Sunday, 16 September 2007

Beer in the Bidet and other such tales...

Hmm so to pick up where we were left last time. I'd love to say that we really immersed ourselves in the history and culture of Barca and came away as truly enlightened travellers. Shamefully; this was not the case. As it turns out, Barcelona is situated on an exceptionally beautiful stretch of the Spanish coastline, making the beach fairly irresistible. Whilst we may not have quite matched the locals in the leathery skin stakes, we were amongst the surprising minority who actually swam. Turns out the Catalunyans just like to sit around all topless and beautiful and what not. Strange.

Anyway, another contributor to our inactiveness was the fact our decent 2star accommodation happened to be right in the middle of Las Ramblas, Barcelona's most happening and touristy street. A very brief walk from our room would find you amongst numerous bottle-o's, Western bars and pubs, prostitutes, pimps, Micky D's and KFC's. Indeed to quote my "let's Go Europe" book; "Las Ramblas, while lively, becomes a bit questionable late at night, with whores replacing families." A plus about the area though was that it housed the budget-minded Traveller's Bar which served up 1euro (free with a YHA card (which we each posses)) meals every night of the week. Whilst it is admittedly the same vedgy pasta slop Mon-Sun, free is cheap and very hard to turn down. Eyebrows were soon raised however after our second night there in a row and we opted against going for the treble.
A quite night in...

Whilst across the board everything was pleasantly cheaper than Paris, bar prices were still generally high so alternate measures were sort to stay well refreshed. As the bidet is one aspect of European culture all of us are yet to adopt; we felt relatively comfortable and hygienic using it as an ad-hock bar fridge. Dodge perhaps, but undeniably effective.

Rory getting into the local produce. That's Sangria. Isn't he pretty...

To increase our culture-vulture credentials somewhat we headed down to la Sagrada Familia; Antoni Gaudi's unfinished masterpiece. It was pretty incredible to see a Church whose development began almost 20 years before our own country achieved federation, still looking only partially completed and almost entirely covered in scaffolding. A completion date has been set for 2020 but it was the theory of Team Travel that construction is deliberately travelling at a snail's pace as progress would soon see the end of the pricey admission cost's which are surely a tidy earner for the local government.

la Sagrada Familia

Otherwise not a whole lot more to mention from Barca other than the fact we met up again with an English amigo named Barry. He's a top bloke we were first introduced to playing football in London who offered us to crash at his place in Malaga for a few nights. Well as it turned out he and his wife Rachel were two of the nicest people we've met on our travels. They took all four of us in and, even though we incessantly tried to intervene, unconditionally fed us, drove us in to town and generally took care of us. They basically attributed their exceptional generosity to the fact they did a lot of backpacking/hitchhiking in the past and were often themselves the benefactors of random acts of kindness. Still, pretty incredible considering we'd only known Barry for an hour before setting foot in his house almost a month later.

So Malaga was nice enough without being overly stunning. Lot's of development's going up around the place but thankfully far enough away from the Costa Del Sol to avoid mass amounts of English expats and dodgy ex-Spanish mafioso's. Highlight was the two-hour trip out to Cordoba. Spent a night there staying right in the heart of the Jewish quarter only metres from the historic Mezquita. For those who aren't familiar with it (and I was one before I visited there), the Mezquita is essentially a Mosque built on the foundations of a Church which then was overthrown and subsequently had a cathedral constructed within the site of the Mosque itself. In any case; it's a remarkably beautiful landmark steeped in history. The whole city of Cordoba in fact was gorgeous and was exactly the type of Spain I'd been hoping to see.

Inside the Mezquita

Now we find ourselves in Sevilla which has been somewhat of a pleasant surprise. Though none of us had any major desire to come here, the winding streets and local architecture certainly suits our habit of mapless walking.

