Sunday, November 30, 2008
The hostel i was staying in was a little bit out of the town but well worth every mile! It was in the mountains with an amazing view! Oh and a very friendly cat...im still not a cat person though..never!!
I got up early and caught the bus to the old part of town...little windy streets with cobble stones, graveyard, churches, pretty squares and just a lovely relaxed feel not many tourists.
I think usually when you fly somewhere with Ryanair and their airports are miles away from the location that you usually just catch a bus straight to the city from the airport. Even though this was called Milan airport i,m really glad i decided to stay for a few days. The views from the old town were of the suburbs in the mountains, it doesn`t seem like many people live there and there wasn`t the usual homeless people and beggars about...maybe a wealthy area i hear George Clooney lives not far away in Lake Como...
I headed down to the new part of the city which is still really lovely, all the buildings are still pretty old with nice white-grey stone. I had lunch in a cafe called something like Smily Happy Face! I said `hola!` when i walked in the door...i think they were a bit offended. Anyway i had a lovely unidentified meat, sauce, potatoes, bread, red wine and coffee for E5! It took me hours to find an internet cafe, i tried my best to concentrate on my emails while the guy running the place had a little baby on his lap with a really bad cough i felt sorry for the child.
Nothing really eventful here in Bergamo...for once!I was sharing a room with an Italian girl who spoke no english but we managed to communicate just about. I think i would certainly go back to Bergamo if i could get a Ryanair supercheap flight from Dublin if you like mountains and walking and cheap food its the place!
I got the train to Milan the next day and found a nice hotel room beside the train station....it was time again for a room just for me! The lady running the place was a bit mad one minute she would be all sweetness and love then when i went to take the cup of coffee i bought at the bar in the hotel to take to my room she was like NOOOOOOO NOT FOR RRRROOOOOM! Also there was strict instructions to SLEEP BETWEEN SHEETS OK NO ON TOP, BETWEEN ...LIKE SANDWICH OK!
The only thing i`ve heard about Milan is that its `good for shopping, thats all i knew before i went for a walk and stumbled upon this huge church called the Duomo.
There were big lit up billboards and some kind of concert on in the square beside it. I just walked around for a few hours marveling at the huge buildings but it was crowded and full of tourists a far cry from peaceful Bergamo! I met up with Karen a friend from Dublin and her friend and we went for lunch...bottle of Proseco and delicious food. I rushed back to the hotel to get ready for the couchsurfing meeting.. that crazy lady was explaining about sleeping between the sheets to a german couple when i was walking past oh they were like YA YA OF COURSE WE SLEEP BETWEEN SHEETS VERE ELSE VE SLEEP!
The party was cool in a bar called Art Factory. One thing about Milan that i REALLY liked is that a lot of bars have a happy hour where there is free food like pasta, pizza and other tasty things that you have no idea what they are but who cares! So if you can find out these happy hour places you could certainly eat well for free! I met a lot of nice couchsurfers, few drinks etc....i need to get couchsurfing again nice room for myself now and then is nice but its been 4 quiet days now....on next to Salzburg.....
THIS IS ME ATTEMPTING TO STEAL THE BOTTLES OF WINE ON DISPLAY AT THE ART FACTORY
Thursday, November 20, 2008
(flower vending machine)
They have flower vending machines here all over the place now wouldnt that be nice to have that in ireland to make it even easier to buy your woman (or man!) flowers!
I was kicked out of the hostel at the usual unearthly hour of 10am so i headed to Lago park to get some more sleep!Another lovely day. The park is like the Phoenix park, really big with a nice lake in the centre where i was sitting beside and watching folks canoeing. I got really into practicing my Poi dancing like a mad lady until an old man came to watch me and i got shy....
I headed back into the centre of Madrid to meet Awen a couchsurfer, some of his hobbies on his profile were; Passion, Art, Celts, Acoustic Music, Poetry, Creative Recovery, Shamanism, Druidry, Celtic, Folklore, Huna, Victorian England, Long Haired Men...need i say more i wanted to meet this guy! And what a lovely guy he was. He lives in Madrid with his husbund, its a very gay friendly city (which i was certainly to find out more about later!) He brought me to a supercool temple built by the egyptians for Spain where there was the best sunset to be seen in Madrid.
We bumped into 2 other couchsurfers and the 4 of us headed to Awens gay mens yoga class! About 50 people in quite a small, hot room, all breathing heavily and stretching together it was a strange experience but i really likes it. There was one move where you kind of stretch and look to the left while you´re sitting down i didnt understand the instructor totally as it was in Spanish so i though he was just turning to have a look at this smelly backpacker girl so i just kind of sat there and smiled back to him and he kept looking at me....doh then he turned to look the other way i realised everyone had been turing thier head my direction! When it was time to do the cat position these 2 guys beside me were going 'mieeoooowww' to each other! Just before it ended we all lay down and got really deeply relaxed I felt great after that...VERY smelly but great!
