December 26, 2008 § 1 Comment
Well, I’m back in France, in Basque Country for Christmas. This is going to be a small pit stop for me, so when an individual such as myself finds some idle time during holiday season and such, I thought it would be nice to provide a short recap on the past 3 months of traveling. So, 5 countries, over 30 cities, and approximately 19 episodes of couchsurfing later, here are some random highlights – the good, bad, and just plain stupid.
1. Wading around, pitch black, in the Arabian Gulf trying for one hour and catching just one crab.
2. Sandboarding in the desert at the border of Dubai and Oman, eating lovely sand.
3. Getting really excited about riding my first camel only to realize the camel walks really slowly about 10 meters back and forth, and the ride is over in 2 minutes.
4. Going to secret pork-eating establishment in Dubai in what looked like an abandoned building.
5. Hitch-hiking at Cairo Airport at 4am, then miraculously ended up staying with someone who shared with me the services of her private chauffeur and maid.
6. Attending a private soiree at a Parisian train station, got duped into eating blue cheese, and meeting Creepy Polish Guy who insisted chocolate was bad for one’s health. What nonsense.
7. Meeting a French bus driver who tried to invite me back to his apartment to ‘practice his English’. Yeah right, I wasn’t born yesterday.
8. Scootering along the coast of the Mediterranean, in the rain.
9. Hanging out in some Toulouse gay nightclub where a guy brought along his grandpa to party with him.
10. Arranging all of Charlene’s ornamental elephants on top of the sofa in Bordeaux and taking glamour shots of ourselves with them.
11. Feeling completely miserable and lonely in Madrid in an extremely cold hostel with no heating, no friends, and no motivation to do anything.
12. Watching my first flamenco show with the Alhambra as the backdrop.
13. Watching The Matrix entirely in Spanish because there was no remote control for the DVD player to change the audio settings.
14. Convinced by some new Spanish friends to say ‘un chupito me cago en la puta!’ to the barman in Seville, which apparently means ‘one shot, fuck it!’ or something in that manner. The barman gave me my shots.
15. Eating several ‘white chocolate’ sandwiches at 2am in Bilbao.
16. Having midnight dinners in Spain…I still can’t get used to their timetable.
17. Wandering the streets of Porto for 2 hours, completely lost, and ending up in a posh hotel rewarding myself with some super fancy fries.
18. Tasting 2000 vintage port from a 180 euro bottle.
19. Getting used to being the only solo Asian female traveler around, and being somewhat of a novelty because I come from neither Japan nor China. I did briefly contemplate learning Japanese for the hell of it so I can finally respond to all the ‘Konichiwa’s people have sputtered at me.
20. Feeling disgustingly emotional during one of my many road trips on the bus, as I pass incredible Spanish and Portugese landscapes. Everybody should be able to experience all these places and people during their lifetime.
There you go, the top 20. The next installment will inevitably come soon. Merry Christmas and Boxing Day.
December 21, 2008 § Leave a comment
It’s a brand new day. I think I’ve died and gone to couchsurfing heaven. All that effort on Friday was really worth it.
Of course many of you are aware that my European odyssey has almost entirely been supported by couchsurfing. So far within the confines of 16 cities I have slept on a variety of different surfaces which have included bunk beds, day beds, normal single beds, queen beds with silk sheets, the floor with a dog, a small sofa, sleeping bags with a cat, actual fold-out couches and yes, I have even shared beds. There have been times when I have woken up and not have a clue where I was.
Anyway there is a point to this story. I am in Porto and it is fucking paradise. In a four-storey house with 3 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms and a movie room, I am kicking back in a private room on the king-sized bed getting reacquainted with Harry Potter. After a hot shower in the 5-star marble clad ensuite I dry myself off with the fluffy white ‘hotel’ towel. It has been nicely warmed up on the heated towel rail. One does get quite tired after zipping around all night in Pedro’s red BMW so I press the magic button and the external shutters whirr down to a close. I almost expect a butler to appear out of nowhere to put a chocolate mint next to my pillow.
Oh yeah. I am having a couchsurfing orgasm. It’s so good but you know it will end all too quickly…
December 20, 2008 § Leave a comment
I have been writing part of this from the red and white cushy lounges of Pestano Porto Hotel, munching on some expensive as hell sandwich and fries, and catching up on some world news on the wall-mounted plasma TV. It’s been two whole hours since I’ve been lost on the streets of Porto, and I thought that I damn well deserved some posh grub.
Let me provide a small flashback. Back in Lisbon internet access had been rather tricky and I thought I would be able to memorize the Googlemap image of the meeting location Pedro had sent to me within my 15 minute log-in at one of the Indian run internet cafes. I put full confidence into my amazing mental prowess and I happily set off to catch my bus at Sete Rios.
One of the worst things a traveler can do is to arrive in a new city at night, with no map and no fucking clue where you are. The tiny one in Lonely Planet didn’t really help. So with my mental prowess (which I was beginning to feel wasn’t so amazing anymore), I ended up walking, with my backpack, across the bridge, back again, down some alleys, up some streets, and ended up in some Portugese coffee shop with no idea where I was. I was tired and frustrated but somehow, found an old man who spoke French, and with bad French managed to get some directions.
