A Travellerspoint blog

Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated

Yes, I'm still alive

all seasons in one day 20 °C
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Sorry, this is not some lengthy missive about what I've been doing for the last two months - for some reason my life just doesn't seem worth writing a blog about at the moment, even though I *have* been doing a lot of cool stuff.

So instead, my loyal readers, I offer you a a consolation prize.

If you'd like to see what I'm up to, you can check out my Twitter profile, which I update every few days with short descriptions of what's going on in my life.

If, for some voyeuristic reason, you'd like to know where the hell in the world I am, you can click this link. Whenever I use Google Maps on my phone, which is pretty much daily, it updates my location. If you check at the right time, you can figure out where I'm living, where I work, and wherever else I happen to be around London.


Posted by scy 13:01 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Stealing across the French/Swiss Border

semi-overcast 12 °C
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Challex Gallery
Gruyeres Gallery
Gallery of Geneva, Yvoire and Nyons
Swiss Alps Gallery
Lucerne Gallery

I felt so guilty leaving Paris. It's as if Paris was a beautiful woman I'd met, wined, dined, and then left early in the morning to flee to the Swiss border. Not only had I left, but I'd done do despite sharing her taste in film, music and art. What was I thinking? Why did I leave? I resolve to return some day soon to atone for my Cassanovian behaviour, and er...do Paris properly.

But I didn't have time for metaphorical women - I had to get to Challex, a little town on the border between France and Switzerland, where I was to be kindly hosted by Edouard (a colleague from Pop Health) and his family. And what a welcome - Roast Lamb as soon as I walk in the door! It's been far too many months between roasts.

It was great to be back in a home again - and not *just* because I had breakfast, dinner and lunch prepared - it probably had a lot to do with the lack of bunk beds, having my own room, and the warmth and company that comes with being in a family home. Edouard and Kate were great hosts - the very first day I was there they whisked me off to Gruyeres, a tiny French village nestled within a ring of imposing mountains. Yeah, it's got a beautiful castle, breathtaking scenery (it's quite high up - ha! Sorry.), and the local culture is meticulously preserved and exhibited. But it's really all about the cheese. As soon as we got up there, we were straight into the cheese tarts and fondue. Lovely, oily, dripping, fatty cheese, at eleven in the morning. It's how life is meant to be lived.

My life now newly defined by cheese, the next day I boarded the ferry to sail the low seas (er...not even! -Ed) of Lake Geneva. It was a perfect sunny day (I really need to figure out how I'm doing that) and incredibly meditative and relaxing. Well, until I got frisked by two customs officers, anyway. You see, Lake Geneva is actually half Swiss, half French - a fact hitherto unknown to me. So when I was asked to produce my passport and then everything in my bag and pockets, I was a little nervous. I figured the beard made me look like a drug dealer or something. Then I noticed that they didn't seem to ask anyone else on the ferry for THEIR passports...my experience touring Spain kicked in, and for the rest of the ferry I was convinced I was going to get rolled as soon as I set foot on land - a mental state not exactly helped when they disembarked at the same port. I ran and hid around the corner - a solid covert tactic that would surely have been effective had they not seen me poking my head around the corner to check whether I'd been followed. Yep, I'm double agent material.

My weaving, erratic walk away from the port must have been sufficient, because pretty soon I lost my presumed "tail", and was therefore free to enjoy the charm of the quintessential french town of Yvoire. Cottages by the lake, row-boats whimsically pulled up on the shore, million dollar yachts not so charmingly but just as impressively moored on the piers. The lunch prices were equally as impressive - expensive even by Swiss standards, but can you really put a price on enjoying good french wine in a cottage restaurant by the lakeside...in France? Well, I guess you can, as my bank balance attests.

To my mind, gallivanting around greater Geneva couldn't top the generous hospitality of Edouard, Kate, and their family. As if they needed to prove themselves, they put on a typical Aussie barbie for dinner! It had been far too long. Well, I say typical Aussie barbie, but the beer was german, the wine was french (from the vinyard next door, no less), the meats and cheeses were from the local market and we were enjoying our dinner surrounded by the Jura Mountains on one side and the Swiss Alps on the other. Thanks guys - I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was one of the highlights of my entire European trip.

