Thursday, September 28, 2006


Monday night we arrived into Berlin, and stayed at a little apartment Nat had found. Up for breakfast, and a quick walk through the construction zones of Berlin, we finally made it to the bustling and happening Berlin that everyone raves about - in glorious sunshine.

Facinated by the East German chubby and animated Amplemann, we stopped off at the shop selling all the traffic-light-man gear. We then walked along Unter den Linden to the Brandenburg Gate, a symbol of the divison of the city between East and West.

We lined up for the dome and rooftop veiws of the city from the Reichstag building, before walking through Tierpark to central Berlin, where we following the Berlin Wall remaining cobbled path to Checkpoint Charlie.

The Checkpoint Charlie Museum was a collection of stories and accounts, and artifacts from the experince of the city divided. A fairly confusing museum, with no distinct layout or chronology...I don't know if I understand what the wall was all about any more after this visit than before! Loads of accounts of attempts to break through, to escape, and reactions to the tearing down of the wall were powerful, nonetheless.

After this, and a look at the East Side Gallery, which is the longest portion of the not so well preserved wall, we treked over town to catch up with Nick, for a beer or two. Was lovely to see Nick, who I haven't seen his 30th in Sydney.

Another mad and stressful dash to an airport for a flight I came so close to missing, I was back in London late, late on Tuesday night.

Oktoberfest and German roadtrip

Sunday saw another day at Oktoberfest for Nat, Jess and Andrew, and I, with an early start to secure a good spot in one of the busiest beerhalls. The Hofbräu beerhall is known as the Aussie tent, and has to be done!

We got there just as the crowds were gathering, and thus took some time to walk through the amusement ride section of the sprawl that is the Fest (and to build up a 10am thirst for a stein!). The four of us then got down to business, selected our table, ordered our steins, and tipped our already grumpy beer wench.

As the hall started getting rowdier, and the beer kept flowing, the fun began. The band kicked off, and then my memory grows a little hazy!

A challenge was set for each of us, and after completing mine, I decided to help Andrew verify his. Setting him the challenge of finding someone in the hall, apart from the two of us, who was from Ballarat, he had returned after a misson stating success. We set off to confirm, and wandered among the Fanatics group - who claimed there were two Ballaratians with them...somewhere! And there in the middle of all the riotous beerhall were Melinda and Brad (Hi Marg, Murray and Craig!)!! Andrew was quite stunned that I knew the people from home, without knowing they were going to be there. But people from Ballarat are everywhere!! Hee hee.

The next day we checked out of Munich and loaded into our Merc (when in Germany...) for a roadtrip to Berlin, through countryside Germany. Our first stop was several hours down the road at Regensburg, for lunch. Walking around the medieval city to stretch our legs, before jumping back into the car to drive to Dresden.

A pretty city, with reconstructed architecture after WWII bombings destroyed much of the city, we walked though the Zwiger, past the Frauenkirche Church, and round to the city centre. A quick snack stop, and we were off again, gliding at 200km/hr on the autobahn to Berlin.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Oktoberfest and Dachau

Thursday afternoon I left work early and made the trek into town, and then out to Stanstead. Meeting the Wilsons on the train, the three of us flew to Munich, where we met Nat in the airport for our first beer.

We spent our first evening in the dorm at the Party People campsite, and chattered our way through a very cold night. Breakfast the next morning in the mist, before heading into town, checking into out hotel, Pension Margit, and then to Beerfest!

Walking along the main drag, taking in the sites of Bavarian garb and beerhalls aplenty, we begun the day with a rocket speed ride on the EuroStar rollarcoaster. Then it was straight to the beerhalls.

Soaking in the atmosphere, struggling with the weight of a steiner, we began our amber consumption. Tipping our wench to ensure ongoing service, we even inadvertently ordered a chicken. Walking around after our sitting at one of the long woodern tables, taking in the sunshine, many litres of beer heavier!

Today we wandered around central Munich, taking in the city streets and the Rathause. Watching the glockenspiel, before a German lunch, we then joined the walking tour to Dachau. A train and a bus took us out to the first Nazi concentration camp, where our guide, Ceasar, took us through the memorial.

Hearing about the forced work camp, the conditions, the horror...walking through the reconstructed barracks, the prison cells, and the crematoriam...the power of the place with Never Forget as the lasting words - yet the saddest part of this visit is that the world hasn't learnt, and these horrors are replicated - all over, over and over.

