Travel Diary (Day 3) – London to Paris

La vie est belle – Life is beautiful ❤

We woke up in our lovely little room in Kensington and decided to get a walk in through the gardens and to get breakfast at Dishoom, which was every bit as amazing as we had heard!

Kensington Gardens are some of the cleanest and loveliest areas I have ever seen, what took us by surprise though, was there was hardly anyone around until around 10am. Perhaps the Brits have it sorted and prefer to sleep in, rather than all of that seize the day rubbish.

When we were walking through the gardens we came across the Sunken Garden which was absolutely gorgeous.

Dishoom was recommended to me by the babes over at #teamkaptainkenny and once I floated the idea of a bacon & egg naan by Grant, the decision was pretty well made! The service was great, the restaurant beautiful and the food incredible for really reasonable prices as well. I highly recommend it!

After breakfast we wandered back to our hotel, totally in awe of the beauty which is Kensington. We certainly seemed out-of-place on the subway, I think just in general, given our size we attract a lot of attention – throw on 40kg worth of luggage between the two of us and you have quite the spectacle! Loading ourselves up with our giant backpacks, all I could think of was that we looked like this:

backpack
pic by Pål-Kristian Hamre (Flickr)

We made it to St Pancras (mayhem), got through customs, had several run-ins with people who try to push in. When you are 150% your body weight with gear, and you’ve already been waiting 20 minutes to get through the gate, I am sorry I don’t care how old/cute/non-english speaking you are, you can wait your bloody turn.

G & and I were pretty stoked that we got to get a stamp in our passport, it so rarely happens these days that we are just carrying around these big empty passports without any recorded memories :(. We made it through to the bar area and a lovely older couple started a conversation with us (again our height and the size of our packs brough the conversation on). G on the other hand was waiting to buy a wine and a beer for several minutes behind one guy who managed to turn a comment about whether or not the croissants in the window were stale into a two-minute debacle.

We started to really become quite self-conscious by the staring, also by nature – when I am stared at, or someone looks me in the face, I smile at them. You know, like your normal, run-of-the-mill, non-psychopath. Well it turns out that there are plenty of people who do NOT respond in the same way. I saw more stink-face and total-contempt on people’s faces in that hour whilst we were waiting for our train than I have in weeks. Is smiling that hard?

Once we were on the train we were good to go, we had drinks in our bags, snacks left over from our international flight (anyone who knows me, knows my obsession with cacao almonds from Woolies!) and we had music. It is around 500km from St Pancras through to Paris and we left around 12:30 and arrived around quarter to 4pm which was pretty much perfect timing!

Thank you goddess of travel for the invention of Uber, because given our limited French we would have been absolutely stuffed trying to get to our hotel! A near 30 minute Uber ride cost us less than $20AUD to get us to Hotel Chambellan Morgane, where we had booked in for two nights. My parents had stayed there a few years ago and absolutely fell in love with it, so our booking came on their recommendation (we were not disappointed).

We dropped our bags, had a quick outfit change and decided to go for a stroll. The weather was pretty shocking but it didn’t matter, we were in Paris!!! We walked from Rue Kepler, through to the Arc de Triomphe (which from our hotel was only 900m), then we walked to Pont Alexandre III, which is an ornate, late 19th century arched bridge in a Beaux-Arts style and named after a Russian czar. This bridge is something else, unfortunately the wind/rain/every spare leaf in Paris was being whipped into a frenzy so we didn’t stick around for too long.We felt sorry for the several newly married couples trying to get their wedding shots at the time!

We then went walking along the Seine and headed back towards our hotel, stopping for an amazing dinner at Villa Sophia, which was so close to our hotel that we couldn’t say no. A bottle of Bordeaux, a mozzarella salad, lasagna, cheesy pasta dish and gelato later, we were done for the night.

So that was our first half-day in Paris! We had made it in one piece and as the days went by, we started to feel more and more on holiday – life is pretty damned good.

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please ‘like’ or share the post so I can see! 

