Category Archives: Lifestyle

Anything to do with the way I live my life whether that be travel, health or fitness

Weekend in Belgium

Had a chance to visit Gent and Brussels in Belgium before going to the Netherlands for work the following Monday. Figured it’d be much easier to get a train from there rather than an early morning flight.

Gent was a town I wanted to visit last time we were in Belgium in summer but due to the shitty nature of the overnight bus, we were too tired to venture out. Ironically though, I did it again this time! Taking a flixbus this time which was a lot better, simply because the bus took the train rather than ferry. That meant just being woken up once at the border for passport control rather than for passport control, leaving the bus to get on the ferry, leaving the ferry to get back on the bus.

It’s rather amazing that a bus can squeeze into a train that runs underneath the English channel.

So as I arrived, put my stuff away and off the Gent i went. Was feeling okay and not too spent from the lack of sleep, but it did mean a cheeky nap on the short train ride.

Gent-Sint-Pieters station

Gent’s a rather old town, you can already see the way the station looks. The interior is rather amazing, especially the ceiling.

Continue reading Weekend in Belgium

Short visit to Slovenia for work

Visiting Kranj and Ljubljana in Slovenia. Part of my role at Arriva meant visiting some of the countries that we operate in and meet with various directors to better understand their market and what opportunities exist for us to capitalise on with digital technology.

Weather was overcast when I landed and could make out some mountains in the background.

The office is in Kranj, 20 minutes from the airport and that’s where I was based. Was meant to meet with my colleague to get some work done but due to the snow in London, his flights were badly delayed.

Kranj itself has a rather soviet feel to it with some brutalist styled architecture remaining in the city.

There is an old town side which is rather lovely and a stark contrast, buildings were painted in all sorts of pastel tones. Continue reading Short visit to Slovenia for work

Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland, while it’s a huge touristy thing for the locals, I was pretty in awe the first time I went there. It’s basically your local carnival fair thing but on steroids and quite accomodating for both kids and adults!

First of all it’s big, really big and makes me wonder how something so big can be brought to Hyde Park in London and then taken away (yet we can barely sustain Luna Park).

Plenty of carnival games with large plush toys, mustn’t be too bad as I saw plenty of people walking around with the larger toys (husky plush toys and giant doughnuts!)

Haunted and fun houses were plentiful and some seemed to cater for bigger kids too, with one haunted house being a mini ride that you could sit inside and actors doing their best to freak you out.

For the thrills plenty of flippy and rotate-y rides but what I found more amazing was a full on roller coaster with 4 loops!

Continue reading Winter Wonderland

The first month in London

A month has rolled by pretty quickly and I think that’s because I’ve got a lot of my life admin sorted and started the focus on looking for jobs. I’m pretty keen to get started as soon as possible so I can get some income over the Christmas period, without a job now would probably mean no work until early February (which on top of the trip back for the weddings would mean March!).

Interestingly enough, I always wanted to go back to being a Business Analyst, simply because it’d be easier to contract but I haven’t had a great call back rate. Funnily enough, applications for Product Owner roles have had much greater success, not sure if there’s less supply for the role here, or recruiters are more focussed on my most recent experience.

I’ve found a more permanent home as well, it’s a room shared with 3 others right next to Old Street station. Few things that made me choose it; first the dates lined up perfectly with the end of my Airbnb and giving a day overlap to make moving easier. Two, it’s a short lease period, 3 months and to get out you only need a month’s notice after that. Thirdly, the space itself was decent, might sound silly, but the fact it had a living room and a decent sized kitchen was a winner.

Some photos from the listing:

Continue reading The first month in London

Two weeks in!

Feels like I’ve made some real progress in settling down here, the majority of the admin hurdles are out of the way and it’s a waiting game for some. My Barclays app has unlocked however because I don’t have a card yet, I can’t really pay anyone.

