Haworth & the Bronte Parsonage

One of the first things I wanted to fit in to my two years in the UK from long before my arrival was a trip to Haworth to visit the Bronte Parsonage. I had finished my Master’s dissertation only a few months before landing in London and the Bronte sisters were one of my case studies, and through my research I found they were quite fascinating.

Charlotte, Emily and Anne grew up in the village of Haworth in Yorkshire, which happily is rather well preserved and still very small, making it easy to imagine what their lives might have been like there in the 1800s. IMG_9005 IMG_8985 (2) IMG_8982 (2) IMG_9002 (2) IMG_8980 IMG_9009 IMG_9027 IMG_9034 IMG_9014 (2) IMG_9015 (2) IMG_9040 IMG_9045 (2) IMG_9051 (2) IMG_9049 (2) IMG_9043 (2) IMG_9059 (2) IMG_9352 IMG_9363 IMG_9456The parsonage is on top of a hill on the outskirts of the village, with only moors and I presume some farms behind, and a cemetery, complete with the church where the Bronte family are buried, in front. The day I was there was so incredibly foggy and dark that it was difficult to see much beyond the stone walls that surround the house, but it felt like just the lonely place I had imagined — and that I’m sure inspired many of the well-known homes in the Bronte novels. IMG_9084 (2) IMG_9150 (2) IMG_9140 (2) IMG_9131 (2) IMG_9118 (3) IMG_9126 (2)IMG_9288The reason I was so fascinated by the Brontes, and so eager to visit their home (where the majority of their short lives were spent apart from brief periods abroad, but more importantly where they learned to write and composed some of what I believe are the most beautifully-written books) was because I think anyone that can write the way they did about human nature after rather uneventful lives with relatively little social interaction, not to mention their ages at the time of writing such books, must be incredibly intelligent with an almost supernatural understanding of the world. IMG_9128 (2) IMG_9154 IMG_9178 (2) IMG_9098 IMG_9185 (2) IMG_9213 IMG_9386 IMG_9334 IMG_9340 IMG_9412Perhaps I visited on the one day a year the weather is so poor, but in my experience the village, the parsonage and the moors in particular are just as mystical and gloomy as the most miserable places the Brontes wrote about, and in the end it was a day that fulfilled all of my Haworth hopes. I cannot say I wasn’t happy to return to the bright lights of London though!IMG_9446

The crazy year that was 2015

This post breaks what must be my longest ever drought between posts. Over the past year I have collected a fairly decent number of passport stamps, taken on new projects and relocated twice, which has left my blog a little neglected.

