Exploring Europe (Part 1)

IT WAS a childhood dream for me to visit Europe. It doesn’t matter which cities or countries at first but when I started planning for my trip back in early 2018, I had to focus on landmarks familiar to me from elementary school lessons. The textbook memories served as a framework for places to visit.

IMG_0121 My plan was to travel light. I brought a navy blue backpack from Country Road for my hand-carry and a yellow American Tourister 69cm luggage for check-in baggage. I love the colours! Been approached a few times by airport staff about how vibrant my luggage is. It is also so easy to spot on the conveyor for pick-up.

London.

Arrived around 8:00pm on October 20, 2018 at the London Gatwick Airport. Since I flew Emirates business (thanks to Qantas Frequent Flyer points), I was dropped off to the hotel via chauffeur services included in the booking. Lancaster Court Hotel’s location is a short 5-min walk to Paddington station (with express services to Heathrow airport, which is perfect for the proceeding journey).

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Buckingham Palace. Change of guards was happening, hence, the crowd.

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London Eye, with wheel diameter of 120m and total height of the structure at 135m.

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Me at the Tower Bridge.

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Here’s also a picture of me at Platform 9 3/4. I forgot, however, to remove my invisibility cloak.

Tip: Make sure you check lift availability when booking your accommodation. I was assigned with a room on level 5 and there’s no lift. I asked for a lower level room but there’s none available (as I’ve been told).

Battling jet-lag, I opted for the 2-day hop-on hop-off tour through Big Bus which started on the next day. It was quite difficult especially for me as I had a few nosebleed incidents (that’s how my body manifests stress).

Big Ben was a disappointment as it was covered and under renovation. All the others attractions/landmarks were great: London Eye, Buckingham Palace, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, and of course Platform 9 3/4 (you’d be familiar if you’re a Potterhead). I was also able to snap a red telephone booth which is one of London’s popular trademarks.

I also tried Padella’s fresh pasta. I came in 20 minutes before opening and I was second in the queue. After a few minutes, I didn’t realise the line was already so long. It was well worth the wait (I didn’t really have to wait that long, but if I was in the back of the queue, it would have been really worth it anyway).

Here’s a sneak peek inside Padella’s kitchen where I was seated in front of. These guys have amazing teamwork that makes the team work!

Berlin.

The city has a rich and interesting, albeit dark history. Streets are amazingly clean and although the weather was raining at times, I pushed booked a bike tour from Fat Tire Bikes. I felt special because everyone clapped when they found out I came all the way from the land down under. Not sure why, but probably they gave me an A for my effort to travel solo that far!

The Berlin Wall Memorial has a very solemn atmosphere. It was quiet even there were several big groups of guided tours, probably to respect the memorial of this old representation of a divided nation.

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Berlin TV Tower.

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Checkpoint Charlie – the third checkpoint opened by the Allies in and around Berlin. Charlie represents the third letter of the NATO phonetic alphabet.

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Museum of the Murdered Jews of Europe.

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Deutscher Bundestag – the House of Parliament.

Bike tours are highly recommended. The streets are bike-friendly and motorists would usually stop to give way to cyclists. The guide mentioned that this is largely attributed to their culture.

Airport travel is through buses that travel to and from the city.

Tip: Get the Berlin Welcome Pass for unlimited travel on public transport. This is really useful when wandering and finding your way around. The train network is pretty simple and easy to understand.

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Recognising the Non-Awardees of Batch 2015!

This is to recognise those who did not end up getting any awards or special mentions. Your dream is only as good as those who have gold or silver or whatever-its-made-up-of medals in their necks. And your fate is only as good as how hard you try and compete in the bigger world.

CONGRATULATIONS, BATCH 2015!

A big shoutout to the graduating students with no honours, special mentions, honourable mentions, and other special awards. It is important to note that you make up the vast majority of the graduating class and without you there will be no gauge for top performers and criteria for the best in something-something.

Trained to get high grades, win that Math wiz challenge, spelling competition, declamation contest, and quiz bees — it is a different competition out there. It is high time to get real. And the real world would never ask what award you received back in school. The real world would require you to interact, learn, cooperate, and mingle with other people.

Welcome to an even playing field. One where you do not sit and listen from morning to afternoon, opening workbooks and taking examinations in between but solving real-world problems and work in an environment where your performance is based on how efficient you do tasks and how well you blend with people in your team. One where at the end of day you do not expect home works but be able to go out try to get work and life balance as much as you can. One where you do not always end up asking allowances from your parents’ hard-earned money but being given that chance to get your own bucks and treat them back.

Coming from someone whose only award was “Most Behave” in preschool and “Gold Loyalty Award” in high school (for being in the same institution for, like, erm, forever), NO, this is not a spark-your-bitterness and snub the ceremonies.

This is to recognise those who did not end up getting any awards or special mentions. Your dream is only as good as those who have gold or silver or whatever-its-made-up-of medals in their necks. And your fate is only as good as how hard you try and compete in the bigger world.

Get up from your bed, be at your best look, wear your favourite outfit, glam up, strike a pose with your best buds, walk that aisle to your seat, and most importantly, thank your parents for being there with you – with awards or naught.

Go Get It: Learning from the Teachings of Pastor Julia A’Bell

“[DO] NOT hesitate to call for the second time if no response was received during the first. Don’t hold back to actively pursue Jesus.”

LUKE 18:35-43 shows a parable of a blind beggar who receives sight after believing in Jesus. As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting at the road side. He asked the crowd what was happening and they told him that it was Jesus.

The blind beggar called out to Jesus but was rebuked by the crowd and was told to be quiet. But he shouted more. Jesus heard his call and asked that he be brought to Him. The parable ended with the blind beggar regaining his sight and followed Jesus, praising God.

Hillsong pastor Julia A’Bell reveals three lessons from this parable:

1. BE INQUISITIVE. And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: (Luke 18:35). Questions leads to answers. Hence, to get response, one must ask.

2. BE AGGRESSIVE. And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. (Luke 18:38). This is being aggressive for the presence of God in finding out what His plans for us but not sacrificing humility. Matthew 6:33 tells “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” This, however, should not be mistaken as giving up things we want, such as career BUT to seek  God first before anything else. And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me. (Luke 18:39) tells us to not hesitate to call for the second time if no response was received during the first. Don’t hold back to actively pursue Jesus.

3. BE BOLD. Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. (Luke 18:41). Ask God what we want in confidence and with a pure heart.

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JULIA A’BELL. Julia, alongside her husband Joel, is the Lead Pastor of Hillsong Australia. She is responsible for the outworking of the vision in the Australian campuses, including Hillsong Sisterhood. Julia is passionate about empowering people and building the local church. She has an enthusiasm for life which is evident in her communication style. She has been married to her best friend Joel for 21 years and adores being the mum of Harmony and Eli.