a non-silk scarf for 1TL. We also found a stall with awesome gem rings for 5TL but they were all too big for me :(

We waited for the bus then drove 1/2 hour or so more. During the driving bits we did a bit of get-to-know-you come-up-to-the-front-of-the-bus stuff - name, nicknames, where you're from, travel plans, 'traffic lights'/relationship status, embarrassing moment/random fact which was entertaining in parts. We stopped at a big shopping centre for lunch. We even had to go through a security thing like at an airport to get in, crazy. We found the food court but didn't know what anything was, how the prices worked, or what was vego so I just stuck with spaghetti with tomato sauce/olives/feta.

Back in the bus... we stopped a while later at a service station for toilets, massive line for the girls' of course. Gorgeous scenery surrounding us though, and all the drives were just beautiful. On the last part of the journey we watched Wedding Crashers & Anchorman, then slept. We finally arrived at Pamukkale a bit after 7:30pm.

We got our room keys, took our bags up, then took our cameras up to the incredible white hills at the end of the street. It was raining lightly but nothing could dull how excited we were all feeling. We walked back to the hotel and got dinner, which wasn't meant to be one of our included meals but was because we arrived so late - a huge buffet + desserts. Ate lots then had a shower and got to bed about 10:30pm.


Can't remember what time we got up on Thursday 21st April but we packed all our stuff up and went up for breakfast, another yummy buffet - proper chocolatey cereal, random cheeses, olives and more. Then we drove to the calcium hills we visited last night and wandered around for a couple of hours. Amazing views. There were also thermal springs, which I was eventually persuaded to put my feet in. I was told it wasn't slippery and my camera would be looked after but I still managed to slip. Straightaway. In front of everyone. Very embarrassing. Decided I might as well just go in now and the hot moving water was very nice. Hopped out and kept walking around for a bit, taking lots of photos (need I even mention that?).

Back at the bus, we then headed to Aprodisias, which was lots of old ruins and things. Took group photos in the 'theatre'. On the way to Kusadasi we stopped somewhere for lunch where we got lentil soup, cheese/meat pides, vegie skewers with cous cous, and strawberries. There were adorably cute little puppies just wandering around and our group kind of adopted one that came inside. We were also serenaded by a guy playing mandolin around the table.

We watched 40 Year Old Virgin until we arrived at our beachside resort. We put our things in our room, then came out onto the balcony only to find the rest of the group doing the same. We didn't have the best view but you could see a patch of sea. Georgie, Aisling & Kate's view from their triple room was much better - higher up with a view straight over the sea including sunset. We all put on summery clothes (feeling optimistic) and walked over the road to the beach, took photos of the sunset. We found a 'supermarket' - very small - and bought cornettos and corn thins (about the only thing that wasn't chips or biscuits). We sat on the beach and ate our food then got ready and went up to the others' room for a bit of pre-drinking before we went out with the entire tour group plus the other Topdeck group.

Instead of Turkish clubs, we were taken to 2 'Irish Pubs' opposite each other. We had lots of fun dancing on tables, getting free shirts advertising the places, trying to steal roses from guys walking around with them. We left about 2:30-3am and pretty much went straight to bed.


Being on a mainly Aussie tour, they understand that you need your sleep after a big night out. So we were able to get up after 9am on Friday 22nd April. Didn't feel too bad either. We had a nice breakfast - real cornflakes, cheese, olives, and took a boiled egg for later. Maybe weird but turned out well. We brought our packed bags downstairs, then walked along the beach road to a proper supermarket to buy lunch stuff - got a big loaf of bread, 2 apples and 2 bananas for Janet and me to share.

We left for Ephesus, another ancient city with another theatre, a 'library', ancient toilet holes,and a random fake gladiator fight. We got a 'pro' group photo taken in front of some ruins, the library possibly, which a few of us bought later for 5TL.

We then drove to a restaurant for lunch, where some people had a buffet inside, and we sat outside and ate the things we'd already bought - egg then banana in roll. We sat in the sun, and sap unfortunately, which still hasn't come out of the skirt I was wearing.

We randomly stopped at some leather place for a fashion show, free apple tea and people trying to sell us €1000+ leather jackets. We think they must have been Tolga's friends or something.

Back at the same hotel as the night before, we relaxed on the beach for a few hours - writing journals, eating ice-cream, and talking to young Turkish girls trying to practice their English, very sweet. Everything was gorgeous, with an amazing view of the sea in front of us and a huge hill to the left covered in buildings (lights the night before).

