Had a great weekend in the Cotsolds with Gab and Dillon. Stayed at Whiteshoots Cottage in Bourton on the Water, where we were accosted each morning at breakfast by the B&B's resident family...and made to watch an interminable video of the Cotswolds, circa 1983. Strange indeed.
We went for a long walk through the countryside and through the two towns called Upper and Lower Slaughter. I presume they dont have vegetarians in that part of the world.
Watched the rugby & nearly cried to see Australia lose to England... didnt help that every pom in the pub felt obligated to offer his commiserations. I was gutted!
On Sunday we left and had lunch at Bibington - a beautiful little village that we literally couldnt leave... after half an hour of driving toward what we thought was Oxford, we arrived back in the main street. Very surreal.
Anyway, back to Maida Vale that night, where I live at the moment. I learned I live opposite Paul Weller (he's at no. 125). Very exciting, except I wouldnt know what he looks like! But I DO know Jude Law, who also lives in the neighborhood. Look out if I run into him!
Location: Budapest, Hungary
Well, I've had an eventful couple of weeks.
Last week I attended the company conference, which consisted of camping in Kent. I felt very lucky to be invited, as I am a contractor, so I did my best to get into the spirit of things. Which basically concerned the consumption of spirits and dancing like a knob with Phillip from Analytics. The weather was deceptively gorgeous - fairly warm during the day, but the temperature plummeted in the evening - and after nearly freezing to death in my tent (the sleeping bags provided were definitely not warm enough) I decided that there really is no need for me to camp ever again. And I mean EVER.
The adventurer Alan Chambers gave a fantastic motivational speech- I felt like I could do anything afterward! I guess the intention was to make us feel like we could achieve anything AT WORK, but it made me think about my travels, and how I should just get out there & do it. I literally cannot wait to get on the road now. If he can lead a team to the north pole, then I can lead myself to Rio. As long as there are no tents involved.
The next day I flew to Budapest and met Ben and Attila for one of the best weekends I've had on my trip so far (Bruges aside Dillon!).
We are old uni mates, and we hadnt all been together for nearly 4 years, when Attila left Sydney to finish his Masters in America. So our reunion commenced at midnight on Attila's balcony in Pest with the consumption of several bottles of beautiful Hungarian wine. It was excellent to catch up on the last few years, and so satisfying to know that whilst we've all grown & done different things, we are fundamentally unchanged. The old group dynamic was just like it used to be - basically constant laughing and taking the piss out of each other, broken up by the odd serious conversation. If we could just have added Anne to the mix it would have been perfect!
The next day we had lunch in the square in front of St Stephens, before climbing to the top and taking in a wonderful view of Budapest. Attila and his thoroughly divine girlfriend Magdi were at a wedding, so Ben and I wandered around Pest. Did some shopping for pyjamas (I had forgotten to pack mine) - so in the end I bought the dodgiest pair of boxer shorts in Eastern Europe, which we found hilarious. Those boxers are going around the world with me! We tried to work out the exchange rate by asking the sales assistant what the price would be in Euros, then tried to convert that to pounds. Not very scientific at all - you'd think that we could have just gone to a bank to work it out - but at the time it was quite amusing.
We went to the Castle district in Buda, where we took the funicular railway (love that word - infinitely prefer it to the unexciting alternative, 'cable car') and stumbled across a political rally. It was very exciting, despite the fact that we didnt understand a word. Again, a beautiful view from the top, across to the Pest side. I couldnt get over how beautiful the city is! I was just floored by the ornate architecture, the stunning squares, the beautiful chain bridge with the lion statues with no tongues - and so happy that it was still around to be enjoyed. It could so easily have been destroyed in the war.
We went out for dinner that night near the river, followed by drinks with Attila and Magdi in a fabulous bar. Ben was happy that he finally got to see his Eastern European ladies, and I was happy to be served beautiful wine by a sommelier - such a different experience to a pint in a boozer!