So here I am, in a nice hotel, where I managed to convince the concierge to feel sorry for me (as I was feeling extremely sorry for myself) and let me use the hotel phone and wait in the hotel lobby. I was beginning to think Pedro did not exist but I waited. Finally, at around 1am, after much ado and effort, I was found. A bit worn around the edges, and a little grumpy, sure, but I still had my wit, humour, and a good head on my shoulders, and that after all, is the most important thing.
December 17, 2008 § Leave a comment
I have made the 6 hour road trip to Lisbon and am now couchsurfing with Rita. She greeted me at the metro station with a warm smile and led me to her flat. To get there we navigate through labyrinth like streets, the old cobblestones rough on my feet. From the steep street we climb up and reach her building, old, with faded tiles on the outside. We have to walk up three floors of hard stairs with no lift or light, but I’m just happy to be in Portugal, finally.
Her place is small, and I notice there is no couch, but the smell of food wafts through from the one-person kitchen. Within the hour my eternally starving self is satisfied. Her cat falls in love with me and spends the next few nights sleeping at my feet as I lay bundled up in a sleeping bag on the unfinished timber floor. I have no complaints.
It feels nice being with a girl for once and doing usual things such as waking up in the morning. Though I have enjoyed hanging out with the boys immensely, I also like doing girly things on occasion. So with Rita I have spent many lovely hours strolling through the city (by day!) and beautiful afternoons taking boat rides and indulging in Portugese custard tarts.
I have really pleasant memories of cooking, eating, and even just hanging washing out on the line in the sparkling sun. From the top floor I have a great view of the ‘real’ Lisbon, with its maze of streets and messy tiled roofs. I breathe in the smell of fresh laundry, I love this smell. I almost feel normal again.
December 14, 2008 § Leave a comment
That’s the word for my time in Seville.
Now, after the last update, most of you would think it might probably be wise to be taking lots of vitamins, drink lots of water, catch up on some beauty sleep, and other similar healthy activities. Although it would appear that my good intentions are always there, inevitably events seem to have a mind of its own and I find myself ending up feeling like crap. Again.
No, it’s not what you think. This is NOT an AA blog. All accidental coincidences, really. I shall attempt to provide a summary. I apologize for the vague-ish commentary. After all, it is pieced together by the mind of a very vague individual at the moment.
Seville is my last destination in Spain and I guess I have not learned my lesson after all. I have discovered that willpower is a trait I thought I possessed but clearly do not. As a result I can say with confidence that the last few days have been a rather hazy mix of all sorts of night activities after that ‘one drink’. These activities may have included some deep intellectual discourses over some fine Spanish wine at some point but I’m sorry to say I really don’t remember too much of it. I suppose I could always consult my conversational partners but these people are to me but hazy also. Pretty sure I discussed the meaning of life at some point with a Gary Sinise lookalike.
This is what I remember. Tapas and sangria. Some Spanish guy who looked exactly like Jerry Seinfeld. Tinto de verano. Free flamenco. Bars and clubs till dawn. Spanish folk who bought me drinks and taught me to swear in Spanish. Waking up not knowing whether it was night or day. Breakfast at noon, lunch at 5pm and dinner at midnight. I do recall going to the Plaza de Espana one evening but never really saw the city by day at all.
I feel completely wasted. Fucking hell I think I’m getting too old for this shit.
December 9, 2008 § Leave a comment
One good way to feel like shit
Is to have an alcoholic late night shift
At the very well named Drunk Crock bar
The one and only Aussie one in Malaga
Plastic crocs and roos smile from the walls
But no cute bartender from Oz, alas
Then the very next day get up at noon
Had to wait for my head to stop spinning soon
Damn you hangover, go away now
I need to walk up to Gibralfaro
Shit! The climb uphill ain’t really easy
When I’m still feeling really shitty.
Think I’ll give up beer for a bit
At least until I stop feeling like shit.
December 7, 2008 § Leave a comment
Spanglish is way amusing. Especially if it’s Spanglish nonsense. Have you heard the one about the mariposita? It needs to be told in a Spanish accent. I laughed till I almost pee-ed in my pants. Ok so maybe I’m easily amused. And maybe I might have had a FEW afternoon drinks at several Spanish establishments.
It was all part of David and Belen’s Grand Granada Tour. It basically involved churros and chocolate for breakfast, 20% sight-seeing and the rest sampling local beverages and yes, more tapas. This time the tapas included escargots, prawns and paella. Believe it! I was feeling light-headed by 5pm. We headed for a small siesta. I am beginning to feel Spanish.
At night we went for the most excellent flamenco show. Never would have thought a short little curly-haired man wearing a pink shirt stomping around on a stage could be so entertaining. I was extra fascinated by the man whose only job was to clap his hands. So anyway compared to yesterday’s mishap, today was mucho excellent. I even hate the bus less.