London to South Africa to Australia – Matt Law’s flying visit to Cape Town

Matt and I met in my first year of University at Exeter. We hit it off instantly, both sharing a passion for travelling, people, culture, music, photography and partying. As wonderlust has gripped us both since graduating I could not have been happier when Matt told me that he would be coming to stay with me in Cape Town for a week on his way to Australia. A week is an incredibly short amount of time to show off all of Cape Town’s fabulous attributes, but we gave it a bloody good shot. The moment his feet hit South African soil we were on the go, and we didn’t stop until he left. Enough from me, here is Matt’s story:

1383183_10153310606835034_1931552817_nMatt and I on Chapman’s Peak Drive

Landing in Africa was more than just exciting – it was totally new. Never had I been to the continent, and what a place to begin my experience of Africa: Cape Town. From the first drive through the city, on my way to Clifton Beach 4, I felt myself brimming with intrigue. My eyes took in all that they could: sprawling township, busy roads, clear blue skies, trees, the ocean, and of course Table Mountain.

A white European hears all sorts about South Africa, about crime, poverty, a history of deep and abhorrent racial division. In contrast to this I also knew of South Africa’s beauty, its developments and progression, of Mandela’s leadership and the hope that must abound in this country.

The week that was consisted of so much, not surprising given what I know Saxony! I could no doubt write an essay about her qualities, but I will mention only her ability to be constantly surrounded by interesting, amusing and vivacious people, coupled with an unbeatable knowledge of where to eat and where to drink coffee.1385917_10151640830706879_448756060_n A Delicious Caffe Latte at Skabenga’s in Noordhoek

Unsurprisingly, my week involved two very heavy nights of partying. TigerTiger provided me with far too many cocktails, but damn were they good! Stellenbosch quite simply demanded more of me than I could provide. I had a blast, I drank too much, I met plenty of people and was put up by a house of probably the most welcoming people I have ever had the privilege of meeting.

Moving away from the alcohol fuelled ‘university’ part of my visit, I revelled in the delicious foods of El Burros, Andy’s, Buluga, Brass Bell and of course the one and only Steers (say what you like Max, those burgers are great!). Max delivered one hell of a breakfast sarnie (well, two of them actually) and the joys of Billtong and Milk Tart won’t be forgotten any time soon.

995227_10151632247936879_765632453_nThe view of Kalk Bay from the Brass Bell – a lovely lazy day spent with perfect company 

However food (for once) must relinquish centre stage and accept that the highlights of my trip were those that delivered on aesthetics. Why travel if not to take in the beautiful surroundings, landscapes and scenery provided by each new place you visit? Our ascent of Table Mountain is without doubt my absolute highlight of the trip. If you have the chance, DO THIS. The views from the top were worth every damn, painful step up, every break required to retain normal breathing patterns, and even the typical drenching in sweat that I naturally experienced. As one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Table Mountain delivered 360 degree views of the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.

1374969_10151639195816879_279009856_nMatt on the top of Table Mountain!

1378136_10151639195141879_455795478_nThe Climbing Crew: Marguerite, Sanna, Matt, Me and Max

1380645_10151639196316879_334541997_nMax the Acrobat

1380228_10151639187306879_2029150408_nMatt, Max and I being the ultimate tourists on top of the mountain 

Another highlight was the Ocean Drive on my last full day, past Llandudno and along the Atlantic Ocean. Sanna and Sax were the perfect driver and passenger combo – thanks girls! Finally the view and wine at Beau Constantia Vineyards delivered an unparalleled blend of relaxation and awe. Thanks to Bronwyn for that gem.

1383541_10151635267786879_1021968572_nWine Tasting at the beautiful Beau Constantia

1394448_10151635267441879_1448249686_n Bronwyn giving us all a lesson in wine at Beau Constantia

1376317_10151640831566879_1408250919_nMatt on top of the world on Chapman’s Peak Drive

1385535_10151640830846879_1919839001_n Matt and Sanna taking in the fantastic view of Noordhoek 

Finally, I must mention Emma, a really welcoming gal who I couldn’t thank more for not minding me snoring away in the living area of the flat – and James: such an affable chap! Saxony, you are and all time great host, and a real loss to the world of the B&B (perhaps you ought to follow in Mum and Dad’s shoes?!)

