Year-on depression and a confession.

So here we are again. I feel like I’m sheepishly contacting an old friend after being absent for a year.

My last entry was about Amsterdam, and truthfully that wasn’t really the whole way through my trip. It tecccchnically was only just, if not not quite halfway. I kind of got swept up in the many moments that obscure your first overseas holiday. Barely making a train. Being bullied by gypsies. Being hypnotised by the many different supermarket items that look similar, but oh so different.

I guess I thought I’d get around to things, but here’s the confession: I got lazy.

This time a year ago I was in Paris, actually. On this day, a year ago, I went to the Centre Pompidou and saw the Jeff Koons exhibition and it was prettttty cool. I also ate a totally legitimate Parisian croissant, bought my dad a Le Tour de France tee, and acquired no less than 10 Eiffel Tower keyrings.

But I am here, now, again, to reflect on the adventure that was a year ago, and prepare for a new one.

That’s right.

I’m off to America in September/October.

My plan for now is to book my tickets (which is happening sooner rather than later) and then get writing again. I might even give you an update on what I did after Amsterdam part one. I took a lot of tacky photos which are begging for a place on the internet, after all.

Stay tuned in the meantime.

Carrie

 

Amsterdam part one: Doinka.

I never knew quite what to expect from Amsterdam.

I got off the DeutschBahn from Berlin at Amsterdam Centraal. From there, I met a very strange taxi driver who took me to my hotel. I explained I didn’t speak a lot of Dutch, but I asked him how I say ‘Thank you’ as I’d forgotten.

You just say “Doinka”, he replies.

Oh. Okay.

So there I was walking around Amsterdam saying “Doinka” to pretty much everyone I met. Buying a bottle of water. Getting a menu. Getting some groceries. Doinka, doinka, doinka. And I was getting some strange looks.

After a particularly quizzical look from someone at newsagent, I did a quick google. Thank you was ‘Bedankt’, or ‘Dankuwel’. And Doinka? Well it wasn’t Dutch, but don’t look for it on Urban Dictionary.

I was way off. Cabbie, if you’re reading this, you got the dumb tourist.

The hotel.

I was staying at a place called Hotel La Boheme. It was very quaint indeed and everyone there was lovely.

But when I checked in, the guy helping me out was like… “Have fun on the suicide stairs.”

I must have frozen because he goes, “Oh no, they’re murder stairs. Very steep.”

He wasn’t wrong.

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(I had to get my suitcase up and down that – and I was only one flight. Some people had to go up three. Apparently they get a beer voucher. Well deserved in my opinion.)

Funnily enough, for a lot of the day you’d hear a symphony of crashes and bangs, or a few sequential thud thud thud thuds. It was pretty obvious someone was checking in.

But the description of the stairs, yeah, just a little creepy.

Mimi.

The hotel has a mascot/resident cat named Mimi. She was awesome, and had not a care in the world. She wasn’t allowed in the dining area at meal times, but apart from that, all bets were off.

mimi

She has a good life, that kitty.

Dutch Television.

To be honest with you, I was just grateful there was MTV in my room. Yes, it had Dutch subtitles, but I can confirm the effect of Catfish and Ex on the Beach was not compromised in any way.

There was, however, an interesting game show.

tetris

I couldn’t understand what they were playing for, but I did understand that it was Tetris and apparently video games in Holland haven’t progressed past ’84. No complaints here.

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You’ll also be pleased to know infomercials still exist overseas, and they’re just as filled with empty promises. Even I could tell that and I clearly, as outlined above, am lacking in language skills.

Oops.

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I kind of got cocky with my suitcase. I zipped it up and locked it and ran off to get my train not realising that I’d accidentally changed the lock code. That was an interesting afternoon.

So after trying the numbers in the neighbourhood I remember my last code being in, I put the code back to 0-0-0 and started from scratch.

It got to 7-0-4.

Sigh.

It was a long afternoon. But somehow, the victory of cracking the code made me feel like a bogan watching Wheel of Fortune.

With that, stay tuned for part two.

Berlin: Act Two – Sights seen.