I’ve set up a limited liability company in anticipation for contract work that hasn’t happened yet. I still find the fact that I’m a director of a company rather amusing, not to mention the things you can do as a company made my laugh. For example, I’m allowed to gift myself something of up to £50 value each with a total of £300 a year, tax free! Other things like the company being able to buy your own used  equipment off you as an expense to reduce your tax! Totally awesome! Not to mention you can basically pay yourself up to £45k pounds at 9.5% tax :O.

Anyway, been out and a bit and already onto the music scene. Above and Beyond played a gig at the O2 and I decided to go last minute, £45 a ticket, but the show opened at 7.30 and only went til 11, supported by Luttrel and Gabriel and Dresden!

Barely made it in for Luttrel because the line to get in was super slow moving, also bizzare that there was no cloakroom and the service at the bar was super shitty and slow. Venue-wise it’s quite similar to Qudos. I’ll add another post with some videos.

Also found it weird that the crowd wasn’t full of 18 year old Asian LGs but more like an average of over 30 and white.

Also went to check out Kolsch play live at fabric, a pretty well-known name in London clubbing, but apparently has lost its charm after closing and re-opening. Pretty cool place, feels a little bit underground but not exactly grungy. Kolsch has been in Sydney previously but I gave it a miss, definitely glad I made this one. Being able to ride a bicycle to the venue was also super cool.

Club was super packed packed and it’s kinda cool that it has a mezzanine that overlooks the main dancefloor.

In more music/festival related stuff, I booked flights and tickets for Transmission in Prague, one of the events on my bucket. Despite it coming to Melbourne and having made fomo over it, I decided it’s best to check out the real one.

After A&B though, I did make the mistake of ordering a kebab, which is not the same as it is back home, it’s more like a weird open sandwich but there’s no BBQ sauce! Have only found out later that I need to order a wrap.

Went to check out a World Press competition photo exhibit which was rather small but quite impactful. The nature photos were great, especially one about pandas and what China is doing to preserve them.

Some of the war-torn and impoverished photos hit pretty hard, there’s one in particular about a man who was stoned and then hung from a crane that was absolutely brutal. Amazing the time and effort (as well as chance) to make these photos happen.

Had a taste of what Sydney life was like with the visit of Bec who’s doing a mini round-the-world trip. Great to see a friendly face and have a few beers and some amazing pie! Chance pick from google and it was delicious! The gravy that went with the mash was divine. It’s a pub called The Windmill in Mayfair.

Good news – found a place to live, it’s right next to old street station so it’s super well connected and flexible lease agreement, no ridiculous notion of 6 months rent in advanced! Room is a good size and it has a living room. There are so many places here that turn the living room into an extra bedroom, leaving a tiny kitchen as a communal area, just couldn’t live like that.

Can’t wait to get out of my Airbnb! Especially when this couple decided it’d be appropriate to bring a screaming toddler along.

Job wise I had a last minute interview with a bus and transport company called Arriva for a Product Owner role, not something I was initially planning to go for, but why not? Would be pretty convenient as it’s a 25 minute walk down the road to my new place and should be an easy 10 minute ride on a bike.

While walking around I also stumbled upon Hamleys, a huge and crazy toy store! Filled with enthusiastic staff demonstrating and playing with the toys, it’s quite a spectacle!

Really cute displays out the front windows too.

Hanna’s found work at a hip bar in a somewhat questionable area, we were pleasantly surprised when we got there that it was a pretty decent establishment. A few beers and Gin and Tonics were had. I had a Nikka Coffey Gin which was pretty damn good.

A few drinks in with everyone laughing at me for holding the glass like a goblet we dreamt of innovative ways to consume G&Ts from such glasses. Scotty invented the Swan challenge whereby you hold it like a goblet but flip your grip and try to drink from the glass.

Went on a shopping trip Bicester village which was over an hour away to check out some outlets! £17 pound train ride here and I walked away with just a Superdry jacket and a pair of Chinos from Ted Baker. It’s a high end market with mostly designer brands, their target market is clearly the rich Asians. I’m not being racist, but they give Asians a 10% discount if you have a passport or UnionPay/Bank of China card.

