sarahblack: (Bertie Wooster)
It has been decided! Þorri and I are returning to Narrabri next Friday. It will be an interesting cross-country journey involving a bus and two trains. We'll have to leave Byron Bay on Thursday because one of the trains is an overnight train! It will be lovely to see my grandmother and Lindsay again. (As well as my grandmother's wonderful collection of books!)

As I mentioned in my very brief previous post, the stay in Byron Bay has been a dream come true so far. We could have been luckier with the weather, but I'm definitely not complaining. We've has some amazing sunny days.

However, I haven't told you guys a thing about Sydney! This post will be novel length if I try to go into all the details, so I'm just going to post a few pictures along with a few comments.

Sydney )

Last Monday Þorri and I flew to Byron Bay. We've been spending time with Lindsay's daughter's family as we are crashing at their place. But like I said in my last post, we've also been able to take a trip to Currumbin Sanctuary (Australian animal "zoo"), walk to the most Easterly part of Australia, and hang around the beach for a bit.

Pictures! )

Tomorrow we're going to have a day of pampering at a spa and then we're going to the Lounge Cinema to see Looper. I'm really excited! I haven't had a full body massage since I was here in 2006! The Lounge Cinema is a treat as well. You sort of lie around instead of sitting! It's so comfy.

P.S. I totally recommend The Iron Lady. Fantastic film! Meryl Streep is a genius.
sarahblack: (London)
Since my last update I have enjoyed a lovely stay in London, been reunited with Thorri, and flown to the other end of the planet.

I can't believe I'm in Australia already. It's been this far off part of my journey for such a long time. When I saw my grandmother and Lindsay waiting for me and Thorri at the Tamworth airport I was struck with the sheer insanity of it all. I can't really put the feeling into words, but it might have been close to how you feel when you've been spinning around on a desk chair for ages and then suddenly get up.

London )

My last full day in London, Monday, was spent getting ready to meet Þorri at the airport. I must have made it to the arrivals gate almost two hours early because I was so eager to see him again! You can imagine how happy we were when we were finally reunited. ♥

We stayed at an airport hotel that night, making it easy to get the airport the next day. I won't bore you with the details of our journey (6 hours to Abu Dhabi, 10 hours waiting in Abu Dhabi, 13 hours to Sydney, 4 hours waiting in Sydney, 1 hour to Tamworth, 2 hours driving to Narrabri) except to say it was exhausting. Especially since I came down with a sore throat right at the start of the journey. I did manage to catch up on all the recent film releases, though.

After we got to my grandmother's house we've been doing a lot of eating and sleeping. Þorri is loving all the animals that you see around the house (mainly birds and some lizards) and I'm loving my grandmother's collection of murder mysteries. Oh, and last night we started watching Downton Abbey! I've already become quite invested.

Tonight there will be a dinner party. My grandmother has invited some friends that I'm looking forward to seeing again, and there has been talk of pancakes. Yummy Icelandic pancakes!

Hopefully my throat will get better soon, being sick is no fun. Will you send me some healing mojo if you have any to spare?
sarahblack: (Johnny Depp <3)
I can't believe it's my last day in LA! Where does the time go?

Yesterday Sigthor took me out to Joshua Tree National Park. It was a bit of a drive, but we stopped at Krispy Kreme and got a dozen heart attacks to keep us going. (A warm from the oven Krispy Kreme doughnut should not be allowed to exist. Too delicious. Jesus.)

IMG_0878


I loved Joshua Tree. It had the most amazing scenery! First there was this part which was full of cacti. Really weird cacti! And then we drove into this area which was sort of like the Flintstones had been filmed there. All these huge, smooth-looking, grey boulders. They were fun to clamber over. Then there were the Joshua trees. They are so silly-looking and awesome!

Joshua Tree )

Today I decided to sleep in. It was the greatest sleeping I ever did. And then I went to Hollywood!

It was my second time in Hollywood, but it was much more interesting than my first time. Way more stuff going on in the afternoon than early in the morning. I also had more time to look for stars in the sidewalk. I found the stars belonging to Marilyn Monroe, Snow White, Britney Spears and Johnny Depp. Also, I met Jack Sparrow!

Pictures )

After Hollywood I went back to Silver Lake where Sigthor lives, and he took me to a local coffee house - Intelligentsia. Apparently it's the most 'in' coffee house in LA. Sigthor once saw Steve Tyler there. I had a very delicious Mocha which was made for me by a bunch of hipsters.

