BIRTHDAY DEJAVU.

I remember last year when I wrote a blog post about how I had to change my ‘about me’. I had to change the age from 19 to 20. About two seconds ago, I was visiting my page and realised, that’s not me anymore. I’ve been 21 years old for the past month. It was time to edit my about me again.
Looking back on that post from a year ago, https://annikatague.wordpress.com/2014/10/21/a-slight-change-in-my-about-me/, a lot of things have changed and a lot of things have not.
I still worship Stephen Markley as a writer, but only recently have I begun divulging back into this passion. Some crippling anxiety was holding me back; as a writer and as a person in general. I feel like I’m finally on my way back and hopefully I’ll be finding new and exciting things to write about. I’m 21, I’m young, but I’m getting on, and I think it’s time I put some focus into the things I love to do, and work out how to spin them into a successful career. Look, I’m not stupid. I know that this is going to take some time, I haven’t even finished my degree for christ’s sake– I’m just feeling itchy!

For the past, I’m not even sure how long, I’ve felt pretty lost. I didn’t know what to do or where to go. I think this happens to most students in the midst of their degree. I feel like I’m not doing anything with my life, while actually, I’m doing a lot. I’m just starting off. But I guess, for me, I wish the launching of a career path ensued lots and lots of dough, meaning I could travel and learn all at once. I know, I knoooooow, “go on exchange!” everyone tells me. I really don’t have an excuse not to, except that I don’t really want to? That’s legit enough.

Some of my friends are moving out of home– to Sydney, to London, to anywhere but here. And I guess I feel a little trapped, and when I say trapped, I mean trapped by myself.
I’m not scared to leave, I just don’t know where I want to go. Moving out of home would require transferring university’s and would mean zero savings for travel. That just doesn’t seem like an option at this point. I have to buckle down for the next 2.5 years and finish off this degree, because if I defer, I don’t think I’ll ever go back. My good friend Elle has just made plans to polish off an intensive personal training course, and then she’s jetting off to live in New Zealand for three months-indefinitely. My boyfriend’s brother is going over there with some friends around the same time as well, and if Abel hadn’t suggest that we go and visit them for a few weeks during my uni break in June/July, I just think I would go crazy. Finally I have something to look forward to.
It’s crazy how quick things change, how we easily change our minds about what it is we want to do, based on certain circumstances. Earlier this year, Olivia and I were planning on setting off to Europe in two weeks time, for a crazy, drunken, winterland escapade! Neither of us predicted falling in love and settling into committed relationships (a little cocktail of vomit and swoon, I apologise).

I honestly don’t know what the point of this ramble was. Scroll through my entire blog and most of my posts wind up this way. They start out promising- full of purpose and with a solid point, and end up being a super lame spiel about my current emotions. I’m gonna peace out before this gets super sappy and I start talking more intently about love– because I’m known for that these days.

SHUT UP ABOUT WRITING. TALK ABOUT TRAVEL.

Sometimes, instead of actually sitting down and writing something, I’ll read through my blog and feel like I accomplished something. But not really, that was just me admiring myself accomplishing something that I posted a few weeks ago. So in actual fact, I’ve wasted my time again. Turns out, most of my posts are about writing, my generic thoughts on my fairly vague life events, or whinging about how little writing I’m doing and making lame excuses like, “Oh, I was studying”. No I fucking wasn’t.

SO NOW, I’m gonna talk about something that is completely mind consuming as of late. A little something I’ve discussed before, in more ways than one. Traveling. Traveling Europe. I’m going back, bitches! I started saving the other week; I put $200 away. Sitting in 1 of my 2 copies of Tolstoy’s War and Peace next to my bed. Do you think that’ll be enough?

