Friday, July 23, 2010

Eurotrip Playlist

Here are a few of the songs that will forever and always remind me of my time in Europe. Hopefully in the years to come when they pop up on my Ipod or radio it will make me smile because it will remind me of that time when I was sailing the Greek islands or driving through the Swiss Alps.

Land Down Under - Men At Work
A must have on any Aussies Ipod while they are travelling but this is on the play list because I managed to hear it in about 5 or 6 different countries. The most random of them all was Croatia.

Evacuate The Dancefloor - Cascada
This song was played on a 'party bus' on my Topdeck tour. We were all pretty pissed and coming back from a night out at karaoke bar where they sold pitchers of cocktails. One of the girls on my tour thought that the lyrics 'evacuate the dance floor' was actually ' is that you on the dance floor'. I'll never sing the correct lyrics again.

I'll Be Ready - Jimi Jamison
Some people may recognise this as the Baywatch theme song. On our Topdeck bus this was our wake up song. Every time we had to stop at a service stop or get off at our destination our trip leader would play this song so everyone knew to wake up. It was crazy effective! You would be sitting on the bus and everyone around you would be completely zonked out and after about the first three bars of the song people were wide awake. For the rest of my life it will always make me need to use the bathroom because service stops = toilet breaks.

Don't Stop Believing - Glee Cast
I'm not going to pretend I was into this song before the Glee version but yes its a cover of the Journey song. As avid lovers of Glee me and Caroline would always listen to that play list while we were bumming around or to cheer us up and this song was always the first one so it got the most plays. It was also a recurring song on my Ipod and on several bus drivers play lists along the way.

Dark Blue - Jacks Mannequin
This song was put on my Ipod by a friend and for some reason it just stuck so would get a few repeat plays and ended up on a few on the go play lists.

Bad Romance - Lady Gaga
This song was just on EVERYWHERE. There were also a few Gaga fans on my Topdeck bus and we bonded over our love of this song and Telephone which was always on everywhere at the same time.

Parlez Vous Francais? - Art Vs. Science
"The Champs Elysees is a busy street, we getting down with everyone we meet". On my first night in Paris we did a driving tour of Paris and we drove down the Champs Elysees and our tour leader played this song. It also helped me remember how to say 'Do you speak English?' as I would always sing in my head 'palez vous anglias?' to the tune of this song.

Loyal - Dave Dobbyn
My lovely kiwi girls introduced me to this song/drinking game. In the song the word 'loyal' is said 36 times so when you listen to it every time you hear it you take a sip. It is in there so frequently that you are lucky if you have swallowed one sip by the time you need to take the next. You also need an extremely large drink - when we played I ran out halfway through.

The Call - Backstreet Boys
When we were in Pamplona the guy in the tent next to us had bought his guitar with him and would regularly bust out some tunes. One afternoon after the Sangria party we were back at our tent and he started playing us a Backstreet Boys song. I think it was maybe - I Want It That Way or something old school and ballady. He played and sung it the whole way through and Amanda and I were like 'wow omg we love the backstreet boys! play us another one' so he started to play us another one. Neither of us had heard it and after a few seconds he was like 'Umm... Its 'The Call' and we stood there shaking our heads and he then said 'WHAT? You said you LOVED the Backstreet Boys. YOUR NOT TRUE FANS!!' and then stormed off. It was hilarious. The next day we reminded him of that and he had no recollection of the entire thing.

I'm On A Boat - The Lonely Island
I'm on a boat - everyone look at me cuz I'm sailing boat. Pretty much in my head for the whole three days we were sailing in Greece.

Oh My God You Guys - Legally Blonde Musical
This song is the opening song to Legally Blonde the Musical which was Carolines birthday treat while we were in London. The whole musical is great with lots of fun songs like this one but this one was definitely my favourite. The best line is 'oh my god oh my god you guys, All this week I've had butterflies, every time he looks at me its totally proposal eyes.oh my god you guys'.

Holiday - Dizzie Rascal
'Get your passport, and your bikini - you want a holiday, come see me'. Well this one is self explanatory but it definitely got a lot of plays during my time in France and Spain because I loved the lyrics about lying on a beach drinking, getting a suntan and partying. Pretty much became my theme song for three weeks. Ok, it still is my theme song.

Whenever, Wherever - Shakira
Except the Spanish version. We were out watching the world cup semi-final in Pamplona and they had a bit of a dance floor going on after the game and they started playing this song. Needless to say after about 10 hours of drinking we were all doing our best Shakira belly dance impressions and screaming the English words over the Spanish words.

California Gurls - Katy Perry Ft Snoop Dog
This song is dedicated to Morgan and Danielle - the girls I met from California. Caroline and I met them in Amsterdam and they soon became our best travel buddies. They are the kind of girls that I love and hopefully in the future I can visit them over in San Francisco where they live. Until then every time I hear this song it will remind me of them.

Life Is A Highway - Tom Cochrane

On the days where we drove between countries our tour leader would play as the first song of the day.

I Like Big Butts - Sir Mix-A-Lot
One night while lying in our beds me and one of my roomies just had a bit of a rap off to this. The funniest part was immediately after the rap off we just went straight to sleep - no goodnight or anything just the last few lines of 'Baby got back' then snoring.

Stand By Me - John Lennon
This was the song that my cousin and her new husband had their first dance to at the big Irish wedding.

Mr Brightside - The Killers
This song is on every play list I ever make as it is possibly my all time favourite song. That doesn't change when I'm in Europe.

Too Many Dicks (On The Dance Floor) - Flight of The Concords
When we went clubbing in Tours there were literally about 2 girls on the dance floor and about 15 guys. Me and the people I was there with started singing this song as it was the biggest sausagefest you have ever seen.

Wavin' Flag - K'naan
This is the official song for the Football World Cup and it was played before or after or during every world cup game I watched along the way.

Stereo Love - Edward Maya & Vika Jigulina

This song was always on... must have just come out as I got overseas but I never knew the name of it. While I was in Pamplona I was talking to this girl about songs of Europe trip and she was like "there is this one song, but I dont know the name of it and it sort of goes like *hummed a tune*, sort of like accordians???" and I was like "omg! I know which one it is but I have NO idea what its called!!!". I'm glad someone else felt my pain. It was only after a bit of investigation once I got back to London that I finally found out what it was called.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Do You Want To Go To The Seaside?