Please note, I have not been paid any sponsorships at all for this post, however some of the links in my blog posts may be affiliate links, meaning that at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click-through and make a purchase.

I only ever talk about my own personal experiences and adventures, places and locations which I love and think you will too!

To follow me on Instagram click here – courtneygaye_travels

To follow me on Facebook – you can do so here – Courtney Gaye Travels FB

If you are a Pinterest fan – you can find me here – Courtney Gaye Pinterest

x C x

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Travel Diary (Day 2) – London

Is there anything more exciting than waking up in a new destination?! The answer is no. Waking up on a beautiful Autumn day in London, ready to start our adventure (now our 28+ hour transit was out of the way), in our beautiful hotel room was heaven! You miss having the simple pleasure of laying down after international travel!

We only had one full day in London before we chose to choof off to Paris, so we took advantage of the free breakfast and vintage bus tour around London and on the Thames River – which was a lovely little perk included in our booking with The Grange hotel.

We were out the door by 7am and to save any confusion or at risk of missing our bus, we caught an Uber for £9.57 to the Victoria Coach Station, where we met out adorable little Vintage Bus and our excellent tour guide, Steve. The way I see it, anyone who looks down on you for doing kitschy tourism stuff, can get stuffed. There are people and companies out there doing amazing things to pile together so much in only a few hours. This tour came for free with our hotel booking and I am SO glad we decided to take it up!

We saw sights old and new including Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square, St Paul’s Cathedral, London Bridge, The Shard, Tower Bridge and the London Eye. We also got to watch the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace which was really cool. Then we had a cruise on the River Thames which took us passed Shakespeare’s Globe, Cleopatra’s Needle. London Bridge and The Shard.

We managed to see so much and all before lunch time! In a complete fluke, we also were able to see the Changing of the Guard and it was amazing! Though watching the crowds sort of taking over the entire road and jumping the barriers, despite securities best efforts and very clear warnings, really reminds me that Darwinism is really doing it’s best.

We ate some pretty rubbish lunch in a fast-food chain type scenario, though we also had wine and beer, so that significantly improves our lunch star-rating! We were right next to the London Dungeon, and I had a cheap entry for the two of us, so why not?

I went to the London Dungeon around 9 years ago and some parts are the same and some are new altogether – either way it is worth a visit. Sure, it’s touristy and campy and all that, BUT it is phenomenally educational. Hot tip though, if you have a six year old with you, and she is terrified, do not proceed to laugh at her with your entire family for an hour and a half through a pretty scary theme attraction, You are a bad parent, best start saving for some counselling!

For the evening we headed across to the London Eye for our turn around the circle and views out on London. Our booking was for 5.15pm, which was not too bad of a turn-around to get home, get dressed and head back out. It is amazing that by day two in any new place, you have just about got the metro/tube/underground sorted!

The line was massive but it moved pretty quickly! Again, I think being in the presence of any rude/pushy people just gets my blood pumping, I know I would be happier if I could learn to ignore rudeness and stupidity, but just quietly, some of us should be pulling people up on their rubbish behaviour?

After our London Eye experience, it was time to head over to the incredibly beautiful Apollo Theatre Victoria to see Wicked. We saw the Lion King in New York so it was only fitting we saw something in London. The first half was absolutely amazing, the set-design, costumes, the movement and those beautiful voices were simply astonishing – I highly recommend it!

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Now our time in London, particularly at the start of our trip was always going to be a bit pricier than most, but we stayed within our daily budget, which was excellent! I am pretty sure we were both asleep before our heads had even hit our pillows that night!

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please ‘like’ or share the post so I can see! 

Please note, I have not been paid any sponsorships at all for this post, however some of the links in my blog posts may be affiliate links, meaning that at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

I only ever talk about my own personal experiences and adventures, places and locations which I love and think you will too!

To follow me on Instagram click here – courtneygaye_travels

To follow me on Facebook – you can do so here – Courtney Gaye Travels FB

If you are a Pinterest fan – you can find me here – Courtney Gaye Pinterest

x C x

 

 

My 2009 Europe Adventure – at 23

My first solo overseas adventure – naïve, unprepared and a little shell-shocked

Brisbane – London

When I was 23 I had my first overseas adventure. I would love to say I packed a backpack and travelled the world for 12 months, coming back a hardened and seasoned traveller, with empty pockets and a head full of memories.

