Reminiscing: Manly, NSW

As I left my 9-5 job at the Sea Life Sanctuary on the beach, I made my twenty minute walk up hill, back to my rented apartment. The first thing that hit me as I stepped outside was usually the humidity, but sometimes it was a battering storm. Rain or shine, I’d smile as I walked past the beach with children playing, and cockatoo’s scavenging, and start the ascent.

I’d walk as fast as I could up the steepest part of my commute,
past the house called Wimbledon which everyday, without fail reminded me of going to watch the Tennis Championships, and there waiting above me as the road levelled out were a mix of tropical birds on the power lines. Having the chance to see what Aussies class as garden birds but what I class as tropical looking down at me every day always brought a smile to my face – no matter how noisy the cockatoos were.

On the last half of my journey I’d walk under the beautiful spring blossom and admire the purple and pink petals under my feet. There was even an unfortunate possum hanging dead on a power line, somehow fried stuck to it. I was amazed to see this sight the first day after his demise, then every day until he finally fell down after a big storm, I looked up at him as I walked past and wished him well.

As I reached my apartment, I’d hear my neighbour practising his drums from the loft of their house, where he’d have the window open trying to cool down from the Summer heat. Each time I heard him I contemplated asking for lessons, but instead I just enjoyed the melodies.

Even though my journey home was now over and I was inside, this blissful evening wasn’t ever over yet. Manly was the first time I’d had a shower to get cool instead of warm, and I relished in that fact. I much prefer to be showering to cool down in a hot room, than what we’re used to in the UK – having a boiling hot shower, trying to get warm, only to freeze as soon as we stop the water and reach for the towel.

If I didn’t feel the need for a shower, I’d pour myself a sparkling water and lime and sit out on the balcony overlooking the neighbourhood with Manly beach in the distance, and read, or watch any wildlife that might pass me by, like the possums that ate the flowers on one of our trees, or the fruit bats that migrated to the city to feed every sunset.

These memories are vivid in my mind, and I turn to them regularly for a sense of calm and reminder that I’ve had these happy experiences. It may not be good to dwell on the past, but when they help you look to the future they make you smile.

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How I came to appreciate the UK again

During my travels I saw many sights and met many people from all different kinds of backgrounds. As I reached my final destination, back in the UK, I had learnt one very simple but important thing:

No matter where you go, the story’s always the same.

In each country across the world there will always be someone moaning about:

  • Immigrants
  • House/Rental prices and ‘foreigners’ buying them
  • Big companies buying up all the produce/land and hiking up the cost of food

It’s sad, but it’s true. As human beings, we can’t all get along and agree on the exact same thing; that’s what makes us human!

In learning that the rest of the world appears to have the same issues as home, I started looking at what the UK has, to appreciate it once again.

Free Healthcare – The NHS gets a bad rep, mostly by Conservatives, but if we didn’t have the NHS I don’t know how we’d survive. Over the years I’ve needed them for surgery, check-ups, injections etc. and although you get the occasional hiccup with waiting times, I’ve always felt looked after.

Food – We have such a large variety of food here in the UK. Not only do we have amazing restaurants bringing us cuisines from all over the world, but we also have great variety in our supermarkets.
I found Australia’s shops missing a lot of items which I thought were staple products, and their curries were nothing but heartburn to me. In Dubai however, they appear to have everything, and they have it beautifully presented. I’m always amazed at how neatly the fruit is stacked whenever I shop at Waitrose in Dubai Mall.
When you reach places like a remote island in Fiji you’re once again reminded of the ‘Western World’ we live in in the UK, and the amazing choice we get. For 10 days straight we were fed whatever the local fishermen had caught, and at some points the chefs struggled as it was the stormy season and no boats could come near us. Our fruit plates became banana plates, and the main courses diminished in size. Being based in the UK we have all of Europe growing fruit and veg, and we even have the specialised shops offering (highly priced) imported foods from America or China.

The BBC – Whilst living in Oz I couldn’t watch BBC TV over the net because I wasn’t in the UK. When I went on the BBC news website whilst in Oz, it was filled with adverts. When you’re in the UK looking at these things there are no adverts allowed as it is funded by us, the people of the UK. Other channels and countries have to have adverts all over their stuff to make money. I’m happy to pay for the Beeb as it’s given me Attenborough, Sherlock, as well as many classic TV comedies such as Blackadder and Only Fools and Horses. Now who can compete with that?!

