Monday, October 18, 2004

…we live by the River!…

who would have thought we’d be living out part of the lyrics of The Clash classic, London Calling. we have got ourselves into our own place here in London, after a 13-day stay at our friend Karen’s place, while she returned to sunny and a very hot Brisbane.

In the past two weeks we’ve gone out a few times for dinner (including some great Tapas in Putney!) and caught up with coxen and the workman-wilke’s a few times..

I also experienced my first Fulham Slug & Lettuce bar and Acton Redback Tavern night-out with Coxen and mates, and then after running out of money by the end of the night I proceeded to walk most of the way home across SW London (from Acton to Fulham) because the tube had stopped, the night buses were running late, and it seemed like fun at the time (sore and sorry the next day!) – too many antipodeans, and too many snakebites!..

We also went to a few great pubs near Piccadilly with Renee and Shane so we could get a feel for the after work ‘few Pints on the way home’ culture – that is where the photos of the "drinks lift" below were taken - I think the place was called Waxy’s little sister? This thing is great, instead of walking down the stairs to the bar you just put your money and written order in the box, ring the bell on the string, and send it down to the bar below - your drinks are poured, money exchanged and change provided, and the drinks sent back upstairs - awesome!

Shane Wilke working the lift at Waxy's Little Sister

We’ve also had a few great nights in with Karen’s flatmate Renee ‘Willow’ Wilson, enjoying far too much wine from the alcoh section in Sainsbury’s.. she’s been great to hang out and a great help while we’ve been setting up, and considering our shared taste for red vino we’ll be seeing plenty more of her..

During this time we also managed to place our election votes at Australia House – cs was very happy her friend Johnny Howard is back in… and a few Saturday’s ago we went and saw a jazz band fronted by members of Atomic Kitten at the Hammersmith Palais (the venue where they hold School Disco Lyndall!!) – as you’d expect, the jazz was good, the Kittens were not so good – lesson learned, but a good night out with Renee Wilo anyway..!

Willow and Carly at the Hammersmith Palais

And on the advice of my mate brett, we visited Greenwich to see the Royal Observatory and the 0 degree longtitude line and the home of Greenwich Mean Time, and also the Thames Foot Tunnel - i still have to get out there again next summer and buy myself a paper and coffee and sit in the sun, i have a some few pounds set aside for this...

Carly on the line; and Shane in the foot tunnel

Although we did get out a bit we spent most of our time at Karen’s place busily searching the web, sending e-mails, calling our respective job agencies, and starting to get things rolling on the job hunt (more about that later)..

At the same time looking at all of the letting agency websites for 1 or 2 bedroom places in the Putney/Fulham areas of southwest London.. after finding a few possible’s, we decided to do some advertising of our own and posted an ‘accommodation wanted’ post on the ever-faithful Gumtree website. (an on-line classified site populated by the aussies, saffas and kiwis of the UK..) Our posting received a phone call response within minutes when seen by someone who thought they had the perfect place for us while we found our feet (and some jobs!!), so we organised a viewing for the following day and said yes not long after..

So we are now renting a spacious two bedroom, top floor (8th) apartment in a very secure complex in Fulham, right next to the Putney Bridge tube station (I swear only a 100m walk to the platforms!), and even more unbelievably, it is right on the bank of the Thames..!!

The current tenant is a professional Kiwi woman who is heading back to the land of too many sheep for 4 months (via a holiday in Asia), and so that she doesn’t have to give up this amazing apartment while away, she needed someone to cover the rent, and hence offered us an all-inclusive monthly rent amount that we couldn’t refuse – so nothing to buy to get set-up, no bills to pay while we’re here and we simply walked in with our backpacks (and all of my shoes) straight into the place last Friday.. the place has 2 bedrooms with great heating, new bathroom, new full size kitchen with everything including dishwasher, fridge & freezer, washer & dryer (you’d be impressed Buse!), and nice big windows in every room looking onto the river with the view from Wandsworth downstream, to the rowing clubhouses upstream in Putney – here are some photos of the apartment –

The view of the Thames from the verandah..

and from inside the Lounge Room

The kitchen; and Lounge Room

Dinner with friends Karen and Willow..

