Tag Archives: travel

The most romantic night of my life

So after writing the previous post, my plan was to have an early night and wake up at 3am for my flight to Denpasar, Bali. However, instead I laid awake, thinking of all the exciting times I had ahead with my best buddy. So I left the hotel and travelled to DMK airport, Bangkok, where I boarded my flight. IMG_1101 IMG_1105 When I arrived at Denpasar airport, I took a taxi to my accommodation which I had booked previously online at Bookings.com. I just wanted to go somewhere that was cheap, and had a swimming pool that I could use, whilst I waited for my friend to arrive. So I found this cute place online called Alam Puri Art Museum and Villa. It was only £10 a night each so we thought “perfect”, and booked it.

I arrived at the hotel and was immediately blown away. The place was like a dream. It was a collection of little private villas, all situated so that you wouldn’t even know anyone else was staying there.

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The architecture was incredible, massively playing on the Hindu roots of the country. I felt as though I’d been transported to Hampi, India, with the stone statues of Ganesh, covered in a wet moss and offerings to the various Hindu Gods laid around the gardens. I was led into my villa, which had its own private splash pool and seating area. I then took the stairs up to my SUITE. Suite. Not room.

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There was a massive four-poster bed with white linen, and white drapes surrounding it. A huge television in a beautifully carved wooden cabinet. The bathroom was a neutrally tiled room, with an enormous stone bathtub that could easily fit four people in it. After squealing in total delight and running round opening all the cupboards, I thanked the guys that had helped me with my bags and changed into my bikini. I went to the large communal pool, where I sunbathed, ate a salad and had a cocktail.

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When the sun had disappeared behind a building and I was in the shade, I returned to my room, where I treated myself to a bubble bath, and basically swam around in sheer delight and joy; blasting out my favourite songs from my laptop and just feeling so incredibly joyful. I spent the entire day alone and being thoroughly lazy and indulgent but I didn’t care. I was in paradise and it was amazing.

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At about 10pm I hear a knock on my door, and in walks one of my best friends in the world; Abbey. She goes through the same range of emotions as I; squealing with awe and shock of such an amazing place.

The place was totally designed for and catered towards couples, so I do wonder if the staff thought Abbey and I were gay, but oh well; its 2015.

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We ordered a bottle of wine from room service, ran ourselves another massive bubble bath, donned our bikinis, and sat there feeling totally in our element, whilst watching Fifty Shades of Grey on my laptop. We then spent the rest of the evening rolling around on the humongous bed and laughing at what a treat this was – £10 each. That was it. God I love Asia.

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I woke up in the middle of the night, rolled over and couldn’t even see Abbey. The bed was that big. I almost had to shout out to ask where she was. “Top left hand corner!”

In the morning I woke up lazily with the sun creeping through the double doors and onto the white linen.  Abbey had got up first so I woke alone, and stretched out all to myself. I do love Abbey but I definitely had the thoughts of how lovely it would have been to wake up with someone special there. Unfortunately I am not in love with anyone right now, so Abbey will have to do.

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Abbey’s romantic yet creepy photography

We went to the restaurant where we had a great breakfast (all included in the price) before a car met us and took us to the port so we could catch a boat to the Gili Islands.

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We were sad to leave our little spot of luxury; however it was time to get back to it and be the grubby little backpackers that we are at heart. So typical Kate and Abbey style, we boarded that boat with a bag full of Bintang beers, sat on the top deck, and toasted the next two weeks of stupidity and laughs.

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Let’s get Bintang-ed.

The Life of Pai

I’d heard before leaving; that on the journey from Chiang Mai to Pai, there were over 700 winds and bends; as the town itself is situated in the mountains. This wasn’t a lie. I would usually go and back this with photos as proof, however I spent the whole time concentrating on not being sick, so didn’t manage to take any.

I got off the bus feeling nauseous, and rather un-fresh, however spent the evening writing my previous blog post and taking it easy.

I woke up the next day with the feeling of nausea in my chest and stomach still, so just quietly took a wander around town and then had a sleep. This was pretty much how I spent my first two days in Pai. On my third night I was feeling a lot fresher, and up to drinking and socialising.

The hostel I was staying at, Pai Circus School, was the perfect place to meet fellow travellers. I’d walked past many other guesthouses and hostels on my wanderings and not one of them seemed to have the same sociable vibe as this one did. The bar / reception area is all open, looking out onto the grass where there’s a tightrope, surrounded by people practising their hula hooping, fire throwing and juggling. If you’re not interested in the circus antics, there is a large seating area with music, and a pool table, where people sit and have drinks.

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Jack Daniels…the Hoola Hooping Pooch. Kinda.

After getting talking to a few people from a variety of countries around the globe, mainly being the UK, the US and Australia, a group of us made our descent down the old dirt track, through the paddy fields, across an old bamboo bridge and to a quaint little live music venue called Edible Jazz. Groups of travellers gathered on bamboo elevated seating areas and drank cocktails whilst listening to a variety of musicians perform covers from your standard jazz music to artists such as Tracey Chapman. It was a really cool and chilled out vibe, and I sat there chatting away I felt flooded with the warm tingly feeling of total content-ness. I’d found a slice of paradise. Yes it was a town FULL of farang backpackers, but they were generally all the kind that were all there for the same reasons, and full of love and smiles.

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I saw a guy who I’d met in Chiang Mai the weekend just gone, so went to sit with him, and from there started talking to a guy and girl from England who I ended up sticking with for basically the rest of my time in Pai. What I love about travelling is that you are forced to shake all the inhibitions and insecurities, which you would hold on to when at home. I would never go and plonk myself down in a pub garden in London with random people without fear of being judged. Unless of course I’d been drinking far too much prosecco. Maybe we all should though, as it’s how you end up meeting the most loveable and awesome people.

We stayed out for a few hours longer and then we headed back to the little huts of our hostel and so to bed.

I’ll skip talking about the next day as I had clearly eaten something bad and was suffering with some pretty gnarly food poisoning.

