Watching a certain action movie being filmed in Edinburgh!

I have done quite a bit of travelling since coming back from Australia. I have been back for one month now and had some much needed rest days between blog posts, but not too many. Edinburgh to the Isle of Wight via Bristol as I recently shared with you, then a few days in my hometown with friends and family. This is what I counted as my ‘rest days’, knowing I am home having some proper cooked meals in a place I can totally relax is the best rest possible. I then headed back up to Edinburgh to stay with my sister overnight before a flight to Berlin.

And as a certain something was being filmed in the Scottish capital, we went to check it out.

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Durham Train Station

And after a glorious journey up the east coast of the country I arrived in Edinburgh.

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The weather was perfect. Blue skies to complement the Scottish flags under a blazing sun. I wonder if this will make a movie look far-fetched… yes I can take all the storylines and car chases, but sunshine in Scotland?! Come on now.

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Above is St Giles’ Cathedral. A dominant building on the Royal Mile, this was one of the film locations for the movie Avengers: Infinity War. I am sure fans of the Avengers movie’s will recognize the sets, although it is beautiful to see regardless.

Below, Cockburn Street which was also used in some scenes. Next door to the ‘Scott Brothers’ store is a shop for Harry Potter fans. I didn’t look at the sign however it was called ‘Diagon House’ last time I was here and I assume it is the same store. I made a very quick post on this here, as well as show you the outside of the coffee shop JK Rowling used to write her novels in.

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But on this trip it was another huge movie franchise. Fast & Furious 9 is partially being set in the city and I managed to find the filming of it with the help of my sister.

But before that, a message from Vin Diesel himself.

Thankfully we didn’t have to go far, Waterloo Place was the location we found the filming taking place. It is just a couple of minutes walk from Waverley Station and on route to Carlton Hill, a great place if you want some amazing views of Edinburgh.

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A stuntman chills on a lorry between takes

Between takes, the street was open for pedestrians only. The road was fenced off from either side, only vehicles used for the movie were on the street. We managed to get there as a scene was taking place and I got this bit of footage.

 

It was cool to see the drone camera capturing it all, and to imagine what it will look like on the big screen. It is a fairly small street, so takes only lasted a few seconds.

The scene ended, the street opened and we walked to the other side. The staff didn’t mind us recording as we went past, we just had to keep moving and were reminded continuously as we made our way through. It makes sense though, I can only imagine how long it would take to create a movie of this size.

 

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The street was filled with everyone you can imagine that would be involved in such a production. Crew, actors and stunt doubles, volunteers, first aiders… it was pretty exciting to walk through and see them putting it together. My sister loves this kind of thing, and is was actually a paid extra in the movie!!

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Below, all the camera work and the majority of the team on this particular set.

 

So I have to admit here, the actor seen in the first video wasn’t Vin Diesel, but his stunt double. This was made clear as we walked past the bus.

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As we made it to the other side, we decided that today was the perfect day to climb up Carlton Hill. This is the best spot to take in the whole city, in all it’s natural and architectural glory.

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Athur’s Seat. In person you could actually see people right on the cliff edge, walks up there are very popular but I haven’t done it myself.

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Cranes. Lots of Cranes.

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The National Monument of Scotland

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What I love about Edinburgh is that both a busy city and quiet natural beauty spots are a short walk away. It is that perfect size for me, with just the right amount of everything.

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I have realised climbing is becoming more and more of a challenge as the years go by…

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Above are views from Carlton Hill, looking over to the Firth of Fourth and Leith, where my sister currently lives.

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We made it back down, and the street used for filming seemed a lot quieter. With this we walked through the cities gardens on route back to the flat.

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I cannot get enough of the beauty of Edinburgh. So many amazing buildings on a dramatic landscape, it is no surprise the city is home to numerous World Heritage Sites.

Below is one of my favourite buildings in the city, Scott Monument.

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This is a monument for Scottish author Walter Scott, and stands just over 200ft tall. It is possible to climb the stairs to the very top with some great views over the city.

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Love bagpipes!

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Posing in front of Edinburgh Castle

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And I will leave you with Wojtek, a ‘beer-drinking soldier bear’ adopted by Polish troops during war that helped carry ammunition before ending his days in Edinburgh. It wasn’t a memorial I was expecting in the city centre, but one I welcome.

Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed the post from one of my favourite cities in the UK. Are you a fan of the Fast and the Furious movies? Let me know and let me know if you have been to Edinburgh!

See you all soon.

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My first time to Bristol!

Bristol is a beautiful city. Located in England’s South West with a population of over 460,000, it is bigger than I thought it was. It is also a city that has been associated with Banksy, the famous yet anonymous street artist that apparently lives nearby.

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Getting off the train from Southampton I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful the city was. The glorious weather helped too.

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A not very clear shot on the bus heading to our main stop.

This was a very quick visit as we arrived late morning/ early afternoon and my mum, sister and I were catching a flight back to Newcastle. We were due to fly to and from Newcastle however our flight down here was cancelled and rescheduled on the evening from Edinburgh. Thankfully this return journey remained scheduled to Newcastle which meant a much shorter journey home.

So this post is pretty much about one thing. The Clifton Suspension Bridge.

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The bridge spans the Avon Gorge, and has done for almost 150 years. According to their website (I have linked at the bottom of this post) it is entirely funded by tolls. These tolls have paid for its upkeep since 1864.

The bridge was built to a design by William Henry Barlow and John Hawkshaw. Despite having some changes, these designs were based on earlier ones by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

The website has a dedicated ‘Our Heroes’ page, and lists the following people:

William Vick (1707 – 1754)

The wine merchant who left money in his will to fund a bridge across the Avon Gorge.

Marc Brunel (1769 – 1849)

A respected engineer. Inventor of the production line and father to Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Sophia Kingdom (1775 – 1854)

Survivor of the French Revolution and mother to Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Thomas Telford (1757 – 1834)

An internationally acclaimed and self taught British engineer, often referred to as ‘the Builder of Britain’ and the ‘Father of Civil Engineering’.

George Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer (1758 – 1834)

The First Lord of the Admiralty, Fellow of the Royal Society and Knight of the Garter. Friend to both Marc and Isambard Kingdom Brunel and ancestor of Lady Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales.