S5008802


I asked for it extra chocolate-y. ♥

Anyway, I should really go pack my stuff or something. I have to be at the airport at early o'clock in the morning.
sarahblack: (Supermodel Cher)
Sorry about the lack of updates. I haven't been able to access a proper computer until now. I've been able to check my email a few times on my phone, but now I want to take the time to tell you guys what I've been up to in the US of A!

The flight from New Zealand was long but not unpleasant. Air New Zealand really is a great airline to fly with. The food is pretty good for airplane food, they serve wine with the meals in Economy class, and there are tons of films and shows to watch on their entertainment system.

I got from the airport to my hotel without running into any trouble. I was surprised - I thought security at American airports was meant to be a pain. I did have to scan my fingerprints, but that was about it. And the airport staff was really friendly and nice.

I met up with my group at the hotel, and we went out for some Greek food. My first time eating Greek food, actually! I'm going to have to check whether actual Greek food tastes the same if I manage to swing by Greece later this summer. I had Moussaka, and it was pretty damn good.

The second day in LA was really eventful. We went to Rodeo drive and saw the Beverly Wiltshire Hotel. It's the hotel that Richard Gere took Julia Roberts to in Pretty Woman! I really wish I could afford to shop on Rodeo drive - the shops are all so pretty! (And full of very pretty things. Except for the shop with the hideous 80s-looking Valentino dresses in the window. What was that?)

We drove through Beverly Hills and looked at the pretty houses, took some photos with the Hollywood sign and checked out the Walk of Fame. I really liked seeing the hand- and shoe-prints of the Harry Potter trio in front of the Chinese theatre. But I didn't like the fact that the Twilight trio was right next to them! Boo.

The Walk of Fame had some very interesting characters wandering around. I saw Yoda and Spiderman, and one guy who may have been trying to impersonate Jack Sparrow. Badly.

We went to Santa Monica and looked at the beach, the pier and a pedestrian shopping street. The weather was perfect and the Pacific looked sparkly and blue. Just the way it ought to look. There were rides (a rollercoaster, Ferris wheel, etc.) on the pier, but I didn't try them. I just walked around, watched the people who were fishing off the edge of the pier, and spied on the street performers and artists who were trying to make a buck using various methods. One guy had a bunch of parrots that he would decorate people with so that they could get photos of themselves covered in parrots! They were really big parrots, too.

After all of that we drove to San Diego, camped and had a barbecue party!

The next day (yesterday) was spent in San Diego. I went to the beach and got sunburnt in all of the places where I couldn't quite reach with the sunblock, or where I didn't use enough. Mainly my feet look like they belong to a lobster, but my back is quite sore as well. But I have a medicated sunburn ointment from home and some Aloe Vera to treat myself with so I should be okay.

Aside from burning myself up on the beach, I also went with the group to check out a Steakhouse where a scene from Top Gun was filmed, an old fashioned sail-ship that was made to be used in Master and Commander, and a big aircraft carrier that was used in WWII. We also checked out the gaslight district of downtown San Diego. The evening was spent in the same way as the evening before - camping and having a barbecue party!

Today we drove through the Californian desert into the desert of Arizona. It was a hot ride! But we got to see some very pretty sand dunes - just like in the Sahara! We also saw the fence that separates the US from Mexico.

So far I really like the US, though. They people are friendly, and the scenery is truly amazing. I can't really describe it in a way that does it justice. I tried to take some photos, but you know how photos taken out of the window of a moving bus don't really look all that great... I did get some good shots of the sand dunes, though. They were so cool very very burning hot!

Arizona is insanely hot, too. I'm so glad I'm sleeping in an air conditioned hotel room tonight. Camping in this heat would be terrible.

Right now I'm doing some laundry at our hotel in Phoenix, but after that I am going to have a well earned rest. Being on a bus all day is exhausting! (Also, I need to put on some more Aloe Vera. My poor abused skin!)
sarahblack: (Birthday cake)
I'm back in Nanjing after spending a wonderful weekend in Shanghai with Halla.

The trip started quite excitingly! We were meant to catch a train that left at 14:45 or something like that, and in China that means that the train will either leave exactly at 14:45 or a few minutes before. Not exactly what a couple of Icelanders are used to. We ended up having to run across the train station to make our train. Just like in the movies!

The trip to Shanghai on the train was uneventful, unless you count my consumption of all the snacks in China as an 'event', and we mostly spent it talking and planning our stay in the city. (By the way, train stations in China are very interesting looking - they reminded me of space stations! Or possibly the inside of a whale's ribcage...)