After another delayed flight (I think I'm cursed) I finally arrived in London for good. No more backpacking Europe for me. The rest of the summer will be spent in good ol' London town trying to find a job, settle into a flat and basically start living the life I've been dreaming about and wanting since I was sixteen.

On my first day as a resident of the UK I met up with my cousins and headed to Brighton beach. While I was sitting on a beach in San Sebastian I thought to myself 'Take this in, it might be awhile until your at a beach again'. While Brighton isn't exactly as beautiful as San Sebastian it was nice to be at the beach again sooner then expected. After a bit over an hour on the train, catching up and telling all my backpacking stories we arrived at Brighton to a windy slightly cloudy day.

We stopped off for some milkshakes along the esplanade before heading out to the pier. The pier has an old school carnival atmosphere with an arcade, lots of rickety old rides, side show alley sort of games and places to over dose on sugar with fairy floss and lollipops everywhere. We went on the haunted house and the roller-coaster and my cousin had a go on the dodgem cars and attempted to ride a bull. It was really fun. It felt like I was back at the Ekka!

After re-living our youth a little be we grabbed a drink at a bar halfway down the pier and I had my first Pimms back in England (I think there will be many more to come). Brighton seems to attract heaps and heaps of Bucks and Hens nights and it was very interesting viewing while we had our drinks. There were a group of guys wearing nothing but female lingerie or dresses. Another group had specially made t-shirts and were carrying around blow up dolls. There were a group of women who pretty much defined the saying mutton dressed up as lamb. Their conversation was definitely worth listening to as it provided some of the trashiest things I have ever heard. Ohhh the things you see when you people watch.

We grabbed a bite to eat in a cute little cafe and took refuge from the wind for a little bit. We then had a bit of a look around the shops in the town before heading down to the esplanade for a walk along the beach. The beach was made up of pebbles similar to that in Nice and Dubrovnik which didn't make my stroll very relaxing as it was quite hard going when you sink into the pebbles while you walk against the wind. We wandered along the path for a little while and saw lots of cute little old school beach huts and some beautiful old apartment buildings and hotels. By this time the sun had come out but it was still crazy windy. You can't go to the beach and not grab an ice-cream so we stopped into a little cute Italian place and grabbed a gelato before jumping on the train back to London.

Once we arrived in London we headed back to my cousin and her husbands apartment so I could see where I would soon be crashing for a little while. It is a very cute little place and I wish I was rich enough to afford a place like that on my own as it is exactly what I would love to have. Next door to their place on the corner is an Irish pub covered in plants and flowers. We headed around there to grab a bite to eat and I was happily surprised to find out that they only serve Thai food for dinner. So I had a delicious yellow curry Thai meal while listening to a live Irish band play the banjo while in the middle of London. I'm so multicultural. After a nice meal and a quick cup of tea (yet another thing I love about being in England - so much tea drinking on the agenda) I headed home to my hostel after a very long but very fun day.

The next day I woke up pretty sick and spent the day sleeping. I had planned to meet up with my cousin and her husband again to join them and a few of their friends for a traditional Sunday roast at the pub. Due to my phone being on the blink - due to a large amount of sangria through it from Pamplona - I was not able to get or send any messages or calls. I was officially of the radar for a bit and I must say I did not like it. Not only was my phone not working but the WiFi at the hostel wasn't either so i had to do the old fashioned thing and use a pay phone. Which was so frustrating! I'm pretty sure the internet and mobile phones have spoilt me as I managed to waste nearly 3 pounds without successfully making a call even though I followed the basic instructions. Eventually I convinced the guys at the hostel to let me use their phone and left a message. After my crazy few hours fighting against technology, I tried my mobile phone one more time and it decided to work. Fantastic! So I missed the roast which sucked but probably better in the end as I was so sick by the end of the day it hurt to talk.

The next day I went to the walk in clinic to see a doctor to see if this sickness was anything serious or just a combination of no veggies, no rest, no exercise, heaps of partying and an excessive amount of alcohol. Turns out after waiting for two hours to see a doctor after a quick look at my throat she decided it was a virus that cant be treated with antibiotics or anything. *sigh* I hate that line. I know its true and that waiting it out and resting is the only way to get better but being sick has definitely put a dampener on my first few days in London.

So thats pretty much what I have been doing. Resting and bumming around while applying for jobs in the rare times the WiFi at the hostel works. Yesturday I branched out and actually went to the movies - mainly to escape the 30 Spanish teenagers that had taken over the common room of my hostel. Thankfully I am now crashing with my lovely cousin and her husband who have been so kind as to let me stay on their air bed while I get on my feet. Hopefully I won't be in their hair for too long as I am desperate to get an income and set up a home of my own. So then it will be MY friends and family crashing on MY air bed (which seems to be a staple in apartments across London).

I'll keep everyone updated on the job/apartment search and my London adventures as soon as I am better. Over the next few posts I plan to give you some other info on my backpacking adventures that I haven't had a chance to write about yet.

Friday, July 16, 2010

All Good Things Come To An End

Which sucks because it means that my good thing - my Euro trip - has to end sometime and much to my dismay that day is today.

I was really sad to leave Spain as I had completely and utterly fallen in love with San Sebastian that was until I got to Bordeaux and Tours and re-fell in love with France. Oh dear I can be such a country slut at times but when there are beautiful old buildings, patisseries, wine tours and cute little bars its hard not to fall in love with a new city.

I arrived in Bordeaux at about 12pm which was great because it meant that I had an extra half day to explore the city as I was only spending two nights there. Unfortuneatly we could not check in straight away because our rooms werent ready so after dumping my bag reception I planned on going for a wander. While we were sorting out our non check in I started talking to a guy called Nathan who was wearing the armband from the Topdeck tour I had just done in Pamplona who was also travelling solo. We decided we would go for a wander and grab some food while we waited until our rooms were ready. After a lunch at an Irish pub (it was so nice not to be eating a bagettue!) we had a bit of wander down the main road, along the river and up back to our hostel. Once we got there and checked in we found out we were staying in rooms in a different building down the end of the street. After finding the right building and realising that my room was at the very top of the four floors I decided that this place was the crappiest and biggest waste of money ever. Nathan couldnt even find his room and ended up trying every door with his key to see which one it was.