Thanks Africa, specifically South Africa and indeed in particular Cape Town. Thanks for an unforgettable week on my way to Melbourne and for showing me exactly how fantastic a country you are, with such diversity and character. I leave only with the very real threat that I will be back, and that I will miss you!

“Chile is the new Iowa” – The World According To Kendra

481019_10151048984241879_1106593579_nKendra and I jumping for joy in front of the Capital building in Des Moines, Iowa

Kendra Murphy is my sorority sister, and one of my best friends in the entire world – even though we are worlds apart. I met her when I spent my year in America and we instantly became close when I moved into the White Castle. Kendra was one of my roomies and I hope one day in the future we can live together again (maybe in London where she can perfect her faux British accent). Kendra was born and bred in small town Iowa but she has always had a passion for all things foreign – particularly Spanish. This year she moved to Chile to teach English and this is her story so far:

After one of my most memorable and fun weekends in Chile, I feel more comfortable here than ever. I flew to the south of Chile, the region otherwise known as Patagonia. It is easily the most beautiful place I’ve seen in my ancient 24 years. This particular trip really made me think about the phrase “local tourist”, and how it is almost exactly how I feel at times living in Santiago, my “home”, and visiting other places in South America.

1082183_10200852513293382_1392977359_nSantiago from above – Photo taken from Kendra’s private collection

My 10-month anniversary is slowly creeping up on me, and like most things nowadays, the time has flown! In fact, I feel like it has only been 3 months. Then again when I think about all of the things I’ve done in these past 10 months, it seems a good amount of time. I originally came down to teach English, and after receiving my certification, I started teaching. It has been quite the learning experience as an English teacher. You’d think speaking a language your entire life would leave you with some technical knowledge of the language. Well, try to teach a foreigner all of the meanings of “get”. Jokes aside it’s a challenging, flexible, and fun job, plus very interesting to work with intelligent professionals who struggle with the past tense of English.

There are so many amazing things about Chile, most that I learned after I had been here a while, but some are obvious when you look at a map. This skinny little country has the driest desert on earth; some of the worlds best observatories; a coast of ocean and the opposite coast of mountains; a few volcanoes; beautiful Patagonia; and then the most southern part of South America… to name a few. And that amazingness is only geographical! Can you imagine the scenery? It’s too incredible for words, and pictures definitely do not come close to the real beauty. That’s what’s great about living here; we are able to see these sights in front of us most days.

 36295_4116409506820_1295031686_nView of the city – Photo taken from Kendra’s private collection

Beyond the physical, Chile is a country with a lot of history, art, culture, wine, and bread. For those history inclined, you probably know that Chile was under a dictatorship up until the 80’s. As for me, I learned this after several months of being here, and it still blows my mind that not even 40 years ago this country was under such strict government control. I recently visited the Museo de la memoria, de Los Derechos Humanos, and there was an entire floor dedicated to this era. There were videos, radio shorts, newspapers, artifacts from prisoners, diaries, all of which made it more real that this situation not only happened, but in the recent past. This time obviously sparked a lot of opposition, and with that comes art. I’m not the biggest art connoisseur, but I have realized this country has artistic thinking, and it’s visible in their architecture, music, poetry, and those who produce the art. With a dictatorship come rules and restrictions, which perfectly transitions into my favorite subject, food.

 994902_10200849464977176_584356296_nTraditional Chilean barbecue – Photo taken from Kendra’s private collection

Yes food is my favorite subject to talk about, especially while snacking, but I don’t want to get your hopes up. Chilean food is, to be polite, not spicy. By not spicy, I mean, bland. (Chileans, please don’t take this too hard, because food is food, so obviously I love it anyway) Here is a little rundown of the food situation in Chile. The overused condiments are salt, mayo, and olive oil. Bread is, kind of sacred. Don’t even get me started on the coffee, but I’ll say one thing – instant. On the opposition, meat is taken very seriously (I do have to say, I’ve had some of the best meat in my life here), and man do they know how to throw a BBQ. The desserts are more pastry-like, but supremely delicious. If you like empanadas, they have more flavors than you can think of. With 4000 miles of coastline, it’s inevitable that seafood is a popular choice.

