Location: Melbourne, Australia
Hi everyone !
Upon returning to you all here in Melbourne following my massive three & a half months cavorting around Europe I have found that you all want to know the answer to one coveted question : what was my most favourite place ??
Guys !! That's such a hard question to answer !!
I can only imagine that the way I feel about answering this question is similar to how a parent feels when they are asked which child is their favourite.
One of the beautiful things about exploring Europe is that each place is a unique entity in itself - the culture, food, language, accents, clothing, coffee - even the gelato (!) - is different depending on which city or town you happen to find yourself in.
Because everything is so incomparably different - sometimes after only an hour or so of travelling on the train (that still trips me out) - & each place is also uniquely beautiful, it makes it a near impossible task to select an outright favourite.
And so, in order to save myself from plunging into inner turmoil everytime someone asks me "so ... what was your favourite ??", I have created a "Best Of" list to reflect the many eclectic places I have been & to reminisce about the fantastic experiences I have had.
After spending countless hours scouring my travel diary & wistfully daydreaming about so many moments of my Euro-trip, I have finally narrowed down my finalists for my European Academy Awards night.
The panel at this prestigious Academy consists of well ... me ... & you should all recall that my qualifications for these categories are : Greece & the Greek Islands (Cyclades), Italy, France, Monaco, Spain, Portugal, London, Amsterdam, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland & Leichtenstein.
Without further ado, the winners are ...
* Best Night Life : Ios - Greek Islands. I have one word for that place : Madness.
* Best Food : A photo finish between tapas in Granada (southern Spain) & home made pastas in Northern Italy (Firenze & Cinque Terra)
* Craziest Drivers : definitely the mental taxi drivers in the Greek Islands - these guys would give Schumacher a run for his money
* Grumpiest Locals : Czech Republic. It fascinated me how they managed to get such a concentrate of angry angry people into such a relatively small space of land (although, just quietly ... I'd be feeling pretty pissed off if I'd lived the last 50 years of my life under forced communist rule too)
* Best Beer : need I say it ? ... Oktoberfest !
* Best Shopping : London (I believe I may have experienced pure nirvana on Oxford Street)
* Hardest to Navigate : Venice, Italy
* Most Beautiful : Switzerland is a real-life postcard - snow capped mountains, blue lakes & cows grazing in green grassy paddocks with bells tinkling around their necks - just stunning !
* Biggest Night : probably my infamous ejection from the Hofbrauhaus for drunk & disorderly behaviour at Oktoberfest
* Best History & Culture : pazzo Roma is just about unbeatable
* Best Art : Paris * * * sigh * * *
* The Dark Horse (city / town that I didn't expect to be much & ended up falling in love with) : I mistakenly expected to be able to casually stroll through Berlin over a couple of days & was stunned at how much I was able to take away from this dynamic city, which is still evolving from it's role as centrepiece to the biggest events of the 20th century. Berlin is truly incredible.
* Most Bizarre Experience : sky-diving in Interlaken (Switzerland) was pretty unreal !!
* Most Expensive City : London is nuts !! I didn't bother to convert back to the Aussie dollar in the end because it caused my heart too much pain
* Cheapest : anywhere in the Czech Republic (though don't expect your service with a smile)
* Place Most Likely to Live : If my life was a fairytale & I magically began to speak perfect French & was impossibly rich & gorgeous then I would love to live in my spiritual home - Paris. However, my French completely sucks arse, so earning the pound in London may be for me !
* Place I Never Want To See Again In My Life : Narbonne (please refer to the post early August where I was stranded in a random provincial French town)
* Worst Accommodation : Coral Rooms - Paros, Greek Islands. Do not UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES stay here !!!
* if the world was ending in one day, I would spend it in ... maybe the secret archives of the Vatican ?? or shopping the Champs Elysees & wearing genuine Chanel for the first & last time ?? or maybe working on my tan & sipping absurdly priced cocktails on one of the private beaches on the Amalfi Coast ??
I can't decide !!
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Hello everyone !
