When Friends Ask – London

In this post, I introduce two sections to help you run around this city and make the most of it! The first shows you things you the things you must do as a traveler here and the second is a list of my own little discoveries I’ve made over the time I’ve been here.

At this point of time when more and more of my friends are travelling abroad, one of the big destinations is through Europe so in doing so, and knowing I’m living in this big bad city, they ask me about where’s the go-to, what’s the must sees and where are the must go’s. So here’s what I think from first glance, from my first few months of living in this beautiful city, the city of London.

Section 1 – To travel

Everyone travels differently depending on a whole number of factors. Here, I give you a quick rundown, with each category, I give you about 2-3 days worth of things to do. So, without further ado, what kind of traveler are you?

Cultural Seeker – I want to know what it is like to be a Londoner, their daily lives, patterns and things they live by.

  • PRET – What? you’ll know what I mean when you get here. Pret is the most famous of the many “sandwich shops” that keep the cities population moving for another day. They’re a chain that you can find around almost every corner because a part of the London lifestyle is to grab a sandwich (and maybe a meal deal) during lunch or on your way home. Don’t *Pret though, the sandwiches are actually really good, super fresh and well priced so what’s not to love?
  • Markets – I know there are some pretty great markets around the world and you can probably find them greater, larger or more extravagant than those found here. However, I’m talking about literally many dozens of markets littered all around London and in every corner and crevice. During lunchtimes, these markets provide a good break from the daily sandwich and over the weekends they are beaming with local shoppers, artists, creatives and foodies! Some of my favorites include the Brick Lane Markets, Camden markets, Borough Markets and the Colombia Road Flower Markets.
  • Parks – If you’re here in the summer, you’re going to loooove this (check out my re-blog of the London summer https://jayysnotes.blog/2019/07/18/london-summer/), but if you’re not, they’re still worth a visit. Parks here are seasonal, so be ready to see all the beautiful changing colors of all the seasons, the bright oranges of Autumn, the colorful yellows, pinks, blues and purples of Spring, the bright greens of summer and of-course, the brown brushes of winter…but not only will you find the parks incredibly gorgeous and well maintained here, you will find them absolutely empty one cold day and intensely crawling with people from all walks of life in the next sunny day! It’s really quite a sight. Check out some of my favorites, Regents Park, Primrose Hill, Greenwich Park and of-course Hyde Park; and if you have time and want to see wild roaming deer, check out the enormous Richmond Parklands.
  • Beer – I can’t not mention this as it is probably the most English thing I know. Pubs are found literally around every corner of this city. The English see pubs as such: Cold Day – Let’s go to the local pub with our buddies and sit inside where it’s warm, packed like sardines, loud and smells. Sunny Day – Let’s go to the local pub with our buddies and all stand outside creating noise while having a pint to soak in as much sun as we can before the coming 9 month winter. Let me say again how prominent the street drinking is here, so much so we have men’s urinals (the ones we see at carnivals) on the corner of public roads!
  • Free Museums – London is super great for travelers because there’s actually a lot of free stuff to do! (strictly travelers, living here burns holes through your wallet!). One of the best free things are museums and galleries, many of which top of world in terms of ranking. You can find many of the popular ones around South Kensington station and others spread out across the city. Some of my favorites so far are The Natural History Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A), Tate Modern and the British Museum.
  • Live Music and Theaters – Other than having beers 5 times a week, theatrics is something that locals here love to go and see. There are an absolute limitless number of shows that are happening every single day to pique any of your interests! The more popular and world renown ones include the plays at Shake-sphere’s Globe, Phantom of the Opera and of-course Harry Potter’s Play.
  • Special mention to the Regents Canal – Definitely one of my favorites walks on a sunny day, don’t miss out on the canal walk around Kings Cross and the up towards Little Venice and Paddington!

Party Seeker – I want to know how to have a good time in this city, I want to stay up and party all night!

  • SOHO – This is a prominent and central area for a night out. I’ll be honest, I’ve not had a big night out in the area but from what I’ve seen and heard, it’s wild and odd!
  • Shoreditch – Shorditch is a hippie, youthful, artsie and super energetic area especially at night. Walk the main streets, take lots of turns and corners and even explore it’s outskirts for something different, jazzy, fun and exciting. At night the whole area is buzzing, there’s no specific place I’d go check out because there’s always something cool around the corner. I did here something about a place called the Dinerama which is great for food and bars, something for me to check out too!
  • Specific Bars – There’s a lot to mention here. Like seriously a lot and it really depends on what you’re after. This city has a bar for and to suit everyone and anything. I’ve been to super cool themed medieval bars to modern futuristic ones. Bars with huge putt putt courses, bowling alleys and karaoke’s in them, I’ve seen pubs where people play board and e-sports…there’s just everything here…maybe ask me to join?
  • Specific Clubs – Again, there’s a lot to mention and sometimes it depends on the night and the artist who’s playing. Special mention to the Ministry of Sound, Fabric and XOYO along with Printworks but once again, you need to think about what music you like and what you’d like to see.