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A creepy lizard

The next morning I was feeling much better, and already it was my last day. A group of us all hired mopeds and we decided to go exploring. We got a map and noted some waterfalls and a canyon and sped off. Unfortunately, with it being dry season, the waterfall was totally dry. So we went up to the canyon instead.

We walked across a couple of the thin ridges, however at midday and having become very dehydrated due to yesterday’s food poisoning I started to feel a bit dizzy so chose to sit that one out.

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We went to a strawberry picking farm and had some strawberry shakes and sat in the sun.

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Cheery little strawberries…

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After this we seemed to have exhausted most the things highlighted around the town on this map. Sam and I decided to keep driving for a bit, having paid for a day’s rent of the bike, so just followed some small back roads in the countryside.

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It was really pretty and nice to just drive aimlessly with the wind and bugs smacking in my face.

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We stopped off at a small river, which had bamboo huts along the banks. We paid 60 baht and lay on our bellies as we fed the fish swimming downstream. What we thought would be a relatively boring activity turned out to be more fun when the fish turned out to be pretty aggressive and fought each other for the food. We shared a large Leo, sat and chatted in the sun a bit more and then made our way back to the hostel.

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Sam feeding the fish

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After a few drinks with a large group at the hostel, we made our way back to town, where we all got in trucks to take us to a full moon party. Thailand is renowned for its full moon parties, however that’s more down south; specifically Koh Phangan. This was by no means on the same scale, however we had fun, and it was where all the friends I’d made were. Some of the guys from the circus school had come down and were spinning fire, as a bunch of us looked on; madly impressed at how they can do that without setting themselves on fire.

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The next day was mine and Lucy’s last, so we spent the day by the pool with everyone, sunbathing and chatting about how much we’d fallen in love with Pai and didn’t want to leave. It’s such a cool little place, and although I didn’t really done much whilst there, it had a wonderful atmosphere and is a great place to meet a bunch of amazing and similar minded people.

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With heavy hearts we boarded the last bus back to Chiang Mai, and took the 700 turns to the city.

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I felt so sad. I’d met such a great group of people; however I guess that’s the thing with traveling. Hopefully I will see some again when I get back to the UK.

I stayed in a cheap hotel, which was beautifully decorated downstairs, however it was seem by the time the decorators reached the floor I was on, that got tired and gave up. However it was somewhere clean and walking distance to the old town, so I took myself out for dinner to an amazing Burmese restaurant called The Swan, before walking back to my room to binge watch House of Cards and take it easy.

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The next day I woke up in time to catch my flight to Bangkok; when I realised I was a day behind what I thought; as it occurred to me I would be spending not one but two nights in a crumby hotel next to the airport.

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When I arrived I went for a walk around the area. There is nothing but a large food market for the locals living in the vicinity. The things I saw were even more stomach churning than at the food markets in Chiang Rai.

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Apart from the standard worms and duck heads, this market also had some frogs, stomach up, with their entrails out and bound around their stiff bodies. All garnished with a fresh lettuce leaf obviously.

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The sight of that churned my stomach, so I found a supermarket where I bought some cheese and wine, and retreated to my hotel room to once again binge on Netflix.

Today I have spent the day by the hotel pool, and unfortunately resigning myself to eat a fish burger from McDonalds, as I am pretty stuck for options here.

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Tomorrow I end my solitary confinement as I fly to Bali to meet my very best buddy from school, who is now living in Australia. So that promises a few weeks of stupidity and fun before I say goodbye until I don’t know when.

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SUCH an idiot

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I shouldn’t really complain about this place; seeing as I have this massive white double bed all to myself; but I’m waaaaaay more excited about bunking up with my best mate; and spending some more weeks roughing it, the way I like it. 🙂

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Good-Bai Chiang Rai. Hello World.

I’ve met some amazing people in Chiang Rai. I’ve made friends that I will 100% keep for life. As a whole, I’ve been extremely happy here.

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When I arrived I was in a relationship. Unfortunately that relationship didn’t work, as we both realised that our lives were going in separate directions. It was sad however I think we could both see it coming. It was easier to move on knowing it wasn’t a loss of love; instead the realisation that there was no future between us.

I then became involved with one of my friends I had made in Chiang Rai. It is not my story to tell so I shan’t go into detail, however certain issues surrounding addiction reared their ugly heads, which a couple of weeks ago resulted in a situation which meant I could no longer be around that person, and didn’t feel safe.

So with the school term coming to an end the week just gone, I took the opportunity to leave school and Chiang Rai, spending a month doing a bit of soul cleansing and solo backpacking; getting away from negative influences in my life.

I was meant to stay in Chiang Rai for the month of March, just signing in every morning at 7am and returning again to sign out in the afternoon. Such a pointless idea, however they were still going to pay us for that month. The recent developments revolving my love life, combined with this knowledge meant I jumped at the chance to swiftly be able to leave town.   I handed in my notice, sacrificed my pay, and worked my final week in Kindergarten.

Having this radical change was a shock to me, and I suddenly felt myself completely not ready and terrified about leaving my little kids.

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Maxing and Relaxing after a 3 hour Nap

I had to finish testing them all for the final exams in English, and then awarding them with appropriate grades etc. After this was done I was able to have some fun with them and just play silly games.

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On Friday I went to The Big C (a large shop just outside of town) and bought the kids all sorts of sweets and fizzy drinks and other such naughty things so we could have a little party.

Fuelling them with sugar on a Friday afternoon, just before home time; I can guarantee the parents would not have been very impressed, but we had to celebrate. They all went nuts when they saw I’d got them cake, and all kinds of crisps and chocolate.

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A Series of Photos I call “My Spirit Animal”

So we sat on the floor and we watched cartoons and sang nursery rhymes until it was 4pm and time to go home. I gave each one a massive hug and inevitably broke down in tears, thinking what will come of all these amazing children I’ve spent the last few months with every day?

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Yes teaching and living in Thailand has been very hard at times; having to make way for big differences in standards of teaching and general cultural rules. But for every time I woke up and thought about how I couldn’t be bothered to deal with the politics and the bitchieness that happens all too often between Thai staff, I would think of those little kids, and how amazing it is to every morning have them running up to me and hugging me in mass and getting shouted “I love you” at you on a daily basis.

