Adventures of Frangipan

Monday, 26 March 2007

After checking out of Rainbow Lodge, I headed into town. The bank was opening just as I got there, so I decided to sort out my account first. Only took about 15 minutes, and now I have an ATM card so can access all my hard-earned cash.

I went to a cafe across the road for breakfast - poached eggs on toast. Then I walked down to an internet cafe and spent about 45 minutes online. I walked back up to the hostel in time for my bus back to National Park at 11am.

Back in National Park by 12.30pm, and did very little of interest with the rest of my day. Straightened my hair. Read. Watched TV.

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Sunday, 25 March 2007

Hangover!

My god did I feel those three glasses of wine and one Coruba (rum and coke) this morning! My head hurt so much! I tried nursing it with scrambled eggs on toast since that's the closest I could get to a fry up. Didn't work for long!

I had to clean the motel units today while Marion did the lodge. It only took until 11.30am, and I felt like shit the whole time! I sat in my room after finishing, hoping the feeling would subside. But it got worse, so I had some lunch instead, which made me feel better. Pasta and pesto. There's a throwback to my teenage years! Rhianwen was also hanging around until her bus came, so I watched some TV and chatted to her a little.

My bus to Taupo arrived at 3pm, and I got to the Rainbow Lodge by 4.30pm. It's a really nice hostel so I'll probably stay here when I come back to Taupo on my return journey. And free percolated coffee!

I went to the supermarket and spent an extortionate amount on snacks. Chocolate bars, muffins, etc. I'm not even going to say how much! I don't really need to buy any proper food since the petrol station in National Park stocks essentials, and I get fed in Schnapps too.

So I'm planning a quiet evening. I'll probably be on the internet until 8.30pm when it closes, then I'll read my new book and chill out. And then tomorrow I'll go to the bank and sort my account out, and my bus back is at 11am.

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Saturday, 24 March 2007

Monday 19th March - Saturday 24th March


Monday. Worked until 3.30pm, but I took a lunch break for 20 minutes today. Cy crept up behind me while I was vacuuming and scared the life out of me. He found it hilarious. I clobbered him with the vacuum. I watched the cricket highlights - England v Canada. They didn't play that well but they won. Went to Eivin's Cafe up the road and had carrot cake and a coffee. Watched Being John Malkovich and A Few Good Men. Fun day hey?

Tuesday. Chelsea v Spurs, FA Cup qualifier was on TV while I was having breakfast. Only watched the first half but later found out that Chelsea won. Yey! So work today. I was the Special Task Force. The first two motel units have finished being upgraded and my job for the day was to give them both really good cleans. It took me all day, and I still couldn't do the bathrooms (even if I did have time) because all the furniture was in them. I started work in Schnapps at 6pm. Didn't really have much work to do, and I'm feeling guilty about being paid for standing around. But at the same time, no-one is really assigning me tasks. I was finished by 9.30pm and went back to the lodge. There's a Domino's Pizza ad on after Friends every day, advertising their chocolate brownies. They look really yummy, being dipped in chocolate syrup, and me and Freddy took to changing the channels before the ad came on. While Freddy was in Taupo today, she bought me a similar one and left it in my cupboard. I was very happy.

Wednesday. Special Task Force Day 2. Fridges, bathrooms, vacuum, mop. Finished by 2.30pm. Nice long break between jobs today. I went into Schnapps half an hour early and had a crumble before I started. It was so good, and very filling. They really lay on the extras, making it worth the $9 (about 3.50-4 quid). I chatted to an American girl, Gardenia, who is working at the Station Cafe. She's from near Seattle and offered either herself or her sister as a guide when I reach there! Terrilee was off tonight, and Spud was just there if I needed him, so I felt like I earned my money tonight. I had to make a few coffees so had to teach myself how to use their machine. Not too different from ours thankfully. We were closing by 10pm.

