Dinner in Poland, Montenegro Restaurant

Arriving to a very cold and already very dark Warsaw mid afternoon I was tired, due to a mix of small episodes of sleep between work shifts and that exhaustion tiredness various modes of transportation in a reasonably short amount of time causes. Honestly, all I wanted to do was find my hostel and get into bed and watch Netflix. However, Netflix is not an option in Poland and I knew better. So once connected to the wifi and having ignored work and real life emails which came through with a continuious buzz, I did a quick Google search for somewhere to eat nearby. The first dozen results were either Italian or Indian, so I may have been forgiven for almost missing a Yugoslavian restaurant in the mad scroll from my finger rapidly flicking the screen upwards. However my eyes did catch something different in between the pizza and tandoori pattern, and after a quick look at the reviews and the four minute walk away, I knew what my night would entail…after a quick nap.

The restaurant may look small on arrival, however a staircase leads upstairs to additional seating. The white washed wooden funiture, plus decorations of gas lamp style candle holders and branches tied together with canvas rags seem to fit perfectly into a Sydney beachside suburb cafe, but what pulls the place together and gives it that comfortable atmosphere is the mismatched photo frames covering one of the four walls. As hipster as it sounds, it is pulled off perfectly and with a edge of class. The frames display old, personal, portraits of Polish military men, photographs of women playing with children, men sitting outside cafes smoking and chatting, and families going on vacation next to 50’s and 60’s styled cars.

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The staff are friendly, and though they aren’t the highest level of professionalism, they do try by being polite, with excellent English and making sure everything is going well without being pesty. Who wants a uptight, snooty waiter anyway?

Wanting a glass of wine, the wine list offers several varieties, though only one type of red and one type of white are available by the glass. Easy decision then with a glass of red, which was very enjoyable and smooth.

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I started with a fish soup, though a couple of years ago this was a disgusting thought to me, my mind was changed after a delicious fish soup I had in The Basque region of Spain. Although a particular toad and fish soup in a Peruvian market could have turned me off fish in general, my Spainish experience won over and I was happy I made the right decision. Consisting of a cut of flaky fish, possibly cod, a cloudy broth, carrots, capsicums (peppers), parsley, a mild chilli oil which made to top of the soup a red oily consistency, perfectly seasoned and with a squeeze of lemon to tie it all together perfectly, I could have walked down to the kitchen and stood over the pot with a spoon all night.

As a main I went for the lamb cutlets, won over by the choice between polenta and potatoes, I was craving a good soft polenta. Yet of course I forgot to specify my order and was presented with fried potatoes instead. A brief moment of regret was quickly forgotten when I tried the  potatoes which had the exact right amount of salt and rosemary coating them, and sat upon several excellently grilled vegetables. The winner of the dish of course though were the cutlets. Again, seasoned and marinated perfectly, those bad boys weren’t on my plate for long. The first bite was an overwhelming surprise and the rest just seemed to dissappear. When all the meat which I was able to pull off the bone with a knife and fork was devoured I was tempted to rip the small amount of remaining meat off using my hands and teeth, like I would do at my grandmothers house whenever she would treat me with lamb cutlets. However my mother had taught me manners, and this wasn’t was grandmother’s house, so I pushed the almost clean bones to the side and savoured my last few sips of wine.

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Montenegro Restaurant and Bar
Natolinska 3, Warsaw, Poland

Little Vietnam in Prague. Finding Pho.

My favourite dish in the entire world is Pho. First discovered when I was just nineteen and wide eyed in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Min city, after finding my way to the city’s famous Pho 2000. After that I could, and would, quite happily eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A bottle of Tiger on the side and I’m in heaven.             

You can find somewhere serving Pho almost everywhere in the world. In Sydney, for the best and most authentic head to Cabramatta. In London? Head straight to Shoreditch. For the past two weeks I have been craving it more then usual. Most of my Sydney expat friends in London just happen to be of Vietnamese origin, all their parents being born and raised in Vietnam. So it wasn’t just me that was constantly craving a bowl of Pho, or a plate of Summer Rolls – I’m just the only one who is white. So for the past few weeks I had been sending regular messages; “Pho this week?” Though true to London form, making plans isn’t as easy as it should be. So off I set for a week in Prague still thirsty for soup.