It cost me €56 euros for my room for two nights and it was disgusting. The bed spread was stained so I though 'oh I will just lie on the sheets and use my sleeping bag'. The sheets were worse! I pulled back the covers and there were hairs on the pillows and more stains on the sheets. I would have slept on the floor except that the carpet looked like about thirty cats had vomited on it. The shower had a hose that had no holder so you had to clean yourself with one hand while fighting the scungy shower curtain and trying not to flood the bathroom. There was no air con or fan so the only ventilation was the window which had shutters on it. that probably hadnt been painted in my lifetime. I got a splinter (and probably tetnus) from trying to open them up just so whatever breeze there was could come through the window. Oh but dont worry, it had a tv which was its only saving grace because it meant I could pass the time watching east enders and listening to french MTV.

After my discovery of such a fantastic room I figured I would take another walk down to the tourist info centre and book myself a winery tour for the next day. I then sat under a tree in the shade with a breeze in the main square and people watched for a little while because the last thing I wanted to do was hang out in my hotel room. I was enjoying the serenity until a guy sat next to me and started talking to me in French. After I told him that I didnt speak French and asking if he spoke English he told me no but he did speak Spanish. I then informed him that I didnt speak Spanish but I understood English (when I say informed I mean I mimed and repeated 'non francais, non espanol, angalis? anglais?' ) he continued to have a converstation with me in French. After about five minutes of pointless nodding and smiling I decided that I might not want to be agreeing with what he said and I got up and walked back to my hotel.

Once I got in the main door of the hostel I had to laugh because Nathan had stuck up a sign with his room number on his door using a scrap piece of paper and vegemite. Turns out it was the very first door as you walked in and he had traipsed up and down the stairs with his backpack for a few minutes. That night we went around the corner to an English pub so we could watch the final of the World Cup. I was slightly devastated that I was not in Spain for this as it was Spain vs Netherlands and it would have been an incredible atmosphere but it was still good to go out and see it. I am actually suprised at myself as a non soccer fan I probably watched about 85% of the games. Its hard no to as it is the most social thing going on and it always provides a rowdy pub and fun atmosphere. I was pretty happy that Spain one after the longest most frustrating game in the whole competition and even in the streets of Bordeaux people were honking ther car horns and dancing in the street with spanish flags.

While we were at the bar we met a couple from London who gave us some train tickets for around the area and some advice on what to do while we were in Bordeaux. I also got some handy tips about living in London and heard a few travel stories of theirs. One of my favourite things about backpacking is that as soon as you hear a fellow aussie accent or even an english speaking voice your almost automatically friends for the evening (or current drinking session). We ended up staying on after the game until closing time at 2am. Here I was thinking I would be taking it easy over the next few days and winding down from the binge drinking festival that is Pamplona. I was so wrong!

The next day after a sleep in (which is suprising considering how uncomfy and mankey the beds were) I had a lazy wander through the town before grabbing a bite to eat before my winery tour. I also scored a good book during in a book exchange which meant I had something to occupy my time while I sipped on my first decent coffee in months. That afternoon I went on a winery tour of two wineries in the Bordeaux region. The first winery was pretty modern and we got a guided tour by a frenchman that spoke english. We got to see the vines, the barrel room, the bottle room and then got the chance to taste five of the wines that they produce while snacking on cheese and crackers. To be honest it was slightly boring as there was such a big group it was hard to hear especially with the heavy french accent. The wines were good but as they were all red wine I was slightly disappointed as I much prefer white. Im also a bit of a dork when it comes to wine tasting as was evident when people were swurling and sniffing and talking about 'woody undertones' and 'fruity flavours'. I was just standing there trying to not think about all the red wine that was involved in all the sangria which turned into all those hangovers.

We then headed to the second winery which was more of what I was expecting as it was by a river in a really old classic building. It was more exposed brick and old furniture and typical beautiful scenery where as the other one was more modern. This winery was run by a family and the little old french lady that toured us around did not speak a word of english so we had a translator. This was fun for about five minutes until I realised the tour would take twice as long. At this place we got a chance to try some rose but once again was mostly reds so I was a bit bummed. Im glad I did the tour as that is what Bordeaux is famous for but the €30 I spent probably wasnt worth it.

The best part about the day is I got chatting to a few people that were on Busabout and staying in the room opposite me. After heading back to the hotel and having a nanna nap (what else do you do after a lot of wine) I spent the night with them and Nathan drinking and playing cards in their room. Once again I didnt get to bed until the early hours but it was good not worrying about getting up at 7 for the bus at 8 because we were a halfway drop off point we werent getting picked up until 11.30 so I got yet another lazy sleep in.

In the morning I grabbed my croissant and coffee from a cute little patisserie and jumped on the bus from Bordeaux to Tours. We arrived in Tours and checked into the nicest hotel that I have stayed in with Busabout. It was in every way everything that you would imagine about a cute little french hotel. Floral wallpaper? check. Old wooden furniture? check. Winding staircase? check. Cute little tea room? tiny courtyard? well dressed tall slender french woman as the proprieter? check check and check. Since I had booked a double room but no longer had a travel partner and Nathan hadnt booked we ended up sharing a room as there were two beds. We were at the very top floor (again!!) in a cute little atticy room. The room was pretty funny as it had a shower and a sink but no toilet. The toilet was just outside the door but had no sink so it was always a bit of a mission when you needed to go.

That night we headed around the corner and up the road a little to a cafe that had english on the menu! phew! We ran into another girl, Fiona, from busabout and ended up spending most of the night eating our dinners and having a few drinks. We got kicked out of there at about 11 as it was closing up for the night so we grabbed some drinks from a little supermarket and headed back to our room to chill out. Although we were situated in the Loire Valley which is renowned for its wine I somehow managed to buy a bottle that tasted like petrol. I think that even when you are in wine country if its a cheap bottle it will still taste like cheap wine.