The plan is to leave in December (alongside my dear pal, Olive) and come back sometime in February, just before the dawning autumn uni session commences. Maybe by that point I’ll genuinely feel like a second year student; and not the third year student that I’ll actually be.
I never really understood the whole concept of “the travel bug” while I was over there (have I said this schpiel before? Cause you’re about to hear it again), but since being home, I daydream of getting lost in a city and thinking, “what is there to do here?” and then wandering around aimlessly, until I find it. Truth is, you don’t usually understand the beauty of a foreign city until you’re not in it anymore. Once you’ve left it, you kind of long for the essence that it holds, the things you can’t describe to people. You know how sometimes you’ll get a whiff of something, and it reminds you of a certain time, a certain place in your life? Like how every time I smell gardenias, I feel as though I’m a fresh 12 year old, just arriving with her family in Australia, nervous at the prospect of making new friends. Or every time I wear my Coco Mademoiselle Chanel perfume, I remember being 15 and vomiting at 11:30 on NYE and my best friend losing her virginity.
Foreign places are like those scents that force your brain to rush back in time; except they’re the scents you’ll never really smell again, unless you travel back. It’s not something you can explain to someone. But then, someone will mention that they’ve also been to Barcelona, and you’ll discuss a building you both saw. You’ll know that you both once stood in the same place you are now, and also the same place on a random street corner across the world, and you two will share a little something. That’s a little something that induces the travel bug.
The other, and here’s the reason I couldn’t go traveling alone, even though I like to think I could; it’s the random shit that happens with you and other people that you don’t remember. Not the “remember that time we sat in a cafe in Dublin for 6 hours because we were all too scared to ask for the cheque”. It’s the ridiculous games of eye spy and would you rather that you play on countless bus and train trips, that they all blur into one. It’s the random little chats that you have while waiting for the shower. The “who’s turn is it?” game you invented, where you could ask any ridiculous question, open ended or multiple choice, just to kill a bit of time. None of these you remember (apart from when Olivia asked what the best sandwich we ever had was, and only I could answer), because at the time it seemed rather hollow, but in actual fact it was those little moments that made the whole trip what it was.
So, yeah, I’m going back. To further explore cities and their countries to a greater to extent. To see new places I haven’t ventured to yet. To meet people I might not have met otherwise. To get shit cold, to get lost, to get tired, to get grumpy, to get drunk, to get homesick. To be spontaneous. That’s the ultimate plan this time. A random from the youth hostel asks us to go on a walking tour with him and some mates? Ima say yes. Cause that’s when those little, inconsequential moments happen that you don’t really remember, but you almost kinda do.

LEEDS, MANCHESTER & EDINBRUH.

Is it really awful of me to acknowledge the titles of my own posts on my own blog? Cause Ima do it anyways. I didn’t spell Edinburgh wrong, I’m just hilarious.

From London, we caught a coach to Leeds to meet up with Claudia’s friend, Ellie from her summer camp, whom I had previously met during our stay in NYC. She had just started attending Leeds University and we stayed a night there, before catching the train with her back home to Manchester.

I can’t really vouch too much for Leeds or Manchester, because we weren’t there for long enough and anything we actually did there didn’t really enrich my knowledge of these places. In Leeds, we ate Nandos, got drunk with Ellie’s uni friends, tried to get into a club that we lined up for an hour for, and were then told that we probably wouldn’t even get in. The security guard was the most disgusting human being I have ever witnessed. He only let through a select number of girls, with 10 layers of makeup on and hardly any clothing- talking about how he couldn’t wait to have a taste later. It was enough to send us back to Ellie’s place, dressed in our pyjamas and eating dominoes until 2 am.

In Manchester we shopped around the city and then went back to Ellie’s house- an extremely tall building of stained glass windows, a range of comforting homewares and a bathroom with a lounge in it. In that moment, it became official, my future house wouldn’t be complete until my bathroom had a sofa in it.

