How not to be a giant loner when travelling alone

I have always thought of myself as a sociable person but when I went to Argentina by myself for three months earlier this year, I learnt that making instantaneous friends is not as easy as I thought it would be. Before I left, everyone had assured me that I would meet like-minded travellers and that I would never really be alone as there are always lots of other people in a similar situation. That said, a deep-rooted fear of doing anything by myself had made me somewhat apprehensive about the trip and I found it took me a while to adapt to solo travelling.

Below are four tips that will help you avoid some of my early mistakes in Buenos Aires:

1) Research hostels in advance

Where you stay is crucial to meeting similar people. I was very disorganised before I left for Buenos Aires and only booked a hostel the morning I was flying out. This was incredibly short-sighted given I was going by myself and had three months to fill. I ended up staying in an odd hostel where each room had a different ‘Sound of Music’ character name as all the popular hostels were booked up. There were only two other people staying there and neither of them had any interest in being friends!

I moved two nights later to America del Sur in San Telmo which was a far more sociable hostel. That said, I still had to work up the courage to approach people and felt like a bit of a weirdo for travelling by myself. The first night there was an asado (BBQ) on in the hostel so I psyched myself up to go to it. I decided that if I just smiled at the first person I saw then it would be fine so as I came down the stairs I beamed my best smile at a girl only to have her grimace at me as though I had run over her first-born. So far, not so good! I kept walking and grabbed a seat at the nearest table. I had joined a group of Australians and they all had a minimum of eight tattoos each.  Being tattooless, I found other common ground in the form of having grown up in Australia and managed to make some temporary pals while in the hostel. They all had different stories- one 18 year old guy was travelling for a year on inheritance from his mum after she died when he was little. Another 45 year old guy had travelled across the world on his motorbike with his best friend and BA was his final stop. The one thing we all had in common was a hunger to travel and everyone had a story to tell.

While on the subject of hostel-goers, this article is hugely accurate in describing the ‘characters’ you find in every hostel!

2) Try and get comfortable speaking the language prior to the trip

You wouldn’t know it when you see me in a Hispanic country but I actually studied Spanish at University and spent nine months learning and speaking Spanish in Seville. Despite this, when I arrived in Argentina I was terrified to speak Spanish after not having used it in over four years.

This initial fear proved problematic my first night in Buenos Aires when I was staying at the ‘Sound of Music’ inspired hostel. In a most unlike me moment, I wasn’t very hungry at dinner time so I picked up an avocado and bought it back to the hostel. I went into the empty kitchen and couldn’t find a light switch. After groping around the cupboards in the dark for a few minutes, I gave up the search for a knife. While there was someone working at reception, I suddenly had a block about speaking Spanish and went up to my ‘Louisa’ room. Fed up, I started peeling off the skin of the avocado with my nails and ate it that way. It was pretty much a low as dinner goes.

3) Join a course

If you are basing yourself in a new city for more than a week and you’re by yourself, it definitely makes sense to give your days some structure and sign up for something that interests you. I stayed in BA for seven weeks and during that time, I did Spanish, yoga and photography courses.

When I arrived first, I had nothing booked which resulted in a mild panic attack. The 12 weeks until my flight home seemed to stretch out indefinitely and I really started to wonder what I had got myself into. The first few days I wandered around aimlessly but once I joined up to a Spanish language school, I found it much easier to meet people. The majority of people I met at the school were all in BA by themselves which reassured me- I was worried I’d have to justify to everyone I met that I did actually have friends back in Ireland!

My motto for travelling has always been ‘Just go with it’ and not to over-plan things but if you are by yourself, it’s a good call to have your first week or two organised so as to avoid panic attacks!

4) Go to everything

It sounds like an obvious thing to say but when you go to a new place, you have to put yourself under pressure to go to say yes to everything you are invited to. The first few weeks in Argentina I went to absolutely anything I was asked to and this approach had me going to pool parties where I only knew (at a push) one other person, a beach holiday with a new friend from the language school, milongas (where luckily some eager-to-teach locals asked me to tango!), a foam party and a day trip to Uruguay. It was tiring constantly making an effort with new people and sometimes skyping my family and friends seemed a far easier option but I forced myself to go to everything and it really paid off. Within a few weeks I had a group of friends from places such as Brazil, Norway and Australia who were just as eager as I was to explore our new cityI Luckily I didn’t have to eat an avocado with my nails again! I guess this was the one thing I did right!