Sir John Hawkshaw (1811 – 1891)

A distinguished civil engineer specialising in piers, canals, tunnels and railways who helped to complete the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

William Henry Barlow (1812 – 1902)

A distinguished civil engineer who designed St Pancras Station and helped to complete the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

Davies Gilbert (1767 – 1839)

An English mathematician and theorist, founder of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall, judge of the second competition to design a bridge across the Avon Gorge.

Thomas Guppy (1797 – 1882)

Successful merchant turned engineer, a friend and confidant to Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Instrumental is setting up the Great Western Railway and a partner in the development of the Great Western Steamship Company.

Captain Christopher Claxton (1789 – 1868)

Naval captain and first Managing Director of the Great Western Steamship Company and Secretary to the Clifton Suspension Bridge Company. Harbourmaster at Bristol Docks.

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I had to get a selfie here.

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Pretty steep cliff right there

 

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I always wonder how these couples are doing since the padlock…

On top of the hill right next to the bridge, a cafe and observatory allow you to grab a coffee and gaze out over the structure and down the River Avon.

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The views are great.

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Now who has heard of the famous duo Wallace and Gromit? Some readers will be too young I am sure, although they are pretty much household names in the UK. A great memory I have was watching this with my family as a young child in the early nineties, and how much my dad loved the show. I am not sure if the show was aired outside of the UK, a claymation of a lovely homely man and his dog that loves Wensleydale cheese and crackers going on the odd crazy adventure. I tried to see what the link was with Bristol after seeing Wallace grinning before the bridge, it seems there was a charity event in the city not too long ago called Gromit Unleashed 2. This was the second of two award-winning sculpture trail’s, the first consisting of 80 Gromit sculptures in 2013. Gromit Unleashed 2 also starred Wallace, and one of the sculptures is still standing (well, sitting) here today.

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Moving further up the observatory, the views improve and a very cool camera sits at the top. Clifton Observatory was established in 1766 and consists of Giants Cave and the Camera Obscura.

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This one of only three Camera Obscura’s operating in the UK, and was set up in 1828. The natural optical phenomenon occurs when an inverted image is projected through a pinprick hole and displayed on the other side of that hole, whether it is a screen/ wall etc.  In this room the image appears through a hole in the roof of the building, and displays the light on a large circular base in the middle of the room below it. This only works in a darkened room, which made photography pretty difficult with a phone camera. This must have been pretty amazing to view at the time of its creation, with the image being so clear. And the camera, like CCTV of today, is able to move around using a handle above the image. I enjoyed viewing Bristol from an angle I didn’t know existed!

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Views of the surrounding areas, from the top of the observatory.

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If you look closely below, not to the very horizon but the last dark row of trees before it, the top of another bridge can be seen. Seems like Bristol likes its bridges!

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And now all the way back down, and further. Giants Cave or Ghyston’s Cave takes you 200ft along and down a tunnel to an opening in the cliff face, 250ft above the gorge and 90ft below the observatory and cliff top.

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My sister leading the way

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It is not for everyone with some narrow sections and steep stairs, however this is the scene when you reach the bottom. A glow from the cave opening, great views of the Avon Gorge and Clifton Suspension Bridge and another scary floor that you can stand on and see right through.

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I hesitated at first, but my sister went straight for the views.

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Trying to hide the fear

And after a good fifteen minutes or so we decided to head back up. Obviously this way was more of a workout, but not too bad. That is if you take the right path, this stairway seemingly leading to nowhere.

I wonder where it did lead to…

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Steep staircase…

And that is it from Bristol! After this quick trip we headed back to the airport and north to Newcastle. I am glad I can tick Bristol off the list of UK cities I have visited and would have liked to have spent more time here. But it is safe to say the city is great, and the surrounding towns look stunning.

I hope you enjoyed the post, and will see you tomorrow with my next adventure. Edinburgh for a night with my sister (and seeing a certain movie being filmed in the city) before flying to Berlin to explore the city and see Muse live at the Mercedes-Benz Arena.

I have a busy week of blogging ahead!

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www.cliftonbridge.org.uk/

The Gromit Unleashed Shop

Clifton Observatory

 

 


 

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A family trip to the beautiful Isle of Wight

Shortly after getting back home I was on another flight. This time to the Isle of Wight as my step-grandmother passed away just before I arrived back in the UK. I was able to Skype with her from Melbourne which I am grateful for, technology is certainly a blessing at times. The funeral was held where she lived and I went down with my mum and sister.

This involved a train ride up to Edinburgh as our flight was cancelled by EasyJet. This meant instead of getting to Bristol on the morning (where we were getting the train to Southampton and then a ferry across) we had to wait all day for an evening flight. This was pretty damn annoying but a quick gin and tonic at the train station helped.

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My sister lives up in Edinburgh with her boyfriend, meaning I have been up a couple of times to see her. Edinburgh is a gorgeous and very historical city not too far north of the Scotland/England border, and my mums place of birth. And would a trip to Edinburgh be complete without trying haggis?

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This restaurant receives great reviews so we thought we would try it. It is right in the city centre and if you would like to try some local delicacies this is a great place to head.

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If I remember rightly I had the beef haggis with heather honey and turnip puree. It was very good.

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It was nice to stroll through the streets again, despite being a very short trip. But I had longer in the city recently after my recent trip to Berlin via Edinburgh Airport and have more pictures from that trip coming soon. The new The Fast and the Furious movie, Fast & Furious 9, is currently being filmed in the city. And I have some shots of the filming in an upcoming post!

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Time to board…

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And we finally made it to Bristol.

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The next morning after a good breakfast we made the train ride to Southampton. The flight the previous night was only around 55 minutes so wasn’t bad at all. Southampton and Portsmouth are cities that are a short ferry ride from the island, however we had to fly into Bristol on those dates.

Southampton is a lovely city, however upon leaving the train station I couldn’t help to notice how bland and concrete the buildings were. I have always thought that about rail travel, despite being a great mode of transport for getting right into the city centre, the views from the windows are often some of the worst arriving into any city. The graffiti, barbed wire, rubbish… never gives a good first impression for a tourist.

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But after a fast ferry (around 40 minutes) we arrived on the Island.

