Thursday, 4 February 2010

London Calling


The following is a copy of my email I have recently sent, summarising my past year. I have included it here as it provides a nice summary.

Of course keep an eye out for some posts below this one, as I have several more to write to catch up to the present, namely Denmark, Berlin, & Turkey.

My apologies, this past year despite not having gainful employment for a lot of it, I have been slack at emailing and keeping in contact in general - probably largely due to the onslaught of Facebook.

Its probably best to start with the start of 2009 - where I found myself waiting for my UK visa to come back. I was labouring for Allied Workforce at a meat works in Te Aroha in the meantime.

For New Years I found myself at a party in Hawkes Bay. The next day I went and visited my brother-in-law Bevan's family, and went to splash planet in Hastings, something that had been on my to do list since at least 2004. (It was the former Fantasyland). I ended up staying the night at Bev's parents and then the next day headed back to Papamoa, via Taupo to catch up with my mate Andy and his wife.

I had a couple of days at Papamoa before returning to work for a week before our contract was finished.

I spent the next few weeks between completing the upload of pictures to Mum & Dad's company website, and the beach at Papamoa.

My visa eventually came at the end of January - because of a dating error, I had 12 days to kill before entering the UK, so I decided to make use of the stopover in LA.

I spent 3 days in LA, in a hostel in Santa Monica - did a bus tour of Hollywood, Venice beach, Rodeo drive etc.

From there I got a train to San Diego - where I stayed for a night and a day, during which time I nipped across the border to Tijuana in Mexico for an hour or two, to say I had been there.

I then got a night bus to Las Vegas. Stayed there for 3 days, during which time I went to the Hoover dam - would have gone to the Grand Canyon, but they weren't doing tours there due to the weather.

From there I got a flight to San Francisco. Unfortunately only got a night there before heading back to LA.

Back in LA, I spent a night in a hostel in Hollywood, and then another in the hostel in Santa Monica, before catching my flight to London.

I didn't manage to sleep at all on the flight, so when I arrived in London at 10.30am local time I was a little tired, however managed to make it through until about 7 or 8 that night, in order to get my body-clock right.

The next day I woke up about 6 or 7am, and went to work with Bevan, and walked from there past the Big Ben, across and then along the river, past the London eye, Shakespeare's Globe, and back across tower bridge, to Suzanne's work for a late lunch. Unfortunately my body-clock didn't act as nicely as that for another week or so.

The next 4 months I was job hunting with several near misses, but in the meantime did a 9 day drive around Ireland for St Patrick's day, and Wales for Easter.

In June, I worked for 7 weeks in a travel company, checking the data integrity in their new system. When that finished I was lucky enough to go straight into a months work in a call centre - working on the Swine flu hotline - people who suspected they had it would call, and we would go through a checklist with them - if it looked like they may have it, we would give them a code to go and get some medication.

While it lasted it was great as not many calls a shift- the NHS had employed more than enough people so people wouldn't sit on the line waiting to speak to us (and give up, and then continue spreading their germs.)

When it finished I decided, rather than sitting around waiting for another job, I would go travelling - to make the most of the remaining summer, and also catch a couple of festivals that I otherwise probably wouldn't get the opportunity to go to, which were conveniently soon.

Therefore the following week I flew to Valencia, Spain, to go to La Tomatina - a big tomato fight, that I had heard about originally in an English lesson back in Japan. I spent a week in Valencia, then 3 days in Alicante, 2 nights in Barcelona - by which stage I'd come down with a bad flu/cold- but thankfully I knew it wasn't swine flu due to the lack of a temperature.

From Barcelona I went to Marseille in France, and lay low there for about a week to recover, before heading to Nice, checking out Cannes and Monaco while I was there.

I then got a night bus to Vienna where I spent a week and a half with a friend and her family. While there I popped over the border to Bratislava in Slovakia for a day, which was cool.

From Vienna, I went to Linz, and spent some time at my friend's parents, visited Mathausen Concentration camp, the Hallstatt Salt mine, and the various museums in Linz. My friend's parents then dropped me in Salzburg, where I stayed for about a week.

Salzburg was rather nice, interesting - mainly because it was easy to recognise the locations of 'The Sound of Music'. I also did a S.O.M. tour on a bus, in retrospect I would've preferred to do a bike tour - that way I would have seen things closer up. Anyhow, I also went and saw some ice caves and a rather cool castle, nearby in the alps.

On my way out of Salzburg, I went to Hanger-7 at the airport, where the Red Bull team keep all their planes, jets, helicopters and cars etc- which is free to visit. Awesome.

From there I jumped on a train to Munich for Oktoberfest. I had a great time, although it was rather expensive. I meet a guy who was also heading towards Denmark as well, so we decided to travel together for as long as it was mutually convenient. We checked out Neuschwanstein castle, and then headed to Stuttgart for another beerfest and to check out the Porsche museum. Halfway through the next journey we parted ways on the train, as he was heading to Berlin, me to Hamburg.

It was a wet day in Hamburg, so I didn't see much there. The next day it was on to Denmark for 2 weeks with some old friends.

While there I went to Copenhagen several times, Helsingor (also known as Elsinore, ie Hamlet's castle, Roskilde viking ship museum, and some chalk cliffs, which also had a radar station from cold war times. In Denmark I managed to see multiple windmills, both the old kind, and the modern kind. I also nipped across to Malmo in Sweden for a day.

From Denmark I flew back to London, as I figured I had more chance of getting another job earlier rather than later, before Christmas.

After being back for 2 weeks, I headed to Berlin for a 30th birthday present for myself, and also as I knew it coincided with the 20th anniversary of the Berlin wall falling.
Berlin was cool - the definite highlight was the walking tour - best one I've done so far - so much history - being Nazi era, and then the communist era as well.

I was back in London for the day of my birthday - celebrating it with McDonald's for breakfast, a pub lunch, and then me and Bevan went to Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) - a Kiwi (originally) owned/inspired burger restaurant (Suzanne had gone to Iceland) before meeting the flatmates for some drinks.

Shortly after I got some more work back at the call centre I worked at for Swine flu, where I have pretty much been since then.

We celebrated Christmas at Suzanne & Bevan's flat, with a Christmas tree and a great feed. Christmas eve we went to midnight mass at Westminster abbey, so didn't get up until about 11am Christmas day.

Boxing day we headed to Turkey for 9 days, spent a day in Istanbul, checking out the Blue Mosque among other things. From there we headed to Gallipoli, Troy, Pergamum, Ephesus, Pamukkale, and Cappadocia in the following days.

Other than that, there isn't so much to report. Hope this hasn't been too long winded, as I don't believe in subjecting people to reading things against their will - I've tried to keep it brief, and wouldn't have written it if it wasn't a particularly interesting year.



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