An awkward part of travelling alone- having to get strangers to take photos of you standing by yourself!
An awkward part of travelling alone- having to get strangers to take nerdy photos of you standing by yourself!

Sunny Stockholm

I recently went to Stockholm with some friends and the trip involved several ‘firsts’ for me, including:

1) AirBnB: I had never stayed in this type of accommodation before. Airbnb.com website that connects people visiting a city to locals who have space in their apartment/house. Great news- we didn’t die! The apartment was centrally located but was definitely a tight squeeze for four people- my friend and I were on the most uncomfortable blow up bed in the history of time while the couple we were travelling with were in a room divided from ours by a glass door!

2) Stockholm: More relevantly, this was my first time in the Swedish capital. What a city! Here are some things I learnt:
– There are rigid laws in Stockholm as to when and where you can buy alcohol. Pay heed to the information below or you will be disappointed! Firstly, all spirits, wine and strong beer can only be bought at state-run alcohol shops called Systembolaget and these usually shut at 7pm during the week and 3pm on Saturdays. They are also closed on Sundays and holidays. The aim of such strict laws is to combat alcohol abuse. For tourists though this means you will have to be organised about your nights!
– DJs do not like being asked to play ABBA music in clubs, nor do they find it remotely amusing. While on the subject of ABBA, the museum of the famous pop group closes at 5pm Saturday- Tuesdays and 8pm Wednesday-Fridays. These may sound like obvious closing times but we completely lost track of time in Tivoli Gröna Lund (the amusement park) and got to the museum too late. Cue devastation on our parts! Always nice to have a reason to go back to a city though!
– Swedish people seem to all have immaculate English. Here is an example to highlight their grasp of the English language- one of the rounds in a drinking game we were playing was called ‘categories’ whereby someone suggested a topic such as cars, capital cities etc and we went round in circles saying types of these categories. One of our rounds was fish types. We were impressed when our new Swedish friends came out with things like ‘Mackerel’ and ‘Sea bass’ but when one said ‘Wanda’, we were pretty blown away!
– The blond thing is not a stereotype. There are so many blonds in the city!
– Bring lots of money when visiting this city! The fact that there is such heavy taxing in Sweden means that most things are hugely expensive.
– Have your camera at the ready when walking through Stockholm- there are photo moments at every turn (much to the mild annoyance of my travelling companions!)

3) Near flight missing- this was my final ‘first’. We got to the airport in plenty of time, got through security quickly and I was sitting outside my gate with 40 minutes to spare waiting with my friends who were on a later flight than me. You’d think that it would be almost impossible to miss the flight but I somehow got distracted and ended up having my name be called out and was the last person to get on the plane! I don’t think I’d have minded spending another night in Stockholm but missing the flight would have been an expensive option!

 

Edward Hayes Poem

Below is a beautiful poem that I found in my Granny’s cookbook after she died. This is not meant to be a depressing post but the poem is worth a look. I’ve edited is slightly to reflect the changes she made in her version:

I leave my thoughts, my laughter, my dreams to you
whom I have treasured beyond gold and precious gems.
I give you what no thief can steal, the memories of our times together:
the tender, love-filled moments,
the successes we have shared,
the times that brought us closer together
and the roads we have walked side by side.

Fear not nor grieve at my departure, you whom I have loved so much,
for my roots and yours are forever intertwined.

– by Edward Hayes

Christmas time

A brood of hens

With the hen party industry on the rise, Rowena Crowley goes to her first one to see what they are all about. 

When you find yourself in fancy dress in the middle of the day, doing a painting of a nude male model and swilling another glass of prosecco, you can only be at a hen party.

This was the first hen that I had been to and it certainly was an education in this all-important rite of passage. Weddings are filled with traditions and these days, the hen party marks the beginning of these rituals.

