Monday, 25 April 2011

The April Travel Playlist

Canterbury-Sparks Will Fly "Baby I've been everywhere, and I'm not done yet"

Katy Perry- TGIF

Passion Pit-Sleepyhead

MSTRKRFT - Heartbreaker

Flight Facilities - Crave Ft Giselle

Fake Blood- I think I like it

Strange Talk- Climbing Walls

Jolie Chérie- Insomnie

And the guilty pleasure of the month
Black Eyed Peas - Just can't get enough

A sunny playlist for sunny places!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

A day in Newtown, Sydney

Forget the Sydney Opera bar,  Scubar, and the party buses driving you around Darling Harbor.
I’m taking you for a day out  to alternative and indie kids paradise, Newtown. Although only one station from Central, backpackers tend to miss this lively area.

Until my last trip to Australia, I have never been a backpacker in Sydney. I wasn’t really one this time around either as I was living at my friend’s place.
But although I enjoyed discovering that you can get “Thai style” buckets in some of the backpacker bars in the city and that party buses are actually quite fun, I am dearly in love with the Sydney I knew without fruit picking in mind.  

Here is my guide to a place often forgotten for the Bondi sunshine and lifeguards. So put away you boardies and pick your favorite pair of skinny jeans.
Newtown is amazing for food. Every time I went to Oz, I ended up piling on the pounds because I lived so close to so many delicious places.  I am actually slightly drooling when I think of it. Get me there now.
To start the day right, one of my favorite places for breakfast is Café Sophia on Erskenville Road. You have to try their banana raspberry melon smoothie with salmon and eggs benedicts or their French toasts. Actually try everything. Just go every morning for 4 months like I did.
For lunch, I would generally go for one of the many Thai restaurant on King’s Street, Newtown main road. Most of places are vegan/vegetarian and although I m neither vegan nor vegetarian, I did get a little bit addicted to fake duck, pak choi and rice $6 lunch boxes.

To walk off all this food, shop around!  Newtown has lot to offer when it comes to retail therapy, whether it’s one the many vintage stores or young designers’ outlets, you will find everything to replace your old Vang Vieng “In the tubing” vest.
Then head to the art gallery “Oh really?” on Enmore Road. Oh really? is a collective/magazine/gallery presenting the latest street artists around.  They regularly organize openings and you could find yourself having a beer with artist Ears while nodding to some breakbeat. Always nice. Check out what’s going on at

Then it’s time to wind down. Head down for a cold long neck at my favorite ever pub in Sydney, The Court House (“The Courtie”) on Australia Street.  Cheap drinks, a lovely beer garden decorated with fairy lights, a lively atmosphere and very important, a pool table. I can’t count how many good nights started there. Food is also nice, very affordable and the portions are massive.
If you are still hungry from your day then try the nachos to share. Then move on for some cocktails on the Zanzibar Roof. You will find a cosy terrace and the staff there is always lovely (and not too shabby looking either, just saying).
If the schooners have gone straight to your head, then it’s time to go and pull some shapes on the dance floor. I have to say this is not in Newtown.  On a Friday I’ll head to Mum at World Bar in Kings Cross to watch live music and listen to the latest indie-electro. Check the coming up MUM nights on MusicFeeds.  On any other night check out Sydney promoters and all around cool kids UPTOOUR HIPS  for the best nights in town (seriously).

And there you go,  I can assure you this will be hell of a good day. 

Now there is a lot more to discover by yourself in Newtown and around. But it would take way too long to tell you all about it and I have still things left to see myself. It’s alright; I’ll be back very soon. I’ll see you at The Courtie.
Ps: If you were still to be hungry on your way home, stop by Saray’s on Enmore Road for a pite (also called Laknore) ,a filled bread from Kosovo with lemon juice on it. Delicious.

Cafe Sofia: 7 Swanson St Erskineville NSW 2043
Oh Really? Gallery: 55 Enmore rd Newtown. Open Friday-Sunday 11am till 6pm.
The Court House: 202 Australia Street Newtown, 2042
World Bar: 24 Bayswater Road, Kings Cross
Saray: 18 Enmore Rd, Newtown, 2042

Written up for

Saturday, 23 April 2011

How to raise money for backpacking?