Section 2 – Discoveries

  • TK MAXX – This is a really great place to shop for good quality branded clothing at super great prices. There’s a few of these stores littered around London, mostly in the outer Zone 2, definitely a great place to find a bargain, pretty much always 80% off the retail price of branded shoes, clothing and everything else.
  • Thai Food – Spicy Basil is really great for authentic Thai food that I’ve yet to see replicated anywhere else in London
  • Indian Food – Vijay is something unexpected when you first walk in, it’s warm and welcoming glow pulls you in and the amazing food keeps you there!

I’ll leave it at that for now as those are the two main types of travelers coming into London itself. I guess I could of added some landmarks as well but i’m sure google has you covered there! e.g. don’t forget to check out the Tower of London! (of-course you wouldn’t forget).

Thanks for reading my friends. Happy travels! ❤

Feature image – View from the 58th floor of the currently in construction 22 Bishopsgate, London, United Kingdom taken on the 3rd May 2019

The Great Lakes District

Quick Facts

  • Title: The Great Lakes District Multi-Day Hike and Camp
  • Status: Completed
  • Dates: 18th April 2019 to 22nd April 2019
  • Objective: To trek the most popular mountains and gorgeous Lakes District over the Easter long weekend.
  • Route: Self-determined involving Inland, mountainous terrain, lakes and river systems.
  • Approx Distance: 100+ Kilometers
  • Approx Hiking Time: 35+ Hours in Total
  • Accommodation: 4 Nights Camping

Facts and Insights

  • Two of the highest peaks in England were tackled during this endeavor. Scafell Pike (978m) and Helvellyn (950m).
  • England’s longest lake was an incredibly popular destination, Windermere stretching over 16km long!
  • Weather; a low of 5 degrees and surprising tops of 19 degrees! Windy but not enough to close off any trails. Weather took the surprise of all who visited over the weekend, sunny everyday, an incredibly rare sight for all.
  • This was a personal challenge. Climbing almost a dozen mountain tops including the two highest in England has inspired me to undertake other great endeavors throughout the United Kingdom, Europe and in time, no doubt mountain ranges of the world.
  • A colleague said that this was more like an expedition! haha makes me feel like Indiana Jones, exploring and discovering hidden treasures. Although it was only 4 days, the fact that it was a unique and personal path made it the more special.
  • During the hike, I pondered over many thoughts, one of which was the reason why I chose to do this. I think for me, it’s not just a hike up the mountain. It’s not about all the incredible sights that you set your eyes upon nor is it predominantly for my own physical fitness. The journey to me is a mental challenge I choose to face, it is continuing to walk even when your whole body is shaking and aching for you to stop. It is making it to the top, to the finish line without doubt in your mind that you have stuck to your own word. I think everything else, the lakeside views, mountaintops, sleeping under the stars and moon, the physical fitness it brings…they’re all bonuses, incredible and amazing bonuses that come with all great achievements in life.
  • Also, dogs climb mountains too, so many of them! so cute!

Introduction

The Lakes District is an incredibly popular destination for the English not only for it’s natural beauty but also for it’s challenging hikes and mountainous ranges. Over the past few months I have taken my time to plan a personal route (made up of many others whom have come before me) to experience a one of a kind trek through the district. From the early morning’s and till sunset, I spent hiking and during the evening’s I set down my tent and gear and prepared for a night under the stars in the mountain tops! Before you think I’m crazy, I’ve done this before! and with each and every adventure I become better equipped both mentally and physically.

I’ve missed home sweet home Australia for all of her natural beauty. I hope for my friends out there whom are home, they never take it for granted. In so many ways, I will always return home to finish my round trip along her beautiful coast. This to me, is just a little detour.

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The planned route including major checkpoints. But all plans are never solid, charged with my trusty map and compass, I crossed areas with no tracks but just my own.

Day 1 – Friday

What a great idea it was to spend the first night at a bed and breakfast. Arriving at Windermere quite late into the night, there was no time nor the light to hike to the first random checkpoint; plus, the time was spent well making preparations for the long journey ahead. I loved the whole homey feel of the place; an old wooden charm and the warm and inviting fireplace and lighting made me feel right at home. She also had a great history to tell, with photo’s, artworks and decorations dating back to the old days. Bed and breakfast’s are a big thing out here in England, they’re in-between air-bnb’s and hotels because the owners are usually also living in the home, retired and invite guests along to enjoy their home, they also cook you breakfast to top it off. There is also no doubt in the world that the traditional English breakfast that was served that morning was delicious and aided in my survival throughout the first day.