Tonight i was staying with couchsurfer Miguel, he just happened to be staying in a 5 star hotel that night with his friends and welcomed me to come along! As i looked like a homeless person i spied the lift actoss the street through the hotel doors and made a runner for them! Miguel met me at the hotel room...WOW 5 star it was!The room was amazing, the sofa i would be surfing was amazing but the best thing was a heated outdoor jacuzzi!! I had a shower, put on my most respectable backpacker clothes and myself Miguel and his 2 friends Mena and Mario head out for a delicious meal
(THE OUTDOOR HEATED JACUZZI!)
After that we headed to a bar close by a nice gay bar!Strange for everyone to be smoking inside ANYWAY we had a few rum and cokes and headed to the next bar with great music we were all dancing away and Mario spotted some guy he really liked! We headed to a gay club next, lots more drinks and dancing. For some reason i had it in my head that this other random guy was better for Mario (who id only known a few hours!) so all night i was trying to set them up and get rid of the guy he liked who was clearly not good enough for him!Oh dear...that´ll be the rum.
It was about 6.30am when we left but the party was far from over time to go back to the hotel to the jacuzzi!Mario had bought a bottle of champagne earlier so 5 of us hopped in drank champagne with strawberries and watched the sun rise. It was a surreal moment as you can imagine! I only met these people a few hours earlier but it was like i knew them much longer....i know them better now anyway!!!...i was very well behaved incase anyone is worrying! Oh my god how crazy! about 9am i was just getting too wrinkly and it was pretty sunny so i headed to the couch to sleep for a few hours! that was a great night thanks Miguel and friends
(statue beside hotel!)
I met Awen again the next day i wanted to give him this shamrock thing i brought with me since he´s crazy about all things celtic. He brought me to a lovey cathedral where the stained glass is placed so when the sun shines in every few minutes you will be lit up another coloue. Here is Awen looking a bit green.
I had 2 days in Burgos before flying to Milan. I was tired after the crazy time in Madrid so i spent most of it relaxing in very nice couchsurfer Barbo´s house. He brought me to a cool little pub just E1 for a beer. It was the first time it had rained since i arrived just a quick wander up the hills then back to the cosy house!
Next Santander then Fly to Milan.....bye Spain!
Wow quite hot for me when i arrived in Madrid and everyone around me in their winter wollies!I headed straight to couchsurfer Juans house not too far from the airport. After walking about an hour UPHILL in the wrong direction(!!!!good exercise i suppose) i eventually found his place. What a lovely apartment all painted white inside with the table and chairs red with cow coloured seats!Juan lives there with his 5 bikes! While i sipped on some lovely wine he made the most delicious salad (nicer than yours Aymen sorry!!)with homemade hummus. We had a great chat about travels and cycling (see not just me whos crazy about cycling!!). He is very involved with the Critical Mass in Madrid its a group of people who cycle all the time and want bikes to be recognised just as much as cars on the road and rightly so!They once had a naked cycling protest in Madrid....Its not illegal to be naked in Madrid can you believe that!!Just once you dont go near a school or deliberately flash someone! ..and i brought so much clothes...
(this is me rubbing the fold up bike really fast!)
The next day i relaxed at Juans house, before going for a 5 hour walk getting so so lost Madrid is BIG! Later that evening i went cycling with Juan through the crazy Madrid rush hour traffic on a fold-up bike! Jaysus the cars were coming from all directions i was just following Juan!I was still having problems getting used to cycling on the other side of the road!We went to a cool building where Samba Da Rua practice (the band i was minding during the Festival of World Cultures), there was also a workshop with bits of bikes and if you want a bike and will take the time to make one its all yours! Juan spends some time there helping out, i think its a really nice idea except i cant imagine how upset i'd be if i made a bike and it was stolen.(bloody knackers...im still sour about that...)
While Juan was looking at bits of bikes i went next door to the FREE clothes shop!How great...clothes that are free!I just took a cool little bag as i cant fit one more thing in my backpack! I was planning to meet up with one of the guys from the Festival of World cultures but everytime just as our pretty normal phone conversation was ending he'd go into this mad old man voice saying 'ohhh guapa guapa...something or other' it was really weird i just ignored it then the next time as the conversation was coming to an end his voice changed to this scary old man voice again...strange!
