It all ends and begins in Edinburgh

It’s been a year since I last posted. I would love to blame my old and slow computer (this is part of it), but I think the main reason is that I somehow got myself into one of those… oh what do you call them??? oh yes, relationships! (Hi Sweetheart!)

Suddenly, between this new thing and work full time I didn’t have time for writing. And so much has gone on! And I’m sorry to all my (10 or so) faithful followers (Hi mum!).

I will at some stage catch you all up on the last 12 months. But lets just be clear: this Australian in London is back (with a slightly pommier accent).

I left you last, gripping the edge of your seats no doubt, saying – and I quote:

“…Edinburgh is awesome. 5 stars. Would definitely like to live here for a few months and see the rest of Scotland. Maybe next summer…”

So it seemed appropriate that this be where I picked up on the recording of my adventure (hasn’t Ange’s writing style picked up amazing poetic symbolism?)

Travelling solo since Lanz left in June, I embarked on my first organised tour all by myself. I booked a 7 day tour with a company called Haggis which I heard of through other Aussie tourists I’ve met.

For those who know me well, you’ll know me to be a chatty, confident and friendly sort. For those who know me better, you’ll know Shy Ange was shitting herself. This was the first time I was going to be travelling alone! What if everyone was couples and I was like Bridget Jones at a smug married couples dinner?

Wait. Breathe. Calm down. Coz Ange is a chatty, confident and friendly sort.

Selfies

And when in doubt, practice your selfies

Scotland is amazing. My Haggis tour began with a coffee. Coffee has either markedly improved in the UK in the last 18 months. Or maybe I have evolved an now have an inbuilt coffee dousing stick. I plan to try and get to know people on the bus but end up with the only spare seat next to me! I make good by having lunch with some lovely Californians and end up going for dinner with them and some off the other Aussies on the tour.

Our guide Greg, is a great story teller and comes up with a great game to get us to know each other. Extrovert tourist Sophie is given a microphone (and eventually a daily slot called Sophie’s Choice) and a list of our names. We each have to tell an embarrassing story as an introduction. I went with an abridged version of Lani and my trip to Amsterdam and forget everyone’s names.

Before lunch (or after, can’t quite remember) we’re sipping whiskey which was remarkably good. So good I even bought two very small (airplane sized) bottles.

We have a night out in Aberdeen at a dodgy looking establishment called Hootenanny’s. There’s some good tunes, and fun drinking, but by 11 we move on to a place called Johnny Foxes & the Den where we sing and dance to a great cover band.

bathroom graf

Bathroom Graffiti in Inverness

Obviously the big highlight of the tour is Monster hunting in Loch Ness (aka Nessie). So apparently, Nessie was first seen on the banks of Loch Ness around 500 AD by some monk who was visiting Scotland from Ireland to preach Christianity. The story is that the monk sent a servant, yes that’s right servant out to swim in the Loch and Nessie appears all ferocious about to eat him. Luckily the monk, who has a crucifix with him, lifts it up and the monster went back down.

And of course monks have never ever been known to lie.

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This is me, hoping my glamour will enticing Nessie to come our and play

We stayed two nights in Loch Ness in a small town called Fort Augustus.

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On our free day, five of us got on a 90 minute bus to try something I’d never heard of: Canyoning. You get in a wetsuit (also first time for me), life jacket, harness and helmet.

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Then you go to the top of a Canyon and slide down waterfalls and jump off rocks. It was so fun and scary. And I did all the jumps… except the 10 meter jump… this was too much for poor Ange.

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Regional transport sucks, so it took us 3 hours to get back! But luckily our hostel saved us dinner – chicken stuffed with haggis and cream sauce. I was too fatigued to take a picture!

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For the most part the tour involved lots really beautiful scenery, old stories, terrible jokes, plenty of drinking, a couple of ferry rides with some card games, and a game of ‘Articulate’ (where yours truly was on the winning team).

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We got to see some seals, standing stones, go into caves and learn loads about Scottish history.

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We even went to the beach! After 18 months in the UK, the thought of swimming in Scotland didn’t even cross my mind, so of course I didn’t pack swimmers. It was okay for about 3 seconds. Then I jumped out as the joints in my feet got a massive piercing pain.

But the best bit was this:

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Anyone recognise this?

That’s right it’s the Harry Potter train (also known as the Glenfinnan Viaduct) (BUT better known as the Hogwarts Express). It was so great, it even did a “choo-choo as it crossed over.

