Location: London, England
Caught up with my little bro' in London and knew is was going to be big as they had lined us up for a beer festival first night in. Was great!!! the Belgium beers were especially popular including a cherry beer whihc went down like a treat. They also had a banana and a rasberry beer but they sold out before I could get my hands on one.
Adam and Kelly live with another couple of Aussies, Alana and Ben, across from this huge park called Clapham Common. There always seems to be some live music going on and on Saturday afternoon we laid back in chairs eating cheese and drinking wine listening to a band (that won the best unsigned band at the last Glastonbury Music Festival).
Met a couple of cousins in a bar that have an aunty/mum that has a place up in the Scottish highlands and she lets out rooms to academics etc that are writing up thesis, so have the contacts and this could be the place I settle for a bit (hmmmm will have to find a job there which could be a bit problematic...we'll see)
Was really good to catch up with Adam and Kel (who are partying like no tommorrow!), but sad to have to leave my travel partner in crime, Michelle after 6 weeks of being silly buggers thropugh Spain and Portugal.
Now have just travelled to Croatia, after making my flight by 10minutes!!!! (was sweating on that one a bit) and am doing my first couch surf with a really cool chick called Maya in Croatia's capital, Zagreb. Haven't seen much yet but will drag my thongs around town tommorrow to check the sights and will report back!!!
I have run out of room on this site so have a new travel page at
Location: Lisbon and Porto, Portugal
Haven't written for a while so am am going to have to whizz through this to catch up to date again....
Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, has an awesome laidback vibe to it. The people are super friendly and chilled - one Portuguese man was likening it to Australia, saying that Portugal is tucked away on the quiet side of the powerhouse of Spain , away from the rest of Europe and feels no pressure to keep up with the pace of Europe.....We met some great guys from Lisbon who we hung out with for a couple of nights and went to a cool bar next to the castle, which is perched on a hill that looks over the city.
Lisbon was definately the town of steps!!!!! never have I seen anything like it, just when you think you are almost finished, you turn a corner and are greeted with a new lot. Was a bit like this the day we arrived...had done the equivalent to about an hour on one of those arse busting step machines when we found out that our hostel had overbooked and palmed us off to the next place (up 2 big flights of stairs).....when we arrived the guy was out the front and didn't want us either and so palmed us off again (up another few lots of stairs) and this time a lovely old lady finally took us in. It turned out for the best and she was really sweet and did all our washing/drying and folding (no mean feat, still hadn't washed the clothes from the running of the bulls festival!) for next to nothing.
Porto up in the north was nice but not terribly exciting....It sits on a river (funny about that!) and the port lodges are all situated on one side. We went for a bit of tasting and were pleasantly tipsy (to steal a phrase from Mum) for the rest of the afternoon.
We learnt the origins of Port.....following waring between England and France, the French put up the taxes on the French wines for the English, and so the English started to import the wines from other regions around the globe. The Portuguese wines were great but didn't quiet last the boat trip home, so they started to add grape seed brandy (which had a really high alcohol content) to the wines. This fortified the wines and hence created Port!!!!
Location: Lagos (The Algarve), Portugal
I am totally chilling out in the postcard town of Lagos in the Algarve on the south coast of Portugal. This is the place were the first slaves were traded and the square where it began still operates as am open air market (although now trading in tacky touristy cheap clothes and knick-knaks). You just need to see the pictures and you'll understand the mood of the place. Not much exciting to report, I just rode around town on my pushbike, ate lots of great food and lay on the beach for 3 days.
Location: Seville, Spain
Here I am in Seville, the region that gave birth to Flamenco dancing, and it is bloody hot!!!! During the morning it is quite busy but from 1pm onwards it is like a ghost town until 5 or 6pm as every sane person goes home (or to the pub) for siesta. It is somewhere in the 40´s and at present my eating ice-cream wins over any cathedral visits - although the Alcázar, an old palace owned by the christians, followed by the muslims then the Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabel was very beautiful. It was a lot like a smaller version of the Alhambra but many of the same architects etc were use to design and create various sections.
Off to a Flamenco show tonight in a small cosy venue which should be good which is a great way to spend my last night in Spain. Tommorow am (7:30 am in fact, ouch who gets up at that time besides the birds ??) we travel to the South of Portugal to the gorgeous coastal town of Lagos in The Algarve. Am definately looking forward to just hanging around the beach and reading a book. Also looking forward to trying a different cuisine other than Spanish. While the food has been great I am so tappered out and can´t bear the thought of mayonaise or fried foods - what I would do for a salad sandwich. Despite the type and frequency of eating such foods, have lost quite a bit of weight due to all the walking and now my clothes are all too big. Heaps of places to shop here but it is just too hot, so have to walk around with everything hanging around like a hipster!