The next day was Bastille day which is a holiday in France celebrating the French Revolution. It also happened to be the laziest day of my whole entire life. Out of the 24 hours in the day I was awake for six of them. The combination of late nights plus a comfy bed plus a rainy day equals a very late sleep in and a very lazy Bronwyn. After sleeping in until 12.30 then listening to the rain for awhile we headed out into the old town of Tours for a quick look around and something to eat. I love all these old towns around Europe and Tours was no different. The buildings almost looked swiss as they were thatched roooves and wooden beams on the outside. There were little cafes and crepe shops everywhere. We had a wander along the river too and managed to get mud and clay caked through out shoes. After awhile the sun came out which was good as it meant we didnt have to worry about getting wet as well as muddy. I thought it would be good to find a cinema and see if they had an english film. We were a bit unlucky and couldnt find one but managed to stumble across the cathederal of St Martin. It was next to another old building that had some beauitful gardens so after a wander around there we were pretty much buggered. With a total of four hours out of the hotel room we went back for a nanna nap (oh how am I ever going to survive without my afternoon siestas???). I woke up at around 9.30 and Nathan woke up at about 10.30 at night. It was one of those times where you dont know if you have slept through the night or not. The best part was that we were actually finally revialised and raring to go.

After a visit from Fiona we all decided to hit the town as it was my last proper night on my Euro trip so we had a few pre drinks in the room before heading back into the bars in the old town. We just sort of chose a bar at random and while we were waiting to order a drink we befriended some cool american girls called Katie and Monica who was studying french in Tours. They decided to take us to their local and most frequented pub 'The Pale' which was an Irish pub around the corner. After a couple of shots there (to get us in the mood and to catch up with Katie who was already quite pissed) I tried out a cocktail called the pink panther. I have no idea what was in it except for alot of alcohol. The bars close quite early in Tours because of the law so we had to leave 'The Pale' quite early and headed to the only place that was open - a club called Excalibar. One of the guys called John, that Katie knew came with us which was handy because he was also studying french so we had a bit of a translator.

It was a pretty exxy place with a €8 entry fee and expensive drinks. The drinks they poured you were free poured shots in a teeny tiny glass with maybe a splash of soda or lemonade. It wasnt too bad because at least you got better value for money but they certainly didnt taste the best. The place was a bit of a sausage fest and I could count the amount of girls there on two hands but at least they had a dancefloor. Spent most of the night dancing to the very average music and but still having heaps of fun. After awhile I was getting a little sick of fending off guys trying to dance with me (I know that sounds conceited but Im not exaggerating) and we decided to head home. Fiona was lucky enough to get talking to some very cute french guys who were apparently famous sports reporters so we left her to it and headed home. John escorted us to our hotel which was nice because it meant we didnt spend the night wander but also a bit stalkerish and I was glad when we had got inside and we were rid of him. By this stage it was about 4am and the sun was coming up so we dived into bed.

We didnt surface again until about 40 minutes before check out time when we awoke tired, seedy and starving. As we had spent the previous day sleeping we had only eaten the one meal so we were ravenous. What do you do when you are hungover and hungry? Find a kebab shop! So we dumped our bags at reception and headed straight down the road for a fix of greasy food and a coke. While we were there devouring our first meal in about 24 hours we ran into another girl from our bus Hillary. Fiona then met us there once she had managed to get out of bed and we all spent the day wandering around Tours. We crossed the river before realising there was nothing much to see there and then turned around and headed straight back into old town for a coffee and a sit down. Being hungover and tired is always a bit too much to handle when you have time to kill before the bus comes. As we were getting picked up at 4.30 pm we had most of the day to wander around. I walked along the street where my cousin lived while she lived in Tours, grabbed some lollies in a cute littel lolly shop and had some food from a patisserie. Which means I basically spent the day moving from one food place to another.

That afternoon we had an hour long wait for the bus only to be told when it arrived we had a further half and hour to wait because of drivers hours. Once we got on the bus there was a bit of confusion as there werent actually enough seats for everyone on there. I was starting to get cranky and paranoid they would kick me off (as I was the last on) and after a day of waiting I was ready to hit the road. Luckily for me - but not for them, they kicked off a couple of passengers that had been on standby so after about another half and hour delay (two hours in total) we were on the road back to Paris.

It was a fairly uneventful and smooth drive into the city which was a releif. As it has been so busy with summer holidays, Pamplona (the bus starts from San Sebastian), Bastille Day and the Tour de France some busses were not getting into Paris until early morning (even though they were supposed to arrive around 9.30pm). We got into Paris city at about 10pm which was a bit of a releif as I was ready to get into bed and catch up on sleep that i missed the night before. On the way through Paris they give you a bit of a guided tour which is always nice because Paris is beautiful at night. On the way through we were lucky enough to be driving past the Eiffel Tower as it lit up and even though that was the fourth time I had seen it, it still took my breath away and made my heart race. Our bus driver was really cool and actually turned off the satelitte and drove us around the Arc Di Triomph a couple of times. They arent allowed to drive on there because of the insurance and time delay it would cause but our bus driver was a bit of a rebel so we were treated to that and a cruise along the Champs Elysses which lit up at night is called the avenue of 'diamonds and rubies' because of all the cars head and tail lights. We drove past all the sights lit up at night and it was a good way for my final view of the city before heading back over to England. We had a pretty rough time once we arrived at the hostel as it took nearly two hours to check us all in. It was so frustrating after a day of travel to have to wait and wait and wait just to get into a shower and get a chance to sleep. It also sucked after having a hotel room for seven nights to be back in a dorm room.

I started to get a little sad as it is offically the end of my europe trip and I am now having to face the reality of being broke and more or less homeless and jobless in London. It was also a bit of a bummer to say goodbye to the few friends I had made along the way but hopefully I can keep in touch with them and see them in my travels in the future. The saying 'Dont cry because its over, Smile because it happened' is pretty much my motto at the moment as I try and focus on all the good things I have seen and done. As sad as I am for this stage of my trip to be over I know it wont be my last time in Europe as I have many many plans on coming back - first of which is Oktoberfest in September. Its also good because it means I can embark on the next stage which is living in London - something I have wanted to do since I was 16. I know the next few weeks will be a bit rough on the job and apartment search but Im lucky I have a few family and friends there to support me. I am looking forward to having a place that is mine to call home and eventually putting my degree to good use (hopefully). I am also liking the idea of money going into my bank account rather then rapidly filtering out of it.