Thursday. Back to normal duties today, and worked until about 4.30pm today. Got really annoyed with myself because it shouldn't have taken that long. And I managed to give myself a bit of a shower while I was cleaning one of them, so I had to straighten my hair again before going to Schnapps at 6pm. Working with Ange tonight as Terrilee was off again. I asked her lots of questions, and felt like I was earning my money again. We were getting ready to close at 9.30pm, when a load of people all walked in, so it was 10.30pm when we did finish. I'm making my way through the wines with my staff drink each night. Wasn't too fond of last night's (Terrace View), but quite liked tonight's (Ranchman's Merlot).

Friday. Freddy gave me her copy of Lord of the Rings yesterday, and since I don't particularly want to carry a 1000-page book around the South Island with me, I figured I should hurry up and finish my current book, and attempt to finish LOTR by May too! Hence, I started the day reading over breakfast. I worked until 3.30pm cleaning. I would've finished earlier but some people insist on using every piece of crockery in their motel unit, and leaving them on the draining board rather than putting them away. Rhianwen arrived today. She's stopping for two nights and doing the Crossing. Can't believe she's been away for nearly five months. The bank situation has really been bugging me (I have an account, money is going in, but I need to go to a branch with ID before I get a card and can get money out). Today I booked a bed in Taupo and a bus to Taupo on Sunday and back on Monday, with just enough time to get to the bank. It'll be a nice break since, between my two jobs, I haven't had a full day off since 15th March. That's nine days, and I'm working tomorrow and Sunday. I went to the Station Cafe for an hour before Schnapps. Yummy chocolate brownie! Schanpps was really quiet when I got there at 6pm, but got really busy. We did 98 meals, with only me and Terrilee out front, two chefs and one kitchen porter/sweets chef. A lot of people left as soon as the rugby was finished, and the rest cleared out fairly quickly, so we were finished by 11.30pm.

Saturday. I couldn't sleep properly last night, so I ended up sat on the porch reading from 7am. I worked until 3pm. Cy forgot to ask Marion to work as well, so I had lots to do alone, but he asked her to make the beds so I didn't have to. Some fool put broken glass in the rubbish without wrapping it in anything, and I cut my leg on it. After work I went on the internet quickly. Scotty's (the place I stayed in Mission Beach) emailed thanking me for leaving a review on the HostelWorld website. That put a smile on my face! I was going to go to Eivin's for carrot cake, but it was closed, so I found myself down at the Station Cafe again. Really greedy today - chocolate cake and a chocolate brownie! In Schnapps by 6pm. Me, Terrilee and Ange out front tonight. I was food runner and clearing tables. It was really busy, but I finished first, at 9.45pm. I met a few new locals, and had a few drinks and a chat with them. Nuts and Honky (staff) came in for drinks, then we all went to the National Park Hotel since Schnapps was quietening down. We had to go via the lodge so I could get money, and we picked Zues up on the way. Good thing we were in an estate since there was now seven of us! I only stayed for one since I'd already had three glasses of wine and can't hold my drink anymore. But it was really good fun. It reminded me of being in Juliets or some other small-town place where everyone knows everyone. Even I had already met about half the people in there!

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Sunday, 18 March 2007

Mother's Day

Sunday 18th March 2007. The day that Ireland qualified for the next round of the cricket world cup. And the day that Wales beat England in the Six Nations so they didn't lose all their games!

Clocks went back last night so I got an extra hour in bed. I watched Traffic, then had some breakfast and chatted to some of the guests. I spent a fair while on the internet, then tidied my room and read a bit.

I started work in Schnapps at 6.30pm. Quieter than last night but it was just me and Terrilee tonight. I was finished by 10.15pm, then we had a staff drink and a couple of shots to celebrate three new members of staff in one week!

I phoned Mum when I got back to the lodge since it was Mother's Day in the UK.

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Saturday, 17 March 2007

St Paddy's

So I watched the cricket. And England lost which is crap. But they have a new cute bowler, Liam Plunkett, which is good. Spent the rest of the morning doing fun stuff like plucking my eyebrows (I can see my eyelids now!) and straightening my hair.

I did some more research for my NZ trip, and generally lounged around all afternoon. I watched a programme about soldiers from Iraq suffering Traumatic Brain Injury. Whenever I hear about soldiers injured in wars, I always think of legs and arms being broken or shot. It doesn't really occur to me that people survive shots or schrapnel to the head, but their quality of life plummets. We always focus on how many die.