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The Island is great. And bigger than you would think. It covers 150 sq miles and has the population of a small city, roughly 141,000. Recently the Isle of Wight was mentioned on Britain’s Got Talent as a reggae singer and resident of the island, Derek Sandy, performed on the show. His song ‘Welcome to the Isle of Wight’ received four yeses from the judges, a song my uncle wrote and produced with him!

Hovertravel is another travel option getting onto the island. There isn’t a commercial airport for tourists to use, so currently water is the only way. This hovercraft service is the worlds only commercial passenger hovercraft service and gets you to the mainland in only ten minutes.

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You see the object in the water below? Nope, not the guy, behind to the right. That is one of a few forts that can be viewed from the coastline, built in the 1800’s due to the threat of invasion. You can actually book a trip there for a luxury retreat today, one of these trips can be viewed here, named No Man’s Fort. It is pretty amazing to think how these would have been built at sea, especially in choppy waters.

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The weather down there was lovely. Which meant for a lovely send off to my gran. The funeral service was on the day we got there, but we landed with plenty of time to spare. As my gran was born in the north east, half the people at the funeral were in fact travelling from the same region of England as us. It was strange going south and hearing a church full of locals accents on the other side of the country. And it was lovely to see some people we haven’t seen in years.

The next few shots are from Appley, on the north of the island. I have fond memories as a kid walking down here past the cute little Appley Towers, overlooking the south coast of England.

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I put on Instagram I was ‘back home’ however I don’t think too many people were fooled by my supposed house

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My sister having a fun time next to the picture frame that is used by many to get a nice picture of the house.

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Some very eagle-eyed readers will notice a tower on the English coastline in the shots below. This is the Emirates Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth, a 560ft observation tower. I really like it and can be seen all the way from the Isle of Wight.

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My mum, sister and auntie underneath the tower just before my sister took part in the Tall Ships Race from Portsmouth to Amsterdam a few years back.
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The tower is to the left of the cruise ship

And speaking of cruise liners, this was one of the last places the Titanic was seen before it’s doomed journey. There is a photograph from the island of the liner, one of the last photos taken. It wasn’t the very last as the ship made its way to Ireland before the journey across the Atlantic.

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You can see one of the ports I mentioned earlier out to sea…

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I have always been lucky with the weather here. A few years back I went to the Isle of Wight Festival with my sister and some friends and the weather was perfect. It is one of the UK’s biggest festivals and attracts some very big bands and thousands of music fans. It is a great opportunity for many people to see the island for the first time and the beauty on offer.

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Similar to the forts above, procedures were put in place on land to protect the Isle of Wight and the UK from invasions. We walked around some sites that haven’t been touched since the world wars, where huge guns and weaponry would have been fired during Nazi bombings. It was fascinating to see, and a reminder of how terrible and terrifying war must be to experience in person.

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And before we knew it, we were back at the ferry terminal and sailing back to the mainland. It is always a beautiful trip to this part of the world, and even though this visit was in sad circumstances my gran had a beautiful send off and we had a lovely family reunion. There is something about just being next to the ocean that is very calming too, and this helped a lot for all of us.

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Becky and her antics again…

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We spotted a ship named ‘Blade Runner II’, pretty cool!

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Time to sail…

And that is it from my Isle of Wight trip. A fairly quick trip with plenty of miles covered, and we got to explore Bristol for a day before the evening flight back. Some posts from this trip, as well as Edinburgh and Berlin to come soon.

Thank you for reading, have you ever been to the Isle of Wight? Let me know. Pat, I know you have recently told me you have a friend on the island, I hope they share plenty of beautiful pictures with you! It is a fascinating island with beautiful landscapes and plenty of history.

I will see you all soon!

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Back to my hometown after two years away

This is Bishop Auckland, a small town in County Durham in the North East of England. I lived here all my childhood, born in the hospital just up the road before moving to the Texas on an internship at 21. It is a town with a very proud history, and a not so proud recent history. Those were my thoughts until I came back recently to see what had changed.

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Vikings still roam the streets and mingle with the locals…

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Sometimes unsuspecting locals are grabbed by said vikings and benches are used as makeshift chopping blocks.

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And growing up I often thought this town hadn’t kept with the times. It has had a great history though, a thriving town during the Industrial Revolution with the surrounding mining towns and villages. It is also home to Auckland Castle, historically a home for the Bishops of Durham and a place they came to hunt. Auckland Castle sits right behind the Town Hall seen in the above picture.

The Auckland Project, a fantastic project that I will introduce you to shortly, states that ‘Auckland Castle was built to host lavish medieval celebrations and hunting parties, to entertain royalty and impress visitors with the bishops’ power and wealth. From Bishop Auckland, the Prince Bishops ventured forth to broker royal marriages, lead armies into battle and advise kings.’

Pretty damn important people of the time.

Bishop Auckland station connects the town to nearby Darlington, home of The Stockton and Darlington Railway, the worlds first public steam railway.

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I couldn’t get any further back without falling off the platform!

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The date in the centre of the piece, January 30th 1843, was the opening of Bishop Auckland station to passengers. The year 1857 can also be seen, the time a Durham to Bishop Auckland line was introduced.

A cool fact to share is that Stan Laurel went to my school. Laurel hit fame as half of the comedy duo Laurel and Hardy, Laurel being British and having family roots back to the town. As I was leaving King James I Academy in 2005, the school celebrated it’s 400th birthday. Again, a school with a long and proud history that is hard to maintain in a small coal mining town in the 21st century.

Next to him, Bob Hardisty. A football player that spent most of his time playing for Bishop Auckland in it’s glory days, winning multiple amateur trophies. On the 6th February 1958 a plane carrying the Manchester United football team crashed during take off, tragically killing 23 of those on board. With such a huge team losing so many players to the disaster, players were signed from elsewhere. One of these was Bob Hardisty, one of three players from Bishop Auckland’s that then signed for Manchester United. It is pretty crazy to think one of the biggest sports teams in the world signed players from my town.

Another historical fact relating to football is from the neigbouring town of West Auckland. This town is famous for winning the first ‘world cup’ of teams from multiple European nations, and for beating Juventus 6-1 in 1911 to defend the title. Juventus now is another footballing giant, the team Cristiano Ronaldo currently plays for.

