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Sydney Harbour Bridge

With such little time in Sydney I was at a loss with what to actually do that I felt that I had used my time sufficiently. Others were talking earlier in the week about wanting to do the Harbour Bridge walk, something that was definitely on my list to do. Not one to miss an opportunity I offered to book it on my iPad ahead of heading down there & so we did. It transpired that we had booked a time slot that was just after some of the others in our group that had booked it separately, almost like we were doing it together!

We arrived at the pylon where the booking centre is well ahead of schedule to ensure that it was all sorted to avoid any bitter disappointment. At this stage I had not seen the iconic harbour view or indeed the actual bridge. As we walked down to grab a coffee and soak up the scenery as it was a simply beautiful day. We have been so so lucky with the weather in general it is ridiculous. For the last 14 days or so Sydney has had the most vial rain which has been very persistent and heavy.

It was on the way down to The Rocks that I actually first caught sight of not only the bridge but also the Opera House. Wow! What a sight! They are both massive! It must be one of the most iconic landmarks in the world & here I was, little old me, standing looking at it. I took a few moments just to soak it all in. Pinched myself that this was all real!

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The way in which they sort out all of the kits that you have to wear to comply with the obvious health and safety precautions was incredibly well set out and very clear. We had pretty much everything that we could possibly need attached to our belts which went on top of the really in attractive onesie – but needs must and all that! I led the way behind the guide just in case I was going to need my inhalers which she was carrying as I was not allowed to carry anything. Even all of our watches and bracelets needed to be taken off?!

Kitted up to the nines, off we went. For some stupid reason I thought that we would be walking all the way over and then back rather than up one side to the middle and then back down the other side. Being first meant that I had my photos taken first and then had to wait for the rest of the group to catch up and be done. Good shout. Meant that I had a few moments all on my own each stop to take in the sights before me. I could have spent all day up there soaking it all in. I cleverly tout not to put the lenses in this morning, if I was struggling with them drying out on my eyes normally with the 65km per hour winds up there, I think that they would have literally blown out of my eyes!! It wasn’t really cold as such, just pretty bloody strong. The day was beautiful with an amazing blue sky in the background to make the pictures look even more extra special. Well, sadly they didn’t exactly come out beautifully as we were looking into the sun when they were taken my hair was blowing ALL over the place and my eyes were watering like mad!!

At the start of the Bridge Walk - easy to stand up with out being blown over here!!

At the start of the Bridge Walk – easy to stand up with out being blown over here!!

My poor eyes were not doing so well on the top of the bridge where the wind was blowing at around 65kmph and I was looking RIGHT into the sun for this photo!

My poor eyes were not doing so well on the top of the bridge where the wind was blowing at around 65kmph and I was looking RIGHT into the sun for this photo!

Coming backdown was a little more traumatic than going up to be honest. The ladders were vertical and the winds had grown, coming down the first two sets were pretty hairy. The worst part by far was sort of shimmying across from one set to the other as part of the handrail sort of disappeared. By the time we had got to the bottom it was all just a distant memory. It’s sad that you can’t take photos from up there to be fair but I guess the website will hopefully show you what some of the views looked like. I was tempted to buy half the shop out of souvenirs but in the end I just got a fake Pandora charm for my bracket as I have one space left, it seemed only appropriate that I filled it with that.

First few days in Brisbane

Well I’m in Australia!!! Feels very weird, which I guess I can really only put down to jet lag but then it is also shock I think. After all I’ve been through, reality is starting to settle that I am actually out here?!! Just feeling kind of all out of sorts. Got REALLY sleepy during the day yesterday & had a kip this morning/afternoon but still feeling a sort of spaced out I guess. Seem to be in a total daze at the moment. Do hope it jogs on pronto.

Met up with others to run through the tour together, how things were going to be working and so on and all seems fine. Got sorted with a portable wi-Fi device which is blooming handy, as well as an Australian mobile which takes me HOURS to text on as I try to work out how to use it!!

