To begin our Summer break adventure, we left London Gatwick on Sunday night and landed in Charles de Gaulle Airport outside of Paris after midnight. Let it be known – trains do not after midnight so finding your way into the city means finding your Uber driver somewhere amongst of sea of tourists, locals and black cars 🤷🏽♀️ alas, you will eventually locateyour driver and make you way to your accommodation!
Day 1 – we smashed a total of 20km on foot while also making good use of the metro due to the fact that we had purchased a 2 day ticket and wanted to get our moneys worth! The metro is fantastic as it can literally take you anywhere and to all of the cities best spots!
We first visited the Louvre and got the classic shot (I was not quite on point🤦🏽♀️)
Then it was off for a baguette, coffee and crepes in the Tuileries garden where the view is best taken in from a bistro chair in the sunshine 🙌🏽
After brunch, we visited the Basilica of the Sacred heart in the beautiful area of Montmartre. Make sure to climb the spiral tower of the Dome for this magnificent 360• view of Paris including the Eiffel Tower.
An obvious choice for lunch was to try the standard Escargot aka snails 🐌. I had already tried them on my last trip to Paris but watching Aleesa attempt to remove the snail from its shell was worth it. Overall, she gave them a 7.5/10 and noted that anything covered in garlic butter tastes good. We were left pondering how the snails are farmed and cooked…
One of Aleesa’s favourite things in life are Crepes so naturally we went on the hunt for the best crepes we could find in Paris. Our dreams came true with Les Embruns located near the Place de la Bastille.
Nearby is a cheeky little spot that specifically states “no photography” however you will find at least 30 other people silently photographing what is known as the Notting Hill of Paris in one colorful street.
Our day was only fulfilled further by the best dessert I have ever consumed. A chocolate mousse filled cake, covered with chocolate icing and based with a hint of raspberry creating perfection. It’s has been said that it could only be topped by Aleesa’s Aunty Vicki’s desserts.
Day 2 involved extreme bravery on my behalf, and zero from Aleesa. Alas, we climbed to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower (or the open air scrap of metal depending how you look at it) but the view from the top was magnificent, even if I hugged the pole and refused to stand on the transparent glass floor.
An absolute must do is to see the Eiffel Tower and night and the most popular spot was the Trocadéro Gardens where the Metro drops you right outside. On the hour, the Eiffel Tower lights will flash for 5 minutes and you cannot miss it!
Another half term means another European adventure – this time 3 days in Budapest and my goodness it did not disappoint! From the moment we arrived, we knew this was going to be a 10/10 on the #whereintheworldrdobsnsmarty Richter scale.
Budapest, a city where a river divides the two sides – Buda & Pest. A place where the views are like stepping into a fairy tale, the food is drool worthy and the drinks are cheap and flowing – what more could we want from a 3 dayer!
We chose to book and Airbnb within a central location on the Pest side of the city – and for only £37 a night what a bargain it was – prime positioning!! Hit up Amadeus Central Apartment on AirBnB.
Upon arrival and checking in at our AirBnB we found ourselves to be in a prime position for all things food and drinks – behold the Ruin Bars – literally the coolest most amazing pub I have EVER stepped foot into! Made the minor mistake of not checking the exchange rate before taking out 60,000 HUF in Hungarian currency before later realizing that was £160 (needless to say, we did manage to spend the entire amount between us on various purchases including some items of clothing…!) anyways, back to the Ruin Bars! Our favorite by far was Szimpla – a place so cool our little minds were blown! Wine bars, cocktails bars, normal bars, chemistry bars, every type of alcohol you could be looking for and all cheap! This place is hugeeeeee – it was an adventure just finding our way around the various rooms, books and crannies and on the way you will find someone of every nationality possible – I’m not kidding!
Things to do and see:
Numero Uno: Parliament Building.
Literally amazing from all angles. My only regret is not crossing the river to Buda to see it at night!
Numero dos: Fisherman’ Bastian
Literally a child’s playground (or two grown adults called Dobs n Smarty). This place is like stepping into a magical fairytale and complete unnecessary to buy a ticket for the view as you can basically see everything and walk around from the outside. The view from the restaurants would have been stunning, alas we were on a “saving for summer” budget and a 3 course meal seemed a stretch!
The next day, The weather cleared up and we remembered the sun does exist so we moved on to exploring the Pest side and my goodness I’d almost call it the best side!
Behold Numero Tres: Vajdahunyad Castle
Think more magical castles surrounded by people rowing on a lake, and then the infamous Szechenyi Thermal Baths. What more could we want?!