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But that was then. Growing up in the early 90’s I remember the popular market near the Town Hall and the busy high street. I remember twenty taxis lining up on a Saturday night to take those from the surrounding areas to and from the busy weekend nightlife. And I remember through my teens seeing the high street slowly die off and businesses close, being replaced by boarded up windows and betting shops. The town hit a low point for sure and to be honest I am glad I left when I did as there wasn’t anything for a 21 year old, or anyone for that matter.

However since being away my mum has been keeping me updated with everything that is happening in the town. And every time I hear something it has been positive. My first experience of things improving was the beginning of what is now and regular event called Kynren, taking place annually in the fields around the castle.

Kynren, linked here and at the bottom of the post, is a spectacle performed on Saturdays between June and September. 2,000 years of history is reenacted before 8,000 people in theater style seating, including music, horses and hundreds of volunteers with theater style backdrops. It is very impressive and has gained attention nationwide and intentionally. It was inspired by a very similar event called Puy du Fou in Western France.

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This is one change for the better in this town. And The Auckland Project has an aim to restore Bishop Auckland’s glory days. On their website the following can be read about the project:

The Auckland Project is like nothing you’ve come across before. It’s a project that spans over a thousand years, seven venues in one beautiful setting.

We’re all about Bishop Auckland, a small town but one with a big history and big ambitions.

The Auckland Project

And that is exactly what it is. A small town with a big history.

For many centuries, Bishop Auckland was a thriving market town but since the demise of the mining industry, like many British towns, it has been affected by an economic and social decline. Today, we intend to use art, faith and heritage as a ‘circuit breaker’ to drive regeneration in the local community.

‘Our Founders vision’- The Auckland Project

It seems to be doing just that. Jonathan Ruffer is the founder of The Auckland Project and has invested a hell of a lot of money into the town. He is a multi millionaire using his money for good and wants to see the area rise again.

What started with ideas, thoughts and aspirations is now becoming reality, but there will be no finishing line for us to cross. By its very nature, this project is long term and the broad vision at the heart of our journey will not be limited in direction or time.

Jonathan Ruffer- Founder, The Auckland Project

What a great guy.

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I am not sure what the Storm Troopers are here for, but they don’t know the epic fight that is imminent with the vikings just down the street.

Were they vikings by the way? I am not sure exactly.

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One thing I regrettably didn’t do was head up Auckland Tower, seen in my first pictures in the post.

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This tower is 29 meters tall with a viewing platform 15 meters up, offering views of the surrounding area. I think it is a nice addition to the town and seeing it in what was once a slowly dying market place gave me great belief that the town may see a revival.

And of course this isn’t the only town that has struggled to keep its head above the water. It is a sign of the times, industries and the way we live changes and these changes can be pretty rapid. We no longer rely on high streets for our weekly shop with online shopping. And the country doesn’t rely on Bishop Auckland anymore for it’s coal. Instead, like many areas the revival comes with tourism. And if anything the problems towns and even cities face in an ever changing world is a good thing as it forces regions to improvise and improve. Nobody likes change however it is vital for anything to last. Adapt to the times or die. And I am glad Bishop Auckland is clearing it’s weeds and is seeing a new burst of life.

I hope it continues, and I hope you enjoyed this post about my home town. It is a place I have loved and hated in equal measure growing up, but that’s any hometown I guess. But I am very proud of what it is doing currently, enough to want to blog about the place and I would highly recommend experiencing Kynren if you are in the North East.

See you again soon from my next stop!

Links to websites

aucklandproject.org

Kynren- an epic tale of England

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Leaving Australia: Flying Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam, London with one hours sleep!

This post is about my flight to London from Melbourne. Through Abu Dhabi. And Amsterdam. And then a train to Durham from Kings Cross. I was so tired I ended up having to stand up the last half of the journey so to not end up in Newcastle. I didn’t sleep much on the journey as you can tell.

But before that, my last coffee in Melbourne. I went back to my post People of Melbourne, what should I do? as I remember being recommended this place, Dukes, and never visited. And for that reason I went on the day of my flight. I went to tell the blogger I had been and… realised the recommendation was on another post that I can’t find. Now I am pretty confident I remember who it was, but don’t want to say for sure in case I am wrong.

So if you told me to go here, I did. And thank you it was great coffee! It was just jam packed in there so had to have it in a to-go cup.

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My goodbyes were said to this great city, I made sure I had everything and headed to the airport. A long 35 hours (at least) were ahead of me and I got to it.

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I had an evening flight, and the first flight was the longest. Melbourne to Abu Dhabi is just over 14 hours, plenty of time to catch a good amount of sleep. If you’re one to fall asleep easily on flights that is. I am not one of those people, partly because of the mild anxiety I have before each flight and being in that seated position for so long. The coffee was long before the flight so I don’t want to blame that.

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Waiting to board
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It’s finally time

What didn’t help my insomnia was browsing the movie section, the first thing I usually do when aboard. Well the first thing was listen to an Islamic prayer over the tannoy being an airline from the United Arab Emirates, it was my first time flying through the Middle East. And this was quickly made apparent looking at the temperature in my first stop, Abu Dhabi.

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46C!! The last and only time I have ever experienced such madness was in Sydney when it reached 47C a couple years back. I remember waiting for a breeze to hit me only for it to feel more like a hairdryer to the face. Brutal, brutal weather that I am just not used to. Thankfully airplanes are prepared for the elements, it is pretty crazy how the air temperature goes from such lows at high altitude to such highs when we land. Technology is amazing.

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Etihad displays the distance to Mecca on it’s flights. I am not sure if Emirates and other UAE airlines do this, but it was interesting to see.

But back to the movie. I liked Deadpool, I like how both movies don’t take themselves seriously. I need this kind of humour in my life. And another reason not to sleep was the meals and drinks being offered during it. I feel it would be a waste not to make the most of it, especially travelling for so long. A feed every now and then is pretty important as I lose track of time and what day it is.

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And a few hours and a couple of movies into the flight and I was just leaving Australia. One thing I was really excited about (and still am of course) is living inside a continent that could fit inside of Australia. So many countries within a short distance of one another, no great oceans to cover, no jetlag.

