7 things I have learned from travelling and travelling blogs

A couple of months ago I was reading an article about Seven places you shouldn’t travel to

At first I was pretty annoyed by someone who had been to a range of marvellous places and dismissed them because they were too commercial (Machu Picchu), or too cold (Times Square New Year’s Eve), or too empty (the Taj Mahal is apparently a tomb). Then I realised it to be link bait and designed to spark debate. So rather than present my places I would avoid like the plague, I present 7 things I have learned from travel.

1. Do your research. A bit of a no-brainer, and considering the wealth of information in online travel sites, travel guides, and travel agents, it’s not that hard. The key to doing research is to do it early, and assess whether or not you really want to go to a particular place.

2. Bring your sense of humour- because you know that there will be a time when you’re in one of the most stylish nations in the world with wet hair because you can’t get the hairdryer to work. Of course there are times when the sense of humour deserts you, like when you’re trying to find the car rental in an unfamiliar city in heavy rain and you get splashed by a car driving through a puddle. And then your beloved LAUGHS…

3. Bring some  common sense- of course it will be cold in Times Square on New Years Eve and there will be no toilets. It will also be cold in Scotland at any time of the year, even in August. It will rain in Ireland 9 days out of 10. Double-checking time train times and platforms is normal. You go to the toilet when there is a toilet, not when you need to go.

4. Travel is a matter of personal taste- My parents have visited China several times and love it. I couldn’t think of any other place I would rather not go to, except the airport in Dubai which is my personal HELL ON EARTH. Mind you, we have visited various Scottish islands, including Lewis, Skye and Orkney and parts of Western Ireland to look at Neolithic monuments, which wouldn’t exactly be everyone’s idea of a fun holiday.

5. Have a backup- printout confirmation emails, maps, receipts, for when you don’t have online access. Also have a backup payment facility for when your credit card gets cancelled, like mine did after I used it at Heathrow airport.

6. Children add a unique dimension to travelling. You learn to look for playgrounds and green spaces as a criterion for looking for a place to stay, and to get to a museum early to avoid the queues and while the children are still fresh and relatively tantrum-free. Otherwise you end up with new phrase like ‘Doing an Uffizi’ to denote a tantrum…On the other hand it is fun seeing your seven year old son become quite adept at negotiating the London Underground, and your four year old daughter make friends with other little people despite not speaking the same language. (And nonnas exclaiming ‘Que belle ragazze’ to me :))

7. Be open to new experiences. I didn’t think I would enjoy travelling by train as much as I did. I didn’t think I would enjoy playing Uno with the kids as much as I did. I didn’t think I would love Bruges and York, and walking in the moors of Derbyshire.

What things have you learned from travelling? I would love to know!


7 Reasons why I love Readings

I was given a gift voucher to Readings for Christmas from my brother Andrew, which had been burning a hole in my pocket for some time.

A lovely gift

Even though I live far away from the Readings stores (they’re all in Melbourne :(), it  is one of my favourite places to shop. What I love about Readings is

1. Their newsletter which arrives every month, and is chock-full of great reviews written by the staff.

2. The fact that they deliver FREE across Australia.

3. You can use your gift card to buy your books online!

4. There is a lovely person who will reply to your tweets when you run into problems when trying to checkout using your gift card :).
5. They have an awesome website which lists their opening hours, recent blog posts, latest featured titles and bestselling books, links to their social media presences and bookstore events- and it doesn’t feel cluttered!

Readings website image

6.They have a very comprehensive list of categories of books from to browse, and it will tell you if the book is in stock at which store.

7. They call their database of books, DVDs and Music their ‘catalogue’- just like a library! Just gives me the warm fuzzies…

I was able to find some books to buy, being mindful of trying to read Australian Women Writers. Ater participating in the Australian Women Writers Challenge last year, I am making a conscious effort to show support to fantastic writers. no doubt you will hear how I fared with the books I chose.

