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My travel page! (OK, My chance to ramble more!)

Welcome to My Travel Page. Here is where I will be keeping a record of my travels for all of you to read. I have even backlogged some of the emails that I have sent since I left Australia, and will endeavour to include more info, news, goss and photo's so no one misses anything! Please feel free to leave a comment for me, or just pop me an email. I will reply as much as I can (one of many New Year's resolutions). There is limited space for photo's, so don't complain there aren't many, just wait until I come home and torture you all with the thousands I will have!

Diary Entries

Friday, 08 December 2006

Location: Kerang, Australia

Well, in the last week, I have eaten lamb and seafood everyday, including two roasts! I am back in OZ. But I digress.

My last entry was a tie up of my time away, rather than my life recently.

I finished up with work at Dalkia on the 24th, and my fellow work colleagues took me out for drinks and dinner, as a celebration for them as I was leaving :)! In true Scottish style, I over indulged, and the next day payed for it dearly, with possibly the worst hangover in my life. But the attitude to alcohol in the UK is different, and I won't drink like that here, so figured that I may as well have one last blow out. Besides, I wasn't paying!

Feeling oh so awful, my last Saturday was not spent going out on the town with friends, but wandering around the German market and carnival that was on Princes St with Marc. My camera doesn't take great night shots, but Marc got one. The market was magical, albeit absolutely freezing. All in all though I had a quiet weekend, just catching up with a few friends, and saying goodbye. Oh, and supposedly packing! My flight was first thing on Tuesday morning, and by Monday afternoon, I still hadn't packed anything! Marc hasn't found work yet, so was skint, so rather than go out on my last night, I bought a big beautiful piece of Italian Gorgonzola and polished it off with a lovely red that was given to me by my manager as a farewell gift. After procrastinating, and distraction, I finally got the packing finished and went to sleep at 2am. With the alarm set at 6am!

The taxi for me to go to the airport arrived quicker than expected, so my goodbye to Marc was very rushed, but in some ways that was good. It didn't give me a lot of time to think about it, and get upset.

After having missed my flight in Italy, I was really cautious to get to the airport in plenty of time, which with all the airport restrictions was good. Turns out that I could only have one bag on board with me, so I furiously stuffed everything in my small day pack. I ended up having to pay an extra ₤15 for excess luggage :)

My flight was to Amsterdam, as I has had found a really cheap flight on Singapore airlines, that saved me enough money (rather than leaving the UK), to enable me to spend a couple of days in the city before flying.

I got into the airport at about lunchtime, one of the largest and busiest airports in the world, and then caught the train into the city. On the train, looking outside, I noticed how modern it was compared to what I had seen in the UK, and it seemed really Nordic, as all the trees had were tall and slender without leaves. The other thing that I noticed was that there seemed to be a lot of woman wearing hijab (?), the Islamic headdress. I found out later that Amsterdam has a prominent Turkish community.

I wanted to stay on a houseboat, but hadn't booked anything until the day before I arrived, and discovered how expensive they are, so I booked into a reasonable and small hostel, just of the main strip and near the station. But when I got there, I discovered how such a relatively large population can live in a really small city. The stairs were really narrow and really steep, which seemed a horror, as I was carrying more than 30kg on my back and front. But I made it in one piece and then nearly slept, as I was so tired. Amsterdam is warmer than Scotland, so it was nice to go out in a lighter jacket, rather than the big parka. However, later I discovered it does get cold. I was only in the town for a day and a half, so was restricted on what I could see and experience. Amsterdam has apparently more museums per area than any other city. It is known for its legalised marijuana, red light distract, and Van Gogh. But they weren't the main focus for me.

The afternoon that I arrived, I started with a late lunch of chips and mayonnaise, a Dutch favourite, which I thought that I would love, but wasn't overly keen on. The mayonnaise is thick, and yellow. Wasn't mad about it, weird as I adore mayonnaise. I then went wandering, to find the Anne Frank House. Most people know the story, so I won't go into it. But it was a really moving and frightening place as I learned in the setting, just how horrifically the Jews were treated by the Nazi's. Today, Amsterdam is considered one of the most tolerant societies on the planet, and it is extraordinary to think of the atrocities that occurred not so long ago.

When I travel, and being a foodie, I like to eat local food as much as I can. I had asked at the hostel, and they recommended a local Dutch restaurant. One of my favourite comfort foods is 'Bangers and Mash', and Marc had texted me to say that was what I was missing out on in at his place. Little did he know, that I was tucking into the Dutch version. A smoked sausage with mash mixed with endive, and bacon and gravy. The sausage was a bit odd, but overall really nice. It was followed by poffertjies (little pancakes), which are delicious.