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My Morning Greeting

So with plenty of sobs and cuddles from the Thai and Filipino teachers, I took my backpack full of my current worldly possessions and headed off to the bus station to meet my friends for a last goodbye weekend in Chiang Mai.

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We spent the last two days together; myself, John James, Alice, Grant, Emma, Bethel, Felicita, Cailin, Molly, Hannah and Antonia, eating all the amazing food which wasn’t ever available up in Chiang Rai. (Seriously; try being a vegetarian in a country where they think vegetarian just means anything but pork. I’ve eaten noodle soup every day since November).

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Gal Pals For Life ❤

We all went for breakfast this morning at an amazing place called Good Morning Chiang Mai; where I had a croissant stuffed with scrambled egg and grated cheese; I’ve never been happier to eat something so basic.

When I returned from the toilet there was a notebook and some handmade organic soap on my seat. They’d all written me a personal message, which was just the loveliest thing ever. I feel so lucky to be so far from home yet have the most amazingly caring and wonderful souls surrounding me. There’s so much love in the world; it’s amazing to think all these random people all shoved into a situation side by side can form such strong and lasting bonds. It really touched me deeply.

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After saying our goodbyes, I wandered off to the bus station. I was suddenly overwhelmed with this feeling of total freedom. I was on the road again. I know everyone back home sees my Facebook and thinks my life is just a big old holiday, but I have been working really hard, and living in a small town such as Chiang Rai, you are somewhat restricted when it comes to freedom.

In my head, I started singing Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again”; feeling free and proud to have achieved what I have on this trip. I feel as though I have bettered myself in more ways than one. I’ve tried to take on principles surrounding positivity, and more feelings of self-love. However don’t get me wrong; I’m still filled with moments of self-doubt and anxiety; but I feel I’m slowly learning to recognise what you should prioritise in life to fill yourself with happiness, rather than negative doubt.   Very slowly. But its happening.

As well as these philosophical improvements, I’ve also given up meat since the beginning of December (my favourite meal would have to be an absolutely massive, juicy sirloin steak, and Saturday’s are known to me and my friends back home as “Bacon Sandwich Day”); and have given up a ten-year DISGUSTING habit of smoking. (Sorry Dad). Its weird how I’d inhale that crap on and off for a decade, and now when I am next to someone smoking it repulses me. You can smell the stench on them and it’s utterly vile. I know I won’t go back to that. I guess I’ve finally grown up.

As I write this, I’m sat in a circus school and resort, in the small town of Pai; situated in the Mae Hong Son Province of Thailand. It’s renowned for being a hippy town, and although I’ve yet to explore, I can certainly say it’s living up to that. I’m sat with a Chang beer, whilst surrounded by dreadlocked travellers, practising fire juggling and tightrope walking. I know I won’t get dreads but am quite interested in juggling with fire to be honest.

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I finally feel free and at peace. I’ve got no one negative around me; I look around to mountains, forests and fire pits.

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Home for now

The accommodation is basic. I’m staying in a triangular hut, with holes in the floor and the roof. I’m living in fear that a snake will rear its head through the gap in the bamboo floorboards. Yet I’m insanely happy.

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Elephants, Near Death Experiences and some VERY Small Swimming Trunks

Last weekend, I had to briefly pop into the school on the Sunday, to introduce myself to the Kindergarten children’s parents. This mainly involved smiling, having my photo taken on what seemed like a hundred mother’s smart phones, and listening to a massive presentation all in Thai. Needless to say, when I was finally released to enjoy my Sunday, I was more than a little over the moon.

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Meeting The Parents

I met up with my friends Johan and Conor, and a guy we’d met the previous night at the bar, called Jack. We decided to do something constructive with our day, so split between two mopeds; we all went on a mini adventure.

We drove out of the city, towards the direction of the prison, where slowly the buildings depleted until you could see no more, and instead it was just the luscious green hills of the forest and the dazzling blue sky.

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At one part in the road, we saw massive poops, and realised we were near an elephant camp. Unfortunately, I’d hoped that they would have been looked after and free, however they were chained and tourists were paying to ride on them. I found myself having a moral debate with each side of my brain, as I fundamentally do not agree with animals being treated in this way, however their trunks kept reaching out for the table full of food, so I decided to compromise with my two opposing opinions, and bought them some bamboo to chew on. This was until one elephant got a little too excited, and we couldn’t tell which end of the elephant was the trunk; we decided to swiftly leave the camp.

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Back on the mopeds we jumped, and across the River Kok again. We started to drive deeper into the forest and further up the hills, as the mountain roads started to bend more frequently and suddenly. We ascended a rather steep mountain in particular, where poor old John had to jump off the back of Johan’s moped and walk, as it was simply too steep for the weight of two grown men.

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When we finally reached the summit of this hill we descended straight down the other side; which still confuses me a little as to why we didn’t approach it from another way.

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Anyway, we drove through a very desolate and quiet village, and through a tea plantation, over some rather rocky terrain until we eventually heard the gush of Hauy Keaw Waterfall. From here we demounted the bikes, and started climbing the hill from which the waterfall was coming. We were looking for a kind of rock pool that would be situated half way between the top and the bottom of the waterfall, where we could have a swim.

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Tea Plantations

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After climbing quite steep and slippery surfaces, we eventually reached a rock pool. “Great” we thought. However upon closer inspection, we realised that we needed to cross a homemade bamboo bridge, over falling water and jagged rocks, in order to reach the access point to the rock pool. Adding to this, the bamboo was rotten.

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THE Bridge

Johan, who used to be in the military, jumped over this with seemingly no problems. I was right behind him, so naturally it was my turn to go next. I was hugely uncomfortable about this, however, in the presence of three men, and being the only girl, there was no way I would be a stereotype and chicken out. Oh no. Of course I was going to cross the rotten bamboo bridge that was definitely not safe at all. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, as I was crossing, the rotten bamboo decided to give way under my weight, and snap. My leg went straight through, and fortunately I feel like my life was saved due to my bottom being big enough to not follow it through.

