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The Travel Map - March 2008

Bruges in a day

March 23rd 2008 00:02
It was 31 January 2006, I was leaving London for Sydney February 19 and I decided there was a couple of cities I wanted to visit before leaving. One of which was Bruges in Belgium. So many people said it was a beautiful city and as I love chocolate seemed like the perfect place to me. I had one day there so I had to make the most of it.

I arrived in Bruges around 2pm. It was freezing cold -1 degrees. After checking into my hotel I ventured outdoors, now what to do first. First I headed up to Market square to find a tourist map, when by chance I found a signs to a chocolate museum. The museum tells the story of chocolate and explains the difference in ingredients between good chocolate and run of the mill chocolate. Best temperature to eat your choc by the way is about 18 degrees.


chocolate
Chocolate dosn't make you fat


Due to only having a day in Bruges, I needed to make sure I saw the main sites of the city. I bought a Bruges guidebook that had a walking tour of the city with the main sites and followed it. Being a small city it is quite feasible to walk around the centre in one day.
First stop was the Belfry tower in the market square. The Belfry is not a church or a town hall it is a symbol of Freedom building has been around since the 13th century. The tower is 83 metres high. A winding staircase of 366 stairs leads you to the lookout platform. Now I am fit but these stairs were scary they were so steep and narrow my shoulders were touching the walls on both sides. From the top, you can supposedly see for 12 miles in every direction. Unfortunately, due to the fog, I wasn't so lucky but at least I got some exercise.


Market square bruges
View of Market Square from Belfry Tower


I continued on my walking Bruges is a city of beautiful architecture and monuments there are also canal rides in the summer unfortunately when I was there the canal was completely frozen over.
Bruges is beautiful in the winter but I would recommend going in the summer if you can after a day of walking around the city in the winter it my face was stinging with the cold. It is definitely worth a visit but one day there should be ample to see the main tourist attractions.
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Uluru

March 19th 2008 00:58
Uluru in my opinion has to be one of the most amazing natural wonders of the world. I had seen it plenty of times on TV, but I wasnt prepared for the beauty of seeing the rock up close and watching it change colour at sunrise and sunset. Unfortunately, we only had two days there so everything was a bit rushed.
Flying into Uluru should be a tourist attraction in itself; you can see miles of red desert sand from the airplane window, and take the perfect shot of the rock from your seat.
Uluru
Just flying in is a tourist attraction

After landing in Uluru we got off the plane to be greeted by a 40-degree hot breeze, which believe me, is a shock after arriving on a plane so cold my toes took hours to thaw. Another thing that hits you after you land is the very friendly Australian bush flies that are obsessed with landing on your mouth nose, ears and trying to crawl all over your sunglasses.

Most of the activities in Uluru are based around sunrise and sunset for several reasons. The desert sky is beautiful at these times and it is just too hot to go out during the day, especially in February when we were there.
Sunset
sunset over uluru

On our first night, we went to a sunset dinner, which involves a fantastic buffet meal (try the crocodile meat) in the middle of the desert where you can watch Uluru change colours as the setting sun disappears. Soon as the sunsets the flies disappear almost immediately (it is uncanny), and you can enjoy your meal in piece. Well apart from the night creatures that knock into you and grasshoppers jumping into your wine glass. After dinner when it is dark enough to see all the stars, the real treat of the evening began. An astronomer gave a very interesting talk about the stars and pointed out the various constellations including all the zodiac signs.

After the presentation, three telescopes were set up so that we could look at some of the stars and planets a bit closer. One was set up to look at the Milky Way which of course you can see with the naked eye. The second was to look at star that looked like a white fire in the sky that changed colours, amazing! The third showed Saturn so clearly that you could actually see the rings. That was amazing, definitely the highlight of my evening!

We got back to our hotel at midnight, then we were up again at 4.40am to be picked up and taken to watch the sunrise. We had breakfast prepared for us including billy tea and dampa that is traditional aboriginal bread.
Sunrise over Uluru
sunrise over uluru


The sun rose surprisingly quickly and again the rock looked magnificent. After breakfast we headed over to see the rock close up. The guide gave us a talk about the patterns and we had a walk around. I did not climb the rock out of respect to the aboriginal people.