So to catch up a little…

2015 started on Primrose Hill in London, before I travelled to Qatar for the 2015 Men’s World Championship — my first of many tournaments last year.  IMG_20150114_181650 IMG_20150127_215941 IMG_20150129_182120 IMG_20150201_020506 IMG_20150202_062953I then raced back to London for 10 days that passed way too quickly, as the two years preceding them had.  IMG_20150208_161800 IMG_20150211_134322 IMG_20150211_183758Then it was on to Morocco with SA, starting with FezIMG_20150213_145916 IMG_20150213_154330 IMG_20150225_215917 IMG_20150214_141233Followed by Chefchaouen, where we were cursed with bad weather that meant we spent a large portion of time huddled together for warmth in the hotel. IMG_20150216_165315 IMG_20150216_174259 IMG_20150225_223430 IMG_20150217_132223 IMG_20150225_224104 IMG_20150225_224452 IMG_20150219_164737 IMG_20150226_130412 IMG_20150226_130441 IMG_20150226_130627 IMG_20150220_170135We had purposefully left some parts of our itinerary unplanned, and decided based on excellent advice to detour via Meknes en route back to Rabat, where our Moroccan adventure concluded. IMG_20150226_130754 IMG_20150226_131443IMG_20150222_121050 IMG_20150222_131746 IMG_20150226_132235 IMG_20150226_132605 IMG_20150226_132804From Morocco I travelled straight to Spain to visit my brother, who was studying in Murcia in the south. It was the end of February and already close to 30 degrees many days. IMG_20150226_180833 IMG_20150226_202825 IMG_20150228_145008 IMG_20150302_174847 IMG_20150304_181907IMG_20150308_165744 IMG_20150308_175538Next was Amsterdam for a couple of weeks before Paris, from where I would say goodbye to Europe for the forseeable future. IMG_20150317_195703 IMG_20150318_143153 IMG_20150318_143748 IMG_20150318_160436 IMG_20150318_173623 IMG_20150318_213212After a perfect couple of days in Paris I endured a 12-hour flight to Hanoi minus on-demand entertainment or sleep, but the tedious hours were forgotten when I arrived in the lively, leafy city, which was waking up for the day very quickly. IMG_20150320_034408 IMG_20150320_033823 IMG_20150320_135624My Vietnam travel companion was Daniel darling, who I met in London and also visited Vienna and Switzerland with. Hanoi was the base for our explorations, which included Trang An, Sa Pa and Cat Ba Island.  IMG_20150321_184055 IMG_20150323_195811 IMG_20150323_194616Processed with VSCOcamProcessed with VSCOcamProcessed with VSCOcamProcessed with VSCOcamProcessed with VSCOcamProcessed with VSCOcamProcessed with VSCOcamProcessed with VSCOcamProcessed with VSCOcamIMG_20150326_223538Processed with VSCOcamProcessed with VSCOcamFrom Hanoi I flew to Siem Reap, Cambodia, with plans to continue to Phnom Penh which I changed after learning that the lakes were too dry to travel by boat and that the around 300 km journey by road takes approximately eight hours — but this was far from a negative. I enjoyed Siem Reap in every way. Processed with VSCOcamAngkor Wat was probably one of the first places I dreamed of travelling by myself back when I used to pick up travel brochures at my university’s agency, but I had forgotten that until I was walking along the stoney entry road in the dim dawn light and saw the famous outline of the temple ahead of me. At that point waking up at 4 am to make it in time for the sunrise was very much worth it.

As it was a cloudy day the sunrise was a bit underwhelming, but  I stayed sitting there long enough that the sun finally broke through. Processed with VSCOcamProcessed with VSCOcamProcessed with VSCOcamProcessed with VSCOcamProcessed with VSCOcamIn Siem Reap, apart from visiting Angkor Wat, I mainly ate delicious food and drank cheap roadside smoothies, along with a few visits to museums and a cooking class, all of which I would highly recommend. Processed with VSCOcamProcessed with VSCOcam with m3 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 presetProcessed with VSCOcamProcessed with VSCOcamProcessed with VSCOcamProcessed with VSCOcam with g3 presetProcessed with VSCOcamNext I conquered the bus ride from Siem Reap to Bangkok, which involved a lengthy border crossing and a rather longer overall journey time than I was told to prepare for, but eventually saw me settling in for a couple of days of sightseeing and a trip to Elephant’s World before the arrival of my Thailand travel buddy, Rachael. Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetProcessed with VSCOcamProcessed with VSCOcamProcessed with VSCOcamProcessed with VSCOcamProcessed with VSCOcamIMG_20150406_003102IMG_20150405_170621IMG_20150405_152840Rachael and I headed straight to the islands: first Koh Mak for three days then Koh Kood for another three. The islands themselves were absolute paradise, but we were hit hard by food poisoning that week which resulted in me hiding in the hotel room for most of the time in Koh Mak and Rachael taking her turn in Koh Kood. IMG_20150406_191506IMG_20150409_074957IMG_20150410_204555IMG_20150410_211117IMG_20150411_190006IMG_20150412_081446IMG_20150409_105853Our recovery was well-timed with our return to Bangkok for Songkran, the massive New Year celebration involving a huge waterfight throughout the city, which was just as awesome as it sounds. IMG_20150413_092500IMG_20150414_111651Then it was time for me to board the plane to Australia, after close to two and a half years away.

