In early May, I headed to Europe, and back to Greece. I’d not made it to Santorini the first time – wanting to avoid the crowds. I absolutely splurged on accommodation. It proved a great blessing – my 12 hour ferry took 14 and arrived at 4am! It was so nice that the villa had arranged someone to meet my ferry and transfer me – and the reverse when I had an early morning flight to Budapest a few days later.
I was interested to hear the property manager speak very frankly about the island – he had a wife and daughter. He said the island is only good for tourists – there’s no future here for his daughter. Pregnant ladies have to transfer elsewhere to give birth. As beautiful as it is, I could see what he meant.
It’s incredibly picturesque, and I can see why people flock here. In high season, i expect there’s a stack of direct flights from all over Europe, to bring people in and out. I wouldn’t rule out returning, but I imagine there’s no lack of equally temperate Greek islands with fabulous food and less of the tourist hangover.
I’ve never had my fortune told, or my card read, or a serious reading of my palm or face or aura. It’s not surprising given I’m an engineer. Telling friends from my studies I was planning to get my fortune told did some with some amusing looks!
However, across my two readings, I came to see how much demand and interest there was in these practices!
A dear friend of mine reads this blog, and has used my bucket list/s to inform her gift giving. For my birthday in 2017, she intended a year worth of activities – one a month, but alas life got in the road. When she saw my renewed interest in fortune telling, by way of seeking recommendations or referrals, she promptly arranged me two readings, with a third possible opportunity.
My first reading was upstairs at the Argyle Oracle – a terrace lining a street in the Rocks, which has a great market every weekend – one I love to browse for souvenirs to take when I travel. The ground level is a store of gem stones and books and tarot cards, and then upstairs there’s a number of rooms where readings a done by a range of people!? I saw Camilla, who lead with asking my name and birthday, which resulted in some calculations about cycles and such – 6 and 9 featured?! She also asked me to shuffle to decks of cards. She then took her magnifying glass and intently looked at my palms. Interesting, she spoke of how two of the prominent lines on the hands are more separate in younger generations and she some how linked this to greater technology?! My take aways from her reading of my palm were: long life, good health, minimal dramas (comparing to others, not that my life will be without them!), that I’ll have three children, two boys and a girl (though it did feel like she started at two, and got slightly muddled around gender or birth order or perhaps even quantity).
From my palm, she dealt a smaller than normal playing card deck, in which certain sectors related to certain aspects of life – the top quadrant to my right was related to work. There was a king there, and across that top row, a number of red cards. This lay of cards remained dealt on the table, with the expected velvet table cloth, for the balance of the reading, and to the left, she made space where she dealt and re-dealt the tarot cards.
The tarot deck she used seemed to feature swords pretty heavily, and also what looked like sapling logs? She dealt these cards in different configuration and quantities. At one deal, she had three cards, followed by two more rows of three cards, and a few more to the side. Initially she said the top row was 2017, followed by 2018 and 2019. When I clarified we were now in 2018, she corrected. And with that, everything shifted a year – womp womp. It was with this deal that she spoke to marriage and children, who are coincidently gorgeous. It does make you wonder if anyone would read and say ‘horribly ugly children’, right? That being said, I suppose there are negatives that may be seen – health issues perhaps?
She spoke quickly with quite a nervous energy. I was open to what she said, but I also wasn’t giving away great swaths of my life story either. She lead with asking if I had any kids. I think she also asked about my work. There were certainly some parts of the reading that sounded like common advice that anyone would give!
Much later, that same day, my friend had arranged another reading – this time with a male, Paris, who also stares on a TV show. He came to have a natural gift, despite being a sceptic, she told me. In reality, our reading was far shorter than anticipated (40 mins not an hour), and so I took some time to talk to him about his work, the critics, what happens if he was to reread/redeal the cards again for the same person right there. I found the debriefing chat as insightful as my fortune telling!
Paris started by dealing a deck of cards and then fanning them out in front of me, asking me to select a quantity, perhaps 17? I can’t recall. As I did that, he started writing a page. At the top of the page was a traced palm, and with that, he asked me to select two areas of focus. I chose work/career and love/romance of the total of six options. These selections resulted in him annotating the on two fingers with a love heart and elsewhere, two money symbols. He held my selected cards as a smaller deck until he’d completed writing the page. He then dealt the cards and proceeded to transpose the equivalent characters of the Greek gods shown onto the fingers of the traced hands on the paper. (deciphering this at the pub after was a fun activity for me with my two friends!).
