Sunday, October 26, 2008

in no fit state

I am happy to report that I only have 2 more flights to endure before I am home. Thank goodness...I really hate flying. And, by the way, I do have a return flight home, it is November 24th. I get home around 10:30am...mark your calendars.

Manchester was a lovely and relaxing time...mostly Anchal and I just ate and hung out, which are essentially two of my favourite things anyway. I wish I still lived with her, she's so good to talk to. Maybe in another life! The weather was mostly cloudy and rainy, so it didn't really inspire activity anyway. We did go shopping on the Saturday, which wasn't really the best move, as it was, obviously, the weekend, and EVERYONE AND THEIR MOTHER was out shopping. It was just a little too hectic. If I didn't already have agoraphobia, I probably do now. I'd hate to see the Christmas season.

I headed back down to London to spend a few days with Theresa and see her new place. All my friends in Europe are intellectuals, meaning they're all getting their M.A.s and making me feel like a slacker. Theresa is getting her M.A. from Kings College, lives in an awesome flat in Maida Vale, and has hilarious flatmates. We went to a concert on the Tuesday at her school, a band called Those Dancing Days. They were quite good, even though Theresa, myself, and Tres' flatemate Kristina were the only onces dancing. So it goes.

The other days were spent eating (I need to start running again, this isn't funny anymore), going out for coffee, one day I went to the Tate Modern museum, the National Gallery, and the National Portrait Gallery. I think London has figured out how expensive it is as a city, so they've made it a little easier on those of us on the bad side of the exchange rate (meaning, the rest of the world) and made most museums free, which was nice.

Saturday morning I left for Bangkok, which was not pleasant in the slightest. I got about 2 hours of sleep (because I will never learn), got to the tube, which was stopped indefinitely due to a faulty train at another station, had to catch the bus to the train station, arrived at the airport to find that my flight was overbooked. They offered me a later flight on a different airline, flying via Kuala Lumpur rather than Bahrain. I agreed to it to help them out and take them up on the food voucher, but really, they didn't do me any favours. I had a middle seat, which I absolutely abhor. I haven't been feeling very well the past few days, which proceeded to get worse as the flight drew longer. I arrived in Bangkok, found my hostel, eventually, and took a 3 hour nap. My eyes still burn, but I've got to go see these weekend markets that everyone tells me about.

In spite of everything, I'm so excited to be here! My hostel is really nice, and, judging by the accents I'm hearing, mostly Austalians again! Tomorrow the first thing on my agenda will be a massage, as that backpack is killing me.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


The chunnel refrained from catching fire, Virgin trains abstained from being difficult, and I made it to Manchester very easily, and relatively quickly. Surprise! Anchal must have known how much I miss Mexican food, because she took me to a burrito place on the way out of the train station. It was good. Not great, but better than nothing.

It's hard to explain how good it is to see Anchal. I didn't even know where to begin in terms of catching up, but it didn't even matter. It was just plain wonderful to be sitting across from her, eating burritos. Having seen her, Sarah, and Forrest leads me to believe that home isn't really a place, it's a group of people. Being around these people made me feel like I was home again.

Anyway, I've finally uploaded some photos from the trip so far. You can see them here and there. It's just a sampling, but it's really just to prove that I am, in fact, not making all this up.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

"how are the boys supposed to kiss you when you get onion pizza??"

Confession: I used to love NSync. I was a multiple concert attending, Lance Bass loving, poster displaying fan. Embarassing, but true. This is going somewhere, I promise. So, in Rome, Sarah and I were in search of a particular restaurant recommended to us by our friend Rick Steves, when we heard a loud obnoxious American accented individual saying "speak ENGLISH!". Independently of each other, we both turned to give this person a dirty look, when we realized that it was Joey from NSync. Sarah was walking in front of me, so I hissed "Sarah!! "..."I KNOW!" she replied. We were then flooded with 15 year old memories. Hilarious.

Anyway, where were we? Italy?

Venice was lovely, but crowded and pricey, as expected. We decided it was worth at least a day though, because, like Rick Steves says: "it's a medieval cookie jar, and nobody's looking". It's charming in its own dirty, crowded way, but it's the kind of place you could arrive in the morning, say you saw it, and be out before you can say 'gondola'. And €30 doesn't buy much in the way of accommodation either. It buys a bed and a pretty crappy shower. We walked in, and, being a bit tired, wondered "...why are there shoe prints on the ceiling and walls?". Later, upon closer inspection, there were also tons of dead mosquitos on the walls...clearly having met their demise from said shoes. Lovely. But, we had a nice dinner, went for some nice walks, and got some souveniers, so, it was a nice time.

The next day we headed to Rome. We arrived, got lost trying to find the hostel (this is a trend for us in Italy), attempted to check in, only to find that our booking was for the next two days, not that day, and, no, they didn't have free beds for that night. Angry at ourselves and on the verge of a nervous breakdown, we asked if there was anywhere else we could stay. Luckily, this wasn't Berlin, and the nice boy at the desk found us another place 10 minutes away. Thank goodness. After dropped off our things and partaking in the free pasta, we opted to go for a walk, as there is much to see in Rome. We found our way to the Trevi fountain (it was on the top of Sarah's list), which really is incredibly beautiful. We found spots amongst the tourists and sat for a while; basking in Triton's glory. The experience was somewhat soured, however, by the handfuls of ,en trying to sell tourists random crap that nobody needs. No, I don't want to buy 3 roses or a clay funny face that moulds into 20 different expressions...I want to enjoy the fountain in peace.