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The Aftermath 

Too much cheese and wine in my diet proved to me a very good thing after all.

I stayed here, in shock for a little bit, waiting for the rest of the bamboo to slowly give way, and for me to drop to the rocks beneath me; however it didn’t, and I shakily decided to make my way back to the safety of Conor and Jack.

After we all laughed about how I could have died and how much of a downer that would have been to everyone else’s trip; we decided to descend again, where we found the safety of a rock pool that was flat, and easy to enter, and offered no threat of amputation or death.

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The Swede with his VERY short swimmers

Here we met a family of locals who had come for a late afternoon swim; and although there was the ever-impending language barrier afoot, we had the best time just being big kids and all splashing each other with water.

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New Friends

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With that, we dragged our damp bodies back onto the bikes, and started the journey home, back to the city, before starting work the next day.

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This city may be small, but it’s surrounded by surprises.

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The New Chapter Begins

I finally feel now that I have begun to settle into my new home in Chiang Rai. As well as Emma living in the same apartment block, we now have Alice who’s joined us, and also teaches at the same school.

On top of this, my best friend from the UK, Abbey, is currently staying with me, as a first stop before she embarks upon finding the world, and possibly herself, over the next year.

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Best Buds

With the girls, and a lovely bunch of people who we’ve met from visiting our favourite bar repeatedly, we have a nice little group in Chiang Rai; so that’s certainly helping to make me feel more confident and at ease in the city.

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My first day teaching in Kindergarten was a blend of amazing feelings, and beautiful kids who melted my heart, mixed with equal parts stress, confusion and the loss of my voice. However I loved it.

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Morning Dancing

I teach one of the Kindergarten classes, which contains 27 children, all either 5 or 6 years old. Speaking to the teacher beforehand, she advised me to just come in and observe the class for my first week, before getting more involved and planning in the second.

Perhaps I was naïve, however, this didn’t actually happen. I arrived, and was immediately told to stand up in front of all the Kindergarten children at the flag raising ceremony (which happens daily). A microphone was thrust into my hand, and straight away I had to talk to 300+ children and teachers, the majority of whom speak little to no English, whilst their blank faces looked at me in sheer bewilderment.

After this, I went to my classroom where I met the children. They’re all brilliant. They have this cute little uniform, which looks like a little sailor’s outfit. They have the most charismatic little personalities, even without being able to really speak English, they’re so loving and smiling and playful, that you can get along with them anyway.

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Little Sailors Off For Lunch

They all have such huge hearts, and will run and hug me as I walk past, or cuddle my leg for no apparent reason.

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My Class With Their Lanterns

Being told not to lesson plan, however, was a massive lie. There’s only one theme per week, as the children are so young, so last week was Loy Krathong; a festival celebrated around Thailand. Lesson planning for this, without any prior knowledge was a little challenging however we got there in the end, and the class and I ended up making our very own Kathrongs for the festival.

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Homemade Kathrong

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Kindy Kathrongs

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Class With Their Kathrongs

This week the topic is “Thailand” so using the Internet as my resource, I’m planning lessons surrounding Thailand’s Geography within South East Asia, and also cultural traditions native to Thailand, such as The Wai, which is how you greet someone, by placing the hands together like a prayer, and bowing slightly.

I realise it’s only been one week at the school, but I’ve never felt so happy within a job. I could wake up in the worst mood, but walking through the door every day at 07.30 and seeing 27 smiling and happy faces grinning back at me…well it’s certainly the best cure for bad moods and irrelevant worries that may have come with me from my previous life back in England.

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Lunch Time

I can only strive to keep these good feelings up.

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The Move to Thailand. First Stop…Chiang Mai

The day had finally arrived. After talking about it continuously since February, it was at last the day that I was off to Thailand.

Julien took me to Heathrow bright and early on the Tuesday morning, where I checked in my bags, before we had a final Café Rouge Breakfast together.

So that was it; living In Julien’s pocket had come to a momentary end, and I was out, conquering the world alone.

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My flight was to Mumbai, where I had a couple of hours in the airport, before flying to Bangkok, and then getting a connecting flight to Chiang Mai.

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I reached Chiang Mai, and grabbed a TukTuk to the Eco Resort, and instantly took a sleep for around 5 hours.

When I woke up, I had two new roommates in the form of Pooja, from Dubai, and Alex, from the UK. We went to dinner in a local restaurant, and then went with Molly, another girl from the same organisation; GVI to the night Bazaar.

After we had all just arrived, everyone felt pretty sleepy, so we decided to head home for a relatively early one.

The next day, we woke up, ate some food, and lay by the pool again and slowly started to get out the hotel and see things. At first, we took a trip to the large shopping mall, in an attempt to sort out various phones and SIM cards, with the hope that we’d all be set up with a Thai number soon.

It was interesting to see the mall, of which I hadn’t quite known what to expect of. However it was scarily like home, with shops ranging from H&M, to Topshop, and even a Marks and Spencer. These shops aren’t really prevalent outside of the mall, so it was a surprise to see them in there; so different to the hustle and bustle of the chaotic streets outside.

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Leaving here, we got a TukTuk to the old town of Chiang Mai, a square in the heart of the city.  We walked around the perimeter until we got to Thapae Gate, which is historically, the main entrance to the old city.

Whilst walking towards this, it was startling to see how many tours there were, offering trips to take you to the Tiger Temple. These are those God-Awful places that offer the tigers “a sanctuary”; however from what, I am not exactly sure. The tigers are chained around the neck, and more likely than not, are heavily sedated in order to keep them docile, so that tourists can pose with the animals, for their new Facebook profile pictures. A recent report observed that these beautiful animals were put on public display, each day between 1pm and 4pm, with no shade and under direct sunlight with temperatures often reaching 40 degrees Celsius. However, even with this knowledge, every tour guide claims that their visit to the Tiger Temple is not like that, and that theirs are different, which unfortunately still lures many travellers into these trips.

