A Travellerspoint blog

Hungry? Me too. I apologise for the profanity.

I have really toned it down from the real words that were going through my head.

overcast

Budapest. Did you know it is Buda and Pest? I didn’t before I arrived. Well I knew 5 fifths of bugger all before I went, so that is not really surprising. Iain and I are taking part in a spontaneity study, so to show it that Iain meant business and we are spontaneous in our own right he decided to push out his business trip to return on Sunday night, and book me a flight to join him in Budapest, on Thursday…. For Friday.

Normally this would not be an issue for the ‘Amazing Race’ travellers that we are. However in a relationship that has worked so well as a functioning team, when it is split up for even a short period of time it all turns to rubbish. I have no one to blame but myself in this situation.

Thursday night: Iain books the tickets, no problems. I research and book train tickets, research and book a hotel, no problems. Skype my mum, do the washing, make some soup, clean the house, pack my bag. Clockwork, no problems at all.

Friday: Manic work day, as usual I guess, not sure why I expected any different. Go to leave the office at 1730 (have been their since 0630), shit. No passport. That’s Iain’s job. Double Shit, Iain’s not here to blame. No problems, I’ve got plenty of time, I will just head home and then go to the airport from there – its almost faster to go on that tube line anyway.

My walk, turns to a brisk walk, then a jog. Get home walk in the door, shit. I haven’t printed out my boarding pass. I am travelling on peasant air. They are definitely going to make me pay more for that. Oh well, fail Kayleigh you’ll learn for next time. Turn on the computer to check in. Shit. Missed the cut off time for check in. 3 hours? Peasant air? Are you kidding me? Who knew there was a cut off time for check in! Oh no, more additional costs. Oh no, here come the tears.

After grabbing my passport and having a very hurried and irate conversation with Iain I run out of the house and head to the train station. As I get out of the tunnel, I check TFL (Transport for London) to see what time I am anticipating getting to St Pancras station to get the train to Luton Airport. Shit. ARE YOU KIDDING ME! All trains to Luton cancelled. Here I am now sitting on the tube balling my eyes out, my makeup is making me look like Alice Cooper, in a sauna and I am in such a state that the man sitting next to me has got up and moved. Cheers.

After a long discussion with the man at the station, he has decided that even a cab called by them is not going to get me there on time. So I call Iain and we decide that I’ll just get into a cab. It’s ok, travel insurance will cover it. The first cabbie I approach, looks at me with surprise and then his eyes light up. ‘It’s going to be £100’ he grins. “£100’!! That’s like $200 NZD, haha hilarious my friend, no really how much? I ring Iain. He confirms, ‘don’t worry babe insurance will definitely cover it’. Ok, go back to the stand, that taxi has gone, so I have to begin the haggle process again. Although the first attempt was more of a look of astonishment, rather than a proper financial negotiation. Second cabbie: It’ll be more than £100.
Me: Well can you do it for £100?
Second cabbie: Why?
Me: Cause it’s a sweet deal, what else are you going to do, sit in traffic all night?
Second cabbie: Cash?
Me: Um… yep… I don’t have any at the moment, but I’m sure I can find some…..
(Note: I didn’t have cash, nor did insurance did not cover it – doh.)

So as I arrived at Luton airport, I was watching the amount of the taxi tick over to £140, and my time tick down, I was close to admitting defeat. I ran inside, and up to the peasant airline man (maybe he worked for Whizz – I cannot confirm or deny), only to be told. Oh that gate closed 2 minutes ago. I burst into tears and in a very ‘I’m in a glass cage of emotion’ manner I waved my £100 taxi fare receipt in his face mumbling nothing in particular in a very unreasonable female way. He rushed me to another counter, who rushed me to another counter, who printed my ticket and checked me in for free (got to have some small wins) and rushed me into the security line. I still hadn’t stopped shaking as I collapsed in my seat on the plane between two gentlemen who were probably wondering why I hadn’t bothered taking off my coat, hat, gloves or scarf before I sat down for the 2 and a half hour flight.

