Archive for the ‘UK’ Category

Time flies when your having fun

12 Sep 10

Meknes - Morocco

The title of this post explains why I haven’t made a post in the last 9 months. Ive been travelling (yet again), working and relocated back home to Sydney, Australia, leaving London behind. Follow me on twitter to stay in the loop.

Here’s the quick version of what I got up to in the first few week of my 3 month trip home, most of the links below are some pictures I took along the way.

  • I worked for most of the English winter until April. I packed up my stuff and shipped it home, gladly I managed to fit it into one tea-chest box. Looking back I really miss London, there is always something to do no matter what day of the week it is. Saying goodbye to my friends in London town was a sad moment, we had so much fun, ill never forget it.
  • Good Friday was when my next adventure would begin. First stop was Porto in Portaugal, followed by beautiful Lisbon and a night train to Madrid, Spain. I was lucky enough to couchsurf in central Madrid, minutes away from Plaza Mayor for a few days, I headed out to the spanish countryside to Avila & Toledo as well.
  • To celebrate ASOT450 I headed to Bratislava in Slovakia in a tiny ATR 42 is a twin-turboprop plane  for a night, then headed to Wroclaw for a second night of ASOT450. After two flights, catching the wrong train and being ripped off by a taxi driver I finally made it to Wroclaw only to find out ASOT450 was canceled due the Polish president and his wife being killed in an air crash. I was so drained that day, sometimes things such don’t go to plan.
  • I spent a week in Poland visiting Wroclaw, Krakow (Auschwitz & Salt Mine) and Warsaw. Disaster struck again as flights were grounded in most of the EU due to the volanci ash spewing out of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland. After waiting 3 hours in line to purchase a train ticket to Berlin, Germany I was over the moon. Poland was in mourning, shops and daily life was slow down to minimum, so I was glad I was leaving.
  • I ended up spending an unplanned week in Berlin (I also checked out Potsdam) trying to get to get to Morocco anyway posible, I booked a 34 hour train trip to Tarifa which is on the tip of south Spain and catch a ferry over to Taniger in Morocco. Yes I was that desperate. Fortunately a few days later the planes where flying again and I got to Morocco in less than 34 hours. YAY!!!! Only downfall is I missed my tour group in Morocco by one week. Gecko Adventures which I booked my trip through didn’t refund my money or have any compassion for  the situation I was in. My advice is to steer clear of them.
  • I had to tackle  Morocco on my own without any pre-reading before hand, in the end I visited Casablanca, Taniger, Fes, Meknes, Rabat (Capital), Marrakesh all by train. I throughly enjoyed my time in Morocco, never meet some many locals that are genuinely  friendly and I stayed in some amazing guest houses (hostels don’t really exist over there).

Thats the first 5 weeks of my adventure, stay tuned for the next few weeks I spend visiting the Middle East.

Billy Elliot the Musical

13 Jan 10

Billy Elliot the Musical

Just a quick post, last week I scooped up a cheap ticket to attended my first West End musical – Billy Elliot. I was amazed at the young talented actors on stage and the attention to detail in the set design. The musical has been running for 5 years in London and has expanded to New York, Sydney, Melbourne and this year opens in Chicago & Seoul.

I had an enjoyable evening and looking forward to my next visit to a West End production.

Reflecting on 2009 – Part 1

05 Jan 10

Overlooking Monte Carlo, Monaco

Looking back at 2009 it was quite an exciting and eventful year, I met many people and visited numerous cities on my numerous trips mostly around Europe. Here a few highlights of what I got up to.

