Category Archives: Travel

Tarragona July 2014

We went to Spain again this year. The place we went to last year was so lovely that we booked it again. And it was still so lovely that I’m booking it again next month for next year. Haha!

We stayed at the Villa Romana in Salou. It really is a lovely place. Completely random pick that paid off. The food is great, the atmosphere is great, the town itself is great, as is the beach. It’s also incredibly close to Tarragona which you may recall from last year was once a Roman capital settlement in Spain. As a result there are lots of Roman ruins everywhere. We did a mini tour last year.

We didn’t do any touristy things this year in Tarragona, just went for lunch and then a mooch on the beach. After a bit of a disaster at the train station, we ended up catching a cab. So much for trying to be a bit more local!! I started learning Spanish at the beginning of the year and then I got really busy and then I forgot everything I had learned. Must try harder for next year.

Here are some photos:

Town hall being cleaned.

Town hall, other side.

Lovely corner apartment.

Narrow streets, love these!

Gorgeous apartments over the square.

Airing your laundry in public?!

Very small cars and bikes only!

Everything was in bloom this year.

Me.

This apartment was right down by the beach, what a great view.

Colourful posts.

Make a nest anywhere!

After lunch in the square, we walked down to the beach. Very happy to report that it was a nudist beach!! We had ice cream and then went for a walk down to the marina during which time an insane wind picked up and I nearly lost my hat. Very cool locals only beach, will definitely go back there next year and spend a bit longer there.

Overall it was another great holiday. It was possibly a bit too busy for my liking. We went in the first week of July thinking we would avoid school holidays which is fine for the UK but it seems like the rest of Europe start holidays in July so it was pretty busy everywhere. So we’ll go back in June again like last year and hope the weather starts early. They had a long spring last year and it averaged around 26 degrees rather than the 30-32 we had this year.

Looking at the bookings we can get a good deal on 10 nights making it cheaper than 7 nights. We’ll do that then! Adios!

I went to Germany again!

Still living the “jetset” lifestyle! International travelling consultant extraordinaire! Or some such bollocks. I hate travelling for work. Staying in cheap places, flying on cheap planes, operating to cheap per diems. It’s all a bit shit really. Where’s my fucking champagne?!

Had a super early flight out to Nuremberg on Monday so I had a hotel booked at Stansted airport. Radisson. Not too shabby. The missus drove me there and stayed over so we had dinner. Good choice of restaurants and good food. Up at 3am. Bloody freezing outside. Hot as balls inside. Ryanair were not observing the Priority Q on the baggage check in but it wasn’t too busy. Bag scanning was quick too but inside the departures lounge was heaving. Got breakfast and then it was time to head over to my gate.

Arrived in Nuremberg 1h20m later. Super convenient. Very efficient German airport! Out with my bag in about 10 minutes then straight into a cab (Herzogenaurauch bitte? Danke!) and off to the client HQ. Met everyone, was told I had lost weight and not in a good way, had meetings for 3 days, came home. They observed the priority Q and I was first on the plane!! Customs on the way back was quicker but only because it was a small flight and the only one going through. Any more than one flight and the idiots on the desk have a meltdown and take forever. Then the inevitable delay on the train to get home before a final taxi taking its time through the crappy roads of Cambridge.

Yup, work travel is awesome!

On the plus side, it was a very light hearted trip. There was lots of time for recreation. Monday night we went to a Mexican restaurant were my cohorts played my dick is bigger than yours with the hot sauce, proving they both had tiny dicks! Crying is not a good look boys!

Tuesday night we went to Nuremberg to a festival (Volksfest) and a World Cup Hockey friendly between Germany and USA. USA won. The game was awesome. Incredible atmosphere and so noisy!

Prior to the game, we were shown around the exhibition centre area. This is the place that Hitler used for all his rallys. Here is a collosseum he built:

Here is where he stood to give all his speeches:

I found it a little too creepy and couldn’t even stand on it. Back then it would’ve looked over 200,00 angry soldiers. Now it looks over playing fields:

Apparently the modern day government had to decide whether this area should go to ruin and risk being used by far right groups to hold their own rallys or if they should take ownership and turn it into something nice to be used for recreation and as a memorial. I’m glad they chose the latter.

Here is his meeting room:

This is how big he wanted it to become but never got that far:

We walked around the lake at the bottom. Took about 20 mins at a good brisk pace to get around. Massive!

Here is the Congress Hall:

They are currently finalising the Documentation Centre which I will try and go to next time I’m there:

What I did find interesting was the way the Germans get taught about the war these days. Far less jingoistic than the crap we force down our kids throats!

Over at the Volksfest we had dinner in the beer garden. I had two massive steaks with onions and chips. Very nice they were too. Then we had a wander round and I wish I’d had a bag for all the sweets and chocolates!! Saw a couple of minions lying around:

Then we saw the game:

At half time, children from each side played each other in replica uniforms which was brilliant:

On Wednesday we had pizza at the place I went to last time where the pizzas are absolutely massive! Almost inedible in one sitting. Almost.

So that’s it for Germany for a while. Next up is a business trip to Denver in the Summer. Let’s see how shit that turns out!