So for now im off to the airport for my flight from Paris to London. I will have access to my own computer once Im there so be prepared to be bombarded with posts featuring all the things I have been wanting to write about but havent had a chance because I have been too busy typing up all my stories and adventures. I would love any comments or questions about what you want to know and I will hopefully be able to share my wisdom!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

And I Know My Spanish Is So So...But Lets Try To Keep That On The Low Low


Since I last posted I have had the most crazy, fun filled, boozy and exhausting week of my whole entire adventure. I will begin with Madrid because thats where the craziness started!

I had decided to fly between Barcelona to Madrid as I could get a fairly cheap ticket and it would be much faster and easier meaning I got more time there rather then just a few hours at night. Turns out it was probably the worst way to go. My flight got delayed four hours so I spent my time wandering around Barcelona airport trying to kill time. Luckily for me Barcelona airport is really nice and full of shops and food outlets meaning at least I had something to look at while I roamed around. I was very proud of myself and resisted buying anything unhealthy for lunch or wasting money on clothes - even though Zara had a 50% off sale. One thing to note is that when you are by yourself in a strange country don´t go into a duty free airport and smell the perfumes unless you want to become homesick - Chanel No 5, Chloe and Marc Jacobs are beautiful scents but definately reminded me of my friends and family back home.

Anyways after my flight finally took off and I arrived in Madrid I had to catch three different metro lines to my hostel which wouldn´t have usually been an issue but since Spain were playing in the world cup and I arrived in the middle of the gay pride festival the metro´s were packed. You know how people pack onto trains in Japan? It was like that but I was carrying 20 kilos of stuff on back and having to navigate a spot on the trian. Several times I just didnt get on because there was no room. Eventually I got to the hostel and was sad to find a letter from my friend saying that she had waited all day for me to arrive but had to leave. Meaning that my flight which was supposed to be ´easier´ ended up being a pain in the bum. Hopefully I can make my way back to Madrid eventually to meet up with my friend because it is the first time since I have known her we are both on the same side of the world.

I unloaded into my room and intended to spend the night doing my washing and more or less being a loner until I ran into a girl I met in Barcelona. She was heading out with a few people from Busabout to grab some food and watch the football so I decided to tag along. We walked down the street to find a little hole in the wall cafe/bar to get some traditional Spanish food. I wasn't too keen on the Paella because it is full of seafood so I decided to order something else off the menu. The menu was completely in Spanish which none of us spoke and the waitress spoke very little English. There was something that was tortilla (sounds normal), esalada (i figured that was salad) and jamon (which I was told was ham). I thought that I seemed to like all of those things so I would give it ago. Turns out it was a ham and cheese omelette with salad and little curry puff things on the side. It was delicious. Especially the salad as it had been awhile since I had anything crunchy or healthy. This was all washed down with Sangria and local beer.

After that we headed around the corner to another little pub that had a big crowd in it already cheering on the soccer. The atmosphere around Spain during the world cup is crazy especially when their team is playing. It was so much fun to be a part of the crowd especially when they scored and eventually wont the game. We joined in the celebrations in the street and went for a wander around what looked like the city centre. It was packed! It was like a new years eve or something. The streets were full of people drinking on the street and cheering. We heard some music so we wandered up the road and found a massive dance party in the middle of the square. It was part of the Gay Pride Parade which had happened while the football was on. They had a DJ playing some really good songs so we jumped in there and had a dance. Next to us were people dressed up as playboy bunnies, guys in their underwear and cross dressers and on the other side were big groups of men dressed up in Spanish colours celebrating the world cup. It was crazy fun and definitely a sight to see. It was getting late and we all had to catch an 8am bus the next morning so we decided to head home early. It wasn´t until the next morning when I was talking to one of my room mates that got home at 3am that Kylie Minouge had played a set that night and we had missed seeing her by about an hour! While I'm not really A massive fan I have to say I was a bit disappointed.

The next morning I was sad to leave Madrid as I only had the one night there and it seemed like the kind of place I would really like to explore but at the same time I was looking forward to heading to San Sebastian and the Running of the Bulls. Once I arrived in San Sebastian I checked into a little hostel in the old town. It was really cute little place and I was lucky enough to score a double bed to myself. The hostel rooms all had their own little balcony which was nice to look down into the street. The only problem was they had one bathroom for the whole level which meant that about 20 people were sharing one shower and one toilet. yuck.

That night our tour guide from Busabout was taking us on a Pinchos tour. Pinchos is pretty much the same as tapas but because I am in the Bask region of Spain it is called something different. We met outside the hostel and headed around into a really nice bar. The way it works is really similar to something like Sushi Train. You up several little plates, eat your tapas then pay at the end according to how many plates you have. Other places have different coloured toothpicks on them and what you pay depends on the cost of each toothpick. Other places are like a buffet where you pick them up in a line then pay at the end according to the amount you have on there. It was a really fun night out with a pretty big group of people from Busabout. I got to try some really yummy food like friend calamari, Spanish omelettes and mini salami and ham sandwiches. We drank local wine and tasted more sangria. There were a few girls from Brisbane on there and we had a good night just drinking and chatting. After the little tour was over we headed to another little bar and partied on there having a bit of a dance around and lots more sangria. We ran into a whole bunch of other Aussies at it seems we had all flocked to this place before heading down to Pamplona for the running of the bulls. Sometimes its fun to meet other Aussies on the road but at this point of the night when they were all running a muck around this cute little town I would have to say I was kind of embarrassed to be lumped in with them. I know that we all know how to party but it was just a different kind of partying to what the Spanish locals were doing. Oh well, I cant be too judgemental considering I was one of them!

