Friday, 6 July 2012

One night in Paris

A fleeting visit back to Paris meant that we had not much time to do much in the city of lights.

In the metro we were waiting for the next train when an elderly couple came to wait for the same train, Sam moved his bag out of the way so they could have a chair, "Merci beaucoup monsieur" said the old man, when he realised we spoke English he thanked us again and told us that he and his wife who live in Geneva, were celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary. They had married in Paris and visit as much as they can.
He said they saw a lot of young travelers in Paris and it's fantastic when they are thinking of others (the wife said nothing the whole time, she's probably the strong silent type) He said that he felt that it was very important to thank people..... And thanked us again. Then he and his wife got on the train.

After watching Spain win the Euro Cup we had some drinks under the stars in Paris and people watched passers by. A perfect evening.

I got up early the next morning and ran around Jardin du Luxembourg, it was a beautiful park at the foot of a palace. I could live here it's that beautiful.
Pics are from google images, because I ws doing fitness, there was no time for photos

After a croissant filled breakfast we went to Puces de Montreuil, a flea market and sifted through beautiful old things and a heap of junk.. Ok so there was more junk than beautiful old things.
I don't think I'm cut out for this vintage hunting business.. It's so time consuming and most of the stuff is awful.

Our last few hours in Paris were spent by the Pont Neuf where we had a huge lunch and I drank French champagne in the sun before we headed for our last stop, London.
Tres bien

San Sebastián

Driving through the hills into San Sebastian the weather changed from sunny and hot to grey and raining. Fantastic news as we were heading to a beachside town.
Just when I was starting to get a tan, it starts bloody raining.
Our guide on the bus told us all about the amazing food culture of San Sebastian and invited us all to meet her for a pinxos (tapas) crawl later that night. No one really seemed into it, but we felt sorry for her and agreed to come along to taste the best bits of San Sebastian.

When we found the hostel no one was answering the door. Not a great sign.

I called the number on the booking form and "Ernie" told me he would be right there.. He ran from the other property and was covered in sweat and puffing when he arrived.

Ernie was crazy, in a good entertaining way. He told us all the best spots to see around town, I made the mistake of mentioning the Jesus statue on top of one of the hills.
"no, don't go see that - Jesus has been through enough"
He told us all about his theories on religion, immaculate conception and communism - note to self: don't mention the Jesus statue to Ernie.

Whilst trying to interpret Ernie's wifi password instructions and surfboard hire posters on the wall we met Maz, a girl from Perth traveling on her own. We hit it off and invited her to the pinxos crawl.

Whilst waiting for the guide to start the pinxos crawl we had a drink at Atari, it didn't look like she was showing up so we got some food and thought we would start our own tour (having no idea where to go).
Sam had beef cheek was apparently amazing and I had a little prawn thingy which was delicious.

The guide and the rest of the bus finally showed up, turns out everyone wanted to come so she ditched us. Nice one..
We joined to group and headed to the next stop a mussel bar that had the best seafood I'd ever tasted.
The floor was littered with mussel shells because apparently its unhygienic to leave them on your plate. I'd think it's probably not very hygienic to throw bits of shellfish on the floor but that's just me..
This is where I tried kalimotxo for the first time, a drink made up of half red wine, half coca cola. It's delicious and refreshing and unfortunately really easy to drink, which is a big problem when red wine is involved.

The next place had traditional Spanish cider - it's basically stinky apple juice, which is not delicious.. unless you like that kind of thing.

The guide came and told us we were off to the next place (which had two for one drinks) but we still hadn't finished our drinks so she said she would come back for us. But she never did. So we found our own (weird) two for one place.

We ended up going back to the first tapas bar for more drinks, kalimotxo, sangria, beer etc. It was a great night, filled with new friends and plenty of food.

The next day we spent our day eating around the town trying out different Pinxos and exploring the town. These people love their dogs, and so do we. I'm quite sure I looked like a mental patient every time I saw a Pug or a French Bulldog - but I'm ok with that.

San Sebastian is a really cool beachside town.We stayed in the Old Town, full of beautiful old buildings and churches, close to the surf beach.

The surf beach is famous, although looking at the waves we couldn't really see why.

Sam went surfing with Ernie later that evening when the waves picked up. There were so many people out I'm surprised that no one got run over.

With no sun out at the beach I explored the shops, they had the usual H & M, Zara etc. and some little boutiques. But nothing too special, I thought San Seb was meant to be full of wanky types who dressed only in white and pay far too much for quality items.. Disappointing.

