Saturday, September 21, 2013

Adventure Diaries, The End of the Beginning - Paris

After much globe trotting, here it is... my new home town. It's hard to believe I've almost been living here for an entire month now. So after a period of settling in and exploring I thought it was definitely high time I started blogging a little more frequently. (Though those of you who follow my Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr or even Flickr pages know I haven't deserted you in the least.)

I am behind on almost everything: editing and uploading photos, setting up my place, journaling my travels, letter writing, (this blog!) - the list goes on. But I'm getting through things slowly... it's just I have this wondrous distraction calling to me now, and it calls out: 'Hello I am Paris, explore me!' The lure of exploration is my constant friend. There are people to meet, places to go, photos to take and things to taste! I alway need to remind myself that I am here for a year (and then some), so I have time in which to do these things. Unfortunately there is a list of importance I must follow. In first place it is my new job (as an Au Pair).

After October I will be free and able to write more frequently, and I can't wait to share everything with you all!

In the meantime please look at my photos (I will attempt to add more when I can!) and follow one of my frequent feeds above.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Adventure Diaries, Expect The Unexpected.

If there is one resounding thing I have learnt on my travels, it is expect the unexpected. And not just in a good way - probably more realistically the opposite. This is something I'm not particularly akin to doing. I tend to live in the future and also have escalated hopes of it's potential. This in turn almost always leads to disappointment in one form or another. At times I put it down to creativity - perhaps I have an excess of imagination, therefore I envision wondrous outcomes that can never quite be lived up to? Yet the more astute of you will say - that this doesn't in fact account for the potentially negative scenarios I could just as easily conceptualise. Yes well, I couldn't agree more. Perhaps it is rather the decades of Disney and Austen-esque stories that drenched my adolescence like a sickly rose flavoured tiramisu that are responsible. Is it that I secretly can't escape the romantic notion of wishful thinking regardless of how logical I convince myself I am? Nonetheless I hope I'm not so much of an old dog that I can't begin to chip away at this old glass slipper.

Truth be told, no matter how positive and grateful I try and convince myself to be, I'm really struggling to relax and enjoy myself. There it is. I find holidaying hard. So sue me. New cities and scenarios, the stresses of travel (especially by oneself), language barriers, budgeting (not that much of this has been done until now), organising on the go, being completely out of my comfort zone and so much more. I thought not knowing what to expect would become easier, and that I would soften to it. But time and again these new experiences seem to be greeted with strain - I'm like a cat, and the world is combing my fur backwards. I'm not blessed with an easygoing, free spirit that can just float around making friends with everybody. It's not to say I don't want to - it's just that for me personally, I find it really difficult - like I'm going against every fibre in my body. But what kind of travelling is it if you don't experience some kind of challenge and growth?

So here I am in London now, happy to be reunited with Charlie again, but struggling with lack of routine and a home to call my own. I'm feeling very overwhelmed with the amount of stories I have to tell you all before they go cold, photos I must upload and university work I must do. (In case you didn't hear - I mucked up my papers by taking one at the wrong level, which means I still need another 30 points at 300 level to finish my degree. So work hangs over my holiday like an imposing storm on the horizon. Thank goodness I have a lovely lecturer who was willing to help me out, allowing me to take the paper by distance.)

London in itself is big and overwhelming. There are so many people that you can really feel your insignificance. Everything where you look, there is someone already doing what you what to do, and doing it well - which makes a shy writer/designer like myself want to retreat into a mossy hole in a brick wall and hide my ideas and stories away in the fears that the world doesn't need nor want them. But yesterday during my exploration of St Martins I came along a bookstore that was purely a children's bookstore. It had beautiful gold and silver lettering on the window saying 'WONDER' under which sat rows and rows of colourfully illustrated children's books. I shyly stepped inside and was instantly calmed by the bright faces of the works around me. I saw books from my childhood like Old Bear and Friends by Author/Illustrator Jane Hissey, I saw Paddington Bear, Winnie the Pooh, The Little Prince and many more wonderful books. It was standing in this store that gave me back my glimmer of hope. 'I want to be in this store,' I thought. 'Not just in this store standing and observing, but part of this store. I want the honour of intertwining my words and stories with these great works that adorn the walls - each a trophy in its own right.'

My body and mind can truly be fickle. Everyday I have to put up with it. Somedays I feel like I'm pulling it, a lump of squiggly Picasso-esque mess, by my teeth across mountains and rivers, and down abandoned railroad tracks. Somedays I just need to stop and breathe, other days I need I little push from behind. It is on rare days like this that I can look up to see others pushing and pulling their squiggly messes too, which makes me feel happy that my struggle is not alone.

So not quite a travel update. But they will come, I promise.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Adventure Diaries, Tooth fairy tale - Munich.