  • Lady Gaga – One of the great aspects of living in London is the never ending list of bands & artists performing, both big and small. Lady Gaga was the Gig for 2009, she put on a great performance at Heaven.
  • Manchester – Headed up for the weekend to checkout nightlife on Canal Street – met some great people at my hostel, we great night out
  • Hamburg – Took advantage of the Ryanair’s silly fares (£5 return) and went to Hamburg Germany for the weekend.
  • Nightwish – A Finish band which would probably never make it to Australia was playing in London, so it was a must do. Had an enjoyable evening at their Gig, only downside was I had to sit down the entire time 🙁
  • London – So much is happening in this city visited Hyde Park, September GigFoam Party @ Heaven and Shortdich House.
  • Brighton – Spent Easter couch surfing in Brighton.
  • Armin Van Buuren – Been such an avid fan I went to Birmingham & Ministry of Sound in London (twice :)) to see him DJ.
  • Sensation – I flew all the way to Budapest Hungry to attended Sensation – Ocean of White, this was my second couch surfing experience. I had a great time and really enjoy my time in Budapest.
  • 2 Week Trip – Spent two weeks mostly traveling by train around Europe, first stop was Amsterdam which they were celebrating Queen’s Day (National Holiday) followed by Berlin, Zurich, Rome, Venice & Barcelona.
  • 46 Day Camping Trip – I haven’t done much camping beforehand but I braved the conditions and best time EVER, its one huge trip I will never forget.
    • I visited many cities, our tour started in London and continued into Paris, Barcelona, back into France to visit the French Riveriva (Nice, Cannes & Monaco),  Verona, Venice, Pisa, Florence, Rome, Capri (one of my favorites) and Pompeii.
    • We took an over night ferry from Italy to the laid back island of Corfu, Greece after relaxing, drinking cocktails & doing watersports we headed to Athens, then crossed over into Turkey one place I would love to head back to. After our time in Istanbul & Gallipoi we headed into the Eastern Block. Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania & Montenengro where very different and full of surprises along the way. We spent a 3 lovely days in Dubronivk Croatia. Hungary was next followed by Bratislava, Slovakia, Austria, Mathausen Concentration Camp, Cesky Krumlov in Czeck Reupublic then onto Prague.
    • Our camping trip was coming to an end, our next stop was Munich the home of Octoberfest, entered Switzerland, the scenery amazing we visited Lucerne & Jungfrau. Back into Germany to visit Heidelberg, St Goar & Rhine Valley. To finish up we headed to Amsterdam then back to London.
  • Spent a few days soaking up the London Summer before I set out more travels. Watch out for Part 2.

Couchsurfing in Brighton

16 Apr 09

brighton-uk

In my last post I was heading down to Brighton for the Easter long weekend. The trip from London to Brighton via train was a very quick 1 hour journey, much closer then I first thought.

I had organised to stay on a strangers couch which is known as couchsurfing, this was a first for me. Your host doesn’t charge you to stay but more importantly their local knowledge of the city your visiting is what I found to be the real winner. In return you can host them when they come visit your home town.

  • The first night my host took me out with his friends & flatmates to experience the nightlife Brighton had to offer.
  • My host & flatmates cook up a very English Chicken Roast dinner complete with my very first home made Yorkshire Pudding.
  • The Royal Pavilion – It was built in the early 19th Century as a seaside retreat for the then Prince Regent.
  • Brighton Pier – mini theme park on the pier, was quite busy with spectacular views.
  • Brighton Mania – some expensive boats & property around this area, the marina is home to variety of shops & upmarket restaurants.
  • Explored the ‘lanes’ of Brighton which are filled with clothing stores, cafes & all sorts of arty & homeware shops.
  • Devils Dyke – Had a beer and took in the calming views of the English countryside.

I had great weekend away meeting new people & places, the couchsurfing experince was daughtning at first but I was made very welcome and settled in with no dramas.

Job Update + Out & about in London

10 Apr 09

finsbury-park-london-daffodils

I have been without a job for close to a month now. The market has been quite tough especially towards the end of March, early April being the end of the financial year in the UK.

In the past week I have noticed in the area of Front End Development the contact side of the job market has improved quite rapidly. So much so I have attended a number of interviews and had 3 jobs offers! I can’t believe the turnaround. I start my new job on Tuesday working on a great project.

With the temperatures warming up and days getting longer now was a great time to get outdoors, here’s what ive been up to over the past few weeks…

  • Sleeping in  🙂
  • Finsbury Park – This 45 hectare park is just up the road, its massive spanning over 2 suburbs.
  • Hyde Park & Green Park – Located in central London, had a lovely day walking around.
  • Heaven Foam Party – Loads of fun was soaking wet by the end of the night.
  • South Bank – Nice warm weather, people were flocking outdoors for the sunshine.
  • St Johns Wood – quite high density apartments which are quite sort after. Kate Moss & Sir Paul McCartney are some hight profile residents.
  • Hampstead Heath – This is one of the more affluent suburbs around London, some of the most expensive property is located in the Hampstead area. The shops that line the streets are aimed at the high end consumers. Jamie Oliver is a resident in Hampstead.

