Tag Archives: sun

The luxuries of hostel travelling

5 Jul

I’m standing in the small common room that has a table, a couch, a fridge and kitchen facilities. I’m staring into space as I hold down the lever mechanism on the side of the toaster that is meant to click in place to hold down the bread and which ignites the grill on either side, in turn creating toast. I am the replacement ‘click’, standing here, toasting bread for my husband and I. Every now and then, I release the lever to check on the progress of our toast. It’s taking a while…

Matt is sitting at the table in the same common room next to a guy who has cooked couscous and is stuffing it into a water bottle with a teaspoon. He then proceeds to add chopped capsicum and something else which resembles cheese. I guess he is trying to stretch his lunch budget. Right next to where I am standing, still toasting our bread, is one of two bathrooms in the entire hostel. There is a line up to use it, as there is with the one upstairs. They will quickly discover there is limited hot water…

Enter the British girls I share a room with. They have just finished their A Levels (the equivalent of QCS in Queensland) and are travelling around Europe to celebrate. They are bright-eyed and excitable for 10am. They are lovely girls. Matt stayed in the room next door last night and tells me that he tossed and turned on account of the heat so he hasn’t had much sleep. The pedestal fan in his room was hogged by an Australian couple. The other fan in the room failed to work. The still of the night dragged on for him…

This is hostelling as we know it. Our hostel tucked away behind a wooden gate on a small sidestreet in Prague is not unlike other hostels we’ve stayed in. Yes, they all vary to a degree, but essentially, they do what they say on the box… it’s a cheap place to lay your head. This morning Matt asked me if I think we’re getting ‘too old’ to be staying in hostels. He’s 26, going on 27 in November. This begs me to ask the question… how old is too old to stay in a hostel? Even now as I write this blog, there are nine people in the very small common room slash kitchen slash living room slash dining room with us, all most likely not over the age of 22… well, apart from Matt and I. They are nice enough, talking about their studies, their crushes on the character Harry Potter (no, not Daniel Radcliffe, the actual Harry Potter). But they come from a different generation.

As we make our way through Central Europe, will we encounter the same demographic of hostellees? Will we stay in the same room as girls and guys who have crushes on movie characters and not the character’s real-life persona? I think you know the answer. So do we. Still, we cannot deny the fact that hostelling pushes you outside your comfort zone. It pushes you face to face with some of the most interesting, albeit lovely, people. It allows us a cheap place to sleep after a day of exploring a new city, something we’ve relied so heavily on while were using London as a base to travel. It allows you to feel at home by cooking your own breakfast. It allows us to say: “Do you remember that awful/nasty/surprisingly good value-had-everything-we-needed-and-was-an-awesome-place-to-stay hostel?” “Ah… yes, I remember it well.” I’m sure that as we travel further into Europe, our list of interesting – good and some not-so-good – hostel experiences will grow. I do mean it when I say, it’s going to be a fun-filled three months.

Five things… we love about spring in London

27 Mar

As London slowly warms, off come the outer-outer layers and up come the bulbs in parks and in gardens around the city. Spring is a lovely time to enjoy London, but it also means our time in the UK is coming to an end. We’re soaking up as many of the warm sunrays and experiences as we can around London town during this beautiful season.

{Daffodils can be seen popping up in parks and gardens around the entire city, all as if from nowhere. They really do bring a sunny disposition to the city streets}

{Dusk gets later and later as we delve deeper into spring. The clocks have turned forward and there is sunlight now as we walk out of work in the evenings. It’s so nice to walk home from the tube in the beautiful twilight}

{Outdoor activities become more and more frequent with the warmer weather, especially on Sunday afternoons when the need to drown out thoughts of work the following day become necessary. You can always count on a friendly backyard BBQ – no matter how small – to do the trick}

{It gets extremely exciting when the sun comes out – it means you’re able to shed those outer layers. Sure, you still need a cardy but at least you can feel a weight off your shoulders with that bulky winter jacket gone, just don’t put it out of sight yet as the weather is still unpredictable!}

{The end of March marks the beginning of having only three months left in the UK! Our room is scattered with travel guides as we read up on all the amazing countries we’re set to visit on our travels home. I’m not sure if I should be crying saddness or sprouting happy smiles at the thought of leaving! Maybe this blog will shed some light…}