 522325_4199315779425_70447954_n 558857_4199294258887_321121202_nKendra enjoying the sea side – Photos taken from Kendra’s private collection

With all of the bland, yet some delicious food, we have to wash it down somehow. A famous alcohol in Chile is Pisco. This alcohol is usually accompanied by coke, or I prefer it with Tonic. It’s a sweet liquor, that has a distinct taste, and hangover. Along with Pisco, Chile is wine country. You won’t believe me, but the wine is amazing, and cheap. Yes, there is a God. There is a special grape, Carmenere, which was originally only found in France, and mistakenly brought into Chile long ago. Since this minor mistake, Carmenere has been the rage in Chile for many years, and still today is rarely found outside of this isolated country.

1170870_10200849462177106_1358490018_nKendra with the mountains behind her – Photo taken from Kendra’s private collection

After receiving this “assignment” from dear Saxony, I’ve been constantly noticing, even feeling my experiences differently. Things that used to never catch my attention or interest, are now intriguing for me. I think as a foreigner we’ll always find these new and interesting parts about the foreign or different place. That’s why we’re there, isn’t it? To have a new and different experience? Well, I don’t have that answer for everyone. But I may have found mine, and/or an epiphany. As I near my trip back to my homeland after these 10 months, I am convinced that we (everyone, people, humans) need to look for these interesting things/people/experiences in our daily lives, whether we’re in our hometown, favorite restaurant, or another continent. If we do this, we will forever be a local tourist, and my friends, that means our journey never has to come to an end.

South Africa as told by Chris Lynch

1209327_10151544472961879_1480625386_nChris and I after bumping into one another at a festival in London this July

I met Chris during my last years of school in England. We met because Maidenhead (the town that I lived in for most of my time in England) isn’t that big and our schools couldn’t help but overlap. Mr. Lynch has always been a source of comedy, though you’ll never catch him laughing at his own joke. When I found out that he was coming to Cape Town I could not contain my excitement. Here is his story:

On the 18th of March 2013 I made a Facebook status that will forever live in infamy.

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Not merely because of the lazy racism that went into the spelling of SA or even the MINIMUM 6+ likes that rained down like that festival you forgot your wellies at. OH NO! This was because it stirred a simple reply from a certain Saxony Goodwin:

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Now I’m sure you’re thinking what I thought at the time… “That’s all very well and good but that doesn’t let me know if Robin Island is worth a visit?” Once I had got over the initial disappointment I excitedly got in contact with Saxony and arranged a meet up. Posting my amazing 2 week journey all in one blog would be impossibly boring, so in the interest of brevity ill quickly provide My TOP 5 moments you’re gonna feel most like a tourist in South Africa.

Tourist

1) You are drunk on excitement on the drive in to Cape town only to suffer an intense sobering experience when you see your first township. It’s then you realise that the same section that you thought they must visit every year to get video reel for Comic Relief? yea? well that goes on for miles and it doesn’t get any nicer. And that’s one of the many many townships you’ll see on your travels around SA.

2) You stop and take a picture of a drive through Nando’s getting stared at by the locals.

3) Getting approached by a guy in a dark alley that it turns out is a warden whose job it is to escort you safely home. (He worked 6 days a week 12 hour shifts by the way… yea)

4) My Safari was a life changing experience. Truly Amazing. Imagine hunting a cheetah in a car and then getting out of said vehicle to trek it on foot just yards away! but there is something in the back of your head remembering you’re paying a lot of money and this cheetah was bred in captivity and the park you are in (although the size of the isle of Wight) is basically just Longleat on steroids.

5) You get slagged off by a local for calling a safari a safari and not a game walk.

Non Tourist

Being a travel agent my mum was lucky enough to get a free stay in THE most preposterously posh hotel. We’re talking:

> butler meeting you at the door

> asking for your name

> sounding a gong (causing man browsing yahoo on the receptions free wifi to comically jolt)

> announcing “The SMITH family have arrived”

> The entire check in staff standing from their individual mahogany desks to clap you down the stairs.