Australia 2014 Summary Post

Just like last time, I’ve put together a quick index, broken down by state. Pictures were taken on a mix of my Nikon D5000 with 18-55 and 55-200 lenses, my Samsung S3 and the missus’ Sony Xperia with a mixture of instagram filters being used. We took about 500 pictures and I’ve only been able to whittle those down to about 200.

Enjoy!

Sydney
Part 1

Tasmania
Part 2Part 3Part 4

Melbourne
Part 5

Round up
Part 6

Australia 2014 Part 6

So there you go, that was our holiday. Sorry to end it on such a bum note! Still, it made coming home a little bit easier I suppose!

So, where do we go from here? Well, the original plan was to get my permanent residency visa and move there at the end of this year/beginning of next. We started this process last year. I did my IELTS and I got an almost perfect score but it gave me maximum points for that level and everything looked like it was going well. After speaking to a migration agent and doing the preliminaries, including paying an extortionate registration fee, I needed to wait until October when my work experience qualified for ACS certification.

At least, that’s what the agent said. I don’t have a degree so to make up the points I need maximum level on the work experience. Which is 8 years. Which I have. Which the agent agreed with. So after signing up, I filled in a bunch of forms and sent it off but the ACS rejected it as they don’t want to count my first IT job as it was not of a professional level. So I need to wait another two years until my current job hits 8 years. The problem with that is that I then fall out of the maximum points age bracket and they’re still unsure whether they will count the full 8 years work experience or dock some for “training”. So I might have to wait another 5 years.

FIVE YEARS!!

That’s kind painful and fucks up what little plans I had. Prior to this I had tried to arrange to meet up with a few potential employers but then decided to cancel as I just didn’t want to waste their time. We also had to tell everyone that our plans were cancelled. It was just a bit of a horrible overhang throughout the holiday. But it’s made me more determined to jump through their hoops and get them to let me in. Ideally before they completely close off their borders! It’s annoying as I’ve wasted quite a bit of money getting to this point and everything I’ve done so far is unusable on the next application so it will be like starting all over again.

So, where do we go from here? Well, five years is a long time. We’re very unhappy with our current living situation and lack of savings so we’ve decided to buy a house. We figure it’s a good investment and after 5 years we should have some decent capital saved up. And then who knows what will happen. Once I get some more money saved up I’ll apply for the visa again and just hope for the best. We don’t have to go immediately, you have 5 years from the point of acceptance I think so it gives us lots of thinking time.

In the meantime, I’m just waiting for the bank to approve my mortgage. Unsurprisingly there was a fuck up. They approved in principal a much higher mortgage than I need for the area I’m buying in so I chose a house much cheaper anyway but when it came to going through the figures, the proper mortgage system didn’t like that I earn commission as the main part of my salary and initially rejected my application. So it’s all being sent off to head office for approval with some crossed fingers. I am seriously sick of commission, it’s such a dumb concept. If you’re not motivated to just do your job, then fuck off and do something else, money should not be a day to day motivator to provide good service and quality workmanship.

For now though, fingers crossed. We have a backup plan if that all goes tits up but let’s just see what happens. I hope you enjoyed the pictures and it inspires you to go travelling!

Australia 2014 Part 5

And so we ended our trip in Melbourne. I don’t really know what to say about Melbourne. As a Brit, this should be my home. Culturally, climatically, suburban spreaderly, Melbourne should be the Mecca! I don’t know what it is but as soon as I landed in Melbourne, I got overcome by a sense of ill! It happened last time and it happened this time. There’s a big block seriously affecting my ability to have a good time and it just bums me out. Which is such an inconvenient bastard because if I move to Australia, it will probably be to Melbourne as that is where about 90% of my industry is. Typical!

Still, we had a reasonably good time, we went on the Neighbours tour! Again!

The guide rather naughtily let us see inside the mechanics!

Here I am looking glum at the bus stop where all the kids try to run away from before being picked up by their parents!

Hermione!

The sun was out but it wasn’t very warm, hence the jumper!

Here I am pretend posting a postcard. I kept it though!

Inside the cop shop!

That’s pretty much where the fun ended. Melbourne got hit by a four day heatwave of around 44 degrees every day. That was just a bit too hot for me. You could barely go half a mile down the road to a café without having your insides melted. Not good on the way back after a milk based smoothie. Felt like it was curdling! We were staying in Armadale which is quite a nice little suburb, plenty of shops and cafes and a little park. Fortunately the house we were staying at had air con and a pool so we were fine:

Or maybe animated?

Also, I think as we had gone for much longer this time (25 days) I was suffering from holiday fatigue and itching to get back to my day to day. I just didn’t enjoy Melbourne as much as I think I should’ve. I need to give it one more chance, third time lucky, I might have to go the other way round or do it before going to Tassie. Just something to see if it’s Melbourne or me.

Anyway, that’s it for pictures, time to round it all up in part 6!

Australia 2014 Part 4

Launceston was absolutely amazing! We had no idea what it would be like and it gets a bit of a kicking as it’s not Hobart, but it was just wonderful. There was so much to do and I’m super chuffed we got the chance to stay there. I would definitely go back again as there is still more I want to do!

On our last day, before we drove down to Hobart, we went to Tasmania Zoo. they have a massive collection of animals here including some you can only find in Tasmania. Such as, the Tasmanian Devil!