Sevillian St Shot. Had to be done

Next up is Portugal and Lagos which will probably see us revert to more beachy and bar ways. Should be alright though.
Umm have been trying to get more photo's up (especially from Paris) but Internet cafes to date have been decisively unreliable.
Oh I shaved my head yesterday (well, Barry did). It is unimpressive (I likened myself to G.I. Jane) but as I said to a blonde friend of mine, a shaggy mop is not exactly compatible with the Spanish sun.
Outside Barry's with him (left) and Rachel (right)

Till next time,


Song's I'm listening to at the moment: Un Simple Histoire Thievery Corporation, Death at the Chapel- The Horrors

Friday, 7 September 2007

"Bonjour! Parlez vous Anglais?...No?.. Ohh... err... au revoir"

To counter my previously draining posts, I shall endeavor to keep this relatively brief and purely Paris-related.. So as indicated we"ve left the mother country with our first stop being the city of lurve. Having seen gay-Paris and all its attractions in a former life I had anticipated only a mild sense of enjoyment at revisiting the country"s capital. Still I do have to admit to becoming rather besotted with the people, various sites and of course; food & drink.
Re-doing Gustave"s old tower turned out to be just as enjoyable the second time round. The four us went back a couple of nights later to see the light display and, well, some say it"s a bit tack but I"m not too bothered. Think it looks bit of alright. Only downside really was as it hit 10.00pm with the massive structure doing its sparkly thing, a bottle of (typically cheap) wine present- it dawned on the four of us that maybe each others company didn"t quite agree with the mood of the evening. Still, in one of the most beautiful city"s in the world, one can"t tend to complain too much.
Other attractions worth mentioning were of course the Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triomphe, the somewhat haunting Catacombs, Notre Dame, Sacre-Couer (sp?), the Louvre and the palace of Versailles. A very decent (and complimentary) audio guide gave a little more light to the ridiculous pomp and opulence of the King"s old digs and, having studied a small amount of French history, proved particularly interesting.
Otherwise our days were generally spent in the most cliche of French ways. Crusty baguettes were the sole feature of almost all our meals and were accompanied by many many bottles of exceptionally cheap grappa whilst overlooking what in all honesty was a terrific view from our window. Overall we"ve been extremely lucky with accommodation and now there"s four of us*
we are able to get our own quad rooms for much less $$$$ . Oh and it seems some myths and stereotypes are truer than others. For instance, Crepes are indeed both readily available and delicious. The French are on the whole a warm, accommodating and helpful race of people (or so my experiences would suggest). So hmm I guess there"s something in that.

Fine Dining

A young chap looking delighted after releaving himself in the palace gardens of Versailles

Did almost run into some trouble on our second last night. A relatively quite night spent with one or two (or three or four) bottles of wine quickly escalated into a bit of a cross room party when I bumped into some Welsh blokes in the hall. These guys could certainly drink and forced a sculling contest upon me. I"m generally terrible at this sort of thing and was pretty soon left behind. Anyway apparently we must of been slightly rowdy because the reception bloke came up fuming and yelling French abuse at us indispersed with the words "Police" and "kicked out". Luckily he decided against either of those options but we did receive a rather severe (and probably deserved) dressing down in the morning. Good times nonetheless.
Hmm so we"re actually in Barcelona at the moment and having a fantabulous time. The story of our adventures here will, unfortunately, have to wait. I might however add that since we"ve been here I was actually able to convince a barkeep to show the Collingwood vs Sydney final the other day(/night for all you Melbourne folk). Even though the game was wholeheartedly lost on the other English blokes in the pub it was brilliant to see my beloved Pies looking so damn good. Anyway,shall go now but thanks again to everyone for their various emails. As much as on occasions there have been complaints by some that I nyself don"t keep them regularly updated, I will say that I love hearing all that"s going on back home (including the mundane) so please, don"t hold back.
Big Huggles and kisses,

Song I"m Listening To At The Moment: We All Know- Devendra Banhart

P.S. I will apologise for constantly using " instead of the singular version-thing but as unfortunately that"s just Spanish keyboards for you.

*(newest member to Team Travel (occasionally known as "A Tribe Called Travel") arrived two days before we left England. He is, for the most part, a decent human being)