Wishing tree in Sydney's Botanical Gardens: another way to get some cash?

Strapped for cash, but dreaming of that trek on the Machu Pichu? Fear not! I am exactly the same. Therefore I am brainstorming to find new ways to raise money. Here is what I came up with and intend to try out.

1. Work / Moving home to mum and dad (when available)
What? W.O.R.K? No sorry I only do sunbathing. Right if that is your answer, well, good on you, you’ve got the cash already, so please scroll down to the next post or something. Right, moving on.
I have a job, so well this is my first source of savings.  And I moved back to mum and dad. Area covered.

2. Bake sale.
I can hear you giggle from here. Don’t mock the bake sale. Everyone loves a good cake. It asks minimum capital, it’s fun to do (fun to say!). I remember back at school, we would make a bundle from cookies and carrot cake to finance our school trips. I am going to intend to do that at my hostel on a sunny day just when exhausted backpackers will come back. But I am not that selfish, because I would feel bad to take all the money from backpackers to finance my buckets on a beach, I am going to choose a charity to split the profit with.

Classic but always good. Need a guitar, amplifiers or clothes? Ally’s own car boot sales online. I will post my shop up on this blog.

Easy job only a few hours at night/day, and quick way to make some cash (as long as you don’t spend it that night, happened before.)

Might as well use that journalism degree of mine. From pitching newstories about potatoes to going to rubbish gigs. I will be a word whore.

6.Insert Idea here.
I am all ears people, what is YOUR plan to get that cash flowing to get the extra mile?

To be continued....

Travel Updates!

Chilling on a prang in Ayutthaya

Right so I thought that, on this sunny day I would do a personal update on the travel project.

And there I am, all settled back in sunny (for the moment) Paris. I completed the first step of my challenge. I found a job. I wait tables.
Liz and I at Angkor Wat
Easy escape you will say. Fair enough, it is not the most glamorous job I could have got, but you know if it gets me back on the road, so be it. I work at St Christopher's Inn in the XIXe "arrondissement". It's a backpacker hostel. This time I get to be on the other side of the counter. And I kind of like it.
I found a TEFL for September. I read plenty of travelling books to get the inspiration up and I meet people that know some Vang Vieng friends. The atmosphere is fairly different from the crazy hotels I stayed at through the world but it's definetly good.

So there you go, one day after the other, I get closer to my goal. It's long and not that exciting but when I set foot on Koh Phangan for NYE I will enjoy it more than ever. I gave up a boyfriend, friends, a lovely flat in east London and a media job to fulfill my dream of going back travelling. Each "café au lait" served gets me an extra mile further on the road.

But I want to ask you backpackers, travellers, bloggers what are you ready to give up or what have you already gave up for travelling?

Friday, 8 April 2011

Places to eat in Paris (lunch/teatime/dinner)

Instead of talking about far away places out of my comfort zone, I am going to talk to you about my hometown: Beautiful Paris. So ok, I left Paris when I was 18 but 4 years on I still love it. I am now back in the city of romance and I thought I would share some of my favorite places.

There is one thing I really missed from France and it is the restaurants, the café sitting outside on a nice terrace. It’s cliché, I’ll give you that. But it’s a  fact. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a good pub lunch. Be sure to find me on a Sunday curl up next to the fireplace of some nice public house somewhere in London. 

However I think I enjoy even more a French restaurant dinner, then walking through the streets of Paris at night, it’s got something magical.
 Enough with the cheap poetry and let’s get down to business.

Fillet d’entrecote avec sa fameuse sauce, pommes alumettes et sa salade aux noix / Rib eye with its famous sauce, French fries and walnut salad – Le Relais de l’Entrecote
20, rue Saint-Benoît, 6th Arrondissement Métro: St Germain des Prés (They have several locations but this is without a doubt my favorite.)

The first thing I eat every time I go back to Paris is a good Entrecote-frites (rib eye with French fries) and it had to be very very rare.
And if you want a French brasserie feeling, with a classic French dish, well, this is the place to do it. It is generally busy so try to drop by early. Try it with a good red wine, may be a Medoc Bordeaux. And enjoy stereotypical French culture.  And if you are still a bit peckish , L’entrecote proposes a large choice of desserts. Give the profiteroles a go. Real profiteroles, not Tesco ones with the weird white horrible cream in it.