Before venturing to the bar that Ellie worked at whenever she was back home, we of course ordered Indian food, because the English just adore that stuff (this is not me complaining, alongside Mexican, Indian is my preferred choice of cuisine). Ellie worked at a trendy, and surprisingly packed bar, called “Town Bar”. They offered the widest and most exquisite range of cocktails that forced me to take a photo of the menu in hopes that I could recreate some of these beauties back home to woo all of my friends with (can’t say that I’ve been particularly successful with this, but I also can’t say that I’ve attempted to make any of these ingenious concoctions).  There being five of us, we ordered rounds… and more rounds. I think we all probably did nearly three rounds each. Each arguing over which cocktail to try next and then, always the most daring; the shots. By the time we got started on the shots, my vision was blurred and I wasn’t paying attention to majority of the conversation, not because I was being rude, but because I simply wasn’t capable of holding that much information in my mind, which had decidedly changed to the size of a peanut after a few beverages.

At this very point in my trip, I was super stressed because it dawned on me how ridiculously expensive traveling was and how stupidly careless I had been with my money. It was this day that I franticly messaged my mum, explaining that I didn’t think I could afford the rest of the trip. The whole financial side of things became nothing but an emotional roller coaster and it’s the main part of my trip that I definitely don’t want to focus on, or remember for that matter, because it was something that consumed my thoughts a lot of the time and, I’m not going to say that it “ruined” my trip, but it contributed to most negative aspects of the trip.

So we make a girls journey to the bathrooms, and I’m connecting to the wifi while doing my business, my dad sends me an extremely heart felt message (this text literally brings me to tears; but now, as I say that, I’m reflecting on how inordinately pissed I was) telling me that he loves me and do the best he can to help “keep me afloat” financially. After this incident, we’re exiting the bar, deciding what to do next and I am by far the most drunk out of the lot of us. Which normally isn’t that strange, there’s always one person who’s intoxicated state is obviously stronger than the rest, this person however, is not usually me.

Ellie doesn’t really know much about where to go out in Manchester, but we catch a cab with a guy named Joseph, who for some unexplained reason, we insist on calling “yosef” and he ends up shouting the entire taxi ride, after we had spent the last 25 minutes screaming and asking him where we could get some cocaine (which we didn’t even really want). He took us to a fairly empty bar, but promised the drinks would be cheap. Shame for yosef, because we got them even cheaper. The bartender, a tall dark man with a bit of stubble, sporting a plain black T and a Pittsburg Pirates hat basically gave us 5 shots for the price of 3, as long as we all gave him a kiss. We all followed through for each round and he continued to do shots with us until we left in hunt for a better, more crowded place.

Word on the street said that the Black Dog was the place to be- we hunted for it, up and down the main strip countless times. Everything seems repetitive but fairly quick after a few drinks, and this was not an event that passed by shortly, I felt like we were searching for this place for quite some time. It’s possible that I was super drunk and super impatient though, since I do recall running (yes, running, something that usually isn’t said alongside my name without a negative in front of it) and scabbing cigarettes off of male bystanders.

The Black Dog didn’t truly have the greatest atmosphere; the music wasn’t vampy enough to keep my eyes open and the lack of lighting assisted my slumber. Ellie and Claudia made the executive decision that we were leaving- not just the club, but we were going home- and Tenaya and Olivia weren’t too impressed, considering they had just down 4 shots each to get them going. I’m fairly sure a sly and slurred argument soon ensued, but I wasn’t really apart of it to be honest. We made it back to Ellie’s and I crawled into bed, half passing out and half praying I didn’t vomit and truly ruin our welcome in her household.

The next day, Ellie’s dad dropped us to the bus station where we would catch a coach to Edinburgh. That bus trip was long, I remember that much, but no specific events because all of our train trips and coach rides blur into one. It’s fairly likely that we played Eye Spy and/or Fuck, Kill, Marry (where you name three people and you have to choose who you would fuck, who you’d kill and who you would marry. I loved playing this game). Something else that always took over when boredom consumed us, was our very own game called “Who’s turn is it?”. What started out as Never Have I Ever eventually turned into an extremely vague questionnaire to pass the time. It’s safe to say I know some of the most minuscule details about those three girls, as they do for me. Like the best sandwich I’ve ever eaten (sick question, Olivia).