Being pretty inexperienced at travelling – apart from the odd foray into the Gold Coast – I have taken way too many pictures while I’ve been away. I’m going to spare you from all the hilarious things I photographed because they were “different, lol” and just get on with it.

Except this.

heh

Heh.
Anyway, over the five days I was there, I saw a lot and quite frankly, loved the place. Here are a few touristy things what I done.

The TV Tower.

So a lot of Berliners said that the TV Tower (or Berliner Fernsehturm) is a pretty overrated attraction. And look, I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t the thing I found most memorable, but I would’ve felt incomplete not taking at least a thousand photos of it.

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OOOOooooooh.

I did however see it as a good reference point. If I was just wandering around Mitte exploring, and I could see it, I was generally not too far from home.

And if I couldn’t? I was lost. It was a useful reference point to be honest.

The Brandenburg Gate.

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I actually wasn’t taking a picture of that guy, but here we go, a genuine tourist shot. The Brandenburg Gate/Brandenburger Tor/Brandy B is quite cool in real life. It took me a while to figure out how to get there, and this will cheer the Sydneysiders – because the trains to that S-Bahn station weren’t actually running that weekend. A little taste of the Bankstown line.

What you couldn’t see what how it was actually raining while I was trying to get this picture, and how after I took it the sky opened up. So my time there was limited, but still, great.

Not to make light of what is a very impressive structure, I couldn’t get the words of Dennis Denuto out of my head while I was standing in front of it.

Berlin. “It’s got a pretty good gate.”

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Checkpoint Charlie.

Now this seems to be the spot to get to if you’re a tourist, and my my was it touristy.

We all know it. Or do we? Either way, Checkpoint Charlie was the crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. I did my duty, took a few pics and had a little look around but to be honest, you’d be surprised you’d actually found it. It’s been preserved in a sense, but not to the point where you’re not dodging real traffic to go and see it. The signs are also placed where you’d assume people would sorta just walk under them if they were on their way somewhere else.

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That said, it was an interesting part of the world to find yourself in.

And this was a nice touch.

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Tempelhof Park.

I was sent here on a mission from my pal Edith to check this place out. I got INCREDIBLY lost on the way, finding myself walking up and down this one street, WIFI-less and totally lost.

I did see this though. Doesn’t this Willy guy look like a barrel-o-laughs?

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Anyway, eventually, after a mini-tantrum and a quick trip on the S-Bahn, I found myself at Tempelhof Park / Tempelhofer Feld.

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It is incredible. It’s a huge, defunct airport that now invites people to ride bikes, run, walk, and look like total dickheads on those segue (I’ve seen them called Segways too) things. Historically, it was used as an airport in Berlin up until 2008, and it was also the site for big creepy Nazi rallies which it’s quite famous for.

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Anyway, I like what they’ve done with it. I wandered around it for ages and felt like I’d walked nowhere, so I feel like a lap would probably take you a full 24-hours.

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And with that, the third and final instalment of Berlin is on its way.

Danke,

Carrie.

24 hours later.

Hallooo…

Here I am. In a different country, about to head to another. It’s actually my last night in Berlin, and I’ve had an awesome time here. I’ve had the best Turkish food I’ve ever eaten, seen some pretty excellent stuff, and had some old German guy have a go at me. I think.

But first things first.

To the airport.

Having a night flight, I had the whole day to prepare. Which is lucky, since I’ve always been a procrastinator. It’s not my fault, I always get things done and where I need to be, it’s just how I work best.

So it got to abouttttt 2pm and I thought I’d better pack. My incredibly cute mother decided she’d come to Sydney to drive me to the airport. After our fight about money pouches, we took some selfies…(togetheries?) but she’d kill me if I posted them, so here’s an artist’s impression.

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Anyway, I got to the airport, realised I didn’t know how to do life, waved goodbye to Mum, cried (what) and went into the customs bit.

Boarding the flight.

As they started to board, Coldplay’s ‘Sky Full of Stars’ came on over the general Sydney Airport radio. I didn’t know whether it was an incredibly poetic moment, or just a reminder of how much I hate that song. But nonetheless, I was feeling pretty sick and this didn’t help.