Le macaron aux frambroises fraîches/ Fresh raspberry macaroon – Hotel Costes
239, rue Saint Honoré, 1er arrondissement  Métro : Opera /Palais Royal/Pyramides

Right for this place I must say, you need to put the flipflops away. Angelina Jolie is a regular and so is Kate Moss. Very hefty priced I hear you say. Well yes. Very much so. But you not only paying for your food (the pink crunchy and sticky shell, the soft-melting in your mouth cream, the fresh bursting with flavor raspberries) , you are paying for the beautiful restaurant with a charming courtyard, the impeccable service and the lovely feeling of treating yourself every now and then. And you know what, I eat a LOT of macaroons, and this one is definitely in my top two (the other one being a pistachio macaroons from Laduree as pistachio is my favorite flavor.). Also try their down to a notch mojito.  So ok you will drop 30 euros for a mojito and a dessert but you’ll enjoy every sip and every bite. But don’t lick the plate, it’s not quite the place.

Burritos, Fajitas, Nachos del Pollo – Mexi  & Co
10, Rue Dante, 5th arrondissement Métro: Maubert-Mutualite / St Michel

I love mexican food. I love it. Well, when I say Mexican food, I do mean mainstream Mexican food (because I know that people while come up to me and say “when I was in Mexico , actually it was…” Blah blah blah, I haven’t been there yet, so in the meantime, I will gorge myself on the Californian version).
Mexi & Co is a tiny, colorful restaurant in the heart of St Michel near the Quartier Latin. You’ll find a very nice selection of Mexican beers and the restaurant doubles as a grocery shop where you can load up in guacamole for your next fiesta.
Nothing to do with the Hotel Costes, here, you eat on the same table that your neighbors and help yourself for drinks in the fridge.  It’s a very simple menu and you can get a filling meal for 7euros.
Try their awesome pitchers of Margarita.
It is a perfect place to spice up your visit in Paris with a bunch of friends, before moving on to the many bars in the Quartier Latin.

This could be one of my favorite food day. Lunch at Le relais de l’entrecote, goûter (that’s how we call our afternoon snack. 'goo-té') at L’Hotel costes, then meeting friends at Mexi & Co. Not really diet kind of day, but you only live once. Go for a run along the Seine (the river in Paris "FYI") or in the Jardin des Tuileries  the next morning to burn it off.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Did you know...about Indian words in English?

The other day I was watching a documentary about India, and to my surprise I discovered that a lot of English words are actually from this country. Now you see English is not my first language (in case you haven’t noticed), therefore I did not know about it. So I decided to do some research, because it’s all nice and well to go out there and see the world, but it’s also good to see what the world gave us once we Europeans tried to conquer it all (well, you, native English people, me , a frenchie, it just gave me a cheaper visa to Laos).

Indian words (and I use the term Indian very loosely here has there is an insane amount of different languages and dialects and I am trying to keep it simple) have been slowly integrated into the English vocabulary for more than 400 years, after England started to shape their first Empire with private companies in India in late 16thcentury(and then you know, colonized the place, war, battles, trade, bigger British empire, crown reigned there from 1858-1947, but I am summing up there).

Thomas Babington Macualay, British poet and historian stated in 1835: “"It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanskrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgements used at preparatory schools in England." This gentleman would be very disappointed to know that a few centuries later; the English language still uses freely so many words borrowed from the Indian languages. Author like Rudyard Kipling made some of these words and names very famous in “The Jungle book” (jungle meaning wilderness or forest).

Take for example Doolally (I do realize that it is slightly old fashioned) is from the town “Daolali” where the English soldiers in charge there got camp fever from boredom, therefore became doolally.

There are about 700 words in the Oxford dictionary borrowed from India. First of all it started with words that did not have any translation such as yoga, khaki or sari. It became included in the English language the same way that under the Old and Middle English period French and Latin words came into use. But India sounds so much exotic, doesn’t it?

