Finally, my last post!
Maybe it’s because right now I don’t exactly feel 100%, but I feel like I have run out of things to say.. about everything. I can’t say I am really a fan of Madrid, I found everyone rude and unwelcoming, but then I’ve heard so many good things about Madrid – and Spain as a whole, most of my friends adore it there, I can’t help but feel like I must have just been unlucky… maybe I’ll go back one day and see if I feel differently about it.
However, I did find myself some beautiful parks, and the Palace is incredible! I swear I spent about three hours (actually judging my what my travel journal says I think it was five minutes but I remember it being more like three hours) just sitting on the steps outside the palace listening to someone playing the guitar (it seems a lot of my clearest/fondest memories seem to involve music, usually someone just there, casually busking away), staring at the palace.
Porto, another place that now has my heart ♥
When I arrived in Porto, I was completely exhausted – I think I was finally feeling the toll of the past five weeks, moving around so much, walking pretty much none stop (I don’t know what is wrong with me, even when my feet are bleeding I find it really difficult to sit still for more than a few minutes) from generally around 8am-midnight on very little sleep – though I loved every moment of it, by the way!
I love Porto mostly because it is so rugged and rough around the edges, and I don’t mean ‘rough’ as in it’s a rough area, though I’m sure there are parts of Porto that are, just like there are in every city, but it had the ‘crumbling but still beautiful’ feel to it, like Venice. While I was there, one of my hosts mentioned to me that 70% of the houses in Porto are derelict, and after that I couldn’t help but notice them everywhere, it’s really sad.
Maybe one day I will start renovating properties in Porto 😉
Another reason to love Porto: Five euro music festivals! I have absolutely no idea what they were singing about most of the time, but still, it was an amazing two nights. And I was able to go home to a nice warm bed at the end of the night, rather than camp out in a muddy field like my friends back home were at Leeds at the time.
Mostly I loved Porto because the people I stayed with were just so incredibly lovely. Phelgo especially is a sweetheart and they all made me feel so welcome… I have to go back and visit ASAP… I’ll add it to the list!
Maybe if thinking wasn’t such a challenge right now this post would be better. Maybe I’ll re-write it when I feel myself again and find the time, but as my lovely friends keep asking to see ‘the last batch’, so voila 😉
Barcelona is a funny sort of place. It’s just everything all at once: it’s beautiful and yet ugly, everyone is friendly and yet… not so friendly, the food looks great but then it doesn’t actually taste particularly great, and, what I found strangest of all, it has a way of being full of life and equally just… dead. It simultaneously puts me in one of my happy, ‘desperate to absorb every ounce of energy, emotiona and passion that this city has to offer me’ traveller moods and yet make me eager to pack up and move onto the next city.. bore me even. I couldn’t quite get my head around Barcelona.
Still… there were a few little spots that completely captured my heart. I loved sitting in the little park behind Sagrada Familia just as the sun was setting:
I loved it because despite being right in the heart of the city, it was just so quiet and still.
I also love Park Guell. It’s so incredibly beautiful! I loved that there was music everywhere; you walk around one corner and stumble across someone playing the violin, you walk further down that path and just as the sound of the violin has faded, you find someone playing the piano, walk further still and there’s someone playing an instrument that I don’t even recognize!
I love how every inch of the park has been carefully thought out and designed and yet it manages to look wild as well. The whole park is just art. I could live there, I could build myself on of my floaty, drapey fabric tents and live right there among the flowers – I could decorate my tent with flowers and blend right in!
Every single photograph that I took while in Bordeaux was, in my opinion, perfect; the lighting, the colours, just everything. It was just perfect, and I have added it to my ‘to live in’ list, which is getting so long that I think I’ll have to start working my way through it the moment I finish university! After all, it’s only going to keep on growing longer the more I travel! It already looks something like this from this trip alone!
- Cinque Terre (I think either Riomaggiore, or, because it’s amazing for cliff diving, Manarola)
It was quite tricky getting to Bordeaux from Barcelona, what with cancelled trains etc. The original plan was to go from Paris to Bordeaux, to Montpellier, then to Barcelona.. but as I’d had to spend an extra day in Paris, I decided to skip Bordeaux… only to then decide while in Barcelona that no, I really want to see Bordeaux now, and so I turned around!
Still, with two connecting trains, I was also able to spend a few hours in Toulouse and Narbonne, both of which I would have missed out on otherwise:
When I finally arrived in Bordeaux, it was past midnight. Until about 10 or 11pm I’d had no idea where I would be staying that night, and people kept looking at my strangely as I sat in Toulouse and laughed because I again imagined how much my friends back in Derby would be panicking if in that situation, and yet I felt completely relaxed.
