Monday, 30 May 2016

The end of an era, the beginning of a new.


3 weeks.

My Tier 5 visa technically ends on 2 June, though I landed in London on 23 June, 2014. That means I miss out on 3 weeks of my visa due to a series of unfortunate events. Right now, I would do anything to get those three weeks back.

2 years.

Still, I have spent the last [almost] 2 years living on the opposite side of the world from my home, away from friends and family in a selfish attempt to find myself, learn, explore, discover. And it worked - a little too well, I'm afraid. I'm not ready to finish having adventures and so the European Extravaganza won't be ending here...

1 year.

The next adventure. I will be saying So long, old chap! to London, and Guten tag! to Berlin, Germany. I won't be making the move alone - somewhere along the way I fell in love, and a gentleman will be joining me for this next challenge. Berlin simply won't know what hit it.

Recapping the past two years

The last two years have been the greatest adventure of my life. There were incredible times, there were the lowest of low times, there were hardships and there were experiences so amazing that I pinch myself to this day. There were the best and the worst of decisions made. Then there were the people I met and the friends I made who will last a lifetime.

I've learnt that ugg boots are an outside shoe. I've repeatedly forgotten the First Rule of London: always carry an umbrella. Imperial pints are the norm (and at first, I couldn't even get through two...). Sunshine is not to be taken for granted and squirrels are brazen little buggers. What they call a "big" spider here...well. I've developed a love-hate relationship with the tube and I always, always minded the gap. Hairdressers are notoriously awful and the water somehow tastes worse than Adelaide water.

But I fell in love with this city. London is everything, all at once. There is a saying, "When you are tired of London, you are tired of life." It is true. While it can't organise itself enough to implement the 24-hour night tube, it is still a city that never sleeps, a city full of every interest you could perceive imaginable. You like food? Food festivals and restaurants galore. You like art? Museums, graffiti, you name it. You like sports? Join a team in Hyde Park or go hiking in Wales. Every taste, every interest is catered for and one can never, will never be bored in London.

I fell in love with this city, and I am going to miss it like crazy.

Travel

I had a rule: visit a country a month. I stayed pretty much true to this goal. If a month loomed without a weekend away, a quick squiz at Skyscanner and an impulsively bought flight would quickly correct that.

In all, here is the total list of countries visited:
  • England (of course)
  • Scotland (cheating, I know)
  • Northern Ireland (also cheating)
  • Wales (REALLY cheating now x3)
  • Republic of Ireland (x2)
  • Norway
  • Sweden
  • Germany
  • Austria (x2)
  • Belgium (x3)
  • France (x2)
  • Spain (x2)
  • Luxembourg (also cheating, I only got out of the bus and ate a donut)
  • Gibraltar (kind of cheating as it's still technically British)
  • Poland
  • Czech Republic
  • Slovakia
  • Latvia
  • Iceland
  • Hungary (x2)
  • Croatia
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina (I ate an icecream when I got off the bus)
  • Montenegro
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Egypt
There are some noticeable omissions, such as the Netherlands and Portugal, but that is one of the founding basis for continuing the adventure: another year in Europe to finish off those countries I didn't quite make it to.

I also wanted to see as much of the Motherland as I could too:
  • Bath
  • Salisbury
  • Stonehenge
  • Oxford
  • Cambridge (x2)
  • Windsor
  • Nottingham
  • Birmingham
  • Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Ascot
  • Weston-super-mare (Dismaland)
  • Liverpool
  • Lake District
  • Cornwall (St Ives, Penzance, Lands End, St Austell)
  • York and Yorkshire (Whitby, Scarborough)

Theatre

What else is London known for? The West End, of course. I have seen a metric truck-tonne of live performance, and bought the programme for almost all of them (which was extremely weighty and inconvenient to post home, curse my compulsions!):
  • Les Miserables
  • 10 x shows at the Edinburgh Fringe
  • 1984
  • Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch
  • Miss Saigon
  • The Scottsboro Boys
  • Kate Miller Heidke
  • Rhapsody in Blue by Candlelight
  • The Nutcracker (ballet)
  • Matilda
  • Forbidden Broadway
  • Dan Sultan
  • The Lion King
  • Evita (hilariously awful!)
  • Assassins
  • Wicked
  • Showstoppers!
  • Peter Pan Gone Wrong
  • Eddie Izzard
  • Noel Fielding
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream (the Globe)
  • The Book of Mormon (x2)
  • The Phantom of the Opera
  • Tina Arena
  • Avenue Q
  • Urinetown
  • War Horse
  • Taming of the Shrew (the Globe)

Conclusion

I am a melting pot of mixed emotions.
Sad that I am leaving London and everything it has to offer. Sad that I don't know when or if I'll see Big Ben again, or walk across that little bridge in St James's Park that overlooks Buckingham Palace.
Excited that I am continuing the adventure with my love, and moving to such a fantastic city as Berlin, where I too can fall in love with its architecture and life.
Scared that it won't work out, scared that I won't find a job or a house.
Content that I filled my time in London to the brim, that I let no opportunity go to waste and experienced as much as I possibly could that was thrown my way.

Happy that I got the opportunity to undertake this adventure at all, and blessed by the people in my life who have been so supportive.

And so, I leave it here. London, til next time.
xox