Returning home after such a long period is a surreal and bittersweet experience. After many years as an expat I feel increasingly foreign each time I arrive home, and find simple things like talking to people in shops who share the same language and even accent as I do very strange, but I appreciate Australia more every time. IMG_20150508_163012 IMG_20150509_122521 IMG_20150509_123819 IMG_20150509_124541 IMG_20150509_131838 IMG_20150509_132228 IMG_20150510_124548 IMG_20150510_151215 IMG_20150510_153531 IMG_20150510_153814 IMG_20150510_160857IMG_20150520_141618IMG_20150524_133433 IMG_20150528_103313 IMG_20150531_101901 IMG_20150531_102720 IMG_20150531_105755 IMG_20150531_110122 IMG_20150607_084116 IMG_20150607_085240 IMG_20150607_092542 IMG_20150607_093908 IMG_20150607_102559 IMG_20150607_110644 IMG_20150607_165540 IMG_20150607_165918 IMG_20150607_170037 IMG_20150607_170243 IMG_20150607_170703 IMG_20150608_134232 IMG_20150618_124240 IMG_20150620_122126IMG_20150711_130437 IMG_20150712_103027 IMG_20150712_103321 IMG_20150712_134629 In July it was time to hit the sky again. Four flights took me from Brisbane, Australia to Uberlandia, Brazil for the 2015 IHF Men’s Junior World Championship…IMG_20150717_080242 where I discovered Pão de Queijo…. IMG_20150719_095032 IMG_-2jozbsCelebrated my birthday… IMG_20150723_000816 IMG_20150730_173209 IMG_20150731_124329 And France won one of their three world titles of the year.IMG_20150801_203019Then, much sooner than I had expected when I left in February, I returned to London for a whirlwind two and a half-day visit.  IMG_20150803_165331 IMG_20150803_184949 IMG_20150803_185800 IMG_20150804_110730 IMG_20150804_142253 IMG_20150804_143009 IMG_20150804_143035 IMG_20150804_212244 IMG_20150805_165342From London it was on to beautiful Ekaterinburg, Russia for the Youth World Championship. IMG_20150806_185447 IMG_20150808_113246 IMG_20150811_213834 IMG_20150812_204635 IMG_20150815_180657 IMG_20150818_171844 IMG_20150818_175024 IMG_20150821_062209Then it was time to decide what to do next, and so after hours of sitting on planes thinking about my options plus a few work considerations that had popped up over the previous weeks, I settled on moving to Amsterdam. I returned to Australia for a too-short 10 days during which I tried to squeeze in my favourite things, including a visit to the far north coastIMG_20150829_163910IMG_20150829_151521IMG_20150829_172500 IMG_20150830_133556 IMG_20150830_142609 IMG_20150830_144402 IMG_20150830_160421 IMG_20150830_160639 IMG_20150830_161431 IMG_20150830_162634And a last evening of noodles and ice cream.IMG_20150901_191413 IMG_20150901_203330IMG_20150905_123205 IMG_20150905_124636 IMG_20150905_132642 IMG_20150905_132959Before I knew it it was time to say goodbye again.  IMG_20150905_193428Six months later, after an initial arrival period dominated by visa applications and the like, a World Championship and a EHF EURO, and apartment hunting, I am slowly settling in Amsterdam. And this year is shaping up to be almost as eventful as 2015.

The London Wrap-up

Almost two and a half years ago I departed Australia on a new expat adventure. My destination was London, and everything to come was completely unknown. En route back to Australia I travelled through three continents, visiting Morocco, Spain, the Netherlands, France, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, not to mention all the other countries I’ve added to my passport since I was last home. It’s been quite a ride.
London 183 IMG_3640 IMG_4893 (2) IMG_8489 Simoneandme Summer evening in Hyde Park 017 WP_000211
In my first blog post about the move I listed the things I had: a two-year visa and my suitcase, along with the things I didn’t: a job, a place to live, and more than three friends in the city. It really is crazy is to look back on that time and all that was to happen over the next two and a bit years — so many things I could never have predicted or dreamed; so many expectations that turned out to be completely inaccurate, in the best way. I had done the living abroad thing before, so I thought I could plan a little how things would go, but the biggest thing I learned from this experience was to let go of expectations completely.