Again, completely free unless you want a view from the top..? (But why is it necessary when this is what you see from the ground?)
Last but not least by any means: Numero Cuatro – Szechenyi Thermal Baths
And after one last night out to our favorite ruin bar Szimpla, we ended our trip with he saddening realization that we must return to the less than sunny England in preparation for the last school half term.
Overall, we give it a 103% for a bloody good time and we will definitely be back to the glory that is Budapest 🏰🌳⛲️
Ps. Give us a follow on Instagram at @whereintheworldrdobsnsmarty for a behind the scenes look at our travel adventures! It’s worth it, and if you don’t agree we laugh at ourselves anyway 🤷🏽♀️🤷🏼♀️
For most of my life, I have lived afraid. Don’t get me wrong, I lived life, I left my home, I went to work, I took opportunities when they arose — but only ever safely within my limits of comfort. Growing up in the country can do that to you — isolation, a key part of country life where holidays and dreams beyond the town life are just a pipe dream. At least that was the story I had told myself for years. So many of my friends had moved away for the city life, and some had left the borders of Australia to travel overseas and explore the world. But that was never something for me.. A farmer’s girlfriend, a country veterinary nurse, a small town netballer and the occassional holiday across Australia if we were lucky. Those were my dreams. Those were the goals I had set for myself. At least that was what I thought I had wanted.
A sensitive mind is easily influenced by the harshness and strength of others. A small life, was okay… why did I need more when it was all I had ever known? Yet at the back of my mind, I always had this unconscious desire for more… but no, it would surely pass.
Sometimes it is only when exceptional things happen in one’s life that require exceptional changes or an exceptional kick up the arse. The kind of changes that ask you to stop playing small, to grab life by the balls and start owning who you are and what you truly want. The kind that knocks you on your ass, and leaves you lying there, empty, alone and lost.
I could sit there, miserable in my own empty life, accepting small for what it was, or I could pick myself up and use what had happened to steer a new path. It was a longwinded path, with many rocky turns and wobbly bits.
First I decided that living with my parents was not going to help me discover myself so I moved to a cottage over a lake. Secondly, although I was fantastic at my job as a veterinary nurse and had completed all of my study, I bloody hated it. On the back of a whim and a high school dream, I began a degree in education, studying full time after work while continuing my career as a veterinary nurse until the came came when I could finally leave — with every storm comes sunshine, but this storm lasted a solid two years before an opporunity arose. I found myself waking up each day, deciding which job I needed to drive to — part time veterinary nurse, part time early childhood worker, full time university student. Wowwwww, there was no time to think about my old life that was for sure! 4 years on, and I found myself in the best position possible, being selected for a full time preschool teacher position, fresh out of university, fresh out of childcare and single as a pringle! Could life get any better? Of course it could, because we were not made with roots.
At the end of my first teaching year, I had a choice. To stay or to go? If I stayed I would have a comfortable teaching role I loved, in a job I knew, within an arms reach of the family home… Or I could leave, move closer to the city and settle in a new small town location, further from what I knew, in a new teaching job. What to do, what to do, what to do?!
If the past 4 years had taught me anything it was to stop playing small. Stop pretending like the world isn’t for you. Stop pretending like the town you had grown up in was the only place to be. Stop pretending like your family would fall apart if you left. Stop pretending like you weren’t made for this wild, vast and wonderful life.
Instead, I went with option 3. It seems that the opportunities that present themselves where one would assume requires the most amount of thinking, were in fact the opportunities which I gave the least amount of though to. Because, my mind is an overactive mind and too much thought only shrinks my courage until it takes me back to living a small life of small opportunties in a small world.
So, option 3: Give yourself 3 months to apply for a working visa, sign up with a teaching agency, pack a suitcase and move to the UK where the sun don’t shine. Of course, option 3, came with challenges like “How could you leave us!” “You will miss Australia too much!” “The weather is shit!” “You’ll be back before you know it!”. Well guess what? I am on a journey to play life big, because I am done playing small.