We got dinner about 7:30pm, another included meal of bread, soup, cheese, pasta, rice with vegies, potato salad. We sat outside to take in the gorgeous sunset over the water again. Another cat was hanging around too. There was also so much dessert: profiteroles with so much chocolate sauce, 2 cakes, plus more, and baklava appeared after we'd finished :(

We went back to our rooms, got ready for another night out, back up to G, A & K's room. Rose, Kate & Georgie decided to stay in that night (very wisely) so Aisling, Caitlin, Janet & I headed out, while the rest of the tour had gone a bit earlier. We had a much shorter night, but with more free tops and a free shot. Stuff happened and we ended up leaving very early, not particularly happily. It was also very interesting back at the hotel but that needn't be explained (read: don't ask). Let's just say Janet ended up sleeping in the bathroom in our room. Literally got into bed at 12:30am, how embarrassment.


The last week of our holidays to come soon.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Our alarms went off at 6:30am on Thurs 14th April to prepare us for our 6:56am arrival at Roma Tiburtina. We actually got there after 7:45am though so we spent that time watching the stations closely and wondering why the countryside was still countryside. The light was was really nice as we came in. Once we arrived, we bought 3-day travel tickets and got the train to Termini station, and failed to find tourist info. We followed directions to our hostel - luckily a short, easy walk. We checked in about 9am, left our luggage and we able to take advantage of free breakfast there: cold drinking chocolate, the same weird cereal as in Milan, not great bread but nice jam, and juice. We got a couple of maps from reception and were told where the tourist place at the station was. We went there on the way to Barbarini (?) station and got some brochures.

From the station, we found our way to Trevi Fountain - you know, the one from The Lizzie Maguire Movie! We experienced how busy Rome was from the moment we came up from the underground - especially after Venice and its no cars! You never know when you can cross the road safely... if you walk out onto a zebra crossing, cars generally stop but it was scary! We were back to more normal, less pretty buildings too.

In front of the fountain we sang 'This is what dreams are made of' from the movie, very excitedly until my sunnies ended up in the fountain (all caught on video) but luckily I grabbed them before they totally sank. We all threw in a cent and I wished for an adventure just like Lizzie!

We walked to the Spanish Steps (via a FREE toilet - never thought we'd see that again); gorgeous to look up at and then, from the top, to look down over Rome. There were lots of stalls set up of paintings of Rome/caricatures of people. We went into the church at the top, gorgeous just like every other. We sat in the church and then halfway down the steps for a while, just too tired. There were horse carriages at the bottom of the steps and guys trying to give roses to everyone (and then demand money) very insistingly.

We walked past lots of pizza shops with deals on the way to the Pantheon, a huge temple. It was really pretty inside but very noisy - everything echoed despite signs everywhere about it's a sacred place be quiet yada yada. We got lunch at a place that offered pasta and a drink for €7 and no service charge. The waiter kept telling us 'you get a good plate of pasta' but really it wasn't very big. I had penne with tomato and basil sauce, and was so upset their cannelloni had meat in it! WTF! I reeeally wanted to get proper Italian cannelloni before we left but sadly, it didn't happen :(

We went back to the station, took the train then a bus to the Catacombs (burial sites), although I'm not sure we actually found them. We did come across a mausoleum or something, also free because of Cultural Week (we definitely chose to come at the right time!). A cute resident cat acted as tour guide and followed us around. The surrounding area was gorgeous, so different from the centre of Rome - tree-lined streets, lots of green and not many people. Although once we walked a bit down a quiet road we got to a fairly busy part. We took the bus and train back, on the bus with a bunch of lovely 60 year old German women who celebrate their milestone birthdays every decade by travelling somewhere as a group - one even had a cute story about meeting an Italian boy when she was young and staying in Italy for 3 years with him, and even catching up with him while they were there this time!

We went back to the hostel, went to our room, chose beds (top bunk this time for me), had a much-needed shower and had a quick nap before our free pasta dinner at 7pm. At dinner we chatted to a couple of American girls studying in Copenhagen. I hate to say I had 2 servings of pasta even though it wasn't that good - just penne with tomato sauce (and hardly any at that) but with chickpeas! We headed out around our area to find gelati for Janet (I was too full from din dins and wanted to have a day off after all the sweets from the last 2 days!). Back to the hostel, the others started using their free internet vouchers and I managed to nudge a precarious Twix out of the vending machine, yes I am a legend. Went to bed about 10pm.

Friday 15th April - got up and had breakfast about 9:15am, found out where the local supermarkets were, turned the wrong way a couple of times then thought one was closed before we found another entrance. We ended up just buying apples and a couple of other random things then went back to the station, via the hostel to use the toilet. At Termini, the train which would take us to Vatican City wasn't running so we caught a bus - after waiting for a few ridiculously crowded buses we actually got seats! We had no idea where to get off so we waited till we saw lots of people and big buildings. As usual we started wandering in the wrong direction but eventually found our way to St. Peter's Basilica and lined up for over an hour - the queue was huuuge, but we had eye candy ahead in the line to keep us entertained ;) Once we got inside, we didn't see the Pope's tombs or Cuppola (dome on the top of the church) but we went through the church. At this stage I was really getting over churches, even though it was amazing inside.

