Things I wish I knew before moving to London

Like Samuel Johnson once said “When a man is tired of London he is tired of life” And this is one quote I always refer back to when I think of London and the 2 years I spent living there. There was never a dull moment or a quiet Friday night, even when I sadly moved on due to visa restrictions, I never felt I would find the same love for another city. I learnt a lot about not just London but myself and there are a few things I wish I had known before my time there was over.

 

  1. You’re here to have fun not make money

So you’ve arrived in London and eventually you will have a job and be paying your rent, and like the other 8.7 million people in the city you will be struggling to save for everything and anything, but its important not to forget why you are there. You chose to live in one of the most expensive cities in the world for the experience not the money. No ones getting rich on 7 pounds an hour, so screw the savings account and drink an over priced pint, cause at the end of it, you wont want to trade those memories for a 1000 pounds.

 

  1. Stop saying you’ll do it, and just get the bloody monthly Oyster Pass

I debated this for way too long. If you’re working a Monday- Friday job just get the monthly pass. I found myself choosing to walk for 30minutes, trying to save an extra couple pounds, and avoiding going out anywhere that wasn’t in my area. JUST GET THE BLOODY PASS. You’ll end up saving saving money and time, it’s just one less thing to stress over.

 

  1. You’ll always need an emergency jacket

This might seam like an obvious one but trust me the weather here can fool even the most skeptical. The weather can change in a matter of minutes, and it you ask me the weatherman is playing a sick joke on the city, and deliberately reporting the wrong forecasts. It might say sunshine all day, with a low chance of winds but you can bet your bottom dollar (or pound) there’s going to be a blizzard on the day you don’t bring a jacket.

 

  1. The British know how to drink

Being an Aussie we can hold our liquor pretty well, I have been witnessed holding down 5 tequilas, 2 vodkas and a handful or flaming Sambuca’s and still making it in on time for my shift the next day (Looking like the cat dragged me, but on time none the less). But from one binge drinker to another, do not challenge a Londoner they may not look tough but after many years of training and pure breeding they will bring fair game to the table.

 

  1. It will take you 40 minutes to get anywhere in the city

London is a huge city with millions of people buzzing and bustling to get to their next stop so plan your trip with extra time because a in many cases you will be stuck behind some dordeling tourists who will think that walking really slow and stopping right in front on the exit is okay…oh… and don’t get me started about people who stand on the left side of the escalator !! and this will probably take me to my next tip

 

  1. You’re going to become a rude person but, that’s okay

It maybe something in the London water, or maybe something in the air, but everyone seams to be in an insane rush and soon you will be too. You may actually have nowhere you need to be, but you’re going to get well pissed off if anyone gets in your way when you’re trying to get there. You will become invisible to waving elbows and shoulders, and soon enough you’ll be the owner of those jabbing elbows and shoving shoulders, and not long after that enough you will regret your decision to go to Oxford street at 5pm on a Friday because you know you may actually have to knock a few people over to get down into the Tube.

 

  1. Its expensive but not unaffordable

Yes you know it, I know it, we all know it! London is expensive. I’ve heard it a million times but really it’s not unaffordable. You don’t need to be a millionaire and majority of the city’s people aren’t. So yes, you’ll probably have to give up on paying for extra ‘Guac’ and opt for instant noodles or like most Londoners grab a 3-pound meal deal at Tesco’s for lunch. But 8.778million people are managing to live in the city so you can too.

 

  1. Take advantage of the free shit

There is so much free things you can do and see in London. A lot of people don’t realize it. And given you’ve just moved to the city, and probably don’t have a job or any sort of disposable income, I would definitely recommend you check some of it out:

 

There is really so much to do, here is a list:

 

National Gallery

Brittish Mueseum

Houses of Parliament

Greenwich Park

East London StreetArt

Free food events almost on every weekend

Borough Market

Museum of London

Kensington Gardens

Queens house

National Portrait Gallery

Sky Garden

Bank of England Museum

Museum of London Docklands

National Martitime Museum

The Anaesthesia Museum

Wimledon Common

Richmond Park

Changing the Guard

Abbey Road

Princess Diana Memorial Fountain

Portobello Market

Science Museum

Sir Johns Soane’s Museum

Temple Church

Wallace Collection

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  1. City mapper is your new Bible

I wish I had downloaded this when I first arrived. I found myself lost so often, that I refused to go for walks on my lunch break, as it would take me an extra hour to find my way back. I found this to be the easiest and most reliable way to get anywhere in the city. Google maps ain’t got shit in comparison. This amazing App is available in other cities too, so definitely check to see if your local city has it.