While historically, this pre-wedding occasion involved the bride contemplating her dowry alone, the hen party has evolved into typically drink-fuelled, action-packed occasions with the bride’s female friends and family. These events don’t overly facilitate personal contemplation.

Hen parties are now standard practice in Ireland and they are big business taking in accommodation, travel, bars, restaurants, adventure activities and fashion expenses.

I wasn’t sure what type of hen I was going to- would it be the sentimental route or the stripper route to say goodbye to the bride’s unmarried life? It seems to all depend on how outrageous the bridesmaids are and how tolerant they deem to the bride-to-be.

I have to hand it to our bride; she was very open-minded. Fourteen of us headed down to Enniscorthy for the weekend where we were told we were renting cottages and needed 1920s costumes. Not everyone knew each other as the group was a mix between young and old, family, work and college friends and of course, the soon to be in-laws.

The Friday night started out quite civilised- we all settled into the cottages and then headed out to dinner in the town. Prosecco seemed the drink of choice for the weekend and several drinking games and forced personal confessions later, everyone felt like old friends.

The next day began with fancy dress. While Hen Parties typically involve dressing up as sexy bunnies, sailors or nurses, we donned traditional Indian saris courtesy of the groom’s family whose mother is Indian.

Once in costume, we were directed by the maid of honour to the garden, where a vintage tea party had been set up for us. Cue more prosecco, cucumber sandwiches and diabetes-inducing cup cakes. The bridesmaids had also put framed childhood photos of the bride on every rug.

This was the sentimental, classy part of the hen but the mood suddenly changed when we saw something striding towards us from the bushes. Filled with swagger, our male art subject presented himself to us…completely naked. This was ‘art class’ time we were told. Giggles ensued.

“I thought this was meant to be a girl’s only party?” said one of the hens as she pretended not to look through her hands.

We were given a canvas and paints and were instructed to paint our subject. Artistic abilities and size perceptions differed. “I can’t paint that in front of my daughter” laughed one of the bride’s aunties so she opted for the abstract route.

Once nudity had entered the equation, the hen escalated from there. We all got into our 1920s outfits, made the bride a wedding dress out of toilet paper and danced the night away.

The hen party was a success and it set everyone up well for the wedding. I am now looking forward to having my own hen once I have found that all elusive husband.

Taste of London

When you find yourself devouring chocolate Malbec lamb gratinée followed closely by fois gras and truffle burger and then jasmine tea smoked ribs to finish off, you know that you have made it in life. Or alternatively, that you are at Taste of London.

This year marked the 10th anniversary of the outdoor Taste of London in Regent’s Park and despite the blustery weather, it was a festival that didn’t fail to impress the palates of the thousands who attended the event over the four days.

Over 40 of London’s top restaurants set up shop in the park and the public were privy to food offerings from head chefs Michel Roux Jr (from La Gavroche), Raymond Blanc (from Brasserie Blanc) and Pierre Koffman (of Koffman’s).

The format of the event is that tents are set up all around the park with several stalls in each tent representing restaurants. You can create your own tasting menu by selecting different dishes from different restaurants as each offered up to four of their signature dishes. The food is served on paper plates with plastic forks and is paid for by vouchers called crowns which are bought at the entrance. This makes for a very different atmosphere than dining in the eateries themselves.

The format, which has been exported to other cities such as Dublin, Melbourne and Dubai, worked well in some respects but failed in other areas.

Firstly, an event like this is where fellow foodies converge and the fact that it is held in an outdoor area and involves lots of walking around to different stands makes for a very communal atmosphere. People strike up conversations with ease with complete strangers in a way that doesn’t typically happen in this city. If you see someone eating something you like the look of, you make a beeline for that person and pick their brain on whether it’s worth forking up your crowns.

Two of the best dishes that we sampled on the basis of word of mouth recommendations at the event included Kaspar’s The Savoy smoked salmon hot dog and Alyn Williams at the Westbury braised beef cheek. Kaspar’s dish was an unusual German twist on hot dogs, and was made up of a smoked salmon sausage, apple sauerkraut and horseradish. The sausage meat tasted smoky and the horseradish gave it the right kick. The braised beef cheeks came with grilled runner beans, lemon and baked potato foam. Although the portion was small, the beef was succulent and the potato foam was a welcome light accompaniment to the rich food.