They are so cute! I didn’t get to see any the last time I was in Tassie and I was surprised by how small they are and the fact that they don’t spin around pulling raspberries. Thanks Warner Bros!

We also saw this fucker! I hate emus! They are so creepy and could very well be silent assassins! They sneak up on you lightning quick and out of nowhere. Terrifying!

Tasmanian Devils are currently in danger from the facial tumour disease that is spreading from a random genetic abnormality. The zoo is doing everything it can to try to breed isolated colonies without inbreeding.

I was also surprised by just how vicious they can be!

Food!

Better food! They grabbed this food and then had a massive battle between themselves running around the pen to see who would be the victor and get to actually eat it. Pretty scary actually and a useful reminder not to try and pet them!

Meerkat!

Here is the missus feeding a goat!

We had lunch at the café and I had chips and gravy (very Northern!). Then we headed down to Hobart. It was about a 2 and a half hour drive of some of the most stunning landscape I’ve ever seen! We had so much fun!

We stayed in Lauderdale with the missus’ uncle which is a really great location for doing many of the things in and around Hobart. First up, we went to Richmond which is like a novelty/themed village. I’m just not sure what the theme is supposed to be.

Here is Richmond Gaol, originally a place to hold convict labourers while the town was developed:

A tree in the yard:

I went in a cell and shut the door. True solitary confinement. Really freaked me out!

Next up we went to the Old Hobart Model Village! I love model villages! This one had a unique spin in that it had characters you had to find. It took ages but we were adamant we would get them all. The funniest thing is that none of the kids who came through could care less, but the adults were the ones determined to find them all!

The village has been around for about 30 years and showcases what Hobart would’ve looked like when it was originally settled and used primarily for harvesting whale oil. It must’ve stunk!

Look, they’re doing it!

We went to a crazy maze that the missus did back in the 90s. They had modernised it and created an additional maze which was supposed to be much harder. We went through the first one and that was really easy so we decided to go into the second one. It was a ridiculously hot afternoon and we got really disorientated and ran out of water and tempers got out of hand and I almost jumped the fence but we persevered and made it out alive! That was a low point of the trip!

Brilliant little town, we called off at a winery place and tasted some more cheese!

The next day we went up Mount Wellington:

Last time, it wasn’t a very clear day so we knew the minute the sun came out we would have to go up there. Our tiny little Micra actually made it to the top!! Isn’t this just beautiful?!

Turn the other way though and you could be in the desert in some flatlands or something!

Here is the missus being buffeted by the wind:

Here I am being a knob in the wind:

After that, we descended back down the mountain and went for lunch in Hobart. We opted for the Salamanca area:

How cool would it be to live there?!

There was a cruise ship in for a few days. Absolutely massive!

The missus’ family used to live near Seven Mile Beach so we went there to take a look. It’s a gorgeously private beach!

Next up, we went to Opossum Bay which gives you the sense or being on an island in the middle of the sea with nothing else around you for miles and miles and miles and miles! Which is exactly what it is!

I could also live here:

I’m not much of a beer drinker but I was given some James Boag and that stuff is delicious! I’ve found somewhere I can buy it here in the UK and will definitely be getting a case in for the summer BBQ season!

Hobart, and indeed, Tasmania, is just an amazing place. I would love to live there one day. Mostly I’d like to pack everything up and dump it in a camper van and spend six months getting around the island doing everything! One for the lottery win bucket list I think!

Stay tuned for part 5 and Melbourne!

Australia 2014 Part 3

Next on our adventures we decided to go on a river cruise. Last time we were in Tasmania we were in Hobart only and we did the Peppermint Bay cruise and I got some great photos. We were going to do it again but we figured we’d use up some of the time we had in Launceston and do it there instead. We went out with Tamar River Cruises.

Not as big a boat but definitely as bitching!

While we were waiting to board I got some photos of the wildlife and the surrounds:

Then I saw this little fella. I tried to get as close as I could without disturbing him but this was about the limit:

Then we boarded and headed up the Tamar River. We got our safety instructions and then we could go up top on the outer deck to have a gander. We got super lucky in that it wasn’t raining! The captain reeled off all the history of the valley and the boats that have come through over the years. Fascinating stuff!

There is some incredible wildlife you can only see if you’re on the river, like this nesting pair of sea eagles!!

Black swans!

Here is a really neat bridge:

I want to live here!

The Cataract Gorge:

The King’s Bridge:

It was a fantastic day out and they gave us a beer and wine tasting, all local produce and a fantastic lunch of cheeses and sarnies. Everyone was incredibly friendly. Perfection!

Australia 2014 Part 2

Following on from part 1, we left Sydney with very heavy hearts and boarded our plane to Tasmania. Which, by the way, was fucking awful! I am never flying Virgin again. Terrible organisation at the airport, no food on board, tiny, tiny, tiny seats and useless ground staff throwing the bags around as they loaded them on board. Thankfully it was only about a 10 minute flight to Launceston.