One late morning a few days later however, I came across a market which really wouldn’t have looked out of place in any Vietnamese town I have ever been to. Squeezed inbetween stalls selling cheap knives and fake Calvin Klein underwear is where I found a tiny little shop, consisting of a two burner stove, a drinks fridge and a woodern board with a menu. I smelt it before I saw it, coming from a huge pot of broth on the stove; Beef Pho.

In front of the ‘open kitchen’ where several long communal tables with bench seats. Above then sat a wooden board with the menu, in Vietnamese and Czech, though it didn’t matter that I couldn’t read either of them. “One beef Pho please. Oh, and this beer”, opening the fridge and holding up a can of Czech Kozel. Proper South East Asian service; ‘Relaxed’.
  
It came out quickly enough and though it didn’t have a side plate of the usual bean sprouts, basil and mint, it was accompanied by some lemons and a chili and garlic oil. And of course a bottle of chilli sauce. The soup had the usual rice noodles and coriander, though it was a bit light on the spring onions – my favourite part. The broth however was clear, a slight layer of fat sat on top, and was just what I wanted.

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Though not my usual Tiger, I sipped the beer and slurped my soup in the warm and slightly humid weather. Around me small children wander around, their parents minding their respective stalls, Vietnamese chatting and laughter, it felt like being back in South East Asia even though I was as far away from there as I could get. Craving satisfied.

20 Truths of Traveling Poor

There are several different types of travelers. To many for me to list here, but there is one type in particular; the ones who live for it. Who feel more at home in a city where they have never been before then there own home town. Who are perfectly happy to live out of a bag for months, if not years at a time. Who will quite happily rotate between two shirts if it means they are somewhere new. Those who may even be technically homeless, but are perfectly content. Warning, this life isn’t for everyone. In fact, it’s for a select few who are willing to endure a few uncomfortable situations just to live free. And here are a few of those things which we endure. Never complaining.

1. For a flight which usually takes six hours, you will fly half way around the world, have eight stopovers and take four days just to get the cheapest flight.

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2. You will become very well accustomed to airports, as you will be sleeping in a lot of them.    

3. You will also spend time sleeping in bus and train stations.        
   
4. You will therefore become an expert at how to keep your luggage safe while asleep.

5. You will purposely book overnight tickets so that you don’t have to pay for a bed. Even if it means arriving somewhere at 4 am (If I can sit in it, I can sleep in it.)

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6. You will also become at expert at sleeping in chairs and on tiles – with fluresent lights.

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7. You will spend weeks sleeping on people’s couhes, who you only met a few weeks, if not days, ago (but you will become great friends).

8. You will scab lifts off Craigslist.

9. Clothes will get washed in bathroom sinks.

10. What you wear will be determined by what smells the least.

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11. You will end up wearing the same pair or underwear for at least a couple of days in a row.

12. And then turn them inside out and wear them for at least a couple more days that way.                        

13. Make up?

14. Shaving is not a nessecity.

15. There are days when you won’t eat much.

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16. A four bedroom dorm is treated as a five star luxury.

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17. The words FREE BREAKFAST is a deal maker.

18. FREE BEER and you’re never  leaving.    
19. You will have the best stories, meet the most interesting people and make the best friends.

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20. And dispite the discomfort you will enjoy every single second of it, because you are doing what you love.

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I am here. I promise.

If anyone has noticed, and I’m going to assume that no one has, I have been missing around here for a while now. To put it simply, I’ve gotten a bit caught up with other things. Not so long ago I changed jobs, an amazing oppurtunity for me, but one which also means a standard sixty hour working week. When I’m working that is all I seem to do. Work, sleep a few hours, back to work. I’m not having a moan, I love going into work, but pair that with constantly having plans and commitments in the few spare hours I do have and it makes it a bit tricky to find time to jump online and type out a few paragraphs. Not only being restricted time wise, but when you are constantly exhuasted creativity doesn’t exactly just flow out of your finger tips. So I apologise, mainly to myself because this is something I really enjoy doing. I also apologise for not drawing and painting as much as I use to. For not having cooked something new at home in a while. For not Skyping my mum as often as I should. For not playing a sport like I always have. For not traveling as much as I said I would. London is a hectic city, and sometimes you can get caught up in that maddness. Everyone is always in a rush. Like everyone. The only people who don’t seem to be rushing are the tourists, as they lean all over the escalators so you can’t walk past, or abruptly stop in the street to take a picture of a phone box or bus, to which you end up screaming in your head, “Oh my god, get the fuck out of my way!” The thing is that you don’t even realise the pace you are living at or the things which you have gradually denied yourself until you are forced to stop and pick up a sketch book that you have had for months and realise that it is mostly empty.

