Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Chocolatiers & Pralines!

After spending copious amounts of money on chocolate (most of which is already gone) and having a royal time in Belguim I have decided I am ridiculously broke. But it was money well spent. Belguim is a beautiful country with lots of quaint medieval towns.

I flew in to Brussels but headed straight out to Antwerp where I spent a few hours enjoying the shopping district. Honestly, while it seemed like a nice city, a few hours there and I was ready to leave. I made my way back to the train station and managed to catch a train to Brugge without getting lost. I'd wanted to go to Brugge for ages and it was definitely worth the wait. It was magical due to the Christmas festivities. There were Christmas lights set up everywhere and in the square there were little stalls set up for a Christmas market with an ice skating rink in the middle. I made my way onto there for about 20 minutes before deciding that I didn't want to be run over by a 15 year old who thought that they were brilliant and didn't care that I was slowly crawling around the ice. They zoomed straight past me twice before I'd even made it around once. But it was fun and that's the whole point of experiencing Christmas during winter.

Some people say that Brugge is touristy and fake and yes, there were loads of tourists but it was nice all the same. I would recommend going there, especially at Christmas. The smell of hot chocolate was wafting through the air and while I decided I do not like waffles, you could smell their sweet scent as you walked through the town. There was no McDonalds which I found quite reassuring.

I would have liked to have spent more than a day in Brugge just to soak up the atmosphere. I had the yummiest hot chocolate where they gave me a hot chocolate in a mug, a small jug of mint syrup, a small container of clotted cream and sugar cubes (one brown sugar cube, one white - just in case!) You then added these items to your hot chocolate as you pleased - so it wasn't just a 'standard' hot chocolate, it was personalised. I really enjoyed it. They had 52 flavours of chocolate - hot and cold. I wish I could have tested more.

I went on a canal cruise which almost reminded me of Venice and Amsterdam although Brugge is unique in its scenery. It's so serene. So many people exploring such a small town but there were many times when I was exploring the streets yet I encountered no one. I felt quite safe.

I then successfully made my way to Brussels where I spent the night in a gorgeous hostel called Sleep Well (check out and woke up the next morning rather refreshed and ready to explore this Gothic style city. I was exhausted by this stage (even though I slept well) and was a bit over wandering around a foreign city. I lugged my backpack with me which got really heavy as I'd bought a bit in Brugge the day before. I decided I didn't want to take a suitcase with me which seemed like a great idea at the time - not so great for my back afterwards. Still it all comes down to an experience! I also got chatted up by a few Belgium boys but they were kinda scary so I stopped their conversations pretty quickly!

Anyway check out the photos! It was a pretty great weekend away if I do say so myself. I loved almost every minute of it (the minutes I didn't love was when I had a cold shower in one of the hostels!)

P.S I can't figure this out - Sweden = Swedish... Australia - Australian... France = French... Italy = Italian so Belgium = ??? and Finland does that = Finnish? Yes, I have a confused mind!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Searching for a room mate

...has been such a painful experience!

We've had...
...people who can't speak English (which isn't a bad thing but it makes discussing the room over the phone extremely difficult)
...people say they want the room then change their minds.
...guys who've rung up when I've stipulated that I don't want to share with a male.
...a girl ring up who spent about 10 minutes asking me all these questions about the room that WERE ON THE FREAKING AD!
...people who we wanted to take the room but they didn't like it!

So, it has been a frustrating experience and not one that I've enjoyed so much. We've now got an English girl who is moving into the room with me. I'm not too sure about her but unfortunately she will pay the rent (hopefully) and can give Kelly her deposit which is pretty much our main concern. I was worried that she might not be the easiest person to share with but as one of my friends told me... if she really is a pain to live with then I can always move out! It's not like I am stuck here with no means of escape!

Also, I'm trying to remember the positive thinking - it could turn out to be extremely fun. She might be an awesome chick and become a good friend. Or at least it will give me another story to take home with me. There is ALWAYS something positive to come out of every experience.

She moves in on the 1st of December so only time will tell how this experience goes. I will keep you all updated I'm sure.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Simone in Sweden

Imagine a light blanket of snow covering luscious green grass while reindeer prance around the beautiful scenery... Well, minus the part about the reindeer, we did see gorgeous snow falling lightly whilst in Sweden. It was wonderful. Cold but wonderful. I had several layers of clothing on yet still felt cold. I always underestimate the weather.

I didn't have any expectations of Sweden to be honest. Kelly and I decided we'd go to Stockholm because the flights were really cheap and we only realised after we'd booked that we didn't actually know where Stockholm was. We discovered it was in Sweden which excited Kelly because she really wanted to meet a Swedish man called Sven (unfortunately we didn't). We'd heard that Stockholm was an amazing city but didn't know why but we set off to discover it for ourselves.

