Noosa

Date: Friday 27th to Sunday 29th November 2015

Location: Noosa, Queensland, Australia

I grew up in a small town in Hertfordshire, mostly known as being commuter-ville for bankers, having an excessive quantity of ridiculously clean Land Rovers, once appearing on a mug in Peep Show and the home of the presenter of Robot Wars. Along with these claims to fame comes a plethora of nice quality clothes shops, pretty little cafes, quirky gift shops, lovely restaurants, elegant parks and well-dressed couples with small children named Alfie and Tabitha. Lift this entire scene up and dump it next to the beach in Australia and you have Noosa. Despite my upbringing in clean cut suburbia I have always been more than happy to get covered in mud at a farm, sweaty and disgusting doing manual labour, soaked to the bone on a walk or just generally look a complete state. I don’t even mind if I break a nail, not that much … not really. But when I arrived in beautiful Noosa after months of roughing it while travelling I couldn’t have felt more at home.

It helped that I was staying in one of the most stunning hostels I have ever been in. YHA hostel is a listed building built in that classic everglades style with a wooden veranda and big airy rooms with windows on all sides. It’s staffed by a very friendly team who are happy to help in any way they can and it does a great breakfast. Noosa itself is full of great, independent shops that I spent hours getting lost in selling a huge array of wares (and where I spent far too much money ). However all those hours in shops didn’t just provide me with a load of ‘stuff’ that I then had to carry around, I also had a brilliant conversation with one shop owner regarding a necklace that went something like this:

Shop owner: that necklace is vegan leather so really good for the planet

Me: Vegan leather? So it’s synthetic?

SO: No, not synthetic! Its vegan leather

M: how do you make vegan leather?

SO: Well it’s just like leather but vegan

M: but not synthetic

SO: no

M: … right.

Either way, I still bought the necklace.

Noosa is right on the edge of a national park which was conveniently only a 5 minute walk from my hostel. Read any of the travel books and they’ll tell you the best time to see it is as early in the morning as possible before it gets too hot. The thing is though that in summer in Noosa the sun rises at 4:00am and it’s already baking hot by 7:00am, so I figured if I was going to do it I should probably do it properly and get up to see the sun rise. Come 4:00am the next morning I was in my hiking shoes and leggings and making my way to the park. I have to say I missed the sunrise itself but I did have a beautiful walk around the park in the bright sunshine without the heat. I would like to say I had a lovely solitary walk around the park but that wasn’t the case. It seems like every single runner in Noosa gets up at 4:00am to run around the park. I thought I was doing well by getting up so early but these guys put me to shame! Determined to feel good about myself I decided later in the day it would be a good idea to go running, except that I had no trainers. So my clever plan (after having done no exercise for 6 months) was to go for a run on the beach as I could do that barefoot. It wasn’t a good idea, it didn’t make me feel good, it made me feel very unfit and slightly sick. And I could barely put my heels to the ground for about 3 days… But the view was pretty good. 

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Not content with exercising the lower half of my body I decided to work the upper half too and go kayaking through the everglades with ‘The Discovery Group’. However this trip, unlike the run, was a very good idea. You take a boat from the harbour upriver into the shallow, still waters of the everglades. Dock up at a little camping site, have some tea and cake, and then pick up the kayaks to go further into the network of rivers. The everglades feel timeless, like you could be in any century you want and they would be exactly the same. I think it’s something about the stillness of the water and the comforting ‘wrapped up’ feeling you get from the trees on either side of you. The water is dark black from tannin that washes out of the trees, and vast sections of it are covered in beautiful lilies that open their flowers during the day and close them again at night.

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After about an hour of kayaking you pull up to another camp site and have a beautiful bbq lunch of trout or steak and a quick dip in the refreshing river. Note to self though, don’t wear a bikini that has white on it, it will never be white again after going in that water. You then jump back on a boat (yes I know it’s cheating that you don’t kayak back) and return to modern day life 4 hours later, feeling as zenned out as you would if you’d just had a yoga lesson.

All in all Noosa was a form of therapy for me, a little taste of life back home but still bathed in beautiful Australian sunshine and surrounded by amazing scenery. I feel like I may have found my retirement home.

Berlin, Berlin!

Date: Wednesday 18 March to Saturday 21 March 2015

Location: Berlin, Germany

I guess we’re all influenced by fashion, no matter how hard we try to go against the grain, so when I started looking around for a little Spring getaway there was only one place it could be…Berlin. Berlin, Berlin, Berlin is all I’ve been hearing for the last year. First it was my corporate clients, then it was the people in my social media realm, then it was my friends! So FOMO kicked in and off I went to Berlin!

Everything I knew about the city was directly related to the Second World War but we wanted to see a different side of the city so decided to actively try to avoid this piece of the history books. Besides, history classes from year 7 through to 9 taught me all that I ever needed to know about the wars and more (oh the things I could tell you about trench foot!)… But not much about any other era of history.

After arriving pretty late we decided a quick dinner on Friedrichstrasse was probably the best idea and ended up in a very nice ‘traditional’ (read ‘commercially traditional, especially made for tourists’ – saying this, the food was lovely) restaurant just round the corner from the Brandenburg Gate. A late night wander showed us this monument in a beautiful light.

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We were staying in an apartment on the edge of what was the old East area and so the next day the first thing we went to see was the remnants of the Berlin Wall (so much for no war stuff…). There are pieces of this monument left all over the city, some have become canvases for younger generations to voice their opinions of today’s politics in beautiful murals. Others have turned into museums showing the history behind the construction and what happened after. And some, like our section, have been turned into parks and wide green spaces filled with people enjoying the sunshine in the shadow of the crumbling concrete. It’s nice to see that time marches on and things change even after major disasters.

Over the next few days we pretty much covered most of Berlin. This included a bus tour of the ‘trendy’ neighbourhoods of Berlin … There are lots of those (It’s a bit like Shoreditch on steroids). The tour showed off several decades of communist architecture which as much as the tour guide tried to tell me looked different … it actually all just looked the same. Like Lego houses. While we were around these areas we took the opportunity to scout out the local shopping, which is amazing! Berlin is full of beautiful little boutique shops which are actually individual (something I still struggle to find in London). We all picked up some really nice little pieces that will be wardrobe staples for years.

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We also took a trip to KaDeWe  (essentially the Harrods of Berlin) for some well deserved tea and cake! I have never seen so many beautiful cakes that I wanted to eat!! It was like heaven … and diet hell … all in one beautiful place.

 

 

 

IMG_1465We broke the ‘war pact’ again and saw the ‘Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas’ (memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe), or the Holocaust memorial as it’s commonly referred to in the UK.  As a piece of architecture this structure is emotionally moving but as a memorial to this historic event it is beyond anything I have seen before. The effect created by the uneven ground and the irregular height columns of dark concrete is incredible. Peter Eisenman and Buro Happold should be very proud of their work together.

All in all I had a great holiday away in Berlin and I would visit again (mostly for a sneaky shopping trip) but I can’t say I’d ever want to live there. Although it has a lovely calm feeling about it and lots of green space I can’t imagine being constantly surrounded by all the memorabilia from the Second World War and the Cold War. Either you must become blind to it or it must weigh on your mind all the time, neither are appealing options.