The last two are true (ridiculous actually) but the first part was a dream which quickly fell to the wayside. My mother basically insinuated that I would be locked in a room if I attempted my solo backpacking trip to South America. So at her requests (read: demands) I was booked on a three week Contiki journey around Europe. I know that sounds terrible (I am sure there are some intense eye rolls happening right now along with “that’s not travel!”).

I disagree though, I packed a bag and went overseas. That’s travel. We need to stop judging each other on our journey’s, the way we judge pain or experience or loss or achievement. It is all relative, who are we to judge others? Some people go overseas and volunteer and sleep rough, that’s amazing. Some people travel luxury and never leave the resorts in the countries they visit, that’s amazing. Some people hitchhike, that’s dangerously amazing. Some people go on a different Contiki each year that is also amazing. Travel is travel, as long as you come home with some awareness of how fortunate you are for being able to travel and you don’t behave like an over-privileged and insensitive jerk, then good on you!

So, back to my Contiki. Regardless of this being an organised tour with one of the world’s most popular tour companies, this trip was something I set off on alone. I had never travelled to Europe, did not speak any other language and the longest flight I had been on was around five hours. I had been to NZ, but really that is just ‘crossing the ditch’, so the journey is still less than it is to fly from the east to west coast here in Australia.

My trip was from London to London, a 21-day adventure took me from London to Paris, Lucerne, the French Riviera, Florence, Rome, Venice, the Austrian Tyrol, Munich, Vienna, Prague, Amsterdam and back to London.

I bought my flights only a couple of months before departure, flying from Brisbane to London, I flew Emirates with stops in Singapore and Dubai. The trip itself (door to door) took around thirty hours. I made the mistake of not getting off the plane to stretch my legs in Singapore and in Dubai I only had time to run from the plane, to the toilet, to my next plane. When I arrived in London, I felt like my head was spinning, I had lost all track of time, realised I had left home without a phone (in 2009 I just didn’t think I needed one?) and caught a shuttle bus into London.

I arrived at the Royal National Hotel in London which has a 3.3/5 star rating on google, but in 2009 it probably would have been 2 stars, if it was lucky. When I made my booking, I had zero idea that I had been booked into a hostel/share-room type situation. I arrived quite late and by the time I was given a swipe card which gave me access to my room (x3 visits back and forth to the front desk with my gigantic pink suitcase in tow), I went into my room, saw the two beds in the dark, saw a suitcase unpacked near the door and actually though I had been given the wrong room. Nope. I was in a share room. Weird, why did I not know that before?

I was so rattled that I just climbed into bed and made zero attempts to let my family know I had A) arrived in London; and B) was okay. Jet-lagged as I was, I was beyond excited to be somewhere else other than Australia, I was in LONDON!

So, first day in London. Woke up, got dressed and went for a wander. Found a delicious little eatery called Giraffe in Bloomsbury (which is still there if you can believe it!) and tucked into a gigantic English style breakfast. Once I had eaten I realised that I should probably find some way to let my Mum know that I was okay (seriously, 23 – can you be any more ridiculous?!), I went to the Contiki Basement back near the hotel and sent a few emails, checked Facebook – you know the usual activities.

I had been booked into the hotel for three nights, so I spent the day wandering around and doing my own thing. Later that afternoon I met up with another Brisbane girl who was booked for the same tour and we made a plan to explore the next day. It was a really weird holding space, waiting for your tour to begin, it was both comforting and limiting spending the first amount of tie with someone from your home town (was this the travel experience I was looking for?). We ended up having an amazing day – we walked from our hotel, down to Big Ben, across Westminster Bridge, down to the London Bridge and back again. It was a really lovely day out, sun shining, beautiful weather and a really nice intro to beautiful London.

We had our tour group meeting that night and as at 6am the next morning we were on the road!

