03 July 2012

Travel tales - I worry they're not interesting enough for you.

It is that time of the night again. 4.00 am. Since my flight to Los Angeles I have been waking up at this time. My jetlag has been pretty good and my skin even better - while very tired, I have been going to sleep around 9.30 pm but I just can't last sleeping through the night. I worry these travel stories, while interesting to me, won't be interesting to you.

Here I am in bed at The Hilton. It was a good bed.

On the way over here - and when I say here, I mean to all my destinations - New Zealand, USA and UK - I was treated very well by the airline. It is rare that I ask for assistance relating to my skin, but of course I had to tell them about my creams to get additional luggage allowance. And so from Melbourne airport I had staff attend to my every need. "Miss Findlay, can I get someone to help you with your bags?" Yes please. For so long I have just struggled through grappling with my bags, being five foot one and a real weakling, it has been difficult wrestling with a 20 kg suitcase. I was also given extra water to prevent dehydration, allowed to board the plane first when a toilet was not available at the boarding gate for me to use to put cream on, and at Heathrow I was even offered a wheelchair - to which I declined of course (though I was taken on the golf buggy to the customs gates where I was able to scan my British passport and skip the long queues. The epitome of the flights (I have had three of them so far) was being given extra leg room on my way to London in the form of a bassinette seat and then being told there was EVEN MORE leg room for me at the back of the plane! I was given a "sky couch" - three seats to myself to lie down and stretch out. So I was quite relaxed when I arrived at Heathrow on Sunday morning.

Everyone has been helpful though - especially in Los Angeles where service is REALLY service. None of this disinterested shit you get in Australia! And in the London underground, men have helped me with my small case up the many many stairs.

I am staying with friends in London - old family friends. They live in the country side about 30 minutes south of the city in a beautiful house. Years ago I had one of my friends, P, stay with me in Melbourne when he was a backpacker. I feel so welcome there and we are talking as though we have known each other for years - I guess we have. P showed me a photo of me as a child that his parents had displayed - I would have been about seven - all gapped toothed and Sorbolene faced, wearing my school pinafore and my head topped with a ringlet. This is the view from my bedroom window in my London "home". I feel like I am in a movie.
Yesterday I caught several trains. One to London Victoria station, another to Paddington station - where I bought a Paddinton Bear pen and magnet - and another to Bristol. When I arrived at London Victoria I grinned at the enormity of the station - bustling with people and shops - and was so overcome with the possiblities.

This feeling has been a common theme for me at the departure gates and arrival points of my trip so far - as I departed the plane in Los Angeles, I laughed to the flight attendant, exclaiming "I am in America" and skipped down the corridor. Until I reached customs to which I was very very sensible due to the serious customs lady.

So now I am in Bristol. It is a beautiful city, with so much heritage. That is something that has been amazing me - the sheer history in England. P took me to his parents' for dinner on Sunday night and showed me buildings that are more than 500 years old. Yesterday near Paddington station at St Mary's hospital I saw a plaque stating that in a room two floors above, penicillin was discovered by Alexander Fleming. Across the road from where I am staying in Bristol, there is a majestic building that used to be Queen Elizabeth's hospital.
I am in Bristol for the Appearance Matters conference. One of the university researchers is having me stay. She and I are the same age and she is an Aussie. Again, we get along like we have known each other for years. Her apartment is beautiful - filled with books and fresh flowers. She is a great interior designer. I will be speaking at the conference on Wednesday afternoon. I entered this grand old university building - with high sculpted ceilings and stained glass windows - and it hit me. This is the reason I have come to England. Because the Centre for Appearance Research staff found my blog, tweeted me, met me and invited me to submit a speaking proposal. And here I am. So grateful for the experience. I met some of the other staff briefly. They all referred to me as a blogger - in such a respectful tone that I am convinced that being a blogger is a occupation. My new university friend has been encouraging me to consider doing my PhD. She suggested I talk to a wide range of academics at the conference to help decide what path I might take. I don't know yet. The thought of committing to research at this capacity so close after completing my Masters is scary. Anyway, I am excited to be meeting new people and learning about appearance - an aspect of my illness that I had not considered in an academic or psychological form until that tweet from The Centre for Appearance Research late last year.