And I tell you what, in the 1.5 years since making this decision my life has been the most epic, terrifying, exciting, adventurous, explorative, exhausting and challenging time of my life, and I wouldn’t change it for a second. In 1 week of my new UK life, I moved into the town of Windsor, 200m from the Queen’s weekend residence, I met the love of my life teaching Spanish in my primary school , I met the best bunch of friends— most of which are from somewhere else, because us internationals like to stick together over a Pimms, banter and a good Wetherspoons feed. I tell you what, teaching in an Australian kindergarten has got nothing on English education in a primary school — talk about expectations and perfectionism 101! But with primary school teaching comes holidays, and with holidays comes Europeeeee ***half term in Wales, Easter in Scotland & Italy, Summer in France, Belgium & Spain,a Another half term in the Czech Republic & Germany, Christmas in Spain (using google translate for all family-in-law communication?!), half term in Ireland, Easter back in Australia, and tomorrow I jet off to Budapest for a Hunagrian good time! All the while planning my 6 week Summer across a whole lot more of Europe!***
The timing of life is everything to me, if I had chosen to stay in my shitty job as a vet nurse, with minimal career prospects, I wouldn’t have decided to study a teaching degree on a whim, and find my passion in teaching. If I hadn’t studied teaching in my tiny town believing the story I had told myself then I would never have had the life experiences, met the people I now call my close friends, or found the love of my life on the other side of the world, where my life will now be a solid blurred mixture of Australia & Spain and I now find myself trying to learn Spanish before my future children can speak a language I cannot understand (just imagine the catastrophe of it!)
My life will never be the same and for that I am eternally grateful for my bravery and courage to follow dreams, followed by chances, followed by more opportunties. With every opporunity comes a new chance for change and growth, so instead of sitting back and telling yourself, yea na that’s not for me, think about it and decide whether you’re saying no out of truth or no out of fear? Because fear can only hold you back, and once you stop pretending small or playing small, and you step through those doors of courage and shout “halle-bloody-lujah, world come at me!” then you will never truly know the exceptional experiences, people, cultures, dreams and opporutnties that light your path.
Stop playing small, because the day a small town farm girl wrote herself a new story, her life changed forever.
1 year. 1 year I left you for a trip of a lifetime, and for 1 year my heart ached only for you. Your soft black fur, your wet tongue, the way you would cuddle me in your own doglike way, licking my face, your paw on my arm, and staring deep into my soul with your black eyes full of love.
For 7 years you loved me. For 7 years I was lucky enough to have been chosen by you. My best friend, my fur child, my canine companion, my true love.
At just 6 weeks old, you entered the vet clinic as a sick, emaciated puppy and I knew. I knew that you were mine and I had to look after you. It was love at first sight, the kind of love that is certain and strong and true. And in just 1 day, you had chosen me to.
For 7 years you were my rock. My peace. My calm during the storms of heartbreak, turmoil and chaos — always there, always waiting, always loving.
You never judged. If I came home grumpy, or angry or sad you never cared. You loved me anyway. If I came home happy, you loved me just the same.
I will never understand love more than I understand the love from a dog, because this love was one of the truest loves I have known. Unconditional love, the kind where no words ever left your mouth, but more stories were shared than some old friends.
7 years into our love affair, and I broke your heart. I left you behind to start a life overseas. But I was coming back. Why didn’t you wait. I was always coming back for you.
For months, you grieved, to the point where my Mum refused to allow you to see my face for it could break your heart just to hear my voice but to never be able to touch me or lick me or lay next to me on the grass or swim with me in the ocean.
Our happy place — the ocean. The first day I took you there I knew. I knew we shared the same love, the same happiness, the same peace. A love of the sea, the salt, the waves, the sand. The place we shared so much time, together, just the two of us. Where our bond grew stronger with every run, swim or sunset.
Now, the ocean is your resting place. You lay resting in peace outside the house by the beach. Surrounded by the sound of waves, the touch of sand, the salt of the water. But never again will you chase the waves, or swim through the water to reach me, or run next to me on the sand. Why didn’t you wait.
12 months. 12 months since I had held you for what I didn’t know would be a goodbye forever. 12 months we ached in our hearts, knowing that what was missing was each other. Almost 1 year to the day, I got the phone call that changed everything. The phone call, which told me, you had died suddenly while outside our ocean house. Never again would you lick my face and squeak with happiness at the sight of my return after a day of work. For 12 months I had dreamed of the way you would react when I finally come home, and now I had to accept the saddening truth that it would be me who would react, not you.
If only I had come home for Christmas then maybe you never would have left. But instead, I was coming home at Easter, 4 months too late. I know my parents would have told you. Why didn’t you wait for me? Did I break your heart? Is that why you didn’t wait? Because I left you and I didn’t come back. Can a dog die from a broken heart? Because now I feel as though I could.