Now I bring this up not to show off, but to highlight the culture shock I experienced when moments later I was being bunged in to the back of a tiny car. I had been picked up by Saxony and 2 of her friends Emma & David. From a week of pool and relaxation apparently i had stepped into a plan and we were already late! What followed next was a whirlwind of going to Emma and Saxony’s house, ditching stuff, grabbing booze (from a walk in fridge MENTAL) and organising meet ups. I had not a clue what was going on but was happy to go along with the ride as it was a much needed change of pace after 2 weeks of the stressing over every plans minute detail that comes with being on holiday. It was then the question of dinner came up…

Now, we live in a lucky age where after a mere 2 hours googling one can achieve a knowledge of where is good to eat of anywhere in the world. I pride myself on this ability and was able to name the top 5 restaurants in Cape Town. After a week of doing this for every meal however I don’t think I need to explain my relief that they would take care of it. They asked for a type of food and all I said was “Whatever you’d normally do”. At the time I wasn’t interested in taste, I just wanted to eat somewhere normal where there isn’t that nagging feeling you’re being laughed at for haven fallen into a tourist honey trap. It sounds petty but by asking for just “The standard thing you’d grab before a night out” I was committing to the (dare I say it) ‘authentic experience’ that I strive for anywhere I go. Without realising it I realised I was…

Becoming Cape Town

Now if I had known that “Whatever you would normally have” meant a takeaway Steers Burger I would have kept my damn mouth shut 😉 (Joking) But eating it on signal hill watching the sunset with tinny in hand was a highlight of my entire trip. A shame therefore that the second the last ray of sun disappeared behind the horizon we were off and you also heard the orchestra of other car doors slamming as the locals rushed off to leave the tourists at the mercy of the local Vagrants that appear at the drop of nightfall. If you listen closely you can almost hear mine and my parent’s “Sorry, no thanks” “Not to day’s” echoing in a parallel universe where we had gone there ourselves.

The plan was to go out out to Assembly as it was the place everyone went that night (obviously, how could I not know?) But first I had the pleasure of getting to know the group better. The high and lowlight of which was due to Saxony’s comment “I think the best way to get to know someone is to hear their most embarrassing story”. What followed were some of the most horrific story’s I had ever, and will ever hear.

Although life scarring, it’s not often you meet somebody on holiday you get on with well enough to get to that level of conversation and I really enjoyed getting to know everyone I met that night. Oh and the club? It was oddly similar to any night id had out in east London. You know the drill:

Assembly

Anyways, a lot of the time when we are travelling it can sometimes feel like we are simply ticking boxes of things “you’ve just gotta do”. Sure, when these things include things like seeing one of the last rhinos on this planet its not something to complain about. But every so often it’s nice to relax and have a burger & a beer on a hill with friends.

 10150_10151315855706879_1308817815_nenjoying the sunset on signal hill 

Thank you Saxony

Thank you for reading

Peace x

Chris

The African Travels of Jessica-Alice Curtis

I met Jess in my first year at the University of Exeter – we both studied English and we were in the same seminar group. When I met her on the first day a few things ran through my mind – “wow what a beautiful girl” was one of them, “she is incredibly well read” was another, I did not for a second think “we will probably chill out together in South Africa sometime” but guess what? Yup, you guessed it – she came to South Africa and we chilled out together!

988600_10151441252356879_841205064_nJess and I embarking on a glorious climb up Table Mountain

Jess had the most amazing journey that you could imagine. While most people taking a post-university gap year end up travelling to Australia and Thailand, or even America – Jess decided to explore Africa… BY HERSELF. I still cannot get over how incredibly brave this girl is! Here is her account of being a Local Tourist as a British girl in Africa:

1012331_10151452626406879_586173180_nMy very own Local Tourist! Look at how many stamps she has in her passport

I was lying on the beach in Zanzibar when I sent Saxony a facebook message, asking for some tips about South Africa – where to go, where to eat etc etc. Well, 3 months later and there I was, sitting in Saxony’s front room and unloading my grubby back-pack whilst she was explaining this blog and the inspiration behind it. I was instantly intrigued by the concept of “being a local tourist” and was keen to be a part of such a unique online project.

For the past 5 months, I have been back-packing through East Africa on my own. I started my journey in Uganda, where I lived in the small rural village of Bufuka, on Lake Bunyonyi. Bunyonyi is also renowned for its beauty; small islands are dotted here and there and locals glide across the lake in dug-out wooden canoes. It could easily be mistaken for a scene from Pocahontas. This makes the lake a great stop-off point for any traveller, especially those who are heading to the Impenetrable Forest to see the mountain gorillas.