Girly fun in Portugal

20 Oct

There are a lot of places that we would absolutely love to visit but will probably never get the chance to while we’re still living in London. There is just too many places on the list and let’s face it, we’ve had to prioritize our ‘must-do’ list. But when Kristy and Amy suggested a girls weekend to Lisbon, Portugal, famous for its Portuguese cock (no… a symbol of a rooster… just think Nandos!) in a bid farewell before Kristy returns to the brown land indefinitely, how could I say no? Another city to explore and another country to experience, if only for a weekend. Sorry Matt for leaving you at the airport again, but you just wouldn’t fit in on a girl’s weekend!

We were glad we had all made it to Portugal in the first place after our weekend got off to a stressful start. With Kristy nowhere in sight, Amy and I reluctantly got on the early tube to Heathrow. When we eventually had service on our mobiles, Kristy revealed she had slept through her alarm and was only just leaving her house, whereas we had been on the train for half an hour. Thinking that three may become two, we prayed she was able to make it to the airport on time. Out of breath and incredibly thankful, Kristy made it to the gate just before we boarded.

It still amazes me that we can reach colourful destinations all around Europe within the space of a couple of hours from London. Before we knew it, we were making our way to our hostel in the middle of all the action in the capital of Portugal, Lisbon. Even though it’s small, it really does offer a lot as a city… It has a riverside location and close proximity to the beach, temperate climate, gorgeous tiles that decorate the city’s buildings, peri-peri chicken, delicious wine, old-school trams that still run through the city’s old streets, an active nightlife and a beautiful and colourful cityscape to goggle at. It’s a chilled out city, as well knowing how to party into the wee hours, and we could have easily spent more than just a couple of nights there.

The hostel we stayed at offered pub crawls starting at the respectable time of midnight. The nightlife begins late here. Of course we took advantage and allowed ourselves to be shown the best pubs and clubs that Lisbon had to offer. We put on a bit of glam and danced the early morning hours away; repeating this on the Saturday night. For good measure and of course what every girl’s weekend needs, we threw in sightseeing and (a lot of) shopping in between our nights out. Sleep didn’t really come into the equation much, but when you’re in a city for such a short amount of time, something has to give.

We made a trip to the seaside town of Cascais, which also is the closest beach. It was tiny at that, but there was sun, sand and water. We ate olives, fresh-as-can-be bread with mouth-watering cheese and wine to wash it all down in the afternoon and ate peri-peri chicken for dinner. We visited Belem, a short tram ride from the centre of Lisbon to let our taste buds experience one thing, the delectable warm custard tarts that are famous in Portugal. They are said to be made with a secret ingredient and whatever it is, they taste absolutely incredible with a crunchy pastry on the outside and warm custard filling. Definitely worth the trip. We also went on a tram ride through the old town and got a taste of the hilly and cobbled streets. We walked from the bottom to the top of Lisbon for views over the city and chilled out for lunch with refreshing drinks when the weather got a little too hot. On our last day we visited Sintra, a town in the hills not too far from Lisbon. It’s like the hinterland of Lisbon with a craggy castle that sits atop the biggest hill. It’s a gorgeous town with beautiful buildings including a palace and other mansions.

But alas, before we knew it, we were back on the plane heading to London. That thing that has four letters and begins with ‘W’ was beckoning. Well, we do have to fund our girl’s weekends away somehow… where to next?

Postcards from Greece

2 Jul

The mention of ‘Greece’ conjures all kinds of images in one’s mind: cliff-top villages made up of white-washed houses and buildings, the crystal clear Aegean sea lapping stunning beaches, arid landscapes with conifers, low shrubs and olive groves, brown bikini-clad bodies lying on beach loungers… Believe it all, because it’s true. This is Greece in all it’s postcard-beautiful glory.

The buildings in Greece are probably one of the most photographed. The stark contrast of the blinding white buildings against the deep blue sky is a stunning sight. This is a church we stumbled across in an old village on the island of Santorini. We had to make our way through a labyrinth of narrow streets and climb stairs to reach it. We were on our way to the beach at the time and went on a detour to do some exploring… we were mesmerized with what we found.