Our first day in Shanghai - Saturday - was filled with fun activities! Halla took me to the Yuyuan garden, a beautiful maze of rocks, trees and flowers, and the Bund. The Bund is a fun place to walk! You can enjoy the Pudong skyline and also the beautiful old European style buildings that are all around. I took way too many pictures. It was awesome!

After doing a little shopping - no Icelander can resist H&M - and freshening up, we went to dinner at a little Italian café. I got a delicious cheese explosion/calzone and some crème brûlée. I wish I had thought to take a picture of the crème brûlée - it came in the cutest little heart shaped bowls, with a heart shaped drizzle of cocoa powder to the side.

To place the cherry on top of the sundae that was our day, we went to a bar called 'Cloud 9'. The bar is in one of the skyscrapers that I had been admiring as we walked along the Bund earlier that day. It is on the 87th floor! (To get up there you have to take three different elevators, and on the way down your ears pop!)

We sat at a table with a gorgeous view and enjoyed some very silly drinks. (I got some kind of specialty of the house - rum, more rum and chocolate something something.)

All in all, it was a nice way to spend the Saturday evening before my birthday.

The Sunday was nice too. We mainly looked at markets. We checked out the Tianzifang market, one of the tailor markets (you can get anything tailor made to your measurements!) and to a fake market. They were all very interesting. My favourite shop was in Tianzifang. It was a tiny little hole in the wall filled with music boxes! Gorgeous ones! No cameras were allowed, otherwise I would have loved to take some pictures.

It was super tempting to have the people at thee tailor market make me an entirely new wardrobe of Chanel and Dior knock-offs, and then pick up a set of fake Vuitton bags and shoes at the fake market, but somehow I resisted. Sigh.

On Sunday evening we visited the Bund again in order to see the skyscrapers all lit up. It was super cool, especially since it was a bit misty and the tallest towers disappeared into the smoke-like gloom. It made me think of Gotham city. I expected Batman drop down on our heads at any moment!

When it was after midnight, and the 14th of May had officially arrived, Halla surprised me with a little dessert! She even lit a little candle and stuck it on the treat! It was a really nice way to start my birthday. ♥

My birthday only got better once I woke up the following morning. I checked my email and saw a message from Thorri! He gave me some really excellent news. I'm not sure I should reveal all the details on here just yet, but I am so excited about this!

Halla and I had a safe journey back to Nanjing, although we ended up sharing a train compartment with way more Chinese people than should strictly have been in the compartment with us. It was interesting. Two of them were older and just slept for most of the way, but there were three? Four? Six? young guys who kept changing places with each other and and playing with a laptop one of them had brought along. I think they were watching a film about snipers? Maybe?

Anyway, Halla and I ended up taking it easy after we got to Nanjing. We had dinner at a place across from Halla's dorm and watched Jane Eyre. Today has been similarly easy going. I finished watching that Indian movie with Halla's class and right now I'm helping Halla do something mysterious to her hair. Wish us luck!
sarahblack: (Geisha)
Today I went into town with Halla. We visited the area around the temple of Confucius. A very vibrant part of the city! Full of little shops, tourists and those rickshaw drivers - desperate to drag you around in their little carts. There was also the possibility of a boat ride, and I saw a golden tree where you could purchase a red ribbon, inscribe a wish on it, and add it to the multitude of red ribbons already hanging from the golden branches in the hope that your wish will come true.

I resisted the urge to buy all the pretty things on display, but did pick up little gifts for the people I'm going to visit in Japan, and a lovely set of travel cutlery for myself. (I wish I had thought of that before I went on the train from Moscow...) All together the things I bought cost less than a 1000 ISK. I can't get over how cheap everything is here!

Yesterday was pretty uneventful. I did go to an Arabic restaurant with Ash for lunch, though. His friend is the chef, and after he made the food he joined us! Also joining us was a Chinese friend of theirs, Alice. Her English was fantastic! The best I've heard from a Chinese person who has never lived abroad. Anyway, the food was really good. Especially the lamb kebab. Yum!

I also walked past the evening market yesterday evening. It just springs up on the sidewalk! People sell all sorts of things - shoes, electronics, pretty fans and jewelry... you name it, they've got it. Just be careful not too let them notice when you look at the wares. They'll immediately start trying to sell you the stuff, and they can get quite insistent if you look like you've taken a liking to something. Halla was looking at a dress today the the market by the temple, and the lady actually grabbed her by the arm when she didn't like the sound of the price that the lady gave her. When we kept walking away, she started shouting lower and lower prices at us - but still nothing close to a price that she would have given to a Chinese person. That's the problem with being obviously foreign in China - everyone thinks you can afford to pay ten times the price!