Another aspect that worked well is that it makes the restaurants and chefs accessible. Unless you were a full time food critic, it would be impossible to go to all these eateries and sample their food and it’s a great way to familiarise yourself with the best restaurants in the capital. The cooking demonstrations by chefs such as Roux clan (Albert, Michel Roux Jr and his daughter Emily) and the competitive cook-offs delighted audiences as chefs shared some of their best cooking tips.

There were two areas that the format didn’t work. Firstly, at £25 for the standard entry ticket which doesn’t include any crowns for paying for the food, an evening spent at this event proves costly. Once inside, you need to buy the non-refundable crowns and the dishes typically range from £4-£7. The portions are small and there aren’t any seats. You end up easily paying £50 which could be spent on a three course meal at many of the Michelin star restaurants for a five star experience.

The second issue was the layout. The tents were sprawled out all over the park and even with a map, it proved a challenge to find specific restaurants as the layout was so unclear. While the space between each tent meant that the queues were never too big at any one stand, when it rained it was an unappealing prospect to duck from one side of Regent’s Park to the other on the wet grass to find a particular restaurant stand.

While the food was exceptional, it just wasn’t good value for money. It looks like I’ll have to try and make it in life now to ensure I get to eat chocolate lamb and fois gras burger again in one sitting.

Taste of London
Taste of London

22 North Street, Clapham Old Town

Local bistro comes out on top

It wasn’t an ideal venue for what was clearly a first date. The restaurant was empty except for the couple’s table and mine. As I sat waiting for my dining partner, it was impossible not to observe the awkward first date conversation that was taking place. Both rushed to speak at the same time and then a pregnant pause would ensue. I said a mental prayer- please let the food be good here.

I went to the restaurant on a very rainy Tuesday when it seemed nothing could redeem the day. I glanced around as I waited for my friend.

Despite the lack of other diners, there was a lovely ambience in the restaurant. There were big candles on every table which made for relaxed, flattering lighting, something the couple no doubt appreciated and the playlist of Lana del Rey and Kodaline was soothing.

There were lots of distinctive touches such as exposed red bricks on the wall and upside down wine glasses being used to make a chandelier-like light.

While I was waiting, I busied myself by studying the food and cocktail menu and immediately I was impressed. The menu was seasonal, changing every month and a two course meal was £15. When I went, there was a focus on Mediterranean food that month. More diners came into the restaurant and things started to look up.

Once my friend had arrived, we got down to the difficult task of choosing our meals. Although the specials were hugely tempting (Scallops, lamb with garlic potatoes and red wine jus etc), we were on a budget so we opted for the £15 two course a la carte menu.

To start, I opted for the chicken liver and port pate, pear chutney and raisin bread. While the pate could have been creamier, it worked very well with the chutney and the raisin bread was an original addition. My dining partner went with the roast goats’ cheese, beetroot tartes tartine and pea crest. The goats’ cheese was just the right amount of gooey.

One small gripe was that I had just taken the last bite of my starter when the waiter came to take the plate away and this happened with my drink and main course as well. There is a fine line between being efficient and rushing someone along.

For the mains, I went for the char-grilled lamb burger, halloumi, tomato and rosemary relish and herb fries. The pull of the herb fries was too strong to consider anything else on the menu. The meat was cooked exactly as I had asked and the relish and halloumi added to the burger, elevating it from just a run-of-the-mill cheese burger.

My dining partner ordered the fried red snapper tacos, beetroot-cabbage slaw and pineapple chilli salsa. The dish worked well, particularly the pineapple chilli which gave the fish a kick. The one issue with this main was that because the fish was fried, it made it difficult to taste the flavour of the snapper.

Once our plates had been all-too swiftly removed from the table, we then sampled some of their cocktails. Although competitively priced (£6.50), they did undo our intentions of just spending £15 each on the meal but it was money well spent.