Grief is a difficult thing to experience, when you had already said goodbye to the one who has now left a hole in your heart. There is the shock and heartbreak upon hearing the news, where the time stands still and nothing in the world can ever be right again. Then, comes a period of denial where because I am not there to carry your body and bury you in the Earth, it is not true. Then there is the period where I stop thinking of you altogether because the clutch of the heart and moment of remembrance hits you like a bus. And then there is going home.
4 months to the day I arrive home. I was not greeted by your manic bark or your excited squeak. I was not licked or chased or jumped on. I did not drop to the ground to hug you and to love you. Instead, I felt emptiness at the truth — You weren’t there, and you never would be again.
After 7 days, I visited your grave. It is only fitting that you should lay buried beneath the sand, the deposits of what once began as shells on the ocean floor. And as I sit here writing this with tears rolling down my face I remember the next stage of grief. Acceptance. Because acceptance was all I had left as I stared at the red bricks my mother has so carefully patterned over the ground, marking the place where my baby girl had been laid to rest by my grieving parents, while I pretended like nothing had ever happened.
My Dad told me what happened. He had to. He could not deal with the grief, the grief of knowing that he had found you dead on the ground. The grief of knowing that he had performed CPR on your lifeless body and by some miracle had brought you back to life, barely conscious but breathing. The memory of shouting to my brother to call the vet to come and save her. The vet came. He checked her; unsure of what could be wrong. Was it a brain haemorrhage? Was it a snakebite? They didn’t know. But nevertheless, you lay breathing peacefully as though you were merely sleeping. You were okay. The vet left. Dad stayed by your side. You put your paw on his arm, the way you would always did to me, took one last breath and then the light left your eyes and the world became darkness.
When light becomes darkness, a place can never feel the same because what made the light shine so bright has been dimmed, and everything that brought joy and happiness to our ocean place now lies with you. All I am left with are the memories of 7 years and the knowledge that no love was truer than the unconditional love shared between a girl and her dog. You left this earth to walk amongst the stars, jump across the waves, and run through the sand. I do not know why and I never will know why. But what I know from the depths of my heart is that a piece of you will always live through me, and when I look at the stars in the night sky, I know that one of them is you, a shining beacon of light watching over me with a love that never wavered, unconditional and true.
A dog so intelligent, so loyal, so true. Millie, I will always love you.
Within the last 4 days of 2017, I made the 24hr migration from rural South Australia to a town called Windsor in England. At this point in time, I didn’t know much about Windsor, but 16 months into calling this magical place home, I truly believe I couldn’t have found a better place to live during my stint in England.
Windsor’s beauty is widespread and my amazement and awe of this beautiful royal town rich in history, is yet to lessen than the day I arrived.
Leaving a 38 degree day behind during a South Australian Boxing Day, I was welcomed to nothing more than 3 degrees, in Heathrow airport. A 40 pound taxi fair fare and about 25 minutes later, I found myself at the top of The Windsor Royal Shopping, where the taxi driver and I attempted to navigate our way to the Travelodge, my place of hibernation while I recovered from jet lag and began my new life as an Aussie expat ready to explore Windsor and beyond.
How to get to Windsor?
If you’re planning on leaving London for the day to explore the beautiful town of Windsor, it is a quick train ride from Paddington Station – 17 minutes on the express or about half an hour on a normal train. The express train will take you straight to Slough, where you then get on the 6 minute train to Windsor and Eton Central where you find yourself in the heart of Windsor and only a 50m walk to the Travelodge for budget accommodation – as easy as that!
Where to stay?
The Travelodge was a fantastic comfortable budget stay: double bed, private bathroom with a bath tub, television and breakfast served from 6am and in a perfect location – literally in the heart of the town, with shops, cafes and restaurants at your finger tips, as well as the train station a hop, skip and a jump away.For bookings: https://www.travelodge.co.uk/hotels/329/Windsor-Central-hotel
What to do and see?
So Windsor, where to explore?
By far, the biggest attraction and highlight of this stunning town would be Windsor Castle. Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world and has been the family home of British kings and queens for almost 1,000 years. Home to Her Royal Majesty the Queen on many of her weekends, the infamous visit of Donald Trump and his lack of etiquette in 2017, and most recently and famously, the magnificent location of the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle – and what a day it was!
St George’s Chapel
The famous location of the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, place of worship for Her Majesty and the Royal Family as well as a church serving the local community. Construction of St George’s Chapel began in 1475 by Edward IV and was completed by Henry VIII in 1528. The architecture represents one of the finest examples of ‘Perpendicular Gothic Style’ in the country. Well worth a visit to see the magnificent interior, attend a service or just admire the history amongst the many tombs and resting places of the royal family including King George V & Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.
