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travel

Recap: Paris

It’s hard to believe I’ve been here a whole month – in the sense that time has flown, and in the sense that I’ve done so much it’s hard to believe it’s only been a month. Most of the other graduates are gone, having completed their much shorter training, so that leaves the IT grads here to get through the project as the weather goes steadily downhill.

Paris first, though: The city was awesome, the wine was fine, the french women gorgeous, and the company was excellent, making it an all-round perfect weekend trip. The Eurostar is a smooth easy ride, and the lack of lead-time means that it’s as quick as catching a plane. For all the hype, Paris is initally a little “ordinary”, in that it looks much like any other European city.

But then you turn your head, and poking between two buildings is the Eiffel, and suddenly you’re entranced. It’s not like Sydney or New York, where the tallest building is integrated into the skyline (post-2001 for NY, obviously). It’s a little like Tokyo Tower, but more so – the Eiffel really stands out, because it’s got nothing near it of comparable height. I probably took at least 50 photos of it just because it was so “there” with nothing in the way (note to self: remove multitude of exact-same photos). At night, it’s even more of a wonder.

First place visited, following lunch by the banks of the Seinne, was Notre Dame, right in the middle of the city. I can imagine it being quite impressive standing in the middle of the city as the hour rang out from Notre Dame, and was repeated by church bells throughout the city. Considering when it was built, it would have been quite imposing – still is, really, and the intricacy of the decorations carved into stone make you think of how little effort is spent these days on the things that were once so valued. Big buildings like that now have to prove their economic worth, and decoration would simply raise the barrier; as a fan of minimalist styles, that’s an idea I can agree with, but you can’t help but be impressed by the work.

Following that, and lunch, we headed to the Latin Quarter to find our hostel, and got throughly lost. Getting lost in a foreign speaking country is never the most reassuring experience, but it seems to happen with some regularity with me, and I’ve come to appreciate it as a way to get to see bits of the city I might not normally see.

Eventually we found our hostel, dumped the bags and raced north to Moulin Rouge to see if we could get tickets. Europeans though don’t seem to share our view on acceptable clothing standards, and the only session we could turn up to with jeans was sold out till Wednesday. Natch. A second Lunch nearby eased our worries though, and we headed to the Eiffel Tower by way of Arc de Triomphe (no that’s probably not spelt right). What was intended as a short stop turned into a little extended excursion, as the views from the top of the Arc were quite nice. Eiffel loomed large though, and so we headed over there too get even higher up the Paris skyline…

As we arrived though, a thunderstorm swept in from the south, and the tower, being essentially a giant lightning rod, probably wasn’t the most sensible place to be. We stuck around waiting for a friend to come down, thinking we’d go up the next morning, but before he came down the tower lit up, night descended and suddenly it looked… gorgeous.

The next day, we failed at getting up early but still managed to get to the Louvre in time to avoid the massive lines. Impressive collection – you could spend weeks if you chose to. The Mona Lisa was, invariably, a disappointment – it might be a technically briliant painting, but … well, the other 100,000 people seeing it at the same time as you is a little off-putting.

In the afternoon, we did the Catacombs – very very cool =D I spent half the time wondering where the spines were, and the other half feeling a little guilty because it was basically walking through people’s graves. It’s a morbid person who uses skulls to create an arch and cross in a wall of arm & leg bones, I tell you.

Ended the day sitting in a cafe for a good hour chewing the fat with the people I went with, before the Eurostar home. I do wish I lived in London so I could do this more often…

(photos over in the gallery)

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travel

Bonjour!

Bounjour from fair Paris!

I am typing on the craziest keyboard I’ve seen yet. The fullstop is a shift-key, the q is where a is and… migods, it’s hard to type.

Apologies for the lack of updates; there hasn’t exactly been a wealth of bloggable stories to put up, and there’s only so many times I can say “went out with friends again in the heart of London,” etc etc.

Anywho, this is much too painful too type for long. Paris is beautiful, and I’ve only been here an hour or two. Much to explore. See ya!

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asides travel

Snap review of Amsterdam

A snap review of Amsterdam: most overrated city/experience bar none.

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travel

End of Week 2

Week 2 of London has (nearly) ended with a test on the last week’s worth of study on financial markets…

Well, that was easy. 20 minutes to do a 2 hour exam? That’s outdone even the easiest at uni! I love multi choice exams.

Financial markets is surprisingly easier than I initially assumed. While I’d be far from confident in saying I know everything, I know enough to know what kind of job the guys on the front end of the bank do, and what pays my salary. (I’ve also got a minor appreciation for the fact that it could easily be almost eliminated by computers, which could be a scary thought for some :P) If you want to get into finance, and you can take the long hours… do it! As long as you don’t have to deal with the tedious accounting details anyway.

London’s been good weather overall – warm enough to not wear a jumper or otherwise. If anything, getting on the “tube” is like getting on a moving sauna: not a pleasant experience at 8 o’clock in the morning if you’ve got to turn up to work later. I like the interconnectivity of the tube, and now I can really appreciate why Sydney doesn’t have a system like this – its built up area just isn’t big enough. Something like Melbourne’s trams is probably most convenient.