Anyway, we walked into the Old City, stopping to look at the odd market stall here and there. We eventually reached one of Chiang Mai’s many Buddhist Temples, this one being The Relic of the Lord Buddha and Arahants, at Wat Phan Tao. We entered, being respectful of the culture and religion trying to remember the rules ranging from no shoes, to lowering your head so you are always lower than an image of Buddha.

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Outside we met some monks, who invited me to hit the big gong, otherwise known as the singing bowl. We visited a couple more of the temples, however it was soon time to head home, before our night in Chiang Mai.

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We ate dinner, another variation of noodle and rice dishes, in the Bazaar area, quickly scoffing this down so that we could get good seats for the start of the Cabaret Show; or the Lady Boy show if you prefer.

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We sat through a good 1.5 hours of the show, each act astounding us all even more at how these beautiful women were actually men. However, the put on a wonderful performance, even if they are a bit cheeky at asking for 200 Baht per head (rather a lot by Thai standards).

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The next day, Pooja, Alex and myself woke up to take a taxi to the temple on the hill that overlooks Chiang Mai, by the name of Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. When arriving back at the hostel room the night before, we’d discovered a new roommate, Amy, from America, so we brought her along with us for the days outings.

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The taxi took us up many a winding turn, to the top of the large mountain. From here, we climbed the 309 steps to the temple.

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Thankfully, if you are slightly older or have trouble tackling that many stairs, especially in the heat, there is an option of a cable car.   However, always in the pursuit of a better bottom, we opted for the stairs, and with little breath, reached the top. We paid our 30Baht, and entered through the grand gates.

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Taking our shoes off, just at the temple doorway, we climbed just a couple more steps and entered the courtyard. It was simply breath taking. Words, or even pictures cannot justify the intricate design and architecture that is involved. The gold reaches from symbols of Buddha, to rooftops, to parasols. It is everywhere. The image of Buddha is on nearly every surface you look at, and the smell of incense rushes up your nose. You hear the chimes of the bells as Monks pray. The only downside is the hoards of tourists everywhere you turn. However, I am included in that category, so I guess I can’t really talk.

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We then walked round the outskirts of the temple, overlooking the city of Chiang Mai, however due to being so high up it was hard to see the city in any detail.

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10698627_10154766063125541_7744298025192200311_nIMG_6261 We descended the steps, where we met our taxi driver once more, who drove us back down the mountain, and into the town. Along with two Buddhist Monks and a very small child.

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After some orientation that evening, and the following day, regarding the teaching projects we would all be embarking on shortly, the whole group of Global Vision International teachers and staff, went for a collective meal at a restaurant named Khum Khantoke. We here experienced authentic Lanna style dining, and dances, which are typical of the Northern parts of Thailand.

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We had so much amazing food, from traditionally cooked chicken and rice, to curry pastes and banana fritters. This was followed by a series of performances and traditional dances, offset with lanterns being released into the sky. It was a really beautiful experience, even though it was for the sake of the diners and tourists, the colours, costumes and music were just wonderful.

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And with that, it was to bed, and to finish up with a couple more days of training and Thai language classes, before making my way North, to the city of Chiang Rai, which is to be my home for the foreseeable future.

Tying up loose ends, and getting ready to move to Thailand

Unfortunately it’s been a while since I’ve last written. I could find my excuses about how I’ve been getting ready to go abroad and make the big move to Thailand, however in all honesty it’s mainly down to laziness and possibly a lack in inspiration over the past few weeks.

I’ve had a lovely month or so living back with my parents in Dorset, in the South of England. I’ve mainly been spending quality time with them, trying to adapt my lifestyle away from the bright lights of living freely in the city, to once again having family meals, quiet nights in and weekly viewings of University Challenge.

Thankfully, I’ve not been experiencing the stress and worry too badly that I guess I may have “supposed” to be feeling before a huge move like this. However, I think this is down to me having this as a pipeline dream for so long now, and with the talk of this particular experience being going around since February I guess I am as ready as ever to just get on that plane and go.

In my final week of living in England, Julien came down to Dorset to visit and to stay with my family for a few days. I met him at the local train station after his long journey travelling through every single small town imaginable between Clapham Junction and Dorchester.

From here, I took him back to my village where he was plied with my mum’s finest cooking, her “posh” quiche and home made blackberry and apple crumble. Luckily, we managed to finish this just in time, as about ten minutes after we cleared our plates the whole village experienced an entire power cut. I know I wanted to show him the rural life, however I didn’t mean for it to be quite so extreme. So with that, I took him up to the village pub, where we enjoyed a candle lit pint, before heading home to bed.

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In the morning, I’m pleased to say the electricity was back on, so after a specially made brioche breakfast, we clambered into my tiny Renault Clio and headed off to show Julien the sights of the Jurassic Coast.

We followed the coastal road from my house, to the small town of Bridport. Here, my intention was to look around all the quaint market stalls with Julien, however thanks to the sudden thunder storm and seemingly torrential rain that morning, there was only one hardy stall owner out that day, who unfortunately was only selling garish black t-shirts with holographic wolves on them.

When the heavens opened once again, we took cover in a placed named the Soul Shine Café, in South Street. The Soul Shine Café is a lovely juice bar / café with a truly lovey feel to it. You can choose from a wide range of juices and smoothie blends to reboot yourself, whether it be to give your immune system a boost, or more often than not, to replenish your body after the much dreaded hangover.

After this, and with the lack of any actual market on market day, I drove us both further along to coast, to the very edge of West Dorset, to the lovely little harboured town of Lyme Regis. We parked up one of the very steep roads, and walked down next to the river that leads down to an old mill. From there, we followed the winding little streets down towards the main high street, stopping off at galleries and gift shops on the way. We also visited what has to be one of my favourite bookshops I’ve ever visited; The Sanctuary Second-Hand Bookshop. I don’t know why, and I never really buy anything from there, however the feeling I get when in there is just that of pure calm, ironically so as it is a crowded, dusty and cluttered bookshop, which can only remind me of the Weasley’s home from the Harry Potter books.