The Crooked House of Windsor
Located at the top of the High Street and just outside the Windsor Castle, is the gravity defying ‘Crooked House of Windsor’. Built in 1592 and currently a jewellery store called Jersey Pearl, but has previously been a butcher shop and tea house, while hiding a mysterious passageway under the basement thought to lead directly into Windsor Castle to deliver fresh vegetables from the original market square…
The Long Walk
The Long Walk – by far my favourite place to relax or explore and somewhere I walk literally every weekend! It is the only place I know that has as much beauty in Winter as it does in Spring, Summer or Autumn. Whether its a crisp frosty Winter’s morning, the sunshine of Spring, a relaxing picnic under a shady Elm tree in Summer, or a walk through the thousand’s of fallen orange Autumn leaves, this place is just something else. Don’t forget to venture to The Copper Horse statue at the end (a 4.2km walk one way), and keep a lookout for the herd of 500 deer within the deer park, introduced as a herd of about 40 in 1979 by Prince Phillip. Look to the left of the Long Walk, and you might be able to locate Prince Harry and Meghan’s Frogmore Cottage in the distance!
Places to eat:
Windsor has every type of food, restaurant, pub or cafe you could ever be looking for!
Some of my favourites include:
Duchess of Cambridge – a pub overlooking the castle with fantastic British pub food, drinks and atmosphere.
Prince Harry – also near the castle, and who wouldn’t go to a pub renamed after the Prince before his wedding day!
Bluegrass – an American burger place with literally the best burgers and ‘Frickles’ (fried pickles) you’ve ever eaten.
Over the Eton bridge, Cote Brasserie is a beautiful French restaurant overlooking the River Thames.
Sel et Sucre – a deliciously French cafe, where you are surrounded by pink roses as you eat some of the most deliciously waffles, crepes or baguettes.
Madam Posh – again French and surrounded by roses, with amazing breakfast, coffee, afternoon tea desserts and high tea!
The list doesn’t end there, and after 1.5 years of living in Windsor I’ve barely even touched the sides of what food Windsor has to offer!
What else is there to do in Windsor?
Windsor is a tourist’s playground lined with nature, an abundance of shopping, every type of food you could ever want, British culture and steeped in Royal history. Other recommended experiences include:
Exploring the grounds of the Great Park beyond the Long Walk and the Deer Park.
Taking a boat cruise up the River Thames, or hire your own boat!
Feeding the swans, property of Her Majesty the Queen!
Crossing the bridge to Eton and visiting its many restaurants and shops at any time of day. Don’t forget to keep walking until you reach Eton College.
Take a tour of Windsor and Eton Brewery and taste their many beers.
Eat a Sunday Roast at one of the many English Pubs.
Take just about any tour you could want around the town!
Just walk around and enjoy what this magical town has to offer, whether its shopping or food you’re after, the only problem you will have is deciding where to go!
Honestly, of all the places I have been in England over the past year and a half, Windsor is still by far my favourite place to be. It never fails to amaze me with it’s natural beauty, abundance of things to do, or just being able to admire the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world. If you are looking for a place steeped in history and British culture, Windsor is the place to be – I promise you’ll love it!
Get out from your house, your job, your life. Get out and see the world. The breathtaking beauty of the ever-changing landscapes before us.
Book the ticket.
Get on the plane.
Soar through the clouds. Watch as they so effortlessly float, as you imagine their softness, fluffiness, suspended amongst the clearest of blue skies. Rays of moisture beaming down upon the Earth. As you fly lower, the bluest ocean appears, so pristine, the ripples of waves just noticeable from the window. Cliffs arch high above the water, the waves gently splashing along the edge.
Go on adventures.
Climb the highest mountains.
Trek across the sand.
Because when you reach the top, the most spectacular view awaits. Mountains dense with the greenest bushland, enveloping the sea. The sunshine glimmering and sparkling like tiny stars across the water.
Yachts on the water, the material possessions of those fortunate enough to spend their days afloat. But I don’t know, do they see it? Do they see the natural beauty that surrounds them? Or do they no longer see it, because they are playing life safely from their cabin or deck, gently rocking bath and forth in the comfort of the bay.
I want to climb mountains, I don’t want to play safely. I want to visit new places, see new things, exlpore new surrounds, cultures, languages. I want to appreciate the complete magic of nature, to marvel in it’s perfection.
To feel both tiny and large as I look out across the vast blue sea or a magical purple sky and remember just how magnificent this world is.
We only have one Earth. Respect it. Value it. Appreciate it. Live it.