 

If you are interested in App’s that I recommend click here to see my must have travel apps

 

  1. The weather’s not that bad, so stop complaining!

I’m originally from Australia and have therefore had a lifetime of great weather, and still didn’t find the weather unbearable. Yes it got cold and I even saw a little snow while living there. And it did rain fairly often, but the weather there is really quite temperate compared to other cities. Dublin a close neighbor of London was by far worse with 80% rain. Toronto hits temperatures of -30, and Sydney gets golf ball size hail, and winds of over 170km per hour. So you’ll survive a little rain.

 

  1. It’s Worth it!

London is such an amazing city, with the potential to give you experiences unobtainable anywhere else. It may not be the easiest transition, but you wont regret it.

 

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I hope you liked my post, if there is anything you think I should add, let me know in the comments below

Happy Travels!!

How to travel Indonesia – HARDCORE style

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Indonesia has a special place in my heart, as it was the first country I “Really” traveled through. From a young age the love and necessity of travel was drilled into me. I grew up listening to stories, of my mum backpacking through Mexico, going weeks without a word of English, My dad sleeping on the beaches of Asia, living off 11c a day, and my uncle chancing a monkey through the African desert that had stolen his very valuable box of Weetbix’s, (the best Aussie cereal in existence) only to realise he that they had seen a cheater in the area 20 minutes earlier, and promptly returned to his camp defeated and empty handed. As such my first visit to Indonesia had more forest treks, out door squat “toilets” and bamboo beds and than it did beaches, hot showers and banana splits. This trip is where I contracted the incurable “Travel Bug” that 60 countries latter I have not yet shock and hope never to. Having recently returned to Indonesia I have developed a new appreciation and perspective. One thing that hit me almost immediate is how much the country and changed a developed, It is not the same Indonesia I visited as a school kid, this is why you need to visit It NOW, not next year, not when you retire, not when you win the lottery or quit that crappy job, you’ve been talking about leaving for past two years, Now!

Every day we are loosing more and more of Indonesia’s rainforests, little villages, and culture to modern development and Tourism. Have a look at my ‘leave the right footprint’ post to learn how important it is to be a conscious and considerate traveller.

 

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For starters Indonesia is made up of over 17,508 islands! That mean if you were to visit a different island every day it would take you almost half a century to get through them all. I’m going to make a wild guess and assume you don’t have a spare 50 years to travel Indonesia, so here’s a breakdown on what you should expect while exploring this crazy country.

You can’t talk about Indonesia with out mentioning the notorious Bali. Bali is on almost everyone’s bucked list, and so it should be, it’s an amazing place. Bali has become a major tourist attraction, and as such it is extremely tourist friendly, there is countless hotels, restaurants, activities, and markets selling everything from wooden penis bottle openers (Why are these everywhere is bali, just why???) to high-end fashion (Same, same, but different).

Additionally there is 101 different activity’s that are made extremely ease to book, with a tourist office, or a couple on every street, making it a very desirable place to spend a week snorkeling, partying and getting amazing massages at.

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But don’t get stuck, its very, very easy to find that time has just slipped away and before you know it you’re a leathery 60 year old that never returned, chilled Bail lifestyle having absorbed any desire to return to reality.

So get out of Bail and try out Bali’s neighbour; the Island of Java. If the first thing you think of when you’re here Java is coffee your on the right track. Indonesia is the 4th largest producer of coffee and most of that is grown in Java, so make sure you try out an espresso or two while you’re there, or better yet go for a coffee tour around a plantation and learn how the globes most widely used drug is goes from cherry to the sweet nectar of life residing in your mug.

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As we head east, and away from the tourist hot spots the first thing you’ll notice is a change in the people. As we’ve established you’re a “hardcore traveller” and enjoy getting into remote areas, but like anything else this comes with a few complications and consequences. Remember when you were a child and wished you where famous, well your dreams have come true, through only in this reality you have all the fame and next to none of the skills and talent. There’s going to be a lot of cat calling and a lot of photos and your going to get bloody pissed off. Try hard to remember that to them your just as rare as seeing Justin Bieber or Kim Kardashian walking down the street, and if you can say you wouldn’t be wiping out your phone and grabbing a few shots, then you’re a liar and can’t be trusted, because you would, you and I both know it.

This kind of sucks, but take it with a grain of salt because it’s absolutely worth the visit. Java has some truly amazing sights unlike anywhere else. Check out Yogyakarta, Borobudur, Prambana and Kawah Putih. Get your bargaining on and hire a driver to take you around, I recommend starting real early like 4am early (Crazy, I know) this way you can skip the clouds, get more out of your day and get to watch the amazing sunrise over the mountains.