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And here’s a snapshot of the crowds that this train brings every few hours a day

By the end of the week I had made friends with a good amount of the people on the tour. Will definitely be doing more of these. Unfortunately, I had also picked up a cold from one of the smelly Australian backpackers.

We went out in Edinburgh that night, and I went to a Caberet show which last year’s star Maeve Marsden recommended called, Titty Bar Ha Ha. It was the best thing I had seen in a long time. I was on the edge of my seat scared they would pick me out from the audience for one of the nasty jokes. Thankfully my snot filled nose and I were left to enjoy and I crashed out immediately after the show.

I spent the rest of the weekend catching another fringe show and catching up with a friend, Amy and her partner Tash, while they were in town on holidays. Still being a sickly snot face, I crashed again so that my last day at the castle would be a smashing success

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Look how much fun I had in the cannon! In short castles are awesome. ‘Nuff said.

I stayed in a student flat as part of AirBnb and I just wanted to add the lovely and reassuring poster that my hosts had in their living room:

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Love it right?

I met so many great travellers during my Scottish holiday. It reminded me that I wanted to capture my trip and being back in Edinburgh also reminded me how much I loved writing this blog.

So sorry it’s been so long dear blog (and those friends who had so loyally read this) – I won’t abandon you again. And if I haven’t spoken to you in ages, please write angela.khodeir@gmail.com

Up next… Dublin!

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Dear Jenny, I’m really sorry. (Please keep paying me)

It has been absolutely ages since I wrote a post.20120828-062724.jpg

Rather than fill you in on all the great or boring things I’ve been up to since France in June, I’m jumping straight to the last August Bank Holiday weekend I spent at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

I went up to Edinburgh with three goals:

  • See my friend Maeve’s amazing fem cabaret group, Lady Sing’s it Better (see their youtube channel)
  • See the beautiful city of Edinburgh in good weather
  • Visit the pub named ‘Jenny Ha’s’.

Job number 1: See gigs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival20120828-062740.jpg
Arrived at about 11:30pm on the Friday night after work. Fell asleep on the train and pretty sure I drooled a bit. Gross.

Decided to go for a walk to one of the local pubs and have a drink and a sausage sandwich. We were approached by a good-looking Scotsman and given a flyer to his comedy show which started in 5 minutes. Better yet, it was free! Alanna and I couldn’t really say no after that. We were either going to sit where we were for an hour and talk shit. Or we could go and listen to some supposedly funny people talk shit. The Scot was boring but is Manchesterian friend was quite funny.

I saw a modern dance show called “Collision”. I’m not much of a dance connoisseur, but they were surprisingly good. The four men in the group were quite free to show different expression and characters, but all the women (with the exception of one dance where the woman who got to be all desperate and haughty in a dance which appeared to be an abusive relationship with the male) had to have these bullshit painted smiles on their face. I know that’s probably how they are taught at Dancing schools, but isn’t that the beauty of being in control of your own show?

We also booked in on Saturday night to see “The Company of Wolves” show which can only be described as a “uni student production” of red riding hood where red riding hood fucks the wolf after its clear no hunter is going to save her. Look, I’m glad she came to her own rescue but they made a point of putting a dagger in her basket. They also made a point of doing several flashbacks to other characters violently slaughtering Wolves. Why didn’t she just slit his throat? They lived happily ever after and I only wonder if she would have jumped him if he was less good-looking.

“Lady sings it better” were fantastic, hilarious, looked stunning in their pink tutus. Each Lady had their own unique hair style which looked great too. And they sounded great. I was lucky enough to be able to catch up with a few of the Ladies the night before at “Boom Boom Club” and can now really appreciate the hard work that goes into all these artists working at the Fringe, flyering everyday, doing taster shows, hours of hair and make up and endless seizing of promotional opportunities.

Lady sings a snippet

What was really cool was to hear their strong Sydney accents. At home you don’t really notice the differences in accents, but against the backdrop of the squillion English speaking accents in the UK, I’m beginning to hear the subtle differences between Melbournian and Sydney (no Jono, one isn’t better than the other). It was a nice snippet from home.

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(PS “Lady sings it Better”, are you coming back for Fringe 2013? Can I be in your free live in groupie for the month? I have no skills when it comes to hair, make up or sound, but I can cook and will tidy the house, do washing, and be a social butterfly for you. TAKE YOUR TIME, don’t make up your mind now, think about it and let me know).