I missed most of the Bonfire Night fireworks as they occurred on the same night as A&B but Victoria Park set up some fireworks on the Sunday, which is actually the proper date, November the 5th. Yes, the same date referenced in V for Vendetta from which the story about the treason is based on the real bonfire night, also called Guy Fawkes night.

1 week in London so far

While at first things seemed to move really slowly, one week flew by pretty damn quickly! Admin wise I’m getting closer with a bank account opened, but no way to transact and my National Insurance number application completed.

Process for the bank account was a little slow but they’re really thorough with the identity checks and making sure you’re aware of the T&Cs, something that seems to be glossed over in Aus.

Been out and about a bit too, went to visit the Science Museum which was pretty cool, my favourites were the space exhibition and the planes/air transport.

On entry, you’re greeted with these huge engines from the past, including the horizontal piston engine below, the size of it is insane!

Went to meet up for drinks with a high school friend and her friends and crazily enough one of them is Kaz’s friend. Strangely enough it turned out to be the girl she bumped into randomly last time we were here in London on holidays. Small world!

Met up with Cathy at the Ninth Ward for a drink, silly me didn’t realise it was happy hour and ran off without my change! Thankfully the bartender found me afterwards. Then it was onto The Winemakers Club a nice little wine bar that felt like you were in a cellar. 3 bottles down we decided to move on back to Tracy’s place and more wine and Indian food.

Saturday rolls by and pleasantly woken up with photos and videos from Bob and Sylvia’s wedding. Seeing the shenanigans made me miss home a bit.

Also, thanks for the song dedication guys. I was practically there! Even (partially) dressed for the occasion.

Hoping there won’t be too many more things I’ll miss, it looked like a blast! All the best guys. Also missed  Art and Lemon’s engagement already and that’s only a week in! Better have your wedding on an appropriate date!

Went for Uyghur food afterwards and it was one of the things I was craving before I left for London. Glad to find some locally, was really craving the lamb skewers. The skewers were okay (pricey though!) but they had this pot chicken with handmade noodles that was absolutely delish!

A few drinks with Long around Shoreditch wrapped up the Saturday. Gin and Tonic in large glasses, sorta like wine glasses, seems to be pretty standard here, not like the tumblers you get back home. A tip, don’t try eating the dried juniper berries.

Sunday was a lazy walk around some markets, Old Spitalfields and Brick Lane.

No shirt for me this time, but this caught me eye:

There were also food trucks next door and some smoked brisket was lunch of choice.

It was pretty damn tasty, there was a heap of caramelised onion that went beautifully with the smoky bbq sauce (strange fact: BBQ sauce isn’t commonly used here!)

Brick lane had a vintage market as well and some of the clothing looked seriously cool. Nothing I could pull off (and vintage clothing is bloody expensive!).

Plenty of graffiti and street art lurking in the lanes too. Plenty of politically motivated ones but will post up more in another post.

Party-wise I’ve locked in Transmission in Prague with flights and tickets sorted! Pretty psyched to be honest! Found out Kolsch was playing a live set a fabric so that’s locked in too!

Feeling good at the end of the week, feeling like most of the admin hurdles are progressing and I can focus on the job hunt.

There’s a few photos to put up from my walks around Brick Lane and Westminster and Southbank (no, not the one in Brisbane).

The first few days

It took a few days to hit me that this is actually harder than I thought! There’s a few reasons for it but the main one probably stems from typical me of having a very vague plan and figuring out the rest.

Figured that it wouldn’t hurt to just chill for a little while and take that time to get settled into the accommodation get the admin stuff done then explore the area. The job stuff can come later. I think that mostly came apart because I don’t quite like the accommodation, that was really compounded when a family of 4 moved into the room downstairs and I realised that shit, there could be 9 people living in this place in total. 1 bathroom and a tiny-ass kitchen. On top of it, it’s at least 10 – 15 minutes to get to the busy sections of town, the park while nice, the climate’s not the best for sitting out on the grass.