Reluctantly leaving behind the comfortable life to which I'd become accustomed over the previous two weeks, I left Geneva and headed for the world famous winter resort town of Zermatt, notably situated at the foot of one of Europe's most famous mountains, The Matterhorn. Many people die every year attempting to climb the Matterhorn, so I figured I'd leave those of surer foot than I to give it a go. I took the more stately option of a steep train trip to the nearby summit of Gornergrat in the hope of a decent photo. Mother Nature had other ideas and all I really got was a shot of the foot of a potentially impressive mountain and a quaint little hut. I doubt I'll be getting the Nature Photographer of the Year Award for that one. There's always next year.

I was definitely in Zermatt during the wrong season, but I can't ski or snowboard anyway so just trekking around the peaks and secluded valleys was enough for me. And anyway, the real reason I was in Zermatt wasn't to see the "Mighty" (shy!) Matterhorn, it was to experience one of the world's premier train journeys, the Glacier Express. In one fell swoop I would cross the breadth of Switzerland in eight hours, passing directly through the Swiss Alps over nearly 300 bridges, through 91 tunnels, and reaching a high point of just over 2,033m. Yep, all that from memory - definitely not Wikipedia, no sir. There's something to be said for sipping mochas and red wine alternately as one gazes out the window at the Alps, sedately transported by the slowest express train in the world.

The Glacier Express links the two ski resorts of Zermatt and St. Moritz, so naturally I arrived and yet another ghost town. St. Moritz is completely dead at this time of year - the summer crowd hasn't yet arrived, and the winter crowd is long, long gone, arthritic knees and all. Actually, there were quite a lot of arthritic knees around, and I'm not including mine. It was definitely not a young crowd, but I nevertheless managed to pass the days with a German 747 pilot and a salon manager from Minnesota, walking around during the day, drinking and losing pool during the evenings (er...all part of the social graces).

A last minute train booking saw me in Lucerne a few days later, solely on the strength of having it described to me as "the real Switzerland". I don't know what I'd been seeing for the previous two weeks, but I wasn't going to miss out in case I'd mistakenly been seeing Germany or Italy instead. I do have a bad sense of direction, after all.

Upon arrival, I'm inclined to agree with whoever provided that description. A beautiful lake, surrounding mountains shaped just as you'd imagine them, a small town with various points of interest but large enough to have good bars and clubbing - something I'd been missing from the last three weeks of traveling. The best way to see Lucerne is by taking the "golden roundtrip" - a cruise between the mountains, alighting at the foot of Mt. Pilatus where you take the world's steepest railway to the summit (a 48 degree incline in places!) and then hike around the peaks for a few hours. Once you get tired of hiking, what better way to utterly run yourself ragged than a few toboggan runs and tree-suspended rope obstacle courses? Great ideas. Followed by a few beers overlooking the valley below? Even better. To complete the roundtrip, sleep your way down the mountainside in gondolas, then miss your bus stop on the way home just to extend the round-trip a bit and really get your moneys-worth.

In yet another surprise, I didn't realise I'd be staying in an exclusively Korean hostel. I probably should have read the HostelWorld description a little more carefully rather than clicking "Submit" after reading "Free, Fast Wifi". Not that I minded, I just wasn't expecting to have to wear slippers inside - it reminded me of being in Japan! I also wasn't expecting a vegetarian rice dish for breakfast every morning, but it was the best breakfast I've had my entire trip. Tasty, and it kept me going until dinner - I doubt I could have climbed Mt. Pilatus without it. Staying up late and drinking fine red wine with the old guy in the other room and talking football was the real treat, though.