It reminded me that Perth is regarded as the most remote city in the world, that is what I though until about two minutes ago when I googled it and read this article from the Guardian. It states that although it isn’t the most remote city in the world, it probably is when looking at any city of it’s size. It is closer to other nations cities than it is Sydney, and the closest big city is Adelaide which is 1,300 miles away.

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Perth is located just above the ‘M’ in Melbourne on the in-flight map above

14 hours later….

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I could not comment on the heat in the UAE, but despite the sun only just rising it was still in the mid 30’s. And one thing I wanted to mention here was that this is the best sunrise I have ever seen. The photo really doesn’t do it justice due to my iPhone not focusing properly. But have you ever been able to see the actual sun itself just as it is rising or setting? When the brightness is at it’s lowest and you can see the half circle as it descends/rises beyond the horizon. This is the only time I have been able to actually observe the sun without the glare preventing it. This time round, the sun had fully risen above the horizon and I am not sure if it was behind dust, but I was able to just stare at the sun in all its perfectly round glory for a good few minutes before it got too much for my eyes. And not like a blurred view, it was like looking at a full moon in all its glory. It truly took my breath away and walking through the terminal I was caught by surprise.

I am sorry the video isn’t the best video in the world. It is just a tribute as Tenacious D would say. And a reminder to buy a damn camera.

And a five hours later, I was off again.

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I enjoyed these flights with Etihad. The journeys were pleasant, the service was good and my neighbours in the seats next to me were friendly. They also had Muse’s latest album in the playlist, Simulation Theory, and this really got me in the mood to see them for the 6th time in Berlin.

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I arrived in Amsterdam. Tired as hell, I managed to get one hours sleep on that previous flight. One. And by this point the frustration about being so close to home but so far really hit home and I only had an hour in this airport. Enough time to find an Irish Pub and down a pint of beer to pass the time as I really didn’t trust myself trying to have such a quick nap. If I managed to get some shut eye it would have probably lasted a week. So I had a quick drink, a quick bite to eat and headed to the gate. I was in two minds about having a coffee, should I force myself to stay awake and maybe struggle to sleep when I get back?! I opted against it and the stress that comes naturally with such travel made me head to the nearest beer.

I did notice this beer below, a further reminder that I was almost there…

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Funnily enough I am obsessed with checking I have everything with me constantly. I know I do but I have a habit of checking regardless. Passports, cards, phone… check, check, check. And on this occasion I was walking through the terminal and realised I had a debit card missing… I paid for my food and left my card in the machine!! Thankfully it only took a minute to walk back but I am pleased I checked. That wouldn’t have been fun at all.

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My small ass plane on route to London. Coincidentally the girl I was talking to in the queue for my food was the one I sat next to on the plane.

I always find it funny how often I fly to the UK from often much warmer climates, and how quickly a blanket of grey blocks the view of the landscape below. I mean I don’t mind British weather, I love the unpredictability at times. Don’t get me wrong I love escaping it, but being somewhere exotic really helps me to appreciate our milder climate.

I forget I was in Melbourne during winter for a second, silly me.

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And here I am, back in Kings Cross after a journey from London City Airport to this station that took as long as my last flight. It didn’t help that I underestimated the tube and what it meant to get off at the wrong stop with a massive suitcase, but I made it. I had some well deserved fish and chips at the pub above Platform 9 and Three Quarters (the staff were lovely by the way) and waited for my train.

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And here I am, in all my embarrassing glory. 35 hours in with one hour sleep. By this point the rocking of the carriage was making me nod off, but I really could not afford to fall asleep on a train. For the first time I was fighting sleep instead of trying to get it, and had to walk up and down the carriages a couple of times.

I then found the best technique was to occasionally stick my head out the window of the 80mph train without getting decapitated, between heavy rock songs. I am sure I looked a little strange to the train staff but I know with all the confidence in the world that they have seen worse. And the technique worked beautifully as you can tell by how delighted/ high I look in the shot above.

And there we have it, 35 hours of travel and my bed had never felt better. As far as long haul goes I do not have any complaints. There were no delays, no issues on the flights and I witnessed the best sunrise I have ever seen. Will I ever see a better one? I don’t know. Will I one day by a decent camera and actually take a decent shot? I hope so. But in the meantime I hope you enjoyed the post travelling half way across the world and enjoy the posts to come. I have a lot to cover already!

Take care and I hope you are having a great day wherever you are,

Sam

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Thank you again to all my followers and regular readers, and hello to you if you are new to my blog!

New to this site? Click here to visit my About My Blog section and Travel Diary

Follow me @onechancetoseetheworld on Instagram and @octstw on Twitter

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Cheers!

Sam

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I booked my flight back to Europe

So, this is the moment that really makes me realise I am going home. I have booked my flight from Melbourne to London on the 27th August, so just over a month’s time. But I am looking forward to it and what I am going to do next.

 

I don’t really have a plan apart from try to move to London. It is a world city that I have always had on my doorstep yet never given any time to. From Newcastle it is a mere three hours on the train or a quick flight- just over an hour. I guess when something is always just around the corner, there is less urgency to visit. And with the rest of Europe being so close I hardly consider many UK destinations. Maybe I should make more effort to do so.

I will be flying with Etihad Airways, so will fly through Abu Dhabi. I have two stops so I also have to get off at Amsterdam, but I found a good deal so I don’t mind. It will also be a lot shorter than my flight here, 37 hours if I recall, as I had a 17 hour layover in Singapore. I didn’t mind this however as Singapore has a great airport, and provides a free coach trip around the city for those with long layovers. If you fancy a read of my experience you can read about Changi Airport here and Singapore here.

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So that’s it, I have until August 27th to enjoy Australia before I depart this great country and head on more worldwide adventures. I think I might make a collection of my favourite photos and upload a picture daily throughout August on here and Instagram. It will be nice to remind myself of the places I have been and share them with you all. Narrowing my pictures down to 30 or so will be a challenge!

Have a great day wherever you are.

 


 

Thank you again to all my followers and regular readers, and hello to you if you are new to my blog!

New to this site? Click here to visit my About My Blog section and Travel Diary

Want to introduce yourself and your blog and discover new ones? Click here for my meet and greet page.

