sarahblack: (Big Ben)
London was wonderful!

I‘m a bit bummed to be back in reality, but at least the Easter holidays are coming up. Thank the Easter bunny for five day weekends!

I‘m going to tell you all about the trip, but since it was quite packed with activities I will break it down with LJ cuts so that you can skip over stuff that doesn't catch your interest. You are of course free to skip everything and just read the tl;dr at then end. (But then you miss the pictures!)



Thursday – Travel and Tesco )

Friday – Harry Potter Studio Tour and Book of Mormon )

Saturday – The Parliament tour and afternoon tea )

Sunday – Windsor castle )

Monday – St. Paul‘s and Oxford Street )

Tl;dr version:

- Harry Potter studio tour: Very train. Delicious butterbeer. Much emotions. Wow.

- Book of Mormon show: Incredibly funny and worth the ticket price. Met interesting Doctor Who couple who were about to be engaged!

- Parliament tour and afternoon tea: So majestic! And the best scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam you can imagine.

- Windsor castle: Queen was at home but did not come out to greet us. Also, breaking news: Rich people make giant rooms with awesome paintings and furniture.

- Went to church??? (Got to sit in very fancy church chair.)

- Saw St. Paul‘s from the outside and also spent money on Oxford Street.


So. That was my trip to London.

Like I said before, I'm glad that I have another few days off coming up so that I'll be able to rest and recuperate. Although, I'm already invited to one party on Friday, and my mother got tickets for a Jesus Christ Superstar show on Thursday. Still. I think I'll probably have plenty of time to rest as well.

You guys have any plans for Easter?
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: (Giselle dress)
Soon I will be in the air heading for Sydney! Before I leave I wanted to give you guys a brief overview of what I've been doing for the past few days in Albury.

- I went swimming! It felt like I was home. Also it was exercise. Desperately needed physical activity. (Am turning into a blubbery beast.)

- I visited the family of an exchange student that used to live with my aunt. Turns out his family home is right outside Albury, and he put me in touch with his mother. She proceeded to invite me and Þorri to lunch and feed us all the things. (There was quail, squid and kangaroo meat among other things. All super delicious!)

S5005665
The house was beautiful!


- Erin took me and Þorri to see Beechworth. It's an old gold rush town just south of the border in Victoria. We had a wonderful afternoon of walking up and down the picturesque main street, buying sweets and amazing honey, checking out the old court house and the old jail where Ned Kelly bought it. (Ned Kelly is a sort of Robin Hood figure in Australia.) There was also a telegram station! You could send an actual telegram and watch this amazing old gentleman send it in Morse code! Most entertainment I have ever received for four dollars.

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Apparently sending a telegraph via Morse code has beaten a text message via mobile phone!


- I checked out the Hume Dam and the Hume Lake with Erin and Þorri. It was really beautiful, and we were able to wave to Jack (Erin's boyfriend) who was out sailing on the lake on a yacht. Erin and Þorri did a little bit of wading and skipping stones, but I kept to the shade since I had forgotten all about sunscreen. Silly me.

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- Otherwise Þorri and I have been playing a lot of Scrabble, eating a lot of yummy food (Erin is a wonderful cook) and using up all of Erin and Jack's internet. It's been great!
sarahblack: (Haaapppeee Audrey)
There really is nothing quite like staying with my grandmother and Lindsay in their house in the Middle Of Nowhere, Australia.

You never know when some interesting animal might decide to pop over for a visit. My grandmother likes to feed the goana lizards that live in the neighbourhood, and they will come up to the porch and practically eat right from out of her hand.

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Animal invasions and other things )

In the evenings, before dinner, a glass of bubbly with some strawberries thrown in is not an uncommon sight. (Beers, or even glasses of Gin and Tonic can sometimes be spotted by the keen observer.)

Avid readers will find themselves in paradise. Books full of murder mysteries, politics, history, Australian wildlife, Icelandic geography, famous literature, short stories, poetry, photographs and anything you could possibly want to read about, abound.