The next day we all slept in late, then, after walking around the very impressive Heroes Square, Ben and I took the Hungarians to a beautiful restaurant for a 3 hour lunch. I was in heaven - they serve fruit soup as an entree in Hungary! So bizarre- its like a smoothie but served in a bowl with a spoon. Definitely my oddest soup experience yet, but it one to remember! Afterward we went up to Gellert Hill to look at the Freedom Statue (it honours the Soviet liberation of Hungary from the Nazis during World War II). I couldnt imagine what it must have been like to live during that period...just horrifying to lose everything - homes, possessions, identities, lives. We did a cruise on the Danube and saw Budapest at night. Again, unutterably beautiful. I have to say - its a big call, but the city is now in my top 5.
Afterward we went to a pancake restaurant on the river and ate a cake made out of pancakes... yes, I understand why one would ask 'what is the point?' but, whilst it is not particularly healthy, it was a lot of fun!
On Monday, Ben and I went cycling with Magdi on Margit Island, which lies in the middle of the Danube. We saw St Margit's grave, some beautiful statues and gardens, and my favourite - a fountain synchronised to spout in time to the classical music being pumped out through speakers. So cool! And so... European!
We followed it with a trip to the baths, where we floated around the in the outdoor pool and reflected on a great weekend. Had lunch with Attila (again, a lovely restaurant by the river). I dont understand why people say the food in Hungary is not good! Maybe having a local make recommendations made all the the difference, but I got the distinct impression that the Hungarians love their food. And as a vege I was quite happy - loved the stuffed paprika.
So, after a wonderful 3 days I headed back to london and left the boys to enjoy the next couple of days together (they were rubbing in the fact that I had to go to work whilst they were going to get massages & hang out at the baths). Bastards.
There were rumblings about coming to meet me in Argentina (or Argentinia as I call it after a few wines) next year - I really really hope they do! Good mates & a beautiful city = an unforgettable weekend.
And then back to work, which was fine. Only thing remarkable about it was that I went out for lunch on Wednesday to Elena's L'etoile - a great little French restaurant in Charlotte St. I had fish & chips which cost $62! I know I have to stop converting back, but this was just ridiculous. People are starving in the world and then there are suckers like me who buy into this sort of thing. I feel guilty!
Two more excellent things happened this week -Gabrielle arrived back in London (hooray! Finally!) and Geelong got into the AFL grand final! Again, hooray! Finally! It means we are getting up at 5am next Saturday morning to go and stand in a skanky Walkabout pub to see the Cats bring it home. Cant wait!
Anyway, love to all
Location: London, UK
The Ivy was AMAZING! Food very good & and the service was outstanding. One question - how do you fry an egg so that it is round (the same shape as it is in the shell) - crispy on the outside and runny on the inside? It confounded me...
They wouldnt allow cameras in there so I will have to expend some mental energy and write about it. Later.
Afterward Benny & I went to see the Chemical Brothers in Trafalgar Square, which was absolutely brilliant. I forgot just how good they are. Their set was supplemented by an excellent light show put on by United Visual Artists - certainly a gig I wont forget. Went to the afterparty and I paid £33 for 4 drinks - that is $80!!! Outrageous. It was hard to get out of bed the next morning.
Ben has convinced me to leave London. He said 'Jan, what is really different? You're working too much - its basically 'same shit different postcode'. Apparently I seem much happier but I am still yet to experience the revolutionary change that travel is supposed to bring...
He's right - I need to stop working and throw myself into the unknown (ie 7 months of being unemployed... can I do it? Can I live with myself for that long without 'routine'?) Actually I am very excited about it. Its a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so I have to get out there & just do it. Alright!
Right. Starting to get back on the gastronomic bandwagon (which I have missed hugely about Sydney!).