Were holding our house-warming party on the night of the 5th of November, which is the famous (or infamous) bonfire/guy fawkes night here in London.. at a minimum the likes of Karen & Andy and brother John Willett will be there, the Workman-Wilke’s, Renee Wilo and some of her friends, and coxen are sure to make it so I’m sure it will be one to remember with fireworks on the river straight across from our apartment building in front of Wandsworth Park.. Here is a link to a map of the place –

The 4 month house-sit gives us plenty of time to take a good look around the city as we settle into jobs and pick a place where we will want to be renting more permanently – options so far include the Putney high street area which has both tube and overland rail nearby, or the Clapham Junction/Common area which we really like as it has a great high street and shopping, fantastic parks, good bus connections, and also has both the tube into town and is home to Britain’s busiest overland rail station, so we can get anywhere in the country fast.. We have to make a decision and start looking by early December, because apartments/flats will start being advertised when people give up to 2 months notice of departure, and the earlier the better so that we can organise to start buying kitchen equipment, and other appliances depending on the place we’ll rent.. Before we took the place we are in we managed to inspect 6 different places to get a feel of what we will get for our money, and were pleasantly surprised.. so we begin the apartment search around xmas and will have something else by the end of February –

On the job front – carly has an interview tomorrow, and I submitted an application on Friday for a redevelopment officer position in one of the inner-city boroughs undertaking site regeneration and master planning – so cross all your fingers for us!

So with 4 months to lap up the good life in the penthouse, I hope we’ll be posting plenty of great stories from here..

ps. Hey Suskie - Tickets for Kylie’s London concerts go on sale tomorrow – I will be going!!!


Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Rome Part II

Been a while since our last post, having limited www access in Rome, and better things to do than type up journal entries, so I’ll try and re-cap on the rest of the Rome trip, and the return to London where we are now..

As our last entry tried to explain, we had the most amazing time in Rome… while they say that Rome is the eternal city, and the famous quote is ‘a lifetime is never enough’, we certainly proved it with the best 12 days we have ever spent on holidays (even better than snow skiing!!).

Since the last post we continued to slowly make our way around the city, and within the first week began to explore the more outlying areas of Rome’s suburbs, which are basically the areas where the locals socialise, eat and drink – which in short, means this is where the action is away from the tourists, and this is where the really good food and drink is to be found and have, in great doses!!!

One such area we thoroughly emersed ourselves in was the suburb of Trastevere, which is outside the old city across the Tiber River. Once we had got used to the transport system and how to get home to our hotel in the wee hours of the morning on the ever faithful N40 Night Bus, we spent a few fantastic nights in this area in bars and staying late in great restaurants finishing good bottles and jugs of rosso (red), and devouring the best pasta we’d both ever had. My culinary highlight (well sort of) was the Frankfurt and French Fry pizza I had one night in a locals pizza trattoria – all I could think at the time was how much Todd would love to be having one of these pizzas! We spent a few late afternoons in a local bar which offered the local beer on the side of a piazza, with the crown mainly locals, artists, and the local bums.. a friend of mine from QT had told me that no dirtier and dingy-er the street or laneway, the better the restaurant and food!!! We proved that it is a motto that must be headed!!

During the day we spent almost all day trekking across the old city, and through the long streets of amazing shopping. One of the best things we did, however was to go and have a look inside almost every church that we walked past – this might seem a bit strange, but considering the catholic stronghold of Rome and the proximity of the Vatican, this exercise proved to be very valuable as we managed to some amazing examples of architecture, sculpture, and brilliant and very rare/valuable/famous artwork that most people would never know is there if they simply walked past and just thought of it as another church.. Considering there are something like 500 churches in Rome, we really only saw but a fraction of what is the religious centre of the small neighbourhoods and communities that make up the city. This actually made you realise that it isn’t just all tourism and famous sights to see, but a real living breathing city of people who live, work, eat and go to church amongst all of these other amazing monuments and sights..

Shopping Update and Tally:

Shane – one Italian chocolate brown wool suit. One pair of brown leather shoes/runners..
Carly – one brown leather jacket – very, very nice..

I looked around for the suit for a week then, towards the last few days I decided to go and get the one I wanted.. carly’s leather jacket is excellent, and is nothing I’ve ever seen in Australia yet so she’s very happy..

On the last Sunday of each month the Vatican Museum (and Sistine Chapel which is part of the museum) is open and is free to enter – the queues are massive, but well worth the wait. The museum comprises the art, monument, and artefact collection of the roman catholic church, which, when you consider its history makes for a fantastic collection to slowly walk through.. We spent a long time admiring the Egyptian and Etruscan artefacts they hold, with most dating well into the B.C.’s and simply wonderful to see on display to the public. Their art museum was also a highlight with many famous paintings there to see (such as the Carrevagios’s we grew to love and hunt down all over the city!!!) the only problem with doing all of this slowly and mythologically (which we did at most things we saw in the city!) was that at closing time, carly found herself only two-thirds of her way through, and with the threat of not seeing the Sistine Chapel at the end of the museum at all! As they were pushing out the crowd inside the chapel right on closing time, carly pushed her way through the exiting crowd from the outside, to join me in the chapel for but a 5 minute stare at Michelangelo’s fresco ceiling and alter pieces.. while it is quite a simple chapel with a simple design and minimal features, the painting just speak for themselves.. along with the famous ceilings are the other paintings by many of the other renaissance masters., which were worth looking at just as much – however the crowds in there were unbelievable, with most people bypassing the whole museum itself just to get to the chapel – each to their own we said...