The Countryside – I grew up in the countryside but have spent the last 10 years based in cities, rarely stepping out into a woodland or field. Over this time I completely forgot the fact that the UK is still at least 80% countryside.
When we drove around New Zealand I was amazed at how much was untouched. In the entire country there are only a few places heavily built on, the rest was just little towns or villages surrounded by mountains or lakes. It was stunning but also similar to the views of Britain. So as our plane flew in circles coming into land at Gatwick, I looked out at the land below and took in the fields and trees I’d forgotten about for so long. Now I’m back, I plan on seeing the country I grew up in.


We may all have the same problems of mass corporations buying everything out and hiking the prices, people buying out all the properties to invest and make more money, and an ever-increasing population from both immigrants and procreation, but the point is we ALL have that, and we’re ALL just people. If we can learn to respect one another and accept what’s going on around us (to an extent), then we will find a happiness within ourselves. I’m still working on this one but at least I’ve come to appreciate the land I grew up in and all it has to offer.

#LiveHappy

I wanted to write a more personal blog entry to go through the emotions this journey’s taken me on so far. I decided to come to Australia because I was sick of London. I was sick of the extortionate rent, the terrible transport, the long hours and stress I was putting myself under just to make ends meet.

What I longed for was more time, more energy, more of a life.

I’ve been in this country for 3 months and I’m happy. It took a while to work out my feelings because it starts with getting used to the time difference, missing my boyfriend, family, friends, and then just getting used to all the small differences; like where to find my favourite face wipes!

It occurred to me only a few weeks ago that I was smiling a lot more. I had become a person that I remember being once before. I have the time to think about others and do things for others. I’m cooking a lot more varied meals, and walking with a spring in my step to and from work. At my workplace I’m regularly found with a smile on my face, and I make more jokes instead of the cynical subjects I’d gotten stuck on in London. It’s all become a beautiful, light-hearted way to live.

This isn’t me saying I’m staying for good. I’m not so enamoured in Oz that I never want to leave; in fact my ticket home is already booked! Instead, it’s me saying that I’ve found a new way to live and I don’t want to go back to how I was. When I was 19 I worked a 9-5 office job and even though I was sick of it after a couple of years, it was the easiest life I’ve ever lived and I know that I was a much better person back then. So to find that part of myself and combine it with the experiences I’ve gleaned over the last 11 years I should be able to be the happiest and best person I could ever be and that’s what I feel like I’ve found.

Fun things to do when you’re poor and travelling

I’m now based in one area for the next two months. All my money is tied up in future ventures, and because of where I am nearly all of my earnings are going on rent.

In this predicament it’s easy to feel like I can’t go out and do anything touristy, so I’m now going to try coming up with a list of free things to see and do, to help me cope with the next two months but also help anyone else out there in the same situation.

Let’s start simple – walking. Walking is free and healthy and so a great way to pass the time if you find the right routes to take. I’ve already mentioned my walk around Shelly beach to North Head in Manly, and there’s another walk to Spit Head which I plan on going on fairly soon. Other than that, one short and rather cheap bus journey can get me into the heart of Sydney city where I can venture as far as my legs will carry me. I may even try the Bondi to Coogee walk.

Free entry to Sydney sights:

  • The Rocks
  • Botanical Gardens & other parks
  • Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • Luna Park (rides are $10 though!)
  • Australian National Maritime Museum
  • Museum of Contemporary Art & Art Gallery of NSW
  • Bondi beach
  • Markets & shopping centres (window shopping)

Every city will have the same situation of offering free entry into certain museums or sights. I used to love spending my lunch times in London walking around the British History Museum. Chilling out for an hour of culture during my hectic day made the afternoon of work so much more manageable.

After giving all of the above a go I’ve also found Free Events in and around Sydney. Centennial Park hold free events during the summer months and there’s always a book launch or guided tour I could jump in on.

The larger cities of the world usually have a Time Out guide which will keep you updated on what’s going on that week. A simple web search usually brings up everything free for that week – but look a little deeper – you could find some cheeky free launches or gigs that aren’t being shouted about. These will likely be the best experiences to try and get to.

Other than touristy things to do, there’s always the classic ways to fill my time for free – reading, watching TV, sleeping – I enjoy all these things very much!

If you have any other suggestions or ideas of things to do while I’m poor in Sydney, let me know!

A Pomme’s Perspective of: SYDNEY (but mostly Manly)

Just like Brisbane, when I first reached Sydney it was raining. It’s like Australia was telling me something (probably that it was winter?!). My first experience was to get the subway to Central station to meet my friend. After getting my bag I headed to the ticket booth and asked for an Opal card.