The Easter long weekend is here, I am venturing down to sunny Brighton today, going par-take in my first CouchSurfing experience – im excited!

the world is waiting for you

A State of Trance 400

09 Apr 09

armin-van-buuren-armin-only-2008

For those who don’t know I am a tad crazy about Armin Van Buuren. Armin Only was the first event I saw Armin Van Buuren play a set live when he came to Sydney last year (2008). A State of Trance (ASOT) his weekly radio show is coming up to his 400th transmission. To celebrate the 8 year long radio show, ASOT 400 is being broadcast for 72 hours over three countries; Germany, United Kingdom & The Netherlands. I am quite lucky that I am able to make it to Birmingham next week. Only 7 days remaining!

In my spare time I knocked up  a site for the special ASOT 400 episode, I also took this opportunity to expand my skill set, this was my first PHP website. Here’s what I used…

  • WordPress – The site is part of my blog working in conjunction with WordPress, this saved time from having to build the site from scratch and learnt some of the more advanced features of WordPress.
  • Twitter API – Documentation of the Twitter API is extensive and well written. Using SimplePie made the process of displaying tweets on the site a breeze as it took care of the caching.
  • Amazon API – I had quite alot of trouble with this API, very poorly written documentation with not many examples. One of the biggest downsides I found is the I couldn’t distingish between the MP3 downloads weather it was a single or album. I found an alternative way display just albums but its not ideal.
  • Google Maps API – I have worked with the Google Maps API before, if I had more time I would have liked to of used the Street View feature.
  • Flickr API – Using phpFlickr made the job easy and the well written documentation was great too.
  • RSS feeds – Parsing XML feeds in php wasn’t an easy task since I was so new to the langauge, but I seem to pick up quickly

My side project is complete – http://www.armin-van-buuren.com

Twitter power – the booking of Michael Jackson Tickets

13 Mar 09

michael-jackson-tickets

I will admit first up that I am not an avid Michael Jackson fan, but I have been told its a show of a lifetime and if I ever get the chance I shouldn’t miss it.

I never thought this opportunity would ever arise to see a solo entertainer of 13 Grammy Awards & 13 number one singles perform, but low and behold earlier this month Michael Jackson announced he was putting on 10 shows at the 02 Arena in London.

Later that week I signed up to be included in the pre-sale of the highly sort after tickets. I headed to ticketmaster.co.uk just before 7am on Wednesday and eagerly waited to purchase tickets. From the word go I had problems, waiting over 15mins in a virtual queue and then being kicked out at the last minute or after waiting to be told the tickets have been sold out, very frustrating.

Searching through Google & news websites to see if the pre-sale tickets had been sold out for all 10 shows didn’t yield any results. Twitter on the other hand was giving constant updates of other people struggles & triumphs of scoring tickets.

It finally clicked in my head for the first time the power of near to real time updates of Twitter tweets. It was the first time I had ever used twitter in this way, it reassured me that I wasn’t the only one with issues. ticketmaster.co.uk started adding new unannounced shows from 10am onwards and this was communicate instantly on Twitter.

I instantly started booking process when new shows dates were being posted, I waited impatiently. After 5hours of trying I succeeded in purchasing 2 tickets. The seats are on Level 1 which seem to be a good distance from the stage. After Twittering my success of scoring tickets I received a reply from a stranger stating how lucky I was & to enjoy the gig. Wow! This was such a nice surprise! I now see Twitter from a difference and quite useful angle.

All up Michael Jackson is putting on 50 shows stretching all the way to February 2010. I thought £75 a ticket was on the upper side of reasonable, but tickemaster.co.uk charged an obscene £20 booking + postage fee for two tickets. It has been reported even AEG Live, the event organisers have decided to rip off fans by charging £500+ for ‘premium’ seats.

Aug 19 is quite a number of month away so I hoping it will turn out to be the show of a lifetime. Be sure to follow me on Twitter for the latest.

September

04 Mar 09

september-singer-petra-marklund

My Saturday night started with Gay Bingo at Institute of Contemporary Arts,  with a bunch of friends. Arriving an hour before hand was a good idea, the line to get in was huge just to play bingo. The night was nothing like I was expecting, hosted by Jonny Woo a drag artist as they call him, it was full of unexpected events & random costumes throughout the evening. Each bingo game took ages to play, in just over 3 hours we only completed 3 games!