The landscape of Greece is beautiful in its own unique way. The land is hilly, dry and, in summer, seems to radiate heat. Low shrubs and conifers dominate the landscape with an olive grove or two thrown in for good measure. Dirty-white farm houses sit on the hills. There is probably a small herd of goats in there as well, essential in order to produce traditional and delicious Greek feta for the equally delicious Greek salad. This pic was taken on the island of Paros – while on the back of a scooter, hence the movement in the shrubs at the bottom of the picture. We hired a scooter for two days to get around the island. A total of 60km of roads circumnavigate the outside of the island, but we crisscrossed through the middle of the island to beaches and back again and we got to see most of the island.

The olive oil in Greece is to die for – we ate plenty of bread smothered in the gold liquid. This pic of an olive tree was taken in Athens on our way up to the Acropolis to get up close to the Pantheon. Olive oil and tourism are two of the main industries in Greece and with their current crumbling economy, these are the industries that will no doubt survive.

The sunsets and the weather in Greece made us feel like we were back at home. It was warm with a cool sea breeze on the islands and sweltering hot in Athens, thanks to being surrounded by concrete. We captured this sunset while at dinner. We had a smorgasbord of fresh seafood, alfresco style and just across the road was the beach and this sunset. No need to say anything more – just look at the picture. It was stunning and not a bad way to end the day.

Mouth-drooling fresh seafood we gorged ourselves on at the restaurant while watching the sunset. Most restaurants offer some sort of fresh and frozen seafood. Everything we eat in Greece is delicious – bread with olive oil for entrée, Greek salad, souvlaki, gyro, battered cheese, squid and calamari, varieties of fish and tender meat is all on the menu. We physically couldn’t finish off this seafood meal and there were eight of us.

Ancient ruins – another thing that makes Greece so beautiful and eyebrow-raising interesting. This is the Ancient Agora in Athens. It is a place that is described as a ‘market place’, a public meeting place and also where the court of law was located back in BC times. The ruins in Athens are dotted throughout the main city area, which allowed us to visit most of them in one day. Typically, we chose the hottest day to run around the city as well with temperatures in their low 30s. Needless to say we were sweating the whole day until the soothing cool of the night set in. The heat was exhausting (I think our bodies have acclimatized to the London weather – anything above 25 seems to knock us about now).

The beaches in Greece are so stunning but I think this has a lot to do with the perfectly clear waters that lap at their shores. The water gently meets the sand and we lay there listening to the tiny waves from our beach loungers. This is the first trip we’ve been on in Europe where we’ve just sat and stayed still; relaxing and spending time doing nothing much at all except for looking at the map and deciding which beach to visit next. This pic was taken at Punda Beach Club, located on the island of Paros. It was so beautiful and relaxing. We dropped in to this beach on our second day on Paros to check it out, it was so good, we returned for a couple of hours the next day to get in more relaxation time before we had to catch our ferry to the next relaxing island.

The beaches on Santorini are beautiful in a different way. They are made up of rocks thanks to the island’s volcanic past. This picture of Red Beach is located right next door to White Beach and Black Beach a bit further down. It’s so unique and it really is this red. There is another black-sand beach further up the island called Kamari – one of the best on the island where we spent time walking along the smooth pebbles and going for a dip in the beautiful clear sea.

Last but not least, Santorini and its cliff-top villages. This place is where postcards were invented. The whole island is just gorgeous and these photos overlooking Oia (top), a village on the northern tip of the island; and Fira (bottom), the main hub of Santorini are the closest we could get to capturing exactly what Greece is all about. The whole place is like a myth, like something we’ve read in books but never quite knew if it was real. We only had two nights in Santorini, but we could have easily spent a whole week soaking up the laid back atmosphere, eating in alfresco restaurants by night and visiting beaches by day.

Greece is right near the top with being our best trip yet; I think it’s easy to see why. It really is the ultimate destination and it certainly lived up to our expectations. This is one country we’d definitely re-visit if we could.

You can see the rest of our Greece photos here: Mykonos/ParosSantorini; Athens.