Honestly, I am a bit bored of going just to the capital cities because while the architecture changes and the layout is a bit different ultimately they basically contain all of the same things - same shops, supermarkets, tacky souvineer shops, etc. Still, it was interesting to see that Stockholm is based on 14 small islands. We didn't see all the islands but we went to Gamla Stan which is refered to as Old Town and we thought it was beautiful there.

As we were strolling around Stockholm it was lightly snowing and we found an out door ice-skating rink and went skating in the snow. That was so much fun. A young kid named Emilio befriended us and he followed us around on the ice-skating rink and then threw tiny baby sized snow balls at me when Kelly and I had a snow fight. Absolutely gorgeous kid. I stacked it twice while skating - I think I got a bit optomistic with my speed and landed quite nicely on my bottom but it was fun. I had a massive bruise the next day on both my knees. Ouch.

We went to a bar that night and met some local Swedish boys who were lovely to chat to. I sang a few songs on karaokee which was interesting - no one booed at me so I think I did okay. We went with some guys we met at our hostel and oh my goodness.. you really do need to be careful who you trust. One of the guys was an absolute darling (a show off but nice) and the other guy who was Brazilian was a wanker. Kel and I got ready to leave and he'd decided to stay but changed his mind. I went to the toilet and left Kelly outside with him for a few minutes and when I came outside Kelly looked terrified and the Brazilian dude didn't look happy. Anyway we caught the taxi home and while Kelly and I left him so we could grab a drunken kebab to eat she told me what happened... Apparently when he came outside Kelly said something to him in a sweet voice and he grabbed her by the hair and pulled it hard and yelled something like 'DON'T YOU DARE SPEAK TO ME LIKE THAT' and whatever else so she was freaked out. Some weird people in the world. So, he headed back to the hostel, we went in search of food and on the way we bumped into some guys who asked us if we wanted to 'suck their white nigger cock'.... yeah like I said, interesting! We got our food and started walking back to the hostel when some guy in a white car starts driving slowly beside us and tries talking to us in Swedish. By this stage Kel and I were a bit freaked out by the Brazilian and the cock guys so we bolted towards our hostel (which was a metre away) and locked the door behind us. Next thing we know we hear this tapping on the glass and Kel goes to open the door with me whispering to leave it shut - turns out if was just this guy from the hostel who'd forgotten his code. So my point is travelling independently is fine but you just need to be smart!

We decided that we didn't want to spend another day exploring Stockholm even though we'd barely touched on the city but we both wanted to get out and explore another town. We were recommended this place called Sigtuna which was an hour and a half out of Stockholm and it was the most beautiful little town. Small, local shops with real Swedish people. It was lovely and the landscape was beautiful. It didn't snow that day but there was some on the grass and around so it was very pretty.

Words really can't describe our Swedish experience but I would have to say that this would be one of my favourite trips thus far. It was so nice to take things at our own pace and explore what we wanted. We've become much more independent as travellers and feel comfortable going off the beaten track a little bit more now.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Guy Fawkes Night & Random News!

Yesterday England celebrated Guy Fawkes night with loads of fireworks. Actually, the whole weekend was a series of non-stop fireworks. It was fantastic. We could see some out of our window! I actually went to Battersea Park to see a firework display but it wasn't so crash hot. Although there was a massive bonfire which was great - it reminded me of when I was younger and we used to have council bonfires to get rid of our junk - but they've stopped doing that for health and safety reasons. Funny how it worked so well for years and then all of a sudden it's starting to pose a risk... I don't get it but then again I'm not the one in charge.

As for the "random news" I have finally offically quit the job that I didn't like and go back to being just an ordinary supply which I am sure I will complain about at some point but for now I am extremely happy! I at least get to wake up and it's a surprise as to where I'll end up. I love it.

Kelly is moving out in December so we're on the hunt for a new room mate for me... So far we had a Ukranian guy who told us that he liked the house although we need to clean more and he chewed his gum like an absolute nutter. Plus I don't want to share with a guy! The next girl was a Saffa and a teacher, she seemed ok. There was a French student who seemed lovely and I'd like her to move in but we've got an Aussie coming tomorrow so we'll see what she's like and then see whether we need to re-advertise. It's actually quite fun!

I've organised my side of the room a bit better so it sort of feels a bit more homey - well, as much as it can get in a room share. I've decided I'm not a huge fan because the room is quite small although it is cheap and the house is amazing. And I think I'm starting to warm up to the house mates a little bit more now. The one I don't get along with so well is moving out which is good for me.

I looked at my budget and realised that I might be a bit screwed for money especially if I want to go to Canada. So, I think in January I will look at getting a second job working in a bar or something and working flat out for a while to save some extra cash. It's crazy but there is so much I want to do and there is no way I will let money stop me. It just means I'll have to be even more careful with what I do with it. I was meant to go to Scotland with a group of friends but now I'm not so sure I really want to go just because Scotland isn't one of my major must see countries so if I don't go then I'll save loads of money. But who knows what will end up happening anyway. Hopefully my UK tax is enormous and then I will have a decent chunk of money for Canada.