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After looking around, we attempted to walk along the sea front, with the plan to end up at the cob. However, once we walked around the corner and on to the promenade, the wind from the day’s storm was so strong, it blast us far too hard, that my glasses were moved from my face. We both agreed that Julien didn’t really need to see the cob that badly, and with that we went in search of some lunch.

Unfortunately, the rain continued to pour and we decided that a trip to the cinema was in order for the remainder of the afternoon.

The next day it was time to leave Dorset, and to head to Julien’s family in Bodmin, Cornwall.

We spent a lovely three days down there, visiting an incredibly beautiful old harboured town called Fowey, and escaping from the stressful city.

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Whilst we were down there, Julien’s niece Scarlett was turning six, so had a birthday party, with some of her little friends. Julien and I had bee pre warned that our role was to be party entertainers, and there’s no denying tat I went there dreading what the day would hold. Luckily however, all the kids were so lovely and excitable, ad we managed to keep them fully entertained for the whole three hours.

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My favourite part of this had to be when the only little boy attending the birthday party as a guest, was a little five year old named Matthew, who arrived with flowers for Scarlett, wearing a tie and shirt, hair gelled, and I’m pretty sure he was also doused in aftershave. It was just too nice.

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Exhausted we headed back to Dorset to say goodbye to my parents, before returning to London to say goodbye to my friends, where I consumed a couple too many “goodbye” cocktails with my nearest and dearest friends.

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The next day was my last day in London, in the UK, and indeed with Julien. He didn’t tell me what his plans were and just said to not wear my scruffy rain mac and to dress a bit nicer than usual.

So at lunchtime he took me to Liverpool Street, and walked me to the Heron Tower. Instantly, I squealed with excitement, and the realisation that he had decided to take me to Sushi Samba for dinner. We do eat out a lot, however Sushi Samba is one of those places where, if you’re anything like me, it is a special occasion to go somewhere so nice.

IMG_6043 We got in one of the glass lifts, and whizzed up to the 38th floor in a matter of seconds. We walked in, and had our bags and coats taken, and were shown to our table, right by the window looking over all of east London. Unfortunately the weather was awful, and we couldn’t see a great deal, however it was still exciting none the less.

We had lots of sushi to start with, followed by incredible gyoza, and not being able to hold back we then ordered the most wonderful blackened cod, with some lamb also.

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I can honestly say it was one of the most magnificent meals I’ve ever had, so if you’re ever feeling particularly like a millionaire, I’d highly recommend it.

After this, Julien took me to his friends work, telling me the second part of the surprise was coming up, however wouldn’t tell me anything else. We got to Universal Records, and met his friend, Steph, who handed me an envelope. Inside were two tickets to see Ed Sheeran that night at The O2.

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Feeling incredibly excited, we went to grab the train over to North Greenwich, and walked from the station to the venue. We grabbed some drinks and took our seats, which were great, and close to the stage. At 8.30 on the dot, on came Ed, and played an insanely good set.

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I was in awe of the way this guy, all by himself, could occupy such a huge stage, all alone, and build up pieces of songs slowly, using a foot pedal, until he was creating the entire song, backing vocals and all.

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On a huge high, we took the boat back along them Thames, to Waterloo, where we got the train to Julien’s.

And then to bed…tomorrow I’d be flying to start my new life abroad in Thailand.

Disneyland Paris “The Most Exhausting Place On Earth”

Unlike the previous day, where we had ventured into the city to enjoy our petit dejeuner, we decided to eat in our hotel. This was for two reasons, one of which was that we had a lot to fit into our day before we travel home later that evening, and the second reason being that time was more of the essence than ever, as we were going to Disneyland.

We wolfed down as many pain au chocolat and boiled eggs as we could without wanting to have a heart attack, packed up our belongings, left them with the hotel staff, and excitedly pranced down the street to the metro station once more to board the train from Montparnasse, changing at Nation and finally reaching our destination of Marne-la-Vallée.

We got there with perfect timing, just as the park opened at 10am. After exchanging the coupons (which Julien had purchased onboard the Eurostar) for tickets, we were through the gates and into the magical world of Disney.

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I haven’t been since I was a kid, and at the back of my mind thought to myself “am I too old for this?” however, the answer was definitely no. Yes, its obviously got strong pulls and links to the whole fantasy of childhood dreams and magic, however it’s great for adults alike. It hasn’t lost the magic, and it’s great fun to just shed all your adult woes and cares for a day, and just relive the magic of Disney I remembered from being a kid.

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As we entered the grounds, we walked through the old style town, named Main Street USA, and took in all the quaint little shops that managed to cross the tackiness of Disney with turn of the century décor, surprisingly well.

I’m not a big fan of rollercoasters that are too big, as I’m a massive coward, and literally squeal whist riding something as tame as the Big Wheel at a fun fair. With this knowledge Julien suggested we walk up to Adventureland and start off with the Indiana Jones ride. After queuing for around 35 minutes, we were at the front of the line, and Julien was insisting we take a seat right at the front of the train.

It was petrifying. I screamed so hard I nearly lost my voice, and managed to hit my head on the safety bars that were strapped over my shoulders. I also managed to completely miss the fact we went upside down because I couldn’t open my eyes.

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Its worth noting that if you are someone who goes to Thorpe Park or Alton Towers often, the Indiana Jones ride is in fact, not at all scary, however it is a lot of fun. I’m genuinely just an awful coward.

After this, we walked away, and I was buzzing with adrenaline. Ready to get on to all the rides, we excitedly got out the park map and started planning. However, what we didn’t take into account was the fact that the queues can be ridiculous. Some of the rides offered a Fast Track service, where you go and take a ticket, and return within half an hour, and can then use the fast queue. However, this is not available on all rides unfortunately, and we did end up spending a lot of time in lines, waiting around.

On top of this, some of the rides that we were hoping to go on were closed for maintenance, one of these being Space Mountain, which was very upsetting as that was the one ride that I really wanted try. This information may have been available somewhere on their website, however it wasn’t very clear and we were very disappointed not to get to experience it.