I was given a weeks holiday this week, and in true Clare style I booked a flight two days before a left, and a hotel at the airport. I announced to my friends that I wouldn’t be around for a little while, and while I was at it commited to a bit of a detox in that time. Chucked two t-shirts, some undies and my passport in a bag (I really don’t need much) and off I went. And while sitting at the airport, reading (something else I don’t do as often as I should) I remember something I told myself a long time ago (I’m twentyone. A long time ago for me is like three years); that I was going to do great things with my life. Not just see as much as I could, but experience it. And instead of feeling angry at myself at the fact that last time I traveled was in January (again, I’m twentyone. Periods of time seem longer for me), I thought about what I have done so far. About all the people I’ve met, how for every stamp in my passport I have a story, of the fact that I have seen sunrises on every continate this planet has. Though if I’m being honest, I have seen quite a few sunrises during sobering walks home in London lately.

As I sat on the plane, somehow scoring a window seat, I looked out as it took off and felt at home. Grounded. In control. When the back of my head jolts back and hits the seat just after take off. The moment the plane pushes through that first layer of clouds, vast blue sky stretching in all directions, and I sit above them, staring down at the way they just hang there. As the plane is still trying to get up to cruising speed and momentarily drops and my heart still seems to skip a beat everytime. No apologies for the pun, but this is my high. This means that something is happening.

Then when you arrive somewhere hours later. When it’s night and the cities lights stretch on for as far as you can see. Some in straight, grided lines. Others clustered so close together with no apparent order that you can’t distinguish individual beams. This either means something new. Something to discover, an adventure waiting down there for you to explore it. Or then there is the other type of arriving, one I haven’t done in well over a year. First the ocean, stretched well beyond the horizon, some sand, boats, and then the things that make it real. The Opera Houses sails. The Harbour Bridge. Centre Point Tower sitting above it all. Knowing that somewhere down thre are people I haven’t seen for months, food I have been craving so bad I thought you would go insane, and weather that just isn’t quite like anywhere else. I’m home.

So here I sit, in the Václav Havel Airport, Prague, with my bag strapped to my chest and its zippers against the wall (yeah, I’ve done this a few times before), waiting for tomorrow so I can go and do what I love to do most. Experience something new.

Point of post: I’me going to try my very hardest to write and post more often. I promise.

Goodnight, from Prague Airport.

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Ushuaia and Crossing The Drake Passage

I have finally managed to do it; after being dragged from clubs an hour before my flight, passing out in check-in lines, falling asleep at gates, being told over intercoms that the plane will leave without me if I’m not on it in 2 minutes exactly, experiencing Cairo’s  extreme lack of road rules and any sense of urgency, and getting stuck in the middle of a Cambodian King’s parade while on the way to the airport; I have finally missed my flight.

Have you ever been on a flight from Rome to Buenos Aires, with a connection three hours after landing, to wake up mid flight and discover that you are running four hours late? It’s not the best feeling, but at least essentially being inside a tin box 50,000 feet in the air, there really isn’t anything you can do about it so there is no point worrying.

Once landed, having spent a good hour and a half in immigration because my ‘lovely’ immigration officers didn’t understand what a ship was, nor did I know the Spanish word for it (which is apparently barco), and even less did they understand why I was planning on spending near to two weeks in the Antarctic on it, I finally made it to the Argentinian Airlines sales desk, recovered from a very brief moment of frustration, and somehow managed to utter Spanish words I don’t even remember ever hearing, and bought another ticket to Ushuaia for a whole $500 Pesos (USD$90).  Then, Amazing Race style (I’m still convinced that I would be the greatest contestant that show has ever had, as long as I picked a partner who can confidently read a map – ironically, geography is not my forte), I headed over to the other airport, on the other side of the city, and managed to check in with plenty of time to spare. Which also ment, plenty of time to ‘make friends’. This particular time this involved an extremely talkative Dutch guy, who’s physical features would have made him perfect as a Hilter’s Aryan Race poster child, and wouldn’t shut the feck up about how apparently every single hostel in Ushuaia is fully booked, and then tried to bludge a ride from my transfer guy. But over all he seemed like a really nice guy. Obviously socially unaware, but I can honestly say he is by far one of the least crazy people that seem to have an unmanageable urge to talk to me in airport waiting areas.