Having friends with connections always helps, getting into Heaven was a breeze, we were able to head straight in without lining up wooohoo!! I made sure I was close to the stage just before September was about to perform. I was pleased that Heaven wasn’t packed shoulder to shoulder as when Lady GaGa performed the previous month. The Swedish singer, Petra Marklund better known by her stage name September is widely known for her dance smash hit ‘Cry for You‘, put on a great performance. She came across as friendly and genuinely enjoying herself which made it a great night out.

Check out the pix.

Opening a UK Bank Account

17 Feb 09

UK Bank Logos

Before I headed over to the UK, I had many conversations with people on various aspects of moving to the UK, setting up a UK bank account always prop up, it seemed not to be a straight forward task. Since I wanted to come over and work straight away I did some research. I found quite a number out dated  forum posts of people dealing with UK banks, some had countless problems while other didn’t have any hassles.

Proving who you are to open a UK bank account is easy; as a passport is sufficient, the second and most difficult part is proving your UK address. Since I just arrived I only had my rental agreement which apparently wasn’t good enough, I needed to produce a utility bill or a UK bank statement from any British bank to open an account. Here are few of my experiences with the banks over here:

  • HSBC & Citibank – Before heading off to the UK I inquired at HSBC & Citibank branches in Sydney to if they could help me setup a UK bank account. Unfortunately they don’t provide this service, as their ‘officers around the world don’t communicate with each other’. However, both banks did notify me if I had a cool $500,00.00+ lazying around  they could help me sort out an account. So its true, money does talk.
  • Lloyds TSB – I wanted to come over already prepared with a UK bank account, I used a third party company, FastTrack UK to open an offshore bank account on my behalf with Lloyds TSB Offshore located in the Isle of Man. FastTrack UK charges around AUD$200 (Nov 08) to open the account on your behalf and include a few extras, the only useful item was a Gold Membership to hostelworld.com.  I was setup with an account & visa debit card which I collected from the branch once I arrived in London. The only downside is after 3 months  a hefty monthly account fee of £7.50 kicks in. Even though this was an expensive option I am glad I went through with it.
  • Abbey – Went into my local branch on a Saturday and they where unable to help me, so that was the start and end of them.
  • Barclays – They made a great first impression, don’t think I have even been into a more helpful bank in my life, this happened on multiple occasions too, which is rare in my experience as a customer of any bank. Somehow  they could open a bank account without proving my address (have no idea how they got around this), a passport was sufficient. It seemed too good to be true, but 30mins later I had all my account details and it was already to use. Almost 3 months down the track I still haven’t received my debit card with enables me to withdraw fund & use internet banking, but they where able to send me a cheque book without a hitch. So im still waiting for this account to be fully setup. Ill keep you updated on this one.
  • Nationwide – These guys are the world largest building society with over 15 million customers. One of the main features of there account were transaction abroad didn’t incur any fees (the standard rate is around 3% for each transaction). Since I was planning to travel this was ideal. I handed over my £100 pounds (which was required) to open the account and used my statement from my offshore account to prove my address. A week later my card arrived and my account was open. To my surprise they didn’t issue me with visa debit card to use aboard, instead it was a connect card (similar to an EFTPOS card in Australia) which can only be used in the UK and doesn’t allow any internet purchases. I have to meet their list of requirements for the next 7 months before I can apply for visa debit card. Not sure if I will jump through all their hoops to get there fee free visa debit card.

Nationwide were the clear winners, but without a visa debit card the account is useless to me. Looks like ill be keeping my Lloyds offshore account until things get sorted out with Barclays. I could have tried more banks but as you see from my experince things do take time. Ill keep you posted on any updates.

Punting around in Cambridge… well, not quite

25 Jan 09

Cambridge, UK

Had a hectic and a week of work, work & work. Headed out of London today with a friend to see my first city from away from the big smoke…. Cambridge. Its an easy 45min direct train trip from central London. I am sure your well aware of the prestigious Cambridge University, according to Wikipedia its the 2nd oldest University in the English speaking world and home to the oldest printer & publisher in the world. This year its celebrating 800th anniversary.

The main train station is a little away from the town centre, but not too far. It seems like town is based around the University & canals. Cambridge has wide open street, is surrounded by spacious green parks, the crisp clean air is inviting & clam compared to the hustle & bustle in London.

Had no idea what a punt or putting was until today; its pretty much a flat boat (punt) and putting is where a person stands up and steers  the boat by levering a pole into the floor of the canal to move the punt, Wikipedia does a better job explaining. We had a pleasant day wondering around the town. Took a few pictures too.

You are currently browsing the archives for the UK category.