There is nothing “doolally” about all this, even everyday words such like ginger or actually from India. Here are a few other words which take their roots in India; rather it is Tamil, Hindi, etc…
-Veranda is from the Tamil “verum” and “tharai” which means “open space”.
-Avatar which means reincarnation (I guess gamers do reincarnate themselves into a better warrior form)
-Pajamas “leg garment”
-Thug “thief, conman”
-Dungaree is from 17th century and was an Indian coarse made of cotton fabric, and it was named after the area of Bombay that makes the fabric “dungri”.
-Mango “maanga” comes from Malayalam, one of the languages spoke in southern India.
-Shampoo comes from Hindu “champo” or head massage.
-Punch (the drink) comes from the hindi “panch”  or five as the drink was made of 5 different ingredients alcohol, sugar, water, lemon and tea or spices.

I can’t put all 700 words in here, but I hope you liked that little snippet.
Now, who’s game for a ginger punch and some fresh mangos? Yeah? Cool. Wait for me in the veranda, I’ll just shampoo my hair and put my dungarees on.
Yes, I can do funny too.


Saturday, 2 April 2011

When paradise turns into hell part 2 :

If there is one thing I am scared of while travelling, it is to be sick. Not just a cough, I meant some obscure painful disease. I hate taking medicines or going to the hospital.  I did get sick a couple of times: once in Chiang Mai with the “24hours traveler bug” which means that now it is impossible for me to eat my favorite Thai dish Pad See Ew , and a chest infection in Laos. Nothing that sleep, water and anti biotics could not cure.
Kurt Steffens, 19, from Airlie Beach did not quite have it so easy.

 Kurt worked at Bucket bar for a while in Vang Vieng. Whoever has been there knows that this place is dangerous for your health and soul. But the Aussie traveler had to face much more than a bad hangover from tubing.

“I started off feeling sick while I was staying at Vang Vilay Guesthouse. After 5 days I had not eaten anything or gone to the toilet... I was dry reaching just for that moment of upheaval when my belly did not hurt, it was the most excruciating pain of my life,” he says.

Putting on a brave face and thinking it was only a bad stomach ache, he refused to go the hospital (And if you have been to Vang Vieng hospital, although staff is lovely, the premises need serious upgrade).

“After the 5th day I literally felt my appendix burst and was in even more pain. The lady who owns the hostel came and checked on me about an hour later and then took me down to the hospital on the back of her scooter.
“I got x-rays and they found out that my bowels had tied themselves in a knot and there was a litre of infected puss flowing round my stomach…That had caused my appendix to burst, so I had to get  both removed and stayed there for 2 days.”

After 2 days spent in “Hopital de Vang Vieng” as once upon a time France tried to make their mark on Laos, Kurt received the visit of an Australian doctor. He ordered straight away an ambulance to drive him all the way to Northern Thailand in Udon Thani.

I was in Intensive Care Unit for 5 days getting morphine every 2 hours because I was hurting so much. When they realised I wasn’t getting any better, they had to x-ray me again only to find out all my insides had turned septic!  They had to open me right up again and clean all my organs out!  Finally, three days after the operation I got out of ICU.
“Then the stitching got infected, so I had to lie perfectly still for a week in case of my insides literally fall out! When they stitched me up again, I had to be completely awake as any anesthetic would have interfered with my bowel recovery.”
If you were looking for the perfect diet, apparently Kurt had found out the hard way how to lose weight quicker than Jessica Simpson can say cheeseburger.
“I spent another 10 days in the hospital and lost 12 kilos. Then they just let me go. I had my backpack and I couldn’t carry it incase my belly split open so I had to get some friends I had met in Cambodia to come pick me up and travelled around with them for another 3 weeks  and they were carrying my bag… I couldn’t go swimming or anything physical and I had no abs muscles. 4 months later I am just back at work on light duties and still incredibly unfit.”
Although Kurt’s story would have stopped most of us from leaving the house ever again, the Aussie backpacker is ready for his next trip!
“I’m planning my next venture overseas. I’m not going to let a little bump in the road like that stop me haha!, “ he concludes.

 Photo: Liz Bell / Facebook