The missus has family in Hobart but they were away while her other cousin was having another baby in Melbourne. On a whim and at a loose end, we decided to stay in Launceston for 5 days. Completely at random I picked a resort that looked completely in the middle of nowhere to counter the city stay in Sydney. We ended up staying at the Country Club Tasmania. By sheer luck, this was one of the nicest places I’ve ever stayed. It had a pool, golf course, private restaurant, laundry, everything you need. It was a bit like a British caravan resort but with villas. Oh and a massive casino! We played the pokies and I ordered a $10 chicken sandwich and chips. In the UK the chicken sandwich would be tiny for this price. Here it was bigger than my head! Nom!

We had hit and miss weather so on the off days we just relaxed and watched some terrible Aussie TV. Although they did have Midsomer Murders one night and a lot of Worlds Greatest Ninja Challenge something or other. Which reminds me, in Sydney we watched this Norwegian mockumentary called Troll Hunter. That was some weird shit! Also, what is up with TV ads in Australia? We watched Mary Poppins on a spectacularly shit rainy day and it ended up taking 3 and a half hours to get through as there were so many ad breaks!!

On the good days, we did stuff. We went to Launceston which is really old fashioned and still very colonial. Here is a postbox:

Here is a street (I love how low down everything is!):

Launceston does parks really well. In the middle of one they have (for historical reasons) a monkey park! Actual live monkeys in the middle of a public park!!!

And amongst that, a mini hot green house thing, with cool plants:

We went for lunch at the Levee Food Company as (ironically) I’d seen an ad for it on the TV. Absolutely amazing food! Could’ve done without the boring ra-ra alcoholic housewives lunching there though!

On another good day we decided to combine three trips into one using the Tamar Valley Triple Pass! Just in case the weather turned crap again and we mightn’t have had time to fit them all in. Also, this part of the island is tiny and close together so it wasn’t a stretch.

The night before we ordered a picnic basket which was delivered the following morning. This was supposed to be a picnic basket for two but it fed us for about three days and the road trip down to Hobart! All for about $40! Outstanding value.

First up we went to Beaconsfield Mine & Heritage Centre. If you’re not familiar, this was the mine where three miners got trapped and one died. While stuck they managed to get a hole drilled through for air and food and requested to listen to the Foo Fighters. When Dave heard about this he offered them tickets to his next Aussie gig and a beer. He also wrote the Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners on the ESP&G album. Which is kinda why we went!

DIGGER!

Visting Foo related sites is turning to be a bit of a thing!

Inside they have a cool exhibition about the town and how it has evolved over the years. A big trade for them used to be apples so you get to see the process behind that too.

Here I am mining gold:

And here is the missus Blacksmithering:

This is the infamous mine lift where the two trapped miners emerged when rescued. There’s a viewing platform where I took this and it’s very sobering:

Next up the road we went to Platypus House! The Platypus is only native to Australia. You will not find these anywhere else in the world. It was a fascinating exhibition but photography proved somewhat trying and none of the photos I took were any good. It was really dark and I refused to use flash!

They also had echidnas which you will only find in Australia and Papa New Guinea although they are different breeds. Lots of research is being done to find out more about these fascinating creatures:

On the way back I even saw an echidna in the wild crossing the highway!! Platypus House was up at Beauty Point which is just gorgeous and then right next door was Seahorse World!

Again, some amazing research taking place here and they have a big breeding centre and we got to see all the tanks as the seahorses go through the reproduction stages. We got some neat souvenirs and then headed back to our villa. Check out part 3 for more Tasmanian tales!

Australia 2014 Part 1

Earlier this year we went to Australia again. It has taken me absolutely ages to get around to blogging about it. Mostly because I’ve just been too depressed to even look at the photos. Leaving Australia to fly home this time was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Just did not want to come home and if it hadn’t been for an imminently expiring visa, I’m not sure I would’ve!

The first time I went to Aus was 2011. I wrote a rather lengthy 10 part blog about it. The missus has been many, many, many times. She has family there. This time, there are nearly 3 times as many pictures so I’ll (try to!) keep the writing to a minimum.

Last time we went in the cheap season at the beginning of April. Flights were about £700 a person. This time we decided to go peak and over Christmas. However, this was going to be very expensive unless we flew out on Christmas Day which halved the price to £1200 per ticket. So that’s what we did!

We caught the train/tube to Heathrow and stayed at the Hilton again. My top hotel when flying from Heathrow! It was like a friggin ghost town! It was so surreal. We had dinner at the hotel, check out the neat table decoration:

I had a Jack Daniels and it cost me something like £9! *shakes fist*

We had a mid morning flight so we got up fairly early to check in, beat the crowds, then had breakfast at a VERY English themed restaurant! Seriously, UKIP could hold their annual conference here!! (Well, if it weren’t for the fact that the waiting staff were all “foreign”!) Lots of milling about trying to contain the excitement of going on holiday and the loathesome anticipation of 26 hours before seeing a bed again!

The flight was actually really good. We flew Malaysian Airlines this time (Qantas last time). We went on a massive A380, one of the new fleet. We were lucky enough to be placed upstairs which feels like a much smaller private flight and there are far too many toilets for the number of people which made the whole experience much more pleasant! Also, the side seats get a side storage container to dump all our stuff in and the leg room was incredible. All in all a really comfy flight!

