Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday Snapshot

This is the plan. Each Sunday, I will post a photo in this section because...well, just because I can. Enjoy. Here is the first one:

This is The Fox and Duck pub on Petersham Road

Monday, May 25, 2009


So at last I am in London and having been here for just over one week now, I have to say that I am LOVING it!

Last Saturday, I arrived at London Heathrow after a pretty good flight from Abu Dhabi on which I managed to sleep, yet again. Kirstie and I had been joking before our flights about how we both didn't get upgraded to Business Class. Kirstie said she would love to have a seat in the emergency row for the extra leg room and I said I don't like that row because I become obsessed with the big lever that if you just pulled it down, the door would fly open (I'm sure it's more involved than that!). So, guess who got a seat in the emergency row? Yep. That would be me! Luckily, I had the aisle seat so any overwhelming need to pull the giant lever would have to be done by my fellow passenger in the window seat and she looked like the responsible type.

After making my way through Heathrow to Customs and having to fill in the arrival card as I was in the line (turns out, I was fast asleep when they gave them out on the plane), I made it through, bag collected and unchecked through to the arrivals hall.

Now, if you remember, I had secured my new job before I arrived in the UK and had never actually met the family I would be working for. It's a very strange feeling, arriving in a new place, and trying to look for someone you've never met, so times that feeling by about 100 when the place you're in is London Heathrow!

Luckily I found her, thanks to my cousin who also had come to the airport to meet me, which was a huge surprise. I haven't seen him for about 7 years.

Anyway, drove back to their (and my new) house and settled in. Went off to my cousin's house for an Aussie BBQ on Saturday afternoon, then jetlag set in and came home to crash.

This week, I have done a mixture of work, shopping and sightseeing. Tuesday was my first trip into London to sort out my bank account (which, if you are thinking of coming over here, definitely buy a bank account package before you leave Australia. It will make your life so much easier. For a bit of a plug, I went with 1st Contact and set up my account with Barclays. Vojtek at Barclays Bank on Edgeware Road was brilliant!) and to do a bit of shopping. I walked from Covent Garden, along Oxford Road to Edgeware Road. This day was a bit cold and wet. Since then, the weather has been awesome. Today, I went into London for church and then wandered through Soho and along South Bank and the skies were blue all day.

It felt good to wander around London today, knowing that I wasn't just a tourist here for a week or passing through, but that I was now living here.

I have had to drive a 4WD on London streets for the school run, which is hard to get used to. I have only ever driven small cars on streets generally twice as wide as the ones here. But I'm getting there. The buses and the tube are so easy to get around on that I don't need to drive much at all.

And I am loving being a nanny.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Abu Dhabi and Dubai

Well, here I am in sunny London (and I do mean that literally - the weather has been quite nice!).

It was such an epic trip to get here so let me take you back...

On Monday 11 May, I flew out of Brisbane, bound for my first stop in Abu Dhabi. It was so hard saying goodbye and by the time I got on the plane, my eyes and nose were very red and I had almost lost my voice completely. I was more worried about them removing me from the plane and taking me to quarantine to worry about what I looked like. The poor man who sat next to me asked me innocently where I was going and I burst into tears! Then he said to me, "It's no fun travelling when you're ill". Now certain they are going to whisk me away for swine flu vaccinations, I quickly said, "I'm not sick!", then proceeded to cough, sneeze and blow my nose for the entire flight to Singapore! The change over in Singapore was pretty uneventful and on next leg to Aub Dhabi, I did something I have never done before...slept on the plane! I must have really needed it!

Kirstie and Matt met me at the airport in Abu Dhabi and took me back to the flat in the city they share with their gorgeous puppy, Sam. That night, I slept for about 3 hours and woke up at 4.30 the following morning...good old jetlag!

My first day in Abu Dhabi was hot and we headed out to visit The Grand Mosque, which is apparently the third largest in the world. It was amazing! Kirstie and I had to wear an Abaya and headscarves and remove our shoes before we could go in. The pictures do not really do it any justice.

The Grand Mosque

Inside The Grand Mosque

After The Grand Mosque, we drove out to Dubai, where Kirstie had booked us two nights at The Crowne Plaza at Festival City. We took the "scenic route" (read as "got lost on the way") to the hotel which was beautiful and the staff were so friendly. We dumped our stuff (or, I should say, the porter kindly brought our bags to the room, thankfully as my suitcase was 30kgs!!) and headed out to Mall of the Emirates for some air-conditioned shopping! Inside the Mall of the Emirates is Ski Dubai, an indoor ski slope and snow park. We just had to check it out. Picture this: I was wearing shorts and a shirt, and to go in we had to wear a beanie, gloves, a long black ski jacket and boots (remember, shorts!!). Overall, it was not the best look! The snow park was so much fun and we even got hunted down by the papparazzi, who con you into buying the photos when you come out. It was a great experience though, and I still have the beanie and gloves to show for it, and even a small photographic reminder. The Mall was massive and we stayed there for about 6 hours before coming home and having a well-deserved swim in the pool.