As I arrived in Budapest, I thought, here we go, another joy ride to the hotel, who the heck is going to take me… and as I went to walk out the door there was a man with my name on his little board. Iain Phillips sometimes you out-do yourself. I could have hugged him - my new taxi driver, not Iain. Well he got a hug later, but in the mean time it was the best I could do. George took me home (by this stage it was 1am), he told me about his city and was very disappointed that the lights had all gone out by the time I had arrived, he was very sweet, and very proud of his city. It made me appreciate the effort to get there, like a tough win in a sports game, you feel like it is so much more deserved.

Anyway, I guess I haven’t left myself much room to talk about Budapest. It is awesome, no words that I can write will explain the magic of this city. Iain and I decided that it had to be in the top 5 cities we had been to. Big call, I know. Great architecture, great people, cheap activities, walkable, and so filled with patriotism and depth. There is something for everyone, walking up hills, thermal pools, amazing hotels, cheap cocktails, beautiful sights, river views and I don’t know if it was just because it was winter but hardly any people. Lovely. Majestic. A city for a return trip, maybe with a little less troublesome UK travel experience next time.

Posted by kayles 27.01.2014 12:43 Archived in Hungary Comments (0)

Brussels sans sprouts.

sunny

We didn’t have Mussels in Brussels. We did have a lot of Belgium beer, and fries and waffles though.

Our recent trip to Brussels was our second trip to Belgium, first being Bruge. I expected a lot of our second trip. Bruge was such an amazing spot, filled with liveliness and history. Although Brussels was awesome and I learnt a lot more about the fine nation of Belgium, it was not as remarkable as the first.

Brussels is what I imagine Europe will become over the next 20 years, a city filled with beautiful buildings, but a place that is at risk of losing its definite culture and becoming a place that shows the power of globalisation. Brussels, if you are not aware is considered the capital of Europe. This seems odd for Kiwi’s to grasp, that there is a capital of a land mass that contains so many cultures and countries. There is no ‘official’ capital, and no plans to declare one, but Brussels hosts the European Commission, council of the European Union and the seat of the European Parliament. Sounds like a lot of dreary city buildings, and you would be right. There is a distinct city dwelling feel about it. But as I read when I was there, your opinion on Brussels is based on which exit of the North Station you come out of.

First there is the sky scrapper district, shiny buildings, office blocks and office people. The same suit wearing people you will find in any business district. Secondly there is the red light district filled with some very odd looking bars (and people) with window displays of real people not mannequins. Then there is the Turkish and Arab quarter, where you can find anything you want, as long as you are willing to haggle for it. This is where you can find shops filled with men smoking cigars and all of this is in a place filled with beautiful buildings that is almost grasping to retain a hold of its cultural heritage.

Iain and I walked around the city, so we ended up in a lot of interesting places, but Brussels is essentially not a city, but a whole lot of suburbs that contain completely different countries. I am writing this at 4 am so that sentence may not have made sense. Belgium’s population is made up of 15% immigrants. You can be in a suburb that feels like a Congolese village, that backs onto a Vietnamese area. Cross the road and you are in Turkey, then Morocco, then China. It is globalisation as I have never seen it before. I don’t think Brussels has lost its identity because of it, I think it may have made it better. Someone said to me, the only reason to go to Brussels is it has a nice train station, use it. But I think if you want to see a city that is a mini world, Brussels is it. In a very weird and semi-functioning way. I’m not sure if it is worth a visit more than once, but I have a feeling that if any city is going to start wearing skin tight white outfits and live like ‘The Island’ Brussels would be the first to jump at the opportunity. I think I need to spend a little more time in the gym before I’ll look good in one of those.

So Brussels, scratch that one off the world map. Lucky it has good food.

Posted by kayles 27.01.2014 12:14 Archived in Belgium Comments (0)

I'm dreaming of my first White Christmas...

Sing it. It will get stuck in your head.

rain 11 °C

So we return from the mountains to the London rain, and I don’t even mind because our week in the snow has been fantastic.