I am going to try to sleep now before I have to be up for the start of the conference. It gets very light very early here. It has just gone 4.30 am and the sun has risen already. The sun sets around 10.00 pm too. I was worried the food in England would not be very good. But it has exceeded my expectations - and been a welcome relief from the HUGE portion sizes of America. After my jumbo sized cheesy fries incident in Los Angeles, I have been longing for healthier food, amd England has done well for that- especially catering for city commuters. Great convenience sized fruit tubs (I have eaten mango and lime, and summer (?) berries) and gourmet sandwiches (I had a baguette with basil, tomato and brie). I love Australian produce but here I have noticed the flavours of fruit and vegetables bought from the supermarket are so much more intense. Here is some berries in elderflower jelly, bought from a cafe at the train station.
PS - summer is strange here. It is like Melbourne in the Autumn. Dull and rainy but not unpleasant.

PPS - I will be tweeting from the Appearance Matters conference.

PPPS - my faith was restored in London folk very early on when I left my purse next to the counter in a shop and didn't realise until I was about to buy some crazy Union Jack sunglasses and realised my purse may (not still) be 500 metres up the road. And so I ran as fast as I could, through city streets - suitcase in tow - hoping my purse was still there. It would have been a disaster to lose it on my second day here. I arrived at the counter, puffed and scared. My purse was right where I left it - money and cards still there. Phew! Never have I been so relieved.

PPPS - I will be eating at Jamie Oliver's restaurant tonight and so I will be doing a full report.


  1. wow! Lovely pics carly:-) Looking forward to the full report on Jamie Oliver's food {hubba hubba} food too lol :-) Love these posts waiting for the next one . Never been to London hoping to go one day though......

  2. love hearing about your trip, it's exciting! it's also wonderful to hear about the connections you've made through blogging.
    i love eating fresh produce in europe/uk as well, as well as yogurt. european yogurt always tastes better (and less sugary perhaps?) to me.

  3. A wonderful read. If you get time for some magic, take a bus trip to Glastonbury from Bristol.

  4. You are absolutely radiating joy. This round-the-world trip has been an amazing adventure, and it's only the beginning! Wait till you see the portion sizes in New York, you'll be asking for a doggie bag at each meal. Now I suppose I really am going to have to sign up for Twitter. Get some sleep, tomorrow awaits.

  5. Love hearing about all of it :-) Even if you're stuggling to sleep. Just remember, we're all awake then anyway lol.

    Sounds like you're having an amazing adventure xx

  6. It's so lovely to hear the excitement come through in your writing. Looking forward to the food report and good luck at the conference x

  7. Loving reading of your adventures Carly.
    So happy to hear your blogging is treated repectfully there because what you do really matters.It has helped many and led you to where you are now which will help many more.
    Enjoy it all and soak it all in.Goodluck with everything.xx

  8. It is so lovely to experience the joy you are taking in your travel through your words. And it is also wonderful to see good things happen for someone who contributes so much positive energy into the world. I don't believe in karma but it is just lovely to hear you gush

  9. Hi Carly, am so happy reading your travel posts, and really pleased to hear how well you're being looked after by so many people. Your pix are reminding me of when I was in London too. Enjoy it all, best wishes for your talk at the conference, thinking of you and sending positive vibes that it all goes so well, am sure it will! xx

  10. Delighted to be reading this post !! No more concerns please. That you are sharing your journey with us is such a great thing to do. Best wishes for the conference. This indeed is LIFE changing stuff xx

  11. These travel tales, and the world through your eyes and experiences, so real, are interesting to us all! Love reading your take on these places!

    I loved all the on-the-go foods in London - have a Pret sandwich and a Love Bar for me! Ha!

  12. Wow - I love this post so much.
    You are making me miss London - I lived there for about 10 years.
    I hope your trip continues to inspire you, it looks like you are having the best time!!x

  13. I resisted posting because I know you don't have much regard for me, and I can't change that.

    But Carly, I just love that photo of you in the hotel bed in NY? I think it was New York. Boy I keep coming back to this photo, it has me just magnetised to it. It is one of the best photos I have EVER seen of ANYONE or ANYTHING ever in my life.

    Have you shown the photographer Simon Schluter at all? I think he would love it also. Never have I seen such a capturing moment, and it is almost a Self Reflecting photo. Just Stunning.

    You should have that framed in pride of place in your home. I know I would if it was mine. And Carly, thanks also for giving such a great description of the preparation for your flights around the world. My sister has been really worried and doubtful that I could travel such long flights overseas with my feet, but after I showed her this article, she was much more confident and encouraging.

    I will get there eventually when I save enough and finish some projects I am working on.
    Thanks again, all the best in your continued success.



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