7 things I learned this year

Warning- navel-gazing ahead!

It’s the last day of the year, which always seems to be a time to reflect upon the year past, count our blessings, mull over mistakes and decide how next year will be different. I’ll leave my decision as to how to tackle my life until tomorrow, but below are my top seven things I have learned this year.

1. My granda left his mark upon us all, even though we hadn’t seen him a great deal over the years. I am so glad we were able to visit him this year before he passed away.

2. My children continue to amaze me with their ability to adapt to circumstances, their love for adventure, and their insatiable appetite for gelati. Master BG fell in love with Vincent Van Gogh, Leonardo Da Vinci and the London Underground, and Miss BG was a magnet for nonnas and little French boys. What’s more, they were able to settle back into school and kindergarten without too much fuss!

3.  t still amazes me how far technology has come. I met my new niece in Australia when I was in London visiting the Science Museum, through the marvels of Skype on my brother’s phone. My blog was a virtual postcard which kept my family up to date with how we were travelling. And soon I will be able to ‘publish’ a book of our trip!

4. How proud I continue to be of Mr BG, his ability to put out 2 EPs, perform several times with his band, and put up with me.

5. I get angry at issues and people over which I usually have no control. Changes at work, people and family not listening to me are the main culprits, and leave me feeling frustrated and unhappy. This is something I need to address in the next few months.

6. Santa and his elves were very generous with their presents! Next year the little BGs will be learning about the importance of giving as well as receiving, and hopefully won’t be too overwhelmed as they were this year.

7. The importance of looking after yourself. I’ve let  stuff slide over the last year looking after my family, but after feeling blah and facing a health scare, I need to prioritise time for my own health and fitness.

What have you learned about yourself this year? Is there anything from this year you would like to change for next year?

Wherever you are, have a happy New Year!


Bookgrrl’s 7 wonders of the world

This is my last Top 7 for NaBloPoMo. It took longer to complete, owing to a couple of days I didn’t post (oops!). I will still welcome requests for Top 7 lists (they have been popular!) when normal blogging resumes in December.

These are my 7 Wonders of the world. These are wonders I have seen and experienced, so they may not necessarily correspond to big things that people have built or nature has wrought. But they’re still pretty special to me.

1. Michelangelo- St Peter’s, the Pieta, David, the Bruges Madonna. His work truly moved me to tears. Seeing David for the first time at the end of the corridor in the was a wondrous experience.

2. Montmartre in the morning, when there is no one about. Seeing Sacre Coeur in the morning light, with noone about, viewing the Eiffel Tower in the distance from the top of the hill, then buying some pain au chocolat for breakfast to eat in our apartment with freshly brewed coffee was one of the perfect Parisian moments.

view of Eiffel Tower from Montmartre

3. Going to bed at 10.30 at night in Northern Scotland on Lewis, in broad daylight, then waking up temporarily at 2am to find it was getting light. It nearly did my head in, but it was an unforgettable experience.

4. I did my Masters in Information Architecture, with a baby, a preschooler and a husband. I squeezed it in between gym visits, working part-time, and doing family stuff. I wonder how how in heaven’s name I managed to do it, as well as start blogging, but there you go!

5. I have two very interesting little people, whose inventiveness in telling stories amazes me, whose ability to generate a mess astounds me, and no matter how many times I yell at them, still love me.

6. Being with Mr BG for the last 16 years, who still surprises me with little things like washing dishes and cleaning the stovetop. Despite his belief that farts are funny, he is a wonderful person.

7. You are reading this, and I am thankful for the wonders of the Internet, and the ease of WordPress making it easy to write. Thank you.

7 Things I will never do again

Today I did my last kinder duty with my daughter. For three hours I talked to 4 and 5 year olds, helped them with puzzles, hung their paintings to dry, watched them play and talked to the kinder teachers. It got me thinking that as one phase of my life ends, another one begins, with both children being at school next year. But there have been other phases of my life, and other things that I have done and will never do again, either by life changes, or simply because I don’t want to.