How nice it was to follow the beautiful walls of stone that climb the sides of these mountains. Often would I think about how and who had the job of placing each and every one of them, perfectly in a position that looks as if it has held for decades.

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It was not long after the beginning that I stumbled upon a bunch of young travellers, taken aback on the hillside inhaling what I could clearly tell was a joint. In fact, this wasn’t only a singular occurrence, I saw this numerous times during the hike and furthermore there were groups of people hiking whilst half drunk! How this was achieved is beyond me, I was more worried about not twisting my ankle on the first day of the trip and asking for them to take photo’s of me hah! If it wasn’t for them, all I had was my non-steady Go-Pro to rely on which took longer to set up than I’d liked.

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Day 2 – Saturday

Who knew that after today Scafell would be conquered?! I should of known that, but really, it was hard to know where you would end up by the end of the day. The plans and tracks that had been made, the checkpoints were only a guide, it would take me a few more great hikes to be able to predict how long it would take me to climb any one mountain; and so the sights were set to go as far as one could along the planned route.

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It was an incredibly rocky road to Scafell Pike, and I don’t say that figuratively! Three paths to take up the peak and the toughest of them all had to be taken, but I guess I’d say, for have we really conquered a mountain if we did not take on her greatest challenge?

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Scafell was busy. Like really busy! Forget about a peaceful climb to the top with nature and the birds and bees following you around. Dozens of hikers arrived at any one time, small and large tour groups made it to the top with cheers and clapping heard all around. When I’d finally overcome the rocky pass, my arms were in the air, a big smile could be seen and an aura of one who had just made a great achievement came over me. From a distance, the peak looked really cool, a pile of rocks stacked on the top allowed visitors to stand and sit up there in unison to enjoy a 360 panorama of the entirety of the lakes. It was beautiful, the energy up there was a high and so there I sat and let time pass me by for hours on end.

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The “easy” way down the mountain was towards the lake of Wast Water. It was a long way down which felt like forever but what made it all the worthwhile was the sun setting down against the lake, probably one of the biggest highlights of the entire trip. A warm orange glow encompassed everyone going down that mountain and after achieving such great heights, it was the best way for most to end their day.

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I on the other hand had taken a slight detour shortly before arriving down at the lake. Making my way down to a super small town called Wasdale in search for a place to camp. As luck would have it, the tiny town had a little campsite with food and drinks to be served along with all the amenities required by those who hadn’t showered for days!

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Day 3 – Sunday

I would say that Sunday was the most relaxing of all the days. Despite a slow start to the day (slow because of an alternate far tougher path up a hill), the day was spent mostly on the lower ground or shall I say, on the lower levels of the mountains.

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There was a moment of real peace when I stopped by the riverside, between two adjacent trees that gave off a perfect shade beside the rapids. There I kicked up my feet in the water and took a much needed break from the sun as by then parts of me were as red as tomatoes! (And FYI, if you’re wondering, of course I used sunscreen and wore a hat!).

Another mountain top later we were overlooking yet another gorgeous lake right off the small town of Buttermere. More tourists flocked here to walk around the lake on footpaths meant for child strollers and bicycles. The one ice cream parlor was overrun by eager children hoping for something sweet and cold. I was definitely one of those children and couldn’t resist one myself; with chocolate icing of course!

Close by was the nice town of Keswick. Keswick is a must visit local town in the Lakes District if you do come up here, it’s a really beautiful old town with some great spots to take photos of the streets and town square. I have to also mention how great it was to meet two locals travelling in for the weekend with their dogs, it made for such a great conversation about the Lakes and other hikes to be done. They’d told me how in all their years they’ve been here, they’ve never seen it so sunny all weekend around because of all the mountains and all. I guess I was lucky! or I’d just brought the sunshine with me haha lame joke*

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To end the day, I made my way up as high as I could towards Helvellyn, this was an exciting part of the trip and couldn’t stop thinking about the “scramble” across the Striding Edge, you’ll know what I mean by that soon. An hour into the hike I’d completely lost the pathway but with my trusty compass I was never too far away from one I’d make myself. I put in the extra effort to climb till the sun set further before I pitched my tent, by then and because of the constant upward battle for over 2 hours, I was sweating a heap and there I was, shirtless half way up the mountain without a town in sight as the sun set in the distance.