Job number 2: Sightsee around Edinburgh

Edinburgh is beautiful. I absolutely love it here. Definitely another European city I love. Where London is flat, Edinburgh is hilly with cobbly lanes, not so secret stairways with very secret restaurants and bars. Both cities are old, but Edinburgh has this untouched, original feel to it. Edinburgh is just stunning.

Oh and THERE’ A FUCKING CASTLE IN THE MIDDLE OF IT.

20120828-062837.jpgWe also went and saw the ‘Edinburgh Military Tattoo’ on Saturday night. What’s a Military Tattoo? No idea, I think it’s like super marching band parade.

Have you ever seen Major Payne? Damon Wayans plays a highly strung, US Marine on the cusp of crazy, who get’s sent to a teenage military academy to help the worst boys marching band kick arse to win a trophy. Hilarious right?!?

The Edinburgh Tattoo shits all over Major Payne.

20120828-062844.jpgEXCEPT halfway through the whole thing, the MC talks about how awesome the UK is leaving such a worldwide legacy: “Our British culture spreading as a dominant colonial power, from Antigua to Zambia”. It’s almost as if the MC didn’t get the memo:

“Hey Bob. apparently colonialism isn’t cool anymore. Turns out all those natives are actually people, not flora and fauna”

So of course to represent the success of this legacy, the Australian Marching band comes out with Waltzing Matilda (ironically Waltzing Matilda is believed to be based on the 1890’s Shearer’s Strike which almost brought the colony to civil war). What an excellent example of the British colonialism.

Meanwhile £1 Brittish Pound is equal to 7,942.93 Zambian Kwachas. I’m sure it was just a coincidence that the Zambian Military couldn’t make it this year.20120828-062828.jpg

20120827-204246.jpgOn Sunday morning I woke up to Alanna’s excitement: “It’s sunny! I’ve never seen sun in Edinburgh, not in the four times I’ve visited”.

Taking advantage of the sun (it got to about 22’C! – I was sweltering in my skinny jeans), we ditched visiting the castle and decided to climb up Arthur’s Seat.

Two hours later… we get to see some of the most breathtaking view of Edinburgh. I’m having such good luck on this trip :)

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So apart from being in love with Edinburgh, it then rained on us and we were freezing by that evening.

Job number 3: Visit Jenny Ha’s

So a bit of background:

At my Sydney job, I get paid (and am still getting paid) due to the wonderful work of Jenny Ha who works in Payroll. For the six years I have worked for my union in Australia, Jenny, has put up with my constant emails, calls and questions about ‘What form do I fill in to pay off my HECS debt? Can you deduct my Medicare levy fortnightly? How much leave will I have if I take a sabbatical in March? When is my last pay day?’ I’m sure that there are many others who would have just told me to piss off and call the ATO, but not Jenny. She’s brilliant.

On Jenny’s office door is a picture of a pub named ‘Jenny Ha’. When visiting her office one day before I embarked on my adventure, I asked her where the picture was from.

“Edinburgh”

So I promised that I would go to ‘Jenny Ha’s’ and take another picture with me doing a peace sign or something equally silly like this.

Jenny, I’m really sorry.

About 18 months ago the pub was bought out and renamed the Kilderkin.

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I dragged my sister Alanna, all over Edinburgh to find this pub. Needless to say she and I were both devastated that Jenny’s had been bought out.

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These’s are the only memories of it being named after Jenny Ha:

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above the bar

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the sign behind the door

Sorry Jenny.

But Edinburgh is awesome. 5 stars. Would definitely like to live here for a few months and see the rest of Scotland. Maybe next summer.

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Getting drunk on wine and snails

Bon jour!

This post is over a month old. Sorry about that. Since starting my new job I’ve been finding it hard to keep up to date.

Last time I wrote you Jono, Marc and I were just leaving Munich heading to the Alsace wine region.

We drove to Dachau and did a tour of the concentration camp. I know I said we were WW2’d out, but in truth this is different. I felt a million emotions while in there and teared up several times. How could the world have let this happen? There are so many plaques and monuments all over Germany, with slogans saying ‘never again’ or ‘never forget’. But why is it still happening? Look at Syria? Do I dare mention Israel and the giant cement wall they are building through Gaza?!?

Interesting fact. The Nazi’s created a brothel barrack in Dachau, using women prisioners from a nearby womens concentration camp.

