I arrived in London with no plans. However, I was lucky enough that my cousin, Tarlia, had also just arrived and had kindly booked me into a hostel with her for a couple of nights.
For about a week I hostel-hopped whilst checking out some housing options and setting up my bank account. I was having no luck with the house search (via houseshare.co.uk and gumtree.co.uk) until one of the girls (Aussie) I met on the tour (through Portugal and Spain) got in contact with me and said I could crash at her place until I found somewhere. This proved perfect as Chloe was actually leaving London and moving back to Australia, so after a week dossing on her couch she told me I could take over her room and it was only £380 a month including bills!!! I had somewhere to live!
The flat was in Tooting Broadway (on the Northern Line) which is South of the Thames. I would recommend this area to anyone, it is only a couple of stops away from Clapham (a major antipodean hang out) and pretty cheap too. Tooting Broadway also had everything I needed – a big Sainsbury’s right next to the tube station, various eateries, Tooting Leisure Centre (gym) and even a Primark! There is also some of the best curry places around (yes, even better than the famous Brick Lane!).
Now that I had somewhere to live, the first few weeks it was meeting with agencies and exploring my new home city before heading up to Edinburgh in Scotland for a few days. I caught the train and stayed with a mate I also met on the tour through Portugal and Spain.
Edinburgh was cool. I did the free Sandeman’s free walking tour around the town and we also went on a ‘Loch Ness Hunter’ through the Scottish Highlands with Haggis Adventures to check out Loch Ness and the stunning rolling mountains on the way. It was beautiful with the autumn colours out in full force and you got to meet Hamish the Highlander Cow.
Once returning to London, I had a few temp jobs going on at various companies which helped with getting the money flowing in. With no ‘London experience’ on my cv it was not the easiest thing to get work and it didn’t help that I couldn’t commit to anything more long-term yet as I had a few trips booked over Christmas and New Years..!! I went for whatever jobs I could pick up from the agencies from receptionist, secretarial, accounting to being a tea lady.
Being Christmas time, my new housemates and I booked a day trip to Bruges in Belgium for a ‘Christmas Market’ trip. We went with Expat Explore who organised the transport which was a bus from London to Bruges. This included the bus actually going onto a train to go through the EuroTunnel – this tripped me out – a bus on a train, under the English Channel and coming up in France, who knew..
We spent the day eating our way through Bruges with foods such as chocolate-coated strawberries, waffles, more chocolate, Belgian Beer. Went for a boat cruise down the canals and really got to check out the picturesque little town. The Christmas Markets were delightful and some pretty impressive ice sculptures on display. We got a great view of the city from the top of the Belfry Tower and the walk up warmed us up nicely.
I have to give a special mention to ‘Winter Wonderland’ which was happening in Hyde Park back in London, I loved this place! It was incredible and I hadn’t been to anything like it before. Absolutely full of people with everyone in a cheerful and jolly mood with mulled wine flowing and rides galore!! It was a great place to catch up with mates and get into the Christmas Spirit – in a cold atmosphere for the first time instead of the Aussie summer I was used too.
I went to a TNT Travel Expo with my cousin where I managed to book myself a tour through Jordan and Egypt the following year in March/April for just half the price!! Bonus.
Next up was a manic month for me over December/January where I had multiple adventures to get me through my first silly season without the family around (and in the snow!)..!
First up was a trip through Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam with a mate, followed by the French Alps over Christmas (first time experiencing snow!) and then back up to Edinburgh for the Hogmanay Festival over New Years.
And so the travels continue..