We left the restaurant feeling a little too hurried along but we will definitely be back for the winning combination of great value, tasty food and cosy atmosphere. I’ve heard good things about their Sunday roasts so I might have to return to sample it, all in the name of research of course.

Address: 22 North Street Clapham, SW4 0HB. Link to Website

22 North Street
22 North Street

Bath Travel Feature

I have a terrible confession. I’ve seen the films but I haven’t read the books. That said, as I squeezed myself into a corset at the Fashion museum in Bath, I was able to relate to Jane Austen. No wonder she wrote such scathing criticisms of society- she couldn’t breathe most of the time. Had I met Mr Darcy at that moment, he would have been wasted on me entirely and our eternal love would never have flourished- I needed air, not a man.

Once I was uncorseted, my priorities changed and I strode out of the museum in search of the modern day Darcy.

The Royal Crescent seemed an obvious place to start. Voted as the second most picturesque street in Britain, the Georgian architecture and the grassy lawns in front of the curve seemed an ideal place to meet him. At least I hoped so, not having read Pride & Prejudice, I wasn’t exactly sure if that was where he should be.

While the architecture was impressive, the Mr Darcy lookalikes were not in abundance. The Crescent was filled with families picnicking, couples canoodling and seagulls squawking.

The next stop was the Roman Baths. In Austen’s time, so the film Northanger Abbey tells me, the wealthy frequented these thermal spas for their medicinal properties. With my health in order, I search for Darcy. The baths weren’t looking overly salutary- they were green, frothy and uninviting.

Actors dressed in costume re-enacted characters from Roman times beside the water but I was looking more for a character from the Regency era.

Continuing on my quest, I walked towards the gothic Bath Abbey. Passing through the bustling Abbey churchyard, I could see how this lively city provided ample writing material for Austen. The streets were filled with buskers, overflowing cafes and relaxed tourists but no aloof romantic protagonists that I could see.

At the Abbey, I clambered up the 212 steps to see Bath from a height. It was a great way to take in the views and get a sense of the rural beauty of Bath. From here, I was also able to clock in a few places I had yet to explore on my search.

One such location was Pulteney Bridge which crosses the River Avon. It seemed the perfect setting for a romantic encounter with the gushing water and the boats gliding by but after 15 minutes, it was clear I was yet again looking in the wrong place. There was no one there that resembled Laurence Olivier, Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen.

There were two last locations on my list. The first was Sally Lunn’s House. My spirits were restored with the famed French baker’s bun. Afternoon tea featured strongly in all the Austen films that I had seen so I sat looking as ladylike as possible with my tea and bun but to no avail.

My final stop was the Jane Austen Centre which gave a comprehensive overview of what life was like during the Regency times and Jane’s background. Unfortunately, Darcy types didn’t appear to be interested in the centre- that afternoon, the visitors were predominantly women or else men who appeared to have been dragged there by their partners. I bought an ‘I love Darcy’ key ring and left.

Exhausted from a day of Darcy hunting, I sat myself down at a quiet bar. The only thing that could resuscitate the day was some cocktails, specifically mojitos. I ordered the drinks and shortly heard that reassuring sound of ice being crushed and drinks being shaken. I looked over to the barman and suddenly started paying attention. Tall- tick. Dark- tick. Handsome- tick. Brooding- tick tick.

I began to wonder if I had got it wrong all day. The modern day Darcy possibly didn’t wander around the Royal Crescent or Pulteney Bridge waiting for his Elizabeth and the modern day Elizabeth didn’t need her Darcy to negotiate her sister’s unsuitable marriage- what she needed was a man who can make a good cocktail.

Despite having finally found my Darcy, I think it’s time I read Pride and Prejudice, especially now that this is the 200th anniversary of the first publication. I might also dip into Sense and Sensibility in case I go looking for an Edward Ferrars next time.