Apparently their thinking was that a brothel would make the workers more productive. Sex = increased productivity. I found this surprising mainly because the Nazi didn’t believe that these prisoners were actually human.

Feeling sad and in desperate need for a pick me up, we went for lunch in the town. Only being able to find Subway or McDonalds, Marc and I pushed for the latter thinking it would be at least a bit different. I devoured my McRib (which was delicious btw!) and with the help of google, we were on our way to Liechtenstein, one of the smallest countries in Europe.

Liechtenstein

It still has a Prince. Apparently (according to Jono anyway) they had a vote not so long ago to introduce a more democratically elected government and reduce the power of the prince, and like 60% of the residents voted to keep the guy’s supreme power. Crazy right. And this prince has pretty much outsourced most of the public services to the Swiss – such as using the Swiss Franc and having the Swiss manage their customs and border control.

Liechtenstein hint: don’t stay in the ‘big’ towns (they’re actually really small fyi) stay in the mountains. Check out the views we had:

On Wednesday I enjoyed a delicious continental breakfast of delicious Swiss Cheeses, cured meats, breads, and croissants. They also served excellent coffee. What a way to start the day! The German data sim we bought wasn’t going to work again until the end of our trip so we relied heavily on a frozen google map. But journeyed none the less through Switzerland and on to France to the Alsace wine region.

Driving in Europe hint: buy/get a paper map

Ange made a small boo boo and took us off the highway so we could drive along a beautiful lake. Wrong lake. But it was pretty…

We also stopped at the Lindt factory. No joke, you got out of the car and all you could smell was sugar and chocolate.

Once we got to Alsace, I had to quickly pick up some of my high school French. This seemed fair as Marc and Jono did make much more of an effort learning German in Berlin.

Here’s my first attempt:

Ange: Bon jour. J’ai m’appelle Angela. Je suis une reservation. (Good day. My name is Angela. I am a reservation)
Cute French guy: “Oui. Allors bla bla bla”
Ange: “oh no, Parlez-vous Anglais??”
Cute French guy: (laughs out loud) “Yes, I have you in ahh triple room….”

How beautiful are the views from our room!

As the days went on I did get a bit better and learn how to say:
– Nous voudraision gestation. (We would like to have a wine tasting)
– Mes amie and moi prefere le sec vin. (My friends and I prefer dry wine).
– Nous voudraision trois crossaints si vous plait (We would like three croissants, please)
Vous avez ouvert? (Are you open?)
– Nous voudraision aller a Roden? (We would like to go to Roden?)
– J’ai voudrais the addition. (I would like the bill)

I even had to help a Russian-American woman ask for a wine tasting – which was a struggle especially when she wanted a second try. I asked the wine maker to repeat what she had said (repeate) rather than for another taste (encore gout).

The French election was only a few months ago. Check out the nazi symbol on his head. Also, how funny is the Greens poster


There were a few moments that Marc needed to be snapped out of the beauty: “Marc are you in this picture or not?!?”

We tried some beautiful wine and had some excellent food. We ate some excellent traditional French food (such as snails – yum – and pigeon OMG delicious but so so rich) and some traditional Alsacian food too. Often we really just had to guess what we were ordering as most of the menu’s only came in French and German.

French Food by days…

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

(no this isn’t all mine, but I did taste it all!)

While tasting met some really lovely people, including a French couple who had travelled to Australia and took a great interest in Marc’s viticulture studies. The man spoke no English but kept speaking to me in French. I had a bit of help from his daughter but by the end of the conversation I was catching every third word and my laughter was delayed by only about 3 seconds instead of 15.

Although secretly I think many of the people we encountered understood what I was saying, I think they’re probably sick of English speakers not even bothering. Once we gave French a go people let their guard down and spoke their broken English (and also they heard how I was butchering their language).

By then end of the trip I loved speaking French. Have decided that one off my many life dreams would be to become fluent enough and move to a wine region. I would make a killing in Alsace taking English speakers around wine tasting. We only touched about three villages out of about a hundred. My suitcase is full to the brim of wine (and thankfully none of it broke on the journey back to London).

Can I live in France? With better French, absolutely.

See ya later France

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Berlin to Munich – last days of freedom

Berlin is just awesome! There’s so much history to soak up. The food was excellent, the people friendly and helpful, and the city itself is super relaxed and accepting. I totally can’t wait to go back.

