Monday, March 30, 2009

Trinidad, Cuba

It is amazing the things you decide you can do when you don't really have the facts. My life's adventures are full of activities that if I really understood what I was doing, I would never have taken.

Driving from Havana to Trinidad is one such adventure. Departing Havana many hours after we intended (as the hire car we were originally given was manual, which neither my sister Robyn nor I could drive), we didn't have a very detailed map. We started badly, and after getting lost a number of times we paid a taxi driver to get us to the main freeway.

At the beginning of the freeway, he pulled us over and gave us a lecture - do not give anyone a lift, take care of the pot holes road and drive very slowly. We quickly realised what he meant about the pot holes; this was not like any freeway I'd ever driven on. It was obvious that Cuba just didn't have the money to maintain it's freeways, there were massive potholes everywhere. Luckily there were very few other drivers, so there was heaps of room to swerve to miss a pot hole if you didn't see it until the last minute.

Sign posts also seemed to be beyond their budget, so even though the road between Havana and Trinidad was pretty direct we quickly realised that we couldn't rely on the signposts. We quickly got into a routine of asking for directions, even when we thought we were on track. We wanted to make sure we were headed in the right direction. Unlike Havana, most people we came across didn't speak English, but could read it. Directions were mostly about pointing to the address we were headed to, with a reply of points from our local guides. Only the general direction could be sort.
As the skies darkened, we noticed the rolling clouds. Soon driving was made almost impossible by torrential rain. Robyn and I could barely hear each other above the noise, the windscreen wipers started to fail, and we felt entirely out of our depth.

The drive took us over 5 hours, when we'd been told it would take us 2 - 3.
And was the drive worth it?

Spring has Sprung in Leeds

This weekend Craig and I walked down to Headingley for a coffee at Starbucks, via the lovely Woodhouse/ Hyde Park. We couldn't help notice how spring was blooming...

Craig's favourite breakfast - a Latte and fruit toast and jam

Colourful homes

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Hazy Havana Streets

Doorways of Cuba

Falling down & still looking beautiful

In Cuba, the buildings are beautiful, even the ones that hadn’t been restored yet. Falling down, they looked like art.

My accent means I am always noticed

An Australian in Leeds is not the same thing as an Australian in London, I am a bit of a rarity here. Not so rare, but not that usual. This means I am noticed more than I’d perhaps like. Shop assistants, taxi drivers, callers at work all can’t resist commenting on my Australian-ness. Sometimes even I get bored with my answers about where I am from, what Sydney is like, what I am doing in a cold place like Leeds.

It’s not that I am ashamed of being an Australian, in fact I am a passionate supporter of who Australians are, but sometimes I just want to be Megan.

It’s a little hint (and I know only a hint) of what it must be like to be a very noticeable minority.

I guess no one really things they have an accent. At the markets here, I stood beside an Irish twenty-something man who was getting served before me. As the young sales assistant handed back his change, she asked where he was from. I don't remember where he said, but she then went on to say she'd always wanted an accent. 'But you do', he said, 'it's just not Irish.' She looked at him quizzically, then she laughed and decided he was teasing her. 'Don't be silly, I don't have an accent,' and then giggled some more. He walked away very bemused that she wasn't aware that her broad Yorkshire tones were an accent.

I forget it's exercise when I walk here

  • Bay Walk, Canada Bay, Sydney
  • Bondi to Coogee, Sydney
  • Centennial Park, Sydney
  • Roundhay Park, Leeds
  • Temple Newsome, Leeds
  • Woodhouse (Hyde Park), Leeds

The best meals of my life

Aria Restaurant, East Circular Quay, Sydney
Astral Restaurant, Sydney Casino, Sydney (September 2007) - Chef Sean Connolly
360 Bar & Dining, Sydney Tower, Sydney (May 2007)
Anthony's Restuarant, Leeds (November 2008) - Chef Tony Flynn
Guillaume at Bennelong, Sydney Opera House - Chef Guillaume Brahimi
Le Jules Verne Restaurnat, Eiffel Tower, (March 2008) - Chef Alain Ducasse
New Angel Restaurant, Dartmouth, Devon (2006) - Chef John Burton-Race
Tetsuya's (at the original Rozelle location), Sydney December - Chef Tetsuya Wakuda

I can't remember the dates for some of these meals...

Coffee spots I love

- Apetite Cafe, Redfern, Sydney
- Cafe Hernandez, Kings Cross, Sydney
- Pickles & Potter, Quuens Arcade, Leeds
- Tiled Room Cafe, Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds

Monday, March 23, 2009

Loving the London Eye

On our March 2009 weekend Craig and I decided to overcome our reservations in doing something totally touristy and took a dusk ride on the London Eye. Before our ride, we had coffee sat next to a family who'd just got off their ride. The consensus seemed to be that the ride was only okay. I'd been on the London Eye in 2006, and apart from the long wait at the time, I mostly remembered the greyness I saw up there.

Dusk proved to be a perfect plan. We loved how London looked glittering as the dark set in. We shared our pod with only 4 other people, a family and a young women visiting from the states. Taking photos proved to be tricky as our cameras couldn't handle the low light, but this allowed us to all stand back and enjoy what we saw.

Craig was so impressed with the ride, he even bought the official photo.

Touristy things can still be winners.

My new favourite musuem

I finally got myself to the Victoria and Albert Museum, a museum I kept skipping when I went up to London. If I had realised that they had a dedicated jewellery gallery and a photography gallery I would have got there sooner.

I loved the museum and know I'll keep going back - there is so much still for me to see. I hadn't finished seeing what I wanted to see, we got evacuated with a small fire. It made for an eventful visit.

Portobello Markets

I no longer seem to be able to visit London with Portobello Markets - we usually stay in the Park Inn in Hyde Park as it is walking distance to the markets (and so central to other things too).

I love the colour, the interesting array of items on sale, and even the crowds. To me the markets signify everything I love about the UK - diversity, history and beauty.

I have started buying vintage jewellery there - I justify to my husband by reminding him the vintage jewellery market isn't as big in Australia as it is here, that I am just taking advantage of the opportunity of living in the UK. He doesn't really care, he is happy for me to indulge in buying things I love - oh, bless him.

Friday, March 6, 2009

It’s Redfern (or Australia) when…

  • When there is an electric socket in the bathroom. The poms think that is too unsafe but Australians are happy to risk it
  • It’s not a shock to see a man holding another man’s hand
  • You can hear the rain before you see it – rain in Leeds is mostly a soft pitter patter
  • Someone asks about how much you’ve made on your property (a bit dated now, but still an issue)
  • The coffee of my choice is often a flat white

  • It’s assumed you’ll be paying up-front when you visit the doctor
  • Kilometres, metres and dollars
  • People order a flat-white in a coffee shop (a cross between a latte and an americano - I think)

  • People dial 000 when they want an ambulance, fire brigade etc. 911 is for the USA, 999 for the UK