Tag Archives: travel

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

Walking around Westminster at 135mm

Bought a manual focus Samyang 135mm f2 just before I left and was planning a little more street-esque photography (read: trying to be a hipster). Took it out for a full day and it was quite a challenge. Colours are a bit flat because it was overcast, and I’ve been lazy to process these too much.

I loved looking through a different perspective but it was really tight (ha!) and secondly it soon became very easy to get the same looking shots, especially of clock towers and tops of older buildings.

Westminster light posts (for the longest while I thought it Westminister)

Inside Someset Square, it says SKATE in the background as they’re setting up an ice rink here.

Continue reading Walking around Westminster at 135mm

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.

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.

Always down for business

So flying to London for the big switch was with Emirates Business Class, and what can I say? This is the way to fly (but not if you’re paying the full cost). The difference between this and Economy is astounding! With Emirates, it’s comforting knowing you have someone to drop you off at the airport (even if its leaving home at 3am in the morning) and someone to pick you up at your destination.

The first thing I noticed stepping on board is they have a lot of staff serving the top deck. The leg from Sydney to Dubai was pretty empty, we probably had a 1:1 ratio of staff to passengers.

Then you get to your seat and its like your own little cubicle, water and soft drink provided in a little mini-bar to your side and so much storage to place your things for easy access, there’s a little table to place your belongings.

Champagne on arrival too, even at 6am. Why not?

In terms of kit, there’s heaps of things to keep you comfortable, pillow and quilt and when you’re ready to sleep, a topper that goes on your seat to turn it into a comfy bed.

There’s heaps of storage so you don’t have to balance things on your lap or constantly go to the overhead bins. Storage for your shoes too!

1:2:1 configuration means there’s no one to disturb if you need to leave for the bathroom, or the bar.

The comfort pack is a nice bag from Bvlgari with essentials like a toothbrush and proper toothpaste (that doesn’t taste like ass), shaving kit, moisturiser, cologne and more!

Entertainment wise, you get a huge screen in front of you as well as a tablet for additional browsing if you like, talk about overkill!

Next is towels, hot towels all the time! Towels on arrival, towels before meals and after meals too!

Food is next level and makes you feel like you’re in a restaurant, the hostess comes by and asks you for your choice form the menu (the leg from Dubai to London had choices of 4 dishes for entrée, mains and dessert!)

First meal was breakfast, omelette with sausages, potato gratin and fresh fruit with yoghurt.

Second meal was a pumpkin soup entree and hot bread followed by a filet mignon which still had a slight pink centre. No dessert because I was quite full.

Last meal was a entree of salmon and cream cheese and seared tuna. A main of lamb shank and mash followed by a chocolate cheese cake for dessert.

Plenty of alcohol to go round as well with a nice choice of wines and plenty of premium spirits. Canapes, nuts and snacks were always present at the bar in the rear as well. Great way to break up the flight.

As great as the experience was, I doubt I’d ever pay the actual cost of a business class flight though.

Made my way to London

Been meaning to write a post before I actually moved but my last-minute nature meant that I was still packing til the last minute. I think it was only once I finished packing and having a minute to breathe that it really hit me, that it’s actually happening and I’m not sure how ready I actually am. The 2 years on the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa sounds like a long time, but I know it’ll come by real quick.

It’s rather ironic that I say this, but really, the emotions are mixed. Excited to be in Europe, another country and something completely different! Sad with the realisation that I’m leaving so much behind, seeing K’s endless tears really solidified the scale of the transition, I know I’ve always passed it off and questioned how hard could it be. What’s going to be really different now is that I’ll be facing life challenges away from the support of family and friends and I think that’s the real challenge.

So, what’s next? Honestly I don’t really know. I’ve got high level plans on what I need to do, settle in, get a phone plan, start looking for jobs, but other than that, I don’t really know!

Which gets me thinking, what is it that I want to get out of these 2 years? Maybe:

  • Challenge myself and really get out of my comfort zone – what is it like to live without your close support network by your side?
  • What are the places I really want to see and go to? I’ve got a few festivals in mind, but man, Europe is a big place. Are there places I should go solo? Find strangers? or find friends?
  • There’s a few routines I’ve been trying to get into for a while, hopefully this can be an opportunity?
  • Live with random people? Despite moving out, I’m still living with cousins and I feel that gives you a lot more lee-way, I wonder what it’d be like with people you don’t know well.

Work-wise, I’ve thought to just revert back to being a Business Analyst role as I do find myself very comfortable there but I know I need to put thought into my career when I return home. Do I want to push the boundary take up a lead role? Do I want to try a different industry other than financial services?

There’s a lot to think about. I should have time to keep writing (hoping so too).