Thursday – wasted day
After a well placed night of drinking in Angel with Lani and Max to celebrate their one year anniversary of being away from Sydney, some mutual friends encouraged me to keep going until wee hours of the morning. Suddenly the realisation that I had a flight the next day seemed not to be that important (‘ Stop worrying Lani, my flight’s not until 2:40pm’) so I didn’t really start packing until about 11am the next day. This is a problem when you need to be there two hours beforehand.

Arrive in Berlin. It’s lovely. It’s not until I see the glass dome of the Reichstag that I have my ‘OMG I’m in BERLIN!’ moment. I am smiling like a git. By about 7pm I’ve arrived at the ‘easyhotel’, which is like a bright orange Ibis. Exhausted from the night before I have a nap. (yes I know – thrilling stuff this is). I wake around 9pm, starving and it’s pouring rain.

I ask at reception where I might buy an umbrella. She looks at me confused and points at the clock: ‘It’s 9:30 I don’t think anything will be open’. WHAT? She doesn’t realise that I’ve come from London where there’s a Tesco, Pret and Boots on every corner to service the disorganised residents needs. I trudge in the rain for about 30 minutes, abandon all hope only to find a myriad of excellent looking Japanese restaurants. Satisfied after two glasses of Rosé and the best Jap food since leaving Sydney, I return to easyhotel and crash.

Friday – get my diva on
Jono, Marc and I arrive our amazing flat and check in. Our flat is above a Spanish bar which I am sure we’ll end up having a few drinks at. (Surprisingly we don’t). We unpack and venture out for breakfast using my ‘Berlin Coffee’ app. We find a great little cafe offering excellent coffee and bagels, all served by two lovely (and might I add good looking) blokes sporting strong Melbourne accents.

‘Welcome to Berlin mate. How’s your German?’

Answer: Rubbish

Democratically, we decide to each see a bit of the Berlin each other wants to see. We visited the book burning monument, a world war monument, the jewish monument, the gay monument and the Brandenburg Gate – this took about an hour or so. We also saw a protest outside the Russian Embassy about the Russian government’s position on Syria.

An American accented German offering to stamp my passport for €3 (which I did) with various East and West Berlin Stamps.

Surprisingly Darth Vader was also at Brandenburg gate

We also went to the site where Hitler had his bunker. The Soviet’s demolished it and filled it with concrete. It’s now a car park but people (just like me) flock to the site.

Berlin Tip 1: Hitler’s bunker is just a car park.

We also ventured to the Bauhaus Archive (Marc’s choice). The Bauhaus was an innovative art and design school founded 100 years ago (or something like that), and is responsible for a lot of modern designs we know and use. Interestingly, it was shut down several times during the Third Reich. I know I’m not selling it that well, but it was actually better than I expected. (IKEA eat your heart out). Jono got bored earlier than I did so sat at a bench waiting – the bench was actually an exhibit and really expensive. I would have taken a photo, however found out I wasn’t allowed after being yelled at for doing so.

After a day of WW2 depressive related activities, we decided to relieve our weary self and distract ourselves with capitalism (i.e we went shopping in the West Berlin). Actually, Marc did need some shoes. But I got to buy some funky stockings and some Birkenstocks (which were like half the cost than they would be in Sydney – BONUS).

Berlin Tip 2: Buy Birkenstocks in Germany

Later that evening we met with Rosa and Claire as they were in Berlin too. We went to a gay karaoke bar and received general applause at our diva hood. It was seriously fun as far as I remember. Then we had currywurst. Apparently it’s gross but I don’t recall my opinion on it.

Saturday – learn about the East, including Russian food
Slept in and went for a breaky at another cafe located on the Berlin Coffee app. Wasn’t as good.

Deciding that we had seen heaps of exposure to WW2 stuff already (+ we all learnt about it at school) and we wanted to visit the many ‘Iron Curtain’ aspects of Berlin. We visited the ‘Stasi Museum’ (ie East Berlin secret police) – which was really awesome. There were some great stories, pics and displayed propaganda.When the german revolution happened in the late 80’s, the Berlin youth occupied the Stasi office and made a joke wall across the office with stones. Loved it. Want a time machine now.
Feeling hung over still, we went for a recovery coke in the quaint 80’s looking cafeteria and planned our next move on the iPad. While waiting we shared a table with a 60 or so year old woman who was on holiday with her brother from Amsterdam. She told us how in the 1970s when working in publishing, she needed to visit a client in East Berlin. She crossed the border and had her passport stamped. Upon her return a few hours later, the same East Berlin officer recognised her and asked if she had a good meeting. She immediately changed her flight so that she could leave that afternoon rather than staying on a few days as originally planned.