1. I will never eat brussels sprouts again. I’m a grownup, I don’t have to eat this much-maligned vegetable. I had to eat them when I was younger, gagging on them at dinner-time, because my parents insisted. If the kids want to eat them at Christmas time at my parent’s place, I am more than happy to oblige them and pop one on their plate, but so far they have refused.

2. I will never record a song off the radio onto a tape. I don’t have any spare blank tapes, nor a radio tape player, as I have youTube, iTunes and an iPod which allows me to access music on demand, rather than being prey to the whims of radio programmers. We still have tapes at home and I think I still have a mixed tape on which Mr BG recorded some music for me when we started going out. The VCR is also gathering dust, as we haven’t upgraded to a DVR and we can’t record from the digital signal. Instead we wait for DVDs or I watch iView for the occasional show I may have missed.

3. I will never have kids again- save for an immaculate conception, that is. That means no enforced absence from alcohol for years, no breastfeeding around the clock,  no prams in the boot of the car, and no teething issues. The interrupted sleep is still a factor in my life though :).

4. I never have to listen to The Wiggles again, as the kids have long outgrown them. It was a phase in their lives, and we have the DVDs to prove it! I pretty much lost faith in them when it was decided Greg would come back and replace Sam after 5 years. The way in which it was poorly managed and the persistence that children wouldn’t think twice about a new/old Yellow Wiggle made me glad it was something my kids missed. However, what I do have to put up with no is One Direction and Gangnam Style…

5. I will never see my granda again, nor will I see my parents in law. My mother in law met Master BG when he was a baby, but never got a chance to meet Miss BG. We have a crocheted rug which is a favourite picnic rug for her dollies, that she knows comes from her nanna Margaret.

6. I will never see another  new episode of Deadwood, The Wire, Lost, Buffy. Now you know why I don’t bother getting a DVR- none of the shows on telly are what I want to watch!

7. I will never not feel guilty  about something- I’m not spending enough time with my kids, Mr BG, not exercising enough, not eating the right foods, eating too much, not being a good worker, good daughter, good sister, not doing the housework. Actually I lie- I never feel guilty about not doing the housework…

7 Things that scare the bejesus out of me

1. Losing my kids.

We were in a shopping centre in Belfast two years ago, looking for another suitcase to pack all the accumulated presents back to Australia. It took only a second of our concentration focused on which size case to buy for them to disappear. Little hands slipped from ours unnoticed and when we turned around they were nowhere to be seen. The couple of minutes searching frantically seemed like an eternity, and I felt like throwing up, screaming hysterically and a terrible weight in the pit of my stomach, all at once. Just when we thought we were  going to have to see the security guards to check the CCTV footage we spotted Master BG checking out the Halloween costumes, and Miss BG calmly stripping a mannequin of its accessories.

2. Ghosties-

I’ve never seen a ghost, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in them. The anticipation, the adrenalin surge when I’m in a ‘haunted place and this belief all combines to make me jumpy, on edge, and dare I say, slightly thrilled. Being scared of ghosts however has not precluded me from going on a range of ghost tours…My first was a night time tour of Port Arthur the scariest thing was walking back through the ruins with Mr BG after having heard some hell raising tales. We have also been to the Convent Gallery in Daylesford, which was part tour and part ghost hunting… the highlight of the evening was sharing drinks with some of the participants and staff at the Convent Gallery who had a few stories to tell. Ballarat has its own tour that takes in some of the more haunted buildings in Ballarat. I did shiver quite a bit, but it may have been more to do with the sub zero temperatures in December than any real spirits. Overseas, we visited Mary King’s Close in Edinburgh in 2001 and felt chilled to the bone. I was thankful when it finished and was able to escape into the sun. I did want to do a ghost walking tour in York but didn’t want to do it by myself. I need someone’s hand to grip.
2. Horror movies