Survival guide to the English music festival season

26 Jun

The pub is a staple in almost every English person’s lifestyle. Much like it is to Australians (when we first arrived, introducing ourselves as Australian we would usually receive a ‘ah… crazy drinking Australian’ or similar remark). Although us Aussies do love to sit back and relax with a nice drink and great mates, I personally think the English have this one up on us. London is filled with pubs – you can’t turn around on the street without coming face to face with an old English pub with a beer garden that is full to the brim in summer. It’s almost like a birth right to visit the pub on a Thursday or Friday night (or any other weekday for that matter), and then again on Saturday and Sunday (don’t worry, we don’t visit the pub THAT often!). The words ‘English people’ and ‘pubs’ go hand in hand.

I find it’s a very similar tune with the English and their music festivals. They know how to put on a good music festival. They are hard-core. The most famous one – Glastonbury – has a line up of bands that lasts for five days. Compared to Australia, and I know there are festivals that last for longer than one day, but the UK has literally hundreds of festivals that run over the summer months (450 in 2010 to be exact), all at least a day or two long. I was lucky enough to be able to afford £180 for the three-day Isle of Wight (IoW) festival in early June. The price tag for this camping ticket (all BYO) is extrordinate, but it was reported that 90,000 people attended this festival alone (do the sums!), so it has to say something about how crazy for festivals the English really are. Come to the UK in summer and try to get to at least one festival. They are worth experiencing and after having the pleasure of experiencing one for myself, I can now pass on some wisdom to others:

  • Be prepared for four seasons – winter, summer, autumn and spring variations of weather will crop up at some point during the festival. At IoW, we had cold nights; one day was hot and dry; it was windy at another point during the weekend and on the last day, the heavens opened up and it rained. Actually, it poured! I’m surprised that it didn’t snow as well.
  • Cheap tents will survive, just – our £30 tent from Tescos worked like a charm. Although we did think that the missing fly was actually due to a manufacturing fault, not the fact that our cheap taste in tents actually meant that we only got one layer to protect us from the four seasons we were likely to encounter. But, it didn’t leak and that’s all that matters!
  • Pack appropriate wet weather gear – this includes Wellies and a raincoat, not just street shoes and a plastic poncho. The poncho did the trick, but it wasn’t the most comfortable feeling being wrapped in plastic while the wind and rain battered down on you. The same couldn’t really be said for my shoes, which were thrown the minute I got home. They were OK – I didn’t slip over on my bum in the mud (there were a few close calls), so they did the job. They were initially white, but came home brown and wet (and a tad smelly). What’s worse is it wasn’t until when we were half way home on the train that I was able to change into a pair of dry thongs.
  • Learn the bands – another country = different tastes in music and different bands that English people go crazy for. We saw all the main line ups – Kings of Leon, Foo Fighters, Tom Jones, Eliza Dolittle, Joan Jett – but there were many, many others that we just didn’t know who they were. We also got a little distracted by all the other festivities put on – the market stalls, the silent disco (so much fun by the way), the beach, the free hair styling… the list goes on, but we didn’t see as many bands as we should have.
  • A home away from home – a tent is essential, but bring your whole camping kit – camping chairs, BBQ, shelter, and (more importantly), an Aussie flag. It was tent city at the festival and some people came incredibly prepared. I’m guessing they didn’t have to take public transport to get there!
  • Prepared to go without a shower – this is something that we probably couldn’t do in the sweltering Australian summer. But, with the cooler UK summers, going without a shower for three days wasn’t too much of an issue for us. We had ‘baby wipe’ showers in the privacy of our own tent. It certainly beats waiting literally hours of standing in line for this luxury like some people at the festival did. Personally, I wouldn’t want to waste a minute of my £180 ticket to see the festival on lining up to have a shower.
  • Portable loos – not much to say about these that people don’t already know. Next time, I’ll be packing a gas mask, disposable gloves and spray disinfectant to prepare for the ugliness that is the festival portable loo!

It may sound like the English summer music festival isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, but it’s an experience, like everything else that we’ve done living the English life. It’s got to be done at least once in a lifetime and although I can’t afford to spend £100 plus on another festival ticket this summer, bring on English summer music festival season 2012!

Let’s just pop over to France for the day, shall we?