We are staying in an apartment, kind of like a serviced apartment block here in Brisbane & I’m sharing with Sophie who is looking after another VU group. We have a room each & share kitchen & living area. It’s on the 30th floor and we are in the City area if the town. Not really done any sightseeing at all yet. Was going to do some today but the weather is pretty rubbish, raining but not too cold. The idea on getting a water hopper up & down the river to see a bit if the city in this weather did not really appeal when weather for next 2 days is bright sun & nearer 20 degrees!

I spent my evening at the airport last night, as you’d expect to be honest with my role! Welcomed in two sets of people but 3 different flights – was there for at least a couple of hours!! Some of ‘my’ group and some that were heading to the same hotel as Fliss & I jumped in the last transit back to my hotel as there was thankfully room for me. Everyone seems lovely – all in high spirits but shattered! Spotted rather an odd sight at the airport – you can kind if see in the photo below, arriving off a plane headed to Wellington that had been diverted was this guy who was wearing a t-shirt, shorts & gum boots??!!! Now that’s a random choice of attire for a flight if ever I saw one!

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We have the most amazing breakfast place where Sophie & I have had the same thing every morning so far!!

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Feeling mighty full after that! I have managed to get the avo stuck up my nose on both occasions so far though – attractive!!

Friday I was all ready to go out exploring but it was cold and damp and so I opted for an extra kip after breakfast & had a late lunch with Fliss & Sophie after Fliss had dropped the tickets off for me to hand out to my group for all the matches that they would be going to in the morning -good to get them handed out & make them no longer our responsibility!!

Turns out we were sat next to George North in the little place that we had lunch in – knew I blooming recognised him & he kept turning round after the bloke who he was with, assume his Dad, commented a couple of times as I was wearing my Bath shirt (obv!!). What with that & the Sky boys all in the hotel too – Barnsey, Wallace, Greenwood, Quinnell & Alex Payne it was true to say that we were in the hub of the action!

Friday night was the welcome dinner = dress time!! We met before in the Pig & Whistle which was heaving, unsurprisingly & full of red shirts. The location was Cha Cha Char and the food was divine! We had David Campese there too as well as, later on, a couple of other retired Wallabies. It was lovely meeting some more of the group, even though I was sat on a table with only 2 of my group having been moved last min. Great company and a real giggle! They were also quite keen to go out to the Koala Park in the morning which I was planning to do on my own, they suggested seeing if anyone else wanted to join us and so suggested asking around at ticket collection in the morning. Easy enough to do!! Afterwards we headed up to the Bavarian Beer place above the restaurant where we had one more drink before we headed home, I was starting to get pretty excited about a cuddling a koala but mainly the first test the following day!

Post meal drinks at Cha Cha Char

Post meal drinks at Cha Cha Char

The news today gets better though – I’ve definitely got a ticket for the match tomorrow night, James is feeling better, been in touch with Kev & Lou & Timmy & Sue & hopefully catching up with them perhaps tomorrow or Sunday morning before we fly down to Melbourne. All go!!

The lo-o-o-o-o-n-g trip over

After a fairly late night (all things considered) having decided that my toe nails needed painting just as I was about to crash, I woke earlier than the alarm. Excitement brewing! Looking at my bags I am not actually sure that I’ve packed enough – looks like I’m off for a week not 3?!

At check in I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief, having failed to have weighed my bag one final time, I managed to come in at 19.7kg – the stupidly light allowance is 20kg for travelling this distance with a possible 4 seasons to pack for!

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With my stomach rumbling something chronic with a mixture of both excitement and nerves, we headed to get some food after passing through security. I’m fine with flying but the mere idea of being sat on a plane for just shy if 13 hours, followed by a seven hour flight was not a pleasant thought. I never sleep on planes, no seriously – NEVER, & as per usual I couldn’t select a meal to cover my allergies so I knew damn well all the food would be riddled with peppers & shell fish or just look mighty unappetising!

Of course we were boarding during the match (National Shane Williams Day – as confirmed by the Dai Lama on twitter) with about half of Wales on our flight, primarily all in made up tour t-shirts with their dodgy given nicknames on the reverse, it was hardly surprising that huddles could be seen as we approached the gate – groups of people all crowding round iPads to try and catch as much of the match as feasibly possible before being called to board. We boarded at 0-5 to the Brumbies.

