Living in a postcard

Every morning I wake up and can’t quite believe that this is the place that I’m currently calling home. We fly out to Zurich on the evening of the 30th November and was greeted on arrival by Alex, owner of Alpine Sports Physio, and an Audi estate. Two weeks on and I’m still not too sure how we managed to fit 5 large suitcases, 2 board bags and 5 people in the car for the two hour drive to St Anton and I’m sure the suspension still hasn’t yet recovered. It’ll be three weeks tomorrow that we arrived at the doorstep of the most picturesque Austrian Chalet that we are now calling home. 

We live in St Jakob, a quiet town on the outskirts of St Anton am Arlberg, it’s quiet out here yet we’re only a 20 minute walk into the bustling town and with buses running every 15 minutes it’s a perfect location. We had our first flakes of snow fall yesterday in resort, despite no snow the skiing has actually been rather impressive, snow cannons have been working around the clock to open 25 of the 70 slopes in the area. My skiing isn’t so great at the minute. Having not skied since the age of 14 it’s taken a bit of getting used to but after the forth trip up the mountains I feel like I’m getting back into it slowly but surely.

Work has been slow so far, as expected. The first guests only arrived in resort last Friday with only a few hotels and chalets open for the season, this week is noticibly busier but Christmas week is expected to be at capacity for the region. It’s been quite handy though as it’s given us a chance to get used to the area, find our way around and we’ve had plenty of chance to practice our massage (and be practiced on). I’ve also had a few chances to shadow Alex and watch him treat an acute back injury and a chronic knee injury which has been beneficial.

This place is amazing though, the landscapes are stunning as are the skies that backdrop the mountains in the most spectacular ways. I think I’ve taken more photos of the different skies than I have anything else so far. The Austrian style chalets just add to such a perfect landscape and with it being in the lead up to Christmas the trees and lights just make this place so magical. I’ve only been here for 3 weeks but I’m already worried that I won’t want to leave.
 

The next adventure.

So while I was travelling America I saw a job advertised on social media that seemed perfect. It was a Sports Therapy position working in St. Anton, Austria for the winter season. Accommodation provided, the job I love, skiing every day and in a beautiful location. 

After a few email exchanges, my application was sent the day I returned on UK soil. Four weeks and two interviews later I am super excited to say that the job is mine! On the 30th November myself and two other sports therapists will be flying to Austria for the most amazing winter ever. I can’t even put into words how excited I am. I spent my day scanning in documents, organising paperwork and shopping for some essentials. I think I may have to take a trip to the SnowDome before I go just to make sure I’ve not forgotten how to ski and to lessen the embarrassment when we first hit the slopes. 

There’s so much to think about, so much to do and so many people to see before I leave. I’ve handed in my notice at the golf club I’m currently working at, I’ve spoken to the close family and friends to break the news, now I have to make plans to visit everyone, I need to sort out my insurance, I’ve got my bridesmaid dress fitting, I need to make trips to Chichester, Medway, Gloucester and Woolwich, need to do even more shopping and write my packing list and I also need to have a mini Christmas as I won’t be back in the country until May. 

This opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time for me, but like I said, I have so much to do! So I better get started…

Let’s Catch Up

So I’m new to this blogging thing and I’ll admit that while traveling around the states I wasn’t the best at keeping it updated.

[EDIT: I’ve just finished writing this and realise it’s a long one! Skip the reading and watch the video if you prefer… https://vimeo.com/user57772446 ]

So this is a run through of where I went and what I got up to…

After I left camp myself and two camp friends went to Washington DC to stay with my friend Sarah from university. We stayed for 3 days and her family were so friendly and welcoming. We spent a day trekking around and seeing the sites of DC including all the monuments and of course the White House. We took a hiking trip and swam in a waterfall and we had a day shopping in typical American shops and swimming in the public pool that Sarah manages.

