So I haven't done a photo blog since Munich in September. I've always wanted my blog to be a record of my "poker years" so with just one week left of that this really is for myself more than anything. Here's where I've been the last few months.
This was my third time in London and yet I was still discovering new things. I spent a lot of time wandering around the various markets (Borough, Portabello, Camden, Brick Lane) and checked out some more niche sights like the Templar Church from The Da Vinci Code and Leadenhall Market from Harry Potter. I also went to see Phantom of the Opera for the first time and not only was it awesome but we got a special speech from the Phantom after the show because it was the show's first night in its 25th year!
The three day trips you must do from London are Cambridge, Bath and Oxford. In that order. I finally completed the trifecta this trip with Oxford.
I get the feeling that Cannes is for people who want to sip a cocktail from the deck of their expensive yacht, watch the sun set over a beautiful Mediterranean sea and think to themselves "yep, this is the life". For me, there simply wasn't enough to see or do. I'm sure it's more buzzing in summer though.
More of the same, though the old town in San Remo was much more interesting. It's situated on a steep hill so there are a lot of stairs, narrow laneways and windy streets . More importantly, it genuinely feels like you've gone back a few centuries, which cannot be said for the Old Towns in Nice, Cannes or Monaco.
I went to Monaco to visit a friend and since I'd already seen most of the sights before (I was there in 2010) we spent most of our time relaxing, playing FIFA and chatting about our days in Sweden. It was pretty cool because he lived right in the Old Town, literally 100m from the castle. We'd walk outside and instantly see hundreds of tourists right on our doorstep!
This was my first time in Belgium and sure enough a lot of mussels, chocolate and chips were eaten. Brussels is one of those cities I'd classify as "nice to see once, but would never go back again". The highlight is definitely the Grand Place, probably the prettiest town square in Europe other than the one in Prague (that I've seen at least).
I did a day trip to Bruges whilst in Brussels and ended up staying the night because I was too tired to return to Brussels. Turned out to be a great decision as I met a bunch of people whom I would end up spending a lot of time with in Amsterdam. Bruges itself was really beautiful; it's claim to fame is its canals which run through the city centre and give it a peaceful, tranquil feel. I guess nature tends to do that! Definitely one of the highlights of my Europe trip.
I really chilled out in Amsterdam. The city is incredibly small so sightseeing didn't take very long, although I did while away some afternoons at the three must-see museums: the Anne Frank Museum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum.
There are two European cities that everyone seems to love: Berlin and Budapest. I have heard so many people recommend the latter that I just had to go, even though it was completely out of the way and the flight was expensive. And boy am I glad I did. The actual city itself is not that photogenic; some buildings are nice but there is an overriding gloomy, eastern European feel to it. However, it's at night that the city really shines. I was there for the four quietest nights, Monday through Thursday, and every night the town was totally pumping. I was fortunate to have two friends who could show me the local nightspots and one was even an ESN (exchange) mentor meaning that I got to tag along to the university pub crawls and meet internationals from all over the world. It was like Lund all over again!
Sickest Church interior I've seen (photo doesn't do it justice)
One of the thermal baths
Like Monaco, I really only went to Bratislava to visit a friend. By now it was winter and the city was rather empty, bare and grim so we spent a lot of time inside in shopping malls and in restaurants. The one memory I really have of Slovakia is the food. It was different (thin duck pate pancakes, deep-fried potato pancakes, potato dumplings covered in goats cheese and smoked pork), really tasty and sooooo cheap!
Macau was the last stop of my trip and exhausted from all the travelling of the previous five months I resolved to take it easy. Which was fortunate because there wasn't much to do or see in Macau anyway; only really the town centre which takes maybe one hour to cover comprehensively and Macau Tower which does have a legitimately awesome view. The rest of the time I spent eating, clubbing and sleeping.
When I got home I had three Euro friends staying with me so I became a tourist in my own city, hitting up not only the tourist sites but even the backpacker bars!
Afterwards I followed my friends for a week as they went up north along the east coast of Australia. First stop was Arrawarra Beach for a three day surf camp. I failed miserably.
Next was Byron Bay, a small, hippie beach town in northern NSW. This place is a pretty hot tourist destination for foreigners and Aussies alike so if you're ever in Australia you should definitely check it out. We stayed in a tent in this pretty cool hostel: it had a pool, table tennis, beach volleyball, pool tables, a cafe, plenty of indoor and outdoor relaxation areas (including hammocks), and even some wildlife wandering around.
Another hot tourist destination, we spent four days doing pretty much the exact same thing: beach in the morning, tennis or squash in the afternoon, and clubbing at night.
And finally, I headed back to Melbourne for another shot at Aussie Millions glory.