We caught up with Maz and some other girls on our last night and went back to the mussel bar because it was that good. We ended the night with drinks at a bar near where we were staying. We left the girls around 11 because we had to catch the bus the next day.

San Sebastian was partying hard that night, the Spanish tend to go out from midnight to about 7am, which is a coincidence because that's exactly when I planned to be asleep. Unfortunately the party on the street and the sleeping couldn't happen at the same time.

But that's ok because our next stop was Paris.

Thursday, 5 July 2012


After actually managing to catch the plane from Barcelona we arrived in Lisbon.

We were staying at Rossio Hostel run by Marco, a friend of Sam's brother who we haven't seen in three years.

We managed to make it from the airport to the approximate area where the hostel is. We grabbed a map and asked the guys behind to counter to show us where to go "down near the river" so off we went.

Looking at the map it didn't make sense that we should be going towards the river. We headed back where we came from and thought we had found the right street after walking up a huge hill. Again it looked like we were in the wrong place.
So we asked the police and they told us to go back where we had come from. It took us two hours to realise that we had been dropped of 100m from the hostel.

We were really kicking goals that day.

Marco was working that night so we caught up with him then. It was great to see him. He was hosting a tapas night and was cooking chorizo and got Sam to help him. Nervous about Sam cooking alcohol soaked sausage with an open flame. I watched from afar.

The hostel was beautiful, great rooms and comfy beds. Marco's mum cooks everyone breakfast the next morning (the pancakes are sensational!), man is she a good cook.

The next day we wanted to suss out Lisbon so we walked down to the river and checked out the monuments and old buildings.

That night the hostel was booked out so we stayed at Marco's place.
He had invited us to go to a friend's party. A Brazilian girl he knew had just graduated and it was her birthday so it was time to celebrate.

We got a taxi to where Marco thought it was, he said he had been there a few times, but each time he had been very drunk so he wasn't really sure.

That really filled us with confidence.

He asked some people nearby if we were in the right place. One older guy had a long and animated conversation with Sam and I. In Portuguese. He seemed to speak more Portuguese the more we told him we couldn't understand him.

Turns out we were in the right place. We headed up to the party and met everyone. I'm struggling with the two kisses each time you meet someone.

My confusion has led to me accidentally head butting some of the people I've met.. I'm sure they understand. But nobody likes a headbutt.

The party was fun but it was also confusing. Only because most of the talking was in Portugese. Everyone was really lovely.

One guy, a painter named Migel Angelo (yes, really!) was convinced that I was Portugese and refused to speak to me in English.

The party was heaps of fun but the small apartment full o people smoking hit me around three and I went back to Marco's whilst the boys stayed and enjoyed what was left of the night.
Partied till the sun came up..
With the boys sleeping off the night before I had the day to myself to eat Portugese custard tarts and go shopping without the worry of a chap sitting out the front waiting for me.

I went back to Marco's that afternoon and found him cooking eggs and going through the photos of the night before.

Seems they'd had a great night but unfortunately Sam had lost his license that we'd fought so hard to get back in Santorini.

After a night of recovery we headed to Peniche the next day to see Super Tubes, the portugese wave that is on the pro tour.

The tubes were not super, they were not tubes at all. I knew how much Sammy was looking forward surfing.
flat as a tack..

We decided to come back again the next day in the hope that the was some kind of wave that Sam could surf.

The next day there were waves, enough to surf at least. I really tried to take as many photos as I could of Sam in the water but they all look the same, I got Sam at the start and then I got some great shots of some other guy.

I decided to put the camera down and go back to my book.

We took Marco out for dinner to thank him for the wonderful time he'd shown us. He picked the place, from the outside it looked like not much, but the inside was beautiful, ballrooms and murals on the walls - it even had a chandelier. This place was the real deal.

The food was fantastic. Probably the best I'd had whilst I was in Lisbon, washed down with green wine. Perfect.

We went for a walk to see Lisbon by night. It was beautiful, I really really didn't want to leave this time.

We said goodbye to Marco and thanked him for his hospitality and got ready to head to Madrid.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012


Madrid was hot. Stinking hot 39 degrees no breeze, no beach just hot.

We decided to get some tapas in an air conditioned restaurant close to where we were staying. I was excited for some amazing food given the beautiful tapas we had in Barcelona. The best thing about the meal was the aircon. Not a great start.

I hadn't really looked into the place we were staying at, to be honest I just booked it because it was the bus pick up point.. My bad

We watched Spain and Portugal in the Euro Cup in a crowded area of the hostel with a German school group.

The sun doesn't go down until ten so it was hot all night - too hot, you really need air conditioning or at least a fan to get through the night. We didn't have either.