Eventually I did arrive in Ushuaia, at THE COOLEST airport I have ever been in, and stepped outside to THIS:wpP1040462

The next 24 hours were spent exploring Ushuaia, which happened very quickly as it can hardly be classified as a town, let alone a city. I would have loved to have gone up into the mountains and national park, but the town itself offered some great views regardless.

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That afternoon we ended up on one of the town’s boat jetty, which not only was were we were boarding, but also docked a couple of other more luxurious cruise ships, and several container ships, loading and unloading cargo.

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The Akademik Ioffle was our home for the next two weeks. The Denmark built, ex-Russian ship has a sister ship and submarine, which during it’s construction during the Cold War was ment to be used to spy on US war ships. This never happen (at least not with this ship) as the Cold War ended before it was finished. It’s past, and means for development however mean that it is extremely stable.

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We ended up departing at sunset, and we’re left with some views which were only the start of some aw inspiring, silencing views and scenes which we were to witness over the next two weeks.

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The next two days were spent crossing The Drake Passage, a huge expanse of blue water stretching in every direction. A few albatrosses and other Antarctic sea birds were spotted, as well as a couple of whales. I however, unfortunately, was forced to spend a lot of these two days in bed, as I really didn’t take the possibility of sea sickness serious at all; lesson learnt! I did manage to get out a couple of times and snap a few shots thankfully.

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Wildlife spotted during the crossing of The Drake Passage: Wandering Albatross, Southern Royal Albatross, Black-browed Albatross, Grey-headed Albatross, Light-mantled Albatross, Southern Giant-Petrel, Northern Giant-Petrel, Southern Fulmar, Cape (Pintado) Petrel, Blue Petrel, White-chinned Petrel, Sooty Shearwater, Slender-billed Prion, Imperial Shag, Chilean Skua, Brown Skua, Kelp Gull, Dolphin Gull, South American Tern.

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Antarctica in Black and White

This gallery contains 9 photos.

A very, very quick look at a little bit of Antarctica.

The Bottom Of The World: The Last Continent

My online presence has been a bit scarce the past couple of months. One, because sometimes life can just get a little busy, and two, surprisingly, there is no WiFi in Antarctica.

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Ever since mid December I have been using all the self disciple I have to not get online and post in capital letters; HOLY FUCK I’M GOING TO ANTARCTICA!!! It was a bit of a struggle, but I made it through the few weeks before I was on a plane bound for Buenos Aires.

A few weeks prior to this I was just laying around at home, questioning my job and to be honest, getting a little bored of London, when a friend messaged me with the line, “Hey, want to come to Antarctica?”

Now, I’m not sure what most normal people would say to this to be honest, as  I’m not most people. My answer however, which took all of three seconds, was “YES.” When an opportunity like this comes knocking at your door, or one’s Facebook notifications, I believe that it should be grasped without a moments hesitation. And to the particular friend who gave me this opportunity, I will be forever grateful.

Only one week into the new year, there we were, standing on the jetty of Ushuaia, the southern most ‘city’ in the world. The snow capped mountains which border the city back dropping our departure, in front of us nothing except the horizon and the dark blue water which led to the Drake Passage, which itself led to the Antarctic waters. We walked up the gangway of our home for the next two weeks; the Denmark made, Russian Akademik Ioffe, used during the Cold War to spy on and intercept U.S ships and messages.

P1040261The point of departure was the same jetty used for shipping containers and a few more luxurious cruises.

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???????????????????????????????Saying goodbye to Ushuaia

The next two weeks on that ship, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by only water, ice and thousands of penguins were obviously incredible. You don’t need me to tell you that. There was a lot going on, a lot to see, a lot to experience, and way to much to just put it all into one post. So I’m going to split it up a bit, into different topics, different places, so hopefully you can get a greater understanding of each individual experience, what it looked like, felt like. So if your interested to see what it’s really like down there; the complete desolation paired with sheer, overwhelming beauty, or you just really like looking at lots of pictures of penguins, then keep an eye out over the next few weeks!

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