His dealing of these cards resulted in a strong segment of blue Gods around the centre, definitely Neptune and Uranus. There were some strong female Gods (godesses?) too, like Dianna, Pan, Venus and Medusa. His reading seemed to focus on the coming year, and really saw strong components of work and travel, which echoed things Camilla has said. Overall, he quietly dismissed romance and love, explaining that the personalities of the cards I dealt weren’t aligned with welcoming love at this time. Whilst I did have Venus, she seemed to be crowded out by some more… domineering godesses! I’d be the first to acknowledge this would align somewhat to my personality, and particularly lately with dating. He did consider that I could have a very segregated work and romantic life as a way of making it work, but I can’t see this duplicity working for me. So it would seem the year ahead is about career, more so than love.
Neither reading seemed to touch on health at all – other than the more platitude like concepts like Camilla suggesting meditating more, and asking if I did yoga. Paris wrote of balance and setting boundaries, as well as mind and body. Neither are particularly firm grounds but neither are bad advice – I mean who doesn’t need more balance?
Once again, I find myself travelling. This time, to Germany, for a fabulous christening and then a side trip to Copenhagen – cause when in Europe, you may as well see the next place on your bucket list!
It was a very short turn around between being asked to be a Godmother, and the actual christening (which, of course, I was not obligated to come to, but couldn’t see any good reason not to attend).
I had four nights with my lovely friend, her husband and her baby daughter, before taking the train via Hamburg to Copenhagen – they put the train on a ferry! It’s cool!
I’ve only just arrived in Copenhagen, and it’s already great. I arrived as the sun set, it was cool, but not too cold. The hostel is everything it promised – hip, stylish, but affordable. The rooms are great – the list of ‘things I could have brought’ for this place include: an s hook or a coat hanger for my coat, a padlock for the locker, thongs (my feet want to be free of shoes!).
The train trip started around 7am, and I arrived around 6.30pm, so a long day. I was well equipped by a delicious snack pack from my friend. And I bucket load of throat lozenges as I battle the start of a cold. The journey was quite enjoyable – I saw a lot of really pretty countryside and wind turbines. I passed most of the time listening to podcasts – some I’d pre-downloaded, but many I listening to using the wifi on the trains.
As regular readers would know, I keep and use my bucket list to enrich day to day life. To do things out of the ordinary or things I’ve ‘never’ done. One of the simple experiences was to trying ‘throwing clay’ or making pottery on a wheel.
All my school art classes focused on making clay items out of a coarse, dark brown clay that was quite rough. You could never achieve the smooth surface of modern ceramics. Cross hatch and slurry and coiling to build a vessel just didn’t excite the imagination the way the movie Ghost did!
For many reasons, I’ve decided to take four weeks off work to reflect on my career, but also to pepper this time at home (and not travelling overseas) with some enjoyable activities I’ve ‘always wanted to do’. So I booked three pottery classes, which start with using a pottery wheel, followed by trimming (making the foot of an item) and then glazing.
There’s a few places in Sydney you can do it, but I chose Surry Hills. It is ‘my’ part of town – not too far from where I have often lived. I also liked the chances it was more of a diverse age range, as I feared some daytime, weekday classes may be populated by recent retirees or stay at home mums of teens in private schools – I know, I had STRONG ideas of who might be in my class! In the end, my class was about a dozen, and I’d say the majority were my age, I think one group of three girl friends, two couples and one older woman. The instructor was a young man, and he did remarkably well teaching us the three steps without once stepping into any innuendos. He also was incredibly perceptive to our needs for encouragement, guidance and help. Our searching eyes as things went off kilter, or didn’t quite look anything like we’d hoped!
I loved that the class started with mentioning that there’s minimal waste – if we got ‘over’ our clay or what we made it can crumble and remix with water and ultimately be reused. Woo hoo. Of course, once it’s fired and glazed, it’s a different story, but it was nice to know we weren’t wasting in the learning phase on the wheel.
The clay was wonderfully silky and smooth on the hands too – though also, I was alarmed as how much of the clay did come off on my hands, and bewildered that my huge lump was whittled away – sometimes making something a lot smaller, or finer, than I’d initially envisaged. I think beginners ultimately need to be guided by whatever their hands form, that starting with an objective in mind!