We then moved on a caught a bus back up the country to New York where we were reunited with two more camp friends in Central Park, it was a short stay for me having down NY previously in 2013 but we managed to fit a lot in. A trip up the rockerfella followed by dinner in Ellen’s Stardust diner, the next morning we went down to the 9/11 museum and memorial where I left the girls in the afternoon to head back to Upper Manhatten where I had a ticket to see Wicked! on Broadway…what a show!

I headed back to the hotel to bid farewell to my friends and caught a midnight taxi to the airport where I would try and find a bed for the night. My 6am flight to San Francisco would see me reunited with my mum and step dad at our apartment in the city. We hired a Victorian San Franscican house for the week which was stunning and perfectly located. San Francisco was amazing, we cycled across the Golden Gate Bridge, took a day trip to Alcatraz Island, rode the traditional trams up the steepest of roads, went wine tasting in Napa Valley and even drove a Ford Mustang down the Pacific Coast Highway.

After 5 days it was time to say farewell again as I continued my travels alone on to Los Angeles. I had booked for 5 nights in the USA Hostel on the Hollywood Boulevard. I made some great friends with my roommates, two girls from Germany and a girl from Australia. We planned activities together and I also took up the offer of the activities hosted by the Hostel. After a hike up the Runyon Canyon, a tour of the Warner Brothers Studios, a hike to the Griffith Observatory and across to the Hollywood sign, a tour of Beverley Hills, a pub crawl down the Boulevard and a trip to Santa Monica it couldn’t have been any better.

I boarded the coach for my shortest transfer of all to the quirky San Diego and I stayed in an awesome Hostel just meters from the sea front. It was only a short stay but I managed to fit in a few hours surf, a bonfire on the beach, a trip to La Jolla Bay, snorkelling with Sea Lions, a trip to Coronado Island and a day trip to San Diego Zoo. I wish I’d have planned more time to stay in San Diego if only I’d have known how much there was to see and do and how wonderful the people would be.

I have no regrets though and boarded my longest coach of all to travel back up the West Coast and in land to Sin City. I arrived in Las Vegas at 5am and despite not booking accommodation until that night the Hostel I stayed in were so welcoming and arranged for me to have a room to stay so I could get a few hours of sleep in before heading out to explore. My trip to Vegas was split by a prebooked tour of the Western Deserts and so I took the opportunity to explore the Fremont Street Experience an indoor/outdoor shopping centre which is the heart of Downtown Las Vegas full of old school neon lights and street performers lining the pavement. I had an early start the next morning so no casinos for me just yet.

I rose early the next day to catch a taxi to The Luxor Hotel where I was to meet my group for the 3 day trip to the Grand Canyon and other natural wonders in Utah and Arizona. We boarded the coach where I was found to be the only English speaker. This wasn’t a problem as both the guides spoke brilliant English and made sure I was well looked after. We began the trip driving out to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon along Route 66 and had our lunch stop at Cafe 66 in a baren town. I had chance to explore and found a few gift shops but not much more. We continued our drive to the Grand Canyon and I mean I’ve seen photos before but nothing could do this place justice. It was incredible. As I’m sure you can imagine there are parts that are full of tourists but I managed to take my self along the footpath and find a perfect spot to sit and appreciate it’s natural beauty. I gave up trying to take photos from quite early on as they simply do not do it justice. After a few hours we reboarded the coach and drove a few hours to our hotel for the night. 

The next day we went on a boat trip across Lake Powell, a canyon that has been filled with water. The boat trip was amazing as we got to sneak down some of the creeks and you could almost touch the walls. The landscape around the canyon was also amazing with rock formations appearing from the desert landscape. To be told that you’re floating on water that is 256ft deep is something special.

We left around lunchtime to head to the second stop of the day and once again our guides had the perfect place planned for lunch. It was a cafe near an Indian reservation and we had the place to ourselves, it was very quirky with props outside for photos and set up like a Native American street. Comfortably full from lunch we were on our way to the place that I was secretly most excited by. Bryce Canyon. In Washington we watched a 3D movie celebrating 100 years of the National Park Service and it showed some stunning video footage of Bryce Canyon and from then I had my heart set on visiting this place. The rock formations and different to the other canyons and the canyon is full of the most incredible towers of rock that layer the canyon floor. We had time to take a hike down into the canyon and it was amazing to be surrounding by such towering rock formations for miles. I couldn’t stop smiling and once again I gave up with taking photos and just took the time to appreciate how lucky I was to see something so incredible.