I had mentioned at the hostel that I was really keen to go and see the flower market in the city, but instead I was recommended to catch a bus to Aalsveer, the largest flower auction in the world, which occurs each day. Being really tired, I didn't get the earliest start, but I was told that it was only 20 minutes away, and went most of the day. But, the bus took an hour. I got there at 11.10am, only to find out that it finished at 11am. I was disappointed, but I was able to have a quick wander nonetheless. The site that it is on, I swear looks about the size of Melbourne airport. But by going on the bus journey, I was also able to see a lot of the countryside. Holland, at least close to the city, seems to be one giant Ikea catalogue. It is extraordinary.

I got back into down, and wandered to the city flower markets, and like other city's took photo's of the flowers. The prices were so cheap. I could have bought 50 tulips for about $25. Normally, we would pay that much for 10! Wandering the shops, I also noticed that the Dutch are really into watches and diamonds, they are everywhere. Unfortunately the budget didn't quite stretch that far...

That afternoon, I headed on a free city walking tour. And as with the rest of Europe, there were Aussies. In fact four of the five of us on the tour were from OZ. The tour was a great intro to the city, and showed me areas, and told me things that I wouldn't have seen otherwise. It included walking through the infamous red light district (as a straight female, it wasn't my thing), and hearing all about the attitude to drugs in the city, as well as the past and the effects of the war on its citizens. I took stacks of photo's so will explain the city through those as well.

That night for dinner, I had all intentions of having another Dutch meal. But it seemed that other venues pretty much served the same kind of thing as the first. I did however avoid all the take aways, and went to a sweet little bistro of an alley. I would have gone for something traditional, but decided that as my last night in Europe, and the day before I experience a couple of days of plane food, then I would eat what I liked. And I stuffed myself on all sorts of things, including schnitzel!

That night, I thought that I would try to stay awake as much as possible, so I would be nice and drowsy and sleep on the flights. I only got 4 hours sleep. I was then up nice and early again to get to the airport. Even at the airport, I avoided caffeine, had some milk and a couple of herbal sleeping remedies. I was all set to fall asleep. The first leg was 11 hours from Amsterdam to Singapore. I didn't sleep a wink. By the time I got to Singapore, even the stewards were telling me how bad I looked.

With just a few hours at the airport, and feeling dead, I went and had a shower (have to love the airport for that!), checked my email and wandered. I heard many Aussie accents, some of which were enough to want me to head back to Europe. The flight from Singapore to Melbourne was just shy of 7 hours. Being a day flight, I aimed to stay awake, then thinking I would crash when I got back to Dad's. Not the nicest of flights, as it was quite turbulent, I managed to land just after 8pm.

As the first time that I had experienced Australian Customs, I just figured I would breeze through, like every other country I had been to. Aaah, no. Firstly it took so long to get my bag that I thought it had ended up in Timbuktu. Then, when my passport was checked, I was asked to go into a certain (special) line. I was then asked a stack of questions. Turned out, that as I was traveling on my own, and that I had spent a few days in Amsterdam, my passport was flagged due to drugs. I then had all my hand luggage searched. I had forgotten about a wooden necklace in my bag, so then got involved with Quarantine. But by this stage, having not slept, they could have locked me up, and I wouldn't have cared. But 40 minutes after landing, I finally managed to get through the gates.

I had spoken to my brother the week before, and he had told me he was coming to get me. Then a couple of days before, Dad said he was coming. So, I had no idea what to expect until I came through the gates, and all of a sudden, my brother raced to the barrier, and went snap happy, taking shots of me! Imagine my thrill after no sleep :) But it was honestly brilliant to see him, and there was no entourage, which was good as I just didn't think I could have coped. I am still suffering the affects of jetlag, and have yet to sleep more than 4 hours at a time.

So that is it. I have been back a week. I spent a few days in Melbourne, and am now in Kerang (3.5 hours out of Melbourne), visiting Mum. I will be back in Melbourne next week. I have been asked to continue my blog, especially for those that I met on my travels, so that they can learn all about my life as I settle back in to Australia. I have many stories to tell already, but at this stage will keep the adventures separate to this site. I will post on here soon, my new site for Australia.

Still check this site for a bit, as I will soon spend some time updating it with photo's.

Love Michelle

Monday, 27 November 2006

Location: Edinburgh, UK

Well, this is The End (nearly). At least of this phase of the journey. Soon I begin the trip back to Australia. I will update this site once more on my return though, just to let you all know how Amsterdam was. But this is my last entry from Edinburgh.