I return a week later to trim them, and a further week will be to glaze them. Interesting, there’s not set structure in doing the three classes, which means there’s options: you can come and glaze some existing pieces. You can pay to have your piece trimmed for you. All sorts of variations for the busy and time poor. I have no need or intent for these bowls, but a friend said she like them, and they’re as good as hers now!
Have you tried a pottery wheel? Where you any good at it?
Right after arriving in Amsterdam, Qatar Airways emailed with an offer to upgrade on either return sector of my flights. Well timed – send that email when the pain of long haul is FRESH! So I decided to take up the offer for the 14 hour flight from Doha to Sydney. Overall, adding this upgrade STILL made my total fare less than what I usually spend to fly to Europe (given it was May, it was cheaper than July/August or around Christmas/New Year when I’ve travelled in the past).
Now, on the plane!!
I was well and truly getting a cold, and so my sleep was restless but I can ONLY imagine how much worse I may have felt elsewhere in the plane.
After a night in a quaint guest house, we hit the ground running in the Southern side of Iceland. The grand plan was a glacial hike, but first we returned to the glacial lagoon (some of the group booked a boat tour); then we went to another glacial lagoon where you can also see the glacial ice clearer. Then we headed to the glacier to hike – I was nervous as heck I wouldn’t be fit enough but it was A OK. Not too much of a climb (or at least gentle enough!). Then we raced the wind storm back, and won (I think!?) to Reykjavik. Of course, it was something like 8.30pm when I checked into my new hostel, but it’s bright so it’s hard to notice the time! I need food. A shower. A load of washing. And… Instead I’m charging devices and uploading photos.
I wasn’t actually cold at all – between wind proof pants with leggings underneath, and a 11 year old Land’s End jacket rated to 35C, I was toasty warm, so much so, I unzipped on my way down when there was no wind or rain 🙂 It was a long drive back to the capital, but we have wifi on all the minibuses (and I have a charging block – looks like a stone… the ones I’ve seen all over Iceland!). The bus trip home was filled with spotify music, uploading to Facebook and chatting online. It was quite lovely – given it was blustery and rainy a large portion of the drive home.
Despite spending the better part of the day sitting in lovely coaches and mini buses, it takes it outta of you! Say nothing for eating service (gas) station food mostly! So another photo heavy post. Some day, I may come back and spell the heck out of Icelandic to help y’all!
We are staying in a guest house, and it was WONDERFUL to get a hot meal. I’d just subsisted the past nights, with a cold noodle salad. The price was eye watering, but thankfully a huge serve (even the Americans thought so!).
Firstly, the budget airline that flies to Iceland is called Wow, but I meant the Blue Lagoon was just amazing. I came to the lagoon straight from the airport, as the lagoon is closer to the airport than Reykjavik, so it’s worth doing it at the beginning or the end of the journey. I’d planned this component of my holiday carefully, setting up a coach transfer from the airport, booking in the Blue Lagoon, as it seems it can get very busy. Overall, it was rather seamless, save for the ‘where’s my coach’ moments…
Arriving in Reykjavik (which is taking a lot of brain power to spell without using autocorrect) it was rainy and super windy. Thankfully we had the aerobridge, unlike boarding in Amsterdam, where I got a bit rained on lining up to board. Wow is a super low cost carrier which means they checked and checked again one’s luggage. I paid for a checked bag, even though my suitcase would fit in overhead bins. I carry my swiss army knife, so it has to be this way. Otherwise, I had a backpack, and sick of carry my winter coat, I also had a light bag with the coat and some snacks in it. Of course, that did not pass the watchful eye at the gate, so I held the snacks and draped the coat over my arm, and suddenly all was right in the world!?
The in flight magazine and the branding on the planes clearly show that the airline has a sense of humour! I wonder if all of Iceland will be like this!
On arrival at about 14:00hrs I was an hour and a half early for the bus shuttle I’d booked. There is a competing company, which was heavily advertised in the in flight magazine, and it seems they to depart at the same time. I suspect the coaches are aligned better with departures than arrivals, but who knows. In any case, I found a quiet location to eat some snacks and reorder my possessions, and get those gloves and second coat ready – it was blustery and rainy outside.