New Town Hall
Please excuse my tardy travel update… It seems it’s rather hard to come by decent internet here in Europe. Not only that, but as some of you know, my exciting adventure took a nasty turn a few days back. What was going to be a leisurely visit to Munich and its surrounding fairytale castles - turned out to be a teeth-clenching nightmare. I started getting a throb in my lower gum in Amsterdam. I thought nothing of it, thinking it was my jolly wisdom tooth trying to be pushy once more. I mean they grow right? And it hurts, just like when babies teethe. Exactly. Well I continued to sample Dutch chocolate and candies and fairy bread (Don’t worry, I assure you this wasn’t the entirety of my nutritional input – there were many Euro 3,00 salads too.) I took a Panadol here and there to numb that molar of mine, and it seemed to be doing the trick.  Fast forward a few days, I trained all the way down to Munich on an overnight express. My tooth started giving me a little more grief. Usually my wisdom teeth growth spurts only last a day or two. It was at this point I became a little more concerned. Enter Munich. 

Old Town Hall

I arrived in Munich in the early morning did the usual bag drop off at the hostel. Possibly the strangest hostel I’ve ever been to, but more about that later. I wandered into the city centre and found Mary’s square, complete with both new and old town halls. The New town hall is actually older than the Old town Hall, being that the Old Town Hall is a replica of the actual Old Town Hall. As there was this thing called the Second World War and some chump who had difficulty in growing facial hair decided to bash his way through the original Old Town Hall so he could get his oversized automobiles through the glorious archways. Suffice to say, it had to be rebuilt. The New Town Hall is a dirty, neo-gothic monstrosity with a rather dated animatronic cuckoo clock sort of deal. I remember watching this with my family back in ’00, and being as equally indifferent then. However, if anything, it was sure to have been a marvel of human ingenuity back at the turn of the 20th century, and now, a historical evidence of how far mankind has come in animatronic technology. Once the finale had been performed (I won’t spoil it for you – it really is the defining moment in the whole spectacle – *yawn*) I was absorbed into a pay-as-you-like walking tour of Munich central. The tour was conducted by an ex-Texan come German immigrant named Kevin of Radius tours. The group was a friendly bunch - mostly Americans, a few Germans, and an Australian couple. Kevin  took us through the marketplace and to his friends butchery where we could sample some fine Germany bratwurst if we wished. I bought I large punnet of raspberries – oh the summer fruits are so fine! He gave us a good wee history lesson, including taking us to the new Jewish quarter – which is a really nice area.

After the tour I wandered my way back to the tram (I love trams and I think Christchurch should definitely invest back into them.) You would hardly believe the hostel was a few stops from a bustling city centre – it felt like we were situated in the middle of nowhere. That evening the pain in my gum was at an all time high. I decided to try popping some antibiotics to kill any nasties that might’ve been hanging around. At this point I had also been receiving advice from some lovely ladies in my life on what to do re toothache…. I woke up at 4am in a whole lot of pain and feeling very queasy. Thank goodness no one else was in by six-bed dorm that night. Whether it be from lack of food (was too painful to eat much), antibiotics, the pain or most likely, a combination of all the above; I proceeded to throw up many a time. I was feeling so unwell I thought I’d have to go to hospital for emergency dental surgery. I packed my bags and cautiously headed down the four flights of stairs to the reception hoping like anything they were open 24hrs. I was frightened and my only friend in the world right there and then was my stuffed Pushen cat plushie. It’s amazing, despite being a 27 year old woman, how much comfort a stuffed animal can do in a moment of disappear. I attempted to explain my situation to the receptionist who got on the phone immediately and started calling for some form of doctor. She arrived after half an hour and a few more trips to the bathroom later. As expected there was little she could do for my tooth, but she offered to inject me with pain and nausea relief. Now, the as a general rule doctors aren’t particularly warm as they prefer to cut the small talk and get to the problem, but German doctors are a whole other level of cold. Two extremely painful injections in my lower back later, I was sitting in bed again wondering what to do. When some of the pain and nausea had subsided the receptionist knocked on my door to give me the address of a emergency dental clinic. Not only was it about 5am, it was also a Saturday, so the chances of finding an open dental clinic were slim. Sure enough, when the taxi dropped me at the suggested clinic there was not a beacon of light in sight. Thank goodness I got a kindly taxi driver, as did some detection work to find a dentist for me. A few phone calls to his taxi pals did the trick and before I could say root canal I was at a 24hr dentist (which happened to be right in the middle of town go figure.) Next came the arduous forms to fill in, the credit card declining the deposit (and of course I’d left my emergency credit card at the hostel.) Thank goodness my 3G was working and I could transfer across enough funds to pay the dental deposit. It’s scary enough going to the dentist (I should know, I had a phobia of them for almost 10 years), so going to a dentist that only speaks a minuscule amount of English is even more frightening. 