The next day I caught the bus from San Sebastian to Pamplona and from there to Estella which was the little town outside of Pamplona where the camp-site for my tour was. I checked into my Topdeck tour and got allocated my little tent that was going to be my home for the next four nights. I met some cool people on the bus down and made friends with my tent neighbours. My tent roomie was a really nice girl called Amanda who is an Aussie living in London which is cool because it means I now know someone else there. We spent the afternoon drinking and playing cards in the sun by the pool at the camp-ground. There were 250 Topdeckers and another few hundred from PP Travel all staying at the same place. I would have to say that about 450 of us were Aussies considering when I was sitting by the pool there were southern cross tattoos EVERYWHERE. That night there was a bit of a party at the bar at the camp-ground with a guy with a guitar singing and a bit of DJ set. The festivities carried on through the night but I had a fairly early one hitting the hay at around 1am.

The next morning we were woken up at about 7 so we could get ready and grab some breakfast before heading into the opening ceremony at around 9. The San Fermin festival or Running of the Bulls requires you to wear traditional red and white clothing while you are there. We were provided with white shirts but I ended up buying a red neck tie, red sash and white pants. They told you that you had to wear closed in shoes, take a plastic bag for your cameras and valuables because they will get wet with sangria, to wear old or bad sunnies because they would get ruined or stolen and basically told you to be prepared to lose everything you own.

Once we got into town the first thing we did was hit up the little market stalls to buy our white pants and sangria pouches. The next stop was buying the sangria. We found a little bottle shop that was selling cold one litre bottles of sangria for 2€ which is a bargain if you ask me. With both those things purchased and ready we headed into the square for the opening ceremony. We didn't head into the main plaza where the town hall was because it is so packed in there you cant even move your hands. We were a couple of plazas over with a whole other crowd. It wasn't long before the sangria started flying even though the festival hadn´t started. Right before 12 midday everyone stopped what they were doing and put their neck ties up above their heads. Once we heard the gun being fired we tied our necktie's around our necks and cheered and partied amongst a torrential rain of sangria. Sangria was everywhere - in my hair, in my eyes, all over my clothes right down to my undies, through my shoes, through my bag but that's just the way it goes!

After the opening ceremony I headed to the bathroom to wipe my face down - sangria stings when its in your eyes and I ran into two friends from my topdeck tour. We all then spent the arvo partying in the streets picking up sangria and food along the way. At one point we had a bit of a Topdeck, Busabout, Fanatics tour group stand off with a bunch of people. It was pretty funny because all it required was another whole bunch of sangria throwing. In the afternoon me and Amanda spent the arvo club hopping (even at 3pm) and drinking and dancing before moving on to the next club. As we walked through the streets the locals would pour buckets of water over you to cool you off and clean you up. It was good they did because it meant that you were a little bit sangria free for awhile.


Unluckily for me I lost Amanda while trying to find the next pub to walk into which mean I was on my own. I spent about an hour walking around trying to find her or someone else from Topdeck and then about and hour trying to find the bus station. If I wasn't so horrendously drunk from all the sangria this task may have been easier but since I was so drunk I walked around the bus station twice before finding it. I only found it because some nice English guy helped me. Once back on the bus I was off to the camp site where I found Amanda and knew she was alive. After a massively long shower to de-sangria I hit the hay pretty early as we had to up at the break of dawn the next day.

We were woken up at 5 am to catch the 5.30am bus into Pamplona so we could get some good spots for the first bull run. We arrived into the bus terminal and saw people who had been sleeping there all night. There were more people passed out in the park and even more sleeping off their sangria in the streets. The ground looked like Christmas because there was so many empty cups and rubbish everywhere. The place was pretty feral and it was only the first day!

I managed to lose Amanda again (I'm the worst tent buddy ever) but found a few friends and we headed to Dead Mans Corner to see the bull run. We thought we had a good position up on the barriers but the police moved us on. By then it was a bit late to find a good spot but we managed to find one on another barrier. The crowd behind the barrier started to get a bit hectic though and I was fighting for space for about an hour. It got so rowdy and pushy I started to hyperventilate as I can be pretty claustrophobic and I was surrounded by a whole bunch of people bigger then me. Luckily I was with people who noticed this and managed to get me a spot up on the barrier so I could have my head above the crowd and actually breathe. Once I was up there I managed to have a spot between someone's right arm and some other guys butt.

There were a whole bunch of guys all lined up in the bull run waiting for the signal. At one stage there was a false start and everyone just started running for their lives. After a second they realised there were no bulls so it calmed down a bit until the shot was fired off and the bulls were running for real this time. The fear in their faces was intense and the way they scrambled over each other was insane. From my view point I only managed to see two bulls because it was mostly a sea of red and white people running like crazy. After the run was over we walked the bull run to check out the damage and ran into a few people and heard all their stories about the day. Once we were back at the bus we started hearing stories about people dying, breaking their necks and getting gored. Turns out not all of them were true but one of my fellow tent neighbours got kicked in the head by a bull and had to get eight staples in the back of his head. It still makes me shudder thinking about it!

That afternoon back at the camp site there was a BBQ sangria party. It was probably the funnest day all tour. We snagged a table in the shade and started drinking sangria at about 1pm. The Topdeck team had made 400 litres of the stuff and there would have only been about 100 people doing it. They gave us a BBQ chicken and salad for lunch which was such nice food to chow down as it had only been baguettes and tapas for me for about a week. We spent the rest of the arvo just drinking and hanging out before hitting the pool.

After a few hours in there we got dressed and went into Pamplona to hit the bars so we could watch the Spain Vs Germany world cup game. We headed into one of the pubs we had been to on the opening day and it had a big screen at the back and were playing dance music so it kept everyone entertained. Of course there was more drinking at the bar followed by some Spanish food. One of the guys we were with thought he knew Spanish and tried to order a drink. Turns out he actually ordered some food. They were bocadillos which are pretty much baguettes but they have Spanish omelettes on them. He couldn't even eat them because he was a vegetarian so he paid 12 euros for stuff he couldn't even try! I had a bite of a couple of them but egg and sausages isn't really what you want after drinking sangria for 8 hours. After the bar we headed into the main park to watch the fireworks that are set off every night. It was a really pretty display and a perfect end to the night.