Bath
Royal Crescent

Bath
Bath

Bath
Bath

Bath
Uninviting Roman Baths

Bath
Can’t go wrong with a good mojito or two…

Weekend in Oxford

I went to Oxford for the first time this weekend. I feel I should dispel some common misconceptions;
1) A wand-wielding Daniel Radcliffe will not jump out at you even though you continually expect it
2) Oxford college is not one campus but instead is made up of colleges and accommodation that are dotted throughout the centre
3) Despite the sunny photographs of the colleges, it does rain there. You may be forced to wear a poncho. It will prove embarrassing.

The colleges I liked best included Balliol (lovely gardens), Magdalen College, New College and Christ Church (where HP scenes were shot!). Definitely try get to Blenheim Palace (Churchill’s birthplace) as well if you can and embrace punting (but only the chauffeured variety!) The botanical gardens are also worth a look (they are holding a pumpkin-weight guessing competition there and who doesn’t love a competition that involves no skill?!)

Why worried parents mustn’t let tragic accidents stop the great gap-year adventure

Irish Independent

When tragedies occur, such as the appalling bus crash in Ecuador which killed four young English students and their tour leader, it is only natural for parents to attach a stigma to the country where it happened and try to deter their child from travelling there.

Alas, fatal accidents happen the world over — not just in developing countries — and to discourage your child from taking a once-in-a-lifetime trip to an amazing part of the world could be a mistake. 

I went to Ecuador for nine weeks during the summer of 2006 with four friends. The trip was our first experience of an economically developing country, and it opened our eyes to something completely different from our day-to-day college existence. We had a vague plan of volunteering and travelling, but we had no idea what to expect.

We arrived late one June night and our taxi driver brought us to the wrong hostel, rang the bell, threw all our bags out of the car and sped off. We presumed we were being set up, and when we discovered the only other guest was a man called Mr Prowl, which really set our nerves jangling

It took a few days to adjust to the high altitude of Quito and even longer to find accommodation for the six weeks we planned to stay in the capital. We finally found a place that we affectionately called ‘the Commune’, where we rented two rooms from some Quechua Indians.

Still without a purpose, we scouted out some volunteering centres. We came upon three in the north of Quito and signed up to volunteer for a month. We worked with children of all ages — those with weaker Spanish worked with babies who couldn’t speak yet, and some of us worked with kids aged between 6-18 years.

Volunteering was definitely one of the highlights of the trip — the kids completely won us over (and we eventually won them over with chalk, piggy-backs and skipping ropes). They were amazing, and we seriously considered trying to bring them back to Ireland with us.

We travelled during the weekends, and often decided late on Friday nights to go to the bus station and leave the city for a few nights. We went to places such as the Equator Line, Banos (famous for its thermal baths heated by a volcano that erupted three weeks after we left) and Otavalo (renowned for its Saturday market).

The late-night buses were definitely an experience — we had rocks thrown through windows, soldiers ordering us off buses to search us, Bible-bashers shouting at us, and strangers pretending to work for the bus companies and conning us of our money.

The day-time trips were sometimes worse as you could actually see the bends the bus was making on the mountainous terrain.

But it was the Ecuadorians themselves who really made our trip. Everywhere we went the locals, particularly the indigenous communities, embraced us, possibly because the country has not yet been inundated with tourists. The World Cup was on and Ecuador did really well, which generated an infectiously happy atmosphere.

Without exception we were befriended and helped by locals in each place we visited, and we often ended up being taught how to salsa or playing cards and beach volley ball with the natives.

One memorable encounter was when we visited the snow-covered Cotopaxi volcano. We refused to pay $10 to be driven to the base of the volcano (so in tune had we become to the local rip-offs) and decided to walk instead (not realising that it was 30km). Eventually an Ecuadorian family picked us up and agreed to come to the volcano with us. We ended up singing renditions of Unbreak My Heart in Spanish with the family.

We backpacked for the last three weeks of the trip, and again got ourselves in scenarios our parents would not have been happy with. Riding on the tops of trains and hitch-hiking were our regular forms of transport.

We went to the jungle for a week and went white-water rafting down the Amazon with a man called Tomás who thought it was very amusing to throw us into the water as we hurtled down rapids. At one point, we had to cross the treacherous river (made worse by flooding) by foot to get to the other side and were literally dragged one by one by our guide across the Amazon.