Cheers!

Sam

 

samoctstw

Back to Brisbane (and some sunshine)

This trip was very last minute. And with this could only find an early flight to the Gold Coast, which meant that I needed take an hour long train journey up to Brisbane. But this was fine as I had much more time on Saturday evening to see some friends and old work colleagues for a catch up.

The weather getting into Gold Coast was mixed, but one thing I noticed was the difference in temperature to Melbourne. I got that holiday feeling the moment I left the plane as the warm tropical Queensland air hit me walking into the terminal.

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The weather was nice enough for this stunning sunset as I made my way north.

The good thing about the train is that it drops me off right here. The hotel I used to work in.

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I had such a fun experience working here, and I think it may be the best place I have ever worked in terms of actually enjoying going to work. It was right in the city centre and if Brisbane had something going on we would usually play a part. I was actually gutted when I left Brisbane for Melbourne, the only saving grace was that Melbourne is a fantastic city with a lot going on. But coming back to the warmth and going in to see some on my friends there was nice, although it made me miss it even more.

What I love about hospitality is that every day is different. You never know what is going to happen, for better or worse. But the bad days help with personal development, and the good days are great memories. I think that is why I have stayed in the industry for so long, and I have been very fortunate to have worked in the same chain in three Australian cities now. Despite the six month working holiday restriction, transfers are possible and this has kept me in employment within the chain.

What I also love about Brisbane is it’s size. Not as hectic as Sydney or Melbourne but just the right amount of everything for it to be a fun city to live in. After finishing my farmwork in the middle of nowehere and travelling down the east coast in fun yet small destinations, Brisbane seemed like New York City. However after moving to Melbourne and revisiting I can see why it gets labeled ‘a big country town’. Limited options on a Sunday, a city centre you can walk through fairly quickly, it is growing rapidly but it isn’t quite comparable to Melbs or Sydney yet. But I love this big country town and out of the three, it may be my favourite to live in so far.

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But each city has it’s perks, Sydney has the landmarks and Melbourne has amazing food. I think it would be unfair to have a ‘favourite’ as each have their own strengths and differing identities.

I crossed the river to meet my friend, who I met during my 88-days farmwork. Coincidentally he was born just up the road from me in the north east of England and even more of a coincidence is that he shares the same birthday as me.

And for this reason the beers started and my camera roll ended.

The night got pretty messy pretty fast, which I guess is not surprising for a milestone birthday. Especially with a friend that is celebrating on the same day. My only regret was not being sober enough by the time I met the others to get some group shots, but what can you do. Two guys that used to live in Newcastle going out for drinks is always going to go downhill fast.

It is also fairly strange being away from home on a birthday, let alone a 30th, and is never going to be the same as it would be back home. There will never be that big sense of occasion and I guess with that I was content with it being low key. It was a sacrifice I knew I was going to have to make at the time when I was arranging the visa, and long term solo travel always comes with some sacrifices. We just have to ensure that the sacrifices are worth the journey, and to me I can have a big 31st instead. The opportunity to travel isn’t always there, or at least being convinced enough to book that one way ticket.

But I am glad I chose to enter my thirties here. It felt right and I was back in a city that has given me so many memories and great friends in and outside of work. I think any future visits to Australia wouldn’t be right without stopping by this great city and I am grateful to feel welcome every time.

Hopefully this won’t be the last time.

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Thank you again to all my followers and regular readers, and hello to you if you are new to my blog!

New to this site? Click here to visit my About My Blog section and Travel Diary

Follow me @samest89 on Instagram and @octstw on Twitter

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Cheers!

Sam

 

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Travel Diary: Finally visiting Melbourne’s Winter Market

I honestly reside a two minute walk from this market. And ever since I arrived in Melbourne I have heard the same ‘why haven’t you visited Queen Victoria Market yet?!’, and it is a question I have asked myself a lot too.

Maybe the fact that it is right on my doorstep has given me less urgency. Maybe it is because I have been doing a lot of morning shifts at work. I don’t know. But now that the winter markets are taking place every Wednesday evening I decided to take a very quick look for myself.

I will warn you, it was very quick.

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As I was walking up to it I could sense the scale of it. The smoke escaping the tent from the various meat stalls, the sound of the live band playing and chatter of hundreds of people enjoying their mulled wine and finger foods. That and the neon signs pointing to the entrance and various stalls made this a very exciting and inviting first impression.

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I mean it was packed. There was enough room around the market to find space to stop and eat your chosen grub, and seating didn’t seem to much of an issue. The first thing I did was head to the bar, what else gets you more in the mood for food than beer?

In fact, the queue was that short I didn’t even have time to snap a picture of it before being asked my order. I grabbed a pale ale and did a lap of the floor. Here is what I found.

Firstly, meat. Lots of meat.

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The smells were amazing. And it was an obvious choice looking at the lines, usually a good indicator as to how good the food is going to be. IMPORTANT RULE: Always trust the locals. Although I am unsure as to how many of the people here are locals with this being such a popular venue.

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I kept walking around and almost got knocked over by this silent disco train…. I have seen these a couple of times wandering through the streets in Melbourne, the last one was a hen party. Must be something you can hire… Have you seen this in your city?

The looked like they were having a good time.

 

I need to come here during the daytime, I have seen many pictures from this position and the skyline makes for an impressive backdrop.

Thanks to the guy in the hi-vis below for providing the light.

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Melted cheese anyone?

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And of course, there were vegetarian and vegan options, although I am not sure how much choice there was as I didn’t really look out for them. The below stall is one with vegan choices, I am sure this was food stuffed into a pineapple. It looked very different, but very good.

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What would the world be without live music? I don’t want to know.

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Now this was a very quick run through of the market, as I had a busy night ahead of me and needed to meet friends from both Sydney and my work on the opposite side of the CBD. However as I got there quite late, things were wrapping up anyway. I then noticed this huge parting of the crowds in front of me, which I assumed was the grand finale of some sort. The lights moved around on the floor like a nightclub, the music was pretty dramatic as if we were expecting a close encounter with the third kind.

As everyone held their breath in anticipation….