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Next stop… Sumatra.

Sumatra is just as cool as it sounds, but if you think the attention was too much in Java ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet’. You’ve been bumped up from Justin Beiber to the Queen of England, none the less, you’re a ‘hardcore traveler’ and can handle it.

IMG_8690.jpgYou can’t visit Sumatra with out spending so time at Lake Toba. It a bit of a pain in the ass to get to but do it you wont regret it. So Sumatra is an island and at its cater is the worlds biggest volcanic lake, Lake Toba and at its centre is another island ‘Samosir’ and to make things even trippyer there’s another lake at its centre with another Island in that. After about an 8 hour bus from Medan, and a 30minute ferry and a 10minute motor bike ride you will find your self in a 5 start cabin watching the sunset over the lake with a cocktail with a little umbrella in one hand selfie stick in the other, cause lets face it, did you even go travelling if no one see’s your cliché selfie pop up on their social media with a few #wonderlust #Moday #lovelife #followforfollow hashtags.

So that’s three islands done, only 17,505 to go.

Happy Travels!!!

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Why you need to see Kazakhstan now!

This is a country I never really expected to visit, and only really did because of its geography; basically it was in the right place at the time. Although having said that, I’m so glad I did. This was the first “Stan” I had visited, but would defiantly not be my last. This diverse country sparked a new fascination, interest and curiosity in this part of the world that I did not posses before my visit.

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Astana

I flew into Kazakhstan’s capital Astana from Russia, as I had previously read it was relatively easy to get a Mongolian Visa from here. Have a look at my ‘Getting a Mongolian Visa in Astana, Kazakhstan’ post from details on this.

Getting around.

Astana is a large city, as such many of its attraction are rather spaced out, I’d recommend taking advantage of the public transport. Even without speaking the country’s native tongue catching the local buses are relatively easy and super cheap, the standard fare converting to less than 0.30c. There is also the classic ‘Hop on Hop off’ Bus. If you’re tight on time these are a great option, allowing you to view the best parts of the city and its attractions as well as hear about its history all in a matter of hours.

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Chimkent

I was eager to get a real feel of the country and escape the mundane of a city, after a few hours of searching Kazakh tours I found myself communicating with a local guide I found through ‘Indy Guide’. Convincing me to take the 12-hour train south to Chimkent was easy after a quick Google image search. The south region of Kazakhstan has absolutely breathtaking natural landscapes that I was eager to get amongst, and boarded a train the next day.IMG_7044

I shared a cabin with a young woman and her two cheeky kids, an hour latter I found my self baby-sitting the 2 and 5-year-old boys while she had took disserved nap. None of us understood each other, however they soon came to refer to me as ‘Apa’, meaning sister. After a bumpy nights sleep I found my self swapping phone numbers and Facebook’s with my cabin buddies and saying good bye, as I jumped off the train and into the dusty hot air of the south.

I spent the day exploring the city and the night in a creepy looking hostel. The next morning the adventure began.

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To be entirely honest my guide was rather annoying and never seemed to know when to shut up, but undeniably loved his country and knew where the best place to visit where. On top of that he knew almost every fact, story and spiritual meaning for everything from the many amazing Mausoleum we visited to Carpet, like seriously this guy spent a good part of the afternoon taking me around a caplet factory and explaining the origin of Kazak carpet, the guy could not get enough of it, and confessed that his home was covered in it, floor, walls and roof???? (True story). During my week with him I was taken everywhere from the steps of the desert, to the mouthman’s and even spent a few nights with a local family in a small village with their 7 children, and couple of horses, cows, chickens, sheep and donkeys. Here I was spontaneously brought to the local school of 160 students from 5-18 to teach a lesson of English, as even the English teachers could not speak it, there was also a whole school assembly to show me of as a westerner, with a Q and A season.

In this village I also tried Horses Milk a delicacy of the area and many Kazak sweets as the locals believed that western people loved sweets would offer them to me constantly. I trekked a mountain and had a picnic at its snowy peak, explored ancient ruins, rode a rather grumpy horse, picked fruit from wild apple trees and watched men squat with a baby camel on their back (apparently it’s a traditional sport)

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After a crazy, weird and adventures week it was time to move on, and the city of Almaty seamed as good as any. I boarded yet another train and 13hours later I was wondering the streets in search for my hostel. After asking a handful of people if they spoke English, I found a woman with her mother in the park, that not only called the hostel for me, but helped me but walked me to it, and helped carrying my overly packed front-pack.