I started work in Schnapps at 6pm. It only occurred to me earlier today that not only is it Saturday, it's also St Paddy's. So I walk through the door and get a bright green Guinness t-shirt and a name tag. Ange thought I was Irish and all the staff thought it was great that they had a real Irish girl working St Paddy's. Lots of jokes ensued when they found out that I was in fact Welsh.

It was fairly quiet though - one of the other places in town had an auction tonight. I was finished by 10pm. The system is quite easy: people come up to order their food and get given a table number, and people have to come to the bar for drinks. Staff only take meals to the tables and clear tables. Getting used to the tills will take some time, as well as the different drinks that people order. Aside from Guinness, all the other tap beers are kiwi makes. And they serve everything in a mug, but it's not quite a pint. And their spirit measures are weird too - haven't figured them out yet!

When I got back I realised Freddy had moved out of our little room, into the lodge (which was always the plan, but originally she was only going to be in my room for the weekend). I'm glad to have some privacy back. I was starting to miss having my own space.

I'm not ready to go home, but I miss my own space, my own routine, and my usual surroundings. Sure, I'd just be working or watching TV or on the internet. And Denbigh and the local area isn't that exciting. But it's familiar. I think it would be easier in a bigger town with more to do, and the weather certainly isn't helping. Hopefully this second job will help, keeping me busy in the evenings.

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Friday, 16 March 2007

Thursday 15th March - Friday 16th March

Thursday. Another very cold day. So glad my room has underfloor heating. Unfortunately the communal area of the building doesn't, and its a huge room with lots of windows, so gets really cold! I worked until 3.15pm, and had a few extra duties since we weren't that busy last night. I had my first "condom wrapper in the rubbish bin" incident! Not in a hurry for that to happen again! Ange dropped my contract and roster off. I start on Saturday at 6pm, and I'm doing Tuesday to Saturday nights next week (just like home!). I also started trying to wade through all the material to organise my trip, deciding where to go and where to miss out, and which bus is cheapest and best.

I got on Friday to watch the second innings of England v New Zealand. But we're a day ahead of the Caribbean here, so it's not on until tomorrow morning. There was very little cleaning to be done - I was finished by 1.30pm. I managed to eat lunch at lunchtime! The weather cleared up a bit in the afternoon, so I walked to The Station Cafe, mostly to get out, get a bit of fresh air, and see something other than the lodge! I was very bad though - I had two cakes! When I got back, the highlights of Ireland v Zimbabwe were on the TV. What a spectacular draw! I'm so happy for Ireland.

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Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Day Off

So another day off. Didn't stay in bed too long today though. I had breakfast and watched the cricket - West Indies v Pakistan. I quite fancy the West Indies' chances this year. I started drawing up a new diary from now until when my contract ends (6th May), but it's a bit difficult, since I don't know what days I'll be working!

Finally got my IRD number, but for some reason it got posted to the UK, and Mum had to text it to me! Really crap weather at the moment - cold and wet. Cy had to light the fire today. So another day of reading, puzzles and TV. Watched Hotel Rwanda and cried all the way through. It's incredibly disturbing that the world stood by and let that happen, and still does.

Later on I watched some of CSI:NY and ER (bit of a contrast from earlier!). I wanted to watch Hitch but the bad weather knocked Sky out, and we don't have sound on Movies 1. I also discovered that cheese and marmite go quite well together.

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Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Sunday 11th March - Tuesday 13th March

Bloody internet. I've already written and saved this post once, but apparently Blogger doesn't remember that! So here we go again.

Sunday should've been my second day off but we're really busy so Cy asked me to work as well as Marion. I was finished by 4pm, and spent the late afternoon and evening reading and doing puzzles. Exciting huh?! Cy told me about a local bar that is after staff if I want evening work. Cy's brother Zues is going out with the manager Ange.

On Monday I worked until 3pm. I was aksed to vacuum and mop the kitchen of the flat (where Cy, Zues and their Dad live). Kinda reminded me of clearing up Dad's kitchen! I went to the petrol station for milk and a few other things, then headed down to Basekamp to see Ange about this job. She's going to drop a roster off for me.

