Category Archives: Updates

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Life, lately.

What’s that? You’re desperately wanting to know what I’ve been up to in the last month and a half?
That’s what I thought you said.

I’ve had so many good things happening lately: I had a birthday, holidayed in France, took up baking, went back to yoga and other exciting things!

So here it is, bits and pieces of what I’ve been doing in the last little while.

Visiting Eastbourne
One drizzly Sunday I decided to jump on the bus to head to Eastbourne, home of Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, a wonderful movie which you should put on your list to see if you haven’t already. It was a lovely hour bus ride, driving through some gorgeous scenery like the Seven Sisters Country Park, which I want to head back to and photograph soon. Eastbourne had some cute little markets along the seafront, a small but surprisingly interesting Royal National Lifeboat museum and the Wish Tower (small defensive fortress) on top of the hill which was built in the early 1800’s for defence in the Napoleonic wars. Eastbourne is known locally as ‘God’s waiting room’, and there is certainly a large proportion of older people there, but I was happy because I found some great ‘old lady skirts’ including a very cool lavender pleated skirt for next to nothing in the charity shop!

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Little beach houses and the life guards along the seafront.

Birthday Celebrations
At the end of September I had my 28th birthday, and to celebrate I bought myself a title. Yes, a title. You may now refer to me as Lady Amanda.
I am the proud owner (well, not owner, it’s actually dedicated in my name, but whatever) of two square feet in the Lake District! I am going to build a paddle-pop stick castle and cement it to my holdings.

I know that the English believe this to be terribly crass, but I actually don’t care. I’m claiming the non-classy Australian part of me here and saying it’s well cool!

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I am now known at work as ‘Lady A.D.’

Holiday in the French countryside
A few days after my birthday I flew to France, to spend a week with my great-aunt, and I had the most amazing week with her and her partner, plus a couple of their friends. They live on a small farm called Guimondiere in Saint Aubin du Désert, in the Pays de la Loire region of France, and it’s just a stunning area.

We lounged around the gîte (the holiday house that they let out during the summer – check it out, you can stay there too!), ate huge amounts of fresh baguette and cheese, drank copious amounts of wine, cooked with all homegrown vegetables from the vege patch (one of my favourite parts of the holiday!), crafted at the local Stitch & Bitch club (it does have another name officially, but it’s long and in French), attempted to go to a few different markets (where every time we ended up getting lost or rained out, until the very last day!) and generally just soaked up the beauty of country France.

Every day we visited a new little town or village, and I got to see Alençon, Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei, Frênes, Lassay-les-Châteaux, and a bunch of other little places that we drove through. Here are some photos:

My felting craftiness at the Stitch & Bitch club. It has bells!!!

My felting craftiness at the Stitch & Bitch club. It has bells!!!

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Chapel of Saint Céneri

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Saint Céneri, looking down at the village from up at the church.

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The chateau of Lassay-les-Châteaux. I’ve decided that I want to live on this side of the lake so I can look out of my window and see this every single day.

A chateau in ruins at Sillé le Guillaume. I thought it looked a bit like the mermaid lagoon from Peter Pan. So pretty!

A chateau in ruins at Sillé le Guillaume. I thought it looked a bit like the mermaid lagoon from Peter Pan. So pretty!

Twilight at Sillé le Guillaume

Twilight at Sillé le Guillaume

My aunt and I, hanging out near (yet another) chateau in Frênes.

My aunt and I, hanging out near (yet another) chateau in Frênes.

Other bits and pieces
Since my little holiday I’ve mainly been working, yoga-ing, baking etc. But yesterday I decided to head into town to visit the Royal Pavilion, built as a summer holiday palace (because why would you have a holiday home when you can have a holiday palace) in the late 1700’s for the Prince Regent George, who would become King George IV. He was widely known and often hated for his lavish parties and love of all things edible (he had his world-renowned chef throw a dinner for a few people with 100 dishes on the menu!!!), and basically ended up dying from being too fat.

I spent two hours walking around the palace, and sadly they don’t allow any photos inside (such a shame, because it’s amazing!), but below is a picture of the outside. Keep in mind, this palace is smack bang in the middle of Brighton, and they have the grounds open to the public (which is where I often spend hours sitting and reading), they’ve converted the stables (which are huge, and in the same style as the palace) into a museum and also a performance space. My favourite part of it all was that the palace was used as a hospital for the Indian soldiers who were wounded in the first world war (almost a quarter of a million soldiers from India and Nepal fought for Britian!). Also, that Queen Victoria (who inherited the palace later) was disappointed when she came her saying it was a ‘strange, odd, Chinese looking place, both outside and inside’, and hated the fact that it was so close to the sea but she could only see it from one window. I think she was being a bit fussy, personally.

Yes, this building is in the middle of Brighton. And even though it's Indian on the outside, it's Chinese on the inside!

Yes, this building is in the middle of Brighton. And even though it’s Indian on the outside, it’s Chinese themed on the inside!