Well, dear Reader, it's been a priviledge to have you along as this entry marks the end of my freewheeling travels for a few months. I write this entry from Zurich, in a sun-dappled courtyard as the gentle murmur of the other caffeine addicts is subtly overlaid by a spanish saxophone and guitar duo, and it all makes me a bit reflective. I've been travelling for just four months, but I feel as if the itch has barely been scratched. I've found Traveling to be intoxicating - sometimes it's the perfect sunrise, or a touching sunset, or the perfect alignment of weather and scenery. A lot of the time, though, it's the people I've met. I haven't even written about most of them - the conversations in bars over football and a beer, the bravely initiated chats over breakfast in hostels, meeting fellow travelers and eschewing previous plans to spend the day with them. This trip has impressed upon me the rewards of a simple "hello", the karma of helping a stranger, and the unexpected delights of an utter lack of planning. I mean, the only planned section of this trip was the first month in Germany! I've made firm friends, enjoyed the transient company of others, and developed an appreciation for the beauty of my home in Australia - both for the place and the the people. It takes getting away to appreciate what you have.

Yes, I realise this almost reads like an Eulogy. I'm not sure what died, but it certainly isn't my desire to travel. I'll be spending the next few months in London, begging for work and saving pennies (actual pennies!) for the next leg of my journey. My girlfriend Krysty will be joining me, and together we'll surely be getting lost twice as often, but enjoying it twice as much all the same. So expect a lull in updates, but I'll be back in full force in a few months. Thanks for reading - but please, go find something more substantial, like a good book.

Posted by scy 11:15 Archived in Switzerland Comments (1)

Turkey and ANZAC Day

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Istanbul Gallery

ANZAC Gallery

Other Photos of Turkey

I signed up for this trip with nary an idea of what to expect from Turkey. Like nearly every other destination on this trip, I hadn't really planned on going there but when the offer came up, I thought "What the Hell!". In this case the offer was sweetened by the patriotic addition of spending Anzac Day at Anzac Cove, which I considered to be an opportunity not to be missed.

Of course, I wasn't told about the near zero temperatures and utter lack of sleep I'd have to endure to witness The Dawn Service - but first things first.

In stark contrast to the previous leg of my trip, in Turkey I was to be part of an eight day Anzac Tour, starting and finishing in the capital city of Istanbul. Arriving in Istanbul, my offsider Clayton set out on his chief mission - to maintain a higher than three kebab per day average for the entirety of the trip. He was to be moderately successful (and to discover the Breakfast Kebab), however it also taught us our first lesson about Turkey; everything is negotiable. From kebab prices, to trinkets in The Grand Bazaar, and even postage prices. That last item is not made up. I went into DHL - yep, the huge international delivery company, and was told that it'd cost 80 Euro to post a small package back to Australia. When I looked reluctant, they dropped the price to sixty. I realised the game was on and got them down to forty, then walked down to the post office anyway and eventually posted the package for a grand total of 4 Euro.

Blatant rip-offs aside, once you're used to the dance of bartering preluding every purchase, it actually becomes kinda fun. Clayton certainly thought so - by the end of the trip he was bartering for and buying stuff he didn't even want, just so he could parade the purchase in front of everyone else that bought it at a higher price! I'm not quite sure how he fit the tea set, hookah, numerous trinkets and books into his backpack, but I'm sure he thought it was worth it.

It also led to an interesting purchase on my behalf - a genuine leather jacket that actually fits. Apparently it was made for a well-to-do asian buyer, who then decided he didn't want it. His loss is my gain, eh? Now all I need is a motorbike and a bad attitude. I already have the terrible haircut, and lack a real job.

Speaking of attitude, it's definitely something you need when walking the streets of Istanbul, or at least a set of aviators and a smirk - otherwise the street sellers and and urchins are on and around you in an instant. That said, I had the most interesting times of the trip whilst walking the back streets. One evening Clayton and I decided to venture into the Spice Bazaar to have a look around, but obviously we took a wrong turn somewhere because we ended up surrounded by military disposal stores - unless gunpowder is more edible than I thought. Anyway, fate was smiling on us because we both required sleeping bags in order to survive Anzac Day, and we found some in the third aisle, up from the pistols but just before the semi-automatics.