It has been 17 months since I left Australia. All I had with me (apart from a stupidly heavy couple of packs) was £250, two new credit cards, a working visa, somewhere to stay and a ticket to come home, oh and no plan. Not to mention I was rather broken, and definitely running away. Now, I am ready to walk back into Australia, with head held high. But it is with no cash, a couple of maxed out credit cards, and on a one way ticket. But the wounds have healed (although some scars remain), I have amazing stories and a lot of photos, some of which are on this site.

Early last year, I didn’t have a passport, and the furthest that I had travelled was Noosa, but it was always a dream to travel and live overseas. But until last June, I never thought that it would become a reality, especially the part about living in another country as opposed to just visiting. I have now lived in three countries (Northern Ireland, Canada and Scotland), have visited a further three (Ireland, France, Italy) and am about to also head to Amsterdam. By the time I return to Melbourne, I will have seen the inside of 16 airports in as many cities.

Whilst I have been away, I have seen and experienced all sorts of things. Here are some of the highlights:

• A chocolate tart in Paris, and lying under the Eiffel Tower.
• The 12th July Marches through the streets of Derry
• Watching people skate on a frozen pond on Christmas Day.
• Skiing in the Canadian Rockies
• Going to see a live ice hockey match.
• Deb and Ross’s Wedding
• Going to a New Year’s Rave, and traipsing through snow to get there!
• Horse Riding
• Roslyn Chapel
• Walking home in the snow after a night out in Edinburgh.
• Seeing Fatboy Slim at Loch Ness
• Road trip through the Scottish Highlands, and seeing where some of my ancestors are from
• Finally getting my body into a bikini, and swimming in the Adriatic Sea in Italy.
• Eating in Italy!
• Florence. The whole city is extraordinary
• Flying over the leaning tower of Pisa
• The Edinburgh Military Tattoo
• A Scottish Ceilidh

I could just go on (as we all know!), but you can all wait until I return.

But in the time I have been away, I have also missed out on a lot. Just by leaving Australia, I have missed a few engagement celebrations, one friend has bought a house, my cousin has had a baby, and some friends are pregnant. I haven’t been there to help those in my life who helped me, as they go through challenging times. But more importantly, and one of the main reasons I want to return is Ava. I missed her first words, and she has grown so much. By the time I see her, she will be unrecognisable to me, and me to her. And that will be hard.

I know that there are many people that would like to see me keep travelling and exploring, but last Christmas was harder than I imagined, and I don’t fancy another Scottish winter. I will be back though. Once you get bitten with the travel bug, it is an incurable disease. But my finances are horrid, so I will sort them out before I leave OZ again. But at least the next time, I will be wiser and in a better place.

And although I am ready to come home, I’m not ready to leave. As I write this, it hurts knowing how much I will miss this place, but I am also glad – it means I will return. Especially to Scotland. This past week, with so many farewells, I have realised how much both the people and city have gotten under my skin. The town centre at the moment is twinkling with lights, and I can only imagine how magical the rest of the silly season will be. Besides, I still haven’t seen England, and I really want to spend some time there. My visa for the UK doesn’t expire for another couple of years, so all is good.

I have changed, so be prepared for that, but I still talk a lot, so remember to prepare your ears! I am more self confident, and more settled. I have learnt a lot about who I am (for better and worse) , and my place in the world, and I don’t think I would have if I hadn’t come overseas when I did, so I am thankful for that. I have made friendships with people from all over the world, many of which I hope to keep for many years to come. I can also say that I have had a Scottish fling (sort of, Marc is Australian – but it is in Scotland!).

I have worked in a dozen jobs – but will miss those at Flamin’ Jacks and Dalkia the most - and have learnt to be completely independent financially and emotionally (despite how much I talk to Oz and Canada and how much money I owe my parents and various banks!). As for how I have changed physically, I smile more, now have wrinkles and wee biceps, but beyond that haven’t changed too much. I think I am thinner though, but will wait until you all see me, knowing you all, you will tell me. Oh, and I have new words in my vocabulary and slight inflections in my accent.

I can’t wait to catch up with all of you in Melbourne soon after I land, but will get through the jetlag first before I even let some of you know that I am in the country. I haven’t got a mobile phone in Australia anymore, so just leave me a message or send me an email if you would like to catch up, and I will give you a buzz. As for further a field in Australia, I will see you as soon as I can muster some cash together. And for the rest of the world, come Down Under and say ‘Hi’! Just sorry that I haven’t been able to say goodbye in person.

