books · Film · travel

Welcome to Isolation Station… A list of ways to occupy yourself whilst the whole world has stopped…

Yes I’m doing it I’m going to talk about coronavirus aka covid 19 aka that bloody disease! When I left Melbourne 3 weeks ago coronavirus was something we were joking about in a bar over beers, then all of a sudden it went from zero to sixty in a matter of days and forget about being in a bar, forget about hanging out with friends and definitely forget about it being a joke.

It’s almost unbelievable what is happening, the kind of thing you read in about in a book or see in a movie, definitely not what happens in real life. As a travel addict I’ve always taken the freedom of open borders and welcoming countries for granted, and watching country after country shut down its borders and major airlines grounded is terrifying, the kind of stuff my nightmares are made of. I’ll be honest seeing the constant news updates got me a little stressed out and I felt very, very stranded a heck of a long way from home. But despite the overwhelming feeling of being trapped, and the fear I have for my family and friends health, I have to keep telling myself I’m actually one of the lucky ones. I am probably in the best possible place I could be right now. I’m working in the outback, away from society with just a small handful of people. I have a job and income, and I’m due to be here for the next 11 weeks. So although I have no idea what I’ll be facing three months down the line when it’s time to leave, and my future travel and work plans are going to have to change a little, I at least have security and a safe place to stay for a while, unlike so many others around the world who are struggling with the consequences of this prolonged lockdown.

Shitty and surreal as the isolation situation is, it is a little comforting to know that whilst I’m going slowly mad in the outback, the rest of the world is also going slowly mad in their own homes. And we are, as they iconically say (or sing as it is) in High School Musical “all in this together!”

So yes everything sucks right now and we are all losing our minds. But one day it is going to get better. And in the meantime we’ve just got to do our best to not dwell on the shittiness of it all, and try to find ways to get some joy out of life still. So in doing what I do best, a list, here are my recommendations for how to entertain yourselves whilst in isolation.

Read..

‘How to fall in Love’ by Cecelia Ahern. Her writing is quite simply magical and the characters raw and flawed and oh so relatable. At a time in my life when everything was a bit shit I honestly believe this book saved me. It is a beautiful reminder to take joy from all of life’s little moments.

‘One Summer America 1927’ by Bill Bryson. The best travel writer hands down, he writes in such a way that he can make anything interesting, and this one is a particular favourite. Covering one summer in America it’s a delightful portrait of 1920’s America (my favourite decade because umm Gatsby) and shows how America became the country that it is today.

‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed. Hands down one of my favourite books, it is about a woman taking on an impossible challenge. It will definitely make you cry, but it will also make you feel like you can achieve anything.

‘Birdsong’ by Sebastian Faulks. I read this book years ago for my A-levels and it was only the second book that I full on sobbed over, the first being the Harry Potter series when Rowling kept cruelly killing characters off. An epic story of war and love. It paints a visceral image of the First World War and it will draw you in then break your heart.

 

Watch…

Derry Girls. The perfect comic relief featuring amazing nineties fashion and some epic tunes from my childhood.

Lovesick. A brilliant British show about Dylan who finds out he has chlamydia and consequently has to contact all of the previous women he has slept with. Funny and sweet and so very British in all of the best ways.

The Crown. With three series already out that’s a good thirty hours of time filled right there and what a way to fill time. It is beautifully shot, well-paced and not only offers an insight into the history of the world’s most famous family but it also gives a fascinating glimpse into British life over the past sixty odd years.

The Assassination of Gianni Versace. Oof it is good TV. It is visually stunning and completely gripping and Darren Criss as Andrew Cunanan is So Damn Good! He is so unnerving as Versace’s killer as you watch the story rewind backwards from the shooting through his life. Trust me you won’t be able to stop watching. Also a good watch American Crime Story’s other series The People v. O.J. Simpson.

 

Listen to…

Potterless. My current favourite podcast that I am powering my way through. Basically, as the blurb goes it’s a 25 year old man reading Harry Potter for the first time. With each episode he covers a few chapters giving a detailed run down of what happens and giving a running commentary of his opinions, best guesses and sometimes terrible jokes along the way. It is fantastic, like re-reading the books with friends and yes whilst sometimes his hating on it and his lack of knowledge of England drives me mad , it’s so good seeing (or rather hearing) someone getting the thrill out of reading these books for the very first time.

