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.

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.

A Pommes Perspective of Australia

During my travels in Australia I came across many wonderful and weird things. Here’s my view overall of Oz.

Roads – Brilliantly signposted! When I arrived in Australia I was so relieved to see maximum signage on the roads. They direct and warn you about everything.

aussie-road-sign

TV Promos – ‘You’re not going to believe what happens.’ ‘What they did next will amaze you.’  One thing I’ve noticed about Australian TV promos is; they’re all the same. Even if the programme doesn’t contain any drama, they’ll make a promo to make it look like it’s one filled with it. Coming from a background of working in the TV industry, I know the deal, but in the UK they certainly seem to mix it up a little bit more than over here. The UK certainly doesn’t try to make a home decorating show look like a dramatic reality TV series. I’ve not watched a lot of American TV in my time, but the Oz promos certainly seem to be heavily influenced by the American way.

Walking side – Where in some countries you have a bike path and a pedestrian path, here you have a pedestrian path side for whichever way you’re walking. It’s quite cute, but a waste of road paint, because no one really abides by them.

Food – I seriously struggled to eat a good meal in Australia. To many Australians, you’re not to know any different, but curry isn’t supposed to taste like that. Kiev’s aren’t supposed to have bones in them, and pasta should not taste so thick and stodgy that you won’t pass it for weeks. It took me a while to know which items to pick and choose out of the small amount of options, but I gradually learnt what not to eat.

Franchises – I soon learnt that the well-known chain restaurants I’m used to are not going to taste the same in Australia. They’re franchises, owned by some local who’s got the famous menus up behind him, but different products behind the scenes. One day I really fancied a Nandos so I asked for my usual of a chicken burger and chips with halloumi and the guy looked at me with utter confusion. Halloumi is not on the Nandos menu here. I mean c’mon. It makes the chicken burger if you stick the slab of halloumi on top of it, and then there are the Nandos fries I love so much. I was given your typical cheap-ass, worst tasting fries you could ever imagine; horrific. Australia, you have no idea what amazing food you’re missing out on.

Double glazing – Okay, I vaguely get it. We have double glazing in the UK because it’s cold 99.9% of the year, but you guys (depending on which part of the country you’re in) get cold spells too! Not only do you actually have winters where it’s low in the single figures, but double glazing also helps cut out sounds. So far, in the many places I’ve stayed, I’ve wished for double glazing. I don’t want to hear the really noisy birds outside, or the boy racers burning rubber on the street. When I get inside, I want peace and quiet. I want to feel like I’m in my own space, not still sharing it with the whole world. On top of that, door-makers really need to learn to measure. I’ve still not seen a door that goes all the way to the floor – even front doors. You have massive fences up to protect you from all this dangerous wildlife, but you’ll leave an inch gap at the front of your house so that all the little critters can crawl on in.

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Heating – This ties in with the double glazing. Some parts of the country do get cold and yet none of them have any form of heating installed. All of the people I’ve met so far have complained about the lack of heating in their apartment and have had to buy standalone radiators that hardly give out any warmth, but use up a lot of electricity.

Loud birds – Going back to the double glazing again, it would be really nice if you had some so that the bird that insists on calling out to his friends in front of my window every morning wouldn’t be so loud. There’s a whole range of them, and I’m sure I share this pain with most people.

cockatoos

Internet options – You guys are being taken for a ride. There are adverts all over the TV for super-fast broadband at a rip-off price and it’s still not unlimited! I just don’t get it. It’s already well-known that this country doesn’t have very good internet coverage, and I can understand why – you’re huge with massive expanses of nothingness to get across – but I don’t understand why these companies can’t just offer you unlimited rather than 200GB a month. If you’re asking for 200GB a month it should be classed as unlimited!