28 May

Yes, it’s possible to say: ‘Do you want to take a drive to France tomorrow?” when you visit Geneva, Switzerland, which sits so close to the border of France that their airport has a French side you can walk to. We picked up our car from the airport and drove on to Chamonix, for what ended up being one of the most scenic drives I think we’ve ever driven. We were passing massive mountains with peaks so high they were covered by the clouds. We drove past chalet houses cosily located in the valleys below the peaks, and a glacier so massive, it looked like it was going to slide down the mountain-side at any moment. It was so green, it was like we were driving through a postcard – you know those ones you get in the mail at home and you are absolutely certain that the picture must be made up. We can assure you, they aren’t!

We had spent the previous day in Geneva, which is located at the tip of Lake Geneva, one of the largest lakes in Western Europe. The purpose of our trip was to celebrate our good friend Jaime’s birthday, and well, she wanted to go to Geneva, so we could hardly say no, right?! We flew to Geneva the Friday night after work and stayed in a hostel, in a room with just the six of us – Matt, Jaime, Amy, Troy, Jo and I. We woke on Saturday morning to an absolutely stunning day – the sun was shining and it was warming up nicely. We went for a walk along the lake until we found a spot on the rocks to soak up the sun and the view. The water of Lake Geneva is so crystal clear that you can see the seaweed and rocks on the sandy bed below, that is until you get out into the middle of the lake where it gets deeper. The water is such a pretty aqua colour, it’s hard not to feel so incredibly happy to be in the middle of this picture-postcard town.

Being a southerner (aka, from Adelaide), Jaime made a move to the water, keen to go for a swim. The water was freezing (from a northerner/Queenslander perspective!), so we were reluctant to go in – even Matt said it was too cold for him. But I was persuaded and eventually made a dive for it. The coldness of the water took my breath away and I had goosebumps immediately, but it was incredibly refreshing. We tread water the whole time so our muscles didn’t seize up from being cold! Swans swam by us, giving us looks as if to say we were crazy. It was a great start to a great weekend.

Still in our wet togs and feeling a little cool as my dress eventually became wet as well, we continued walking around the tip of the lake and stopped for coffee and ice cream along the water. We sat down in the sun to dry out (again, the view is hard to describe, but there was the lake, the swans, the sun, good friends… so you get the picture). We also made a trip out on the water on a small rental boat. Feeling in good spirits from the fact we were in the sun, we each had a turn at driving and had a lot of laughs until it was time to return to shore. Back on land, we headed for the town centre for a spot of shopping, but unfortunately didn’t buy anything in our favourite shop, full of Swarovski Crystal jewellery – wishful thoughts. Plus, everything in Switzerland is expensive – we even bypassed McDonald’s because of how expensive it was (our fail-safe in most countries only when all other cafes and restaurants have been ruled out).

In the afternoon, we paid a visit to the United Nations building and feeling in desperate need of a nanna nap, we then headed back to our hostel. We picked up some supplies – food and drink – on the way home after we came across a grocery shop. We chilled out and talk turned to childhood TV shows while we were getting ready to go out for dinner and a drink in honour of Jaime’s birthday. We were recommended a pub just up the hill from our hostel so we headed there and had incredible-tasting burgers and a (expensive) pint.

Now, back to the incredible mountains. As I was saying, on the Sunday, we made a beeline for Chamonix – a ski resort town in France. The town is so cute, it is surrounded by mountain peaks and if the weather had been kinder, we would have been able to take the cable car up to one of the mountains for incredible views. Unfortunately the clouds and fog had set in higher up, so the view would have been nothing but a sea of white. We had lunch at a pasta place and then made our way to visit my friend, Emma, who had been living in Chamonix for the ski season, working as a cleaner in one of the guesthouses in the town. We had tea and a chat about travel. As we spoke, our eyes would always drift back to the view from her lounge room… through the door and pass the balcony stood a massive mountain,  one of many overlooking the whole town. Not to mention, we were envious of her life in Chamonix.

We drove on down the road, the scenic route, to the town of Annecy. We drove through the mountains and after more than an hour, the road met the edge of a lake – Lake Annecy. We found a spot to stop and spent some time taking in the views of the mountains, against the aqua-blue lake. We kept saying how beautiful the whole weekend had been and lucky we were to have such great weather. We drove on into the town, found a park and went walking. We spent the rest of the afternoon in Annecy, strolling around the old town, doing some more shopping and just generally relaxing and taking it all in. We had an early dinner in the park and spoke about not going back to London. We were sure we could all find cash-in-hand jobs here for the summer so we could spend more time in this incredible location. Eventually, reluctantly, we got back in our car and drove back to Geneva airport. We all agreed that Jaime made a great decision to spend her birthday in the sun in Geneva.