So, after wandering around Istanbul for a few days, the tour started in earnest. Little did we know, the first tour stop was Aya Sofia, the largest Islamic Mosque in the world! Too bad we'd seen it the day before. Not to be discouraged though, we decided to beat the Turks at their own game, and hock our tickets to unsuspecting tourists in the queue. I must have some sort of hidden talent - we sold them both to the first tourists we tried our spiel on! That said, I still have a bit to learn as I sold them for half price. Turns out I'm not as cutthroat as I thought.

From Istanbul we crossed the Bosphorus and headed for Gallipoli and Anzac Cove, two days early in order to take in the landscape before the crowds and tv crews arrived. It was a beautiful, sunny day - but the landscape was spoiled somewhat as the tv crews were already there, as was stadium seating for three thousand people, massive tv screens, spotlights and speaker towers. Obviously I was not so naive as to think that there'd only be a few people solemnly observing The Dawn Service, but I hadn't expected something resembling a Wolfmother concert either. Smarting from the spectacle of it all, I tried to concentrate on recalling my modern history classes and taking in the surroundings.

We left Gallipoli for a hotel to recuperate for a day, and then returned at 9pm the following evening to wait out the long night before The Dawn Service. I was apprehensive - how solemn and respectful was this circus really going to be? The masses of tents on the way to Anzac Cove and the snaking line of coaches full of tourists only served to make me even more skeptical. However, I needn't have worried.

Once we cleared the bag check at the entry, we wandered into The Cove proper, and under the soft lighting overhead, thousands of attendees huddled on the ground and in the stands, voices a gentle, barely audible hum. Groups of people playing cards, chatting, some just sitting and staring out over the sea, contemplative and reflective. It's hard to convey how thousands of people collectively being quiet and reflective can create the right mood, but anyone that's been to a big, acoustic gig when the crowd goes so quiet you can hear a pin drop...you know exactly the type of atmosphere I'm talking about.

A subgroup of our tour got a spot in the stands, and settled in for the night. I was wearing nearly all my clothes and essentially wearing the sleeping bag as well, but the night was damn cold regardless. There was nowhere at all to sleep either, as by 2am The Cove was absolutely crammed full of people, so our only option was a long night of low conversation and quiet reflection. And it was during such a time that I realised how much I appreciated being there at Anzac Cove. It was easy to imagine the soliders landing on the very beach I was sitting on, The Turks dug in high in the mountains behind me, and the morning as quiet and as cold as the one I was experiencing. No doubt they'd not slept either, and perhaps they were joking with their mates, as I was. The whole experience really allowed me to emphasise with and properly appreciate what happened that day, and it made The Dawn Service a truly memorable and moving experience for me.

The Dawn Service was followed by The Australian Service at Lone Pine, then the Turkish Service and the New Zealand Service - with kilometres of hiking through the hills of Gallipoli in-between. Running on zero sleep and next to no food, it was a long, long day, and we were all extremely glad to be back in hotel comfort that evening. That's the end of the similarities to the Anzac experience, I guess.

From Gallipoli, we set off to Ephesus and visted a few ancient ruins on the way - Pergamon, The Temple of Artemis (one of the Ancient Wonders of The World), and of course the ruins of the lost city of Ephesus and the Celcus Library. I could go into detail on all these ruins, but to be honest, although I appreciated them as engineering marvels and a window into the life and times of ages past, you can get tired of ruins, in the same way that you eventually tire of cathedrals. I will say though - it was intriguing to be wandering around in the places where The Apostles preached and were buried, where Mary was buried, and visiting various temples and cities often talked about in The Bible. I wouldn't call myself religious by any stretch (spiritual, rather), but visiting such places gave me a new viewpoint on The Bible as a historical work, whereas I'd previously just taken it as an article of faith. I'll leave actual interpretation of The Bible as an exercise for the reader!

The tour ended with a mammoth 12 hour drive back to Istanbul, but not before Clayton and I rocked the hotel karaoke night with a rousing rendition of Hey Jude, replete with an audience swaying hands and singing along, and yours truly getting a little bit too involved with the screaming, rocking parts of the aforementioned song. Needless to say I didn't have much of a voice left the following morning, but I was sleeping for most of it anyway. Stranagely enough, no video evidence survived.