There was a changeover at Kuala Lumpur and we merged with a plane from Sri Lanka. There was a massive family on board who were scattered through the seats and they just would not sit down and kept ignoring the flight staff while they talked to each other. In the end the cabin crew turned the lights off and it was like putting a curtain over a parrot cage! Bliss!

Arrived in Sydney at night and it really wasn’t all that busy. I think we were one of the last flights in. Last time we were really late in and the airport was dead! Got through customs and baggage claim really quickly which was nice. Hopped on a shuttle bus and headed to the airport hotel where I had a jetlagged argument with reception over whether my hotel was prepaid or not. Which was fun.

Hotel was amazing. If you know you will feel like crap after such a long flight, don’t arse about trying to get to the final destination, just stay at the airport, have a shower, get some room service, start again in the morning! Last time we stayed in an apartment and went straight there and it was a hassle trying to organise the eats when we’d just arrived! This hotel stay took the stress out of things.

In the morning we got a cab to our other hotel in Kings Cross/Potts Point. I love this area of Sydney. Close enough to the city without being too pricey. In addition to being a big backpacker area it’s also home to a big gay community and I’ve just always found these areas to be super friendly. Like Kemp Town in Brighton. We were in Sydney for 6 nights over New Years. Not surprisingly, New Years Eve cost the same as the other 5 nights put together. We arrived quite early, check in wasn’t until 2pm but check out from the last one was 10am, so we went for a wander.

Last time, I bought Foo Fighters’ Wasting Light from a record shop which had an automated spinny thing behind the counter. It was the coolest fucking thing I’d ever seen! We went back there to buy something (anything!) but alas, it had closed:

After buying Wasting Light we ate at a café and had steak sarnies and chips and watched a man pick up a hooker at lunchtime. This café had also closed. I think Aus might be heading towards recession, which is kinda sad.

We went back to the hotel and they had our room ready. As we were so early they gave us a great room with a phenomenal view over the domain, the harbour and down to the bridge:

For the first day, we just mulched around and had lunch at a great café called Zinc which has some of the friendliest staff I’ve ever known in a café! Then we had dinner at the hotel. Just trying to get over jetlag really. The next day we went into Sydney CBD and had lunch at Guylian Belgian Chocolate Café. By contrast this was one of the most over priced, unfriendly craply waited places I’ve ever been to. Seriously they weren’t even busy and yet still they sucked a massive amount of ass! They got no tip! There was one waiter who we thought really needed to rethink his career choice as waiting was not the one for him!

However, I did manage a smile. I was in Sydney after all and it was a baking hot day!

After lunch we went through the Botanical Gardens and had a trip on the petit train and got some useful info about the trees, plants and conservation work they do there.

Here I am ignoring hot chicks and falling in love with Sydney all over again!

On the way back I called off at Harry’s Café de Wheels and got me a pie!

The next day we went to Elizabeth Bay Gardens and lounged about and I got really badly burnt. Typical Brit on holiday eh?! Funny story, we got some pasta from a café but no forks, in the park there were some people having a party for some kids, the missus walked over and asked for a fork and they just gave it to her. No judgement, no snark, no accusations of being a kiddy fiddler. When does that ever happen in the UK?!?!?!

At some point in the holiday we wandered about Macleay Street and took some random snaps but here is one of the fountain:

We also covered some new ground and went to Rushcutters Bay Park. This was brilliant. I think most of the locals were away over New Years to get away from the crush and as a result it made parks like this really quiet and peaceful. We had a smoothie in the café and watched middle class people play tennis badly.

In the afternoon we met up with the missus’ cousin who is an Aussie who lived in the UK for years and has now gone back to raise a family. We went up to the North shore. I’d not really intended going there but I’m glad I did because it opened up a whole new part of Sydney for me. I’m not sure why but I thought it would just be sprawling suburbs like Melbourne but it’s much nicer than that. We went for nachos and wine at a local bar and played with a child!

On New Years Eve, we headed down to the harbour and went to the Chinese Gardens. This was one of the things I regretted not doing last time and was the main reason we came back to Sydney this time. I’m so glad I went, it was just beautiful, and tranquil and hard to believe this is right there in the middle of this busy bustling city. You simply must make this a place to visit on your travels!

Outside, we met this little guy:

Here are some inside photos:

And the little fella met us inside, or this was his brother:

Afterwards we walked back down the harbour and the missus met Eric Bana!!!! Well, his waxwork anyway:

The queues were getting pretty massive by this point, all getting ready for the fireworks. We were very glad our hotel had a view. Here are a ton of pics as we saw in the New Year from our hotel room, with champagne and pizza:

We spent the next couple of days just lazing around waiting for our flight to Tasmania. See part 2 for how we got on there. We went to the New South Wales Art Gallery which we also didn’t have time to do last time. It’s so weird that Australia just doesn’t have much history older than 200 years or so and the art is relatively modern. They had a European section so you could see all the really old stuff and a super cool aboriginal section.

Last time we were in Sydney, we went to the Botanical gardens and just fell completely head over heels in love with the city. It happened again. I love it so much, it’s my favourite place on this whole Earth. When growing up, I always knew I was born in the wrong place, I just never imagined it was TEN AND A HALF THOUSAND MILES away from the right one!

Gadding About

I’ve had a busy few weeks. I’ve been on a travel about. I took some pictures!