We went back to our hotel, submerged ourselves in the pool, and read magazines for the rest of the day because it was too hot to do anything else.
That evening checked out the sunset again this time from the back of a camel. Camels are not native to Australia, they were brought out in the 1840s to help build the railroads across Australia's harsh terrain. After they were no longer required camel farmers were instructed by the government to shoot their animals. Most couldn't bring themselves to do it so set their animals free. They adapted well to the climate and now there are around 18000 camels in the wild. A camel ride is fantastic through the desert well worth it!

camel ride at sunset
camel ride at sunset

Uluru is a great place to visit I highly recommend it.
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Tips for Moving to the UK

March 16th 2008 06:02
Thousands Australians and New Zealanders go to the UK every year for their big OE. I went in 1998 with the intention of working and living in London for a year or two then coming back to settle down. I loved London and put off my homecoming for a few years I finally dragged myself away in 2006.
The first six months can be hard going, so here are some tips to make life a bit easier for you.
1. Visas There are several different types of visa for which you can apply. Check with the British Consulate for more details:
a. Working holiday visa This is the most common visa, which almost anyone under the age of 28 years can apply for.
b. Ancestry Visa This is what I had. For this visa, you need to have a grandparent born there prior to 1922 or something. You get four years after which you can apply for permanent residency.
c. Working Visa This is for five years and relies on you finding an employer to sponsor you.
d. Other Visas There are others for example if you are in a high demand profession such as teaching. Alternatively, if you have a parent born there you may even be able to get a passport.
Make sure you check out all the visa requirements with the consulate before going to the UK. Dont go to one of those visa specialists thinking you are more likely to get a visa that way. You wont its a waste of money and London exchange rates mean everything is expensive until you start earning pounds. Save all the money, you can.
2. Bank Accounts It can be hard work opening a bank account once you get to the UK. Banks often wont open an account for you unless you have a job. A few places wont give you a job unless you have a bank account. It is easier to open one before you leave, most of the Australian/New Zealand banks have a relationship with a bank in the UK. Another possibility is HSBC, even though they are not big players here they are huge over there, not only that they are one of the best in my opinion.
3. Accommodation It is easy if you know someone that lives there and you can crash on their floor until you find a job and somewhere more permanent. If not then hostels are the cheapest option they can be unpleasant though. Until you get a job, it will be difficult to get a flat in your own name so you will need to go into a share situation. If you want to stick with antipodeans the check out the www.thegumtree.com . There is also a paper called Loot, which has loads of house shares in it.
4. Finding a job There are many recruiters looking for Australians to do anything from finance, to bar work. Pick up a copy of TNT, which is available at a number of tube stations in London. Also, seek.co.uk has many jobs as well.
5. Heathrow Injection This a condition in which Aussies and Kiwis pack on the pounds soon after touchdown. The reasons for this are usually as follows, there are not as many healthy options for takeaway food as we have (although its starting to get a bit better), the weather is crap so people tend to stay in more or go to the pub, and in general people tend to drink more. Also in some cases well certainly for me, you can feel quite home sick in the first six months so there is a bit of comfort eating going on as well. I have seen the slimmest, buffest people suffer this weight gain my advice, just go with it dont fight it you will lose most of it as you get into a routine.
6. Homesickness The first six months is the worst but you get over it and used to not having your family on your doorstep. After awhile you might find you prefer it that way!
7. Finally An A-Z is the best investment you will make.
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Travelling with a Baby

March 1st 2008 06:35
Air travel can be a pain at the best of times especially now when everyone is on high alert, but air travel with a baby is a completely different kettle of fish! The first time we flew with Samantha she was two months old.
When flying with a baby there are a lot more things to consider. For example do I have enough boiled water to last us from the time we leave home until we get to the hotel at the other end and boil some more. In addition, I had to ring the airline to book the bassinet seat so that we did not have to carry Samantha on my knee for three hours. When we got to our destination, we needed a hire car to be waiting for us with the correctly fitted rear facing car seat as we could not just jump into a taxi with a young baby.
Of course, you have to get from your own home to the airport; and we cannot just call a taxi as most do not have a correctly fitted baby seat. We had to take our car to the airport and leave it in the long-term car park and catch the parking bus to the terminals. We happened to be travelling at 7pm on a Friday night, so there were a lot of people there at that time. By the time the parking bus got to us, it had been around the rest of the car park first so we were last on, and it was jam packed full of people and bags. We just managed to squash on, me with Samantha strapped on in the Baby Bjorn and holding one large carryon bag, and Paul with the pram full of suitcases. People on the bus were actually very nice; one man even put my bag on his lap because there was literally no other room for it


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