Tuesday I worked until around 3.30pm. I checked my emails after I'd finished. One from Rhianwen saying she might be heading this way. I told her not to hurry since the weather is so crap. It would be nice to see someone I know though!

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Saturday, 10 March 2007

Chasing The Sun

Woo hoo! Day off! I made the most of it by staying in bed until 10am. I straightened my hair, and went on the internet, checking emails and updating the blog.

It was a very sunny, warm day so I sat out on the lawn reading for a couple of hours. I had spaghetti on toast for lunch which was yum, and then spent the afternoon doing puzzles, reading, and "chasing the sun" as Cy's Dad put it!

I went on the internet again in the evening (not doing too well at curbing the habit am I?!). Cy asked me to work tomorrow because we're really busy, and there was no room on the shuttle bus for me to do the crossing, so I have nothing better to do. He also asked if I want to work six days a week when Marion leaves, so I'll be the only cleaner, but they should be shorter days.

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Friday, 9 March 2007

Tuesday 6th March - Friday 9th March


Ok, so now that work has started, I'm trying to cut down my internet time to save money. And Cy has just asked if I want to work six days a week when Marion leaves, so I'll obviously have less free time too. And since my travels won't be that interesting, I'll be condensing all my weeks.

So Tuesday was my first day. I started around 10am and Cy gave me the lowdown. It's physically hard work, but I have a checklist so it's easy to make sure I do everything I need to. I worked for six hours, until around 4pm. In the evening I watched Million Dollar Baby and did my laundry.

On Wednesday I started at 9am, after hanging my washing on the line. I worked for seven hours, but had more to do. I watched Sliding Doors, CSI New York (so glad that's a global show!) and Carlito's Way. I also got my first payslip, but no IRD number yet and no bank account, so technically no money.

On Thursday I worked for eight hours. I was very achy afterwards, and had a few war wounds. The sky was clear when I finished so I wandered over to the highway and got some photos of the volcanoes. Great photo of Mt Doom from LOTR (it's real name is Maori and difficult to spell!), but I can't upload photos so it'll be a while before you guys see it. I watched Girl, Interrupted, chatted to a Japanese girl and did some puzzles.

Practically a half day of work on Friday - I was finished by 2pm. Cy wrote up my contract, so I'm here until the 6th of May. I think I'll stay until then, then go to Wellington and tour the South Island, then get another job for June and July, then tour the parts of the North Island I've missed. I'm thinking of ditching Tahiti, and getting a flight to west coast USA, doing a tour over there, flying to NYC, and meeting up with Cameron if it makes it, or alternatively doing a tour on the east coast. But nothing is sorted yet, which I hate since I plan everything down to minute details! Sky went out in my room and when I told Cy, it turns out it had gone off everywhere, so he rebooted the system, and now only Sky Movies 1 is missing. Freddy moved into my room today - she's here to do painting on the new upgraded motel rooms. She's only in there for the weekend though. Good thing since I've filled all the drawers and space with my stuff! Freddy was in bed early so I went over to the communal TV room, read a bit, did some puzzles, watched some TV, and shared a bottle of wine with Cy and the Japanese girl.

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Monday, 5 March 2007

Taupo

Today, Cy was taking me to "town" to get groceries, since he was going anyway.

I stayed in bed until 10am, took a shower, had breakfast, then moved my stuff into my new room, and we where gone by 12.30pm.

So "town" is Taupo. An hour away. Quite a pleasant little town: I'll probably return on my way back up the North Island. We did some stuff that Cy needed to get done, then went for lunch around 4pm. After lunch we drove up to Huka Falls, just out of town. They're not big waterfalls in terms of height, but the volume and sheer force of the water was tremendous. Hopefully I'll get back there with my camera!

We went to the supermarket after and I stocked up - hopefully it'll last me a few weeks. We got back around 7.30pm and I sorted out my room, putting stuff in drawers and completely unpacking my rucksack. Then I watched some Sky TV in my room until 10.30pm. I tried reading the prologue to my new book but fell asleep.