They take a 360 x-ray of my head and tell me they ‘Want to get a close look’, so ensue even more injections, and this time into the very red and inflamed gum that had caused all my problems. During this I think ‘So this is my holiday, that I worked so hard to afford…’ It shouldn’t surprise you that my dentists were frostier than the doctor. One of them kept getting angry with me - yanking my mouth open. But I had a cracked lip and was frightened and didn’t know what on earth they were doing, so was understandably reluctant. The thing which annoys me most about dentists is the way they treat you like a lab rat: They speak in their dentist lingo (yes even those native English speakers), they put strange implements inside of you without you knowing their purpose or if they will hurt you. How easy is it to say ‘Okay, so I’m just using this tool to clean around the edge of your gum line’ or ‘this is a drill so you will feel a bit of pressure’ and so on. But no. Hello, I’m awake here! It’s not like a surgery when you are under a local and they can do whatever they like to you… I’m awake and I need to know when to brace myself and when not to. So there I was, numb face, shaking lamb and they put a metal implement into my mouth and start doing what I presume is cleaning around the tooth. In goes another metal implement and she says: ‘It is normal to feel pressure’ to which I think ‘Cool, that’s okay. You gotta clean that sucker real good…hang on a second…’ CRACK! I feel a blood-curdling crack resonate throughout my jaw. At this point I thing it would be reasonable to say that I start freaking out. The nurse coldly attempts to calm me down, and the next minute the dentist is showing me my extracted tooth. Oh, so you are taking my tooth out – nice to know that. Thanks. As you can imagine I’ve now been popping just as many painkillers, but thankfully now they are becoming less and less, and now I can start enjoying my holiday once more (hopefully do more blog posts too!)

ps. When you are my age, the Tooth Fairy doesn't leave a shiny coin anymore, but an expensive bill under your pillow. Yippie!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Adventure Diaries, Meji Shrine - Tokyo

I was determined to get right into it despite having some 4am jetlag and the like.
I started my day with a traditional Japanese breakfast, courtesy of Kei san. Rice with nori, pork and tofu soup and a pot of green tea.

It was surprisingly delicious and really filled me up for the big day ahead.

Being the lovely sunny day that it was I thought a trip to the Shrine could be in order. A short trip on the Yamanote line and I found myself in Harajuku - a district known for its cosplay and creative fashionistas. The Meiji Shrine is situated just behind the Harajuku station.

It is hard to believe that such tranquil places exist in such a giant metropolis, but they do thank goodness, and they offer some much needed relief from the hustle and the bustle (not that I'd experienced it yet!)

This imperial shrine is dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shōken and was finished in 1921.

To begin with I visited the Iris gardens - which also housed a fishing pond and scared water fountain.

In the Iris garden there were artists painting the field of flowers.

A traditional teahouse

There were lots of other interesting sights dotted around the Shrine and its gardens.

Wind chimes
Sake barrels  
Tour guide
Traditional Japanese wedding

Before entering the shrine itself you had to cleanse of course.

You wash your left hand, followed by your right and then your mouth, finally cleansing your wooden scoop with the remaining water.

Prayers for hanging on the tree

The wedding processional 

Day 2 to be continued...

Adventure Diaries, Enter - Tokyo

The first thing I noticed flying into Tokyo were the rice fields; rows and rows of green rice fields (also lots of golf courses!) I had been expecting a sweaty concrete jungle with flashing neon signs, but was pleasantly surprised to find many a garden tucked between fences and buildings. Upon arriving my language headache began. A language headache can be characterised by a dull throb in the forefront of your skull. It is partly due to the brain working over-time to discover, read and pronounce words that look Martian and also because of the incredible stupidity and guilt you feel for not knowing the Mother tongue. Once I had got my head around a few new lines of Japanese, the Yen, and then secured a train ticket into downtown Tokyo, I was rather exhausted. My ‘international’ simcard was changing me almost 4NZD per MB (I had to top up almost everyday) and batteries on my devices were at an all time low (not sure why I neglected to pack a multi-board), so I was relieved to discover a charger on the Skyliner Express train. I had booked a place to stay on Airbnb and was set to meet one of my hosts Kotaro san at the train station. When I got there Kotaro was waiting for me in his traditional festival wear called Jinbei. He was very friendly and his English was good (thank goodness, because my Japanese isn’t). He took me on a little walk through the quiet Mejiro neighbourhood to Kero Kero House where I would be staying. 

At home I meet Kei san, who had been busy preparing my room for me. I had a traditional Japanese futon style bed and other necessities. They lent me a Japanese cellphone and portable wifi box (which took me a while to work out what it was capable of). Kotaro and Kei have gold host status on Airbnb and I can see why! As soon as I had arrived they offered to take me to Shibuya for dinner, and before you knew it I was back on the train zooming around Tokyo. 

One of the great things about Kero Kero House is it location next to the JR Yamanoshi line. This is the main line around Tokyo, which goes to many of the happening neighbourhoods. Think Christchurch Orbiter, but way bigger (Maybe I’m just thinking this because the line was bright green?) The menus are great, with Denny’s style pictures and some even list calories (see my post on 10 facts about Tokyo to witness the brilliant menus). I ordered a chicken dish which was very delicious.

The infamous Shibuya crossing

That night I was pretty exhausted and I finally snuggled onto my futon I was out like a light. 

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