At around 15:00hrs I went looking for the bus I was meant to take – braving the cold. My oh my did the wind cut through me! I saw the brand of buses I needed, but not to the right location, so I asked and was advised to proceed to the carpark. I waited out there, getting increasingly cold (and struggling to turn the pages of my novel in polar fleece gloves) and decided it was 15.15hrs and I didn’t want to miss the bus, I would return to the terminal to confirm the pickup location, as the bus was due to leave at 15.30. They reconfirmed the location (in the carpark) and advised I could wait til the last minute to head back out there again. When I did return, I went over to the bus (which had been there for all the time I’d been in the carpark, but without a driver). I went to the driver, and he loaded my bag. And then we left. Yep… I was the SOLE passenger! Lucky I wasn’t waiting for ‘my people’ or the crowd to congregate with!!
The bus trip showed just how different the landscape is – there’s definitely as sense of lunar. It is very rocky and then a light moss. I was interested to see a sign at the Blue Lagoon that advised not to smoke near the moss as it’s flammable! It was rainy, but I attempted to get some initial photos.
Arriving at the Blue Lagoon, I placed my suitcase in the little luggage area out house, and took a ticket which was to reconcile my bill later. When I entered the change rooms i discovered the lockers were certainly large enough for my suitcase, and I felt cheated! I quickly peeled off the layers, down to a bikini – which felt so strange given the cold ‘feeling like’ 1C! I put on my flip flops and took my BYO towel (both items can be packaged for a further sum, but it didn’t seem worth it to me). Of course, there’s little use for either item for long… as the main aim is GETTING IN THE WATER! There’s hooks everywhere to hang the robes they provide or your towels.
Before entering the lagoon, you have to shower, without your swim suit. There’s a great graphic, as languages vary! There’s provided conditioner, which you’re advised to put in your hair to protect it from the damaging silica. There’s also body wash.
This is the pavilion you enter the water from
I wasn’t game enough to take my phone into the lagoon – many were, and undoubtedly got some great photos. The great advantage of me waiting was that the weather cleared, resulting in blue skies which were just delightful!
In addition to the little coves in the lagoon, there’s some steam rooms, a water fall, and a ‘bar’ where you go to get a silica mask (or if you paid extra, a second algar mask… all this is policed through a coloured wrist band system, which can be used to buy drinks in water too). Early on, I went to the steam cave, and overhead Australian accents. I said hello, ad befriended 22 year old Paris and her mother Tanya who are in Iceland for a wedding! From then on, we circulated to the extremities of the lagoon, they showed me where to get a mask. The mask is white and feels so soft and smooth going on. You leave it for 10-15 minutes and then wash it off.
After about an hour in the water, our finger and toes were like prune, and Tanya was ready to leave the water, and so was I! Then you back track – returning to the showers. I felt a bit… over warm water by this stage, so just rinsed briefly. Then I found my towel I’d left rolled in the interior racks, and proceeded to dry off. This is the Turkish towel I bought last year and have pretty much never used! I kept eyeing off the provided towels, as the fluffiness seems to equal drying in my mind. I also used some of the provided moisturiser.
Returning to the locker area, there’s bays of hair drying facilities, and a sink, and cotton buds and cotton rounds. It’s all very chic and stylish. Once I was dressed I wanted to head back to the outdoor cafe/bar area I’d come through to get into the water… however this isn’t allowed. There some clear segregation of clothed/unclothed! Thankfully there’s another area where you can get photos.
I foolishly didn’t prepare to coordinate all this ‘dressing’ with the bus timetable, and when I did look, it was 7 minutes past the hour, and the bus was due to leave on the hour, every hour. Thankfully, like almost everywhere I’ve been this trip, the cafe in the Blue Lagoon has free wifi. So I drafted this post! My face feels super smooth, but my hair feels dry – and perhaps the edge of my face and hair are still not 100% clean of the mask… But I feel much warmer after the windblown airport carpark and bus hunting missions. And it’s been so nice to see the clouds clear and see blue skies!
I can almost recall the conversation I had in the car with a boyfriend in 2005, about how I didn’t just want to ‘see’ places, but that I wanted to make sure I did that ‘thing’ that the place was known for. Many would say The Netherlands is known for legalisation of marijuana. Or prostitution. Neither are of any interest to me! What does spring to mind for me, with respects to Holland, is tulips.
Tulip’s didn’t originate in Netherlands, but they have a long and strong history since the first bulb was gifted from a Turkish man to a traveller who gave it to a famous Dutch man. I’m aware that they had a stock market event named ‘Tulip Mania’ which google informs me was 1636 – 1637.