I walked for probably another 5 hours again that day doing nothing in particular just enjoying the sunshine and the smell of cologne and olive oil, and getting lost. Thats what i really like about travlling just for the sake of travelling there´s no rush to see the touristy things.
I stayed in a hostel that night and met Jon from Pensylvania who has been growing his beard since he started travelling and takes a photo each day to put altogther at the end how cool!...i will put a link when he has that all done! Some nice girls from the states and myself drank our 59c carton of wine then headed to bed...Toledo tomorrow!
I got off the bus in Toledo what a really gorgeous day. Found a nice field beside a river and had breakfast. I was in heaven ...so peacefull and relaxing. I went for a walk around, climbed kind of a mountain!then head to the main part of Toledo to meet Mar for some tea!
She had been to India a few months ago it was really great to talk to her about how it was arriving there as a lady on your own!I think our reasons for going are quite similiar and i feel a lot more relaxed about going there now that i spoke to her.
I headed back to Madrid to meet Chema a good friend i had met in Dublin and havent seen in years! We went to a few bars, unfortunately i had hardly eaten all day and had danced with my poi!and climbed the kind of mountain so i was too tired for a crazy night of bars all the same it was really great to meet up with Chema im sure we'll meet again in another few years!
ok so now Madrid pt2.........!!
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
I met Marco for drinks and he explained that the protest was by the students as 3rd level fees were being brought in again...im sure all i ever did in this sort of protest was calmly sit on O´Connell st for a few mins!Anyway he told me the students had also occupied the university buildings. We went to one building wow it was crazy, techno music playing, banners and grafitti everywhere, very dark, everybody smoking, one room was full of blankets where everyone was sleeping, another room had a group of students around a table planning the next move...like in some kind of war movie and another room students were giving a speech to others using a projector. It was very strange. All the walls on the street around the student buildings had been drawn on too. Im glad i met Marco otherwise i would have had no idea what was going on!
After this i went to go hold up the leaning tower as one must do when in Pisa!We went for more drinks and pizza, i set off the handicapped toilet alarm when i pulled the wrong chord to flush it, all the staff came running in, i think Marco was a bit embarassed!He was a lovely guy, a philosophy student and had lots to talk about. Just as we were heading to the direction of where i was staying the rest of my family turned up in a taxi i said bye to Marco and hallo to family!
SO great not to have to plan where im going or staying next!We stayed in a lovely B&B run by Mario who loved the word 'trendy'...my cousins wedding sounded 'trendy' and my travel plans were 'trendy' also. I was so so tired i decided it wasnt worth getting up for breakfast but being the light sleeper that i am i was awake before everyone! This breakfast was hilarious!!There was so much food for just our family i wanted to take a photo! There was every kind of sweet cake, toasted bread and ham sambos, some home made tart, fruit, cereal my god and so much more everytime we ate enough that we could see each other across the table the lady plonked down another elaborate fruit bowl or pile of freshly made sanwiches!When i think of the 'breakfasts' usually given in hostels..stale white bread and jam...wow i was in heaven..a tired heaven!
We met up with the rest of the relations and headed out to this little village Bagni De Lucca. What a gorgeous place, tiny town with just the one shop rather scarcly stocked!
We went for an introduction to the wedding meal the 1st night it was a lot of fun, great food, free anything you want to drink and we met some great people from our future cousine-inlaws side of the family all Ozzies. Not to mention mortifing my poor sister asking this gay guy from Seattle would he marry Carol for his greencard! I must say thanks to Keith who i met at the wedding and stole the name for the blog from!Ignoring the mini hangover the next morning myself, Brian and Carol went for a walk up the mountains what a gorgeous spot, everyone we kept meeting around the mountains was there for the wedding!The wedding itself was really gorgeous...picture perfect.
The dinner after the wedding was in an old casino it was AMAZING inside!!We tucked into the free champagne and green and red drinks and mingled and bonded after few more free champagnes and green and red drinks!My cousin married a lovely Australian guy, one of his relations offered myself and Brian a job shearing sheep in a place called Wagawaga (just waga now if your a local!) Anyway not to go into all the details but this was a wonderful weekend, eating, drinking and being merry in one of the most beautiful places ive ever been!Thanks to Brian, Rosemary and family for inviting us.
After popping home to sort my indian visa, loan etc and the hardest part of all...the goodbyes!!Next stop Madrid..........
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
It was warm and humid in Florence i went to find my hostel, they said i had to come back in 2 hours when it had been cleaned i asked could i just sleep behind the desk but he said no, so i headed off like a mad woman, eyes so tired they were just slits and i was probably pretty smelly at this stage too. I found a bar...as one does! And checked my book on Florence´s section Essential Phrases but ´can i have a beer?´wasn´nt there!! Essential phrases my ass! So i just did the usual when i don´t know what the language is and point.