But, for me, Lake Bunyonyi was not a stop-off point, it was my home. Well, temporarily. I spent two months living in Bufuka and working for an NGO called Edirisa (which develops sustainable projects in education and tourism to provide Ugandans with skills, jobs and incomes). I quickly adapted to life as a local and instantly felt like part of the community. Like everyone else, I paddled my canoe to get around and bought my groceries in the local market. I lived off a diet of rice and peanuts, learnt Rutchiga (the local language) and, jumped into the lake whenever I needed to wash. It was easy to forget my life in England and live like a Ugandan. Nonetheless, as a blonde 22 year old muzungoo (white) girl, I clearly didn’t look like a Ugandan. The local children would greet me by jumping up and down, pointing and shouting ‘muzungo, muzungo, muzungo ‘ow are you muzungo yesca?!’ This was a constant reminder that I was not a local, nor a tourist; I was both, I was a local tourist.

1069414_10153037549060367_839202911_nPhoto Credit – Jessica-Alice Curtis: Jess the muzungo getting to know the locals

That’s not to say that I felt unwelcomed or out of place. I truly believe that, as a local tourist, I had the best of both worlds. I had the privilege of settling in one place and really getting to know its culture and people on a personal level. Everyone in the village welcomed me with open arms and shared stories about the region’s history (stories of Punishment Island), current affairs (the Kenyan elections and Rwanda-Uganda relations) and, of course, village gossip (who was getting married next). I felt safe and settled and at the same time, I was always excited by my new environment and didn’t take anything for granted. I hiked mountains and visited nearby villages, which many of the locals were reluctant to do because, for them, it was just the mundane and the norm. I really felt what it was like to be “home and away” and, after months of back-packing, I found this was the most rewarding and memorable part of my trip.

998567_10153037538210367_201147394_nPhoto Credit – Jessica-Alice Curtis: Jess’s very own canoe!

Once I left Uganda, I lived like a typical back-packer which undoubtedly, has its perks. I travelled through Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa by hailing any vehicle heading in my direction. I jumped on buses and trains, trucks and planes and despite some journeys being uncomfortable and exhausting, I loved passing through the different landscapes and seeing the true beauty of Africa. I dragged my back-pack across the Namib Desert, tasted new cuisines (Zanzibar night market in Stone Town) and got lost in some very dodgy neighbourhoods (never again will I get in a Dar es Salaam taxi). I didn’t stay in one place for longer than a week and I moved on whenever I felt like it. Travelling in this way was so exciting because I was seeing everything for the first time: every country had its own atmosphere, and it was exhilarating to visit places, as an anonymous and fascinated out-sider. I have been asked loads of questions about my trip, most of them the same: Was it really dangerous? Were you really scared? Did you see a lion? Yes, I did see a lion and yes, at points, I was scared. Travelling alone (especially as a blonde girl) meant there was always a strong chance that I could have been mugged, kidnapped…or worse. And, I must stress that I purposefully avoided some areas in Africa for those reasons. Countries like Sudan and Somalia were crossed of my ‘to do list’, due to political and social unrest and I took local advice very seriously, even in places that are deemed ‘safe’.

999681_10153037539320367_1805566367_nPhoto Credit – Jessica-Alice Curtis: Jess enjoying a luxurious ride in the back of a bakkie

It is a shame that so many people deem the whole of Africa a ‘no-go zone’. It has so much to offer. Not only does it have the most amazing wildlife and breath-taking landscapes but it is home to the most kind-hearted, hard-working, gentle and welcoming people I have ever met. When I hitch-hiked into Rwanda, I took a leap of faith and trusted the driver (Mr Simon, a 36 year old, father of 2, who had a car boot full of artificial flowers) based on his wide smile, friendly hand shake and opening line ‘you help us, so I help you’. Mr Simon, like so many other Africans, was proud to show me the reality, beauty and resilience of his country, no matter how harrowing it was. We took a few de-tours through the mountains and stopped in two rural villages which are still recovering from the 1994 genocide and constant influx of Congolese rebel fighters. Mr Simon then found me a place to stay in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, and dropped me at the front door. He proved that whilst there are dangers of travelling in Africa, it is the people that make it safe.