The next morning we woke up at 4.45am after about 3 hours sleep to see the next bull run and I was on struggle street. In fact I was the mayor of struggle town. I was soooooooo exceedingly hung over and exhausted that I could barely function. We got to town after a very very dodgy bus ride and headed straight to the bull ring. This was probably the best way to see the bull run as they displayed the video up on the big screen and then you saw the bull run in at the end. You saw all the people run in and they are accompanied by the big bulls that run through the streets. One of the bulls got lost so it was pretty hectic towards the end as he started going back the wrong way. Once they were in the bull ring and everyone from the run had entered the let loose six baby bulls one at a time for people to try and avoid.

This was the scariest part of my whole Pamplona experience. The bulls run out and they are frantic and there are people EVERYWHERE - either trying to provoke them or run out of the way. We saw guys getting knocked out after five minutes, one guy get completely trampled that they had to distract the bull just to get him out from underneath him, one guy got rammed so hard against the edge that the bull nearly broke the barrier. It was so terrifying but you couldn't look away!


That afternoon we had a day trip into San Sebastian where we spent the day at the beach. It was good to go there with a group because it meant I had the chance to swim while they minded my stuff. We had a sleep on the beach for a couple of hours before a quick dip (I got completely dumped by the waves that I ended up with more sand on me then when I was lying on the beach). We grabbed some tapas and a drink before heading back to the camp site on the bus. It was a really good way to end the festival and wind down after two epic days of drinking.

The next day I was up at 4am to get a bus from Estella to Pamplona, then a bus from Pamplona back to San Sebastian. I had booked into a hotel previously because there were no hostel rooms left as many people used San Sebastian as a base for their Running of the Bulls adventures. It cost me a fair bit of money but I am so glad that I booked it. It meant that I had a room to myself with air conditioning and a big double bed and a shower that was clean. After camping for four nights in a sandy tent on a blow up mattress and sharing showers with about 300 other girls it was nice to have a little luxury. I couldn't check in early so I ended up doing my laundry (for the first time in two weeks). Once I headed back to the hotel I checked in, had a shower, put on clean clothes and got into a clean bed and had a three hour siesta. It was heaven. When you are away there is nothing you appreciate more then clean clothes and a comfy bed and a bit of piece and quiet.

After my siesta I headed out and about in San Sebastian as I didn't want to waste my whole day. I headed up the top of one of the mountains there by a funicular railway. Up the top was an old school fun fair which was swarming with kids on their holidays. It was a beautiful view but as there was a fair but of clouds about my photos are pretty dodgy. PhotobucketAfter that I walked along La Concha beach all the way into town via the city centre checking out a few churches and cathedrals along the way. I hit the shops and got a dose of retail therapy before wandering back along another beach and up to the top of the opposite mountain. ( I really should look up the names of these places - sorry!) The mountain has a statue of Christ on it and some ruins up there to check out. They also have a bar and after a massive 10 k walk and a half and hour hike up the mountain I thought I definitely deserved a beer. By this stage I had been out and about for about 5 hours so I slowly made my way back to the hotel where I spent the night bumming in my room.


Even though it was my first day truly by myself away from Caroline and Busabout people it was probably one of the best ones I had. San Sebastian is an amazing place and it felt nice to relax and recover and explore at my own pace. While I wish I had someone to share those incredible views with at the same time it was good for me to learn to be with my own thoughts and appreciate things on my own. Tonight is a different story though cuz I'm heading out with some friends from Busabout and It will be nice to share Pamplona stories and talk to someone other then the hotel concierge and bus drivers.

Next stop is France where I am heading to wine country. Hopefully my massive intake of sangria hasn't spoilt my appetite for wine and I can appreciate it while I'm there. After France is London which is a whole other adventure!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Bronwyn, Caroline, Barcelona

Now dont get excited, our time in Barcelona is nothing like that movie although we did have our fair share of drama.

We arrived in Barcelona on a stinking hot night and decided to head into the central city area to check out the place and grab a bite to eat. The streets were tiny and like little mazes and there were little bars poking out of them everywhere. It was getting to the point where there was so much to choose from we couldn´t decide so we just kept wandering. That was until we stumbled back onto the street were our hostel was and as it was now about 10.30 we just decided to eat right next door. That is the second time we have stumbled across the place we are staying by complete fluke. I kind of like that we have a weird sort of radar for our hostels. The meal was really cheap and yummy and I got my first offical Spanish sangria for only two euros!

The next day we decided to split up and while I did a bike tour around the city, Caroline headed to the zoo. The bike tour was really fun (they more or less always are) except it was definately the hardest one I had to do. While Barcelona isnt exactly hilly it isnt exactly flat either and we were riding around in 30 degree heat. We checked out all the big sights (mostly by Gaudi - the archeitect that the spanish adore) such as the Sagrada Familiar which is the basillica that has had construction work for decades and still has decades worth of work to finish. We saw his fountain in their main park, the ruins and the bull fighting rings. The highlight of the bike tour was that we rode down to the beach and spent 45 minutes on beach chairs sipping Sangria and eating Tapas. After about 750mls of Sangria it was an interesting bike ride back to the bike rental shop. Once we got back there one of the guys from the place lead us around the corner to a little bar that had free tapas and cheap drinks. We all gathered and had a beer together before heading home for a seista. I love this seista business because I am a big fan of the nanna nap and nearly everyone in our dorm was doing the same thing.



That night we had planned to head to a Tapas, Sangria and Flemenco evening but Caroline wasnt feeling too well. We went along anyways but since she could not eat or drink anything she decided to head home while I stayed. The tapas were amazing we had an anti pasto plate with pruschetto, salami, olives, white asparagus, bruschetta and quiche followed by seafood paella. The next serving was potatas bravas which is roasted potatos with a spicy aoli sauce. Upon all that we then got deep fried calamari which was the best dish by far. The sangria was the best one I tried so far and it was unlimited and they just kept bringing out jugs of it. After a couple of hours eating and drinking they led us to the flemenco show which was at another bar around the corner. They had two guitarists, singer, piano player and two drummers as well as the dancer. The first couple of songs were just the band by themselves then the dancer came. I was expecting a female dancer with those crazy skirts but instead it was a guy. The rhythms he kept with his feet were incredible - it was almost like he was moving at hyperspeed. The show only lasted about half and hour which was a bit of a disappointment but as i only paid €24 for the whole bundle it was pretty good value for money.