After next to no sleep we got up bright and early to get on the bus bound for San Sebastian.

Friday, 29 June 2012


We arrived in Barcelona just before dinner, walking to the hotel we passed a lot of badly dressed middle aged women leaning against walls and sitting on the curb.. I didn't realise that they were prostitutes until one of them grabbed the crutch of an elderly man walking past.. Welcome to Barcelona!

The view from our hotel
After navigating our way through the maze of whores (I never thought I'd have reason to write that sentence) we dropped off our suitcases and went exploring in the backstreets. We had been told do not eat in the main drag. The tourist menus are no good.

So we went to a tiny little wine bar where only a few locals were hanging out and had the best tapas of my life. The food was so fresh, after all those days of pizza and cheese I was in heaven.
We spent the rest of the night people watching in Las Ramblas drinking sangria.

There were so many sights to see in Barcelona, all the Gaudi. But after two days in a row on a bus we wanted to stop learning and relax we walked the streets of Barcelona shopping and taking photos of alley ways.

After doing the same pose in every photo I've decided to mix it up by randomly waving my arms around. Holwell isn't thrilled with the concept..

We listened to Spanish street band Microquaqua who were that good we decided to buy their cd.

Desperate for amazing food like the night before we had our eye out for more tapas. And then we saw the tourist menu (knowing full well that tourist menus are no good) we sat down and ordered the (very cheap) paella special.

It was bad, really bad.
The calamari in mine was green, Sam's had prawns so small we were convinced that they were actually bait.

The moral of the story - THE TOURIST MENUS ARE NO GOOD!

We headed to the beach to recover from what was close to a near death experience.

The beach was beautiful, a nice relief from the heat of the day. Sam even managed to find something that was sort of a wave to body surf.

They were selling all sorts of stuff along the beach, "mojitos mojitos, saaaangrrriaaa sangria" was the background noise, until the police rocked up and all of a sudden the beverage sellers disappeared and became beach goers.

We were going to take photos of the beach but the topless ladies around us meant that we decided against it. Probably for the best.

After the beach we really couldn't be assed walking all the way back to our hotel so we got on a sort of bike powered tuk tuk. Our driver/rider's name was Cheese Bar.. "like cheese and like bar - Cheese Bar"

It was only fair that Sam introduced himself "G'day mate, I'm Wicked, Wicked Dude"

Cheese Bar and Wicked Dude really hit it off.

Cheese Bar and Wicked Dude - Photo: Embarrassed Girlfriend
When we got back to the hotel and I started to think about what I'd write in the blog.. That nothing terribly funny or ironic had happened. And then I checked the flight confirmation for the next day.
When I read the boarding pass I felt sick, I'd booked the plane for the wrong day. We'd already missed the flight - the lesson here is that a. Planning is better than winging it and b. Don't book flights in the middle of the night when you are tired and a little bit pissed.

I rebooked the flights for the morning and pretended I hadn't thrown all that money away with the help of some Spanish beer.

Dinner was at a Spanish/Mexican fusion restaurant that didn't look like much from the street but the food was sensational.

After dinner we joined he table next to us. The table was very multicultural, French, Spanish, Italian, Swiss and us..
I dazzled the group with my ability to locate the toilet in many a language.

We would have stayed longer with the group to chat more but we had an early flight to catch now so we headed back to the hotel to pack for Portugal.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

A brief encounter with Florence and Nice

Bus-ing about
After the bus picked us up in Rome we headed to our first stop Aviano.
Aviano is a cute little town on the top of a very large hill. So large in fact, that you can only get up by Funicular. It's a cable car thing that goes up the side of a hill.

A cable car full of hot hungover types is probably the last thing I needed.

No, I don't know why Sam isn't wearing shoes.. stop looking at his feet, look at that view!
The town itself was beautiful, it was the Italy I had always imagined. Windy cobbled streets, old buildings and beautiful Italian food.

I had the best coffee I have ever had on that (very large) hill, followed by the tastiest gelato imaginable. Hangover cured.

We headed on to Florence and made friends with a chap named Alex. We all decided that we should have wine and cheese when we got to our accomodation.
When we arrived at reception, they mentioned it was 38 degrees, and the rooms were tents so therefore had no air conditioning.
There was only one thing that could lift the mood.
Wine and Cheese.


Alex had a theory that we should only drink bottles of wine that cost 1 - 2 €.
So that's what we did. We drank a few bottles of Italy's finest (cheapest)  - and ate about four blocks of cheese.

I've never met a man more excited about cheese
Throughout the evening our table became longer.
Alex, Sam and I met an Irish couple Gavin and Avril who were at the bar to watch Ireland play in the Euro Cup.