Edinburgh was one of my favourite places that we visited. It was one of the most comfortable hostels we stayed at, and the first in which we stayed in a shared dorm. It was located right across from the Castle Rock, which we spent a solid day exploring. Otherwise, there wasn’t a lot that we knew about this place; what there was to do or what there was to see. I think we may have gone into a museum, but I can’t really remember what we did in there or what we saw, just that we entered. Our budget was very manageable here, we made most of our own food in the hostel kitchen and cozied up in the “movie theatre”.

Something I regret deeply about our stay here was all the opportunities that we let pass us by so easily. A number of girls in our dorm invited us to go to cool bars with them, or out to dinner. People in the main lounge area asked us to join them on pub crawls and ghost tours; which, for no real reason in particular, we all politely declined. This was before we really entered the true world of travelling; the world that involves new people, different experiences and absolutely forcing yourself out of your shell. After far too many “No thank you’s” it was time for us to fly to Dublin, and leave a beautiful green, untouched (by our standards) land behind us, to enter a knew one. One that you would imagine to be most green, but really kind of lacked in colour altogether.

Approximately 1500 words down, over who knows how long, and my memory is slowly fading as we have passed the one year mark of this particular adventure. A year ago today, I would be in Budapest (stay tuned) where I would be about to consume the most amount of alcohol I ever have and meet some truly influential people in my present life.

A HAWAIIAN LUAU IN BUDAPEST.

My friend Tenaya is super strange and hilarious and her life (the trivial aspects of it) are constantly on joke within our friendship community. On Facebook, we have a closed group called “Tenaya’s Wise Words” in which we share the utterly confusing statements made by Tenaya herself. One of my favourites has to be, “I thought that all lions were boys and all tigers were girls”. She is one of the most intelligent people I know, just generally perplexed and not afraid to voice her shower thoughts or life questions.

A while back for my JRNL101 class, we were practicing writing 100 word captions for images. We were allowed to choose anything, and so I chose a funny photo of Tenaya and brainstormed up a short caption for it. I shared this with her on Facebook and since many of our friends found it enjoyable, Tenaya herself suggested that I share more things like this with the cyber world. I created http://www.portraitsoftenaya.wordpress.com and reposted the image and caption to this site. I vowed to make postings a regular occurrence, but have failed to follow through until tonight.

I sat on my bed and thought about how much study I needed to complete for my upcoming exam this Thursday, but then I thought about how much more fun I would have recounting one of Tenaya’s most famous adventures. Here is exactly what I posted on her original site, and you can be sure that I will continue to share those posts with this site, as they are something I tend to be quite smugly proud of.

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It was a Tuesday night in Budapest and all were dressed in bright floral patterns, flowers emblazoned across foreheads, coconuts covering  breasts, and phrases such as “gnarly” or “right on” floating in the air. Tenaya Wright, was dressed in a fluorescent orange dress, a plastic weave of pink flowers around her head. She was content, but with a sheer and bright goal in mind. Tenaya had promised herself she would finish her standard bottle of rosé before leaving the hostel. Time was getting away, the makeup party in the kitchen was slowly coming to end as girls capped their mascaras and lipsticks, topping up a small glass of champagne to quickly enjoy upstairs while the evening’s speech was doled out. As everyone stood, ready to make their way out the door, Tenaya informed her friends that she wouldn’t be joining. Now, at first everyone was utterly confused; concerned even. Until it became obvious, the true meaning behind her delay; Tenaya, must of course, finish her bottle of rosé. A bottle, so cheap, but so flash, that she manages to pop open, using not a cork screw, but the power of her index finger.

Her friends left in doubt; would she make it to the bar? How lost would she get? The answer soon became clear as the guests followed the staff members around corners beyond corners, for what seemed like quite a while for such  drunk crowd. Surely, there was no way Tenaya could make it to this particular bar alive. It was as this thought was crossing most people’s minds, that she proved everyone quite wrong. With a loud HOOT and a blinding swish of long dark hair, enters Tenaya, so wasted that some might call her a “white girl”.

For most, the rest of the evening becomes a haze of events, but there are some most memorable, so significant that not even the blinding and deafening effects of alcohol are able to erase our memories.