And there I was. On the plane.

Sitting right next to the toilets. And right behind business class.

economy living

But it wasn’t all bad. In fact, it was quite roomy. And my entertainment worked, which is always a plus. It turns out that my neighbour’s headphone jack thing was messed up and she couldn’t watch anything… which would absolutely suck… but the flight attendant was very apologetic and found her another seat. Alas, she didn’t like it.

This resulted in her returning to her seat next to me, taking a lap of business class, and then asking to be upgraded to first class.

(Bitch, please.)

Other highlights from the flight? The little kid sitting with her parents and baby brother who projectile vomited all over the walls and carpet probably wasn’t one. But the free-poured vodka soda wasn’t so bad.

Abu Dhabi.

Talk about being in a daze. I had a 3-hour wait at Abu Dhabi, and it was pretty uneventful. I did however find a Hungry Jacks/Burger King, and had my first very bogan culture shock.

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I of course, kid.

Oh, if you want a cigarette there, you have to go inside these creepy claustrocubes.

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Grosssss.

Man I tell you something though, that airport is not messing around with the décor.

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Leg two: Berlin, ho.

At this point I was preeeettttyyyyy grumpy. We got herded onto some buses and taken out to our plane. It felt like ages away, but at that point I was two-Xanax-down and ready for bed.

I found my seat – next to a fantastic gal named Johanna – who I ended up hanging out with in Berlin. She said she was grateful I wasn’t a child, and I said I was glad she wasn’t a psycho. It was friendship at first six-and-a-half-hour-journey.

When I wasn’t chatting to Johanna, or trying to figure out what “Ausgang” means (it’s Exit guys), I played the incredibly insulting Airberlin quiz, which was on your entertainment screen.

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Um, rude?
I’m tempted to send this shot as feedback to Airberlin about them as an airline.

Little did I know…

The catering on Airberlin was a sign of things to come. I’ve learned that Berlin is many things, but it is lactose-intolerant-intolerant.

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(Not pictured: the buttered bread roll I ate first. This is what was left – mac ‘n’ cheese, cheese, chocolate pudding, and some other salad with cheese.)

Anyyyyway, it was a pretty good flight in all. One of the highlights? Flying over the Middle East. The camera obviously doesn’t do it justice, but we had some amazing views. This is somewhere between Hamadan and Mahabad in Iran. (I checked on the in-flight thingy, I didn’t just guess.)

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And with that, some hours, some crying bubs, a guy in suspenders, and a sweeping view of gingerbread-style houses we landed in Tegel Airport, Berlin.

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I briefly spoke to the immigration officer after this, who had few teeth but many words to say about the German v Australia football match that was to be on that night. He was cool. He was mocking me, but he was cool.

And with nothing to declare, I was in a cab on the wrong side of the road on the way to Rosenthaler Platz… completely delirious.

Six hours on a train tomorrow to Amsterdam – a Berlin post to come!

Carrie

Passport pics: a beginner’s guide.

So, one of the big events of the past year is that I finally got my Irish Citizenship.

When I say ‘got’, I always ‘had’ it. I just had to fight my way through incredibly restrictive consulate hours (10-1 on weekdays, I mean come on…) and mountains of paperwork to actually CERTIFY it. And that was just my registry certificate for citizenship.

Fun fact: for the certificate application, you could get everything authorised by a PRIEST, but not a Justice of the Peace. Oh Ireland.

So, as happens when one is a citizen of a country, I am also entitled to a Republic of Ireland passport. That was a whole process on its own. You’ll be pleased to know I didn’t stick with my creepily photoshopped pics either.

But one of the best parts of this whole process was the ‘What not to do’ when posing for your passport pic.

Observe.

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So no selfies. Ok. That seems fair.

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No cute backgrounds. Or scarves. Harsh.

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No transitions lenses. Passport AND fashion advice?

And then I got curious. Here are some others from around the world.

1. Sashaying into South Africa.

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POINTER: Do not do a group shot for your passport in SA.