Luckily, a photographer friend of mine, Jonathan, and his girlfriend Pauline were kind enough to let me sleep at Jonathan’s home for the night, and Pauline was even lovely enough to show me around the city the next day. Thank you again!
We ate the most amazing meal of my life and a quaint little restaurant, with local wine of course, we laughed at the broken machinery of France and just at everything really, and I think this was actually one of the best days of my whole trip. I’m completely in love with Bordeaux.
Also, I wouldn’t have visited Bordeaux at all had one of my friends not recommended it to me when I first mentioned this little adventure of mine months and months ago, so thank you for that 😉
I especially love this photograph (if i say so myself!):
I definitely need to hurry up and get back to Bordeaux ASAP! Firstly because I wasn’t lucky enough to see the lovely Oce while I was there, so I need to go back and see her, secondly because I’d like to see Jonathan and Pauline again, thirdly because I need to taste more of the amazing food and wine, and finally, simply because I am in love.
I also need to visit Toulouse properly, for more than a few hours. At least I already have someone to host me there (or at least I will once he himself flies home from Derby), and no doubt I’ll be flying over to visit soon enough.
I’m itching to use my passport again already.
I didn’t plan to go to Zurich. It just sort of happened. There I was, admiring the beautiful views from the window of the Milan-Paris train (seriously I recommend that everyone travel by train from Milan to Paris at some point in their lives, it’s amazingly, spectacularly, jaw-droppingly beautiful!) and we were passing through Zurich, and I just thought.. I’ll get off here, just for a few hours.
So glad that I did!
One of the first things that I saw was hundreds and hundreds of people just floating – not even swimming – floating down the river on inflatable green and yellow butterflies. I don’t know why, or what it was about, but I did gather that it’s an annual thing so I have decided, that is how I want to celebrate when I leave university next summer! With all of my friends of course! I saw two genius girls using orange armbands to hold a bottle of wine – definitely a plan for next year!
I only had time to spend about four hours in Zurich, and for most of that time I was either exploring the biggest, most amazing antique fair I have ever seen, (if only I was a millionaire, I’d have bought everything in sight), or just sitting on the jetty, dangling my feet into the lake, as it was ridiculously hot).
I need to get my bum back to Zurich and explore it properly. ASAP.
J’adore Paris ♥
As long as I don’t look too closely (and spend as little time in Gare de Lyon station as possible, as it’s filthy and has a serious cockroach problem) I love Paris. I have always loved Paris and so as much as I had to drag my bum out of Italy, I think Paris is about the only place that for me could come close in winning my heart.
I love that everyone kept mistaking me for being ‘a true Parisian’. I love the French language, I love the art, the culture, the history…. I love how friendly everyone is, despite their reputation for being rude and.. Parisian…
Or at least I loved how friendly everyone was, until I realised rather late in the day that it might have had something to do with my black top being very see through, and I had decided to go bra-less… oops.
So, I crossed many ‘must see’s from my Bucket List while in Paris: Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Moulin Rouge, the Louve (more specifically the Mona Lisa), etc etc… but I also went here:
My inner child is still buzzing – I’ve only waited twenty years and I’ll admit, mock me all you like, I was the biggest kid there! Though I only met Mickey Mouse and Jack Sparrow. Oh and of course I saw the parades. Still… not a fan of this whole ‘character meeting points’ system – I was looking forward to seeing all of the characters just casually strolling around.. my inner child was a little disappointed. That’s the best part after all, right?
Montpellier (and various little surrounding lakes and villages)
I have fallen in love with Montpellier. As well as Rome, Venice, Florence, Paris, Bordeaux, Porto… the list goes on and on… but seriously, I love Montpellier. Unfortunately I’ll have to wait to develop my many many rolls of film before I can see any of my photographs from Montpellier itself.. I have just one for now:
My first evening there, after a lovely long walk around the city with my lovely host Mallory, just as we were walking back to his apartment, we happened to walk past this lovely group of people: (I’ve just realised that I use the word lovely far too often, but there’s really no other word to describe the lovely people I have crossed paths with and places that I have stumbled across). We perched ourselves on a ledge for a while and listened to them sing about coffee and life. There was an old woman listening from her balcony a few floors above us and a couple sitting in the doorway across the street from us. I love that about Europe – in England, people hang around the streets, and everyone else peers suspiciously at them from their windows, wondering if they’re out to cause trouble, but in so many of the countries I visited, neighbours chat to each other while sitting in their doorways or on their tiny balconys. It’s so similar but so different.