Time for more beer...

Monday, September 18, 2006

London all-nighter - the Metro Life Hike

Friday night after a study day on brain injury for work, I met some of my work mates for farewell drinks for Chantal, at Be At One, in Clapham. She is leaving work for a new job, so two for one cocktails was deemed the appropriate way to see her off!

After two or three, Charlotte and I headed into the Guildhall in the city, to meet Caitlin and Jack, for the Metro Life Hike.

The Metro Life Hike is a 17 mile hike around London's Circle Line, above ground. A chance to see several open houses along the way, and raise money for the Maggie Cancer Caring Centres. Although we haven't managed to raise much money so far, we are hoping to raise more now that we have finished - you can donate here.

We completed our registration, and received our t-shirts and maps, in the rather grand interior of the Guildhall. After the provided pasta preparation for the long walk, and a warm up in the Guildhall square, the walk started at 10pm.

The walk, with loads of other people, started out through Farringdon, and then up to King's Cross. A rest stop at the Wellcome Trust Gibbs Building, before moving on to Regent's Park and Paddington way, and down to Notting Hill, and another rest stop.

Walking on through the early hours, we made our way past Hyde Park and the Royal Albert Hall, down through the embassy area of London, and past the Argentine Ambassador's residence. I must admit, I was way too tired by this stage to take in the light show here!

On through the little posh streets to past Buckingham Palace, we made it past Big Ben, across Westminister Bridge, to the London Eye. Here we were treated to a 30 minute rest, and the chance to enjoy the views from the first ever night flights on the Eye. At 3.30am, the lights on London were taken in with bleary eyes, and a round of Percy Pigs for our pod!

The last portion of the walk was the hardest, with zombie-like foot in front of the other walking to the next stop, City Hall, via Embankment and St Paul's (surely that was the long way!!??). Very tired as we walked across Tower Bridge with the hint of sunrise on the horizon. We finally made it back to the Guildhall after passing the Gherkin and Liverpool Street, and made it by 6.30am. (More photos.)

Just able to walk around now, that was 17 miles of walking when I should have been sleeping, that I am still feeling!!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Weekend out of hand

Plans for a quite, money saving weekend backfired, and as I am sitting at my desk this morning, a little seedy, things had just gotten away from me! But that's London - there is always someone doing something....awesome!

Saturday just after lunch I went into Wimbledon for a pint with a few of the members of my new house. Holly, Belinda and Mark and I were in search of the Aussie verses South Africa rugby (I think!!) match - but no luck. Given the nationality divide in the house now, it could have been interesting...but none of the pubs had it one.

Facing a quite Saturday evening at home, I got a text from Toni, who is back after her travels, and so I headed into Clapham Junction to meet up with her, Ben and Clare for dinner. Three bottles of wine later, a mini pub crawl had commenced! Was lovely to see Toni, and catch up on the last few weeks, and all the changes. Was quite nice wine, too! Hee hee.

Waking to a headache and a text message, I pulled myself together and made my way into town to meet Jess and Andrew, and Nat, at the Queen Mary for lunch. Fresh off the boat, Jess and Andrew have just arrived in big, bad London for a year of adventure! Soaking in the sun, the skyline and the Pimm's, the four of us we caught up, before walking through London streets to Covent Garden.

One the way home, I called into the Walkabout in Wimbledon, to have a drink with Renee. Haven't seen her for a bit, and it was lucky I was keen to catch up with her, cos the Walkie is gross!! Hee hee!! Lucky for her, there was an AFL replay on, and then I watched the first set of the US Open!

Back at work for a bit of detox now, after a weekend of catching up with friends over drinks, all over London! It's all good!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Sex, Brownie and Madge

In the wee hours of Saturday morning a group of us made our way to Gatwick airport for our flight to Amsterdam for the weekend. Trusting Journey Planner a little too much, I took a train expecting to be at the airport with 20 minutes for checking in processes, and allowing just a little extra sleeping my near peril! The checking in for our flight was all over red rover, although the first response from EasyJet customer service was "I don't know". Helpful! I just needed to check my bag due to the changes to the hand luggage allowances (oh, and make the gate in time)....but no, noone would help me do that. Having a ready-printed boarding pass printed by Miss Laura back in May when we booked this trip, I decided to give it a go anyway.