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Sunday, 4 March 2007

TranzScenic Overlander

I got a taxi at 9am to take me to the train station. My train wasn't until 9.50am, but I didn't really know how far it was, and you have to check in 20 minutes beforehand too. Rail transport isn't exactly common over here: a big city with two platforms and a desolate station!

For some reason there were a few problems with the seating allocation, so we were sat at the station for fifteen minutes before they sorted that. The train was good: lots of leg room and big windows, and a decent food service. I was sat next to quite an odd lady though, out here visiting her daughter, and the third person I've met from Northampton since Cairns!

A lot of the scenery reminded me of Wales: still rolling green countryside and some rocky outcrops. Before you reach National Park Village, the train goes up The Spiral, because it has to go up 200 metres onto the volcanic plateau, and the incline would be too much in a straight line, so you go round and round instead.

We got into National Park Village by 1pm. My God, what a one-horse town! I expected the station to have a payphone for me to call the lodge, but it didn't. So I waited for the queue at the cafe to disappear (this is the lunch stop for both trains), and the staff there called for me.

I was expecting Cy (pronounced 'sigh') to be a middle-aged woman, not a 30-year old guy! He drove us back to the hostel and gave me a quick tour. I walked to the petrol station/village store and bought some food. At 4pm Cy had to pick up the people who'd been doing the Tongariro Crossing, so I went along for the ride.

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Saturday, 3 March 2007

Free Day in Hamilton


Slept in until 9.30am since I didn't have anything pressing to do today. I spent an hour on the internet, but couldn't use the USB ports, so couldn't upload photos. And my card timed out before I finished and saved yesterday's blog, so I lost it all.

I wandered into town around noon, and went to Coffee Club for my favourite scrambled eggs on toast with tomatoes and mushrooms. After that I went to see Blood Diamond at the cinema. That is such a great film. It covered so many aspects of conflict diamonds - rebel groups, warlords, child soldiers, refugees, and corrupt Westerners too. It was incredibly moving and emotional. It had a Hollywood ending, but you almost needed one after all that bloodshed. And all for pretty gems. I cried lots.

After the movie I got a milkshake from the NZ ice cream company, but it wasn't that tasty. You get to choose your own ice cream to go in it, so I can only blame myself! I finished that on my way into the internet cafe I pass every day, but I couldn't use the USB ports there either. I did manage to write yesterday's blog again though, and still spent two hours there!

I got a cheesecake on my way back to the hostel, packed my stuff, ate, and watched some TV.

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Friday, 2 March 2007

Hobbiton


I put my alarm onto snooze several times this morning before I finally got out of bed around 8.30am, and was out of the hostel by 9.15am. I was going to get breakfast at the bus station, but the food looked crap so I just read my book until the bus arrived.

It took about an hour to get to Matamata, through farming country. This part of NZ is home to the biggest dairy and sheep farms in country; and Matamata and Cambridge are the biggest horse breeding centres. Apparently Mark Todd lives in Cambridge. I had about half an hour in Matamata before the tour, so got poached eggs for breakfast.

The tour buses are named after characters from LOTR - Frodo, Gandalf, Smeagol, Sam, etc. We were in Merry. There's no Pippin as yet though - shame since he's my favourite hobbit. The Alexander farm is about 15 minutes drive from Matamata, in rolling green countryside. The Hobbiton site itself is quite far from the road, away from prying eyes during filming, and for authenticity. Weirdly, the main road is called Buckland Road, and for all you LOTR dummies, Buckland is a place in Tolkein's Shire.

We travelled along a road the NZ army built to the site, for all the filming trucks to use. We stopped above the site, and saw the parking area for all the vehicles during filming, the sites of the catering tent and the make-up tent, and also where they penned all the Hobbiton animals. They even brought in different sheep, because the Alexander sheep were considered unsuitable.

The filming site was partly demolished after instruction from Peter Jackson, but had to be delayed due to bad weather. It was then that someone came up with the idea of Hobbiton tours. It's a shame because they'd already removed the mill, bridge, pub, and 20 hobbit holes, including Sam's home at the end of the film. There are markers dotted around to tell you where certain pieces were built and where certain scenes were filmed.