Location: Granada and Sierra Nevada, Spain
Now we are deep in the South of Spain and the Morrocan/Islamic influence is everywhere. This feels like a place so entrenched in history and tales of exorbitant times that the mood is infectious. The Alhambra of Granada is a sight to be seen and was beyond my expectations from the Nazarad Palace down to the gardens which were designed to be like the gardens of paradise to be found in the afterlife......they were truly as one would expect paradise to be, and with enough amazing water features to make Jamie Durie wet himself.
After hiring a car we travelled to the mountains of the soul soothing Sierra Nevada which were only abot 40kms away. Here we found total peace away from the crowds and cooler air. There were cows, horses literally running through the streets and mountain goats perched on the mountains edges. We stayed in a ski station and the whole place had a feel like Jindabyne. The place is very barren and in winter is a huge for skiing (judging from the incline of some of these mountains it is only for nutters!).
During the night we stayed the farmhouse next to us caught fire and the firies were there all night trying to put it out (or stop it spreading) but the place was totally gutted by morning.
We dragged ourselves up the mountain which was super steep but the views were so amazing (unfortunately due to a camera issue all the Sierra Nevada photos disappeared, boo hoo).
Location: Cordoba, Spain
Cordoba - intense heat!!!
As we drove into Cordoba (in our air-con´d car) the signpost had the temp at 49 C. As we were walking around at 7:30 it had dropped to a pleasant 43C. It is just to hot to doanything through the middle of the days so we just slept and relaxed those muscles that had a good hard workout in the Sierra Nevada.
This city is great, when you walk through the old part of town it feels like you are walking through a movie set of an old Arabic town. There are city walls, castles and ancient water wheels through the streets. The Mezquita, is a gorgeous mosque/cathedral that had its main rule through the 13th century when Muslim rule was at its height in Southern spain.
The highlight for sure was the Hammam or Arabic baths. They are set in a low ceiling building seperated into different rooms containing small and medium sized pools of diff temperatures. The idea is you sit in the medium temperatured pool for as long as you like, then sit in the hot pool for 4-5 minutes before plunging into the cold (yes very cold) bath. The walls are all painted red ochre in colour and tiled halfway up with decorative tiles and engraved stone and the rooms are seperated with archways that were the same as were in Islamic Spain. All the floors and baths are made form white marble and there is running water everywhere including the painted porcelain jugs that pour water into the baths. The whole place smells like lavender and rosemary because of the massages given by the pools (sooooo nice!).
We went at 10pm and stayed for nearly 2 hours and left in a total meditative state and were as wrinkley as a couple of nannas!!
Location: Malaga, Spain
From here to there...
Have just travelled from the top to the bottom of Spain with a few managable hiccups (ie train breaking down, so having to catch a bus followed by a train at 2:30am, then after walking for 30 min up hills our hostel overbooked and sent us to some run-down hostel where there is not even a sink!! will definately be pulling out the sleep sheet tonight.) The past couple of days have been quite a typical ´backpacker´ experience as we had to stay in Madrid all day (after the train mis-hap) waiting for our flight and so hadn´t showered for 2 days (in 35C heat) and haven´t washed clothes for about a week- (more interesting things to do). Had a brief wash in a sink at the train station and put on clothes that had only been worn once and felt almost respectable. Sat down to breakfast in Plaza Mayor in Madrid (always more expensive and classy to sit down, especially in this part of town). Anyways was almost feeling dignified until a bastard sparrow flew past and shat on my hand - it brought me straight back down to my backpacker plebbism, but was totally hilarious after the struggles (plus he didn´t get my toast or more importantly, my coffee).
Was very nice to re-visit Madrid even if briefly. We had stayed in Madrid for 2 days about 1 1/2 weeks ago but couldn´t understand the hype even though it seemed pleasant enough. We had stayed in a quiet part of town and it was Sunday/ Monday so no-one was about. This time was cool and we saw the Palacio Real de Madrid which was a very opulent grand old palace that was dripping in gold, elaborate furnishings, Moya paintings and everything with bling up until the finest detail. The palace has 2800 rooms (although we only saw about 40, which was enough).
Just after the San Fermin festival, while the band music was still running through our heads, we went to San Sebastion a total picture perfect town on the coast. We stumbled accidently onto another festival, this time for the patron saint of the fishermen, and so the town was totally mad and partying (ha, ha I saw people line dancing to a live band singing Achy Breaky Heart in Spanish). Again music was pumping through the streets with random bands, guys playing flutes while banging drums etc. We tried very hard to recover from San Fermin but were staying in a very nice pension which unfortunately was in street with about 5 pubs (in small lane-way, apparently San Sebastion has the highest ratio of bars to other shops in all of Spain). Sounded like they were having a singing competition, followed by a glass smashing comp. Finally they all went about 4 - 5 am, but to our delight (NOT!) along came a friggin´ 10 piece band past our window at 9am!!