As you can probably tell, I’m settling into something of a groove, and it’s a not-unpleasant one. Something of the lifestyle I missed at uni is here, and now I have the funds to pay for it. However… I’ve been sideswiped by a big ol’ batch of homesickness, or something along those lines – when I’m normally travelling, it’s constantly changing, but when you think “Well, I’ll be doing this for another… 8 weeks…”, there’s a little sense of “well, bugger.” It’s similar enough that I’m not uncomfortable, but it’s different enough that I do yearn a little for the simple things I can appreciate at home (like the taste of water, say). It’s just this thing, y’know?

A quick report on the 21st last weekend: went to a pub with the aussie grads, and then to Brick Lane, which is packed with Indian restaurants, and got right royally drunk thoughout the night, though sober enough to stay coherent and remember it the next morning, not to mention not regretting it. Then… proceeded to go out the night after.. and the night after… oh and the days in between. So I’m carrying a little sleep debt i consistently fail to make up every night.

Had a batch of late jetlag last night, in fact, which means I’ll be half coherent tonight – I’m already surviving on the back of 2 Red Bulls – when we have our first all-in open-bar event (promises to be fun). And then Amsterdam tomorrow morning! And I got paid overnight!

Ah, truly, c’est la vie~

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asides travel

Pictures!

First Photos from London are uploaded! Go check em out :)

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travel

London Calling

After a day of moving through the slow jelly air of jet lag, and oppressed by the flat, grey, dreary, windy, drizzly skies of London (there’s a reason why Melbourne’s weather is compared to London’s; it’s quite clear to me now)… I woke this morning semi-refreshed and ready to go… sort of. It wasn’t looking too promising today either, so I got myself a local number (+44 7804 952218) So I did the big tourist thing today, and checked out London… and it’s one big ol’ city.

Impression A: Old

Impression B: Big

Impression C: Rich-looking

Impression D: Lively (but only during the day, really)

Impression E: filled with gold-tipped monuments.

Impression F: expensive *winces*

… And that’s just from riding around on a tourist bus and a little bit of walking. I’d cover more, but my time is running out.

(p.s. I’ll get photos up when I find a ‘net cafe that lets me connect USB sticks, or perhaps at the in-class training when that starts in a week or so).

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travel

Bye!

Free internet at the airport!

gawds, can’t believe I’ve actually got booked on this flight and everything…

I’m actually going!! XD

much love to all my peeps who wished me well. I’ve got a list of addresses as long as my arm to send postcards to, but I figure in 8 weeks I’ll manage something!

Money change is such a rip off…

Anywho, teh excitement! boarding call!

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travel

Actually Packing

When I actually start to pack, with serious intent, I start to realise that I’m actually going on this trip.

I’ve always been slightly terrified of packing, leaving it to the last minute where possible. If anything, I’d love it if someone just packed everything for me and set me on my way. The reason for my terror is simple: packing puts it into context. “It” being everything – when you’re packing, you’re basicaly bringing all your posessions together, eliminating the optional extras and bottling the essence. This is especially so if you’re going for more than a week or two – a week lets you pack a simple set of things you may need over a week. Going for well over two months like I am, if I’m missing something I need 4 weeks down the track, it’s not going to be there.

You just don’t think about these things usually, because they’re right there. Your life is spread throughout your house, your neighbourhood, your city.You pack everything you think you need, and it’s a statement: This Bag Contains the Essentials of My Life, of Me.

Fitting it into one bag can almost be belittling, like saying “My essentials are just this limited.” Everyone likes to think of themselves as a complex person, and the non-perishables you pack define your identity in so many ways. A simple thing like choosing which jacket to take; at home, you’d step outside, realise you have the wrong jacket, and swap it. On a trip, you’re hundreds, thousands of miles away from that other jacket which would be perfect right now, but you can’t do anything about it.

You can’t pack everything, if just out of sheer practicality. You’ll reach your destination, and reach for that thing… that thing that you thought, thousands of miles away, that you won’t need.

I don’t know quite why, but it’s simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying each time I go to pack.

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travel

Packing

Ok, I’ve got to start packing, because I’m off in less than two weeks, and there will always be that last minute rush to pick up that one last thing that you’d normal not even remember because it was taken as given. I reckon though if I give it a head-start that last minute thing can show up a bit sooner. Maybe.

So maybe you can help me! I’ll list the items here as I remember that I need to pack them, and if you can think of anything that I’ve missed, let me know. I’m going for 10 weeks, so it’s by no means a short trip, and as it’s on the other side of the world in a much more expensive location I’d prefer to have everything first. So! List:

  • Toothbrush
  • Shaver, spare blades, and shaving cream
  • 1 week worth of underwear
  • Clothes etc (a given, but I didn’t want someone to get smart-ass on me)
  • Phone (+ charger)
  • Spare glasses
  • Travel documents + photocopies (again, the whole don’t-get-smart-ass)
  • Plug converter (both UK & Europe)
  • iPod (+ charger)
  • Camera (+ charger)
  • Deoderant
  • Towel!
  • Guide & Phrase book

Yet to get/gather but should imminently:

  • Travel diary-type-thing (reason for is complicated)
  • Addresses of key people (postcards et al)
  • Money in destination denominations

What am I forgetting? Tell me, dear readers!