Reluctantly we had to leave and so we climbed on the coach and headed to our next hotel. Our final stop on day three was to Zion National Park. Now it may have been because I didn’t know what to expect with Zion but once again I was blown away by its natural beauty, it was very green and luscious but had such majestic mountains springing up between the blanket of trees. I took a hike up to the emerald pools and stood on top of a waterfall where the views where amazing. It was a hot day and a challenging hike but it was definitely worth it. 

On our drive back to Las Vegas we stopped for an All You Can Eat Buffett. It was a crazy place. Almost like a supermarket but instead of a basket you have a plate and you only pay one price. The range of foods were unbelievable and it wasn’t hard to see why America has an onesity problem. 

We arrived back in Las Vegas and I checked my self into the Luxor Hotel. I was very lucky to have been given a free ticket to see Matt Goss perform in Caesars Palace so after a much needed shower and freshen up I jumped in a taxi and explored the palace before taking my seat in the show. I’ve heard of Matt Goss before but have never really listened to his music but it’s fair to say I became a fan after listening to him perform. It was an intimate show and full of class. After my 3 days of trekking it was early to bed though and I spent the next morning by the pool in the hotel. I took a trip to the Las Vegas sign, explored The Strip in the daylight and watched the Bellagio Fountains display. That night I had made plans to meet a friend from San Diego so we could go out and explore the casinos and night clubs on the strip. We had an amazing night but a 5am flight to Florida called an end to the party at 3am.

I arrived in Florida to be greated by my camp friend, Dan and his friend who kindly picked me up, hangover and all, and drove me to Miami to my hostel and to get some much needed food. I only stayed for a short stay in Miami but we took a trip to the Everglades and spotted some Alligators in the swamps and I spent the next day sunbathing on South Beach. Despite the temperature being cooler in Miami compared to Las Vegas the humidity made it very uncomfortable (probably not aided by the hangover!). 

That was it, I spent my last day topping up my tan in the hope to make it last til the winter and then I boarded my flight to be reunited with mum in Gatwick airport after the most incredible 4 months. America you are beautiful, you may have your political issues but the land itself is a natural wonder. I think it’s fair to say my USA Bucket List is complete.

LaundroMat

It’s Saturday night and I’m spending it sat on my own in a LaundroMat in San Francisco. It’s a weird place and I never thought this would be what I’d be doing on my only Saturday in the city. 

It’s weird. I feel like I’m in a set from Eastenders or the episode of friends when Ross and Rachel do their laundry. There are a fair few locals and two other people about my age, I’m not sure if they’re locals or travelers like me but everyone is keeping their heads down, reading a book or trying to watch whatever is on TV on the smallest and most awkwardly positioned TVs. I couldn’t imagine having to come here every week to do my washing, I guess we take have a washing machine for granted and I never really thought that there might be people who don’t have that luxury. You don’t see many in England but there’s one almost every block in America. But it’s coming to the end of my time in San Francisco and the plan is to start in LA with a suitcase full of clean clothes so I’m grateful that there is one just two blocks from where I’m staying, although it’s proving more difficult than it seems. 

First I had to purchase washing powder from the vending machine with quarters. It doesn’t tell you how much they cost but it does offer you a selection of American brands with no information about what they are. So unwillingly I have seemingly purchased ‘green’ washing liquid which has ‘no fragerence’. So although my clothes may come out clean they may not smell as fresh as I had hoped. Then you have to purchase a $3 card to then load with money to work the washing machines, it won’t accept my dollars and the only change machine gives you coins and it won’t accept coins either. I’ve now got a loaded card with $10 on of which I’m only actually gonna use $3.40. I feel like I need to find other things to wash to justify putting the money on the card. Anyway the clothes are in the machine, albeit whites, colours and darks all in one and I’m now sat here connected onto a random open wifi network waiting for the wash to finish. Whether it’s on the right setting I do not know but how bad can it be?! Now to wait and transfer it all into the dryer once I’ve worked out how that works.