The next morning, Mallory showed me around the area surrounding Montpellier. He took me to a tiny village full of winding streets where people hang clay sunflowers on their doors to ward off evil spirits. It was exactly how I picture ‘Southern France’, it felt familiar almost to the point of deja vu.
We picnicked by the river and went for a swim, and we laughed at everything; the teenage boys posing and wading through the water like they were male models staring in a perfume ad, my tan-lines, which were pretty horrendous at the time, my failed attempts to swim against the current, the man who hesitated for ages on top of the largest rock trying to decide whether or not to jump as all of his friends had, only to finally do so while cupping his ‘special pebbles’. I spent what felt like hours just perched on the same slippery rock watching fish swim around my feet.
By the time we had reached this lake, I was exhausted. I had already been struggling to keep my eyes open in the car as we drove from river to lake. I dozed on the damp towels while Mallory went for another swim, only to return two minutes later complaining that there was ‘water plants’.
Eventually, the mosquitoes drove us away, and so we went back to Mallory’s apartment and gorged ourselves on crab, salad and blackberries.
I miss it.
I love Italy. Anyone who knows me knows that I completely love, adore and obsess over Italy. I love the language, the culture, the food (who doesn’t love the food!), the fashion, the people, the manic driving, the heat, the art, the architecture – just everything!
No matter how much I loved the various cities I was visiting – Prague, Budapest etc, I really found it hard not to feel impatient to reach Italy. I covered the most cities in Italy than in any other country – I travelled to six cities and the five villages of Cinque Terre during my week in Italy. I now love, adore and obsess over it even more, so I apologize in advance to all of my friends if I annoy you by blabbing on about Italy Italy Italy when you see me. I will try to hold my tongue.
I was actually stranded here for the night, thanks to Ray, a cocky Californian surfer to despite being the most irritating little shit I’ve ever met in my life, some how managed to befriend me for the day. He swore to me that he had walked from Monterosso to Vernazza in just half an hour, and so, as I had a little over two hours until my train, I decided to walk it. Half an hour my arse. It took us so long (partly because know-it-all Ray kept on straying off path, and believing that he had already walked the path I foolishly followed into all sorts of slippery, impossible-to-climb situations), by the time I made it to the train station, the last connecting train from Pisa to Florence had already left.
Still, there are worse places to get stranded for a night. And he did feel so guilty he helped me find a place to rest my head for a night.
There was just one city that I hated. I hated it so much that I stayed just long enough to visit Pompeii, and then I left pretty sharpish – I hated Naples.
Granted, Pompeii was amazing, as was the huge-ass, dirt cheap pizza that I ate in Naples, in the restaurant where they filmed the ‘eating pizza in Naples’ scene in Eat, Pray, Love (I didn’t recognize it at all but they really made a big deal of it). The people, however. Rough. I’ve since been told that the south of Italy is where most of the mafia activity takes place, and that it’s a very dodgy area, so it all makes perfect sense, but it put a serious smudge on Italy’s otherwise spotless record for me. Also – I discovered that in Naples, the chav culture exists. They wear Louis Vuitton rather than Burberry, but it’s there, poundshop scrunchies, neon mini dresses, cakes on makeup, slicked back hair, tacky ‘bling’. The works.
Even when I was heading back to Naples from Pompeii, dusty and covered in the grubby grimy dirt of Pompeii, I still felt so much classier than the hooped-earring-wearing family who were seated opposite me, obviously heading home from the beach. Call me a snob, I’ll happily call myself one, but seriously, I’d never recommend Naples to anyone. If you must try the pizza, get in, order pizza, get out.
P.S. this is why I have included no photographs of Naples. For a start they’re all on film, and I haven’t developed any rolls yet. Secondly, Naples was ugly, I want to show all my friends pretty.
A rare photograph of me! The one downside of travelling alone; unless I trust strangers to hold my camera – which I most certainly don’t – or stand there trying to take self portraits, there’s no one to take photographs of me in all of these amazing places.
However, in Pompeii I met a lawyer called Michael from Washington DC, and we ended up sticking together throughout the day, and so we acted as each other’s personal photographers.
Pompeii is pretty surreal, as can only be expected really. Over the years I’ve heard so much about it and picked so many random bits of information that only become useful on this one day of my life, and then the moment I step out of Pompeii I can file those once again useless dribbles of information back into the deepest parts of my brain where they will either stay forever, unless I ever visit Pompeii again, or be forgotten.