My trip to the Chinese cinema the other nights was a lot of fun. The cinema that Halla and I went to was inside a mall. The mall is called the Aquatic Centre because it is full of fountains! Really beautiful ones that spray water in different patterns.

We had time to look at some of the shops before the film started, and I found white chocolate Tim Tams in a fancy supermarket! I didn't buy them, but I was just amazed to find my favourite Australian chocolate biscuit in a supermarket in China. So random!

The cinema itself was quite nice. When we got the tickets we were allowed to pick our seats on a little screen at the ticket counter, so there was no mad rush to get to the best seats. In any case, the showing we went to wasn't sold out. I suppose the Chinese prefer seeing the film with Chinese dubbing?

Halla got us some popcorn, but instead of being salty it was sugary! This was weird, but tasty. Also weird? The size of the 3D glasses we received. They were made for giants with enormous balloon heads! I had to use hair pins to stick them to the side of my head and use tissue paper to create a fake nose that was huge enough to balance the glasses on. It's a good thing they generally keep it dark while the film is being shown, because I must have looked very interesting indeed.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the film (The Avengers). Solid action flick with fun characters and hilarious quips. Thank you Joss Whedon!

Tomorrow I'm going to Shanghai with Halla! We're taking the train, and we should arrive there in the late afternoon. I'm really looking forward to it but I don't know what my internet access will be like while I'm there. I'll be back in Nanjing on Monday.
sarahblack: (Tea? :D)
My first two days in Nanjing have been quite lovely. I've been able to rest up, catch up with my family via email and spend time with Halla. (I've also been able to get lost once, but Ash came to my rescue on his motorbike. Telephones are useful inventions. I highly recommend them!)

I really like travelling on the back of Ash's motorbike. My first night here he took me to the centre of town, and zooming around with the wind in my face was just what the doctor ordered! It really is quite ridiculous how hot it is here. The Icelander in me rebels at the idea of it being hot at night. But that's just how China rolls.

Speaking of the weather - Last night was my second night here, and I got to experience Chinese rain. It is not like Icelandic rain. For one thing, it is still hot while it rains. For another, the rain just comes pouring straight down from the sky and does not seem to come in a two for one special with wind that is designed to turn umbrellas inside out. So in China, umbrellas are useful! A lot of people use them in to guard themselves against the sun as well, so you can basically just go around with an open umbrella at all times without people thinking you are being silly.

Yesterday I got to explore Nanjing a little with Halla by my side. We went to an electronics market, and I had a hard time leaving it. I got a memory card (8GB SD card) for my camera and a 16 GB USB stick for just 2900 ISK! That is not a lot of money. (Like 23 USD.) I might go again and try to find a cheap tablet computer, but I'm not really sure. We also walked past the 1912 district which is full of restaurants and bars, went into a supermarket and got matching purses! (Soon we will not only have matching names and purses, but matching wardrobes, vocabularies and pet cacti.)

The supermarket had live fish in tanks, loose rice that you could buy by the pound (or whatever measuring unit they use here, I have no idea) and yeah - chicken feet.

I like the food so far. Of course, I am benefiting from Halla's research into where you can find edible food in the neighbourhood. She took me to a fantastic dumpling place that I would quite like to try again, and we went with her school friends to a place where we got a very delicious vegetable dish along with a slightly dubious chicken dish. It was a bit too spicy for me, and it was hard to tell which part of the chicken you were getting. There were organs and feet in there!

This morning Ash shared some of his breakfast with me. He had made bread from scratch and baked it with cheese, tomato sauce and black olives inside. It was just like a calzone! A very delicious start to my day. I swear, he just thrives on feeding people. (The first thing he did when I got to his place was feed me home made Syrian yogurt! So good!)

I went to class with Halla this afternoon. It was a very interesting class which consisted of watching a recent Indian movie (3 Idiots), with Chinese and English subtitles. The movie was great, and I'm thinking of going to class again next week when they are going to finish watching it. The film is three hours long, so the two hour class was not long enough to finish it in one go. I wish my University classes had included more Indian films.

We also went to the post office and to the travel agency to book train tickets to Shanghai. (4000 ISK for a return trip!)

We're thinking of going to see the Avengers at the cinema tonight. I'd quite like to do that so that I can experience a Chinese cinema, and not feel quite so out of the loop.

But first - dinner! Hopefully no chicken organs tonight.

P.S. No mosquito bites so far, although I have seen a bunch of them!

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Sarah Black

March 2015

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