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The plane was MASSIVE & as I was advised by Helen’s Dad the night prior – it would be very spacious. It was indeed, with a window seat just behind the wing and clearly right over where the wheels came up I was sat next to a couple who were flying home to Perth. They were very nice, didn’t smell, weren’t obese &, most importantly – didn’t have screaming kids. All obvious nightmares averted!

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After fiddling around for a whole getting myself sorted & comfortable I settled in to the journey and looked at the film options that I had for the flight. I’d looked on the Singapore Air website prior & not seen too many that I actually wanted to watch, thankfully there was a far wider choice & so I was a happy girl – movie marathon and a half ahead!! I think in total in the first flight I managed 6 – let’s see, Identity Thief, Life of Pi, Parental Guidance, Quartet hang on that’s only 4? Oh no I give it a year too – ok 5, all in a row!! I make that pretty bloody good going!!

As predicted the food was pepper infested but having the food earlier at the airport I was not really too bothered.

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Don’t worry, I didn’t take a photo of every meal I ate!! The non-slip try was a bonus, as was the proper knife and fork – larger than the one that we had breakfast with at Heathrow?!! Didn’t even try sleeping on this flight though as the timings were all a bit screwed. We arrived in Singapore at like 8 in the morning, it was already 28 degrees – SWEAT CENTRAL! Man am I glad I had the foresight to pack a change of top & undies in my hand luggage!!

We had a 2 1/2 hr stop over only in the airport which by the time we had wondered around to stretch our legs, visited the Butterfly Garden (no, really!) checked out the price of a massage & sat in a wifi area to touch base with home to let everyone know that leg 1 was done safe & sound and of course checking in on the rugby score. Thinking back that’s possibly not entirely true, there was a GOD ALMIGHTY bang about 5 mins before we landed which sounded like the wheel beneath is had fallen off or something – pretty bloody alarming! Then as we came in to land it felt smooth until we actually touched down which was more than a bit jolty – kind of like he’d forgotten to actually land it in time even tho he was bringing it down smoothly?!) we sat by the Koi Pond too – there I was spotting all the greenery everywhere, living walls & a shed load of large leaved green plants in the smoking area to take away the pollutants!

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The onward leg was on a smaller plane & I was stuck in the middle, thankfully there was a spare seat next to me as the man on my right decided to sit with his legs a kimbo – not exactly very comfortable to sit next to! I decided to watch The Fall which I had downloaded the series of from iPlayer and as it was a 7 hour or so flight I managed to watch all of it, infuriating ending I must say, but I guess that it opens it up for a second series? The food was riddled with peppers once again & so all I managed was cheese & biscuits & 3 Ferrero Roche on the flight – very filling!! Thankfully it seemed to pass quite quickly though & I think I must have slept for an hour as when I woke with a start I felt suddenly hanging!

Coming through immigration was not too much of an issue & although my bag was last of our small group to come off the carousel, I thankfully was not waiting too long. Coming through customs I was in a line to be sniffed by the dog with all of my stuff – scary as, even if the pooch was only a black lab! Transit to the hotel was only about 30 min after dropping others at the 5* accommodation & I made it up the 30 floors to my apartment which I was sharing with Sophie, another tour co-ordinater. Very swish I have to say. I jumped straight in the shower pretty much & hit the sack hoping that sleep would happen after a brief chat with Sophie (who I hasten to add I’d never actually met before then!) Must remember to check in the morning if the water does go down the plug hole the other way as totally forgot this evening!

This time next week & all that jazz x2

The mid week match saw me back in the pub again across the road form work. This time though I had a partner in crime as Steve (from Roman Candles) joined me in the Lamb and Lion taking a break from what sounded like a hectic day in the shop. We partook in breakfast whilst watching the match. It was more than one sided to say the least but a very surreal feeling to thing that in a weeks time I would be on a plane slowly making my way out there!!