We headed towards restaurants, via souvenir shops where Caitlin & I bought Martin a sparkly I♥Roma keyring (which she proceeded to lose). We got €5 pizza (shared marinara (tomato & oregano) and margarita with Greer), the tomato sauce was really tasty. It was 3:30pm by the time we ate and I was starving, tired and with sore shoulders from a heavy bag and sore hip from who-knows-what. The Vatican museum closed at 4pm so we decided to go there the next day.

We walked back to the buses, had a very crowded ride back to Termini then took the train to the Colosseo station - walked outside and there was the Colosseum!!! Took some quick photos outside but then we rushed in just in case it closed anytime soon, since it was about 5:15pm by this time. We got in free - Cultural Week rocks! - and wandered around the edge a bit, went in and up even though the stairs said no climbing - uh, what? We were all pretty excited and took lots of photos. We saw lots of random cats walking around in the middle.

We headed back to the station and got back to the hostel about 6:45pm, ready for dinner at 7pm. It was the same as the night before plus spinach, chili and beans instead of chickpeas. Only had one serving this time. After dinner we asked at reception about any local gelati places they could recommend and followed an Aussie's directions only a few blocks away to Fassi's, the oldest gelati in Rome or something. It was much cheaper than any other place we'd seen (3 flavours in a cup or cone for €1,60). I got a cup with cherry (bits of skin made it beautiful), stracciatella (finally!) and creme caramel (just sweet). Janet finally got her tiramisu she'd been craving. The place was so big and bright and not too crowded and we just loved it.

We went back to the hostel, showered and got ready for bed. This new guy in our room got out a table, put out all his jewellery and tools and started making things, burning ends of threads and all, and apparently worked with the light on till midnight (glad I got to sleep)! He said he had to make 500 bracelets before Queen's Day in Amsterdam on April 30. Probably slept about 10:30pm.

On our last day in Italy (sad face!), Saturday 16th April, we got up at 7:30am, had breakfast (discovered drinking chocolate improves the weird cornflake-y cereal) and left about 8:50am. We went to the supermarket for rolls, salad and apples, then caught the train to Vatican City. We headed towards the museum, but came to the end of its queue about halfway around the second corner. We lined up about an hour in total, finally got inside but then had to line up for security checks (it is another country after all) and tickets. We went to the 'pinacoteca' first as it was right where we came in - gorgeous intricate eggs and jewels and frames. Then an Egyptian exhibition, with gorgeous ceilings and floors in all its rooms. We walked through a courtyard/Octagon, rooms of statues of Gods, painted ceilings, tapestries and finally to the Capella Sistina (Sistine Chapel) - we weren't allowed to take photos but almost everyone was. I decided to be respectful... We saw the famous fingers painting on the ceiling, and lots of others on the ceilings and walls, painted drapes and stained glass windows. It was very noisy though.

We were hungry and exhausted so we found our way outside, sat on the ground in the sun and ate lunch - big olive roll with salad for me, quite hard and not olive-y enough though. The sun got really hot after a while, I ended up lying down with a map covering my face. Another cat was nearby, what a surprise.

We went back inside, found an Aboriginal exhibition with some gorgeous photos, spears, headdresses, etc. We went to find the Rafaello exhibition near the Sistine Chapel but had to go all the way through the Chapel to get out which was hell. Eventually we made our way out of the chapel, Janet posted a postcard from the Vatican Post Office, and we walked down a spiral ramp/staircase to get out.

We trained to Termini then back to Colosseo station to find the Roman Forums. We found a nice big white building, took photos even though we weren't sure exactly what it was. The forums were next to it but we were so tired we just looked from above and didn't bother to walk through.

Back at the hostel, we asked reception about the bus to the airport tomorrow and whether they recommended any place for dinner. We headed to a nearby restaurant we were told would give us at least 10% off (ended up being less) and they didn't have cannelloni! So I got spinach and cheese tortellini with tomato sauce which was the closest thing but it wasn't big, warm or saucy enough!

We headed back to the gelati place from the night before and decided we could treat ourselves majorly since it was our last night - I got chocolate, blood orange and rice (like rice pudding texture) flavours, then a tartufo which was like a frozen mousse, delicious!

We checked out the bus stop for the morning, got toilet paper from the supermarket for Turkey, went back, used the computers, packed and got to bed at 11:30pm.

I just loved Italy, I think Venice was my favourite though - just so different from anywhere else!