In that first post I mentioned checking in to a hostel I would call my home for the next ten days. Well, that turned out to be a huge underestimation — in that hostel I found my first home in London where I stayed for 16 months, many wonderful friends from all over the world; a job that would serve as a perfect safety net, allowing me the time to build myself up as a freelancer, something I previously thought of as unattainable; and a tall Italian who would be the star of my UK adventure. That a hostel would play such a huge part in my London experience was definitely the most unpredictable aspect of my time there. It’s not for everyone, but living in the hostel was one of the most fun, hilarious and random things I’ve ever done.
London 001
The time the guys actually rated girls walking past out of 10. They received only smiles in return — how does this work?
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Some kid was born on my birthday:WP_000693  ?????????????????
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Hostel living: the philosophy applied to any and all inexplicable/hilarious/ridiculous events experienced as part of this inexplicable/hilarious/ridiculous living situation.    WP_002173
A man in the park asks to sketch Nathan.Holland Park 092 Notting Hill Carnival 001IMG_20140703_110243IMG_20140503_184837IMG_20140503_183708IMG_20140527_184805IMG_20140421_220204 IMG_9656 IMG_9673 IMG_9682  IMG_9699 (2) IMG_9710Christmas time at Astor 034Christmas time at Astor 036Christmas time at Astor 020Christmas 010Christmas 025Christmas 038Christmas 121Christmas 145IMG_20140416_193448
My farewell from AHP. IMG_0879 IMG_0901  IMG_0990 IMG_0991IMG_1030 IMG_1051
The hostel, Astor Hyde Park, is on a beautiful wide street in South Kensington, one of London’s fanciest neighbourhoods, just down the road from Kensington Gardens. I can’t count how many hours I spent wandering, running and lazing about in Kensington Gardens and adjacent Hyde Park, not to mention walking around South Ken in disbelief that I lived there.
London 019 (2) London 126 (2) London 165 London 002 London 046 London 123WP_000441 WP_001750 Summer evening in Hyde Park 107IMG_20140703_105742IMG_20140630_002413IMG_20140627_190733IMG_20140625_211647IMG_20140609_173854IMG_20140417_200609
The time a Hugh Jackman movie (Pan, still to be released) was filmed on our block. There were huge spotlights, fog machines and I could hear the director shouting ‘action’ as I tried to sleep well after midnight. IMG_20140503_005255
All this time I was steadily working on building my client base and becoming busier and busier with work, until I was able to focus solely on that. Serendipitously, in my last week working at AHP my boyfriend was offered the Manager position at a different hostel: Astor Museum, so after a month of summertime travel in France and the Netherlands, I was lucky enough to move in with him in beautiful Bloomsbury.

Leaving South Ken was sad, but discovering Bloomsbury was amazing. I fell completely in love with this gorgeous neighbourhood full of parks and garden squares; handsome old buildings very different — though just as worthy of admiration and photo-taking — from those in South Ken; history; and countless independent coffee shops that served me as excellent offices.
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The location was spectacular for getting to know parts of central London even better. I absolutely loved our weekends: wandering down to Covent Garden for brunch, meeting a friend in Angel to find a new coffee spot, frantic shopping on Oxford and Regent Street, or practising handstands in Regent’s Park.
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At Museum, I found a new hostel family.
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We invented (maybe not) the closed-eye selfie and found it hilarious.IMG_20141229_213633 IMG_20141231_215530 IMG_20141025_200812 IMG_20141025_205022
We made Christmas jumpers mandatory for the whole of December.  IMG_0106   IMG_0214 IMG_0223
The time Kye got locked in the shower and it took at least 20 minutes to get him out. IMG_20140824_220135 (2)
I always believed the expat experience is worth the pain you will inevitably feel at the end when you leave the home away from home you have created for yourself, but I must admit I’ve questioned that philosophy a little over the last couple of months. A piece of my heart will stay in London, and it’s not easy. Maybe J.K. Rowling was onto something when she wrote that every time Voldemort created a new horcrux into which went a piece of his soul, he became a little bit weaker.

Arriving in a new place with little or nothing planned and finding your way is one of the most satisfying things I can think of; it’s why I’m hooked on moving around and discovering new places. There’s nothing like the pride of actually making a life on the other side of the world work, but then the chapter closes and all those wonderful moments become memories — and sharp pangs that haunt you for a long time afterwards.