Then met another couple Chloe and Beau who jumped on to our table.
Then another Aussie couple Cassie and Rob from Queensland who also had a cute black dog they were missing terribly.
Then a group of about six English girls joined the end of the table. It was clear to us then that we had to play a drinking game. And that we did. With red wine..

At the end of the night I got lost trying to find our tent and lost Sam in the process. This is what skulling red wine will do to you.

The morning after cheese and wine night was as you would expect.

But we had to put that behind us because we were on the bus to Nice with a whole different group of people.

The journey took a detour at the leaning tower of Pisa so we could take ridiculous touristy photos.

I'm trying to flick it so it's straight again.. get it?
We drove on through Monaco and discovered its pretty bloody hard to move there. Just a lazy million euros to apply and even then you might not get in. Might just stay in Barwon Heads for the moment.

We saw Grace Kelly rock, where princess Grace's car went over the cliff.

And then we arrived in Nice, a picturesque beachside French town.
We didn't see a lot of Nice, but I promise we were there!

We went to a tiny restaurant La Mamas, where the owner only spoke French. It made me excited to head back to Paris again!

The next day we were on the bus to Barthelona..

Monday, 25 June 2012


I really wish I knew more Italian, I know bits and pieces but no where near as much as I'd like to.

It's meant that all conversations in Rome resulted in us speaking broken English with an Italian accent in the hope that they understand us better than regular English, when really the end result is sounding like the count from sesame street and know one knows what you are on about.

After we got to Rome from the airport we were chatting to figure out which direction to head in to get the hotel, when a guy (who we thought was American) shouted "you guys are Aussie right? Can I buy you guys a drink?"
Turns out he was from Adelaide and he had that weird accent that all South Australians have.. And he was smashed.
After we finished our first drink we went to leave he begged us to stay, He was waiting for his train and didn't want to drink alone. We stayed for one more drink but that was about it, his South Australian accent was getting thicker and thicker with every sip and we could hardly understand him.

Our hotel had a rooftop area overlooking the city. We were that excited to be in Rome, so after dinner we bought a bottle of red and headed to the roof to plan our next day.

I wanted to see the Sistine Chapel so we headed to the Vatican to get a look, and then we saw the line.

Technically we had seen the Vatican so we decided to skip waiting in line for hours and go to the colosseum.

There was another line at the colosseum but it was no where near as long, which was good news given it had cracked 35 degrees.

We were fortunate enough to be standing next to a group of Americans who were loudly being loud and we spent almost an hour listening to their waffle.

The colosseum was, well colossal. It was huge and all the stories about what went on we're fairly intense.. Russell Crowe will give you the gist.

But my god was it hot! All the stone and loud American banter meant that we quickly saw everything and went to get some shade and some lunch.

Grandma told me I had to get some leather boots in Italy. Challenge accepted.
We wandered around the main shopping strips near the Spanish Steps and I didn't find anything I liked.

Disappointed And bootless, we had dinner near the Trevi Fountain. Well what we thought was the Trevi Fountain until we realised that it's a bit bigger and more popular.

That's not a fountain..

THIS is a fountain

After finding the right fountain (these people have fountains everywhere!) I did the typical tourist thing and threw a coin in so I return to Rome, I'm hoping when I come back it's not so hot. Hopefully the fountain will hook me up.

The next day we headed to Trastevere to hunt boots because it's meant to be THE happening place, and well let's face it.. We're happening kind of people.

We took the train and then started walking, in the wrong direction. For an hour.
We were no longer on the map we had and google couldn't even save us.
I won't lie, walking in the heat with no idea where we were and taxis not pulling over wasn't the best time.

We finally got a taxi to pull over and got dropped off in the right spot.

Trastevere was magical, after a tense journey there it was clear that wine, pizza and pasta were the key to happiness.

And then we explored the back streets, it was the cutest place.

I found a shop called Carlo Cecchini, I knew I was I the right place to find my boots, it smelt of leather. Not in a weird way, in a exciting boot challenge kind of way.

I picked out a pair and declared the challenge a success.

They wrapped the boots and gave me a ridiculously large bag to carry. I loved it!

We then had to head out to a new hotel just outside of Rome where the bus was picking us up the next day.

Getting public transport with a suitcase and the massive bag o boots was not fun. Repacking was happening, as a matter of priority.

The place we stayed was a camping ground that had a lot of youthful types drinking cocktails from buckets.. When in Rome..

Let's just say that getting up the next day and the bus ride to follow wasn't a great experience.