At the end of July we went to York for a night. It’s been a few years since we were last in York so we decided to go again. We stayed at a “posh” hotel on the outskirts. It was fucking awful. They had a wedding on, I wasn’t informed, there was no service to non wedding guests, there was a fight at midnight (of course, wouldn’t be a wedding without one!), the cops came, there were dogs, I slept little. I left a really scathing comment on their booking.com page. Because that’s what we do now.

Prior to that, the evening we spent in York was actually really nice. It was a glorious day and the evening was lovely and warm too so we had a wander around the city centre and played avoid the drunk stag do and hen night wankers. The highlight was seeing some utter twat in white shoes stand in a big pile of horse shit left by a police horse. They have horses parading the city for troublemakers. Very odd!

I went to my favourite street and took a picture:

We left early on the Sunday after the management refused to take our complaint seriously and I was too tired to go back into the city centre. Made me dislike Yorkshire folk just that little bit more!

Next on my travels, Washington DC. My first trip to the States. It was one of the smoothest journeys I’ve ever had. Like, this almost never happens. I got to Cambridge train station, heaving, bought a ticket after 20 mins of standing in a line, got a train, got to Kings Cross, got a tube to Heathrow, checked in, went through security lightning fast, had hours to spare. Had lunch, flew out, arrived, no fucking queue at customs (which was great because , as I discovered, Americans really don’t get the art of queuing! I was in one queue which seemed quite ordered and then out of nowhere it became a T-junction queue. Like what the hell even is that? There’s no such thing as a T-junction queue. Back of the line assholes!), got in a cab, went to my hotel, went to bed. It was ridiculously quick. Like a dream!

Had the Sunday morning to myself so I chose to stay in central DC on Saturday, just up from the Dupont Circle where the cab driver reliably informed me I could get weed. I think it’s because I was wearing 90s grunge plaid! Hotel didn’t have breakfast (my boss booked it) so I walked up the road to the nearest Starbucks. They are literally all within a mile of each other!! Check out this street:

This street says, to me at least, everything I’ve ever pictured about the States. It’s everything you see in films. The massive apartments, the wide steps, the wide roads, the cleanliness. It was almost like being on a movie set! The whole trip felt a bit like a movie. Very surreal.

From there I went to a fantastic little yoga studio that the missus knows the owner of. I had to pick up some clothes for her. It’s so cute!

And then the best part is that it’s just around the block (corner?) from the legendary Black Cat club.

Sure, it’s closed and Dave Grohl wasn’t there, but fuck it, I was!

From there I walked into the city centre. It was raining so I didn’t take too many pictures but it was a lovely walk. I even walked over a grate that had been taped down with gaffa tape and it said “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Wanted. Apply Within!”. I shit you not!

I went to the White House. It’s a big white house. With lots of security. And tourists.

Then I saw the Monument. It had scaffolding up it so it looked a bit shit. Sorry about that.

By this time it was lunch and I had to head to my next hotel, but not before I devoured another Starbucks! I got in another cab and headed out to Leesburg, VA and stayed in a ridiculously posh golf resort.

I was at a work conference for a new accounting system we’ve taken on. It was a 2 day seminar for the company to tell us how great they are. Which to be fair, is mostly true! The food was amazing and the drink was free. I had some really quite cracking Kentucky whiskey, nicest whiskey I’ve ever had, hands down!

After two days of that I flew home. Dulles airport is shit. Probably one of the shittest I’ve been to. Except for maybe Munich. Flight home was ok, I watched Pretty In Pink. My jetlag hung around for a week, it was pretty bad.

Having finally caught up on sleep, we embarked on another trip. This time to glorious Bridlington. Yeah, I know how to live. Back up the A1, stuck in traffic, arrived late, hotel had closed for the night. After some persistent ringing of a bell, someone let me in. Which was a bit of luck. It was only 9:30. Bloody Northerners. Room was fab, very clean, smelt of clean, it was clean! Brekkie was good and then we headed over the road to the Bondville Miniature Village. It’s an entire replica of an old fashioned town. Fantastic! Here are a ton of pictures:

A working wheel!

Smart car!

Bowls!

Another Smart car!

After that we went into Bridlington itself, we were actually staying in Sewerby, and it was great. Lots of shops open, lots of places to eat, not too busy etc etc. Went to the little marina and it reminded me of being a kid. I spent most of my childhood in Brid. Good times were had, mostly. Went to the arcades and left after about 15 mins. So loud and chavvy and over stimulating! I’m such an old git! We played on the coin dozers. That was fun. We had fish and chips for lunch and an ice cream with a flake for dessert.

We walked back up to the hotel and stayed in for dinner. I had steak. It was fab! On the second day we went out to Flamborough Head. The temperature had dropped by about ten degrees and it was windy and fucking freezing. I bought souvenirs and took some photos.

Well, that about wraps up my trips this summer. The next trip we have is Hunstanton tomorrow and then unless a work trip to LA comes through, my next major trip is Australia on Christmas Day! I am currently planting trees. They only cost £12.50 each and each one covers more than a round trip to Sydney. Carbon offsetting is not the answer, but it’s gotta help!