When i actually got back to the hostel i had a lovely superclean bed in a superclean room...i really appreciate this after getting bitten by the bible bugs in Amsterdam!I had a shower and went straight to sleep. I woke up to these mad bimbo girls (and guys) from like California like requesting the hostel guy to PLEEEAAASSSE play S-club 7 and Backstreet boys and when he did they started screaming like how i´m sure ill scream when i win the lotto. I went back to bed i was too tired for this!
(this bridge was the only one in Florence not destroyed in WWII)
The next day at breakfast i met two nice canadian´s and a lovely couple from Peru...i think! The canadians were super proud of how little they could get by on each day eating dry cornflakes i could tell their mouths were watering when i was slicing my juicy cucumber and tomato with my salami and bread yum! It was an absolutely gorgeous day so i didn´t delay too long eating. I walked and walked, Florence really is the most beautiful city i have ever seen very romantic but also very full of American and Chinese tourists the latter which are quite funny to watch ´foto foto ha ha!!´I walked a bit out of the main drag crossed the river to a quieter part of town. I found the entrance to the botanic gardens there was a queue to pay but also the way to exit so i just slipped in the exit!wow i´m getting a bit unruley with all this travelling!
The sun was really beaming down i could feel my freckles getting bigger!!I found Bacchas the Roman god of wine (see picture above) a fine thing if ever i saw one. After this i found a huge grave yard and bumped into the guys from the hostel. My mission was to see the statue of Michangelos David as you may or may not know a ´David Head´was one of the things i sold in my old job to decorate your house with and now and then we´d put this head in one of beds in the shop under the covers just peeping out...yes sounds stupid but when your tired and giddy its pretty funny! The real statue was in a museum that cost a lot to get into so instead you can climb a hill to see the fake one, what a climb but when i saw an old couple race up the steps i though my god you´re unfit get up there!!I had arranged to meet some couchsurfers at the top of the hill beside fake David to see the sun set so i head back to the hostel for something to eat before meeting these.
With a bottle of wine each myself and the canadians from the hostel headed up the hill. The sunset was spectacular if i should say so myself, to one side over the mountains was a beautiful purple, red and black sky and to the other was a hazy view of Florence with the last of the sun lighting up Brunellescis dome bella bella! The couchsurfing girls we´re from California but not the ´like ohmygod like its like backstreet boys like´type they were the bold girls from their school and were in Italy for a year to learn Italian. They had some hilarious stories and i learnt about Dental Dams (google that if you must i´m not explaining it here!!) We drank the wine and chatted for hours then headed back to the hostel where two American girls were patting themselves on the back for getting through half of their 5 litre bottle of wine!!
The next day off to Pisa soon to meet up with the family for my cousins wedding!
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Julie likes green. It was very easy to spot her across the street! Before that I had been looking at this homeless man on the bench across from me with his hand out searching for his can of beer, eyes closed, there he was searching all over the place with his right hand and sure wasn’t it in his left hand all along, I got up to look for Julie as soon as he found it (quite some time it took!!).
We went back to Julie's gorgeous apartment, neon green kitchen and raspberry bedroom I like it! She lives there with her boyfriend Thomas. I dumped my bag and Julie brought me for a wander around
After some roasted chestnuts, we headed to a party, some friends of Julie and Tomas. After about 2 minutes I spilled my drink....I’m so bad at that. There was another couchsurfer there, he told us that he requested to surf a guys couch in
I had a lovely relaxing day around Lyon just took a bike and cycled around it was sunny and warm. That evening we went to Julie's friend’s house for dinner. I realised my inner rockstar on Wii guitar hero’s wow I never knew I could play so well....mmm maybe it had something to do with the wine too...very good fun. After a game of bowling on the Wii Julie said to me' Hey Emma my character is fingering yours!' HA Ha for a moment I didn’t know if I wanted to explain this! She meant her character was GIVING mine the fingers good thing we sorted that out that night incase she got herself in trouble in the future!! (this is Julie 'fingering' some stars sprayed on the street)
I think myself and Julie brought out the divilment in each other, we were in a very divilmentious mood that night, we were running around
We found 2 frying pans outside this pub, some guys told us they were there because there was a fight arranged later (with frying pans??ha ha) I thought maybe its some homeless persons pans so we took the less mouldy of the 2 and left the other for the homeless man. We spent the next few hours running around with the pan explaining to randomers that a woman belongs in the kitchen and needs to have the pan with her just incase someone needs an omelette, some Moroccan guy on the street said I look like a girl from little house on the prairie! We found a microwave on the street on the way home also but I think Julie's boyfriend might not have been so impressed with this microwave the next morning! It was bright when we got home, we spent about 1/2 an hour doing the
The next day WOW VERY hungover and tired! I decided to have an active day! I left Julie and Thomas to get on with their work and cycled into the old part of Lyon, I climbed up the mountain, saw Lyons Eiffel tower, walked for a few hours, went back to Julie's for a few games of 'frets on fire'( free version of guitar hero you can download for your PC) then SLEEP! The next day I said my goodbyes (or see ya as I prefere! i hate goodbyes) then I hopped on the 13 hour bus to
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
My brother explained that Jeremy looked like Johnny Depp so of course I spotted him straight away! Myself, Jeremy and his friend Laurence headed back to their flat in Noisy Le Sec. What a highly entertaining and friendly guy. He has great pride in this (scary, no???)Masterpiece some friends made him for his birthday....he keeps it at the end of his bed! (Note the two left hands!)