Where to buy what – You go through life learning what items work for you, and go buy them whenever you need a top up. When I arrived in Oz I soon found that my staple products might not exist in this country. In the UK, supermarkets contain a large variety of everything from knickers to noodles. I’ve found that in Oz you may need to go to a few stores to get everything on your shopping list. It began with toothpaste. I must have walked around 4 different supermarkets and discount pharmacy’s before assuming that my brand wasn’t made here and settled on something similar. Then I ran out of face wipes, deodorant, and shampoo. It’s not so simple that once you’ve found it in one store you’ll find it in another one of theirs – that’s what makes Oz shops so confusing! Different Coles stores will have different items. So where I might be able to find a shampoo I want in one of them, another Coles elsewhere doesn’t stock that particular brand.


Over the months I began pointing out more negative views of Australia, but overall they’re not a bad bunch. They have advert campaigns like this one:

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And have a far more relaxed view on life than most European countries. Australians know how to work a sufficient amount, and play to the absolute maximum. They’ve learnt how to handle big bugs, and ferocious storms. All in all, my view of Australia is it’s hot, independent, and very, very beautiful.

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What I learnt whilst in Oz

Cancer awareness – Everyone is very much aware of cancer in the world, and it’s always prevalent, but my trip began in Brisbane where skin cancer is rife. All my cousin’s friends had cancer; there were ads all over TV for it, and skin cancer clinics on every corner. Sunscreen was cheap, everywhere, and was made in high SPF’s.

Healthy Eating – When I moved to Manly, it was what I was putting into my body that I became more aware of. Manly appears to be a very health conscious town, and my new housemate had been taking it one step further and started to buy organic products for cleaning, and make up as well so that anything she touched or ingested was chemical free, and 100% natural. I’d always felt bloated after pasta or bread anyway, so I knew I should try cutting out gluten. After reading about other things that you could remove from your diet and how it could benefit you, I started to seriously plan my eating habits and embraced the new meal options.

It’s hard to change lifestyle habits, but since having my eyes opened to a new way of living, I now follow healthy eaters on Instagram like @chloescountertop @kirstywaterman @deliciouslyella who show me a new way of eating and viewing. I also came across Quirky Cooking which has some delicious recipes and suggestions.

In learning more about the products you put onto your body, I’ve started compiling a Pinterest board of DIY products, and the many uses of coconut!

As I made my way further south, I found Sydney and Melbourne to be the most health conscious. There were lots of independent shops including health food stores with plenty of variety for the intolerant people. I felt like I was walking into a magic, Harry Potter shop when I entered a store in Melbourne. Outside it had a stand of wicker baskets which you could use whilst walking around the shop, and they’d used every single space imaginable for something. The crevices in the walls were filled with tubes of every seed and nut you could think of, and they even had a mini bakery on sight! These sorts of shops do not exist in the UK, but certainly should.

Australian TV – I found their TV to have quite an American influence, with a slight environmental and health conscious vibe. During my stay in Townsville, the local TV adverts were mainly focussed on obesity, and how to lead a healthier life. At the beginning I found it funny that people in such a sunny state could have an obesity problem, but actually, the heat can be too much for exercise, and the sea can have crocs, sharks and stingers to be wary of! Most coast towns do have pools which filtered in the sea water though, so there’s no real excuse.

Aborigines – On the road in Western Australia, I learnt about how much the Aborigines’ were quashed. I went on a 6 day tour of South West Oz and at nearly every stop it was all about how the Aborigines once were this and that, as if they don’t exist anymore. It makes me rather sad that they’re talked about this way, and have been removed from their lands to make way for a western world who didn’t even know how to cope in this harsh environment.

Australian Made – Independent companies appear to be thriving as well as state made adverts encouraging people to shop at independent stores rather than big businesses. It’s great to still be able to buy your meat from a butchers, vegetables from a greengrocers, and fish from a fishmongers; this is something you’d struggle to still find in a built up UK city, as the big chain supermarkets buy out all the smaller stores to make ‘locals’.

And finally, what I’ve learnt about me…

I’ve learnt that I love a Wintery Christmas in the northern hemisphere. It was weird going through December with Christmas films showing, and having no relation to the weather outside. Even topics and stories online weren’t corresponding to the heat of the Australian summer. I found it so weird that I wrote a blog entry about it.

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!