Which brings me to the customary touchy-feely bit at the end of this and every entry. Heartfelt thanks must go to Clayton for giving me the opportunity to come along on this trip - not only did I begin to develop an appreciation for the people, history and landscape of Turkey, but it also gave me the chance to develop a strong friendship with Clayton, a friendship which previously didn't exist outside of 6am nightclub benders in Sydney. Anyone that is willing to perform a duet of "Hey Jude" has well and truly made a jump to the inner circle, I think :) Cheers, mate.

As a special bonus for the intrepid readers that read this far, I'll throw you a bone - I made a quick two-day stop in Paris on my way to Switzerland. Enjoy:

Paris Gallery

Posted by scy 15:38 Archived in Turkey Comments (1)

Poncho Smuggling through Spain and Portugal

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Valencia Gallery

Poncho Smuggling through Spain

Poncho Smuggling through Portugal

The title of this blog post will make at least a little more sense by the end of this entry, I promise.

I managed to escape Barcelona with all my money, ID and vital organs, and took the five hour train south to Valencia. The two cities couldn't be more different! Whereas Barca has the big, bustling city feel, Valencia has the relaxed, bohemian vibe that just makes it really easy to feel at home away from home. I spent the first half-day wandering the arts/science district, which is a series of buildings and parkland that makes you feel like you took one left-hand-turn too early and ended up on The Moon in twenty years time. I spent the rest of my stay in Valencia being rather lazy, really - taking the tourist bus everywhere instead of walking, eating Payella (kind of like a seafood risotto, but not so wet), and meeting randoms in the hostel, as per usual.

It seems meeting randoms is what makes a trip really memorable. In the case of Valencia:

  • Having a one-hour conversation with a Brazillian guy where neither of us had a common language, which meant the conversation was really a one hour long game of charades, with each of us trying to get our point across with expansive, over-the top acting and hand gestures. Nevertheless, we exchanged some music CDs, and he showed me how to play his Quica. Turns out he works for Brazillian TV and was in town to work on a docco.
  • I tried to inflict Vegemite upon every foreigner who appeared half-willing, and relished the look of utter disgust that inevitably followed. In return, I was made to eat snails that had been warmed up in the microwave. Fair enough.
  • Attempting to find food and drink at 3pm with a fellow hosteller, only to be reminded that the Spanish go on siesta from about 2pm 'til 5pm. We were rescued by a friendly French guy who was just packing up his stall in the market. We helped him pack up, and he guided us to a handily open supermarket down a side-alley. Saved!

However, the most important instance of chance profoundly affecting my travels was to occur whilst I was washing the dishes in the hostel. I happened to get talking to Aly, an american girl who was also travelling by herself. We hung out for a while, and happened to run into two Canadian guys, Ryley and Keegan, while having a quiet beer in the hostel. We headed out for an informal game of football in the park, and whilst passing the ball around it became apparent that we all harboured intentions to go driving around Spain in order to see all of it's nooks and crannies, but we each lacked the funds indivually. No prizes for what happened next - by late that afternoon we'd all decided to book a car and set off the next day on a completely unplanned adventure, to last the rest of the week. Why not, eh?

The four of us set off to pick up the car, only to find the van we'd booked wasn't available. Bummer. Nevermind, they upgraded us to an Audi, and then to an even larger Peugot. Hardly bumming around in a van, eh? Stylish. We piled in and set off with only two vague guidelines for travel:

1) "Head vaguely south and clockwise, and if we could make it to Portugal, that would be awesome!"

2) No stopping at any town in bold on the map. We might look like tourists, but we could at least get away from the other tourists and pretend we weren't.

The first day was to set the tone for the rest of the week - sleeping on a sunny beach, taking random detours down small roads, going on walks around majestic cliffs and rocky coastlines, and camping on a beach with nothing but a campfire and each other for company. Well, except for the crazy spanish guys we partied with on our first night. Language barriers be damned!