Just a quick post to let you all know that I touched down safe & sound - albeit a little queasy - at Tullamarine airport last Thursday.
I've spent the past couple of days busily de-backpacker-fying myself & delighting in the small luxuries of home - notably the hairdresser & super long hot showers.
It feels slightly bizarre to be home after all this time travelling - Europe feels like a bit of a dream at the moment - but I'm sure reality will check in once I open my credit card statements !!!
I hope everyone is well - both my travelling friends (keep in touch !!) & my home town friends (can't wait to catch up with you guys !!).
It's great to be back in Melbourne !!!
xoxo s xoxo
P.S : I've managed to load a few more photos of my travels for you all to check out & stay tuned for my European Oscars Night - a review of my "Best Ofs" for my trip.
Location: Prague, Czech Republic
"ZIGGY ! ZAGGY ! ZIGGY ! ZAGGY !
OI ! OI ! OI !"
I'm writing to you all from a Net Cafe in Prague (Czech Republic) - where I'm taking a well-deserved respite from one litre steins, bizarre German songs, liederhausen & crazy Aussie hooligans.
I'm trying to think of a way to succinctly describe Oktoberfest to you all, but truth be told, my memory is a little hazy (it turns out that a one litre stein is a lot of beer for a little Sammie).
I arrived in Munich bright & early for the opening day of the Oktoberfest festival & the tapping of the first keg of beer, after spending the previous 2 days yodelling my way through picturesque little Salzburg (home to the Sound of Music).
My time in Munich was spent doing a combination of partying down & sightseeing with Johan - my first non-home based travelling friend for my trip.
Together we managed to hit the Oktoberfest tents 3 times (Hofbrau & Lowenbrau - & were rejected from the Hippodrum (this is where B grade celebrities like Paris Hilton like to party down)), spent an extremely sobering afternoon at Dachau (the first Nazi concentration camp), & we also managed to head out on a tour to Neuschwenstein (a massive castle in the Alps which was reputedly the inspiration for the castle in Fantasy Land in Disneyland) with our most excellent friend Mike.
We managed to find plenty of mischief to get ourselves into with extracurricular activities such as; the time when I (somewhat illegally) tryed on expensive dirndle in a department stores & took photos so I didn't have to buy it, getting ejected from the Hofbrau (ok, that was just me on the first day), eating Weiner sausages, getting stranded in a remote town in the Alps on probably the ONLY train to break down in the history of German locomotives, riding rollercoasters, crashing the PC in the Kodak shop & then doing a runner, & living on the edge by riding just about everywhere without a train ticket (Bavarian people are BIG & SCARY units, so trust me, this was really was living on the edge).
Unlike my travelling partner Johs, Oktoberfest was not the pinnacle of my journeys, & even though I heard more "G'day mate"s than "Gutentag Fraulein Samantha"s, it was all so much fun !!
& now I'm sitting in beautiful sunny Prague where my liver is not at all happy with these recent events.
I've spent the past two days here exploring the majestic hotch potch of architecture that Prague holds - with everything from classical to baroque to gothic to renaissance styles (sometimes within the same building !!!).
Having spent the previous three weeks in tourist friendly Germany (due to just about everyone being able to speak English, everything being clean & safe, the people being friendly & helpful, & the hostels generally being of an excellent standard etc), I experienced quite the culture shock stumbling into the Czech Republic (which is still recovering from it's 1992 emancipation from Soviet rule).
Even after the many countries I have visited, I still find it remarkable that you can experience culture shock even after only a 6 hour train ride.
Prague is very different to how I imagined it would be - it oscillates between the spectacular scenery of the old town & the seedy streets of the new town - & was actually one of my "Must Not See Before I Come Home" cities, along with Rome, Paris, London, & Barcelona.
So, I'm in Prague for 5 days, & then I head on to Cesky Krumlov (also in the Czech Republic), to Vienna (where I plan to see some of the world famous opera) & then to Interlakken in the Swiss Alps.