Spain – Salou and Tarragona

The missus and I haven’t been overseas together in ages. Probably since Australia I think. I’m always on a bloody plane somewhere lately! It was her birthday at the beginning of June so I decided to ship us out to Spain for a week, she got to choose the location. For something done on a whim it turned out to be a pretty incredible holiday. She booked one of those Thomson package holiday things in a little place called Salou, the people were as you can expect, a bit like someone had done a talent scout across Britain’s council estates, admitted defeat and just picked anyone. I can say that because I grew up on estates so fuck off! :p

The hotel was lovely, a 4 star behemoth with an all you can eat buffet. I could never eat all that some people could eat. Standing next to them in the queue made me feel a bit ill their plates were stacked so high. I think I’ve found the answer to why Britain is getting fat! The first day we arrived in the afternoon and had to wait for our rooms so we got a couple of Jack Daniels and sat by the pool. Nice way to break it in. Second day tried more of the same but the people were shit and the music was shit and I can’t sit down all day, I’m too restless. So then we spent our days either down at the beach walking the huge length of it or sitting in cafes watching the world go by. A special mention goes out to the Villa Alexandra where the food is literally, actually and totally to die for!

On her birthday we went to Tarragona, a neighbouring town about 20 minutes and 25EUR away (I love the EUR, I wish we had it in this country!). It’s where the Romans originally settled in Spain so there are a ton of old ruins there. While looking for these ruins we were walking up a main road which was incredibly loud so I pulled us into an alleyway and followed it down. To be met by this:

I think this is the town hall and it’s in this gorgeous little courtyard area full of cafes and amazing apartments that I would really like to live in:

With ace side streets ripe for bombing up and down on a scooter:

This led us to the only ruin we had time to see, it was the old entertainment stadium where they either raced horses or watched people kill each other for fun:

And saw this little guy:

Here’s an overhead view of that area:

From which I took this:

And this impressive panorama that turned out great after stitching:

The tunnel in the above picture is this:

Which leads to another building which has a fantastic model of how the town used to look:

You can climb to the top of that which is about as high as the Monument in London I reckon and I took this panorama:

And some other pics:

Here is the old amphitheatre. I bought the wrong ticket so I wasn’t allowed in!

Tarragona is just the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. Probably helped by the gorgeous weather but it trumps anywhere we went in Australia for sure! We’re going back there next year for the missus’ 40th and I think we’ll spend the whole week there with maybe a day trip to Salou. So kind of the reverse of this trip really.

Back in Salou, they had an evening dancing water fountain show thing. I went to the place I thought it was. I was wrong! But, I got some great pictures and when I went to the actual place for the dancing fountains, well, I wasn’t impressed. It was good but not brilliant. I was perfectly happy with the pics I took of the smaller one. Less people too. Nobody filming it on a fucking iPad!

It looks like a portly tummy there but it’s just my shirt rolled up (over my portly tummy!)

So, there you go! One package holiday completely veered away from to do our own thing. The package served to take us to a place we probably would never have chosen and that would’ve been a damn shame, so thanks Thomson!

I’ve booked two more holidays this summer, just some short breaks in Yorkshire. One to York and one to Bridlington. It’s not quite as alluring but hey-ho!

I’m in a really good place right now!

That’s a bold statement huh?! Especially for someone who hasn’t blogged in ages! I’ve noticed a pattern over the last 12 years I’ve been blogging, when I’m feeling good, I blog less. Now that’s not really all that great for two reasons; One, when I look back through my old journals/blogs, I often see negativity and think my life has just been a big bundle of misery and Two, it doesn’t present the best online persona as someone who’s just angry all the damn time. So, in the interest of balance, I’m writing a nice, positive blog.

So, why is being in a good place such a big deal to me? Well, anyone who’s known me for longer than a 6 month period will probably know I have depression and have done for quite some time. I’ve become quite good at hiding it and not making a big old hoohah out of it, not out of shame or anything, just trying to not let it define me and not letting people judge me for it. But I also know it’s probably never going to go away and because of that I make a really concerted effort to enjoy the good times. I’ve also become quite good at maintaining my moods and heading bad ones off when I feel them coming. I have a lot of tools in my box and I feel more on top of it than I ever have before.

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’ll know that last summer I had a vasectomy. It was a horrible experience, the operation was a disaster and the recovery took ages. It really fucked with my head and my body. A couple of months ago, I went to see a reflexologist about my sinuses. During treatment she hit upon a sore point in my foot. I hadn’t told her about my op at this point. She mentioned it was the groin area trigger point but more specifically, the vas deferens. Reflexology works, as I understand it, by unblocking energy blocks. By releasing stuck emotions, energy, “stuff”! I don’t know how it works, but it does. It actually really does. I have felt absolutely amazing since I started monthly treatments. It feels like it’s cleared away a whole ton of crap!

When I started dating the missus, she was doing her yoga teacher training. As the amazing, wonderful, supportive partner I am, I read loads of the texts she had to and learned quite a lot about the body from a non science angle. The recurring theme throughout all of these things is that the feet are incredibly important. They are for grounding. They affect every part of your body. Look after them! I also have a strange obsession with the two world wars and have read tons about them. A recurring theme from the soldiers in the trenches is look after your damn feet! And I don’t think that was just to avoid trench foot!! On some weird subconscious level, they knew the feet were key to their survival.