So that is it. See you soon Oz, and thank you to everyone who have made the last year and a half one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life thus far. But most especially to Kathy, Sophie, Liz, Alessandra, Tessa, Tracy, Jayne and Marc – all of whom I met on my travels, and have greatly and positively impacted my time away. Hope to see you all again some day!

Love Michelle
xoxoxoxoxoxox


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Recent Messages

From liz
hi michelle i forgot to say i loved what you had to say about holland, now you know why i love it so much, hope to see some photos of your visit there. love liz ps please send me your e.mail address so i can send you some photos
From liz
well bet you never thought you would hear from me again! haha. i have so enjoyed reading your web page, and the photos were great to see.when you look at your journey, you must say say that it has been a most wonderful experience for you , even with alll the good and bad times.
we now have our own computer up and running and you can e.mail anytime or check if im online with msn. hope to talk to you soon , love from liz and kids xox
From Jayne
Hey babes - managed to find it through memory.strange to think a couple of weeks back we were sitting having a cuppa in Saughton and now you're in Oz and I'm in Bahrain - missing you lots - glad I'm not staying in SH but going to VQ seeing as i have no-one to go to lunch with anymore - sniff! Speak soon
Response: Oh, you will survive at VQ, just use my method, and harrass someone with a strange bag! I am homesick for Edinburgh, weird I know, but Melbourne is big, really big.... Oh, and I am bored! Have a great time in Bahrain, how is the tan going? :)
From Jackie
Hi, Sorry I didn't get to say goodbye, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your journals and I take my hat off to you, what a way to mend a brokenheart, hope it never happens to me again, but if it does I will bear you in mind. Safe journey home, hope you enjoyed your nite out. Will keep in touch. Take Care Jackie xxxx
Response: Hey, thank you. Can't wait to meet you someday!
From Jayne P
Thought I'd surprise you and leave you a note here seeing can't swap the usual dozens whilst we are at work. T? Finally got round to reading it all - now you need to keep an Oz one for all of us you'll be leaving behind this time! You're doing good girl!
Response: Can't believe that you read it all. Bored stiff? Looking forward to seeing you back at work! Yes, may have to start one from Oz for all the millions of people I know out of OZ!
From Bec
Wow, everything you do sounds so great! There will always be that part in me that wished I had stayed. Are you still coming to sydney when you get back? By the way I dont think I have told you... I am pregnant!
Response: Good lord! Congratulations, you are the 2nd friend in a week to tell me she is expecting, hope I'm not the third :). I will come to Sydney, but am flying straight into Melbourne, so probably won't make it up there until the New Year.
From michelle
Yes we have read your email several times perhaps we are just jealous or shell shocked or something. anyway love reading of your adventures and eating habits. Really looking forward to seeing you and hope we can spend some time together, Have worked out when you will probably arrive back in Aus. Pa said he sent you a reply Love Mum
Response: Hope to spend some time up with you and in Bendigo before Christmas - but will also be job hunting all over the place. But at this stage I have only let family (through the clue) know when I am getting back, so I can get through the jetlag. It hit Dad hard, so I don't know how I will go. I have heard from Pa, as I sent him a seperate email about Ballachulish. Lovely spot. I will come back another time, and see where Nan was from...
From laura
thats great that you are comming home for christmas. hopefully we get really nice weather! well we will have to catch up when you get home so you can tell me some more stories and show me all you photos!
Response: Yes. I will be staying at Dad's initially, so will give you a buzz when I return to catch up! Where are you living these days?
From Deb and Ross
Even though I talk to you once a week or so, I still reading your blog.
Can't wait to see you in 39 sleeps or so :)

Love Deb
From Danielle
I must agree with your Mum... it is a novel. Sounds like you had a wonderful time! I am so jealous! Glad to hear that everything is sorted and done back here! I have been meaning to send you a long email, but never seem to have the ideas of what to write and the time at the same time! But I will get round to it soon! Any idea when you are back in Oz yet? Missing you heaps, Danielle
Response: Well, you all asked about my adventures! Be careful what you ask for! Send an email, I don't exactly have unlimited time either, but managed it! Don't know when I am heading back to OZ, should have an idea in the next month or so. Love Michelle
From kaz
hi chick, just thought i would say hi.. havent read all of the goss yet... my attention span is not that good.. will try a day at a time.. he he
take care and we miss you
kaz and sammy
From michelle
Yes I printed you Novel off as soon as you had finished it though havent had enough daylight hours to absorb it yet love mum ps mark needs to talk to you
From michelle
its been 17th july for a long time??? I check emails nearly everyday but to no avail we had the first market on sat just gone it was very good and i did well nearly made enough to fly over to see if you are still around just kidding couldnt do it on $150 could I anyway our love to you mum
Response: Don't die of shock, but I written an entry. Glad to hear the markets are going well, only 20 more and you can come over! It was great having Dad here, but I am now more desperate than ever to come home for a bit and recharge.
From Leanne
Gosh it's been ages since I checked your site. Fatboy Slim hey? I am incredibly jealous! Tehy've v cool and sounds like the whole concert was fantastic. Not much news here in Gallery-land, but I am definitely missing your shopping guidance at the moment. Not only do I need new sunnies, but new specs as well! And no-one here gives the ... ahhh ... direct/frank style of advice that you do (ie that looks crap, put them back) - which I value so much!! Miss you
Response: Keep buying those tatts tickets, as I want to come home! I could do with a shopping buddy as well!!!!
From JAWSH
Hey I just looked any you haven't mentioned my name anywhere on your travel blog!! And to think I left you all that Guinness... Just sent you an email.