Carly captivated by the Egyptian section of the Vatican Museums

In the few days after that we went to the Colosseum ruins, and went inside to walk around the once mammoth gladiator ring – while the Russell Crowe Gladiator movie made it easier to imagine the scale of the structure, once you their you really begin to imagine the extent of the organised celebrations and tournaments (otherwise known as blood-baths!) that the empire used to organise.. this place was fantastic to see, and worth spending as long as you can slowly walking around and really appreciating the detail and scale of things – especially interesting was the now exposed underground chambers and trap door structures you see in the movies, still intact beneath the old wooden floor level..

Carly and Shane inside the Collesseo

We also went to the nearby Palatine area, once home to Rome’s aristocrat and upper-crust culture.. this was a fantastic area to stroll through and is not 200m from the Roman Forum - however the tour groups avoid it because it takes too long to walk around and there’s no McDonalds there… as with the other significant areas in Rome, they are slowly excavating it to understand what was once there and piece it all together, but with the base of old buildings still recognisable, and the original marble flooring still in some of the old dining and palace thrown rooms from the early empire, it was still exciting to see and experience..

St Peters Basilica was simply breathtaking – this is the biggest church in the world, and just to prove it they have the exact length off all the other major churches in the world measured and written in gold lettering on the floor, layed down at their corresponding length just to prove that this one is the biggest!! The dome atop st peters is the largest (by volume and height) dome in the world, and will always be the highest structure in Rome (an unspoken IPA scheme town planning code I’m sure!!)(but note that it isn’t as wide in diameter as the dome above the 2000 y.o. Pantheon across town!!!) and we climbed right to the top!!! There was a lift to the halfway mark but taking that increased the entry cost by 1 euro each – bugger that I said, we’ll walk and by Gelati with the difference!! – 700+steps later we were looking over the whole of Rome at the top of the dome.. plenty of good photos. About halfway up you can look from inside the dome, about halfway up its 119m height and look down onto the church below – the people on the floor looked like ants, and it really put into perspective the immense scale of the basilica.. imagine the inside of a church that is over half the height of the ABC Radio tower at bracken ridge/bald hills..! crazy stuff!

Writing postcards in the square in-front of St Peters

Carly showing where we climbed to, atop the dome of St Peter's Bascilica

Picnic lunch on the roof of the Bascilica

Shane and the view over Rome from the top of the dome

Carly inside St Peters

Shane and the Swiss Guards of Vatican City

We also managed to fit in a trip out of town to visit one of the catacombs, where the Christian community used to bury their dead (mainly the common people) in undergound tombs up to 20m under the surface, excavated out of the soft tufa volcanic rock.. we saw only about 400m of one of the sites, where there are over 500,000 tombs excavated over a 40km network of tunnels.. very interesting if a bit eary, however a good insight into their lives and the persecution at the time by the empire.

I haven’t even started to cover all of the things that we saw, but I can recommend that for a city like that, we know ourselves that we merely scratched the surface.. even today we remembered something that we forgot to go back and see in more detail as we walked past one day, and we both simply said, “ahhh, we’ll see it next time”..

A beautiful shot I took of Carly on the Spanish Steps on our last day - shopping bags in tow

The trip home via train to the airport and Alitalia was pretty uneventful, with some great mountain views over france, and some even better views of London as we circled for 20 minutes and experienced what it's like to land at the world's busiest airport on a Saturday morning....!

We are now back in London, and staying at Karen Willett’s share apartment while she is on holiday back to Brisbane. I had a meeting with a recruitment agency today who are keen to begin looking work for me.. carly is organising her agency work, and it looks like it’ll be a few weeks til were both in the final stages of getting work..

We’re inspecting our first flat option tomorrow night after the current tenant finishes work. Its over the bridge in Fulham and looks very promising, so we should be starting to setup very soon to be ready for the first of the many visitors over the next few months/years.. We'll go to Greenwich in the morning to fulfill a promise to a good friend of mine - can't wait to catch the driver-less DLR!

That’s it for now really, will post again once we start letting flat/work organised, and the jobs prospects start being divulged..