The Blair Witch Project, Exorcist, Scream, Poltergeist- they have all scared my socks off…

3. Apocalyptic- themed movies/books

This is slightly different from horror movies in that they’re about the end of the world. I saw and read ‘On the beach’ and had nightmares afterwards. This is a type of genre I avoid, as it’s a fear I hate, rather than love.
4. Earwigs and ‘creepy crawlies’

This basically comes from having one crawl onto my dress and onto my skin when I was four years old. I was terrified it would bite me and shrieked the house down. To this day I loathe those little buggers. Oh and that scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom where they come across this room of bugs and a centipede crawls into Willie’s hair? I can’t watch that without covering my eyes.

6. Death/Loss of my parents

No, they haven’t died, but every time they have a health scare, the feeling I get in the pit of my stomach is never a good feeling. It’s that yawning chasm of nothingness that would be left behind, or that overwhelming sense of grief that is something I don’t want to experience.

7. Swans

Silly, I know, but those graceful creatures on the Lake become vicious creatures when they’re out of the water. I’ve been stalked by a couple of swans because I have simply gotten too close to their cygnets. Worse thing is, they still remember me when I walk around the Lake.

Some of my fears are predictable, and some of them are just plain weird. What are your fears?

Top 7 Emotional Moments on TV, or when I cry like a baby

I can sometimes be a bit of a wuss when it comes to watching movies and TV shows. You’re sitting there, drawn into the minutiae of a character’s life week after week. You feel you know them, you’ve invested time in getting to know them- then suddenly, they’re not there. I’ve shed a few tears over the years at the demise of a show or a character, with these being the moments I remember beng extrmemly emotional. Not all are sad, though they do make up the majority.

1. When Molly died

A Country Practice was one of the first shows we watched together as a family. One of the more popular characters was Molly Jones, a kooky farmer who was married to Brendan, a male nurse who worked at the local hospital and mother to Chloe. As one of the more loved characters on the show it was sad to hear of her leaving, with Molly getting cancer and dying. Rather than see the character die though, her death was written from her perspective. We see her outside, on a couch, watching Brendan and Chloe play together. Then we see Brendan drop what he’s doing and run towards us. The screen goes black and the last thing we hear is Brendan yelling in an anguished tone ‘Molly!’.

The strange thing about this is when I think about it, I still tear up. Even writing this, I have a tissue handy.

2. End of Lost- Jack’s death

I stuck with this show for years, even the difficult 5th season when Channel 7 yanked it around all over the place. I wanted to know the mystery of the island, the plight of the Others, the Dharma Initiative and who was this dude Jacob. It wasn’t so much the end of the series which got me so much as Jack’s final scene. Dying, he finds himself in the same thicket in which he awoke after having been thrown from the plane when it crashed on the island all those years ago. Looking up he sees the plane in the air- his friends and loved ones are safe. Finally at peace he smiles and closes his eyes with the last frames a close up of his eye, reminiscent of the first frames of the first episode. It’s as if the circle has been completed, a broken man made whole and finally at peace.


3. When David Tennant left Doctor Who

I had always been an avowed Tom Baker fan, but my allegiances did change with David Tennant. His French phrases, his ability to fix any situation with a banana or a cheeky grin left me helpless to his charms. His onscreen comic chemistry with Donna Noble had me in stitches. The final scenes where the Doctor says goodbye to his companions are quite poignant, but it’s his last moments where he says ‘I don’t want to go’ that really had me blubbing into my tissues, much to my kids’ surprise. It was also the first time they saw Mum cry at a TV show, and I don’t think it will be the last.

4. Last episode of Star Trek The Next Generation

I am truly showing my nerdy colours with this allotment of TV shows! My younger brother Andrew was the Trekkie in the house and I ended up watching the show as I had to tape it for him (he was still at school and it was on too late). Captain Picard was quite the hottie- I think it was more the accent than anything else. The final scene sees Picard finally join the senior crew’s poker game with him dealing 5-card stud…nothing wild and the sky’s the limit.