She asked us group of girls how many shots we had completed upon her arrival, to which she replied with a smug and slurred, “You’ve done two… shots? Two shots? That’s fine, ok cause I’m gonna do three, so I’m one step above allllerrr you!”. It was at this point, that everyone knew she was already many steps ahead of the rest.  She spoke of burritos, that she claimed to have found and was able to eat for free. She spoke of new friends made along the way to her present location. All of these incidents have neither been verified nor investigated.

Many of you might be familiar with the powerful and entrenching Facebook video entitled, “Tenaya Wright falls into the karaoke booth and shit gets real”. It was this particular event that makes this night so extremely memorable. Attempting to describe and paint a vivid picture of that very moment would not only do that video injustice, but it would go against the grain of my very being. What happens in the video is clearly depicted in the title, alongside the soulful voice of Aretha Franklin and featuring the shocked and petrified screams of many many bystanders.

This fateful event, not only lead to the threat of a $400 fine, but to the 30 minute disappearance of Tenaya Wright. Frantically asking witnesses of her possible whereabouts, she seemed a lost cause. If she had made her way to the bar, through the streets of Budapest, finding burritos and making lifelong friendships along the way, there was always the possibility that she made it home safely. Out front of the bar is where she was found, her head peeping around the corner of a wall, shushing us, but beckoning us over. She asked if she was allowed back into the bar, to which the obvious answer was of course, no. It was at this moment that Tenaya asked us to do something most surprising. She said she was going to become a new person in order to be allowed back inside, meaning that we would need to cut off her hair for this plan to be carried out properly. Tenaya once told her own father that her hair was her best friend, so to risk it’s life just to be let back inside a bar, to be able to sip on at least one more beverage for the evening, truly proves that alcohol holds a more precious and permanent place in her heart.

Somehow, and still no one knows, Tenaya was allowed entry back into that bar. Her hair was draped across her face, further impairing her vision, so it’s extremely possible that the Hungarian security guards truly didn’t recognise this new and improved woman. The night continued on, followed by 200 forint pizza and long strolls back to the hostel. The last I saw of Tenaya that night, she was guzzling down carbonated vodka shots.

I’M FROM LUNDUN.

We didn’t technically go Paris to London, there was actually some weeks in between where we chilled out in Lyon with Claudia’s host family, did some traveling to Provence, Monaco, Chamonix, quick stop in Switzerland- Geneva/Lucerne, making our way back to Lyon before kicking it off to London. Don’t hate me for being the laziest of people right now, but that trip was more of a family affair. We traveled it via car with Claudia’s host family and parents who were also on their own European adventure at the time. It was wonderful and something we wouldn’t have experienced without their help (we saw lots of cute villages and small French landmarks that I had never known existed), but despite all that, it sort of seems rather separate from my journey. We weren’t in the big bad unknown quite yet and doesn’t hold the overall impact of bracing yourself for the unexpected.

London was kind of like going home. Probably more so for Claudia and Me rather than Nay or Olly, since we had been absent from the merry old land of Oz for nearly 4 months at this point. Australia is England’s late child and the readily available cadbury chocolate and wider range of food options was far too comforting. Plus, people spoke English, so that was nice. Overall it just felt widely more western and I think we were in desperate need of that.

I’d heard so many mixed things about London. People complain about all the wet weather, but a girl who we later met in Madrid perfectly described it as “squeaky clean from all the rain” and that’s pretty much been stuck in my head ever since. We were fortunate that it didn’t rain while we were there and was nothing but a frigid, early October breeze.

We managed to get ridiculously lost between Kings Cross Station and our hostel, walking in circles for over an hour and still managing to ask no one for directions, despite the lack of a language barrier. After checking into a clean, chain hostel that was currently undergoing renovations, we got lunch at the falafel place around the corner- which we had walked past three times earlier during our confused state.