From East to West

It’s 11am back home, 6am in New York and I’m trying desperately hard to convince my self that it’s 3am as it is in San Francisco, my next destination.

I slept, uncomfortably, in Newark Airport last night in preparation for my early morning flight today. There was a distinct lack of chairs, let alone unarmed chairs, and so myself my blanket and my travel pillow created the next best option on the floor of terminal A. My flight is 6 hours so I’m hoping to get some sleep on the plane but only time will tell how I will fair against the bolt upright, no legroom positioning on this California bound Virgin America flight.

I had a nightmare at check in this morning. I have a really pretty, although rather large suitcase. On the way out I managed to, somehow, have my suitcase weigh in at 22.9kg with a 23kg limit. However, that was a while ago and I’ve acquired a fair few more bits and pieces since then, resulting in my suitcase being 6lbs over the limit. Have you ever seen someone in the airport desperately trying to repackage their suitcase and debating what to squeeze into hand luggage and what to throw away? Well this morning, at approximately 2am local time, that was me. Fortunately nothing had to be cut and after readjusting my hand luggage my make-up bag, straighteners and a few other bits made the move to hand luggage. The check in lady also took pity on me and let me bag through despite still being over limit by 1.5lbs.

I made it through security and I’m now sat at gate A31 waiting to board. San Francisco will see me reunited with my mum and, her fiancé, Steve. Mum was jealous of my adventures and was going to fly out to surprise me. She told me so it’s not much of a surprise but I’m so excited to see her and share this adventure with her.

I’m going to go grab a coffee before we start to board so I’ll see you on the other side.

4 countries in 4 hours

So a big part of this job is travelling and often spending hours on the road. We left England late on Monday night, it’s now day 3 and we still haven’t arrived at the race location.

I can’t drive the team vehicles because for insurance purposes I need to be 25 which has meant that the past two days I’ve sat in the front seat trying to be good company for Phil. In between naps and general chit chat I’ve been playing DJ and trying to find a good radio station that’s playing English music and has the fewest interruptions with foreign DJs and news flashes and then making the most of the photo opportunities of the changing landscapes.

We stayed in Calais on Sunday night and so far we’ve driven through the flat lands of North France, Belgium and Holland, moved on through Industrial West Germany and on to East Germany where we found a hotel for the night in the town of Regensburg.

The hotel was quirky and the owner recommended we headed into town to one of the beer houses for dinner. The beer was good and the schnitzel even better. The walk there wasn’t bad either, along the cobbled streets next to the river. 


But on the way home from the pub back to our hotel this massive freight train started crossing in front of us and after 3/4 minutes just stopped where it was so One of the guys was like fuck it and jumped on the train and climbed off the other side, so I went to do the same. Only when I jumped on the train it decided to start moving. And all I heard, in a strong welsh accent was ‘bloody hell! It’s moving backwards!!’ So I just started laughing, nearly dropped my phone on the train as I ran across and managed to jump off before it picked up speed. It’s safe to say the others decided to wait for the train to pass rather than re-enact a James Bond scene.

Five minutes later and reunited we headed to the bar next to our hotel for one last drink before bed. It was a little motel hat appeared to be hosting an arm wrestling contest which proved interesting. There were some arcade machines from the 60’s and a semi-professional Eastern European Football Match being screened on the TV. But the beer was good and it wasn’t long before we headed back to get our heads down for the night ahead of another long drive the following day.

Breakfast was good and we were back on the road at 9 this morning. Today’s drive should only be about 6 hours and will see us pass across the border into Austria and through the alps, through Slovenia and finish up in Croatia to pick up the rest of the team vehicles. We’re staying the night and then by Wednesday afternoon we’ll be in Hungary for the start of the race on Friday.