Today, visiting Keukenhof, I learnt why the Dutch have become so famed for tulips. The sandy soil mixed with clay, combined with the mild winters are ideal. And it’s not just tulips – any bulbs really. The tulip gardens were filled with many daffodils and jonquils, and the pavilions also features lilies heavily too. I’m ashamed to say, I’d not ever realised lilies were also bulbous. It’s interesting what my years learning and working in floristry have taught me, but also what I’ve totally missed!
Based on advice I’d read, I aimed to get to the tulip gardens at opening, 8am. Given my AirBnB is only a 5 minutes walk, it seemed ideal. Though, eight am did come around rather quickly, and I was still on the internet and updating life – having fallen asleep at my usual 9.30pm Europe Time, which was 4am Sydney time, so I was certainly due for a good lay down! In the end, I arrived closer to 8.30am and I wondered why all the fuss about buying tickets online (which frustratingly wouldn’t work for me without my phone on roaming to get the confirmation code for using a credit card online). I left the park around noon, and took some photos to demonstrate why the advice is applicable!
My first hour, the place was largely devoid of people. There was still a cool crisp air, and dew on the grass and birdsong the most overwhelming sound. The light made it challenging to take photos as much was still in shade, or overexposed with sunlight. By the time I came to leave, the sounds were various languages and accents!
The gardens are beautifully laid out, and despite Holland being a flat country, significant work has likely been done to have hills and knolls and variety in the landscape. There are many little canals as well as bubbling little water falls and mini lakes. For children, there’s a play park, a hedge maze and a permanent petting zoo with RABBITS! (I’m not sure if my blog has ever expressed how much I like bunny rabbits and flirted with having one as a pet!).
There are a collection of pavilions at different extremities of the park, which include a museum with some background on tulips and their history in The Netherlands. There is also a pavilion with avant garde arrangements, and from time to time, floristry presentations. When I wandered by, she was making a simple arrangement, decorated with small potatoes threaded on wire! Funnily, potatoes are something I associate with the Dutch after a friend I studied with in 206 said her Dutch parents ate potatoes every night with dinner. This pavilion seemed to focus strongly on chrysanthemums, which were otherwise not in the gardens or anywhere else. Another pavilion was far larger and rather than being as focused on arrangements and artistry, was more coloured islands interspersed with home wares, or baskets or similar. It was quite interesting.
I took a novel with me, and from time to time, sat amongst the beauty and read a few chapters. I had no where to be in any hurry, and figured a short rest wouldn’t hurt.
Travelling makes me relise how inherently lucky I am – by where I was born, to the parents that could afford the education they had as much as mine. Sure, there are countless nations where their population is growing in wealth, and you’re seeing more diverse ranges of ethnicities travelling – it’s no longer a handful of wealthy nations, but people from all over the sub-continent (old fashioned way of trying to capture India and it’s neighbours); Asia; Europe…
Of course, it’s luck as much as the career I studied for and work in. I realise I earn a significant sum of money, enough to manage a family on. I am one person, with this salary. And until I am supporting a family, I am saving some, paying off a mortgage, and doing the things on my bucket list whilst I have the time, money and mobility to allow me to.
It’s an absolute pleasure to return to cities and places I’ve been to once before – to recognise Amsterdam Schiponl airport! To arrive at Den Hague (The Hague)’s Central station and think… I know where I am. The familiarity, it’s reassuring and head spinning too! And with that comfort has me going to a Starbucks, where I know what to expect! I expect an overpriced coffee, comfy chairs, the ability to linger and hopefully some wifi. Add the Dutch spin of some Stroopwafels and I’m doing it with a cultural tilt 😉
The tulip gardens were just amazing – beautiful. So well maintained. A pleasure to visit and walk amongst God’s creations, so expertly arranged and planted. To realise this hope, this long ago item jotted onto a list, to see the ‘tulip farms’. I did! Meanwhile, the gardens are more than than a farm, but my short 5 minute walk to the ‘entrance’ there is quite literally a farm of tulips, still in bloom. They have largely passed the seasonal ‘heights’, so it’s not verdant colour everywhere, but enough to realise what was. The gardens are manipulated so that there are late blooming varieties, so whilst some gardens lay green, having been deadheaded, largely, it felt full and colourful.
I have almost 200 photos, and they are stunning (in my humble opinion!).