There is also an element of surprise and uncertainty that makes Africa so special – you never really know where you’re going or end up, or how long it will take you! When I finally arrived in Cape Town, I immediately fell in love with the city and could see why Sax loves it too. There is an energy and magic about the place which is infectious and there is always something exciting to do; whether you’re watching the beautiful sunsets over Table Mountain or seeing bands perform in a Long Street bar. It was great to have Saxony, the ultimate local tourist, at my side. We hit the usual hotspots – ate at the V&A Waterfront, climbed Table Mountain and posed for photos with the Boulder’s Beach Penguins and at Cape Point. But, Sax also knew the secrets of the city and things you couldn’t find in a Lonely Planet guide or TripAdvisor search. She knew where to go for the best sunsets (Signal Hill), Coffee and Cake (Haas), markets (Hout Bay), breakfast/brunch (Melissa’s on Kloof Street), Plus, and this is a HUGE plus, Sax proved to me that Cape Town has THE BEST sushi I have ever tasted – (trust me, I am a sushi slore and became a regular at Takumi and Willoughby’s). Sax had set up her life there and yet, she was still keen to find new adventures round the corner. Surely this is the best way to live? I left South Africa feeling very lucky and extremely grateful to Sax, and all her friends, for showing me how awesome Cape Town is.

1009886_10151441251511879_1776824839_nJess and Tom at the top of Table Mountain

 603852_10151372225556879_481477190_nJess soaking up the colourful sights at Hout Bay Market

995401_10151452674116879_2000257218_nJess and I at Cape Point – barely surviving the windy conditions

At this point, I must admit that I have been very bad at writing this blog – it has taken me soooooooo loooonnnnngggg to sit down and actually finish this thing. I started writing back in June, on the day that I left South Africa and, after a few more months travelling around South America, I am FINALLY finishing this paragraph back in England. In fact, I am writing this sitting in an office, at my desk, on a typical Monday morning. Having dragged myself out of bed, battled my way through traffic and driven down roads that I know like the back of my hand, I have never felt more like a local. This, in a way, encapsulates one of my points: that you can be a local, a tourist or, a local tourist, at any point in your life. Everyone can feel like a stranger in a new place and everyone has one place they call home. But, what is most exhilarating, is finding the middle ground. You do not need to live abroad for months to have this experience. Go to a cafe you’ve never been to before, visit a museum you walk past but have never been in, discover a new restaurant in your home town and, you’ll appreciate being a local tourist for the very first time.

Recommendations: Books – Whilst I was travelling, I was engrossed in “Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts – I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the concept of “being a local tourist”. Shantaram follows the life and struggles of a foreign fugitive as he sets up a new home in India. The novel develops ideas of belonging, international identity and a sense of an ever-changing self which, I believe, are themes that are evoked in Saxony’s blog. Beware – it is long and it is addictive.

Jess Over’s Exciting Adventures in Sydney

I am so excited to introduce the first guest blog! My wonderful friend and fellow Exeter graduate Jess Over has embarked on a wonderful journey far far away from the small island and gone all the way down under. She explains her impressions of the dynamic city of Sydney, Australia and has included many recommendations.

 536278_10150600260566879_476001177_n

Jess and I together in Exeter, England

So, without further ado here it is: Being a local tourist…in Sydney Australia

My lovely friend Saxony is currently living life large in Cape Town and asked me to write a guest blog piece for her blog about being a local tourist. Someone who lives in a city and learns and grows to understand the city but is still, at the same time, a tourist there.

This is the exact position I am in currently with my life living in Sydney. I am currently working as a receptionist at Hays Recruitment Company in the central business district, known as CBD, of Sydney.  This is a temporary role and not something I want to do for the rest of my life but the perfect job to be able to live and work and play in Sydney. So… what is it like living in Sydney? My first impressions were positive. Arriving in March the weather was still very warm and everything was buzzing. In contrast to New Zealand Sydney was a welcome change and I embraced it all. The heat, the beaches, the sun and the coffee!