We ventured to an excellent region with loads of restaurants and settled in on Russian. Russian food is excellent. Have you had the dumplings?!? They’re like the chinese dumplings in Haymarket (Sydney) except served with sour cream instead of chilli and vinegar. Everything is good with sour cream I think. Jono and I shared these with a lamb soup, while Marc had a pork neck steak. It was here that we all agreed: Pork is just so much better in Europe (even better than in Melbourne). Either as bacon, steaks or cured meats, it just has much more flavor than Aussie pork.


Berlin Tip 3: eat loads of Pork. Just pile it in.

After lunch, we visited the East Side Gallery, a collection of Art displayed on the last major remaining part of the Berlin Wall. It was very touristy but also really beautiful. I took lots of pictures, but here are some of my favourites:

Still feeling a bit sluggish from the night before, we rested at our flat for a few hours and enjoyed a few beverages while we waited for Evan, a friend of Marc’s to arrive, before going out to do it all again. I really can’t tell you where we went. I think we started out at Schöneberg which was in the West and had fancy cocktail bars. We then moved on to Kruzberg and found a cool pub and played pool. I went with the flow after that. We lined up for an “awesome” club called ‘Watergate’ and got talking to this Canadian couple. Once the Canadian woman and I got in we discovered out that our male companions had been barred because they didn’t know who was playing (never mind that I was blind rotten drunk). Did I get my €15 back? Did I buggery? But I made sure everyone outside knew what happened (you can just imagine what that looked like).

Berlin Tip 4: if you go to Watergate club, make sure you are sober enough to realise that your friends have been barred entry before you go in.

Berlin Tip 5: Telling people about the club stealing €15 doesn’t get you your €15 back. It just makes you look like a nutter.

We found somewhere else to dance – I think it was across the road from our flat. The only thing that mattered was dancing, which there was lots of until about 5 :) I think we left when the theme tune for ‘two and half men’ started playing.

Sunday – completely touristed out

Despite feeling “worst-for-wear” (as I don’t get hangovers), I got up before the boys and as nice gesture I went and got them breakfast and coffee from the same coffee shop we found on Friday (cute Melbournians). By about 2pm we managed to meet Rosa and Clare at an awesome trash and treasure market located in what looked like ‘no man’s land’ between old east and west Berlin. At 3pm there was supposed to be this open karaoke in this big amphitheater, but as it was raining, and no one but me loves going all Diva style, we ventured to a cafe which only served excellent beers, coffee and drinks.

Feeling feeble, although better nourished, we decided to go to a local restaurant and have a quietish night at home. Checking the lonely planet app guide we found a fondue restaurant right around the corner. We couldn’t resist! Who knew that deep fried beef, chicken, pork, seafood and veg all coated in cheese could be so excellent?!? Marc tried to deep fry a strawberry but thankfully pulled it out before it spat too much. Again the pork was the nicest cut of the three.

Berlin tip 6: Fondue is yum. End.

We returned to our flat and drank the remaining wine and beer as we were leaving the next day and thought this was best. When Evan joined us we ventured for more wine and beer as the beer was tasty and the conversation and debates excellent. The next morning we had ended up with more grog than we started with but hey… we’re on holidays.

Monday bye bye Berlin.

Marc: ‘Das Kaputt': ‘Destroy’.

What he meant to say: ‘Ich bin kaputt’ ‘I am broken’

Poor Marc was broken (kaputt). I wasn’t much better (although always my perky self). We packed up and left to walk through ‘check point charlie’ the original crossing between East Berlin and the American sector of Berlin. We were planning to visit the Germany History Museum afterwards, but the site, story boards and pictures were so good that we ended up spending about an hour there. We got to Tegal airport on time and before we knew it we had arrived at Munich airport.

Both Marc and I each have a friend each living in Munich. Marc’s friend, Tom, booked a table for the five of us. Katrin met us there and we had a traditional Bavarian tasting plate (everything is either pork, dumplings or saurercraut). It was so good and so huge. By the end it looked as though we hadn’t touched any of it.

Tom, a Queenslander originally, took the four of us on a walking tour around the various monuments of Munich and then to a lovely cocktail bar called the Smokers Lounge. Katrin is originally from Northern Bavaria so although born in Germany, knew very little of the sites (I think she enjoyed being the tourist too).

