We begin the trip with no sleep and last minute bookings. We hopped on a bus to Oslo airport at the charming hour of 2am. We eventually make it to Dublin, Ireland and kick-start the adventure with a nanna nap. Later that afternoon we all head to the Guinness Factory, a must see in Dublin. To be honest I didn’t like it at all, the taste that is, the tour itself was awesome. I thought it tasted like liquid vegemite. For those dark beer fanatics, I can imagine that the beer is very fresh, crisp and an absolute delight to drink. It was interesting to learn about nonetheless. Later that evening we went out on the town to meet up with Lyndsay’s friends from Canada, when reunited they screamed the place down, it was nice to see. I’m looking forward to some reunions like that of my own!! Dublin has a very nice live music scene; it was nice to chill out in the Irish Pubs, listening to acoustic guitars and drunken Irish singers.
Day 2, we enjoy an Irish breakfast and even end up nicking (thanks to Lyndsay) some more toast off a table as we walked out… Student life. We then headed out to Howth, a small coastal town in which we enjoyed the markets and food. Also it was my first time to the Atlantic Ocean so that was pretty sweet. It was so refreshing to be by an ocean again, I didn’t realize how much I missed it. We then had to leave, said bye to our dodgy hotel and left for Galway on a bus. We eventually make it and hit the hay.
Day 3 we set off on our tour for the Arann Islands and the Cliffs of Moher. This included a boat tour in which we got to explore the small town of Inis Oirr. This was pretty amazing as it had castles and rock walls. Exactly how I pictured Ireland to be. It was very cold for me; the others found it quite amusing. We enjoyed peanut butter and jam sandwiches from the top of the island, and had Atlantic Ocean views. The boat ride back had some troubles, but we got to see a dolphin whilst we waited so that was nice. The cliffs of Moher were a sight to see. We were worried though as due to the troubles, we were going to be arriving later to the ending point than expected. We had to catch a bus from this point so stress levels were a tad higher than normal. We did make it in the end though thanks to our lovely driver. We said goodbye to James at the airport and then we found our hotel room in Limerick. We booked a three-bedroom room and snuck Daniel in with no problems at all. It was Canadian Thanks giving so we all snuggled in the beds pushed together eating baguettes and jam, watching Irish TV. It was so lovely to be back in an English speaking country. It’s funny how amused you get when you see English advertising again. It’s just not a worry anymore that the person you ask for directions from might not speak English.
Day 4, Daniel announces that the alarm has gone off and we do need to wake up or we will miss our plane to Paris… “You don’t hear that everyday”! We were all beyond excited to get to Paris, France. We land and drop our bags at the hostel. We purchased a five-day metro pass that set us back about 50 Euro. Kind of expensive and I think next time I’ll purchase a booklet of tickets instead as each train journey is 69 cents (Euro). After that of course the first thing we do is eat food and second we head for the Eiffel Tower at night!!! Lyndsay and I run off the Metro up to the Eiffel Tower and of course we lost it. It was very beautiful at night time and on the hour it sparkles, which is incredible. There is a lot of Gypsies trying to sell you everything from key chains to champagne. Taylor, Lynsday, Daniel and myself get a thousand and one pictures, all much the same but it was such a fun evening.
Day 5, today we headed for the happiest place on earth, Disneyland Paris. We got to meet Mickey Mouse, Goofy, the Disney princesses, and go on some crazy roller coasters. Also some made purely for children like the Alice and Wonderland teapots. It was pretty cool to see, and a childhood fantasy I guess was achieved. I can see why Disney makes an absolute bucket load! The cheapest thing in the 30 shops available for Disney merch was probably a key chain. I was almost pulled in to buying the mickey ears and the t-shirt but held my ground in the end. I need food more than I needed Mickey Mouse ears. Families must spend 500+ Euro for the day for sure. We arrived back at the hostel after a fun-filled day to find Andrew waiting for us! He had to leave for Paris a little later than the rest of us, but he managed to make it. We all caught up over dinner, the boys then hit the town whilst the girls grabbed and early night.
Day 6. Today was day 1 in representing UOW in France. Such a great opportunity for me to network and get a taste of what working in Marketing could be like one day. The job would be pretty intense, I met some staff from other Universities that go to 17 hotels in 21 days in 15 countries etc. It would be hard work, but it’s a great way to travel. One man even got to bring his wife along on his frequent flyer points, they had it all sorted that’s for sure. I arrived and almost slipped in the mud, I didn’t so that was good. When the event began, I found out I was primarily representing UOW Dubai campus. I did know enough about Dubai campus to get through in the day, still felt kind of embarrassed by it though. I also think I for sure sold one student when he asked what the closest University in Australia was to the Beach, UOW sold!!! He said purely on that basis he would choose Wollongong. Sorry UOW Dubai. I even got a bottle of champagne to thank me for attending.
That evening, I met up with the group again and we went to the Arc De Triomphe. That was beautiful at nighttime. It was interesting to see the constant flame and also the patrolling with soldiers and police, slung over their shoulders were machine guns. Also may have done a little bit of French Shopping. Also below is the view from our hostel!