‘We don’t sell those here you have to get them from a shop.’

‘But you’re a public transport ticket vender and the opal card is for public transport. You have a top up machine just there!’

‘Yeah, but we don’t sell them, you have to buy a one way ticket.’

Why? Why do you not sell what is essentially an oyster card (look it up non-Londoners) at a place where you would definitely need an opal card? I guess, to rake the money in, ‘cause I then had to pay an extortionate price to sit for 20 minutes on a train. We have something similar in the UK, it’s called the WHOLE TRAIN NETWORK, but seriously it’s called the Express, and it sucks – I feel your pain.

After my first rainy night in the suburb of Redfern, I awoke to a sunny day and could finally see the beautiful houses of Sydney. These terraced houses are beautiful, and unlike anything I’d seen before. I walked through these areas that are classed as both the ‘ghetto’ and ‘creative’ parts of Sydney, and got myself on a fast ferry to Manly.

In just 20 minutes, you can be taken away from the hustle and bustle to a little surfer town with some awesome beaches. As soon as I saw Manly, I knew that it was the place for me to stay while I worked there. Apparently that’s what all the Brits say, and the reason that a lot of the people you come across there are from ol’ Blighty. I don’t mind though, it’s a great place with a good vibe, and some gorgeous views.

Since I arrived in Sydney during midwinter and their coldest one in decades, I needed to buy some warmer clothes. I spent an entire day walking around the shopping district which contains a huge Westfield as well as many other malls right by it. Pitt Street, which runs through the centre, had rows of evergreen trees to celebrate ‘Christmas in July’ – an event I was gradually getting used to – and there were Christmas decorations all through the malls.

The majority of shop names here mean nothing to me. I know Zara and Forever 21 but most of the others are absolutely new to me. My sister had told me about Sportsgirl, which was apparently a cheap shop back in ’91 when she came over here, but I don’t think it’s too cheap now.

Not knowing what sort of shop you’re entering can make the day more fun. I went into shops I probably wouldn’t have bothered with in the UK, and found some great purchases for low prices. By the end of a long day of shopping I’d spent too much, but was finally warm.


During my few nights in Redfern I was shown the highlights of Crown Street. This is clearly the place to be for good food, drinks, and sweet treats! I was introduced to both Messina and Kürtösh – two awesome places with dessert on their minds.

Messina is an ice cream parlour that’s become very famous for it’s different creations that are added to their specials board every week – just looking at their Instagram makes you want to hot foot it to their nearest branch immediately. I went there on a Saturday night and it was like a nightclub; there was a queue to get in and banging music inside. It was manic, but the staff knew what they were doing and moved the queue along quite quickly.

Kürtösh is a beautiful (and slightly dangerous) idea of ‘you get what you pay for’. You pay for the weight of the slice of cake you buy. Going in there having no clue what 100g looks like in cake form, I bravely chose my size of baked cheesecake brownie, and paid a mere $5.10. I was happy with the size I’d chosen and the price I’d paid. After my first bite, I was extremely happy; the brownie was absolutely delicious.

Manly so far…

shelly

The more touristy views of Sydney will come when my boyfriend gets here, but for now I’m based in Manly, and loving it. There are so many beaches to choose from, not to mention picturesque walks. People come from all over the world to ride the waves of Manly, and relax on nearby Shelly beach.

ManlyBeach

You can begin a walk from Shelly beach up through the trees, and get a view for miles from all angles. There’s a great walk which took me all along the coast line up to North Head, which is where you can look back at Sydney and watch the boats travelling through. This walk took me through swamps, army barracks, and a serene pool which had formed over the years on top of the cliff from collected rainwater. It was stunning and thoroughly enjoyable.

pool

Another sight to see here is Manly Sea Life Sanctuary. Being a sanctuary it’s known for protecting Manly’s own colony of little penguins that live underneath the wharf, and they have some which they’ve taken in after they’ve been found injured nearby. They also have tropical tanks, a touch pool, and a massive tank with sharks, turtles and huge stingrays. They have talks throughout the day, and shark dives where people can go in the tank with the sharks! It’s pretty fun seeing a stingray sneak up on a diver and swim over his head.

I’ve only spent three weeks in Manly so far but will be spending the next two months there where I plan to adventure further afield to Spit point and Taronga Zoo, along with many other places around Sydney.

cockatoos

I’ll definitely be making my way back to Kürtösh a few times!