Michael had picked up a map at the entrance (me being me and collecting maps only to stick them into my travel journals – never to actually use them), but I’m sorry, I personally found Venice easier to navigate my way around than Pompeii – and Venice was, I swear, designed to be confusing and impossible to navigate. Every sign in Pompeii was different to what the map said the sign should say, we often found ourselves walking up and down the same street several times looking for something that was apparently on that street, or we would find streets that didn’t appear to be on the map at all, or we’d be looking for streets shown on the map that I swear did not actually exist at all.
It did not help that I was constantly on edge because there was 100’s of the biggest hornet/wasp things that I have ever seen in my life.
Still, Michael said that if we managed to leave Pompeii without being stung or falling flat on our face on the uneven surface, ‘we’ve done well’. We did well.
I also couldn’t help but notice that 95% of the original wall murals, mosaics, etc that decorated the various buildings of Pompeii were all destroyed in the eruption, but from what I saw, and from what I also overheard a tour guide saying, the best preserved wall murals etc are almost solely in the brothels of Pompeii, where you can find lovely ‘menu’ artwork such as this:
If I ever find myself in the path of a volcanic eruption, I know where to head – to the brothels!
I admit to took me a night to warm to Budapest. When I arrived it was already dark, the train station was full of the types of people who only seem to emerge at night, the sort of people who you don’t want to bump into at night! Everywhere I turned people were trying to convince me to ditch my host Vanda and come and stay at their hostel instead, or they were trying to offer me lifts and bundle me into their car. I managed to catch the right bus to Vanda’s home but in the wrong direction, gave up, headed back to my starting point – the train station – and caught a taxi. On learning I was English, the taxi driver’s reaction was ‘ah! England! Manchester City! Liverpool! Arsenal!’ He didn’t seem to care that I have no knowledge or interest in football, I just let him ramble on about Wayne Rooney and David Beckham, and I think he felt pretty proud of his knowledge of English football clubs and players.
Vanda was a darling. She greeted me with pizza, which by this point I so needed. She pointed out places to go – and places to avoid – on a map, and just generally she was really lovely.
Budapest is a completely different city day to night. That first night when I arrived I really wasn’t sure if I could like Budapest, but when I woke up the next morning, I swear I didn’t even recognise it. I walked with Vanda into the centre of the city, and everything was misty and already it was far too hot for my then still pale-as-milk English complexion, and I ended up rather sun-burnt – the only day of the whole trip that I burnt.
Once she had finished work, Vanda showed me around the city, firstly showing me this amazing bar:
And then taking me up to Budapest Castle.
And finally to the city’s Statue of Liberty, my photograph of which can be seen on my ‘part one’ post.
Because I’d decided to spend an extra day in Prague and I had my flight to Venice booked, I could only stay in Budapest for one and a half days, but despite the rough start, I have definitely decided that I will be returning to Budapest to see the rest of it ASAP.
Especially as I spent my final morning before my flight at one of Budapest’s famous baths, but I only had time to spend about an hour and a half there – definitely need to come back and explore those little gems further!
As much as I loved pretty much everywhere I visited, I think Venice just about scrapes it’s way to the top of my ‘Favourite Cities’ list… if only it wasn’t so damn expensive!
When I arrived I had no map, no idea which part of Venice I was in, no idea where I could find internet access and no idea where I was sleeping that night – and only about two hours left of sunlight. I ended up in a fit of giggles that made everyone stare at me because I could just picture all of my friends in a complete panic and I felt like I should be a bit more anxious about things rather than casually strolling around, refusing to use a map (I mean it’s Venice – the whole point of Venice is to get utterly and hopelessly lost) and just trusting that I would internet access eventually so that I could find a place to stay.
And I did, of course. Eventually I stumbled across a tiny internet cafe – or rather it was a normal newsagents-style shop with a few computers in the back room. I started chatting to an English teacher who was trying to arrange for his girlfriend to meet him in Paris, and she didn’t seem to be very organised.
My hotel was on the island of Giudecca – which I think is why it was so cheap – no one wants to have to cross the water on a ‘waterbus’ twice a day. These people chose wrong. By being on Giudecca rather than ‘main Venice’ (Dorsoduro, San Marco, S. Polo etc), it meant that I had an incredible view to wake up to of the ‘main islands’ – especially as my hotel was right on the waterfront, so in the evening we would all sit directly outside the hotel’s front door and watch this sunset:
which quite literally stopped me in my path when I first arrived at the hotel, dumped my things and coincidentally decided to go for a walk, not realising the time of day.
The view that greeted me first thing in the morning was damn beautiful too:
I sat around in the shade for hours, listening to this guy place the same piece of music over and over all day long – but it never got boring. I don’t know what the piece was, but it was beautiful ♥
I admit I didn’t go on a gondola – they’ve become too touristy and I tend to avoid anything horrible touristy. I did however enjoy listening to snippets of the gondolier’s stories about Venice’s history and their songs while sitting on the various bridges of Venice – especially the ones that lead to blank walls because then you can’t possible be in anyone’s way by sitting there!