Would-be farmers would be happy here. Last week we were invited to go with Lindsay to the University of Sydney Plant Breeding Institute to observe the annual Field Day. This consisted of eating delicious barbecued food and looking at a lot of wheat. We heard Lindsay give a talk on the history of the different wheat species that the University of Sydney has been involved in breeding, and heard about a lot of different research projects that Ph.D. students are working on. Wheat is being made to need less water, resist disease, resist heat, become more nutritious and generally do whatever we want it to do. It's fascinating!

S5005580


On Saturdays a market springs up alongside the river in Narrabri - perfect for bargain-hunters. This weekend Þorri and I went with my grandmother to have a look. There was a man with an ice cream machine! He put scoops of vanilla ice cream inside, along with a scoop of raspberries or strawberries or whatever kind of berry that you wanted, and out of the machine came perfect berry flavoured soft serve ice cream! I want one of those machines.

I bought honey from a nice lady who first tried to get me to taste all the different kinds of honey she had for sale, and Þorri bought a lovely straw hat. (No-one tried to make him taste all the hats first.) My grandmother bought some beautiful flowers.

Life in the country is definitely something special. Plenty of animals and plants to keep you company, books to read, naps to take, bubbly to drink and all kinds of activities to keep you occupied.

For example, tomorrow me and Þorri have been invited to see the cotton crops get planted. I've never seen anything like that. (Iceland is not exactly famous for its agriculture.) Apparently there will be huge machines involved. I just hope my hey fever doesn't give me too much trouble.
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: (Phantom Rose)
Phew! Finally a chance to post!

I've made it to Marseille in one piece after a wonderful week in Paris with Thorri. It was horrible to say goodbye to him yesterday, but I'm trying not to dwell on it. I have a month to see Europe, and then we will be together again! Two whole months together in Australia before Real Life takes over again.

Last time I updated I told you about the Louvre and some other stuff. I'm going to give you a brief overview of the other sights that Thorri and I took in while we were in Paris.

S5002132_


Oui oui, tell me more! )

Yesterday was truly our last day. Thorri had to leave for the airport soon after we woke up, but I was able to stay longer since my train left in the evening. Paris said goodbye to us by giving us beautiful weather, almost as if it were tempting us to stay. I tried not to miss Thorri too horribly (although I let myself wallow with a cocktail for a while) and did some tourist stuff. But eventually the weather tempted me to settle down in the gorgeous little park next to the Hotel Esmeralda - where Thorri and I stayed for our last two nights in Paris - to read and enjoy the view.

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sarahblack: (Princess and the Frog: Fabulous!)
Bonjour!

I'm currently posting from my couch surfing host's computer. His name is Ivan and he has been taking wonderful care of me and Thorri.

The past two days have been quite the whirlwind! Yesterday we arrived in Paris - very early in the morning - and spent most of the time before lunch getting to our host and catching up on sleep. Then we went to see the Victory Arch and the beautiful shopping street Champs- Élysées. Thorri bought some clothes that were on sale, and I renewed some MAC supplies that I was running low on. For dinner Ivan cooked us some delicious risotto and we split a bottle of white wine. We ate outside in the nice weather and talked until it was very late.

Today I managed to wake Thorri up at around lunch, and we headed for the Louvre soon after. Before entering the museum we looked at the Paris Opera House and strolled down some of the nearby shopping streets. There were a lot of jewelry stores with sparkly things!

The Louvre was amazing, but exhausting. I didn't realise it was so huge! It was really nice to see all those beautiful and famous works of art. Aside from the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo there were so many gorgeous pieces! I fell in love with a particularly beautiful painting of a martyr in a white dress, floating in some water with the figure of death hovering in the background. I think it's called 'A Young Martyr' and it's by Paul Delaroche.

Dinner was eaten at a very unique restaurant that Ivan took us to. It used to be a train station! It's called Bouillon Chartier and the food was amazing! I tried snails and foie gras for a starter, duck comfit as the main course, and a baba au rhum for dessert. It was all delicious!

After dinner we walked around for a bit, and Thorri and I joined a group of people who were dancing the tango on the steps of the Opera House. I was a bit nervous since I haven't danced the tango since I left Iceland in April, but it was fun!

Anyway, I need to go to sleep now. We're going to try to get out of bed a bit earlier tomorrow and it's already after midnight!
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!

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Sarah Black

March 2015

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