Munich is beautiful and has so many beautiful buildings, gardens and sites to see. I will be definitely be returning to Munich to visit my two new friends. You can definitely see that Munich is a very ‘typically German’ area – everything is shiny and clean edged.

Das ist es for now. I will share our excellent trip from Munich to the Alsace wine region in another story. Much love and fun for now.

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Motions, benders and the heat of Spring

Apologies but this blog is about a week late because of my trip to Germany. I am behind a few posts.

We were having a bit of a heat-wave here at the moment, it’s was anywhere between 24 and 27 degrees. People were lying in their bikini’s and board shorts at the parks as if they’re at a beach. I went for a walk around Regents Park the other day and I saw two people playing badminton. When I came back around about 40 minutes later they were still playing. London and their Londoners wake up and become a happy lot when the sun comes out. It’s was madness. (FYI – now it has gone back to shitty London grey rainy weather)

I held my first dinner party two weeks ago. Rosa, Jane, Claire and I drank copious amounts of wine and then wandered onto Hampstead Heath before devouring more wine, lamb slow cooked in wine, fattoush and lebo meze. Yum – sorry no pics of the meal this time but here’s some of us relaxing in our tipsy haze.

    

I’ve resigned my position at BECTU to take up the full-time TSSA job. However BECTU were nice enough to invite me to attend their annual reps conference being held in Manchester. I woke up feeling particular lethargic after said dinner party. Shit! I need to be at King’s Cross Station by 3pm for my train to Manchester.

Switching between packing, eating watermelon, sunbaking on the deck, eating more watermelon; I managed to get myself ready to go by about 1pm so I could meet Lani at the station for lunch. But in typical Ange style, my organisation was just a bit lacking. I had forgotten my train ticket. Fuck! Jumping off the bus I headed back home in the heat and managed to get the Kings Cross Station about 40 mins later. Sorry Lani. Then I realised that in fact my train was from Euston, and oh shit it’s in 20 minutes. Luckily it’s only a short bus ride away but I was less than composed when I finally took my seat.

Manchester is really awesome.

For the most part of my trip I was in the conference. It was the 21st anniversary of BECTU –  for some reason this is a bigger deal than the 20th anniversary, so much so that there won’t even be a conference next year! Arriving at about 5pm, I checked out Manchester with my colleague Sofie and had some dinner.

I (running late as usual) rushed back to the ‘youth members forum’ drinks. I had a few drinks and went to my room waking up with an awesome hang under.

What was really awesome about Youth Members Forum was that it was
genuinely set up by a handful of young members who have been agitating to create this forum, have it recognised and funded by the union. They’ve been working on it for the last few years, particularly a lot leading up to conference, and this year they moved a motion to get funding to hold events and create materials which will engage more young people into their union. The best bit was actually at the conference when about 4 of them spoke passionately about why they needed conferences support. They received massive applauses whenever they confessed: ‘it’s my first time speaking at conference’.

On day two, I skived off in the afternoon to visit the People’s History Museum – without exception the best place I’ve been to so far. This museum has one of the best collections of English Working class history, containing a great walk through history of getting the vote, revolutionaries, the creation of Unions, secret societies, communists, people when at war, and the creation of the NHS. It has some great propaganda too. I spent about £15 at the gift shop and took too many pictures of excellent banners I saw. I took loads of pictures of excellent banners, quotes, and things I generally found amusing. There are heaps so check some of them out here

Saturday night was the ‘Gala dinner’ – what is a Gala anyway? Food and wine was tops and the speeches were actually quite good. Again I’m not sure if that was just me being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed because everything in the UK is new, but yes speeches good as it goes. Then at about 11pm, the union’s President announced that we would have a ‘disco’. Despite the music being some of the worst ever, the 20 of us dancing had a great time.

                  

                  

Around 1am, we ventured to the bar upstairs. Upon realising that there was no dancing, a few die-hards concocted a plan to venture out to continue the dancing. Unfortunately, me and another member lost the others. Luckily everywhere sell beer takeaway at all hours, so Beth, myself and our 8 pack headed upstairs to potentially play cards – with the awesome pictorial history of the women’s movement cards I had bought earlier that day. End result was going to bed at 6am – oops.