Yesterday I scored an invite to a fab restaurant near my work called Crazy Bear. The interior was brilliant - dark dark wood and leather, roses in little vases everywhere, a proper sunken bar, booths to eat in, inventive Thai fusion themed-food (and I mean fusion...the bok choy was served with dates!).
And bathrooms that you literally cannot find - the designer obviously had a sense of humour. Although if you were desperate to go I guess it would not be very funny at all...
The bathroom was unbelievable - literally every surface covered in mirror. The experience was not unlike what I imagine Alice in Wonderland went through. To that point, the fact that the restaurant is located in the West End ('agency land'), combined with the prominent use of reflective surfaces didnt go unnoticed.
Anyway, for those of you that know about my penchant for soup (prescient as it is because its the only thing I can cook without stuffing up), I just have to report that I had CHOCOLATE SOUP for dessert. I was so excited I took a photo, which I know is just not cool at all, I couldnt help it! It was, in the words of the Flight Centre sales assistant I spoke to about an unrelated matter afterward, "just wicked".
Tomorrow I am having lunch at The Ivy with Benjamin. So looking forward to it!
Location: London, UK
Sorry I have not been too good at the upkeep of this page - hope most of you are up to date with stuff via Facebook anyway.
Anyway- just REALLY quickly:
I am really enjoying my job as a communications strategist. Its quite hard work and long hours but I really like it! Its intellectually challenging & I am able to apply my marketing skills to the discipline of media planning which is very interesting. I work with nice people too, and have enjoyed the odd 'media lunch' - an enjoyable way to visit nice London restaurants with fun people (and no bill!).
Have been very busy in London, catching up with people & just doin' stuff:
- Spent a weekend hanging out with the lovely Sunita, she showed me Notting Hill Carnival from a local's perspective (contrary to what I had initially thought, it is a celebration of Carribean culture rather than a street party in a particularly posh part of London). It was great learning about the dancing, the food, the customs etc. And I tried plantain for the first time, which I loved. We had a great dinner at an Italian restaurant with some of Sunita's friends & we all ended up dancing on a pool table in a bar called the Bended Elbow. The carnival was quite wild, and we didnt even go to the 'big' day (on the Monday). Thoroughly enjoyed it. That weekend we also went to a maze made of maize in Barnet...I would like to say we conquered it but I think we spent too much time talking to be properly strategic about it. We did find a few of the targets but it was a bit too hard to cheat...good big kid fun!
- Spent a weekend at Harriet's parent's house in Surrey. Great to catch up after a big year for both of us (she has just got back from travelling in Sth America, ending up in Colombia). Mr & Mrs Adams cooked a lovely dinner which we had in their beautiful garden. It was nice to be in a 'family' environment - I realised I havent had that for quite a while. Made me miss the foks a bit, but there's plenty of time for that when I get home. I really enjoyed Surrey - it was very nice to get out of London to see some countryside. We went for a nice walk through some fields & picked blackberries & dodged the fresian cows.
- Went shopping in Camden with my housemate Cat and ended up walking around Primrose Hill (faaabulous part of London, although I am still shattered I didnt happen to run into Jude Law!)
- Saw the Banksy v Warhol exhibition in Covent Garden. I prefer Banksy (although still surmising what he meant by the Winston Churchill-with-mohawk piece...possibly not a lot, but who knows?) Warhol stuff was good to see but it didnt do a lot for me.
- Went to Belgium via the Eurostar last weekend with Dillon. Needless to say we found the Belgium beer without a problem, and combined that with eating pomme frites & mayonnaise, bike riding around Bruges, dinner in a lovely restaurant, swimming in the hotel pool, learning the odd Flemish phrase ('tree piges') & walking around Brussells, where we found some more beer at a festival in the main square... I highly recommend the chocolate variety!).
As I said, this was really quick! Suffice to say I am having a great time and I dont really want to leave England...but I guess that the next big phase of the trip (the Americas etc) is really what what I came away for. In the meantime I am looking forward to visiting Budapest with Ben & Attila next weekend!
Love to all