It was a bittersweet ending as it was so successful and it ended on a high- subsequent movies weren’t as successful in their characterisation and ensemble chemistry as the TV series.

5. Last episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

My nerdy credentials are now firmly established :). With a couple of major characters having met their demise, it was tough going- I did have a soft spot for Spike (it may have been the accent) and seeing Sunnydale collapse  into the Hellmouth was very much like the point of no return. And the resulting spin-offs never really did it for me either *sigh*

6. The final episode of Big Brother 2001

Not so much blubbering, but a real sense of loss. I was so hooked on the antics of the first Big Brother, and I wasn’t the only one. I was in Horsham visiting libraries with the lovely Nat. We ended up getting fish and chips for dinner and watching Ben win in Nat’s hotel room. It was a truly bonding experience and we’ve been friends ever since. I certainly felt bereft going home and knowing there would be no Big Brother at 7 o’clock. I ended up watching the ABC news and did so…until the next season of Big Brother :).

7. Whenever Hamish Blake was on Spicks and Specks

Emotional? I nearly wet my pants, with my mascara running down my face with the tears. I don’t know what it is about the guy, he was just FUNNY. He does have nice eyes too, which could help :).

Top 7 Songs from 80’s movies

Shaunstar suggested my top songs from  an 80’s movie. Clearly this reader knows me all too well :).

This proved to be tricky and entertaining. There were quite a few movies I loved, but I hated the soundtracks. As a result, anything that involves Kenny Loggins and Huey Lewis didn’t make the cut, which meant Top Gun, Footloose and Back to the Future. St Elmo’s Fire and Dirty Dancing never made the cut because I’m not a huge fan of Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze (there, I’ve said it).

With that in mind, these songs represent favourite movies and  are my favourite songs from those movies. They tend to evoke certain moments of my teenage years, and it truly has been a nostalgic trip trying to compile these. So thank you Shaunstar for giving me this assignment.

1. “In your eyes”- Peter Gabriel Say Anything

I hear this song and in my mind, I see John Cusack holding a boombox over his head, trying to woo back Ione Skye. A great movie with a great soundtrack, it was the directorial debut of Cameron Crowe. I also loved Peter Gabriel and remember doing homework while listening to his album Say Anything on my tape player.

2. “People are strange”- Echo and the Bunnymen (cover) from Lost Boys

I got into The Doors are watching this movie, mainly because of this cover! My friend Viv was a huge fan of this movie and I remember watching it just before exams with her. The lines were snappy, the boys were suitably dishevelled in a very sexy way, and the music was good too!

3. “Oh Yeah”- Yello from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

I hear this and I see Cameron introducing Ferris to his dad’s Ferrari, and Ed Rooney forced to catch the bus. I want to save Ferris! I need to see this again in my pjs, quote extensive lines from the movie and pretend I’m 17 again.

4. “If you leave”- Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) from Pretty in Pink

I prefer 16 candles to Pretty in Pink as a Molly Ringwald movie, but this song really rocks. Truly, John Hughes certainly knew his 80s britpop.

5. “Don’t you forget about me”- Simple Minds from The Breakfast Club

This was a sleepover movie, with Bernadette Moloney. We stayed up late, sneaked some cigarettes, and talked with this as the background.

6. “Ghostbusters”- Ray Parker Jr from Ghostbusters

I remember going to the movies during the school holidays in Geelong and seeing this with my sister and brothers in 1985. We all loved it, especially Bill Murray. Mental note- must introduce the kids to this…

7. “It had to be you”- Harry Connick Jr from When Harry met Sally

I skipped a uni class and headed into the city to go to the movies occasionally and this was one of those movies. I didn’t have a boyfriend and rom-coms like this one made me wish I had one.