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After posing for some pictures with the Star Wars X-Wing Fighter, we left Discoveryland to head back up to Adventureland. Here, we agreed to go on Pirates of the Caribbean, unfortunately nothing to do with the film franchise, however.

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This was very fun and jovial, however although I’m a coward, I did feel like I could handle something a little more thrilling. Saying this, there was one tiny drop, and as you can see in the photo below, it still managed to make me scream like a little girl.

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We then spent some time running around the Theme Park in general, climbing on the rope bridges, exploring caves and going in Davey Jone’s Locker.

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Feeling braver, we made our way across to Frontierland, where we went on my favorite ride of all time; Big Thunder Mountain. We had our Fast Track tickets already, so only had to queue for around 15 minutes. We got on the ride, again sitting at the front, and literally had THE best time. It was enough to make me scream and a little nervous, but not that horrible feeling where I think I might spew all over the other theme park goers.

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After this, we ran across and queued for 5 minutes at the Haunted House, which I remembered to be a lot scarier than it actually was at the age of 25. It was fun, nonetheless though, and quite clever with all the animatronics as you travel around in individual cars.

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We then made our way across from the Disney Park, to the Walt Disney Studios Park, just across the street. Here we walked around, and saw some of the sights such as the Toy Story attraction, however agreed that we were short on time and couldn’t really go on any of the larger rides. Plus I may have been scared to go on the Aerosmith ride (yeah I don’t get the Disney connection either) as it sent you doing the loop the loop about a million times.

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With that we returned to the Disney Park, where we grabbed some lunch, which unfortunately Disney do not do so well. The only options without queuing for a long time to go into a restaurant, were 3 variations of burgers and fries. I’m not entirely adverse to a burger; a good burger; however these were soggy and relatively nasty burgers.

After wolfing these down out of desperate need for energy, I decided I wanted a Coke, so randomly selected one from the vending machine.  I was overjoyed with the discovery of names you can get once you just hop across the Channel.

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We agreed that we had time left for just one more ride, and then some gift shops, before we’d have to head back towards Montparnasse.

I let Julien decide which ride he’d like to go on, and for some reason I’m still not entirely sure of, he chose Autopoia. This is a ride which consists of ‘50’s style cars and you drive them repeatedly around a track. This ride is designed for very young children too, so obviously these aren’t real cars, and go around the track on a Scalextric kind of runner. Julien doesn’t drive, so I thought maybe he wanted a toned down version of the real thing, so agreed to do this with him.

IMG_8472 It was good fun, and we definitely had a laugh whilst whizzing around 6 year olds with their dads, and probably just being annoying big kids, however it was very enjoyable.

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We finished off with gift shopping, where Julien bought himself Star Wars related hats, and then bought me the biggest Thumper toy in the entire shop which obviously went down very well.

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We made the long journey back to the hotel, feeling absolutely exhausted, and having to both take a nap on the metro. We certainly had so much fun but we were positive we needed longer there, as we only got to experience a handful of rides and certainly would have been able to have more fun, not having to pick and choose our rides nor having to time them the way we did.

IMG_8492 After picking up our bags from the hotel, we got back on the train to Gare Du Nord to catch the Eurostar. In just a couple of hours, we were back in London, exhausted but content, dragging our suitcases and all our new souvenirs back along the platform, to the tube, and so to bed.

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Paris…No Swimming in the River Though; That’d Be In Seine

Every so often Julien gets hired to DJ abroad; recently playing a big corporate event in Munich, the same markets operator, ICAP, asked him to play an event in Paris.  Fortunately they were kind enough to let me come along as a freebee with him for a weekend away together this time round.

So early one Saturday morning in June, I packed my wheelie suitcase, and headed on the tube to King’s Cross St Pancras.  It has to be said, being up and out at 7.30am on a Saturday with no hangover, they’re really missing a trick with making some kind of real life documentary about the characters you see trying so hard to get back to bed at this time.  It was almost like a game, figuring out which late night / early morning reveller was going to cave and be sick on you first.

After successfully dodging being spewed on in any capacity, I got off the tube, excitedly springing along to go and meet Julien, with images in my head of riding bikes by the River Seine, and laughing heartily whilst munching on baguettes.

We met, went through the very basic security checks ran by the Eurostar and before we knew it were speeding our way over to La Ville-Lumiére.  Two hours and 15 minutes later we were in Paris Gare Du Nord, and pulling our bags along on to the Metro.

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We thankfully just had to take one line straight down to where we were staying, a hotel in the Montparnasse area of the city.  Admittedly, it is not the most beautiful, or typically French district, however the hotel was pleasant and in a well-connected area.

We got in, ditched our bags, and headed downstairs for some food and drink, shortly after which Julien went to setup for later, and to complete his sound check, whilst I went shopping due to realising I’d forgotten trousers and underpants and everything else I might need.                                                              

After a quick power nap, we set off to have some dinner before Julien had to start playing.  We walked up the road to find a quaint little restaurant, where we enjoyed some lovely French food and a couple of big glasses of wine. 

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As we walked back to the hotel, it was about 20.58, and Julien stopped me where I was walking in the street.  He told me to look to my left, where there was a clearing in the buildings that led all the way down to the Eiffel Tower.  As the clock struck 21.00 the entire tower lit up with sparkling lights, twinkling all over in the distance.  You can see why they say it’s such a romantic city.

We got back to the hotel, where Julien began his work at the party, whilst I took advantage of the champagne.  After a fun night we crawled into bed at around 2am, to rest before we began the tourist part of our trip.

We had a cheeky bit of a lie in, mainly due to my bubbles induced headache, and hauled ourselves out of bed.

Instead of heading to the restaurant downstairs for our breakfast, we agreed it’d be nicer for us to have it out and about in the city somewhere, so we hopped on the metro, and headed up to Saint-Michel station, next to Notre Dame.

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After wandering around the old town and the beautiful Gothic buildings, we finally decided on a quintessential little French restaurant. It was like how you’d imagine; tables and chairs outside, with couples enjoying cigarettes with their coffees, whilst enjoying the morning sun.