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Day 4 – Monday

I woke up this morning with the wind rocking the tent side to side. It was 6:30am, cold outside but surprisingly warm on the inside. It really pays to know what is required in a good tent! Despite this, I found it hard to fall back asleep till the sun rose above the mountains. I made the decision right there and then that I was to have my breakfast consisting of some tuna, nuts, a carrot, an apple and some sweets to top up that sugar level. I cuddled back into the sleeping bag to let the food warm me up before I lept out there into the cold, damp and slightly foggy morning to unpack it all.

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Today, I made an incredible head start on the track towards Helvellyn. As the night before I had put in some extra effort to get as high as I could, I was almost at the top before 7am. From up there, the suns warm glow was a sight for sore eyes and so I sat there basking in her delight. Pillars of rock were all around me and as for those who are experience hikers knew, the pillars are a piece of each person who’d made it up there with a rock of their own to place on the mountain. It was a beautiful sight when I added yet another one to the pile. Would you call these checkpoints? I think you would, they’re checkpoints for the individual to be proud of, to have made it so far.

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At the top it was quiet, peaceful and calm. Because I had made it up there so early, there was no one else there. Oddly enough and don’t tell my parents, there were some sweets in a goodie bag stuffed at the peak of a pillar, they looked fresh so I took it upon myself to have some and say thanks to the kind mountain gods, I in turn added some of my own goodies to the bag to pay it forward. Shortly after, I’d basked in the sunlight some more, a couple arrived at the top and we sat against the wall and talked of mountainsides around Europe and the way ahead. For ahead me was yet another challenge known as the Striding Edge!

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Now, the English have a saying for walks like this, they call it scrambling, I’ve not actually heard the term before so I’m not sure if it’s entirely an English thing but it pretty much was rock climbing on the peaks of the mountains ranges! Most people do so monkey-like but not holding 10kg of baggage as I was so I made sure that I climbed on slow and steady, for one slip meant falling hundreds of meters down below. To be honest, I’m not sure why this is even allowed and again to be honest, it was the first time I’ve actually been scared for my life in a long time. Sadly many people actually die from this very scramble (20 deaths in fact and many more injured in 2017 alone!) I won’t be taking on any more challenges like this for now, no thank you! Looking back it was fun and thrilling but I love life too much to risk that again haha

Did I also mention there is a gravestone with a touching story of a life lost because of this edge? In summary, a man climbing these edges fell to his death, his dog was found wandering around his corpse in incredible sadness and distress. The plaque is to remind us all of the strength and enduring love of our companions during great endeavors. And then a tear fell from my eyes.

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The final stretch of the hike proved to be quite merciful and with gorgeous views of Lake Ullswater, there was nothing more that could have ended this trip on a high…

Except, a really pretty town and lamb shanks by the lake!!! Seriously was well deserved after conquering such a beast in which was The Lakes District.

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Thanks for reading my friends. What challenges do you choose to face in life to help you prepare for the worst?

A Long Walk

A long walk.

There’s something about a day spent walking that brings thoughts to me. A day spent walking feels like a day that stretches as long as the distance is far. It is where the twists and turns that the path reveals with each step feel like those in which life takes you on each and every day. Have you ever wondered how they often seem alike to you?

How a straight path guides you to what you can see clearly and safely up ahead. How one that twists and turns can make you dizzy with wonder at what’s in front of you. How sudden a corner can creep up to you and is there before you even know it. What’s more is the corner in which forks in two directions before you’ve even decided. And what to do with those paths that end with what seemingly feels like nowhere else to go. But i think what’s most unsettling, are those that lead you back to where you began, as if you’d never left the place you stand; but the night falls still, none a wiser to where you’d hoped to go.

There’s something about a day spent walking that brings thoughts to me. How i wonder so often where the path will take me.

❤ Jason

When I ask – Choose your one favourite place…

In my travels I have met many people, each and every one of them with beautiful stories to tell. What I enjoy doing rather than it’s opposite, is listening.

There are a number of topics which I love to bring up, that I love to ask and learn from others. Here is just one:

“If you could choose one place in the world you have been to that moved you, that you find incredibly amazing, where would that be and why?”

Here, I will tell you the where, but not the why, because the why is for you and I to experience ourselves. It is my goal to embark and visit these places, uniquely moving to those whom I have known personally. It’s not something that can simply be googled or seen on social media because these are the places that have truly been felt by those who have been. So, here goes, and in no particular order:

  • James says “Zermatt, Switzerland”
  • Stephanie says “Les Nympheas, France”
  • Matt says “Covent Garden, London, United Kingdom”
  • Erick says “Thaipusam, Batu Caves, India”
  • Carmen says “Naples, Italy”
  • Kim says “Pamplona, Spain”
  • Kevin says “Zell am See, Austria”
  • Agata says “Zakrzowek, Poland”

How could this list not be complete without my own right? As as tough of a question this is, i’ll do my best to answer.