Top 7 Journeys

My First Top 7 is 7 Journeys.

Initially it was to have been 7 places I would like to visit, but my recent Grand Tour made me (finally) fall in love with travel. Prior, I had travelled, but the destination was the focus and the means was usually the quickest way and not necessarily the most enjoyable. This time, being away longer afforded a slower pace of travel which was far more relaxing than the fraught security checks and endless waiting that would ensue with planes. That’s not to say days of travel weren’t stressful with 2 small kids, but they became part of the adventure. The destinations were a bonus.

1. Travel down the Nile

Blame my obsession with Agatha Christie when I was 10, but I saw Death on the Nile on video and I was hooked on Agatha, not just for the mystery elements, but the exotic locales in which Hercule Poirot found himself. Unlike Miss Marple, who never seemed to stray far from St Mary Mead, Hercule Poirot went to Egypt and  Mesopotamia and Devon (Evil under the Sun). So my journey down the Nile would involve wearing floaty white/cream ensembles and floppy straw hats and dressing for dinner, and Mr BG would like a maid who looked like Jane Birkin…

2. Go on the Orient Express

I want to visit Venice, and this sounds like the perfect way in which to travel there, from London to Paris, then on to Venice. It would involve 5-star accommodation, excellent service and hopefully interesting characters on board this train.

I was thoroughly impressed and amazed by the way in which train travel was embraced in Europe. It is so easy to get around, with frequent services and much more affordable than planes. I truly am a convert to this type of travel :).

*By the way I have never read nor seen Murder on the Orient Express, though if you want another great movie which involves mystery on a train, please try The Lady Vanishes. There are 2 versions, a Hitchcock one made in 1938 and a Hammer films made in 1979. Both great and involving a British governess who disappears and the people trying to find her.

3. Trans-Siberian Express

From what friends have said who have travelled this, it is an experience. It would not be as luxurious  as some of my other journeys, but just imagine a train journey that  can go for weeks across the SAME country?

4. Get my kicks on Route 66

I don’t think I could travel all of it (mainly because car travel is not my favourite way to travel), but this historic route from Chicago to California has a romantic appeal. I think part of the appeal lies in Chicago and my doing a tribute to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off :). Of course the trip would have to be done in an open top Mustang…

5. My version of the Motorcycle Diaries

I’ve never travelled to South America, and my experience is rather limited to Pele, Isabel Allende and seeing The Motorcycle Diaries. It truly seems like an amazing continent.

6.India & 7. New York, New York

These last two are arguably destinations, rather than journeys. However, my travel through India would definitely involve trains, cities,  and soaking up as much food and experiences as possible. Many people feel what they encounter in India is a spiritual journey and I can appreciate that, and would be open to that as well!

As for New York…well it would be a series of journeys via cab, subway, fast walking, with destinations to all the places of popular culture that I have absorbed through years of movies and television shows. Angela from Literary Minded encapsulated her experiences in New York, likening its familiarity to a ‘giant movie set’. From the New York Public Library, to Greenwich Village, the Empire State Building, the shop window at Tiffany’s, it would be like a journey through all my favourite moments of film and television.


My Top Seven

The challenge of writing a blog post a day for a month is finding enough topics to write about. There are millions of topics and areas that I could write about, but I realise I have to like what I write…

Lists are always good, they’re succinct, finite and quantifiable and appeal to my inner mathematician. I also like writing according to a series, I did one on the 80’s and my experiences with them, a week writing about fashion, and I regularly write about books (mainly to maintain the stereotype of being a bookish librarian, but hey, I’m all about conforming), with the Australian Women Writer’s challenge being my main focus this year.

So this week I am writing a series of lists. As I’m doing it over 7 days, it will be a list of seven things on any topic under the sun. I have a few ideas of my own, but if there is a list you would like me to compile, let me know! Email me, post a comment on the blog or stop me in the street and let me know. That has happened exactly once and let me say it was awesome!