The following day we headed out for Vatican City, as we heard it was best to do either early or pretty late. We waited in line for about an hour, got inside, and began to go through what is apparently 4 miles of art leading up to the Sistine Chapel. There would be a sign saying "Chapel this way" and we would turn a corner, walk through a hallway, turn another corner, see another the time we got to the actual chapel, we were exhausted. And it was kind of disappointing, after all that lead up. And there were all these guards repeating "sshh!!!" and "NO PICTURES!!". But, it was a very impressive museum, and something you should see once. After the museum, we headed for St Peters Basilica, which I found to be much more fantastic than the museum, and it was FREE. Later that night we found the Pantheon as a landmark for where we would have dinner, thus the Joey story. The dinner was very good, inexpenisve, and the waiters had funny things to say about Sarah's choice of pizza topping.

The following day we headed for the Colloseum, which was...big. And the forum ruins, which were...ruined. And got gelato, which was...delicious. I could go into detail, but its really not that interesting. We went to a bone crypt, which was interesting in its creepiness, Sarah and I were both accused of not paying the 'recommended' €1 at the door (which we both paid, by the way, because who tries to cheat a church??), and we went to the same retaurant for dinner. We went to a bar later, and were approached by two guys who heard us speaking English, and have a guess where they were from? L.A. Go Dodgers.

The next day we headed up to Florence, the final destination to get lost and pay for a hostel in. And, man, did we get lost. The directions were terrible, and no one would help us. After asking several people, to no avail, we bought a city map, found our street, found our hostel, and grumpily dealt with the lack of internet or kitchen that the hostel claimed to have on the website. 'Tomorrow will be better', we thought. We left the hostel in the morning, found the streets to be packed with demonstrators (I'm seeing a trend, here...), protesting something about budget cuts in the university system, from what we could gather. We decided it was a good day to go to Pisa, as it is only an hour away, and we still had Eurail passes. Saw the tower, which was cleaner than I thought it would be...looks like they've been doing a lot of renovations on some more gelato, did some shopping, and headed back to Florence.

The next day we spent shopping...until later in the day when we caught the night train back to Paris. Florence actually is quite beautiful, it would have been interesting to see it at the beginning of the journey, rather than the end when we were tired of museums, tired of hostels, tired of the crappy exchange rate, and probably a little tired of each other, as well. Perhaps someday I'll go back with fresh eyes and a rich husband.

Now we are back in Paris, which is almost like being home. Thursday Sarah heads home, which will be really sad, she's been an amazing trval buddy and partner in crime. She' so easy to be around and has such an amazing heart. She also has incredible patience, as I know I'm definitely not the easiest person to deal with sometimes! Thursday morning I'm off on the infamous chunnel to London, then Manchester to see Anchal. I'm so excited to see her!! We lived together for 2 years in LB and she is in MAN getting her Masters. I haven't seen her in a year, and have missed her ridiculous amounts.

The Simpsons is playing in French at Amélie's. I've kind of missed t.v.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

and then there were two

First of all, let me just say, that it is impossible to attempt to make mexican food anywhere in Europe. Sarah and I have made more than one attempt, and the ingredients aren't available, or just don't taste right, or oranges are disguised as limes.

I have also come to the conclusion that I never made very many Australian friends in Sydney because they are all in Europe...particularly in Germany and Prague.

We spent a good few days in Leipzig with Forrest, and he showed us around the town. We took a lot of fun pictures of the run down buildings that used to be factories and now have trees growing inside them. There's a really cool area that used to be factories but now have been turned into a bunch of art galleries. We went to a restaurant called Acapulco hoping to have some burritos, but, come to find that 'Torillas' are just warm tortiallas with cold salad inside. And the nachos were crap.

We left Leipzig and headed to Prague, which started off a little rocky. First, we were on the train into the Czech Republic when we were told that our Eurail passes weren't valid (we were sure we had seen on the website that they were...). Luckily, new tickets weren't too expensive. Then, we arrived in Prague, circled the building 3 times looking for the tram stop on my directions, only to conclude that we were at a different train station. Some bum tried to help us, but we knew he only wanted money. But he did a good job of pointing to where we needed to be on a tram map. We finally found the tram to our hostel, a drunk man fell on me, and we ate chinese food. That's pretty much the sum of our first evening in Prague. I also made a bunch of Australian friends. We had to transfer the next day to another hostel that we had booked into months ago, which was a bummer, because we really really liked the first one we stayed at.

Second day in Prague we spent wandering around seeing all the things that Rick Steves reccommends...the Astrology clock, the Charles Bridge, the Lennon Wall. I think the vast majority of my pictures from Prague are of the Lennon Wall. It was so interesting. We then found a cafe that served 'American Style bottomless coffee', which is unheard of in this part of the world, so we got postcards and sat there for a while, drank 3 cups of coffee each, and made our way back to the hostel to search for some dinner. This was our first attempt at making burritos. But, the people in the grocery store were very unhelpful, and we don't understand Czech, so that idea was scrapped.

Third day in Prague we found our way to the castle, which has some lovely views of the city. The cathedral is lovely and has some of the prettiest stained glass I've ever seen. We also found the Fred and Ginger building, which is designed by the same guy that did the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain, and the EMP in Seattle. Got some good ice cream, had some falafel for dinner, met up with some more Australian friends at the hostel for a few drinks...the rest is quite boring.

The next day we headed for Italy via Vienna...we didn't have the time or energy to explore Vienna, so we just booked our night train to Venice and sat at the train station, guessed it...falafel. We decided not to book the sleeping car because we were tired of paying so much for transportation, so we booked the regular car with the logic 'you sleep sitting up on planes all the time'. Come to find that not many people take the night train from Vienna to Venice on a Saturday night, so we had the car mostly to ourselves, aside from a creepy man that showed up sometime around midnight and left sometime before 8. I didn't notice him much, being asleep and all, but sarah was very bothered.

Arrived in Venice around 8:45...and I'm almost out of internet time, so that will be all for now! Ciao! More from Rome later.