Now – if you are thinking about your first trip overseas, on your own and you’re late-teens /early twenties I have some (probably super obvious) advice for you! This may seem ridiculous but this actually happened and if anything it should give you a laugh:

  • When you are travelling overseas, take a phone or something you can communicate with people through. Checking into Facebook 48 hours after you left home, is not the loving contact your parents are after;
  • When you pack your bag and you are happy with what you have, remove 2/3rds of it. Seriously, you do not need it;
  • Make some attempt of learning basic phrases of another language. Hello, goodbye, please, thank you, toilet, how much? This WILL make your life easier;
  • Have some currency on you. I know this seems really obvious but in 2009 I was kind of just winging it. Learn from my mistake;
  • Have some idea as to where you are staying and if someone will also be in the same room.
  • Pack more than just thongs and runners. This is not enough footwear. Not at all.
  • Pack a wallet or a purse. Again this is so obvious it is cringe-worthy.

Do you remember you first trip? Did you do anything ridiculously naïve like me?

x C x

What to pack for Norway?!

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^ Do you see how cold I am? That’s because it was winter in New York and I had packed jackets I wear here in Brisbane during “”winter””. That was dumb. Please help me 🙂

Hi guys & gals!

It is currently 30+ degrees here in Brisbane, I have had the air con on for the past 24 hours and cannot stop drinking icy cold water and wondering why I live where I live …when I am not really one for the heat!

I am all for gorgeous beach days and posts in the sun and summer dresses and cool cocktails, but I am way happier in the cool air at the change of season, enjoying cups of tea and being able to wear boots and scarfs….

Which brings me to my next point 🙂 !

I need some help from all of you lovely travellers / Northern Hemisphere locals in preparing for our trip next year. It is still ages down the track but with budgets and preparing for the trip, I would rather not leave it until the last minute to start purchasing what I need…

We are leaving end of September and will be gone through til the end of October next year. We are heading to London – Paris – Copenhagen – the Faroe Islands – Norway and Scotland…so far on my list I have…

  • Waterproof hiking shoes
  • Waterproof / all weather jacket
  • Thermal tops
  • Fleece lined leggings
  • Other shoes
  • Beanie
  • Scarf
  • Gloves
  • Trail socks

I would love to hear about any brands you like and trust? I really have no baseline to start from!

Happy Sunday x

So now we wait….and save…!

Happy Tuesday!

First of all – thank you to each and every one of you who continue to read, like and comment on my posts. To be honest I started this because my wrist hurt from writing in travel diaries. I am absolutely blown away that other people are reading and interacting on my posts. Thank you so much! I love reading your posts as well – this is such a nice community to do it in. 

For those of you following my Instagram as well, thank you! It has been the most amazing little project for me. 

As for projects, they will now be my source of entertainment and social interaction, because…..*drum roll please*….

WE HAVE BOOKED OUR TICKETS TO LONDON ✈️!

We are flying with Cathay Pacific in September/October next year. Sure – that does seem far away, but it really isn’t! Have you flown Cathay?

I can’t wait to continue to share our adventures from past and present. 

Have a wonderful day, tell me – where is your next adventure to?

X C X

It’s locked in!

Happy Fri-yay! What a week it’s been – how did you go?! Here is a cute little flower from Peru to start your morning!

Today is pretty exciting, because today – we are booking our flights to London for our trip next year!!!

Initially we had planned on flying on Qantas’ new Dreamliner from Perth to London direct, but seeing as we live on the East coast of Australia – the price for the flights were a bit much. So my wonderful gf found sale flights with Cathay Pacific – via Hong Kong. Have you flown with CP? Are they okay?

We still have 10.5 months until the trip but I have a feeling it is absolutely going to fly past!

So today we book our flights, our deposit on our Hurtigruten adventure has been paid and this is really coming together!

Have a wonderful Friday!

X C X

It’s not wrong, just different ;) – Europe edition.