So, this is what I’ve been up to. I’m getting super excited about Christmas here – there are already lights up over the street in Brighton, and little craft fairs are starting to pop up everywhere. I seriously start to bubble over with giddiness when I think about scarves, mulled wine, Christmas markets, roasted nuts, coats and Michael Buble’s Christmas album.

I’m planning a few more little outings here and there over the next month or so. There is Día de los Muertos (better known as the Mexican Day of the Dead) at one of my favourite pubs which includes theme dress up and face painting, a Fairy Tale Fair complete with a vintage tea room and Guy Fawkes celebrations in Lewes (the biggest in the UK!). I’m also thinking I might catch a bus out to somewhere in Kent soon, because it’s only one county over, it’s known as the ‘garden of England’, and I’m thinking it’s going to be incredibly beautiful in the autumn. If anyone knows of the best places to go in Kent, please let me know!

Until next time I will leave you with a photo from my Saturday night selfies photoshoot (what else is a girl meant to do on a Saturday night?). This is me and Karl, the bird I bought home from France.
Au revoir!

Karl, the only bird I like because he won't fly in my face.

Karl, the only bird I like because he won’t fly in my face.

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Loving London (or, how I gave my heart to Brighton)

I’ve been neglecting to post what I really should… part two of the Paris photos. But this last weekend I did few days in London, and I thought while it was fresh in my mind I should post it up.

I went up on Saturday evening to meet my cousin who was flying in to hang for a few days before she kicked off a Contiki tour, and also to say goodbye to my sister at the airport on Sunday.

Side note: I am feeling a teensy bit sad about my sister leaving, because she was a sort of security blanket – someone I knew and could depend on for company in this town. On the other hand, it’s a little exhilarating, a push to jump in to the water and put myself out there to meet other people. Overall, I think it’s a good thing.

But back to London – we didn’t do too much on this amazingly sunny and hot weekend, mainly just enjoyed the best of London in the great weather. Sunday we walked around, taking in Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, some household cavalry guards… you get the drill. We hung out in Covent Garden in the evening, an area that stays lively until late, brimming with people, market stalls and street performers. Monday we did the London Free Walking Tour with the same brilliant company I toured with in Paris. They didn’t disappoint the second time round either. Finishing off the day at the massive four-storey Primark store on Oxford Street, I rested my weary legs in a corner while my cousin waited 40 minutes just to try on her items in the dressing room!!!

Below is some photo evidence of the great weekend:

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Cider, crisps and cookies in St James Park. A beautiful lazy Sunday afternoon.

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London Pride, flying from one of the parliamentary buildings.

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My lovely cousin with a stoic guard.

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The classic ‘Big Ben’ shot, which is actually the nickname of the bell in the tower… the tower itself was renamed the Elizabeth Tower for the grand old lady’s jubilee.Image

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An iPhone panoramic with me on the right photographing ‘Big Ben’.

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A lovely iPhone selfie, my cousin and I hanging in Covent Garden, drinking ciders on the street and watching street performers.

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A hilariously dirty street performer who likes to ‘mount’ people from the audience….

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… and juggled a running chainsaw.

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And strolling home I saw this beautiful ballerina in a bubble, hanging from the side of a building.

I’m really looking forward to coming back to London and spending a weekend by myself to do some more walking tours (particularly this Grim Reaper tour), the National Portrait Gallery and the British Museum. Hopefully I’ll be able to do it in a month or so.

I must say though, when my bus rolled back in to the bus stop in Brighton, and I looked out the window to see the Brighton Pier lights flashing, I felt a little leap of joy. I do love London, but it was so nice to be home. Yes, home.

Home is where the heart is, and I think I’ve given my heart to Brighton.

Feeling très French

So it’s time for an update. I’ve been in Paris now for four days, and I am starting to really enjoy it. In fact, I have been mistaken for a Parisian six times in the last 48 hours!

Firstly, I’d like to say that I have enjoyed my journeying in France thus far, but travelling alone is very different.
Pros – You get to do what you want to do when you want to do it. If I choose to wake up at 9.30am and take my sweet time getting ready and out the door, there is no one to tell me that I’m wasting my day away. Likewise I can spend what I want, eat what I want, when I want, and feel no guilt (except what I put on myself, and I can always justify that away). When I decide that today experiencing Paris means reading a book for three hours in Jardins des Tuileries, then I can enjoy it!

Cons – There is no one around to say ‘oh my gosh, did you see that!’, or ‘that’s brilliant, do you want to do that with me?’. Sharing the moment is a little hard. Also, there is no one around to take a photo of you jumping in front of the Arc de Triomphe, or go with you to take night shots of the Eiffel tower all lit up (which I haven’t done yet, because it’s not the same by yourself). Hassling other people is an option, but I’m scared of handing someone my camera and having them run away with it.

Today though, I think is the first time that I’ve had a truly wonderful French experience. I’ve done some day tours (if you want an amazing free walking tour check out Sandemans New Europe Tours) and museums the last few days, and then trundled back to where I am staying to make myself an awesome fresh baguette from the local boulangerie, with deliciously creamy camembert (so cheap!), tomato and olive tapenade, accompanied by a glass of Merlot.