Many people wonder what it is like to spend a Christmas away from family, and although it sounds horrible, (sorry mum), it is really an experience everyone should have at least once. Don’t get me wrong, family time is the best, but the Christmas season always brings out the best in humanity. (NB: ignoring things like the Baghdad bombing of Christmas mass.) People are supportive, friendly, caring and compassionate to complete strangers. People are genuine, they throw all caution to the wind and celebrate the season with people they wouldn’t even notice on the street any other time of the year. It is an amazing experience, Christmas outside of your normal family traditions breeds friendships and familiarity far above your run of the mill travel understanding. It really is the first scene in Love Actually. Don’t lie. You know it. And all the words.

For those who don’t know, we have been in a town called Sauze D’Oulx in Italy for the last week. Coincidentally this is the place where Iain’s parents met… cough, um… only a few years ago ☺. As soon as we arrived in our hotel, we immediately made a new Christmas family who looked after us… even when we didn’t necessarily look after them… sorry for taking you off-piste Dave and probably causing your dislocated collarbone.

Even with the 4am start , as soon as I arrived in the mountains I felt refreshed, like a brand new person. Life in the city is tiring. I miss the mountains, the fresh air, the laid back lifestyle, the dependency on mulled wine.

During our stay we had the best weather forecast you could ask for, sunny on the first day (so you could get a grasp on the mountain and its geography), then snow, lots of snow on Christmas day and then sunshine again to appreciate it. Even on day 6, Iain and I were still finding fresh tracks, and bring-me-my-brown-pants tree runs.

With 6 days of riding, Iain and I came out relatively unscathed. But in true ‘peach’ form, I do have a full forearm bruise from a one-sided fight with a tree. I lost. First an icy mogul pushed me, I decided it was Christmas, so I wouldn’t fight back. After a 50 metre slide, off the run into a gully, I stopped by hitting a tree. At full pace. I don’t know if I was more upset about the intense throbbing in my arm, or the fact my button had been ripped of my new snow pants. Probably the button.

Once you feel you have the grasp of a sport like snowboarding, it really puts the fear of god into you, when you realise that no matter how competent you think you are, you are completely at the will of the elements. After a few seasons at this, I don’t often find myself in a position when I cannot control my board. It is an extension of me. I sometimes think I have more control of my board than I have of my own feet. I am sure there are a few people that would agree with that. But to be in a position where you have absolutely no control makes you realise there are always aspects of life that you cannot control. I guess that’s what makes life fun, or at least worth waking up every morning, to see what the days challenge is.

If you are passionate about something, the risks are completely understandable and justifiable. Anyone who competes in high-level events, plays sports, has an obsession for extreme sports, or just has the testicles to bike to work in central London every day will understand the risk vs love checklist that you make to validate your choices. People that push themselves to the limit on a regular basis will not be understood by others, they will be scoffed at, dismissed or passed off as delusional. Be cautious. This only fuels their fire.

Now for my next challenge, finding this passion in London.

Posted by kayles 30.12.2013 05:17 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Resolutions and revolutions.

storm 6 °C

I was speaking to a work colleague the other day about New Years resolutions.
I’m not really a big resolution fan, I have always been of the mind that if you want to change something just do it, don’t wait for some arbitrary date to make your mind up, just make your decision and then change, simple as that. Also I don’t really live a life filled with vices. I don’t smoke, I exercise, I eat (relatively) healthy – (well, the amount I eat, there has to be something healthy in it!) Jeez, doesn’t my voice boom from up here on this soap box! Seriously though, I can’t even remember the last genuine new years resolution I had.

So even though in my discussion with my work mate about resolutions, I said I didn’t have one, and almost certainly was not going to formulate one out of thin air – I realised I did have one. And it wasn’t that hard to change. It was a constant in 2012, which was severely lacking in 2013. The blog. That’s right. Blog, and my one follower, you are the target of my NY dedication.

I will write blogs again, I will make an effort, I will spend my down time interpreting my travels and attempting to make people laugh. I enjoy it. It’s cathartic, and my life definitely needs some more inner peace at the moment.