When you travel overseas, you are bound to come across / visualise / be involved in certain situations which are just not in-line with your own cultural expectations. For me, it’s probably the staring by other people, line-cutters, people who spit in the street, people who don’t say please/thank-you to their servers – oh and pushing. Physically being pushed aside by randoms. They are what gets my goat and tend not to be the ones that make me laugh (can hold a grudge, just sayin’ ;)).

In saying that,  have been thinking about some of the more ridiculous scenarios which I have to share. Just remember – in the wise words of almost every tour guide I’ve ever had ‘it’s not wrong, just different’.

London – When I first flew to London, I had no idea the room I had booked was a share room with other travellers (oh the naivety of a 23 year old travelling solo). My plane had landed quite late at night, so when I finally got into my room and instinctively went to the bed – I ended up on top of this lovely Canadian girl, who surprisingly handled the entire situation better than I would have myself! On the other hand – my girlfriend ended up sharing a room with someone who had night-terrors and woke her up screaming and bashing against the glass window – several floor above the ground. I think I probably won that room arrangement?

Paris – We stayed in a super cute little hotel on the far outskirts of Paris – lugging our suitcases up several flights of stairs we made it to our cute little rooms. I wish I could remember what that place was called. Anyway, in the middle of the night we had a phone call to our room with someone offering us ‘sexy’. We would just hang up. This happened probably 6 or 7 times during the night. It was horrifying. We even tried to call the reception area to report the problem (they were always engaged though). The next morning, my roommate and I didn’t really want to tell anyone else what had happened. But as we looked around the breakfast room, it became painfully apparent that we weren’t alone. Almost every room with our group staying in it had received the late night ‘sexy’ phone calls. Oh, and back to the naive 23 year old thing, one guy in our group said ‘Yeah I got the first call, then I took the phone off the hook’. Yep. We also should have done that. Oh – and it was established it was actually the receptionist who had been doing it.

Italy – On our trip we visited Rome, Florence and Venice. In Rome we had a pretty difficult time trying to order garlic bread (because in your early 20’s what do you even know about food?!). In the end we somehow ended up with a baguette smeared with crushed garlic. A girl in our group ate it because she didn’t want to be rude. Also we somehow paid over $30 for a coffee – to sit outside? In Venice we stayed in a really odd-ball hotel, with a really, really strange owner. Who gave us lettuce with brown sauce for dinner and breakfast was coca-cola and some cakes. The weirdest part might have been his courtyard in the back with strobe lights – worlds weirdest disco. He also put a different outfit on to be the ‘DJ/Bartender’ for the night. Not a single drink was the same price as the last but we were literally isolated – at least 20km from any other place. That was weird.

Florence took the cake though – First up we boarded our bus ready for our long journey from Nicé up to Florence, when we stopped at a truck stop to use the bathrooms. There was this massive line. The toilet attendant, walked to the back of the line – took my hand – pulled me past the 15 girls waiting, opened up a cubicle – led me in there (he didn’t come into the cubicle), then stood guard outside the toilet stall and sung to himself. He also clapped when I left. I don’t think I’ll ever work out what the hell that was about, but I did get to use the toilet first – so small win. I left the ‘disco’ early and caught a taxi back to the hotel. The taxi driver was absolutely hammering down the road, but kept turning back to tell me how ‘golden angel’ I was (nice compliment, but could you please watch the road when you are driving?) and demanded to know if it was my Mother who gave me my beauty, or my Father?

Amsterdam – Do I need to explain this in great detail? Probably not, so I will keep it short. First of all, we stayed in a giant blue lego looking hotel – so that was intense. Secondly, we ended up in a ‘grown-up’ coffee shop and someone in our tour group completely wiped themselves out. A few of the boys in our tour group went missing in the red-light district and our bus driver ended up dressed like a giant gorilla terrorising people on stage at a ‘cultural show’. I’ll keep this PG and just leave Amsterdam there but I can assure you, it may have been the weirdest place I have ever been to.

But hey, maybe we were the weirdo’s all along? 😉

Tell me, what is the most ‘unique’ travelling experience you have had, which left you outside of your comfort zone?

C x