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Actually, that was it. It led to a bit of confusion as it was a bit of an anti-climax, loud music, lights all concentrated onto this small patch of ground that people circled, maybe I was late and missed all the fun. But it all stopped and we all started walking again. Picture it like a crosswalk basically. An overly dramatic crosswalk.

 

Now as this was a very brief tour I aim to go again very soon. I also aim to do the day market too and see what this has to offer. However this was a very fun run around and I would recommend anyone in Melbourne to take a look, whether during the day or winter market. Look out for another post from here in the near future!!

Winter Market: Every Wednesday 5pm-10pm, 5th June- 28th August.

Website: thenightmarket.com.au

Queen Victoria Market:

Thursday- 6am- 2pm

Friday- 6am- 5pm

Saturday- 6am-3pm

Sunday- 9am-4pm

Monday- Closed

Tuesday- 6am- 2pm

Wednesday- Closed

Website: qvm.com.au

 

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Thank you again to all my followers and regular readers, and hello to you if you are new to my blog!

Want to introduce yourself and your blog and discover new ones? Click here for my meet and greet page. Also please feel free to connect on the following links:

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Travel Diary 

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Happy blogging,

Sam

I went to my first AFL game

This has been on my Melbourne bucket list for as long as I have known I was moving to Melbourne. Even in Brisbane many people told me it is a must when I am down in Victoria, visiting the 100,000 seater Melbourne Cricket Ground for an Aussie Rules Football game.

The MCG, Australia’s Wembley for my British readers. Australia’s Madison Square Garden, I think? I don’t know, you will have to tell me what your biggest or most beloved stadiums are in your home country so I have a place to watch some great sports if I make it to your corner of the world. Don’t be biased though. Sports fans never are anyway… 😉

This was a very quick ride from where I was in the city, we all met in a bar called Stomping Ground, appropriately named as we bought a can for the road and discreetly yet very elegantly drank them on route to Australia’s biggest and most famous stadium.

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The bar was in Collingwood, as this was the team we were watching play against Melbourne. Interestingly enough for those not too familiar with the sport, the majority of the AFL teams are based in Melbourne. Ten of the 18 are in the state of Victoria, and nine in Melbourne’s metropolitan area.

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Apparently this says 11… which ones are no longer?

As you can see above, Collingwood sport black and white colours. For me this was an easy team to cheer on.

Or so I thought. Black and white stripes with the nickname ‘the magpies’? Just like Newcastle, the city I lived in back in England. Easy choice!!

However it seems people that aren’t Collingwood fans, well, like to tell me not to be a Collingwood fan. Apparently it is a bogan/chav/redneck team, as are their fans. I mean in the stadium everyone including my Melbourne friend seemed to be pretty nice people, is this a myth? I guess I will let the locals decide…

 

The Big Freeze at the ‘G’

Melbourne vs Collingwood is an annual game held on the Queens Birthday. On this day an event called the ‘The Big Freeze’ takes place before the game. This is a fun charity event with the aim of raising awareness for Motor Neurone Disease, a condition former Melbourne coach Neale Daniher suffers from and now aims to raise funds fighting for a cure.

On the charity website, fightmnd.org.au it states about the event that:

‘Each year, a group of ‘A-List’ celebrities take the icy plunge sliding into the Big Freeze pool all in the name of raising critical funds to help fine a treatment and cure for MND.’

As you can see below, the celebrities ride down a slide on a sled and into the ice water, often in fancy dress. I noticed people started to clap the intro to ‘We Will Rock You’, and with that out came Freddie Mercury himself. Freddie was always at home in a stadium.

 

And the plunge…

It was a glorious day for football. Well, I say glorious, it didn’t rain. And the Melbourne skyline looked fantastic from here with the Eureka Tower dominating as always.

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Now for the game itself. It is a sport that always looked rather funny to me, as does Gaelic football, with the variety of things going on whilst the players run. Sometimes bouncing it, something punching it, sometimes kicking it. Sometimes kicking each other. Once I understood the rules a little better it was much more fun to follow and appreciate.

I was under the impression that this game evolved from Gaelic Football, but after some quick research it turns out this may be a myth. Historians consider that the game Marn Grook that was played by Aboriginals in Australia possibly has more of a connection. One reason is due to one of the founders of AFL- Tom Wills- having watched the game being played.

Here is a picture of Tom Wills, believed to have been taken on a very early Nokia.

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The basic rules are this. Six points are awarded if the ball is kicked in the middle goal. one point if it is kicked between the outer posts. The games lasts four 20-minute quarters and starts with a ruck. In the event of a crocodile, any player is considered ‘fair game’ and the team suffering the loss can substitute another player on without penalty. This is when you see the referee do this.

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The ball up is an interesting start to the game. As the umpire throws the ball off the ground, the players then try to take possession as it is bounced into the air. A bit like a basketball tip off really, but with what resembles a mild kids temper tantrum. The throw-ins are equally unique too. As the ball goes out the opposition team does not get to throw it back in, instead one of the umpires throws it over his head, wedding bouquet style. The difference is the guys actually run to grab it first.

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The ball is passed between players via a handball, in which the ball is punched with a clenched fist from the other hand. This is the only hand pass allowed. Players can also kick the ball to opponents, and can ‘mark’ the ball by catching a pass that has been kicked over 15 meters without being touched or bouncing (I think). A mark gives the receiving player a free kick without the threat of a tackle. Players running with the ball have to bounce it every 15 meters. This and the kicking rule got me thinking how umpires (or anyone really) can tell what exactly 15 meters is on the field in such a fast game. I mean, does anyone really have the ability without computers to determine what was a 14, 15 or 16 meter pass or sprint? It seems pretty hard to do. I asked my friend and he replied with ‘they don’t’. Fair enough.

But knowing these rules made the game more fun to watch. Like any sport actually investing a few minutes to getting to know the rules means we can relate to the cheers and geers from the fans, and can actually join in. It was a great atmosphere and I would certainly do it again.

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I would recommend to anyone reading to go to a local sports game, even if you aren’t a sports fan. It is a great way to embrace the local culture, meet some of the cities most passionate people and try some of the local junk food, which is more than often delicious with a beer. It might not make sense at first, but think of it like trying new foods. You don’t know what it is or what to expect, but regardless of the outcome it is another memory to look back on. And I am certainly glad I had this one.