We did get to see Sam's first house, the remaining hobbit holes, the party field and tree (still with a piece of party ribbon and a pulley in - good going after seven years!), the lake, the remains of the oak tree they imported, the tree Gandalf was under when he let off the fireworks for the kids, and go inside Bag End. There are also photos taken during filming, and film stills, to help you visualise it.

It's obviously nothing like in the film. It's much more tightly packed than you imagine, and they had to return all the land to how it was before, and the hobbit holes are just white panels of wood built into the hill. I wish I'd watched the Hobbiton scenes before going, so I could picture it better, but I'll be able to compare my photos with the film when I get home.

Apparently Elijah Wood's grandparents came on the tour recently since they never visited him while he was out there. And they've had some proper LOTR freaks too: some just dressed up as hobbits, people dancing on the party field, and one guy who was dressed as a hobbit, didn't want to leave, said he was home, and eventually took them until about 7pm to get him out of there. When he got back to Matamata, he said he was continuing on his journey, like Bilbo. Freaks!

We were back in Matamata by 2.30pm and my bus wasn't coming until 5.30pm. So I wandered along Centennial Drive and around the shops. But that only took until 3.15pm. So I got some lunch and sat in the same cafe as earlier, reading and killing time. They closed at 5pm, so I just sat at the bus stop after that.

I was back in Hamilton by 6.30pm, and can't say I really did anything with my evening. Read, drank tea, watched some TV. That's about it.

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Thursday, 1 March 2007

Hamilton


I was quite accurate in my predictions of the rest of the day yesterday. I booked a hostel in Hamilton for three nights, the bus to Hamilton and the train from there to National Park on Sunday 4th. I also had supper at a place called Revive just down the street from the hostel, and a hot chocolate from the place nest door.

I also met Mike, the guy who had his iPod stolen. Turns out it was at the same time as my money was stolen, so chances are they won't find who's responsible. Had a good laugh with Mike and a few of the girls in the dorm about the snoring guy. And yes, he did keep us awake again.

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So, Thursday. I had breakfast in the hostel, stuffed everything into my bags and checked out by 8am. I got a taxi over to the coach station, and traffic wasn't bad so I was there an hour early.

The journey to Hamilton was mostly through rolling green countryside, and it was only two hours but I still managed to fall asleep. The driver was doing a commentary though, which was a nice touch I didn't expect, and that kept waking me. We stopped for refreshments at Rangiriri, which is across the road from a battle site between Maori and British troops in 1863. We also passed a Maori cemetery; and through Ngaruawahia, the site of the Maori Queen's headquarters. She died fairly recently, and is buried at the cemetery we passed.

We arrived in Hamilton around noon, and since I didn't really know where I was going or how far it was, I got a taxi to the Eagles Nest hostel. Its a small place, and essentially someone's home. It's got more of a bed and breakfast feel to it - too clean and tidy for a backpackers! And it's run by Hugh and Moira, who moved here from Fife fifty years ago. It's also the closest hostel to the city centre: most are about 2km out of town.

Hamilton is the fourth largest city in NZ. It has a population of less than 150,000. This country is sparsely populated! But it is a university town, so there are three cinemas, lots of cafes and bars and apparently a decent nightlife. And I can't decide if we build our towns and cities really big, or if the rest of the world build them really small. For example, Wrexham has about half the population of Hamilton, if not less, yet it feels as though there are far more facilities in Wrexham. And it's the same everywhere!

Anyways, after dropping my stuff off in the hostel, I headed back into town for a look around. I wandered around the shopping mall and picked up the cinema timetables. I went to the information centre/bus station and booked my trip to Hobbiton tomorrow, then for a coffee and waited until Happy Feet was showing at the cinema. My God what an emotional film! You go from happy to sad and back again several times. But it does end happily though!

After the film I went on a bit of the Riverside Walk, but not too far since I didn't really know where it led to! Back at the hostel I sat out on the terrace to escape the bad TV, and made the most of the free tea and coffee. I watched a bit of TV later on, chatted to the other guests, and went to bed around 11pm. There are no windows in the room so it goes pitch black, and really quiet!

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