So, yeah, if you feel like crap and the docs can’t help, try reflexology. The worst that can happen is you get to sit down for an hour and have someone massage your feet. Oh boo fucking hoo! 😉

Off the back of that, my general confidence is quite high at the moment. This is mostly brought on by work. I’m doing really well, my projects are going well, I’m doing some interesting stuff, I have a client budget ($1m) that allows me to be quite creative for the first time in ages, I’m learning some new software that I think will change the face of ERP systems for the future. I’m just really enjoying what I do at the moment. It’s fun. I stated on my LinkedIn profile that I’m probably the number 1 consultant in the UK at what I do. And I think that’s fairly accurate. That puts me quite high up the ranks for the global market too, something which has been kinda affirmed for me which I’ll go into later in this post.

Before I go on, the last thing I want to cover is the bread making. This has come to a grinding halt. One of the downsides of enjoying work is I’ve been caning the hours for the last 6 months which in turn has accelerated my RSI downfall! Basically, my wrists and shoulders are fucked. I’ve been using computers excessively for 27 years!! I basically can’t really knead dough at the moment. I’ve asked for a mixer with a dough arm for my birthday in July and then I’ll continue. In the meantime, I got this really great wrist strap that has a metal bar in it that forces my arm into the correct position. It’s amazing. It hurt like crap at first but I’ve settled into it now. I’m having regular massages, doing regular foam roller exercises and when I get back from my holiday to Spain next month, I’ll be buying a new office chair. Hopefully all of this will keep the RSI at bay for a bit longer so I can continue to work in IT. It was literally so bad I couldn’t sleep, but that seems to have gone away now which is great.

So, all of this positivity and great feeling tied in with all the treatments and the self maintenance I’m doing has helped make me feel really focused and “in the zone”. I’ve been able to look at my life objectively, especially important as my career may come to an end sooner than I would like, and I’ve made a decision that I think is one of the most important decisions of my life.

*drumroll*

We’ve decided to move to Australia!!!

Well, we’ve decided to apply for our visas to move to Australia!

Moving to Cambridge has been the biggest mistake I’ve ever made. I’ve really hated it. I’ve tried to love it, really. When we came back from Aus last time, we decided not to move there because it wasn’t the right time and things weren’t in the right place and we came back committed to making Cambridge work for us. It just hasn’t happened. The move last year certainly helped, but it’s not been enough. On top of that, I actually don’t think moving anywhere else in the UK will be all that much different. The country is full and suffering. The government sucks. I will never be able to afford a house here. My career has gone as far as it can. The weather has been appalling for the last 3 years pretty much. The cost of living keeps on rising. It’s just full of hate, hate and more hate. I’m almost ashamed to be British at the moment.

I watch a lot of those relocate down under programs. I know it’s not all fairy tales and cake, the Aussies can be quite brutal, but I’m from the North, I can take it! I’ve been looking into the visa process and everything really is lined up right now for me to apply and get a good point score and hopefully sail through independently without having to rely on sponsorship and be tied down with restrictions. I’ll be writing up the process on a dedicated page so I can track everything, as much for my own benefit as it is for clarifying it for other people should a search land them here. But what I’m hoping for is a generally better quality of life, I want to live by a beach, I want a short commute to an office, I want a good group of friends, I want some fucking hot weather and BBQ’s and to do outdoor activities. Seriously, it feels like the government have turned off the gulf stream just to keep us inside and controlled by the TV! I want to do even better work in my career, I want to have the money I spend on rent be on a fucking nice place not some utter piece of shit that’s falling apart. I want space. I want community. I want busy. I want tranquil. I’m sick of going to country parks for some peace only to find them now overrun with screaming children and their feckless fucking parents!

I’ve been doing a lot of investigating and I think Melbourne is the place for us. Sydney is too hot, expensive and busy. Tasmania is too isolated, economically stagnant and cold! Melbourne, and particularly St Kilda, gives me beach and city, cafes, culture, retail, people. More importantly, it’s an absolute breeding ground for the type of work I do. It’s incredibly specialised and whilst the software I support is used heavily in Aus, the main area of the business partners is around this area of Melbourne. I got in touch with one of them and was given an incredible recommendation following the work I’ve done with them over the last 5 years. As I mentioned above, my global reputation is clearly doing quite well. So I’m trying to arrange a couple of interviews when we go on holiday there in January.

In the meantime I’ve got a lot to arrange to apply for the visa. I need to pass the English test with a high score and I need to get my skills certified as I don’t have a degree. All that takes 6 months but should be done when I get back in Feb. Then I can file for my visa and if invited, it’s another 4-6 months for the approval. Once approved, I think we’re going to go and activate it so it’s good for five years and then really have a good hard think about it. I just figure that as now is the best time for the visa application, it makes sense to apply and get it. Then make the final decision later. No point planning for something so incredibly uncertain. Of course, if one of these companies decides to offer me a sponsorship/immediate job offer then I’ll go straight away! We’ll see…

It’s a really slow application process but I’ll keep the blog updated as it progresses. I’ve told everyone I think needs to know and now it’s a case of fingers crosses while I fill in the paperwork and jump the hoops. Wish me luck!