After Interlakken, I have to force myself to leave all this unbelievable culture, architecture, food, art & history behind & jump on a plane back to the most beautiful city in the world - Melbourne !
Hope you are all being good & taking care !
xoxo s xoxo
p.s. I almost forgot my MASSIVE news !! Remember how I mentioned that I checked out the Vines in London & my two friends & I had our photo taken with Courteney Love ?? Well ... it was published in the TNT (London magazine for Aussies, Kiwis & South Africans) this week !!!
p.p.s I would do a "Kirst" & email you all the article, however it is currently in the process of being mailed home, so you'll have to wait until I'm safe & sound back on home territory before you start queuing for autographs.
xo s xo
Location: Paris, France
HAPPY FATHER'S DAY DAD !!!
Will call you from Amsterdam to say hello !
Try not to work too hard - all us backpackers reckon it's over-rated :)
Love ya heeps !
Location: Paris, France
Cheerio chaps !
I am writing to you all from a net cafe in Paris, after having forcibly removed myself from London town, which has been my home away from home for the past 7 nights (2 extra nights than originally planned).
There's no other way to describe London other than it's bloody brilliant ! (Although if I was from Ireland I would probably say it was class - weird !!)
I'm not sure if you've all heard the news or maybe seen the pictures published in Who Weekly or maybe NW in Melbourne yet (the subject is probably too cool for the likes of Woman's Day & New Idea - I mean it is London after all dahlinks), but whilst you've all been doing that W word thing (I can't even bring myself to utter the word), I have been hanging out with superstars.
So, I'm expecting the headlines to read something along the lines of : "Samantha & Courteney - Exclusive Backstage Photos of Backpacking Extraordinaire Meeting Rock Star & Mother of Kurt Cobain's Child at Kick-Arse Vines Concert, Forum Theatre, London".
Yes, you read correctly chumps - I HUNG OUT WITH COURTENEY LOVE AT THE VINES CONCERT IN LONDON !!!! (Disclaimer : "hung out" in this instance has been embellished from "pestered for a photo" to make for a better story).
It was just that kind of week for me in the hip & happening city of London town, which I adored from the second I stepped off my ferry onto the drizzly overcast & grey shores of Dover & began whinging about the crappy weather - only 20 degrees (& it's SUMMER, mind you).
If not for the fact that I could suddenly read menus, order food, ask questions about anything I bloody well liked, sing along to songs & do all those other things that you can suddenly do again when the world around you decides to speak English for the FIRST TIME IN TWO MONTHS; I loved London because of the brilliant night life, for Top Shop (seriously ... how have I lived my life without this store), & for the Tube which simultaneously drove me absolutely mental & enchanted me with it's cute "Mind The Gap" every two minutes.
It's actually a little bit sad that it felt so bloody good to say "can you tell me if I'm on the right train?" instead of waiting in anticipation to see if the next stop was the one that I actually wanted.
I arrived in London after spending five spectacular days in Paris, which is the most beautiful city I've visited, to date. Elegant & bohemian & artistic & grand - I've decided that Paris & I are soul mates.
I spent 2 solid days absorbing the most prolific art collection in the world in the Louvre (thanks to Rob & Kellie's awesome birthday present !!! THANKS GUYS !!!), & climbed the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, visited Sacre Couer, Notre Dame & strolled the Champs Elysee - which I think I have longed to do since I was practically a foetus.
Leaving Paris, I journeyed to East Putney in London, where my crazy party animal mates from the Greek Islands - Karen & Tim - offered to put me up in their gorgeous little gaff. How delightful to wake up in a room that doesn't have 10 other people sleeping in it ! How wondrous to take a shower not in my Havaianas ! Simply marvellous to make myself a cup of coffee & sit around in my pyjamas (I did this three times !!).
Tim & Karen, & their equally cool housemates Brendan & Rae, pretty much gave me run of the place & I was treated like a princess (of course) for five days !
We checked out Camden Markets (vintage shopping heaven), partied down at the Notting Hill Carnival (the biggest outdoor festival in Europe) & hit the pubs (surprise surprise) for my first Snakebite, as well as checking out the Vines & hanging out with COURTENEY LOVE at the Forum theatre.