 

The city of Almaty has some unique and beautify sights; however just beyond its rim is untouched beauty that deserves to be on everyone’s bucket like. As I was to be spending my birthday in this city, I made a point make my time here memorable and found that to challenge. I organised a tour with some others in my hostel a few of Almaty’s best natural locations, including the famous Kolsi Lake, Charyn canyon and Kaindy Lake all of which are bewildering, exceptional and astonishing there own remarkable way. It took several hours in a craped car, on some of the bumpiest roads I’ve travelled on, with a guide that spoke next to no English, however he did spit out “Kangaroo”, when I told him I was from the land down under.IMG_7083

Before I know it I had spent over a week in Almaty and almost a month in Kazakhstan. And as my visa was due to expire I was to move on, next stop Mongolia. If you’re humming and Harring about visiting Central Asia, I’m hear to assure you. You will not regret exploring this antique part of the globe.

Happy Travels!

Why I love Soeul – South Korea

Welcome to a Disneyland like paradise, where the lights only shine brighter when the sun goes down…. Seoul, South Korea

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Stepping off the plane and into the airport, and you’ll already know you are somewhere very special and very very….. Different, to say the least.

If like me the first thing you do once you get off a long flight is find the closest restrooms, then prepared to be amazed, South Koreas high tech toilets are about to blow your mind. You will be greeted by systems with a button for everything from playing music, and heating the seat, to an oddly enjoyable water squirt directed certain points of the rear??? So, now you’re sitting there listening to the relaxing waterfall sounds and finish up your ‘duty’ (Pun intended), wave a hand over the sensor and receive a precisely measured amount of toilet paper, once you stand up the toilet flushes automatically and then begins to clean its self with sanitized, as it bids you farewell.

If this isn’t enough to freak you out, then take a casual stroll down the road and checkout the k-pop street performers, the girls dressed as dollish anime characters and the occasional Owl, Raccoon or poop café.IMG_7837.jpg

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Take a deep breath in and guess what you’ll smell? Korean BBQ of course, what were you thinking off ? That’s right BBQ!

Korean BBQ is a whole new interactive experience! Take a seat at a table witht a giant woke style BBQ at its centre. Let the waiter know what you fancy and a few moments later some raw meat and veggies will be delivered. Don’t go blaming the cheff if you food is over cooked, because now you’re the chef!!

A little nervous? Its okay because even an idiot or a baby could do this, I know because I can sometimes be both. Let the sizzling magic begin with a bottle of typical Korean beer Mekju.

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Seoul is one of my favorite cities to date, its not just for the unexpected, strange and futurist sights that make you know you’re a very long way from home, but the culture and people. I found that even though Koreans are always moving forward in technology and business, they have managed to maintain and live by their old traditions creating a buzzard and beautiful balance between the two.

Being a young girl who always finds herself lost in a big city, it’s life saving to have multiple strangers stop and offer help, even when I wasn’t in need of any. On one particular occasion a few Koreans actually caught the train with me just to help me get to my destination.

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Koreans are polite and respectful, so much so that even on an empty street and 4am in the morning, they will wait for the little green man to tell them when to cross, or during peak hour on a Monday they will line up to board the subway.

I could write on for pages how beautiful this city is, but really its one to discover on your own.

Happy Travels!

Where to find the best coffee in Toronto (trust me i’m Australian)

 

Take it from two Aussies arriving in Toronto who strongly live by the mentality of ‘death before decaf’. After a painstaking 30hour flight, a strong amount of caffeine was the only thing that could break us through the jet lag. We had heard the rumors and knew the Aussie standard would be hard to come by and therefore opted to ask some local Canadians that confidently directed us to try Canadians famous Tim Horton’s. I don’t even know where to begin in reviewing this beverage, I refuse to call it coffee, unless you can classify dirty bean water, and sugar as coffee. Additionally I made the mistake of ordering some food to company this disaster. And was served a plate (cardboard box) of calories, carbs and what may or may not have been a vegetable, this yet to be determined.

Don’t, go here, just don’t.

 However before you subject your taste buds to the torture of repulsive imitations of coffee I have endured over the past few weeks, there is hope found in a handful of cafes. Below are some of our favorite cafes in Toronto that not only supply consistently great coffee, but fun hangout areas you’ll want to stay in all day.

 

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Jimmy’s Café

Get yourself downtown into one of the 6 ‘jimmy’s’ cozy cafes and surround yourself with inspiring walls covered by rap legends and Historical figures, the design layout changes from store to store.