Classic - stolen off twitter

Classic – stolen off twitter

Felatau spotted just before he ran on - spot the tags still on his shirt!!

Felatau spotted just before he ran on – spot the tags still on his shirt!!

Tom Croft, Simon Zebo - replacement to Tommy B who he is sat next to (he had to have a plate put into his broken hand)

Tom Croft, Simon Zebo – replacement to Tommy B who he is sat next to (he had to have a plate put into his broken hand)

Our view of the big screen in the Lamb & Lion - why do people choose to sit UNDER the big screen??

Our view of the big screen in the Lamb & Lion – why do people choose to sit UNDER the big screen??

Stuart Hogg, Jamie Robert & BOD post match

Stuart Hogg, Jamie Robert & BOD post match

The remainder of the week was of course spent trying to remember all the things that I would be likely to forget and regret once I was on the plane! I attempted packing, realising that it was only a restriction of 20kg I was very strict with what made it into the bag! If I haven’t got enough warm clothes – I’ll just have to buy a jumper or two out there!

My first attempt of pacing - well the bare essentials right?!

My first attempt of pacing – well the bare essentials right?!

POC ready for a team meal

POC ready for a team meal

Adam ready for team meal (I really do worry about the choice of attire!!)

Adam ready for team meal (I really do worry about the choice of attire!!)

Manu ready for a team dinner

Manu ready for a team dinner

Mike Phillips, Manu, Croft, Parling & Youngs on top of the Harbour Bridge - I want to do this when I am there!

Mike Phillips, Manu, Croft, Parling & Youngs on top of the Harbour Bridge – I want to do this when I am there!

Tommy B showing off his sown up hand (he had a metal plate inserted into it)

Tommy B showing off his sown up hand (he had a metal plate inserted into it)

Watched the last Saturday match before the tests in the Royal Oak again. Thought the plan was a few drinks and a spot of lunch after & was really looking forward to it, sadly it didn’t happen. I felt really bad for telling Mum and Dad that they couldn’t come over and see me before I went as they really wanted to, as I had made other plans – which never materialised. Story of my life! Guess I should have arranged to see them regardless, you would have thought I’d have learnt by now – history repeats itself yet again!! I had tingles throughout the majority of the match as departure day comes closer & closer.

Zebo & Halfpenny after Saturday's match

Zebo & Halfpenny after Saturday’s match

Faz & Kearney post match

Faz & Kearney post match

Spent the majority of the rest of the weekend curled up with my furballs and doing the last min packing and hoping that I actually have all hat I need. Sleep on Saturday night was pretty sporadic and I have a feeling that it will be the same again this evening and certainly tomorrow night!

Stuart Barnes uses word of the day loo roll again

The first of the Saturday matches against the Reds spent in the Royal Oak, with friends needing to be in work to cover an audit taking place over the weekend it was only going to be a quiet one. Several others in the pub as always & a couple who fly out on Tuesday who were, like me, trying to work out how many clothes the crowd were wearing so as to work out how many warm clothes we need! Didn’t manage to be very successful in working it out as it was also raining.

Stuart Barnes had, once again, clearly been using a word of the day loo roll as this week he managed, somehow, to squeeze in impresario – not quite sure how it fitted in?!!

Love the Sky Sports as for the Lions which I’d only really taken in today, I can’t find a clip of it on YouTube at the moment which is really annoying me but will add it at a later date if I can find it

The table saver in the Royal Oak for the Reds match

The table saver in the Royal Oak for the Reds match

The coin toss before the match with Warberton & Quade Cooper

The coin toss before the match with Warberton & Quade Cooper

The non-playing members of the squad making the way for the boys to come out

The non-playing members of the squad making the way for the boys to come out

Poor Tommy B - how did I manage to miss him breaking his hand during the match :O(

Poor Tommy B – how did I manage to miss him breaking his hand during the match :O(

Two weeks and I’ll be in the very same city that the match was played in today – even if I don’t actually make it into the stadium :o)

First MidWeek match

I am pretty darned sure that there are not that many bosses out there that are as accommodating as mine.