* * * Special Note to Tim, Karen, Rae & Brendan : THANK-YOU so much for letting me crash with you guys - I had the most brilliant time ! ps. Melbourne rules * * *
I left Tim & Karen after 4 nights of craziness, where we caught up for dinner & drinks with another Greek Islander - Pia - in Soho. Afterwards, whilst strolling the backstreets of the West End & peering in the cute little boutique windows in Soho I impulsively decided that I wasn't going to get on the Busabout bus the next day because I didn't feel like I could leave my London town just yet !
Pretty crazy but London was definitely worth it !
An absolute highlight of my time in London was managing to score tickets to see Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre - what an amazing experience !!
Along with spending an goddamn fortune in British pounds (the cost of living here is seriously ridiculous - & also the reason for my forced removal) I managed to sneak in a few of the tourist attractions too; Big Ben, Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey, the Dali Universe, Buckingham Palace (worst £12.50 I've ever spent in my life), London Eye, Trafalgar Square, Harrods, TOP SHOP, Piccadilly Circus, & Oxford Street just to name a few.
Did I mention that I popped in to Top Shop ? Yowch - it's going to hurt when I get the bill on that one.
After all of these whirlwhind adventures, & many MANY many others that I just don't have time to elaborate on, I find myself in Paris for one last time - I'm leaving for a wild couple of days in Amsterdam tomorrow morning.
Unfortunately, although I have been trying to avoid thinking about it, September means that I am beginning my last month here in Europe. Although on the bright side, September does mean that I get to party down with Johan (hi Johs ! can't wait to see ya !) & I'm also set to hang out with the lovely Anna in Hildesheim for a couple of days too.
& so, after much deliberation & careful consideration; here is my new & improved itinerary for September :
London (Eng) : 26 - 27 - 28 - 29 - 30 - 31st August & 1st September
Paris : 2nd September
Amsterdam (Neth) : 3 - 4 - 5th September
Berlin (Germany) : 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 & 10th September
Hildesheim (Germany) with ANNA : 11 - 12 & 13th September
Salzburg (Austria) : 14 - 15th Setember
Munich (Germany) with JOHAN for OKTOBERFEST (!!!!) : 16 - 22nd September
Prague (Czech Rep) : 23 - 24 - 25th September
Cesky Krumlov (Czech Rep) : 26 - 27th September
Vienna (Austria) : 28 - 29th September
Interlakken / Lauterbrunnen (Switzerland) : 30th September - 1 & 2nd October
Munich (Germany) : 3rd October
Flight home from Munich (Vienna & Singapore) : 4th October
Arrive Melbourne : 5th of October
Hope you are all carrying on bravely without me !
I'm looking forward to catching up with everyone - especially MAYA - very shortly :)
In the meantime - take care everyone !
Tally-ho from Sam
Location: Lisbon, Portugal
Just wanted to post a quick note to let you all know that my scooter episode was so much fun & that I've come away from the whole experience relatively unscathed !
The day ended up being more "BMX Bandits" than "Roman Holiday" (wait for the photos - I had to wear a slab of plastic as my helmet & ended up looking like a LEGO toy) & my scooter sounded more like my dad's lawnmower than a finely tuned engine, but it was still a kick-arse day nonetheless.
I did take the obligatory spill - largely due to my complete lack of co-ordination & aforementioned lack of driving abilities - in front of some bemused locals right beside the town's main cafe restaurant area (of course) - but it bruised my ego more than it bruised my knee. I copped a bit of a graze, but being the trooper that I am, I only whinged about it for a few hours.
I'm back at Lisboa train station at the moment & am due for more torture (aka overnight train) all the way to San Sebastian in a matter of hours. This my last opportunity for tapa, sangria & paella & also my very last European beach for the whole trip (SOB!).
From San Sebastian, it's on to Paris & London - so exciting !
Thanks again to everyone for all of your messages :)
xoxo s xoxo