We kept the hop-on-hop-off bus tours specifically for the historical and cultural enriched cities; London being one of them. So this activity immediately sucked up two of our days, but it was definitely to our advantage since I have never learnt more about a city, let alone an entire country, just from taking continuous loops on a bus tour. It probably managed to be so educational due to the live tour guides on offer. All individually hilarious and sharing original spins on different pieces of information, forcing us to snicker amongst one another “pfft… well, that’s not what afro guy said earlier today…”

Majority of the interest I held for London had far too much relation to the monarchy. I’m someone who is an absolute sucker for a royal wedding (yes, I wanna look like Kate at my own wedding) and I completely idolise Princess Diana, because well, she’s fabulous.  After going to Buckingham Palace and watching an extremely boring changing of the guards ceremony, plus listening to endless facts about Queen Victoria on the bus tour, I spent much of my spare time in the hostel googling facts about the royal family. Self-education whilst in London, snaps for me.

The highlight of my time in London was actually spent in Watford, because that’s where the greatest Warner Bros. Studio Tour of all time is held- Harry Fucking Potter. Tickets aren’t overly cheap, and neither is the train there, but boy was it worth it. I’d been to the Harry Potter exhibition in Sydney, where they had majority of the artefacts from the film. This, however, was something else. I saw the rooms and sets, filled with every real prop that they used in the movies. Daniel Radcliffe touched that cereal box (most likely) and he DEFINITELY sat in that chair in the Gryffindor common room. I walked up and down Diagon Alley, did some window shopping and the purchased my very own honey dukes chocolate- which lasted the first 5 minutes on the train trip home.

London basically made me just want to walk around in a trench coat, shop for hours, read books in the parks when it wasn’t raining, drink lots and lots of alcohol and be able to say “mate” without sounding like a complete bogan.

Paris. Duh.

Apart from Iceland, I basically consider Paris to be the first stop on my journey. It was my most dreamed of destination– I’d been studying the French language for four years at high school and despite my inability to hold a conversation in the foreign tongue, what 18 year old girl doesn’t dream of wandering the Parisienne streets, her hopes of romance at their peak level as she gazes the rooftops, sipping on a fruity glass of red wine.

Claudia and I arrived at Charles de Gualle airport bright and early, ready to see two of our greatest companions who had been subsequently absent from our lives as we lived in the states for three months. After consuming a pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant) and un café creme, we found one of our missing halves (Miss Tenaya Wright) and spent the next hour or two, with the severe struggle of language barriers, waiting at the gate for Olivia Russell (Ol, Olive, Olly, Livo- as you will). Fairly excited with our success, we packed into a large Taxi van (Take us to Paris!) and pretty much failed at suppressing nervous and excited giggles the whole way there. We’ll arrive, shower and nap and then go exploring– that’s the agenda for today, gals. After a rather heated argument with the taxi driver about where the address of our apartment was located (“C’est impossible! It does not exist, mademoiselle”), we had arrived. An adorable apartment literally directly across from the Sacre Coeur on top of Montmartre– it was the most idyllic scene I could’ve hoped for. Our hostess greeted us with four croissants (haven’t been able to consume one quite as delicious since) and great information about the local area, “to the uh, left?, it is very, you know, hipster (minus the H) with a lot of, coooole barz”.

Scrubbed up and in an over sized t shirt (keep in mind that pants are one of my least favourite things, just for future reference), I snoozed for a solid two and half hours, awaking to a cry from Tenaya “Annikaaaaaah, wut the hull? Get your elbow outta my back.” After that it became an ongoing “shot not sleeping with Annika” for the rest of the trip- Come on you guys, I’m not that bad.

We went for a walk in the cobbled stone streets that wrapped around our central apartment. Scouring shop signs, that had no resonance to us, looking for something authentic and delicious to munch on. We found both a bakery and well, I’m not really sure what you call a cheese and salami shop- a deli, I suppose? But that’s what we found. Purchasing two warm baguettes, an unnecessarily large amount of brie cheese and a rather tall stack of sliced salami, we headed back for an indoor apartment picnic. Drunk off bottles beyond bottles of 4 euro wine (aren’t you supposed to be classy in Paris and drink the good stuff?), we settled back into our slumber, high hopes for the next big days of travel.