Running for trains.

One of my least favourite things to do. Run for a train. 

My journey today so far has consisted of 5 trains, each with just enough time in between to catch the next. Well. That’s only if it’s not on a Sunday and our national rail network wasn’t a shambles. 
I’ve missed one train and ran for two. My next change gives me 13 minutes to get between platforms and we’re already 4 minutes behind schedule. I’m sitting here refreshing the schedule constantly to check I’m going to make it on time for my fifth and final train of the day.

I hate being late especially when it’s only your second day of your new job. I’m meant to be meeting the cycling team campavan at Ashford International, normally only a 2 train journey, but not today. Luckily my fear of being late meant that had my plan worked I would have arrived over half an hour early, as it seems (hoping not to speak too soon) I should arrive with 3 minutes to spare. The team are travelling down from Petersfield so I’m hoping I’ll have time to grab a coffee but we’re only heading to Folkestone so I should be able to hold on til then.

I’m off to Europe for 8 days working on an Under 23 race in the Carpathian Mountains. The plan is to stay in Calais tonight and make the long drive down early tomorrow morning. It’s my first stage race and although I’m excited I’m starting to worry I’ve not packed enough layers for the mountains. My days will consist of early starts and sorting food and water bottles out, pre and post race massages and generally making sure the riders have everything they need. Unfortunately this often means standing in remote, often cold and wet locations to hand out food and bottles as the riders speed by. But I’ve just been looking at some photos online of where the race is going and wow does it look incredible. I think the views will definitely make up for the time we’re standing around in the cold, it looks beautiful. 

I probably should’ve packed more but I was trying to get the balance between packing the essentials without over packing and trying my best to avoid comments on how girls always over pack. I guess only time will tell which way it’s going to be.

Anyway I’ve just checked the schedule again and it looks as though we’re making up time. I’ll let you know if I make my last train in time.

*Edit 20.02*

I made it. Arrived at Ashford with plenty of time to get a coffee. Although now I’m concerned. The first comment on arrival was ‘wow you’ve packed lightly’…why do I get the feeling I’m about to freeze on top of a mountain?!

Where do I begin?

Here I am sat in the garden in the Spring sun, music playing, cup of tea in hand and wondering how to start. I know that in a few months there’ll be so much to say that I’ll be worrying about saying too much.

On Monday, I’m heading to Brighton for the NUS National Conference, one of my last events as President of the University of Chichester Students’ Union, a week on Monday I head to Hungary to experience my first race behind the scenes of a professional cycling, and in just 63 days I’ll be setting off to spend my summer in the states. Between then and now there are so many other things going on. I’ve got another race with the team in the South of France, the Blenheim Palace Triathalon that I’ll be competing in, my last ever Summer Ball, various end of term and leaving parties and moving house. All in the next 63 days.

I guess it’s an exciting time but there are so many things that are coming to end these next few weeks are going to be a rollercoaster of emotions. At the end of May I’ll be moving out of my student house turn grad pad of 4 years, having lived with the most amazing group of girls anyone would have the pleasure of living with. And June sees me leaving the place that has become my home. After 5 years of studying and working at the University of Chichester my time has come to an end and I’ll be closing the chapter of my life which has turned out to be the most instrumental. It’s hard to explain how this place has had such an impact on my life and I guess no one will ever really know as there are no words that I can use to explain it. The people I have met have influenced me in ways that they will never know and I can’t be grateful enough for the opportunities that I have been given and how it has shaped my outlook on life. It’s not just been my place of study but it’s been my life for 5 years. Although it’s going to be tough I’m ready to move on, I’ve done as much as I can here and I learnt so much that’s helped to prepare me for the next chapter of my life and what an exciting chapter it’s going to be.

Anyway the sun’s just disappeared and it’s starting to get chilly and I need to head out and get something for dinner but I’ll be back.