Of course, this whole road trip being random from the outset, I was totally underprepared. The Canadians in our party had sleeping bags, tents, and camping equipment. Typical. Aly, the American, at least had a sleeping bag and a pillow. I had none of these things, of course. Nor had I thought to buy anything. So for the entire week I slept either in the back of the car or on the beach by the fire, wearing nearly every item of clothing that I had, using the remainder of my clothing for a mattress, my coat as a pillow, and a sleeping sheet for a sleeping bag. It was less than ten degrees most nights. How's that for giving a good account for Aussies everywhere?

Not that it was hard to justify roughing it, when every night I was sleeping on the sand under the stars, and waking to the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen. Totally worth the big toe I lost to frostbite. It was also worth the rudimentary meals that we nevertheless thoroughly enjoyed - breakfast was (only!) coffee, lunch was bread and cheese (and salami if we were lucky) and dinner was a can of beans warmed over the campfire and shared between four. Gourmet, eh? Despite the basic nature of the food, there's something so deeply rewarding about cooking food over a fire you worked and sweated to get started, and also incredibly bonding to be sharing what little food we had between us and making do.

That's not to say that I didn't enjoy the seafood brunch we had on our first stop in Portugal. Mmm...squid. Yup, we made it all the way down the west coast of Spain, and after short-cutting through Granada and the mountains of central Spain, we arrived on day four to the south coast of Portugal. Two countries for the price of one! Well, not really. More like two countries for a little more than double the price, what with the petrol and...er...parking tickets, but I digress!

It's hard to adequately get across the point that this past week has undoubtedly been the best week of my life. It's amazing to think that idle conversation while washing dishes can be the critical point that turns what would have been another week lounging in Valencia into an unbelievable, unpredictable, life-changing adventure with people who are now firm friends.

Aly, Keegan and Ryley - thanks for being part of the most amazing week of my life, and for leaving me with a hybrid American/Canadian accent that is proving very difficult to shake indeed.

And if you hadn't guessed (and I'd be impressed if you did!) - "Poncho Smuggler" was the name of our ride. C'mon, it was obvious.

Next stop, Turkey! Time to learn another language, methinks.

Posted by scy 15:36 Archived in Spain Comments (3)

Barcelona et al

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Tarragona Gallery

Gerona Gallery

Barcelona Gallery

Sitges Gallery

Late night flights are never exciting, but arriving at 10pm in a city renowned for thieving and pick-pocketing certainly adds a bit of extra spice. I set off from Dublin full of verve and bravado, but alighted from the plane in Barcelona more mouse than man, and opted for the relative safety of a taxi over the unknown of The Metro. Cojones slightly smaller, I arrived at the hotel safely and met up with good friend and erstwhile housemate Alan to take advantage of a few days free accommodation in a five star hotel. Sweet! Thanks mate :)

The first day in Barca was spent tentatively exploring the Metro (the underground) and wandering around the beautiful beachfront. Contrary to my experiences in the UK, here there were people everywhere enjoying the (relatively) sunny day - surfing, swimming, drinking and enjoying tapas by the Mediterranean. Tapas, you say? What a great idea - 5 Euro each and three dishes to share for lunch? Brilliant.

Alan was off to wow the Telecommunications Engineering Conference on day two, so I set off on an excursion to Tarragona, a picturesque town a few hours south, a former bustling spanish port when the Romans were about the place doing their worldwide expansion thing. As a result, you get some surprising juxtapositions, such as a coliseum with an ocean view and a grand, typically Roman cathedral surrounded by spanish townhouses and the sweet scent of orange trees everywhere. A real concoction of cultures, and the richer for it.

It was also a day of taking a few blind risks - why not? Firstly it was deciding to get a regional train in the first place, as being my second day in Spain I had no grasp of the language whatsoever. Still, phrasebook thrust firmly in front of me and helped along by some kind american tourists (journalists from The New York Times!) I managed to just barely get the right train at the right time. Phew! Even better was ordering lunch - I set off down some little side streets and chose a bar/cafe at random. Being in a small town and my liguistic skills no better than earlier that morning, the waitress and I had a great bonding session as I attempted to order a three course lunch. It didn't really help that I used the Portugese section of my phrasebook accidentally (which I only realised later).