Day 7. I had the alarm set for 4.30am, as I needed to leave for the TVG speed train to Lyon for day 2 of work. I was a little concerned that the metro system wouldn’t be working at that hour, but it was, and it was packed with people to my surprise. I have heard Paris has the best metro system in the world. I felt like such a pain jumping on with my packs taking up at least three people’s places. I met up with UOW’S French rep and Monash Malaysia rep and we grabbed a croissant and coffee and made the train. I bet the views of the French countryside in the early morning were beautiful, but I valued sleep at that particular point in time, so I slept the entire journey. We arrived in Lyon, made it to the school and spent half the day touring the school and eating award winning Lyonnese food. I could get used to that job. The presentations begun and it was lovely to talk to students. Today, luckily I was there to talk about UOW Wollongong campus, only Engineering Degrees though. That evening, we were invited by the school to attend a River cruise with dinner. And what a dinner it was. It started with a soup entre, then some sort of bird as a main with seasonal vegetables, and then cheese with fresh warm baguette and to top it off Chocolate molten cake desert. Also dinner involved endless amounts of Champagne. I did however only have half a glass as I would have probably fallen asleep if I had had anymore. The town was buzzing and a group of students thought it would be hilarious to ‘moon’ the dinner cruise from the banks of the river, I found it funny, the others were not so impressed. It was great to talk to representatives from other Universities and hear about how their jobs work and how they got to where they were. We then slowly walked back to the hotel after 3 hours of non-stop eating and I went to sleep in my huge double bed.
Day 8, I enjoyed a French breakfast with the UOW rep. We then wandered the streets and riverbanks of Lyon in the sunshine. It was a lovely 25 degrees, I didn’t want to leave, and so I didn’t. We ate another three-course meal at a Lyon Bouchon, which is a famous style of restaurant for this area. It was amazing! I thanked Anne-Sophie and Selwyn for taking me under their wing and wandered on to a hostel to spend another night in Lyon. It was a very modern hostel, looked brand new. I was not even hungry for dinner that night so I window shopped, and walked along the river.
Day 9, I headed back on the TVG speed train to Paris, checked back in to the same hostel and then took the metro to find the Notre dame Cathedral. Don’t shoot me but I didn’t exactly know what I was looking for as there were quiet a few cathedral-looking buildings in the area with the gothic architecture. So I’m not sure if I found It or not. I did however found the lock bridge. It was very interesting to see that they have started to replace the bridge with glass instead to stop lovers from putting locks on. An incident occurred last month apparently when a section of the bridge fell from the weight of the locks into the water, just missing a tourist boat passing under. After the lock bridge I walked back along the Seine River to the metro, to see the Eiffel Tower in the daytime. I think it is more beautiful and spectacular at nighttime. It wasn’t as in impressive in daylight without the beautiful flashing lights. I sat in the park for a while and people watched and then headed back to the hostel for an early night. I wasn’t game enough for a night on the town alone.
Day 10: I enjoyed the hostels last free breakfast of baguettes and Nutella. Then I took the train to a shopping district filled with nice boutiques that I had heard about. I ended up getting lost and finding a gorgeous park. After 30 minutes walking around the park I saw in the distance the famous glass pyramids. I had without even trying walked all the way to the Louvre Museum. It is funny how much cooler things are when you find it and you weren’t expecting it. I then continued down to the Champs-Élysées all the way back to the Arc de Triomphe. The line outside of Louis Vuitton was insane. I unfortunately didn’t spot a Channel store the entire time I was in Paris. I headed back to the hostel, ate some dinner, grabbed my bags and au revoir Paris. My flight was a shocker, it left Paris at 9.30pm, arriving to Stockholm at midnight, I unfortunately had missed the trains for the evening so I headed to the business lounge to attempt some sleep until the first train at 6.30am. It wasn’t too bad, there were quite a lot of people doing it, and they must have had early flights out of Stockholm. There was no point in getting a hotel room for 5 hours. It was quite comfortable as they had lounges the only thing was the cold.
Day 11, jumped on the first train back to Karlstad, remembered I didn’t have my room keys as I left them with Andrew so he could collect my mail. I thankfully had Lyndsay to the rescue and she made me a nice little bed on her floor until 11 when Andrew woke up. I then retrieved my keys, my mail and finally made it back into my room with enough time to shower before class and yes I did make it to class and managed to even stay awake.
Later that week, my host family invited me to their home for a cooked meal! It was so lovely to have a home cooked dinner. We talked about what had been happening in each other’s lives since the crayfish party. Time is going so fast on this exchange it is crazy. Otherwise I have just been recovering back at campus, catching up on University work, walking to the lake, and trying to get used to the Swedish weather again. It is getting dark at 4pm in the afternoon and it will be pitch black by 5pm. The scary thing is that it will continue to set earlier and earlier, my body is already becoming tired earlier. To add to the change, daylight savings ended so we put our clocks back an hour.
I have been avoiding talking about it, but the campus parties do continue. This week I skipped out on all of them but Thursday which was a club opening in Karlstad. They had free entrance, free coat check and free tacos. I was sold! It was a fun night and my review of the club is amazing due to the free food aspect. I heard this week coming they will do the same but with burgers.
I fortunately get to enjoy a little of Sweden before heading off on November’s trip to Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Russia, these trips are all organised by the school, so I don’t feel as bad skipping class. I will finish my first subject this week and then begin course number two the following week. It is called Communication and Social Change. I am currently working on my final essay and releasing my inner nerd as I am actually enjoying the topic.
Over the following weeks, I hope to visit the moose farm, go to an ice hockey game and visit IKEA to see the Christmas decorations. I also have loved getting little surprises in the mail, it is so nice to walk inside my apartment block and find something sitting there all the way from Australia. The KB office ladies and Ninan sent me a winter coat, Dayna has sent me cute little letters and my Mum and Dad likewise. Looking forward to catching up with everyone in four months time. Oh and how it will fly, for the record its 2015 in 9 weeks. It is also good to know that Dad is better after his operation and is walking again, it was stressing me out being this far away from it, but he will be ok now. Wish I could have helped my mum out with everything. Also Jayden is finishing up his HSC, Bailey will be graduating soon, and Timbo got his license. Hard to be this far away with significant events happening at home, but I know they will forgive me when I bring home Swedish babes and hockey gear, right brothers (this is what they asked me for)??