I did, however, spend a lot of time in – for my first day – water buses and taxis, and after that, my friend’s boat. He even let me pilot it, but that nearly ended in disaster when I came far too close to crashing into a 500 year old building that already looked to be on the brink of collapse. After that I just sat back with my camera and enjoyed the view.
When I took this photo below, I was laughing because just on the opposite side of the canal was a very expensive restaurant, the sort where you have a musician – in this case an accordion player – serenading you while you eat. I laughed because they had paid an awful lot of money for, yes, good food, yes, enterainment, yes, shade from the sweltering heat, but I was sitting cross legged on the other side of the water, shaded from the sun by the buildings of Murano, I’d spent 7 euros on a delicious lunch of bread, cheese, ham, wine and – my favourite – raspberries, and I could hear the accordian player’s music just as clearly as them, but I didn’t have to feel obliged to pause my eating to clap, tip him, or just generally be polite and show him that I am listening to him.
I’m sorry but even if I had all the money in the world, I’d still choose to picnic in the shade alongside the canal, eavesdropping on the accordian player, any day.
My last photograph in Venice, which I took while waiting for my train. I found Venice almost impossible to leave. Definitely need to go back there ASAP. And no, to everyone who has asked me, Venice does not smell bad at all – it smells like the sea.
So on Monday 30th July, at precisely midnight, I set off for the airport, boarded a plane and found myself beginning a five week long adventure – and it really was an adventure! – in Amsterdam, city of diamonds sex, drugs and getting wasted. Five weeks, thirty-four trains, six flights, three cars and one coach later, I have covered eleven countries, twenty-nine cities, six villages, one lost city (Pompeii), made 1000 new friends, taken 28,000 photographs, shot twelve still-to-be-developed rolls of film and filled three journals. I am exhausted.
I love flying. I love taking photographs out of the window, even if it is just another cloud, another field, another wing of another plane. I’ve never been nervous about flying and I’m terrible at waiting in airports because I just want to get on the damn plane! I love hovering between two places, being neither here nor there, I can leave all of my plans and my worries and my responsibilities on land and spend a few hours not having to deal with anything besides ‘do I have enough cash for another coffee?’
In fact this is how I feel about travelling as a whole. Even when I’d arrive at a place an hour before sunset with no map, no idea which part of the city I am in and no idea where I would be sleeping that night, I have never felt so calm and care-free in my life. I think something to do with not having a working phone the whole time I was abroad had something to do with that. I came home to find 592 texts, 293 missed calls and 5 hours 37 minutes of voice mail, which I am still churning through now, but it was so worth it.
Above is a view of Amsterdam, below is Venice.
I stayed with a lot of locals while travelling – all of whom, although I have said it 1000 times already, I will say again – thank you thank you thank you!! Thank you Yamandu, Nique, Vanda, Florian, Mike, Mallory, Jonathan & Pauline and Phelgo, & his lovely roomates. I would definitely recommend to anyone that would listen that whenever possible, stay with locals when travelling! I was invited to birthday parties, concerts, general get-togethers with friends, I was shown quaint little cafes that only locals know about and shown around the city through the eyes of people who have lived there for most, if not all of their lives. If it was not for the amazing people who I have met I would not now be able to say that I have explored Venice in a speedboat, nearly crashed said speedboat into a 500 year old building in Venice, had my James Bond/Indiana Jones moment fighting a ‘bad guy’ on the back of a speedboat (yes he only stole my friend’s wallet but I am going to call it my James Bond/Indiana Jones moment!). I wouldn’t have zipped around Madrid on a scooter, discovered tomato, cheese and olive oil ice cream in Spain (it tastes as bad as it sounds) and god… I could go on!
For me the best part of travelling wasn’t simply the fact that I was travelling, it wasn’t the lack of responsibility or even the freedom of being able to fuck off and do my own thing and having no one to answer to or no lingering thoughts about boring adult things in the back of my mind, but I love those moment memories, like waking up to this at 4am on an Amsterdam to Prague night train, somewhere in Germany and annoying all of the passengers who were sleeping in the corridor by clambering over them with my noisy camera to grab some snaps.
Or sitting on the steps of Piazzale Michelangelo at sunset, listening to a guy play guitar and coincidentally play all of my favourite songs while I eat raspberries and chocolate and sip Italian white wine and doze against the stone steps, smelling the flowers and herbs and just feeling blissful.
Or just stumbling across sights like this (straight from camera):