The next few days blur into one, as they tend to after the weeks pass when you’re doing something different each day, but altogether the same notion. We got tickets to a hop-on hop-off bus tour that was unlimited for two days and something I can’t recommend enough. It was a perfect way to get around the city. Paris is great in the fact that it’s metro system is completely straight forward and simple to understand– the only downfall was figuring out which metro station was the closest to the desired tourist attraction. So, for that dilemma, you should choose the bus tour, learning new interesting facts about the city all the while. We made our way via metro to get to the Opéra building and hitch a ride on the first stop of the tour. The fact that we got super lost within our first day of sight seeing just proved how necessary the bus tour was. Having the most knowledge of the french language among the group, I was always pushed into asking for directions. My ultimate problem was trying to figure out which Parisienne looked the most helpful. After settling on a girl in her mid twenties on a cigarette break, I finally got the courage to ask, “Ou est le Opéra?” to which she looked terrifyingly confused… “Um what?… I speak english”. That happened.

Now, to avoid rambling, I’m just gonna list the sort of major events in Paris that struck a chord with me.

Numero Uno (Nah, I’m not gonna speak in French on my post about Paris): The very first moment we saw the Eiffel Tower. We rounded a corner, off the Champs Elysees and past the Arc De Triomphe (also a fairly iconic moment) and there it was; statuous and not nearly as tall as I imagined, but it’s magnificence still as radiant as ever. You picture Paris to be something that it pretty much isn’t- mimes, stripe-shirted men wearing berets, holding baguettes and playing the accordion on a cobble stoned street. It really isn’t any of those things but the site of the Tour de Eiffel makes you think that it could be– you begin to hear that music in your head and the fact that you truly are within one of the world’s most famous cities actually begins to sink in and completely flood every pore of your body.

Numero Dos: The catacombs. I kind of didn’t even really know of their existence until a family friend told me that it was an absolute must-see when in Paris– definitely glad we took her advice on that one. It’s something you have to do fairly early, as to be sure to get entry (they only allow 200 people enter at a time) and not throw off your entire day. When I say that you see human bones and remains down there, I need to clarify that you don’t just witness a number of skeletons; there are millions. Not normally freaked out by that kind of thing– I totally held my cool– I felt rather weary for a while after. Those bones were once a person, who held thoughts, and loved somebody and had somebody love them and they had a life- whether it was lousy or not, it was real and true; those thoughts kinda sat in my stomach for a while.

Numero Tres: The Louvre. Not the inside of it. Sure, that was pretty, however the Mona Lisa is the most underwhelming painting in the world- don’t even bother, you’ve seen a better print of it atop of your take away pizza box back home. The outside of it, however, was utterly gorgeous. The building never seems to end, wrapped around the giant glass pyramid with the expanding fountains. We spent more time outside of the Louvre as opposed to the internal, and I could have stared at the architectural mouldings for days. Buildings really resonate with me when traveling for some reason. Not entirely sure why, maybe it has something to do with watching my brother build that house that we now live in. It’s just an art that requires such talent and focus. New age, modern buildings don’t hold the emotion that the mouldings of European buildings give off. It was an impression that continued to blow me away.

Paris was short, but long lived. I wanna stop talking about it now though because it’s taken me far too long to etch this piece out. Plus, as I’m about to publish this, my former travel buddy and present bestest pal is having her last night’s sleep in her own bed as she heads back to Europe tomorrow morning for the next three and a half months. Safe to say I’m not coping so well with the jealousy and the thought of her absence from my life for an extended period of time.

 

Iceland; You were… cold?

I’m going to start off by discussing Iceland. Only because I feel like it’s one of those places that everyone wants to talk about, but they have nothing to say about it, because honestly, who’s been to Iceland? I have. The most comical thing about going to Iceland was that I purely went for its convenience. I needed to fly from New York City to Paris and I needed to do it cheap- Iceland Air gave me that option in just under $400. Included in this price, was a free stopover for up to 7 days. My friend and I thought, “Iceland? Let’s do this.”