Anyways, I had such great fun wandering around the winding streets of Tarragona that I thought I'd try the same again in Gerona. It seems I have a knack for engendering help from strangers. Perhaps because I'm so tall, dark, windswept and interesting. Anyway, a spanish lady reassured me I was on the right platform, and then we got talking for the rest of the two hour trip about Spain, traveling, and her time in the UK. As a result, I've got myself a standing invite to come and stay at a pub she owns on The Isle of Wight in England. It pays to be friendly, eh? Gerona turned out to be just as charming as Tarragona, despite that fact that it was absolutely pouring all day, and I lacked an umbrella - but there's just something about the bright but gnarly alleyways and streets that's enhanced by the sheen and reflections of the rain, and it made trudging around in wet socks for five hours totally worth it.

Dinner that night was a solitary affair, what with Alan off hob-nobbing at his conference banquet, but I didn't mind! I dutifully left my credit card at home and set off around a randomly chosen neighborhood in Barca, looking for some appetising tapas. I found some, but disappointingly I didn't get mugged or knifed. The waiter even complimented me on my spanish - perhaps he was partially deaf to start with.

Amidst all this sightseeing, some basic essentials needed seeing to, like doing some washing so I could avoid reusing my socks for the third time. After a bit of googling, I set off for the nearest laundromat (three metro stations away!). Upon arrival, I explained what I needed to the lady on the front desk, and she started counting up the items. Fair enough - the price? 12 Euro. Sure, a little steep, but my feet could do with a little lovin'. No problem, hand over the cash. What? Not enough? I peer a little closer at the screen - 125 EURO FOR A LOAD OF CLOTHES? I shrugged and handed over my credit card. You gotta go what you gotta do.

No, not really. I grabbed my stuff and got outta there as fast as I could. That's $250 Australian! More than my clothes are worth, mate. I resigned myself to washing by hand. Ah, the luxuries of travelling.

Determined to make amends for a lost day, I set out early the next day for Barcelona's sports mecca, the home ground of Spanish superclub, FC Barcelona (duh). Sure, the tour was kinda tacky and overpriced, but it was worth it just to experience the sheer size and scale of the stadium, which is the third largest in the world. I think Brazil holds the record at 150K, but I'd be worried about theirs falling down (it was built in the 50's and some parts have already collapsed!). There was a total absence of football stars wandering around, so I set off for my next destination, the jewel of Barcelona's tourist attractions, La Sagrada Familia.

This neo-gothic cathedral is the masterpiece of Spain's most celebrated architect, Antoni Gaudi. He somehow manages to convey religious passion and reverece through a monument that looks, from the outside, like someone vomited on top of a small mud hill. Pay the 15 Euro and peer a little closer, however, and you can see that what looked like undigested corn and carrot is in fact myriad fine details representing a breathtaking nativity scene adorning the cathedral facade. Both inside and out you can observe how Gaudi has masterfully integrated the natural lines and tesselating shapes found in nature into a fascinating, organic structure, and it's unlike anything I've ever seen. More of Gaudi's works are found throughout the city, but personally I found them a bit gaudy.

Haha! See what I did there?

  • ducks bottle thrown from the audience*

Mick joined up with Alan mid-week, and although we did a bit of sightseeing together, we pretty much did our own thing. Partly because their stride is twice as long and fast as mine, so any joint sightseeing would have resulted in us walking around looking like some sort of atypical family, with me skipping and running along behind to keep up! While they toured the city I made yet another regional sojourn to Sitges, a beautiful seaside town thirty minutes south of Barca. It was postcard Spain - alfesco bars and cafes on The Mediterranean, churches standing tall as waves gently lap the cliffs on which they stand, meandering walking paths by the coast, and people sunbaking naked. Oh yes - I probably shouldn't have walked down to that secluded beach. *shudder*

The three of us did meet up for dinner most nights, however I have to admit I don't have the best record of choosing culinary neighbourhoods - I think my status is one from three. The first time we ended up at the spanish equivalent of Mcdonalds, the second time one of our extended party had their wallet pick-pocketed, although the third time we hit gold. Perhaps I should do a bit more research before we head out.


Posted by scy 06:20 Archived in Spain Comments (2)

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