If it was good enough for Josie and the Pussycats and the Riverdale Transit Authority…

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And whatever you do, don’t get your picture taken from a suburb away.

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2. Joining in with Germany.

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Step back you’re dancing kinda close, lady.

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…Seems unnecessarily cruel. How are you meant to deal with that? I have a big head. I missed the whole cute hat thing and I’m pretty sensitive about it if you don’t mind. Poor kid. You’re not alone.

3. Let me in, Lithuania.

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Why this wouldn’t be approved is beyond me, it is literally flawless.

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…With hat.

4. Find a place for me, France.

France has potentially been my fave. And if you’re thinking of grabbing yourself a French passport, heed these guidelines carefully.

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Pictures taken at last week’s BBQ are not acceptable.

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There is ZERO TOLERANCE for PHOTOSHOPPED BUCKET HATS.

And finally?

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Your kid’s only allowed in if his dad is Daniel Craig.

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FIN.

A fun analysis of European lodging, in pictures.

Wherserrrrp.

Well, I’ve been a busy bee.

I’ve been looking into accommodation for #tbt (which I’m stealing for ‘The Big Trip’), and what a fun exercise in the internet this has been.

Anyway, I was going round and round in circles, just trying to find a place to sleep in these cities I’ve never been to. What if they’re gross? What if they have bed bugs? What if it’s like staying in Penrith?

Trip advisor has not been my friend. I’ve spent more time on that website than I care to think about in the last few weeks.

I’ve had post-booking regret. I’ve learnt the currency conversion lesson the hard way. I’ve learnt the word for toilet in Spanish (Indoro!)

But most importantly, I did think it was worth sharing a few highlights with you, if you care to see them.

1. Women Bed.

Paris, France. Women Bed. Picture that.

Paris, France. Best name ever. I also imagine a big bed made out of ladies.

 

2. Another Paris Hostel.

Still at Women Bed. Sadly, I decided to stay elsewhere, but I like escaping boys. And looking human.

At another Paris hostel. Sadly, I decided to stay elsewhere, but I like escaping boys. And looking human.

 

3. The Generator Hostel, Paris.

BONJOUR SALVADOR. Imagine waking up to that every f-ing morning.

BONJOUR SALVADOR. Imagine waking up to that every f-ing morning.

 

4. My hotel, Amsterdam.

Hahahaha butt hotel (I'm staying here)

Read: I’m staying on a giant butt.

 

5. Airbnb, London.

In London now. I saw character house and had this horrible fear I'd be lodging with furries. What's a furry? Don't google it at work.

In London now. I saw character house and had this horrible fear I’d be lodging with furries. What’s a furry? Don’t google it at work.

 

6. Where I decided to stay (The Mandarin).

Where I looked at staying.

Fancy. And only like $650 AUD p/n for the cheapest room.

 

7. Reality.

Where I am officially staying.

Where I am actually staying in London.

8. And… Conscious Hotel.

And finally, Amsterdam. Thank you for being creepy and ridiculous in equal measure.

And finally, Amsterdam. Thank you for being creepy and ridiculous in equal measure.

Wish me the best, and I’ll do the same for you next time you’re booking beds in foreign countries.

(Should I take my own pillowcases?)

Carrie.

 

 

Victoria, Dec 2014. Highlights, Lowlights, Insights, and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been doing a little bit of travelling, as this time of year calls for. I trust you all had full glasses and tummies over the past few weeks, and are all making resolutions to find your runners and locate a gym near you.

So I thought before I get into the panic that will be my appalling currency conversion estimates and backpack dilemma (this is a real thing), here are some highlights from the last few weeks.

Domestic travel, practise journey #1.
SYD – MEL – Meredith Music Festival.

My flight to Melbourne was at 10.20am. We sat on the runway for 20 minutes. This totally ruined the “this time in an hour we’ll be about to land” routine I have down pat, but it wasn’t the biggest problem of the day.

Mid-flight, the turbulence got so bad that the flight attendants said they had to stop serving drinks. I had one hand on my armrest and one on the seat in front, and with every bump I was cursing myself for getting on this stupid excuse for transport.