The Blend,

Now lets get a little technical and dive into Jimmy’s many coffee blends, you have a few choices from the blend hall of fame, each is named after a famous “jimmy” from jimmy Hendricks to James dean. Combine that with a pretty unique drink list, including such delights as the Purple haze, Goth Latte or JVO (Jimmy’s very own). You’ll find your classic cappuccino a bland beverage in comparison to these awesome specialty mixes. Additionally no one likes coffee that drains your pockets even if its good coffee, and lucky for you, this isn’t as issue. The prices are descent for Toronto standards and leveled by the amount of shots per coffee.

To top it off the staff are very warm, if not a little eccentric and are always up for a chat. You can find one of these little gems everywhere from our local Baldwin Village location as well as Kensington, Gerrard, Queen west, McCall and Ossington.

 

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Dark horse

The dark horse also has 6 cafes within Toronto, with one situated right in the heart of Chinatown and located right next to a funky record store.

This place is cool, everything and everyone in there is super modern with a quirky, rustic edge. It has a awesome contemporary interior with wooden flooring and a large communal table that looks designed precisely for the purpose of whipping out your laptop and Mooching off the hour of free Wi-Fi (it’s okay we all do it). Decoratively vaulted ceilings, exposed old brick and elaborate polished metal, bordering the espresso bar gives this café a unique character and style. Additionally is front is complete with large elongated windows that allow you to watch the chaotic street go by while you relax with a hot cup of chai accompanied by some trendy folk music.

The Blend

This is a specialty café with beans from Detour and 49th Parallel to give their customers a seasonally diverse and interesting espresso. You will have to expect to pay a little extra for a good cup of coffee here, however if you craving a little afternoon delight, swing up after 3pm and treat yourself with a baked goods at 50% off. These treats looks so gold you could but on a kilo just looking at it, but with 50% off, it’s worth it.

 

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 Crafted bean Coffee

Crafted bean is along Dundas West Street, amongst half a dozen private art galleries and opposite the famous Ontario Art Gallery.

This is where I grab purchase my vital morning caffeine dosage after a run. I love the charming staff, atmosphere and the beautiful printed designs that is printed onto each coffee (check out the pictures below). Additionally there is a large range of delicious Tea’s and student discount. This café is never super busy so you would have to wait long for your coffee, and finding a table for you and your laptop is easy.

 

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De mello palheta Coffee Roasters

De Mello Palheta is only a short walk from my house, situated by Young and Eglinton, it was originally recommended to be by a local, however this place is listed at the top of almost every coffee review in Toronto.

It is an absolute hipster haven, and an undisputed crowd pleaser.

The beans are roasted in store and distributed to some fine-dine coffee establishments like Sorry coffee co., Neo Coffee Bar and Toyko smoke.

The masterminds behind this concocted creation are two Melbourne born Aussie brothers (like I said, Aussies know their coffee).

I have even read reviews by Californians who order their beans hear in bulk and have them shipped over.

When walking into De Mello you will be welcome by inviting and fun décor and friendly and attentive staff with excellent customer service. You will find that only after a few visits they will have remembered your name, coffee and ask how your aunt Mary in hospital is doing.

If you’re after a non- douchey or pretentious staff that genuinely make you feel like an extended family member visit De Mello Palheta . Don’t just take my word for it, get off your computer, jump on the TTC and come up to the best part of Toronto; Eglinton (totally not want to be bias, but this is my neighborhood and it’s the best part of the six).

 

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Bicerin Espresso Bar

Bicerin has taken over the coffee scene within Baldwin village offering free wifi, comfortable seating and of course that great coffee. Freshly roasted single origin beans make for great tasting coffee, and if like me you prefer a healthy alternate milk, you have the option of soy, coconut milk and my favorite; almond milk. One of my favorite aspects of this coffee joint is that it feels very personal with close wooden tables that are often shared with 2-3 people, plus friendly staff that make it very easy to strike up convocation.

 

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Café plenty 

A chic nook along Dundas west and a new recently opened store in the Financial district. Fall in love with the modern blanc white layout and the smooth coffee taste. There is a huge range of pastries, paninis and salads that makes this a already popular brunch/lunch stop, so don’t expect to get a seat at lunch time unless you’re ready to fight for it. The paninis will cost a steep $10 but they serving sizes are huge and come with a complementary side salad, and for the vegan and gluten-free species out there you have not been forgotten, there is plenty of item on the menu, you’ll be sure to fall in love with. Go ahead while yourself and support a small growing business.

If you know any great cafe’s in Toronto that I haven’t listed please let me know in the comments below 🙂

Bonappetit!