It’s too good to be true

8 Apr

Winter jacket – be gone! Beanie and gloves… disappear! For the second day in a row, the weather in London has been perfect. A lovely and warm 20 degrees Celsius tops, and how lovely and sunny it is indeed. People at work are jumping for joy and the people in the streets… well, everyone seems to be smiling and happy. The soundtrack ‘sunshine, lollipops and … rainbows’ can be almost heard in the air as people shed off their winter woollies and embrace the sunshine. (It really does make you feel like singing the happy  song (albeit in my own head) – I expect perfect strangers to join in any time soon and start dancing!)

Yesterday I wandered into Regent’s Park opposite my work and it was literally a fight for any spare patch of green grass that was available as workers on lunch breaks flocked to the enjoy the sunshine (hell, I was one of them). Today was exactly the same and if it wasn’t for our very own private park (where the residences and workers in the buildings along our street can enjoy some peace and quiet without those pesky mortals we call ‘other people who don’t belong to our street of buildings’), we would of had trouble finding a place to catch the glorious rays.

I think we’re both going to enjoy summer in London a lot more than winter in London. The city seems to have come alive – or awoken from a very long and cold hibernation at least! The streets are full of happy people, the parks full of blooms and picnic-goers, and there are afternoons and evenings of people just ‘hanging out until the sun goes down’. The warm weather is a joyous occasion that we are embracing with our arms wide open (insert picture here of us running and skipping happily through the park with our arms wide-spread).

Over the weekend just gone, we spent some quality time with each other enjoying said sunshine and warmth. I met Matt on Saturday after he finished work and we walked lazily up to Regent’s Park. I had just gone through the park the day before on a lunch break and realised that the flowers and blooms had come to life. Knowing Matt would typically enjoy spending some time here to practice his photography, we gathered a picnic from Marks & Spencer and sat underneath the trees, next to the tulips and other bright flowers. We had some fun and Matt took hundreds of photos (you can see a selection of them here: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/album.php?fbid=10150224988932067&id=645987066&aid=378213). We spent the next day sleeping in, brunching, and then spending some time at home – resting up and doing a whole heap of ‘admin’ stuff we’d been putting off for ages and ages.

The weekend before was a little more ‘groovy’ after a group of us went back in time to ‘Carwash’ – a 70s and 80s club. We all dressed up in the our favourite fashion from the era and drank (supposedly a little too much – according to someone!) and got down and funky with it until four in the morning. I received some free tickets after I got the opportunity to write a review on the club (which you can read here: http://www.australiantimes.co.uk/entertainment/Carwash—Shiny-disco-balls?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=AT+weekly+05-04-2011&utm_content=AT+weekly+05-04-2011+CID_2940ca27efe5154eefe941f04235ee7c&utm_source=Bluegrass+Mailer+Bluesky+Publications&utm_term=Carwash+Shiny+disco+balls). It certainly was like shiny disco balls. You can see some awesome photos (taken by my photographer husband!) here: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/album.php?fbid=10150224367257067&id=645987066&aid=378007). You can imagine the next day, none of us were in shape to do anything remotely exciting. I seem to recall we made the effort to pick up our stuff from Kristy’s (where we had some pre-drinks the night before) and made a grocery trip to ASDA – the British supermarket where us Aussies can buy £1 packets of Shapes biscuits (heaven!!).

So this brings us to this weekend, where we will be ……. Hmmmm. No, I’m not giving it away. Something exciting for sure!

Till next time, that’s all from us in the land where everyone likes to say ‘you ‘oright?!’


today was meaningful

thoughts, life lessons, and days full of meaning.

Liv Hambrett

I write about Germany + Culture + Motherhood + the Meaning of Home

I am the world's oyster

Photography, Aviation, Nature, Culture, Nikon, Canon, Qantas, Airlines, Emirates, Airports, A380, 747


Love for hand-knitted & -crocheted beauty. Proud designer & founder of LN|Beanies and LN|Andes, my two knit brands, my two loves.

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