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Jess absolutely loving life in Sydney

Sydney is perhaps one of the most liveable cities due to its size. It’s not too big but at the same time still quite small. It is situated around the harbour which is one of the most gorgeous active pieces of water – ferries, yachts, motor boats, fishing boats – you name it , you will probably see it in the harbour racing around. For me living by the sea is perfect. It appeals to me and my love of the sea. Just living within reasonable distance of the sea and the beach is pretty cool. But it’s not just the sea and the beaches which appeal to me. I am a little bit obsessed with the Opera House. I love it! I take photos of it every time I got near it. Whether I’m on the ferry to Manly or just taking a stroll around the Botanical gardens I take a picture of it. I have near on 50 now! I can’t get enough. And tied with the Opera House you have the Harbour bridge which is equally spectacular in my opinion. I think the first time I went over it on a bus I let out a squeal of excitement which caused people to turn and stare. The tourist in me didn’t care. The local in me was mortified! With iconic architecture, stunning surfer beaches, compact, diverse city landscape Sydney has it all combined with great coffee and places to eat and drink.

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One of Jess’s many photos at the Sydney Opera House

Which takes us onto lifestyle…why is over half my office English? Perhaps because winter weather doesn’t get below 10° and only lasts 3 months if that. So the weather is great. Summer can be a bit scorching but if you like the heat then it’s ok and everywhere has air conditioning so ‘no worries’. But it’s more than just the weather that Sydney has to offer. I have never been to so many above average coffee cafes and brunch spots. The city is littered with them and each one has its own identity, coffee barista expert, and spot on menu of delicious brunch options. So I did a lot of discovering! The coffee tourist/snob came out and so did the coffee guide and off I went, with the help of friends of course!  Just for the record- a few of my favourites are FourAteFive in Surry Hills, Clipper Cafe in Glebe, Forbes & Burton in Darlinghurst and many many more. In fact just getting a good coffee is a treat. Just the fact that I am not in a Costa, Nero’s, Starbucks is a revelation and one big difference from here and the UK is that they still have their high streets. Sydney’s suburbs have character, individuality and independent shops. The UK has lost that and it’s been replaced with chain stores selling the same old stuff with Topshop look-a-likes posing around. In Sydney each suburb has its ‘thing’. It’s the hipster part, the business part, red light, grunge & alternative, beach, high end retail and so the list goes on.

Which makes going out for a drink slightly challenging: where to go? What to drink? There are plenty of places to drink. It’s something that Australians are good at. And it’s fun and social in a new city to explore via new bars and pubs. Exeter was small and limiting in terms of places to drink, home has one venue, the local pub , Sydney has too many to count. But what has impressed me about Sydney is the attention to detail.  Me and some friends got hooked on a bar called ‘No Name Bar’ because it hosted a live art battle every Thursday which saw two artists battling it out over one and half hours.  Another bar is called Grandma’s bar which is the tiny basement bar that has rocking chairs, knitting, Werther’s Originals and great cocktails. 5 Boroughs is a favourite because we are now friends with the barman and he experiments new cocktails on us and gives us a discount! And so it goes on. Rooftop bars and pools, $10 steak dinners, champagne at the Opera Bar- life is pretty good!

As much as eating and drinking has been a recurrent theme in this blog if there is one word to sum up Sydney it’s: active. People go to boot camp at 6am before work to get their exercise in for the day. The walk from Coogee to Bondi is overcrowded with runners on a sunny day. People are off sailing, surfing, running at weekends. Always on the go. It is slightly addicted even I have started going for a swim after work to wind down but also to keep fit. Then again who wouldn’t want to in an heated outdoor 50m pool?  So it’s not surprising that Australians are equally sports mad. I recently got introduced to Aussies Rules Football. Which when you first watch it is one of the most bizarre games on this planet. A lot of men, in very short shorts running around a cricket ground kicking a rugby shaped ball through 4 posts. It doesn’t make sense, it is hilarious and addictive and I love it!

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One of the many gorgeous beaches that Sydney has to offer

Culturally there are not so many differences with the UK. The outdoor lifestyle that exists here is impossible in the UK but for me, what I have noticed is that everyone is friendly, open, courteous, welcoming. Everyone is your ‘mate’! It takes some getting used to when your manager called you mate and there are ‘no worries’ and everything is ‘too easy’. But it’s a pretty sweet life dude!