I think the reason my blog has been lacking is because now we have settled at Wapping HQ, have jobs and a relatively normal life, the blog is something that involves others, people I know, a culture I attempt to be part of, routines of people that I see everyday. I can’t just spend an entire rant describing the annoying sniffing of traveller Edward. I have to be political and mindful. Anyone who knows me, knows this is not an easy task. My usual diatribes ignore social boundaries, cultural rules and etiquette. And just aim to make myself and hopefully one other person have a little giggle and rationalise the ridiculous situations I end up in.

With that said, it will make me think about my travels in a meaningful manner, experience them after I am home, and let them travel across the globe to people who cannot see or experience those places. Or just people who have travelled and just think – surely Kayleigh fell down somewhere, I want to hear where and how broken she is.

So with 2014 round the corner, I decided to take my own advice – who needs an meaningless date in January. I will start the blog again today.

Look out 2014 here I come.

Posted by kayles 19.12.2013 13:44 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Back to reality

Not a moment too soon

sunny 30 °C
View Our OE on iainph's travel map.

My days of unemployment are officially numbered. They number 3 more to be exact. Which is very exciting and worthy of celebration for lots of reasons, but the chief one right now is that my new workplace has airconditioning, and my house does not.

Don’t get me wrong, fun-employment in mid-summer London has its perks. The last few weeks have seen plenty of picnics in the parks, sunbathing, various outdoor big screens and large pitchers of Pimms. However London has now transitioned from best-run-of-summer-weather-anyone-can-remember to its-officially-a-heatwave-we-all-might-die. Which means, actually, we’ve had 5 days in a row where the temperature has been at least 5 degrees above the average. Whatever. It’s hot. In a way that other cities I’ve lived in don’t get hot. A sunny day in Auckland is great until about 2pm when the cumulus clouds start piling up, the sea-breeze kicks in, and there an even chance of a late afternoon thunderstorm. Not here. It’s clear, calm and stifling all day long.

Which is nice in San Diego. In London, the streets are narrow and crowded; the buildings are old and designed to be warm in winter, not cool in summer; and most of the infrastructure (including the sewers) was built in Victorian times and has changed little since. All of which adds up to the experience being not quite as pleasant as you might imagine. If you believe the headlines, the central line was hotter and more humid than Bali this week. I believe it. I was there, and it was more like a well-dressed mosh pit at a rave deep inside a volcano. If I’d had to endure the sheep-pen crush of rush hour tube travel in these conditions more than once, I might have quit a job rather than accepted one.

As it is, I’m extremely lucky to have landed a job within easy walking distance of our place, and that walk is a pleasant riverside stroll the whole way. Kayleigh mentioned in the last blog that slow and steady wins the race, and it turns out she was right, despite me doubting the strategy a few times in the last few months. The London job market is a strange beast which has taken me a while to learn to tackle. After many years of skipping happily from one pre-arranged job to the next, it was a steep learning curve for me. The sheer scale of the job market here is mind-blowing and there are far more interesting, well-paid roles than I could ever apply for even if I was spending my entire day on the hunt (which I seldom was).

Unfortunately there are even more well-qualified candidates than there are roles, so getting noticed is a big challenge, even when you know you’d be perfect for the job. There were certainly moments of extreme frustration and anger along the way. Ultimately however, persistence has paid off and I’ve been offered exactly the type of role I wanted, with a great company full of fun, motivated people.

I won’t go into lots of detail here about strategies for finding work. Everyone has plenty of advice to offer, some of it is useful, and some is just barely disguised pity. If you want to know what worked for me send me a private message and I’ll be happy to share some tips. Mostly I just wanted to say that I’m glad I jumped in the deep end. I never would have mustered the determination to secure the job I have now if I’d been sitting comfortably in another job and trying my luck occasionally. In the last few months I learnt more about myself, my talents, and what I want to achieve that I have since basic military training 14 years ago.

To me, all forms of adventure are just ways of learning about yourself. Climbing mountains and sailing oceans are great ways to initiate the learning process. So is quitting your job and moving to the other side of the world on a whim. Everyone should do it. Oh, and if you do, Canada makes a great stopover!

Posted by iainph 19.07.2013 10:49 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

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