Dumping all my toiletries (no liquid allowed), and my actual handbag (only allowed one piece of hand luggage), I then crammed my bag into the wooden bag guide and convinced the guy that it fit. Phew! Then I crawled in and under the massive line to get through security, apologising to all that were lining up, explaining that I was going to miss my flight. Off with the belt and shoes, and through the metal detector...running through to the gate with shoes, bag, passport in hand, and hitching my jeans up, I made it! It's getting more silly, me and this flying business!

After all the early morning drama, we touched down in Amsterdam, and were straight onto the bus from the front of the airport to the city area, and then walked to find our apartment. I had found the apartment for the seven of us through a website, where we found a lovely two floor apartment in Prinsengracht (familiar to anyone?) street, over looking one of the many canals.

After settling in, when headed off for a walk around very pretty Amsterdam. We walked down to Centrum, and Dam Square, where the Royal Palace is and street performers were doing their thing. We then wondered into the daylight version of the Red Light District, and viewed the window displays on offer!

Through here to Newmarket square, and those dutch music boxes (can't for the life of me remember what they are called, but remember them from when I worked at the Tulip Farm!) set up everywhere - with people out sitting and watching them!?

Stopping for a couple of Heineken's and to sample a brownie from one of the coffeeshops, we then went to see the funny and disturbing images on display at the Sex Museum. After the time allowed for this, an alternating giggly and weird evening followed, as we wandered through the streets and had dinner.

The next day, after a late brunch, Laura and I went through the Van Gogh Museum, which was a walked through the painter's life, from his early self teaching days, through to the flower stills and collection of ploughs and fields, to his copies from pcitures during his asylum days, and finally to the introduction of black into his final pieces. His Wheatfield with Crows, laudered as one of his most famous pieces, had me drawn for sometime.

Charlotte and I then visited Anne Frank's House, on Prinsengracht, luckily when the line wasn't too long. Walking through and grasping the Frank's family's two years of hiding in the small spaces, soaking in the fear and imagining the feelings of being trapped, brought my long age reading of her diary so much more real. It was compelling, however, to hear the aged quote from the time of the discription of the Holocaust as being one of the worst human atrocities one could imagine...and then thinking of all that has still happened since, and still.

Then, it was time! Time to work our way out to Amsterdam Arena, and the reason for our weekend. We walked and then metro-ed out to the massive soccer stadium, getting pumped up for Madonna's Confessions show.

Walking into the massive stadium, and soaking in the growingly amped crowd was so exciting! The Arena was so big, and atmosphere was electric!

After keeping the crowd waiting, and getting more and more pumped, Madonna arrived on stage for her all dancing, all singing show. Playing a lot from her new album, songs like Sorry, I Love New York, and Can We Get Together, were big numbers. Interspersing her older classic songs, she played Like A Virgin, Music, and Ray Of Light was a high energy number. The energy, fitness, and physique of the pop queen was mind blowing....

All the controversy regarding the crucifix on stage, which has been getting loads of press, was ridiculus after seeing her do the segment. To Live To Tell, the imagery and message was children in Africa orphaned by AIDS... Did any of the protestors actually see what it was about before going bananas? Madge mingled loads of politcal messages throughout the show, although nothing new to the dispair at the tate of the world.

The show was amazing, and we were all so excited about it. After making our way back to the city and having something to eat at last, we got back to the apartment for minimal sleep before getting to the airport in the morning to get our flight back to London, and back to work.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Lloydy in London

Last night I dragged Charlotte along to see Alex Lloyd at the Carling Islington. We stopped at Wagamama's for dinner and drinks first, before ordering our drinks ready for the gig.

Starting with some big numbers from Watching Angels Mend, including Bus Ride (my favourite), Lloydy was playing acoustic, with just him, a guitar and the mike, a lamp for mood, and a beer. Moving into some classics from Black The Sun, he then seemed to derive his playlist from the requests shouted from the audience.

Lloyd's son peeked out of the side stage for a couple of his new songs - so cute! - of which Alex told the audience that little Jake's favourite songs were the most depressing, like Brand New Day and Never Meant To Fail.

A cover of the Beatles' Blackbird, Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, and then an almost unrecognisable Chisel You Got Nothing I Want were included in the playlist.

Love Lloydy live, and after seeing him quite a few times over the years, I recognise his live style and intonation. Was also great to hear the crowd know the words to his songs, even this far away from home.
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