All Killa No Filla. I am obsessed with this podcast about serial killers, from two very funny women. The research and detail they give you of these killer’s lives and crimes is horrifically gripping. And despite the title there is a whole lot of filler which is what really makes it so great.

To do…

Skype, skype, skype! We are so lucky that this has happened now rather than when I was in school, because thanks to technology we have so many ways we can stay connected, and absolutely the best thing about this situation is having the time to catch up with so many friends I haven’t spoken to for a while because we’re all normally living such busy lives.

Dance, turn the music up, get up off the couch and dance your little heart out, a great way to stay active (one of my limited forms of exercise really) and it gets those positive endorphins flowing!

Play the coronavirus news drinking game. If I have to hear the phrases “social distancing” “self-isolation” and “flatten the curve” one more time I feel like I’ll scream. I know, I know it is necessary we need to hammer it in to people that this is what has to be done. But if I have to hear these words every time I turn on the tv then I can damn well turn it into an excuse to drink.

And most importantly… Don’t lose your head, don’t hoard art other people’s expense, stay at home. Be kind and be safe. And I’ll see you on the other side when one day we’ll laugh at this and tell our kids about the 2020 apocalypse, when toilet paper became the most valuable of all items and we went weeks without hearing the word Brexit! xxx

P.S. please please please let me know any and all suggestions you may have I could use a few more distractions, mostly just so I don’t spend my time getting irrationally angry over jigsaw puzzles!

travel

Tasmania in Photos…

From top to bottom: Priory Ridge Winery, Bonfire on North Cosys Beach, Sunset in the Bay of Fires, The Little Blue Lake, Pelicans at St. Helens, St. Helens Sand dunes, Wineglass Bay, Pyengana Falls, Honeymoon Bay, Roo at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary

travel

Tasmania is definitely one for the bucket list…

So few people who travel to Australia make the trip across the sea to the island off the south coast that is Australia’s eighth state, even most Australians I meet admit that they’ve never visited. So unlike anywhere else in Australia, Tasmania is rural, sparsely populated and stunningly beautiful.

Unfortunately for me I arrived as the state was on the brink of the worst storm in decades and so in a country where most of its attractions are outdoors we spent a lot of time indoors watching House Rules and Home and Away. Fortunately for me though, my sister lives in the little fishing town of St Helens right by the famous Bay of Fires and bonus she has a car so when the weather finally cleared I got myself a completely unique off the beaten track tour.

Our tour started with a 3 day road trip to Hobart, the capital of Tasmania and the largest city on the island, albeit still a small city. By Australian standards it is also an old city and has some beautiful old colonial buildings, a great waterfront and some pretty kickass pubs at Salamanca which you have to stop by for a beer or maybe two. Must dos in the city include Mount Wellington which if you don’t get blown off the top gives some awesome views across the city. As well as of course the infamous MONA, an art gallery like no other you will visit. I’m not really sure how to describe this place it’s kind of one of those you have to see it to understand. But to give you a taste it features a wall full of casts of vaginas, a light room which makes you lose all sense of space, a machine that gets fed and poos twice daily and a washing up bowl with a goldfish swimming around a kitchen knife. It is truly weird but truly not to be missed. Then to recover from the strangeness of MONA, take a venture just outside of the city to Bonorong, a little wildlife sanctuary where you can remove all memories of the wall of vaginas by making friends with the loveliest bunch of roos (because do you really go to Australia if you don’t hang out with the locals?!)

We spent much of the rest of my trip touring around the North East of the country which is home to some truly spectacular scenery. As I mentioned previously my sister lived on the doorstep of the famous Bay of Fires, beautiful white beaches, blue blue seas and orange tinged rocks that glow in the sunshine (hence the name). We went to a number of the beaches in the area but my favourite visit? North Cosys where we sat on the beach as the sun went down with a bonfire and a few beers to keep us warm. If that’s not an idyllic situation I don’t know what is.

Further south along the coast is the stunning Wineglass Bay, and no there’s no wine here but again some spectacular beaches and views, if you can take on the intense climb, or rather the 40 minute gently sloping track that nearly gave me a heart attack!