Anyways looking forward to seeing some country Spain over the next week. We have decided to hire a car for a few days so we can see some of the gorgeous little towns along the way.
Location: Pamplona, Spain
San Fermin - Like never before!!!!
We have just come from the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona (aka Running of the Bulls) and have never seen anything like it!! it was potentially the best time I have ever had, boy do the Spanish know how to party. I am not quite sure how to do it justice with my description but there is music, singing, dancing, drinking and fireworks all through the streets all day and all night. For two out of the three nights we were there I did not go home until almost lunchtime the next day as so many people stay up all night. We met so many funny characters such as the three amigos who saw us wandering around looking for our accomodation and walked us to our door then invited us over to their place for dinner and drinks with another friend. Three out of the 4 were called Javier which was impossible to pronounce as an English speaker so they we given the names of Aloisi, Viduka and Harry as they loved the Aussie soccer players. Also rating a mention was a guy called Pablo who always addressed himself as ´Pablo-almost- Picasso´ who had an odd kind of affection for his mum (´we kiss with the tongue` - his words, although he was joking! - well I think). All the Spanish people, especially those from Pamplona were particularly kind and friendly (men were not sleazy at all, no comment on the French). Suprisingly we hardley saw any backpackers, and definately no yobbos - just good clean fun.
Everybody, including babies and the oldies dress in white with the red bandanas around their necks. You have to comply or you stick out. Needless to say the white was not very white by the end.
On the last night of the 6 day festival there is a big ceremony where people sing and waive their red bandanas around. Heaps of marching bands walk through the maze of cobbled streets and people just follow them and dance around although they do this every night). They play games and stop the music where everyone crouches down waiting and then all of a sudden the band starts up again and takes off in a different direction so that you have to chase after them again - everyone was kinda hyper.
All I can say is next year I will definately be back!!!!!
Location: Valencia, Spain
Well, well, well, wasn´t Valencia a town of wonderful unexpected surprises. After being exhausted from travelling through 2 of the biggest cities of our trip in a week (Paris and Barcelona) I was not particularly excited to go to Valencia, Spains 3rd biggest city.
I was mentally overloaded with cathedrals and museums and had plans to avoid them at all costs. The bus ride down ended up being a freebie thanks to a promotional deal of a brand new bus travel co. only 2 days old.
Valencia turned out to be a gorgeous coastal city that was much quieter than expected (well for the first day or so...more on that later) and spent the first afternoon drinking rose´ and eating cheeses in the huge leafy park that dominates the city (is actually an old dried up lake bed).
There seemed to be a bustle of activity through the town in preparation of something about to happen and a little probing revealed that the Pope was coming to town. There was a major Catholic convention, the meeting of the families or something like that, so we decided to stay a couple of extra days to see the commotion.....and one it was!!! Many of the residental apartments that line the streets hung yellow and white banners from their balconies. The people going to the convention must have received a complementary yellow backpack with matching yellow hats as the streets were streams of yellow as the 1 million plus tourists sandwiched into the city. There was a lot of Pope cheerleaders chanting songs for the Pope (which I couldn´t understand due to the language). One of the funniest sights was a group of about 20-30 nuns complete with yellow backpacks and hats, roaming the streets doing pope chants. There was a lot of Africans too, so there was plenty of drumming and African singing and dancing going on (yep, loved it!).
The pope mobile and associated procession drove down our street so we got to watch from our hostel balcony...the crowd was crazy for him and it was like watching a ticketek parade.
Shell and I had a little bit of Rose´while watching the action and when it was all over we immaturely harrassed the police on the streets (who had to stay there all night) by practicing our Spanish on them using our little handbook. Got to admit useful phrases like ´would you like to go out to do some Salsa´ had everyone in stitches - probably us more than the rest though : )
Another great thing to see in Valencia was the aquarium which is the best in Europe. They have massive tunnels and is divided into different regions of the world. The cutest was definately the stingrays and the Beluga whales (see pics) although I feel it is terribly cruel to have a beautiful smart creature like that in captivity.
Off to the capital, Madrid, next. I know everyone loves Madrid but I really can´t wait to get to see some of the rural Spain. The trip is roughly set though for the moment as we go to Running of the Bulls soon back up north in Pamplona so can´t venture to far off the tourist path yet.