This morning I woke up late (around 9.30am), pottered around slowly, taking my time to shower, get ready, check facebook, answer emails etc. Then I took the metro to Jardins des Tuileries (the gardens of the Louvre) and bought a takeaway breakfast/lunch (coffee, mozzarella and tomato panini, and a pain au chocolat), enjoying the little bits of sun shining through and reading a book for a few hours. Then I went to the Louvre itself to join a small group tour (five people, run by the Arnaud at Babylon Tours) which was a fantastic entertaining few hours. I highly recommend using Arnaud for any private or small group tours around Paris. He definitely earned more than I paid in just the answers to my questions!

I decided to walk to the Latin Quarter (which was a bit of an effort considering my right foot has decided to hate me for walking on a lot of uneven cobblestones and footpaths for the last few days… I think I might have strained something somewhere) and find some dinner. After making it through Saint-Germain-des-Prés without getting lost, I turned down a little side street, then up another one and stumbled across a fondue restaurant called Heurex Comme Alexandre. I’ve never tried fondue before, and thought ‘what the hell… I’m in Paris!’

I turned up and a beautiful french man bounjoured me. I asked if they could do ‘fondue fromage végétarienne’ and he said ‘oui oui!’. Actually he didn’t say that exactly, but he did say yes. Then the owner Alex (of Alexandre fame) came out and he spoke brilliant English. Such a lovely man. They bought me a complimentary apértif , then a salad, then the bread, the potatotes, the fondue… I had a glass of wine, then another one, and basically I’m blaming Alex for the fourth glass. Also for the chocolat tarte he made me have. I’m not even joking, he said ‘come on, have it for me’. So I did. Also for me though, let’s be honest.

Across the road from where I was eating, drinking, smoking, and reading in the restaurant, there is a little second hand bookshop that has a Canadian flag hanging above it. About half way through my meal there was a group of people that sat at tables outside it and started playing guitar and singing! I was totally moved by their Coldplay and Beatles renditions, and eventually almost three hours later, after an amazing gastronomical experience, I tipsily made my way down to the metro to catch the train back. To complete my perfect typical French night there was of course a man playing a piano accordion when I got in the carriage. Happily I toe-tapped my way back to my station and eventually got home (after entering the wrong apartment complex, mixing up 30 and 32 in my slightly sozzled state).

Before today I was thinking that maybe Paris was just another slightly-charming city that smelled slightly like Vietnam if you stepped up the wrong lane way. But after tonight I have to admit that I have once again been won over to the city of love.

Here is some supporting evidence:

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Along the Seine

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The best outfit on a street performer that stands still for a living that I’ve seen yet!

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Ever wanted to know how to put up an obelisk? The instructions are in gold on the side.

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Like this even needs a caption….

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Looking out over Paris from a clock window at the Musée d’Orsay

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Looking out of another window at the Musée d’Orsay (not just great for Impressionist art, but also amazing views!) for the view over Paris, with the Sacré Coeur right at the top of the hill.

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Me and the pink sphinx hanging. Better than the pink panther I reckon. At least he’s not a cartoon.

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Galerie d’Apollon (Gallery of the Sun King) commissioned by Louis the 14th who loved Apollo and basically wanted to be him.

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See the Mona Lisa in the distance over there? Yeah, I didn’t bother. Did you know that the Mona Lisa only got really famous just over 100 years ago because it was stolen by an Italian cleaner (wanting to return it to his home country and make some money), and then when it resurfaced it suddenly had all this extra security and it was in all the newspapers and was this massive thing. It actually took them TWO WHOLE DAYS to realise it was missing from the Louvre. That’s why it’s famous. Not even DaVinci’s best work.

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Doing a worrying impression of ‘The Young Martyr’ by Paul Delaroche – my favourite painting here (I bought a print of it seven years ago when I was here last!)

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Amazing fondue dinner with bread, potatoes, wine, salad and of course fondue!

Brighton Beginnings

Well today will be my fifth day in the lovely sunny (so far) town of Brighton.

I don’t yet have a reliable or fast internet connection, so uploading some photos is about all I can do at the moment as far as a blog post is concerned!

I go to Paris in a couple of days and I believe that I will have internet access there, so I will hopefully blogging from there.

I’m off to get a cup of tea now, but these are some shots I took yesterday in North Laine and down at the seaside. They will have to speak for me until I have time to tell my stories!

 

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Looking down one of the streets in the North Laine

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On my list of things I definitely need to try.

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Can I eats them?

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I’d kill for legs like this.

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I just love a good sign.

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Hello ladies!

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Just a typical pub in Brighton

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Obviously there is a lot of nasty crime going on here in Brighton.

The clock all dressed up in t-shirts for Brighton Festival

The clock all dressed up in t-shirts for Brighton Festival

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Close up of the t-shirts that are covering the clock

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Around the Brighton Pier

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Fly, little birdie, fly!