 


 

Pssst, if you want to see the pro-shot of the glorious ‘Freddie’ slide, here it is…

 

fightmnd.org.au/

 


 

Thank you again to all my followers and regular readers, and hello to you if you are new to my blog!

New to this site? Click here to visit my About My Blog section and Travel Diary

Follow me @samest89 on Instagram and @octstw on Twitter

Want to introduce yourself and your blog and discover new ones? Click here for my meet and greet page.

Cheers!

Sam

 

I visited Australia’s highest mailbox and it was terrifying

There is very little I fear more than heights. And this experience was a 297-metre tall reminder of that. It isn’t quite as tall as the Q1 Building in the Gold Coast (I will link to that post in this one) but it is Australia’s second tallest building and is a very impressive tower.

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The building I am referring to is the Eureka Tower. It is located on Melbourne’s South Bank and dominates the skyline. The 88th floor observation deck can be accessed by the public with a ticket for $20.

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It isn’t a post office as you may have been led to believe by the title. It is an apartment building however as I was walking around the observation deck and pretty much hugging the wall until I calmed down, I found this.

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Sadly I didn’t post anything, but this wasn’t the purpose of my visit. Nor did I know it was here at all. But at least ‘Visit Australia’s highest postbox’ can be ticked off the list and it was a pretty cool find.

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So to get a little bit more comfortable with the heights, I did a few laps of the observation deck. But I am just going to post the pictures in chronological order so for anyone that knows the city, if I seem to jump from one side to another, I probably did. Some of the shots look more shaded, as we were behind tinted glass. Other shots are more clear and with one portion being outdoors behind some netting, there are photos not taken from behind any glass at all.

The reflections made it a little tricky at times, but I did what I could.

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So the above freaked me out. This ride is called The Edge. Watching those on it really made me have a ‘never in a million years’ moment as the room slowly leaves the building and suspends tourists almost 984ft above the city.

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This is Susan, my friend from Peru that secretly bought two tickets for that ride.

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I met Susan in the first hostel I stayed at when I arrived. We both arrived pretty much the same time and have kept in contact since. Sadly she flew back to Peru a few days back but we made the most of our time together, with a trip to the Great Ocean Road I posted about recently and then this.

Below you can see a video of the ride in action. Notice how the windows change from being opaque to fully clear during the transition. When the room is extending outwards, the rider cannot see out. It is only when the room is fully exposed that the windows become clear.

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I was adamant that I wasn’t going to do it. The fact that I felt uneasy being up there at all was enough for me to come to the conclusion that nothing would convince me to get in that box. I am the kind of person that thinks of 101 ways that this could end in disaster and instead of enjoying such a moment, wait for said disaster to strike.

That is what anxiety is like. I am someone that has suffered anxiety in my 20’s, something that I haven’t had growing up. I have always been an obsessive (I have always had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, even to the point of needing medication in my teens) and as the OCD aspect is more manageable now, I feel the anxiety aspect has remained and increased in intensity.

What I have never been able to understand is how people get thrills out of these kinds of situations. Riding roller coasters too, I cannot think of anything more horrific than being held against my will and thrown about until the ride comes to an end. But then I considered the fact that not everyone has anxiety to this extent, and probably need such rides to get the same rush I have had sitting down staring at a wall. I don’t need a ride to get my adrenaline pumping, I get it for free and often at the strangest times.

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The video of the ride was taken in the outdoor portion of the observation tower. From here the views were the clearest as the camera could be placed right next to the mesh and see right out to the horizon. Below, Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and the various other sports stadiums can be seen.

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Binoculars look right onto the stadiums and with the big screen of the MCG facing our way, if there was in fact a game on you would be able to follow along by looking in that direction. Here I am recording the view I had looking right at the stadium.

And looking north, the high rises of the CBD. One of the tallest buildings you can see is in fact where I work, with a great view of the Eureka Building.

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Above, the Shrine of Remembrance can be seen. This is a memorial to war veterans and I visited not too long ago and captured a great view of the skyline. I posted this picture on Instagram linked below for those that follow me there, you might have seen it already.

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It was amazing to see the views of the surrounding area, and so many locations I have seen the Eureka Building from near and far. The only down side to the whole experience was my fear. Similar to my experience in the Q1 tower that I posted about here, I quickly got over the fear. But I am nowhere near comfortable enough to do the outdoor climb that my sister did in the Gold Coast, that level of bravery seems to be a million miles away. I don’t mind being indoors, its the thought of that little extra level of vulnerability that I just cannot overcome, even though I know it is incredibly safe.

The Edge is different though. Although the room does slowly leave the building, half of it remains always indoors. If I really wanted to stay in that room throughout I could, and I could stick my head out if I wanted to. After much sweating and foot-tapping, I agreed to put on the yellow wristband they give you (that says ‘I survived the Edge‘ despite putting it on before knowing if you were going to), the funny shoe covers and went into the dark, indoor section of the ride. I knew there wasn’t a sheer drop underneath me and that the floor wouldn’t just suddenly turn see-through, if I wanted to walk on it I could make my way onto it. As everyone else stood on the glass floor (including Susan) I contemplated whether or not I could manage it. The staff member controlling the movement reassured me that it ‘wasn’t that bad’ and because I had the option to come and go as I pleased I felt a lot more comfortable about the whole ordeal.

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So I did it, although I still look terrified in the picture. I can safely say it was nowhere near as bad as I feared… one reason was the glass was a little more hazy as you can see above and also the metal below our feet, if it was all glass that would be a different story.

Thank you Susan for helping me get to that point!!

I guess my advice would be as much as something seems terrifying in the moment, that moment will pass and the future will be full of moments you were pleased to have done it. That, or endless moments you kick yourself and wish you did. It is true that in the end you will regret the things you didn’t do more than the things you did, and for this reason alone overcoming a fear is so satisfying.

Whatever you are doing in life, say yes more than you say no to things. Memories are so much better than what if’s, and memories are evidence of a life lived.

 


 

Thank you again to all my followers and regular readers, and hello to you if you are new to my blog!

New to this site? Click here to visit my About My Blog section and Travel Diary

Follow me @samest89 on Instagram and @octstw on Twitter

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Cheers!