Later Fadi, Jeremy’s flatmate returned from work, everybody was wrecked so we had some wine and then SLEEP! The next day I thought feck it i've seen the Eiffel tower and the Louvre and the Champs Elyseé I cant be bothered to do touristy things so I relaxed in Noisy Le Sec, it reminded me of a French, Mullingar town. That evening I lost the feeling in my thumb from a highly competitive game of Mario kart, few more beers etc a fun night. I was very thankful to Fadi and Jeremy for putting me up at such short notice, there were having a big party the next evening I was tempted to stay but I had arranged to couchsurf in Lyon and something told me GO TO LYON!!!
So anyway as we were walking down the road towards my hostel for the night I noticed it had 'Christian hostel' written over the name. Mmmm now I really don’t mind what religion so I was quite intrigued to see would there be a difference to a normal hostel. I left Jeroen outside while I ran in to dump my bag. I got my complimentary leaflet on choosing the right path in life, and I was informed of the spiritual journey the reception girl had followed thanks to Jesus, so with my bible talk and prayer time info in my hand I headed up the cold clinical stairs to my 20 bed room. There was a HUGE emphasis on MAKE SURE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD ALMIGHTY ALL THE ANGELS AND SAINT AND THE VIRGIN MARY THAT YOU KEEP YOUR STUFF SAFE IN YOUR LOCKER! So I was in a big hurry because Jeroen was waiting for me a flung the stuff into the nearest locker and left.
The next morning I woke to find I had been attacked by bed bugs YUCK!!!Now not to be complaining but when I went to get a drop of milk for my coffee at breakfast this lady starting screaming 'PRIVATE PRIVATE!!!' at me! So I just sat there with my black coffee while the girl beside me sang' one..two...three...' as she put her sugar in her coffee. I brought my coffee out to the terrace area to get away from these mad people before I went exploring Amsterdam and to my delight there was a guy sitting out there REALLY stoned with a joint hanging from his lips and that song' because I was high...;' playing on his laptop! Hilarious of all places!!He was from Romania and didn’t know this was a Christian hostel either!
I had a great day in Amsterdam the sun was shining, great atmosphere, tourists blissfully cycling around with juicy red eyes la la la sure theres no cars or trams or anything dangerous when you are on THIS special bike! Met another couchsurfer in a coffeeshop, ate lots of delicious biscuits, kept bumping into the strange girl from breakfast i think she was stalking me. Then it came to meet my couchsurfer for the night. Michel was an actor in theatre he made his fame through a Grolsh add and he had a lovely place on the banks of one of the canals. We had pizza and a few litres of wine before heading out for more! On the way home (around 4am) we passed a guy manically doing push-up on the street...gotta love Amsterdam. When we got back out came Michels whiskey collection!NOTE: a 'smooth' whiskey isnt smooth as in goes down easy oh no its smooth as in you can only detect the one flavour, as much as i love whiskey this one was eroding my stomach so i kept poring it into Michels glass when he looked away.
I had very little sleep on Michel’s floor so for my last night in Amsterdam I decided to treat myself to a room all for me! I found a lovely one in a quiet area how fantastic! Well the toilet was so close to the wall infront that i had to sit sideways but apart from that I walked around naked and threw my stuff all over the room...I had been suppressed while couchsurfing!! In the middle of the night I heard a scratching sound I thought the room was haunted because everytime I moved my head to see what was going on it stopped. It turned out to be a cute little mouse on my bed. Not really that cute actually, I don’t like mice on my bed...i didnt sleep andafter that mice kept running around the scirting boards of the room. I left early for my bus to Paris bye bye Amsterdam....