We arrived in Reykjavík at about 6:30 am and stepped into an airport that felt like Ikea on steroids. There were a lot of jumbled letters written on glossy advertisements that made absolutely no sense to me and it took me a moment to realise that these letter configurations were actual words within another language. I’d definitely heard of Icelandic before, but my father had assured me that hardly anyone would speak it and English would certainly be the most used language. My dad was incorrect. People spoke English, but not all that often and when they did, it made them sound very aggressive. Which was quite tragic, because the people of Iceland are more than just friendly. One would think that the 6-degree summers and the salmon-scented air would turn people bitter, but it doesn’t. They all seem overly content with their lifestyle- however, still maintaining the desire to travel- much like us Australians. I suppose being in a country that is quite isolated from many areas of the world enforces a will to learn about new people and places.

When we arrived in the actual city of Reykjavik, our shuttle bus driver gave us a tour of the town en route to our hostel. Not only did he inform us that Iceland has no military and the only thing close to it was the Salvation Army, but he also casually pointed to an average sized house on the corner of the street and said, “That’s where our Prime Minister lives”. We were shocked by how low key everything in this entire country was, particularly the city. I’m going to put it out there; the city of Reykjavik is more of a large village. I come from a small rural town and this felt strangely close to it.

Our accommodation was booked at Reykjavik backpackers, located on one of the main strips, and this was our first hostel experience. Luckily it was a good one. The rooms were extraordinarily clean and the lobby and bar area had an unbeatable atmosphere. There was a restaurant located below the bar, which is where I dined for my first travel meal and consumed the most delicious grilled chicken and corn salad I have ever eaten in my entire life—to this day I still daydream about that meal.

So here’s where the disappointment comes, more so for you than me, because unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of geographical experience to share here—Iceland is very expensive. As our first stop on what was to be a 3-month journey across Europe and the UK, we didn’t have the funds to splurge. The hostel’s lobby tantalized us with brochures of the geothermic pools, located not so nearby, at the minimum cost of 150 euros. With a low budget and no other means of transportation (apart from the extremely overpriced tour) we were forced to stick to the streets of Reykjavík.

With sheer force, we were hit with a stroke of luck; our time there was mostly full of sunshine, as we had come to the end of an “extremely warm summer” (not quite, it was close to freezing). Apart from walking along the lakes edge, peering at the randomly assorted buildings with their stark colours plastered against a dull sky, we made some time and ventured to the National Museum of Iceland. This was, by far, one of the most beautiful and strategically displayed museums I have ever been to. Antique silverware hung by fishing wire in an array of heights from the ceiling portraying a cloud of carved, dull silver. Aside from the attractive display windows, there was a lot of information and readings about the Vikings, the first settlers and general life in Iceland over the years—the museum was set out in chronological order from the very beginning up until how people today survive and spend their time there. Two cups of coffee and a gluten free brownie later and it was a lovely three-hour wander through the museum.

Quentin Tarantino once described his trip to Iceland in an interview with Conan O’Brian as “Supermodels working at McDonald’s”. I’m going to say that I agree with this statement completely—95% of the women that I focused on were outrageously gorgeous. Majority fair skinned (as I’m sure you imagined) with sleek, Scandinavian features and runway-like clothing. In relation to the people of whom I met in Iceland, they all possessed similar qualities; overly friendly, beautiful, and they all gave me the same warm, but frazzled smile, as if to say, “why on earth have you come to Iceland?!”. In fact, one girl actually did say that to me in real words, not just a mere quizzical facial expression—however, she wasn’t so cavalier about her wording.

What was supposed to be a casual and convenient stopover to one of the world’s most desirable travel destinations, turned out to be quite an interesting experience. Learning about new people and cultures is what traveling is all about, right? So while yes, Iceland is extremely expensive (take a look at it’s location, absolutely everything is imported, so there shouldn’t be much of a surprise there), it’s grand beauty and kind-hearted population make up for majority of its downfalls. With a well-planned and funded schedule, I don’t see how you could experience an unhappy trip to Iceland.

 

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