  

I woke to the sound of my mobile ringing at 10am. It was Pat (think Lead Organiser type figure). Shit, the Arts and Entertainment Division Conference had started and I was supposed to give a presentation on my mapping in the West End. Ignoring the call I hastily washed my face, brushed my teeth, fluffed my hair and threw everything into my suitcase. I made it down there in 10 minutes (definitely a new record for me). As I walked in the room, Pat gave me a nod to let me know it was cool. But wait no, there’s music coming out of my ipad! I jumped out of the room with a tomato coloured face then walked in as if there was nothing to be worried about.

Before I gave my talk I did feel a bit nervous to be honest. I haven’t done a presentation in front of a group in about 6 months and I only prepared it yesterday. I know I must have run hundreds and hundreds of workplace meetings last year, none were in front of 60 hardened workplace reps. These weren’t public servants, they were carpenters, electricians, cinema workers, projectionists and aspiring actors – don’t know why this mattered really but it all added to being outside my comfort zone.

As in all good meeting frameworks, I introduced myself and I explained that I was from Australia and had been given a great opportunity to work at BECTU. Pat chimed in to say that at first I couldn’t understand his cockney accent. People giggled a bit and I jokingly gave an impersonation of nervous me asking Sofie how I should go about asking Pat to slow down. Pat then made a joke – again I couldn’t understand him: Ange: ‘what?’ The Reps laughed, I guess loving the larrikin attitude giving their senior official a good dig. At the end of my presentation on mapping the West End and I received a heartily applause.

Yes! Still got it.

After the conference I began to feel a bit sad. Maybe a bit regretful. I’m still not sure if I made the right decision to leave BECTU for the TSSA job – only time will tell with that one. But I think I made the decision I would least regret. No regrets Ange!

Having about an hour and half left before my train I took three of the youth forum members back to the People’s History Museum. I think they liked it. I know I did.

I will definitely stop in Manchester again.

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People’s History Museum Photos

Click on the first pic to go through them

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My first time in Germany was actually really shit

When I was in High School, our French/German teacher, Madame Thew, would regularly take the French class on exchange for 4 weeks. The year my class was due to go was the same year as the Sydney Olympics so our school decided that our class could just miss out. I can’t be certain – in fact I might be confusing it with the year 12 formal – but I have a vague recollection that we organised a bit of protest about this decision. Eventually the school reversed its decision. Our class could go, but being a public school we would have to do everything on the cheap, pay a small fortune for our expenses and we would have to go in low season – ie January 2001.

We billeted with students in two areas of France, and at the beginning we stayed in a shitty B&B where the water leaked all over our other supervising teacher, Mr Watson. Our flights to and from Paris consisted of a hideous amount of small flights on mostly budget airlines. I was smoking back then and I remember searching all over Paris for one of those fancy cigarette holders.

After four amazing weeks, we commenced our journey home, but for some reason or another our flight from Paris to Zurich was massively delayed, by about four or five hours. In turn, this meant we would miss all our other connecting flights.

When we finally got into Zurich, Mme. Thew went burko at whatever airline we were with and they put us up in a really swish resort about 40 mins from the airport. I was only 15 years old and after four weeks being away, I was actually really homesick. I hadn’t been away from my mum for more than a week in my life, and despite talking to her on the phone every day, I just wanted to go home.

I got off the coach and picked up my suitcase to walk up the massive hill to the resort’s and I banged my head of the side mirror of the coach.

That was it.

The suitcase dropped to the floor and I before I knew it, I was bawling my eyes out. Poor Mr Watson was standing by and freaked out. The school hadn’t prepared him for emotionally fragile teenage girls, so he just grabbed my suitcase and ran up the hill.

After talking to mum and dad, I calmed down and decided to stop being ridiculous. I went to sleep determined to milk up all the facilities of the resort before our flight home the next afternoon.

The next day we swam in an amazing pool, and then went off in search of the saunas. Renay and I followed the sauna signs into a big circular room with several steam rooms/saunas. We went into an empty one and soaked it in. About 10 minutes later a old German man came in and feeling a bit shy we quickly packed up and left. Returning to the circle room a bit dizzy from all the steam, we looked to see if one of the other saunas were empty. We peered through the steam of one door, only to shriek in horror at an old naked man and his really old cock.

Later that afternoon, before leaving ‘swish resort’, Mme. Thew offered to walk us across to the German border which was about 10 minutes away. We only had about thirty minutes before our coach would take us back to the airport so we walked the 10 minutes, got our passports stamped and walked back.

And that is why my first time in Germany was really, really shit.

I’m writing this on the plane on my way to Berlin. Wish me luck that I will have a rocking time and an excellent story by the time I get back

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