So I’ve tried to do more to get some semblance of a routine of home life, going for a run, the weather’s still tolerable for now, not sure how long that’ll last and cooking breakfast. Toast with pate, rocket and eggs.

Been into the local area a bit too, had a ramen dinner with Hanna at a place called Shoryu. Looked promising when I got there and it’s mostly good but doesn’t quite hit it. Seems like it needs more flavour or something. Also it’s not cheap, especially with the service charge on top (what is up with that?!).

There’s some funky architecture which breaks up the area, not sure how I feel to be honest, but they definitely are bold.

This lot of apartments really caught my eye. Must be baller!

With some more exploring, I found the Viet area, or at least where there’s quite a few Viet restaurants, will have to check it out some time. I did notice they had a few things that normally aren’t on the menu for example, thit kho (kinda like a braised beef) or pho bo lan (seems like when the beef is tossed in a wok with garlic?)

Grabbed a bite at BIRD which do fried chicken. Had the classic burger that was pretty good and a pack of wings on the side. Wings were disappointing to be honest, crunchy but felt a little stale? Wings were small too.

Hung out with Long in the arvo and it’s nice being able to chill with someone else who’s not working. In the evening he turned into Chef Long and cooked dinner. Pork chop with tomato rice. Ended up having dinner with Long and Sibei.

It’s helped getting out of the room and seeing familiar faces and not so familiar places.

Seeing another plane from inside the plane

I saw a pretty amazing thing during my flight from Dubai to London, seeing another plane fly past! During sunset!

You may not find it intriguing as me, but the reason I was so amazed was not too long ago from 9gag there was a post about getting perspective of how fast planes actually fly. You know when you’re sitting in your seat it seems to be barely moving. A video of another plane flying in the opposite direction close-by really shows how fast you move.

That evening on the flight to London, I witnessed that for myself, but to top it off, it was sunset and the plane was leaving behind a condensation trail.

Landing in London

Landing in London I was hoping for the Emirates chauffeur to hold up a sign with my name but alas it wasn’t meant to be. One perk that was amazing to have at Heathrow was the fast pass, there was a decent queue building and that would have taken a decent amount of time. I don’t know why Heathrow is so slow! But not this time! I was out in 10 minutes.

Baggage pickup was sweet because business class bags are tagged as priority! To my surprise the temperature outside was a nice 17 degrees despite being 9pm! Not as cold as I was expecting. Dropped off at my accommo which is just a little further than Shoreditch itself, in N1 still (London postcodes begin with a direction and number which increments the further you get from the centre, handy!).

The flats themselves are a little dingy on the outside and the inside’s pretty average. Small kitchen which is shared between 4 rooms! The bedroom itself is a decent size but you’ve gotta love the bedsheets. Butterflies!

I was hoping the accommo would be closer to empty but on arrival it was 2 singles in 2 other rooms. Not too bad.
The area itself is pretty quiet with a decent sized park right opposite (Shoreditch Park). Have tried to make a few running sessions there but it’s pretty damn cold in the morning!

Lazed around a bit the first full day and then tried to be organise and went to open a bank account! The trick that I read was to update your local bank account to a UK address and have that as proof of identity. Walked into a Barclay’s branch and the lady was happy with that! Unfortunately though, you need to have an appointment to open one and the wait was over a month for the next slot! Crazy! Also, it’s meant to take 45 minutes! Luckily though, the lady squeezed me in the morning.

Caught up with Evan for lunch and was good to see a familiar face. Went to a café by the water near Angel and opted for Partridge. Interesting meal, but even more interestingly was the fact I found 2 metal balls! I assumed it was the shrapnel/bullets used to kill the bird and further research suggests it’s kind of normal!

I do love the canals around the area, especially when it’s a lovely day.

Tried visiting another bank to see if I could get it done any quicker, Lloyd’s were ridiculous with their identification requirements! Think I’ll save all the admin headaches for another post!

Figured I’d try to be prepared and in some sort of a routine so I’ve bought groceries to cook brekkie. Toast with pate, rocket and eggs.