  • Jason says “Queenstown, New Zealand”

Undoubtly this list is long and will only grow as time passes. I can only hope that one day I visit as many as I can and understand why it was their one choice.

With love, Jason ❤

Feature image – Rob Roys Peak, New Zealand. Taken on the 23rd November 2016

Following the Great Footsteps of History

There are certain places in the world that are unlike so many others. Many of which have been lost and hidden in time and history.

When I ask myself the questions which ponder at our worlds greatest histories, it often revolves around how they came to be, what was it that made it so incredible and how can I today recreate it. I speak of the great routes and paths of ancient and modern history, routes which have defined much of the worlds cities, societies and cultures that we see today and for centuries to come.

From the ancient Silk Road to the path Gandhi took on his peaceful Salt march, from Alexander the Great’s conquest to the Germans march across Belgium which sparked WW1, from the many pilgrimages millions take each year for their faith in religion and/or spirituality, these are the paths in which history has and continue to be written. These paths not only gave way to the trade of rare commodities, knowledge from travellers of far away cities, cultural and societal norms and beliefs; but they also gave way to much of the violence and conquest that we have seen in histories past.

To re-enact and follow in these great footsteps of history, I hope to seek a greater understanding of our past. Some of my major goals in life revolve around completing these journeys ahead, following the towns and cities, the cultures and stories in which they passed; because maybe, just maybe by seeking to understand our greatest histories can we begin to build and even greater future.

 

Thanks for reading ^__^

Some of these major routes I seek are listed here below, is there a famous route that changed the world that you would like to embark on one day?

  • The Silk Road – An ancient trade route connecting the East to West
  • The Gospel Trail – Following the footsteps of Jesus and his disciples
  • Alexander the Great – His journey of conquest
  • The Salt March – Led by Gandhi which in turn began a wide protest for Independence in India
  • The Inca Trail – A hiking trail to Machu Picchu in Peru, an ancient civilisation which thrived in the Peruvian mountains
  • The Eight Great Sites – The path of Buddha and his journey to enlightenment
  • The Hajj – The annual pilgrimage for millions of Muslims to the city of Mecca

The Great Australian Road Trip – In The Beginning at Ground ZERO

It has always been one of my greatest endeavours to complete a road trip around the coast of Australia. After all, Australia is my home and what is a better way to understand more about your home but to travel around it yourself.

This long-term goal will be likely split into 6 parts (as far as I can foresee right now).

  • Part 1 – Sydney > Melbourne > Adelaide (Completed Jan 2017)
  • Part 2 – Sydney > Tasmania (Expected Completion sometime late 2017)
  • Part 3 – Adelaide > Perth (Expected Completion sometime 2018)
  • Part 4 – Perth > Darwin
  • Part 5 – Darwin > Cairns
  • Part 6 –  Sydney > Brisbane > Cairns

Rules of engagement: 

  • All trips taken will be strictly by road only and be using flights as a means to arrive at the beginning or end of the trip.
  • Camping on beaches and grounds will be the number one option when on the road with the exception of when in major cities.
  • Self-made / self-cooked food (including by campfire) where possible unless tasting a local cuisine or delicacy.
  • Plan only the major routes and attractions and plan for worst case scenarios. Leave the rest to intuition and fate.
  • Meet locals wherever possible and ask them for knowledge of local things to do and see. Embrace all cultures, indigenous or otherwise with respect and an eagerness to learn and contribute.

Overcoming my Fears

Biggest fears for this trip include the following – Snakes, spiders, drop bears….well pretty much every dangerous animal that might stalk me in the middle of the night. The water level rising up to my tent in the middle of the night making bringing my tent into the ocean floating. Breaaaakkkkkdowwwnnssss as in mechanically for my car, not mentally, hopefully not mentally. Sadly hitting animals on the road :'(. Obviously crazy people!. Picking up hitchhiker’s (although I maybe shouldn’t hmm i don’t know how I feel about this yet, probably too risky as I am alone). I fear the loneliness might get to me. The looonnngggggg drive, possibly leading to fatigue. Monsters in the dark, including ghosts and aliens and the whole paranormal and supernatural *shivers*…(come on Jason you’re not 5 anymore harden up).

Update Jan 2017: So far I have overcome all of those fears and none of them has stopped me on my track! Shows you how much fears actually play a part in your life when you just jump over them.