Our nine weeks spent in Ecuador will never be forgotten — we still have Ecuador reunions regularly and reminisce about all the people we met and the adventures we unknowingly undertook.

If your child is thinking of taking a gap year and going away for the summer to a developing country, encourage them. The experience will serve as an invaluable education as they explore new cultures in what will be an often challenging, but always memorable trip.

Link to online version: Ecuador Travel Article- Irish Independent

Cotopaxi
Cotopaxi

Brazil’s babe

Irish Independent

Gisele Bündchen has just topped the Forbes list of supermodels. So what’s so special about Leonardo DiCaprio’s ex, asks Rowena Crowley

It would appear that you need more than a pretty face to make it in the ultra-competitive world of modelling. Gisele Bündchen last week topped the Forbes list of 15 richest supermodels, earning an unprecedented $33 million over the past 12 months. She also holds the Guinness World Record as the world’s richest supermodel, with an estimated fortune of $150 million. What is it about this German-Brazilian supermodel that has made her so successful?

A self-proclaimed workaholic, Gisele (which should be pronounced Jizelli) currently endorses over 20 products worldwide and has modelled for all the major fashion houses such as Chloe and Ralph Lauren. As the top earner on the Forbes list, she is catwalks ahead of Kate Moss ($9 million) and Heidi Klum ($8 million), who are ranked a distant second and third on the list of top-earning models. As such, the 27-year-old has redefined the term supermodel.

In 1990, the Canadian supermodel Linda Evangelista made the most famous quote in modelling history — “we don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day” — in reference to how models were calling the shots in the fashion world.

Evangelista and her colleagues Christy Turlington, Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell are regarded as the true supermodels who changed the face of fashion in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Linda Evangelista is considered the founder of the supermodel ‘union’ as she, along with Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington in what became dubbed The Trinity, campaigned for better wages for models. With Gisele raking in $33 million a year, it can be safely said that The Trinity succeeded in their aim.

The voluptuous curves of Gisele are worshipped throughout the world, and make a nice change to the anorexic-looking models who have gained such prominence in the fashion world of late. She denies that any of her perfectly sculpted features are the work of surgery, despite many suggestions that she has had implants.

While supermodels such as Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss are renowned for being divas or taking cocaine, Gisele has managed to steer clear of scandal throughout her career, demonstrating an impressive professionalism. That’s not to say she is adverse to controversy — she made headlines this June when she condemned the Roman Catholic Church’s opposition to condoms and abortion.

Born in 1980 in a small town in the extreme south of Brazil, Gisele Caroline Bündchen was discovered at the age of 14. Though she originally wanted to be a volleyball player, fate had different plans for the small-town girl, when she was talentspotted by Elite Modeling Agency at a McDonalds in Sao Paulo. (Another story claims that she had previously been enrolled in a modeling course by her mother and had been taken to Sao Paulo to be evaluated by the Elite agents, which somewhat detracts from the ‘casual discovery’ claim).

After a tough beginning in Sao Paulo and a failed attempt in 1996 to break into the American market, she gave New York a second chance in 1997. Despite being told her nose was too big and her body was too skinny, Gisele was not deterred. She says: “I wouldn’t let this bunch of people let me down. I wouldn’t get five ‘no’s and give up. I’m not that kind of person. I go after what I want, no matter what.”

In 1998, she got her big break when she appeared on the cover of American Vogue, and shortly afterwards, all doors were open to Gisele.

The five-year, million-dollar contract with Victoria’s Secret in 2000 confirmed her status as a supermodel. The ever-versatile model has also tried her hand at acting, featuring in the 2004 comedy Taxi and she is tipped to play Vittoria Vetra in the upcoming Angels and Demons, a film adaptation of Dan Brown’s best seller.

Such is her status that she is able to pick and choose her contracts.

Rumour has it that when denied a pay rise in May, the blonde bombshell decided against renewing her record-breaking $5million contract. Linda Evangelista’s demand of $10,000 as a runway fee was too modest.

Link to online version: Gisele Feature Article- Irish Independent