By the time we’d got there it was more lunchtime than breakfast, so we had a look at the full menu. Wanting to be typically French, I chose the French onion soup with a side of garlic snails, or escargot if you like.

I’d had the escargot before, however a very long time ago, as a child on one of our many family holidays to Barneville Carteret, Normandy. In all honesty, I should have left it there really, and not ordered it again all these years later. It’s the texture. You know that you are eating a snail, and the texture is EXACTLY how you would imagine it to be; however much garlic butter they want to serve it with to disguise it, you are still more than aware that you are eating a mollusque.

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So after encouraging Julien to be “more French” by trying desperately to get him to help me eat the snails, we finished up, and set off to explore the city some more.

We walked back to Notre Dame, where we admired the beautiful architecture of the Cathedral. We had hoped to go in, however on a Sunday with this many people, the queues were just too big.

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We decided to rent a couple of the bikes that they have around the city. After trying to decipher how to rent one, thus causing a massive queue of angry cyclists behind us, waiting to use the machine, we finally managed to disembark our bikes from the docks and off we cycled along the Seine.

These bikes are a great idea, and are in fact the original version of what we call “Boris Bikes” in London. However, I wasn’t expecting them to be so heavy. It certainly took a good few attempts of not falling off sideways until I could steady myself enough to actually get away and cycle in a (semi) straight line.

Off we went, with the wind flapping in my hair, and great big grins on our faces, laughing and joking about baguettes and strings of garlic. However, after this lovely image took place for all of ten minutes, we then decided to embark on the roads of Paris.

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Now bearing in mind that I have balance issues even when standing up, combined with a very heavy metal bike, and then throw in the CRAZY French driving and also doing it all on the wrong side of the road, it wasn’t long before I swerved into a van, and scared myself a little. Needless to say, I got beeped at and honked at repeatedly, and quickly decided to drag the bike up onto the pavement, before I end up in a bad way on the roads.

I looked up to see the back of Julien’s head in his little panda hat disappear like a small dot in the distance. I tried shouting after him, although he couldn’t hear me, and kept on cycling.

After walking my bike along the pavement in a right old huff and grump for a few minutes, I saw his hat in the crowd, where he’d pulled up and waited for me. Obviously, because I am a woman I gave him a needlessly hard time, and exaggerated the story ten fold, about how in fact a LORRY, not a van nearly ran me over and I was very close to death etc etc. After telling me (rightly so) to stop being such a drama queen, and reminding me that I am in fact alive still and no collision actually happened, we embarked again upon our cycle ride, however this time opting for quiet back roads.

Just as we got to the bottom of the hilly streets that lead up to Montmartre the heavens opened, and we found a dock for the bikes, and ran to take cover under some shop awnings. When this had eased up a little we continued our climb up the hill and finally got to the bottom of the steps that lead to the Cathedral. Just then and there it REALLY started to tip it down, and we had to take shelter in a shop, where we bought some rather fancy rain macs. Unfortunately the packaging didn’t quit make it clear that on the backs of these rain macs there was a massive print of the Eiffel Tower. There was a reason why they were only €2 though.

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We started the climb up to the top of the stairs, which is incredibly steep, and exhausting. However because you’re overlooking such a beautiful view, you can time your need for breathers perfectly, with just wanting to take a selfie, so no one can really see just how horribly unfit you really are.

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We reached the top, and turned around the see the simply breathtaking panoramic view of the city. It really is a lovely place, and just oozes with the sense of romance and love. And then that all quickly disappears as you get asked if you’d like to buy ten key rings with the Eiffel Tower on by the masses of street traders in the area.

We walked inside of the cathedral, and as it was a Sunday, there was a service on. We were welcome to sit and watch, so we did this for a bit, as the choir was singing. The architecture inside the building was phenomenal. It is a truly majestic work of art, and words cannot do it justice. We sat in silence for a while, taking in our surrounding, and then walked the perimeter of the building, admiring the windows and the arches all the way around.

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After this we stopped for a hot chocolate and some gateaux, before heading back down the hill. We walked through all the dainty, curving and winding streets, imagining how lovely it’d be to live in some of these places. It just seems like such a quaint little idyllic lifestyle to have, if you were lucky enough to live in the Montmartre district.

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We hopped back on the Metro, where we got off at Porte Maillot, and walked down to the Arc de Triomphe. Rather stupidly, we didn’t see the entrance to the underground passageway to get to the actual structure, which is essentially in the middle of a roundabout on one of Europe’s busiest roads. So we decided to take our lives into our own hands, and ran in between speeding motorcycles and cars, whilst getting beeped and sworn at ferociously. Luckily we made it to the middle, admired the stunning building, and then sensibly took the under passage back to the Champs Elysees.

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We walked down the Champs Elysees, taking in all the shops, including the flashy car showrooms, until we reached the Southern end, where we jumped on another Metro to the Eiffel Tower.

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We walked down from Trocadero station, past the Musee national de la Marine, through the Jardins du Trocadero, across the Pont D’lena Bridge and to the foot of the tower. We looked up, taking in the beauty of one of the most iconic structures of our time, and decided after not having the patience to go inside any other landmarks today, bar Montmartre; we would certainly go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. However, as we approached, we soon realised that there were maintenance works being carried out that day, and you could in fact, not visit the top of the tower.

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This was a real shame, as it was genuinely one of the things that we really wanted to do, however, such is life, and now I know in future to find these things out beforehand.

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At this point, the sun was beginning to set, so we decided to take a stroll back towards the Champs Elysees, arm in arm along the River Seine. We sat for a while on the bank, reflecting on what a lovely, yet tiring day we had had, exploring the city.

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It really is beautiful, and has a sense of calm about it, however at the same time, much like London, it can be extremely tiring, and we were both completely exhausted.

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We finished the day by having a ginormous steak and plate of frites, and then dragged ourselves back to Montparnasse and into bed, knowing that the next day we needed all our energy to tackle Disneyland…

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