Once I arrived back at the hostel i ran into Caroline with her overnight bag heading out the door. She was so sick and our rooms didnt have airconditioning or their own bathroom so she would be more comfortable at a hotel. It was a really good idea because it meant she had a bit of luxury to recover as we were supposed to leave for madrid in in two days time. Early the next morning I got a call from Caroline and had to take her stuff over to the hotel as she was so sick she needed a doctor. We spent the morning holed up in her hotel room while we tried to find an english speaking doctor nearby rather then rush her to a hospital. At about midday we headed to the closest one we could find and got Caroline checked out. The doctor was fairly positive it wasnt just a bug that would pass but something a bit more serious. We got a special diet and some drugs so Caroline could continue on when she felt better but she advised us that she needed to go to the hospital back home. She actually advised us not to go to the hospitals in Spain which is a bit weird and slightly worrying.

We then spent the rest of the arvo watching more tv in spanish before discovering the english speaking channel! Huzzah! Because she was so sick Caroline could barely move from the bed and we were both getting a bit of cabin fever. Since she was so sick it meant we both couldnt go to Madrid the following day as planned so I had to reorganise our hostels and travel plans while searching for somewhere to stay in Barcelona. The spanish started their holidays this week so nearly everywhere was booked out which caused a few dramas but overall it got sorted out. The best part about Spain is that so far every hostel and hotel has had free PCs and free internet access. It makes such a difference when you are stressed and freaking out not to have to worry about being logged off or paying heaps of euros just for a few minutes.

The next morning we were woken up by a phone call from Carolines mum checking on her. The previous nights sleep was the best I had in ages knowing that the sheets were really fresh and clean, not having a bunk bed that shakes with any movement, block out sheets, air conditioning and several comfy pillows to snuggle into. I know I shouldnt be benefiting from Caroline getting sick but you have to look at the positives sometimes and this was one of them! Caroline had been tossing up whether to go home or not and since we were planning on spending the next week at the running of the bulls she thought she did not want to risk it. What if she got another bug while her immune system was down? What if someone accidently hit her in her tummy and caused any damage? It wasnt worth the anxiety and since she still wasnt very well she decided to go home. I was really upset but i totally understood. That day I just spent with her bumming at the hotel. The best part was the free wifi which meant I had a couple of skype dates with friends and family where I could vent my stresses and cry it all out and had them help cheer me up and keep me positive. I think one of the things I miss most about being away is actually hearing peoples voices. It makes such a difference to be able to talk and laugh together like a normal convo and it is so easy on a ipod its like being on a phone. I would like to thank whoever invented skype because you are pretty much going to save my life over the next little while.

In the afternoon we got a phonecall from Carolines mum who had got her a flight out of Barcelona to London and arrange for her trip home. The worst part was that it was the next day at 12pm which meant we had less then 24 hours together before I was alone in Spain and she had to face getting on a plane while she was still sick. We had to head to the doctor to get a certificate to say she was fit to fly and tie up any loose ends while we were there. Once again the doctor was pretty helpful but then told Caroline she thought it was definately a good idea she was going home. It made us wonder a little while she hadnt said that the day before so we didnt spend the whole night worrying about what to do. That night we had our last dinner together at a little chinese resturant we found near the doctors. As Caroline could only eat rice it was the only thing we could have that she could eat and since it was her first meal in nearly four days and her first adventure out of a hotel room in three it was nice to have a bit of normalcy about our last night.

The next day we had a sleep in before heading to the airport. I know that my holiday is coming to an end soon anyway and the goodbye was only two weeks premature but I was so not ready to say goodbye. She had been my best friend and travel buddy for about six weeks and I had been with her nearly every second of it. The person I consider my other half was sick and embarking on a 30 hour trip home and there was nothing I could do about helping her anymore. I was a wreck. The tears started before we even left the hotel, during the cab ride and while she was in line to check in. She was so brave and I was a wreck! After a quick hug she was off and it was nice and quick like a bandaid because both of us couldnt have handled a drawn out goodbye. I was really sad to see her go. We had experienced a trip of a lifetime together and now it was over. The best thing about it is that she should be nearly home by now and into the arms of her family who can look after her and doctors that will be able to fix her without a language barrier.

That afternoon I spent in the hotel room basically feeling sorry for myself. yes I know im in Barcelona and yes it is a beautiful sunny day outside but I have to spend the next two weeks alone and I will have to deal with that everyday so while I had a nice hotel room to myself I sad in bed, watched tv and had a bit of a cry. That night I ventured from the hotel and caught up with some friends from my bus so the day wasnt a complete waste. It was actually good to get some fresh air and be out in the city and while I was walking to our meeting spot I did kind of kick myself for wasting the arvo but then again since I did not get to see much of Barcelona and I wont see much of Madrid I will definately be back. We had a few drinks at one bar before wandering to another one. I had a couple of much needed beers and even a mojito. The night was spent chatting and eating tapas and it was nice to be with people. The best part is that they are going to be in the same place as me in about a weeks time so I definately wont be loner in San Sebastian.

I think that having gone on a Topdeck tour by myself I am not as scared about being by myself and once im back in a hostel and back on the bus I will be able to meet people who are heading in the same direction which is good. I am still freaking out though. The best part is that its only a couple of weeks. 13 nights, 12 whole days that until im back in London and staying with family. 3 of those days are bus days, 5 are on a tour for the running of the bulls and the rest I will find something to do and some group to tag along with. The biggest challange will be getting from San Sebastian to Pamplona but Im sure I wont be the only tourist around the area trying to do the same thing. As a friend said to me this is all a part of the journey and it will give me time to "grow" and "find myself" and she is pretty much right.

Im not sure when I will be blogging again as I dont have access to free wifi anymore and the camping at pamplona may drop me off the radar a little bit. So we all know that will be a massive post (arent they all?) but hopefully lots of stories to tell!