A Pomme’s Perspective

Over the last few months I’ve seen so many new and different things to what I’ve been used to back in the UK, that I’ve decided to create a recurring feature of ‘A Pomme’s Perspective’.

Some things I’ve seen have come across as backwards, whilst others seem forward thinking, and some things just downright amuse me.

So with each destination, I’ll write up a bit about my findings and what I got up to while I was there. I’m hoping to give people a different view of a Brit in Oz.

A Dubai Weekend During Ramadan / A Weekend Guide to Dubai City & Surrounds

A Dubai Weekend during Ramadan

What I hadn’t known when I booked my flights, was that it would be Ramadan when I was in Dubai on my way over to Brisbane.

My friends have lived over there for a few years, and kindly let me spend the weekend with them before I moved onto Oz.

Dubai during Ramadan is something that must be respected. Muslim’s don’t let any water or food pass their lips whilst the sun is up, so from sunrise at 5am until sunset around 7pm you shouldn’t be in public eating or drinking anything as it’s disrespectful. Many bars and cafes either close or run shorter opening hours, and if they play music, it’s at a much quieter level as that’s also not to be played publicly during the day.

So for my weekend in Dubai it all began on Thursday night when I arrived. Thursday is their Friday as their working week begins on Sunday, so we went to a restaurant called Claw and had dinner with cocktails. Claw is a great bar and restaurant for Americana. We ate chicken wings and chilli cheese fries whilst throwing back a few shots – creating a difficult wake-up call Friday morning for our pre-booked mani pedi’s!

So yes, Friday began with mani pedis at the nail spa in Dubai Mall. They offer a back and shoulder massage whilst your nails are getting done, and we could not turn it down. It was bliss. We then got a cab back to the apartment where we made frittata for their friend’s brunch which we’d all been invited to.

Ramadan can be a good time to entertain guests at each other’s homes rather than spend money elsewhere. It’s a good time to come together and bring a dish to share with one another. After a few hours at our brunch, we soon had to leave to head over to a dinner at other friend’s house. As tired as I was, I carried on through the day, until eventually we were all done with the day’s events and went home to sleep.

Now as I’ve been to Dubai a few times, it wasn’t seen as a waste to spend my final day watching films and ordering in food with my far away friends, but here’s my go-to guide to a real weekend in Dubai.

Tourists guide to Dubai

The Souks:

Souk Ferry

A little out of the city and an extremely cheap boat ride across a river takes you to the souks of Dubai. There are different areas like the gold markets, spices, and the more touristy areas with clothes and shoes. I bought some beautiful traditional shoes there which are more for looking at than wearing! Also, don’t be afraid to haggle.

Burj Khalifa:

We went to the Atmosphere bar to experience the top of the Burj Khalifa in style. Just entering this building through the Armani Hotel at the bottom is experience enough, walking past all the supercars that are parked outside. The lift takes seconds to take you up to the 122nd floor; a weird experience! Girls get in free to Atmosphere, and the boys have to spend a little each to pay for their entry.

The views here are amazing, and it’s always best to get here just before sunset so you can drink up that champagne with a stunning view that stretches on for miles.

The Beaches:

Jumeirah beach is how I first experienced Dubai, due to my friend’s location at the time. Jumeirah has a long empty stretch with resorts on either end offering loungers. Considering that all beaches are man-made in Dubai, there’s not a lot that can go wrong. I did once get stung by a jellyfish though, but luckily it wasn’t anything serious and something time takes care of.

Jumeriah

Dubai Mall:

One of the largest malls in the world, Dubai Mall not only contains nearly every brand imaginable, but it also houses an aquarium. You really could spend a day in there, and if you have the money; why not?! There’s an option of paying an entry fee into the aquarium, but you can also see a good portion of it from their outside tank.

Water Parks:

I’d also suggest a day in Wild Wadi water park. There are enough flumes and slides to keep you entertained as well as a lazy river when you just want to chill on a dinghy. There’s also a park on the edge of Abu Dhabi that’s fairly new and equally as awesome.

Day trip to Oman:

Oman

Another great day out is a trip to nearby Oman. Only a few hours’ drive away, you have a scenic drive of camels walking by the side (and sometimes on) of the road as you head out through the desert, into some mountain ranges. There are beaches with hardly anyone on them with wild goats wondering around, and there’s so much oil in the area that your feet may come out with black blobs on them that you’ll find are very hard to wash off! But it’s glorious though and definitely worth a trip.


If you go to Dubai, I hope you have a great time but please do ensure you respect the country’s beliefs and customs.