Speaking of wine though, all along the East coast sits the East Coast Wine Trail, with a whole array of winery’s, we of course took the time to visit a few and sample some of the wares. My favourite? Priory Wines, a tiny sheep farm turned winery right at the northern end of the trail where they managed to make a Chardonnay so good for the first time in my life I purchased a bottle!

You can’t take a trip to Tasmania without visiting The Little Blue Lake. It is as it says on the tin, a little blue lake, but oh my gosh is it stunning! It even managed to take my mind off the fact that the love of my life Prince Harry was marrying another woman that day! And well worth the car sickness inducing journey, that is also very picturesque if you aren’t focusing all your energy on not throwing up.

My final night in the country saw us heading to Launceston so that I could catch my early morning flight across to New Zealand. Honestly it’s not a very exciting city, there is very little to do here especially on a quiet weekday evening, however it is home to a 24 hour Kmart which is very exciting! And so that was how I spent my final evening in Australia wandering around Kmart and buying anything and everything I figured I could fit in my backpack!

I could wax lyrical about all the sights and views and wonders of Tasmania for hours, and the crazy thing is I didn’t even scratch the surface! Lucky for me my sister intends to stay there a while so I’m already planning a return trip, but even if you don’t have a relative living there make sure you take the time to visit this state on your tour of Aus I promise you won’t be disappointed (unless of course you go to Launceston!)

travel

Perth is packed full of Aussie fun…

I arrived in Perth straight off my long haul flight from London extremely sleep deprived, sweaty and with no idea which way was up. I splashed out on a taxi from the airport because my brain was in no shape to figure out the logistics of taking the bus, and then defied all the rules of jet lag and immediately crawled into bed and fell asleep. I can most definitely confirm that this was the wrong decision as I then proceeded to spend the first few days with the most messed up sleep pattern, feeling ridiculously tired early evening, crazy awake in the early hours of the morning and completely unable to wake up at an acceptable time. Put simply jet lag is a bitch.

Once my muddled brain got over the extreme shock of it being light when it was supposed to be the middle of the night and I finally dragged my jet lagged ass out of bed I set out into the sunshine my pale legs out, my sunglasses firmly on, trusty yellow backpack by my side and armed with a 7eleven $1 coffee ready to explore the city. And boy is there plenty of it, so here without further ado is my list of Perth must dos…

1) Elizabeth Quay was my first port of call. It’s a great little area to wander through in the sunshine with fantastic views across the water and back at the city it has a veritable funfair of attractions; mini golf, gelato cafe, water park, carousel, take your pick there’s plenty on offer. It’s also just a great spot to simply chill at the waterfront and attempt to recover from horrendous jet lag.

2) Perth city centre offers up a decent amount of spots to chill in the sunshine including the Supreme Court Gardens, where I spent a fair few hours accompanied by a book attempting to work on my minuscule tan. If you’re wandering through the city centre be sure not to miss London Court, a street mocked up to look like an old time London street which had me wandering up and down and giggling for far longer than was normal.

3) Heirisson Island sits a little further up river from the city centre but is a great escape from the bustle of the city. The big draw though is the group of kangaroos that inhabit one side of the island. I am, as you already know an animal lover and right up there with my favourites is the kangaroo. I can’t quite explain my obsession with them but I love them and their big furry ears and their bouncing. So obviously this place was high on my list of must sees. I waited until the second day so the jet lag had decreased a little and then packed myself a picnic and made my way there. There are a whole heap of buses that run around Perth including the free cat bus, but it is actually a great walk along the riverfront from the city centre especially in the sunshine, plus you get to spot all the giant and not at all terrifying jellyfish chilling in the river. I was warned that I may not catch sight of a Roo on the island as they are exceptionally good at hiding themselves away in the midday sun, luck was on my side though and as I wandered across a clearing I spotted one hanging out in the shade and my day was made!

4) Fremantle absolutely cannot be missed. A brief 30 minute train ride from the city centre and you arrive in the seaside port of Fremantle and it is awesome. An idyllic seaside town with an edge, it’s full of stunning beaches, great cafes, historical buildings, a hippy weekend market and some epic street art. You cannot miss the Little Creatures Brewery which not only does an amazing tour and very thorough tasting but also has a restaurant and bar right in the middle of the brewery where the pints come fresh from the tanks. Cicerello’s is also high on the list for some truly epic fish and chips. Grab your food and a beer at the counter then head outside to sit on the sea front and chow down. I could wax lyrical about Fremantle for hours it truly was my favourite part of Perth and I repeatedly made my way back there for more of its goodness.