How's Z?
Response: Guinness?
The runner that you did has repercussions galore for the rest of us. Thanks for that. Send me an email, so I have your address
From michelle
have been looking for exciting news of your italy trip trust you are still in the land of the living love mum
Response: I'm getting there! Honest. Should have things up by the end of the week.
From Danielle
Ok where are the pics/stories from Italy? Need some more news to live vicariously through?
Had a party for Seth’s 30th on the weekend, was really, good but a lot of work!
No more parties for us between now and the wedding, I think!!!
Missing you heaps! Hope you are well!
Love Danielle
Response: I'm getting around to it, eventually. Will aim to have something in the next week! Promise! You will have to send me an email on what is happening over there! Life, Wedding plans etc...
From Sarah
Hello Petal,
Great site and cool pics.
Will be in touch this week and see if we cant persuade Nigel to give you the room ; )
Work hard it's hump day!
Luv Sez
Response: Great to hear you like it, just have to write about Italy now!
From michelle
Bet youre looking forward to tomorrow so am I but I am here and you are there unfortunately Hope you have a really good day I will ring you sat arvo our time should be early morn where you are hope you got my parcel
love always mum
Response: Hey, hope you got my email. Got the parcel! thank you! Am still in Italy, fly back Sunday. Long story... Love Michelle
From Danielle
Hi!
Thanks for the Birthday SMS. Everything is good here. Finally got to take a look at your page, and it is great. I am so jealous. Have a great birthday in Italy!
Love Danielle
Response: Glad you like! I will update it when I get back to Edinburgh with all my adventures! Hope the winter isn't too miserable :) I will think of you as I lie on a beach on the Italian coast!!!
From michelle
you must be looking forward to your next adventure to italy etc not long to the big 30 birthday bash either please send email with latest dr's visit results love mum
Response: Hey, I will pop you an email, so the world doesn't see these messages! Looking forward to Italy, just a little daunted as well, although I have borrowed a dictionary to brush up on my Italian.
From Kev
Hi Minogue, lovin the site, it's great to see your getting on so well, Where are the pictures of me,lol. All is quite here, which is pretty cool. Riley is massive now, and he misses your shoes!!!!!!! Chat soon dearest, be good.x
Response: Photo's of you? I think the only ones I would have are you fleeing out of the picture! Glad everything is going well. I have some spare shoes that perhaps I should send for Riley, keep him oput of mischief! What have you been up to?
From Bec
I am very happy to be home but Michelle you are making me a bit upset I didnt stick it out abit longer. Your stories are so wonderful, I love reading them. So are you sick of the hostel yet?
Response: I have just had a new flux of roomies, so I am coping, just. But I have amazing patience for it all! get you butt into gear though, and come over again. I will stay in Scotland this year, and may try the England adventure next year...
From michelle
Love getting your newsy emails .Really thrilled that you are getting to see so much of this big world of ours , meeting other people and having a good time. Last couple of days have been cold wet and miserable so business and everything has been slow. hope you are over your cold love mum
Response: You are still alive and you managed the computer! I am impressed. I am over the cold, although the throat is tempramental. But I went back swimming last night, as I go bathers shopping next week. I will email with more details, and an address of where I am staying in Italy soon, love Michelle
From Janelle
Hey there
Loved your call at 8am on Sunday morning. Have no idea what we talked about but could instantly imagine where you were. It's so bizzare! I was there what.... in '99! I think I must be getting old. Ahh, the Calders Cream and the Froach (sp?).

Italy sounds acceptable for a bithday location :) happy safe travellin' & I'll just have to travel vicariously through you

Love ya
Bella
Response: Acceptable for a birthday location? I travelled vicariously through you for years, so I don't mind you jumping on my little adventures!