I checked with the pub across the road, that I can see from the window that my desk is against, that they would indeed be showing the first of the midweek matches in the hope that I would not have to travel far to see it and be able to nip back tot he office after it in a flash. I think I was quite a sight to behold to the group of 6 or so construction workers as I arrived a little later that kick off after trying to complete something in the office first. I pulled out not only my phone but also my iPad mini so that I could get my work emails in there whilst watching. I did get a few looks from them when shouting the usual ‘ave ‘im at the screen and of course cheering for the tries as well as the penalties and conversions.

My fellow watching crew left at half time however and I was left, still catching work emails on the iPad as well as tweeting from my phone, all alone in my area of the pub. Sadly that didn’t last long and several pensioners joined me not least the couple below

Company in the second half

Company in the second half

They really were quite bemused by me and the fact that it possibly looked like I was staring right at them and shouting, but they did come in and CHOSE to sit right under the screen, there were plenty of other tables around. I had the following snippet of conversation with them:

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I need very little to need me to enthusiastically support louder and that was coming for a while!! Safe to say I gave them a BEAMING smile when I left!!

Nicked several images off twitter & Instagram from the players post match which are below:

Manu & BOD share the love and appreciation of talent (Manu posted this)

Manu & BOD share the love and appreciation of talent (Manu posted this)


Manu & BOD sharing the love & appreciation of talent - BOD posted this - BLESS!!

Manu & BOD sharing the love & appreciation of talent – BOD posted this – BLESS!!


The lovely Tommy B and Rory Best post match

The lovely Tommy B and Rory Best post match


Vunipola & Faz sharing a moment on pitch

Vunipola & Faz sharing a moment on pitch


The Youngs brothers - quite an achievement to be in the same England Team, but Lions too?!

The Youngs brothers – quite an achievement to be in the same England Team, but Lions too?!

And so it begins – Lions 2013

The story behind how I have managed to end up travelling to Australia for the Lions Tour does, in reality, sound almost too unreal. I was booked & initial deposit paid to travel out having been saving since I returned from South Africa. For reasons I’m not going to go into, I had to pull out. I needed the stupidly large sum of money that I’d been building up for other sudden pressing needs. I had to pull out of going, I had no choice. Devastated did not even come close to how I felt. Having built up to it for so long, the realisation I was not going on top of everything else that I was struggling to cope with was almost too much.

Fast forward to the beginning of May and a random throwaway reply to a post on twitter and I am now officially back on and booked on a flight out to Australia on the 18th of June. Now the tickets are not definite, but to be honest the mere fact that I am actually going to Australia is enough. (But then ref RWC2007 final, we all know damned well that’s not strictly true!) Getting into the matches would be a DREAM. Thanks to a glowing reference from my awesome boss and the quick response to the post on twitter, I am now officially going as a tour co-ordinatior for VU Ltd. I have managed somehow convince Victor & Fliss that I’d be IDEAL for the job! I hope I didn’t come across as too desperate when I was being ‘interviewed’?! All in the past now though, I must have said the right sort of things as I’M GOING!!

The excitement has been building over recent weeks & sharing with friends who live overseas has been great. It transpires that the flight home in July is the same as friends who I initially met through ERE (now ComeOnMyLovers) back in the day (Tim & Sue Parsons) who are now based in Singapore and have baby Jenson with them too. Of course Phil, former neighbour, has been in communication. Now living in Hong Kong with his wife Laura, he has greatly enjoyed sharing his photos of meeting some of the Barbarians squad (what IS with those hats?!!)

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as well as some photos from before the match today with a photo of his local out there which was heaving & some of the boys arriving at the stadium.

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I in return shared my view for the match!! Having to take the car in for its MOT I combined with a trip back to my parents and so watched the match there, on my own as they went out to lunch for The Derby with some friends. This time in 3 weeks I will (hopefully) be watching the first test in Brisbane!! Quite a scary thought really!

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Some of the current Lions related adverts from here & Australia as well as an unofficial Lions song from the guys at RockStar Rugby.

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