5) Beaches! Perth is surrounded by the beauties and having not seen the beach since I vomited over one at the full moon party in Thailand I was overexcited to say the least. I loved South Beach in Fremantle but Cottesloe is also one not to be missed. Being off season and mid week the beach was practically deserted when I took myself there for a lazy afternoon and it was gorgeous. I have never felt quite so lucky as I did flopped down in the sand on a beautiful, almost private, beach with a good book and a cold drink.

6) Kings Park is the largest inner city park in the world and home to a very impressive botanical garden and the slightly terrifying DNA tower which spirals up (I hate spiral staircases) to give brilliant views across the city. Truly massive, the park is a great place to get some exercise and hike around, as well as yet another great place in this city to relax and enjoy the sunshine.

7) Toastface Grillah do the best toasties in town. Truth be told I spent a great deal of this week eating, getting reacquainted with my favourite Aussie treats as well as discovering some new ones, and this was one of my great discoveries. I freaking love cheese and these toasties come packed full with them! It’s a tiny little place hidden around a corner but it is cool with its mismatched crate seating and kickass graffiti and I definitely came back for seconds.

8) ROTTNEST ISLAND! I mean I’ve already talked about it in my previous post but seriously it’s a beautiful haven of beaches and quokkas and if you’re in Perth you simply cannot miss it!

Although not quite making it onto my top cities list, even with Fremantle tugging at my heartstrings, Perth is a fantastic city to spend a week or two, and I’m so glad I made the decision to stop here on my way to New Zealand it’s made for a damn good start to my adventure, roll on the next stop!

travel

Can we talk about quokkas…

Before I talk about Perth or any other Australian goodness let’s talk about the whole reason I started my adventure in Western Australia, the quokka!

Anybody who knows me knows that I am huge sucker for a cute animal and they really don’t come much cuter than quokkas.

(I mean just look at that face)

I first heard about these furballs of joy three years ago, in the way I ashamedly get most of my life information, through reading an article on buzzfeed and I immediately knew I needed to find these babies and smuggle one home to be my lifelong friend! A couple of years ago I got my chance and when visiting Sydney happened across a few of these friendly critters at a couple of wildlife parks around the city. And oh my god were they even cuter in real life but I could not get enough of the cuties and therefore planned my return to Australia in a way that I could go to the homeland of the friendliest creatures on earth Rottnest Island!

Fun quokka fact Rottnest was discovered by the Dutch whilst searching for Australia they thought it was full of large rats and thus named the island Rottnest (rats nest) of course these rats were really quokkas and the Dutch were fools to just turn around and leave without making friends!

Today Rottnest is just a short ferry ride from Perth and attracts ever increasing crowds of tourists everyday. Completely car and predator free this island is a haven for quokkas and it’s impossible to miss these furry fiends. Top quokka tip if you go on a Tuesday it’s half price so you can get a return ferry and bike hire for the day for $69. And so that’s what I did hopped on a ferry, rented myself a bike and took off around the island to find myself a quokka. An hour in I was starting to panic that I wouldn’t find one and then all of a sudden he just peeped out of the bushes and I was gone. They weren’t lying when they said they were the friendliest of all creatures, and they have literally no fear of humans. This little guy just wandered right on over and instantly became my best friend. Which coincidentally makes it incredibly easy to get your obligatory quokka selfie!

I really needn’t have worried about not spotting one because after that they just appeared from everywhere and it was the best day ever! I could have scooped all of them up and just carried them away with me. Of course they are still wild animals so you can’t feed them, as tempting as it is, it might make them very sick. Neither should you touch them, however when one gets his nose in between the zips of your bag and crawls inside you kind of need to pick the little fella up and haul them back out!

If you’re down for beautiful beaches, hidden sandy coves, seal colonies, whale watching, gorgeous lakes and the cutest animals Rottnest is an absolute must see. It’s now top of my places to holiday when I’m rich! If you can drop by Western Australia on your travels down under be sure to go meet the quokkas and make yourself a few new friends!