So, the guy next to me started laughing and then just said to me “Nahhhh bro (?) don’t worry, it’s like a roller coaster. It’s fun.”

Fun?

F off.

Anyway to my genuine surprise, we landed. I ran into the airport more excited than ever. Slightly troubling for the amount of sedation I’d had.

Sometimes you should judge a book by its cover.

Before I get to the whole story, I hired a campervan for this particular weekend, which upon serious deliberation was baptised “Vanereal Disease.”

It was from Jucy Campers (first red flag), and it was grossssssss. The mattress had been stapled together (and was splitting apart), they left a mouldy tea towel in the van, and there were stains everywhere… That I didn’t care to identify.

Here’s a blurry picture of the mattress, which accurately represented how I saw the world after a night’s sleep in this hell wagon. To their credit, they refunded part of the cost, but I don’t know how I go about chasing them up for pain and suffering.

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So don’t say I didn’t warn you, adventurers.

Meredith. The dusty jewel in the festival crown.

If you haven’t been there, it’s hard to explain what makes the Meredith festivals so dang good. And there’s no way I’ll be able to do it justice. Just know that it’s a great place and is run by very good people.

With my pals Ash and James and Ash’s bro + pals, we set off. First stop? A Werribee Servo, where thankfully, they have a wall dedicated to the quotes of great orators. Complemented by a stunning bug zapper. Straya mates.

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Coincidentally, they did an amazing bacon and egg roll. Seriously.

So we set off to the Golden Plains Shire to our beloved Meredith. Ash and I took a wrong turn (or didn’t make the turn) and ended up heading towards the Great Ocean Road or something, which I actually wouldn’t have minded – but doesn’t help when you’re in a convoy. We blame each other for the missed exit. I actually really blame the van for everything.

But we got there, and it was glorious. Well we queued for a little while, but that’s part of the fun.

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8am. Aka the view from Tinny Time.

Too much to say.

It was a great weekend. To make the whole review palatable, I’ve broken it into highlights and lowlights.

Lowlights:

  • It was so dusty… that after one morning, I could remove my thongs and a dirt outline of them remained. But it was kind of cool, let’s be honest. Also, we were sneezing dirt for days after. But I’m okay with that too. Souvenirs?
  • Some chick brought a full length mirror. My camp witnessed her dragging it out of her car and into her tent. I mean to each their own but really. REALLY.
  • Shower tokens. They only last 3 minutes. But that’s okay, it’s a lesson in what you can achieve in that time. And it’s a surprising amount.
  • Dickheads. I personally witnessed a group of dickheads doing beer bongs. The beer bongs weren’t the problem. The problem was they were singing Drake while their mates drank. So everyone was subject to rounds of  “Started from the bottom now we’re here” while their pals downed VB through a traffic cone.

Highlights:

  • The music, obviously. War on Drugs, Mark Lanegan, The Harpoons, Augie March, Ghostface Killah and De La Soul crushed it… along with the City of Ballarat Brass Band, of course.
  • (It’s) The vibe. Cheesy as it may sound, Aunty Meredith and her townsfolk make you feel very welcome. And it’s always nice knowing you’re buying a bacon and egg roll or a snag off the Meredith Cricket Club or equally lovely local organisation.
  • The food. Man, people don’t think about a festival being DELICIOUS but seriously, from the veggie burgers to the Beatbox burgers, it’s a winner.
  • The company. I was with awesome people, and quickly saw other pals which was nice. But most importantly, Ash and James got engaged! LITTLE CUTIES. Also we met some guy who had half a beard, which was interesting. He said it was a compromise between him and his wife. Shrug.
  • Meredith. From the music to the sunsets to the people to the housekeeping to the BYO alcohol, you are the best.

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Aaaand that about does it. Back to Europe freakouts next blog.

PS – When I was in Melbourne CBD waiting to go back home I saw the lamest coffee sign ever.
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… Warning…

PPS – I drove back, and I got to pat this cool dog on the way.

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