There are a thousand things I’ll miss about that city:
Markets and festivals
London 101 London 124 (2) London 133 Portobello Rd Market 058 Portobello Rd Market 073 Portobello Rd Market 090 Urban Food Fest 012 Urban Food Fest 032 Urban Food Fest 106  Urban Food Fest 155 Spring begins in London 170 Spring begins in London 182 IMG_3834 IMG_3972 (2) IMG_4149  IMG_4080IMG_4443 (3) IMG_5272 IMG_5322 IMG_5750 IMG_5780 (2) IMG_8562
Iconic buildingsIMG_20140612_221547 IMG_8855 IMG_8796 IMG_8910 IMG_5334 WP_000991  London 001 (2) WP_001529 WP_001459Incredible, free museums Victoria & Albert Museum 004 Victoria & Albert Museum 014  Victoria & Albert Museum 026  Victoria & Albert Museum 009 WP_001894 The crazy fun of Notting Hill Carnival
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The parks, and watching them changeDavina's Visit 003 Davina's Visit 006 Davina's Visit 013 Holland Park 076 Spring begins in London 036 Spring begins in London 255 March 13th in the park 072 March 13th in the park 095 March 13th in the park 086 March 13th in the park 029 IMG_4482 IMG_4566 IMG_4605  IMG_20140506_200509 Summer evening in Hyde Park 079 Summer evening in Hyde Park 015 Holland Park 041 Holland Park 025 WP_000615 Summer evening in Hyde Park 051 Autumn Begins in Hyde Park 007 Autumn Begins in Hyde Park 017 Autumn Begins in Hyde Park 052 Autumn Begins in Hyde Park 047 Autumn Begins in Hyde Park 152 Autumn ends & Christmas time begins 006 Autumn ends & Christmas time begins 030 Autumn ends & Christmas time begins 079 IMG_5668 IMG_5680 IMG_8690 IMG_8681
Sundays at Brick Lane with SAIMG_20140419_165225 IMG_4000  IMG_4032 IMG_3927 (2) Spring begins in London 212 Spring begins in London 206 Spring begins in London 203 Spring begins in London 148
Southbank and the riverDavina's Visit 067
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Tube and double-decker bus ridesIMG_20141228_153520 IMG_0862 WP_001578 London 058 (2)
Camden and Notting Hill  London 163 London 150 London 228 (2) Portobello Rd Market 006 Portobello Rd Market 010 Portobello Rd Market 001  Christmas — there’s something unique about Christmas in LondonAutumn ends & Christmas time begins 101 Autumn ends & Christmas time begins 129 Winter Wonderland 106 Winter Wonderland 098 (2) Winter Wonderland 032   Winter Wonderland 169    Christmas time at Astor 072      IMG_20141223_172233 IMG_20141223_172709
And all the random moments in betweenIMG_20141107_222158
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Brick Lane Market

Brick Lane Market is one of my favourite weekend activities in London, which does not make me an original person. The market is definitely popular, but it’s also widespread with plenty of space, so it’s not quite as crowded as others and strolling through the network of car-free streets, carparks and non-high street shops is a perfect way to spend a Sunday. You’ll find a huge variety of stuff at Brick Lane: local designers, vintage clothing and costume jewellery stalls, books, bikes, teacups, hessian coffee sacks recycled into bags and cushions, and a lot of food. Street performers and the setting in the narrow east London streets full of street art creates a unique vibe you can’t help but slow down and enjoy. Arrive hungry — deciding what to eat will be the most difficult and enjoyable part of your day. IMG_3834 IMG_3835 IMG_3838 IMG_3843 IMG_3827 IMG_3832 IMG_3840 IMG_3845 IMG_3844 IMG_3849 IMG_3846 IMG_3857 IMG_3853 IMG_3889 IMG_3890 IMG_3861  IMG_3862  IMG_3881  IMG_3900  IMG_3907 IMG_3912 (2) IMG_3917 (2) IMG_3927 (2) IMG_3936 IMG_3937 IMG_3945 IMG_3910 IMG_3956 IMG_3963 IMG_3968 IMG_3970 (2) IMG_3972 (2) IMG_3976 (2) IMG_3977 (2) IMG_3978 (2) IMG_3979 (2) IMG_3982 (2) IMG_3981 (2) IMG_3984 IMG_3986 (2) IMG_3989 (2) IMG_3991 IMG_3993 IMG_3994 IMG_3996 (2) IMG_3997 (2) IMG_4000 IMG_4004 (2) IMG_4009 (2) IMG_4013 (2) IMG_4026 IMG_4028 (2) IMG_4031 IMG_4032 IMG_4034 IMG_4037 IMG_4038

Today at Southbank

It was 80% a gorgeous, clear, cold day in London today — until about 4pm when it started to rain again. But a few hours of sunshine were enough to convince me to take my camera for a little trip to Southbank, where the river and skyline were looking spectacular.

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