View from the hotel room to the pool area

Me in The Mall of the Emirates

The next morning, we drove out to see the Burj al Arab hotel on it's own island off Jumierah Beach. Truly amazing. The scale of this place just takes your breath away!
Then it was time for more shopping and it was off to Dubai Mall for us. This Mall is probably the biggest I have ever seen or imagined in my life. This mall had it's own indoor aquarium and underwater world...unbeliveable! We spent about 7 hours in this mall and I swear we did not walk past the same shop twice and I don't think we even saw all of it! My poor feet...

The Burj al Arab

My poor, tired feet!

But no rest for my feet just yet. After Dubal Mall, we drove out to Al Karama where there is a market that's not very well known to tourists. This was a first for me. We park the car and Kirstie takes me to see "her handbag man". We go into this shop and Kirstie heads straight for the back of the shop and opens up a change room door and asks the guy if she can see the "good stuff". We're led through the changeroom, and a hidden door to a very narrow staircase that takes us up to the top floor, filled with designer knock-off handbags and watches. I got a great deal on a "Gucci" watch...very nice! The rest of the market was full on. We went into another shop and while Kirstie was trying on t-shirts, the Indian guys who ran the shop found out I was from Australia and started to quote cricketers names to me! I didn't have the heart to tell them that I can't stand cricket and those names mean absolutely nothing to me!

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped in at yet another mall for tea, then had a much-needed spa at the hotel before crashing into bed.

On Thursday, we drove back to Abu Dhabi and I had a nice day at home as Kirstie and Matt had a wedding to go to and in keeping with the culture of being in a foreign place, I ordered Pizza Hut for tea!

On Friday, the first day of the weekend in the UAE, Kirstie and Matt took me to Emirates Palace for morning tea. This place is huge! Once again, the photos can't do it any justice. It has to be said that the bathrooms are amazing! After morning tea, when we were leaving the Palace, we saw the official motorcade of the President outside, with no less than three Rolls Royce' one does if one is the President!

Emirates Palace

Kirstie and me at Emirates Palace

The rest of the day was spent getting ready for the next trip...mine to London and Kirstie's to Thailand.

But that can all wait for another post...

Friday, May 8, 2009

20 kgs!

With only three days to go before I fly out of Australia, I seem to have come down with the flu! This is quite possibly the worst time to feel sick! Not only will the flying be really uncomfortable for my poor ears, but with all the drama about swine flu that's going around, I keep having visions of myself stuck in quarantine for days on end and having my picture all over the news as the latest victim of the "pandemic". These visions usually come at night, when I really should be getting a good night sleep so I can feel my best. Add to that, the stress of realising that I won't be able to fit everything in my suitcase and will have to keep culling items so I can keep it below 20kgs!

Personally, I think 20kgs to move your life overseas is ridiculous! Even after shipping a second suitcase to the UK, seeing your life fit into two suitcases is pretty sad.

This has been an interesting week. On the happy side, I finished work and have had plenty of time to get stuff done, catch up with friends and get excited about the move. On a sadder note, I sold my car this week. That was hard. My little red car has been through a lot with me and it was difficult to let it go. While my car was a symbol of my freedom, selling my car was a symbol of the start of a new chapter in my life - stepping out and living the dream.

Today, I just need to make a trip to the bank for a final statement in case they quiz me at customs, meet some friends for lunch, buy my nana a Mother's Day present and clean my house. Tomorrow, the family are all out for a Mother's Day lunch and on Sunday, after my last Sunday at church, I have a wedding to go to.

Then Monday, I'm off!

I spoke to my friend in Abu Dhabi yesterday and now I'm really looking forward to my holiday in the UAE. It looks like we'll be spending some time in Dubai too. Very exciting!

OK. Time to get back to work on that suitcase. 20 kgs....!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

One Last Week

I finished work yesterday and said farewell to my career in the 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, commute-to-work-in-over-crowded-trains-full-of-noisy-school-kids...I hope!

This is my last week in Australia for a while and it's going to be a tough one. Now the serious packing needs to start. On Sunday, my mum and my sister have organised a farewell / birthday party for me and while it will be great to catch up with everyone one last time, I'm really not good at big parties and especially not good with goodbyes.

Monday I need to get my car ready to be sold. Tuesday, I'm doing some final shopping for last minute items and meeting a friend for lunch. Wednesday, I'm getting my haircut and I have an appointment at the doctor to make sure there is no trace of swine flu! Thursday is my only free day so far and Friday, I'm meeting the girls from my last job for lunch in the city. Saturday is for cleaning and packing and trips to the dump and Sunday is Mother's Day and I have a wedding to go to in the afternoon. Then it'll be Monday...the day I leave. Oh, and I need to finish packing somewhere in there, too...

At least being busy will help to keep my mind off the fact that I'll be leaving everything I know (again!), moving somewhere new (again!) and starting over (again!!). But even though the thought of that is hard, I am excited. I get the chance to start fresh. The chance to do things differently and not be locked in to doing things the same way I have done them for years. That thought is liberating!

This time in two weeks, I'll be in London, starting my new life and living my dream. I know it won't be easy but it will be an adventure.

And to use one of my favourite quotes by Jane Austen: "If adventures do not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad".