Wanderer

My European Top Spots.

It’s nearly April… I’ve been wondering where to spend my summer. While I’m looking at spreading my wings as far as Thailand or America (I know, completely different ideas there!) this year, I think I’ve definitely scattered my heart across different cities of Europe, including good old England. Then again… I tend to say that about pretty much every city and country I visit, so no doubt as I wander further afield, that list will just grow longer and longer.

I love the diversity of Europe; the array of cultures and languages and delicacies, the contrast of stark differences and intermingled traditions from border to border. There are some cities that I just find myself going back to again and again, and it never gets old – there are always new cafes serving coffee even more delicious than the last, more landmarks that I haven’t found the time to visit yet and beautiful little streets that are deserted but for myself and the occasional knowing local.

This wasn’t easy at all, but I managed to order my unruly top 10:

1. Paris. For years Rome held this top spot, but France’s capital has rather snuck up on me over the years – every time I go I love it more and more, even if I’m literally just passing through on a train, and somehow, it overtook Rome. Yes, the people can at times be a little snooty, but most of the time the snooty-ness that I have witnessed against tourists is purely because they are not meeting Paris’ standards – arriving in Paris in dirty clothes and Birkenstock with a tatty rucksack on your back is not going to make you the darling of the city. It’s quite like trying to wear jeans and a t-shirt to a ball. Everyone makes an effort in Paris, even if it is in that je ne sais quoi, ‘I just fell out of bed’ Parisian sense. They’re experts at putting in a lot of effort in looking effortless. Try to blend in, and that snooty-ness will disappear. Or so I find. 

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2. Rome. See, my ex-top spot has not slipped far. I love history. I love art, architecture, literature and the renaissance, all of which can be found on every corner of Rome. I feel comfortable walking around the city without getting lost – I can act as tour guide to fellow travellers. There’s no better feeling than realising that you know a foreign city. It’s not just a place that I have visited a few times anymore. I’ve always been and will continue to be lured to Rome for its history, its art, its food and its coffee. Yes, yes, yes and a very big yes from me on those fronts!

My one pet peeve when in Rome? Arrogant, metrosexual Roman guys who still live with their mothers well into their thirties. They linger around Trevi Fountain in droves. Huge, huge pet peeve of mine.

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3. Prague. When I first visited Prague, I didn’t really know what to expect. It’s just not a place that I have looked into too much before I arrived at  Hlavni Nadrazi station. Until then my Pinterest (what came before Pinterest? Good old fashioned cut-and-paste scrapbooks?) had been full of photographs of Paris, Rome, Athens, The Great Pyramids, Macchu Picchu and Buddhist Temples. I’d always planned to visit Prague, but somehow looking at what it was like never occurred to me. The beauty of the place blew me away. It’s a perfect blend of East and West European; some streets could easily pass for France or Italy – or even England, when suddenly you’re surrounded by Eastern European architecture, Czech music ringing through your ears and people drinking brands I can’t even pronounce.

Also, Prague is one of the most beautiful cities at night.

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4. Venice. Yes, it’s quite a pricey city, but then I’ve found that I can still keep my budget low – Venice is not a city teaming with museums and must-see sites with expensive ticket fares like other touristic cities. I’m also not big on souvenirs, which could prove to be super pricey if I were. Venice is the city I head to if I want to see Italy, without the hustle and bustle of Rome or Milan or – to some extent – Florence. I tend to avoid the few busy spots of the city – St Mark’s Square and Ponte di Rialto. Two or three streets from these Venetian hot-spots, and you’ll find deserted streets, a woman beating sheets over her balcony perhaps, the occasional cat, but otherwise you’re entirely alone. No cars, no noise. It’s wonderful.

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5. Florence. Yes, Paris may be my number one city, but Italy is clearly my number one country. Florence is a nice balance of everything I love about Italy. It’s not as mad as Rome, or as busy and metropolitan as Milan, and while it has that same peace as Venice, it’s gifted in sprinkles rather than spades. It is quintessential Italy in the country’s best region: Tuscany – I love taking day trips from Florence to explore the beautiful surrounding countryside.

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6. Lisbon. I tend to yo-yo between Porto and Lisbon when choosing my favourite Portuguese city, but right now, I’d choose Lisbon. It’s true what they say – ‘Porto works and Lisbon plays’. Things are much more relaxed in the south, and people seem to mysteriously work less and yet are richer. I do have one issue with Lisbon – its treacherously slippering paving stones.

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Seriously, I had to buy a new pair of shoes just because wearing my sandals or ballet flats was about as effective as wearing Cinderella’s glass slippers. Otherwise you pretty much have to choose between risking your life by walking in the road, or risking your life because every step could end in a broken neck.

Still, Lisbon is beautiful, not majorly touristic and yet not entirely isolated to the lone traveller who doesn’t speak a word of Portuguese – like me. Actually, that’s a lie. I can say thank you. I think thank you is the most important phrase to learn in every language. Even more so than hello.

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7. Budapest. Another city that I had little knowledge of – like Prague. I knew it to be cheap, but that’s about it. Yes, it is cheap, though as tourism grows, so do those prices. The architecture is sophisticated, the people are sophisticated – but for a few old men who linger on park benches whistling at passing women. So many people have apologized for ‘the habits of the older generation’ – honestly, it’s fine. Clearly they have never passed a building site in the UK. The famous thermal baths are wonderful. I recommend visiting the bath houses during winter – it’s instantly even better when you’re lounging in the steaming water watching the snow fall outside.

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8. Barcelona. I’m not a fan of gaudy Gaudi, but of course, his architecture makes Barcelona what it is. I find it amazing how we all flock to see a building that is not due to be finished until 2026. I mean, of course, La Sagrada Familia. However, one place where I feel Gaudi’s unique style does work within the city is Park Güell – also the spot of my favourite (yet discovered) view in Barcelona. In Park Güell you will find pianists, violinists and musicians of instruments so exotic that I don’t even know what they are. They claim a spot and play beautiful classical pieces to entertain tourists and locals alike. It’s quirky and amazing.

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9. Vienna. A haven for museum-geeks like me, my favourite being the Sisi museum; a museum dedicated to the life of Empress Elizabeth of Austria. It’s cleaner than Paris and Rome. It’s more efficiently run than England, but it’s not as frustratingly perfect as a few cities I have been to; so perfect that they no longer feel real. Also, the people who live there are unbelievably lovely.

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10. Off the beaten track. Finally, while I could go on and on about this city and that city, for me, one of the best parts of Europe is the little villages whose names I never learnt before I moved on to the next. I love the lakes, beaches, rivers and hills. I’m a country girl as well as a city girl, and I love rambling around woodland and climbing hills to see the view at sunset. So if you’re going to Europe, don’t just stick to the ‘must see cities’.

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Lagos Water Sports

This is the main reason that I came to Lagos; the water sports.

Surfing and jet skiing especially. I also tried my hand at water-skiing, but I’m not going to pretend I was any good. In fact, imagine Bambi water-skiing (to my uni friends, that’s Bambi the deer, not Bambi the person… though I imagine Bambi the person would have looked at clumsy just as ridiculous while water-skiing too!) That was me. Bambi on water. Surfing on the other hand, I can do. And jet-skiing.

In fact, the first thing I did on arriving, was head out surfing. Actually no, that’s a lie, I arrived at 1am and so the first thing I did was sleep (this was the night after I’d climbed the mountain-hill to Pena Palace in Sintra), but the first thing I did when I woke up was head out surfing. I almost took my camera, thinking I could ask someone to grab some shots for me. And I regretted leaving it in my locker safe in the hostel… until I heard the cries of a girl who had arrived to hire a board at the exact same time as me. She had bought her camera, her entire handbag in fact, and asked the staff to keep it behind their desk for her, exactly as I would have done. And it was gone within an hour. Some sneaky bugger took it, and so for that reason, while I’m sorry that I don’t have a single photo of me surfing, or (because it spooked me), jet-skiing or bambi-skiing, I’m rather glad, because there’s a good chance that I wouldn’t have any photos anyway – because I wouldn’t have my camera any more.

However, I do have photos of me while I was grotto-exploring and snorkelling.

You see them all over Lagos, people standing around at little advertising tables. Do you want to go dolphin watching? Boat tours, anyone? And – the offer that I accepted: Cave and grotto tours – with snorkelling, miss?

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I admit, after two hours in rather rough waters, I did feel somewhat seasick for ten, maybe fifteen minutes. As my bucket list includes things like ‘Sail around the world’, I need to work on that…

So after an hour of looking at the various caves and grottos and being shown ‘the elephant’, ‘the second elephant’, ‘Michael Jackson’s face’ and ‘Titanic and the Iceberg’, we were given the chance to snorkel – definitely the best part of the entire trip!

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I couldn’t see a bloody thing (hence I’d given up on wearing the mask by the time someone grabbed my camera for me). But still, having a dip in the sea was lovely in itself. I’m kind of funny about swimming in the sea; if I’m on a beach, I’ll maybe dip my feet, but unless I have a surfboard, I won’t go for a swim. I don’t like seaweed and little fish that swim around your ankles and wading into the water. But when I’m standing on the edge of a boat, and everyone else is tentatively lowering themselves into the water. Fuck it, I jump.
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Two hours, including snorkelling and a quick 20 minute trip in a separate speedboat to be given a tour of the harder to reach caves, came to €15 – and I saw another company offering the same for €12, so definitely worth every penny.

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Don’t make the same mistake as me though; they promised we would be back for 8.30, and didn’t dock until nearer 9, and silly me had arranged a date with the Brazilian Ice Cream seller from the marine for 9.30… boats are not punctual! And sea-water will leave your hair looking disgusting; and you’ll smell bad. I’ll have to remember that next time.

P.S. yes, I managed to just rush back, fix my hair, and meet Monsieur Ice Cream for our date. Thankfully there was a breeze to dry my hair as I ran/skidded over those damn cobbles!

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Beach Days and Princess Castles

Firstly, sorry for the biggg delay. I’ve had all of my posts ready and waiting, but they just wouldn’t post while I was in Spain! So here they are now in one big fat chunk. Sorry about that.

As I was saying…

12th July:

It’s been a lazy week. There have been a lot of lazy beach days this week. I’m in Lagos, and I think everyone who knows me is surprised to find that I’ve been here for almost a week now. Originally I thought ‘ok, one night, that’s all I’ll be able to handle in Lagos, one night and I’m out’. I’m not a party scene girl, I hate being drunk and worse still, I hate clubbing while sober, which makes it a bit of a lose-lose situation for me. I came to Lagos purely for the scenery and the water-sports. (Ha! If only my old P.E teachers could hear me say that! Emma? Sports? Hell no.)

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I can’t say anything here that most people don’t already know, Lagos is full of enough English tourists, everyone knows that it’s incredibly beautiful, to the point that in this week alone I swear I’ve developed arthritis in my shutter finger. I did put the camera away though eventually after I’d fallen over for the thousandth time. What is it with the whole of Portugal choosing the slippiest, shiniest white cobbles for their pavements?! An arthritic finger and bruised bum has definitely been worth it though.

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Before arriving here in lovely Lagos, I made a quick day stop in Sintra, having heard so much about it’s stunning princess castles; yet another of the 1000 apparent light bulb moments of inspiration for dear Walt when Disneyland sprung to his mind.

Take my advice. Do not do what I foolishly did and decide to walk to Pena National Palace; the most beautiful of them all (yes, there is more than one Palace in this tiny town!) I was walking for over an hour up long, winding roads. And the palace is atop a very, very high, steep hill. Take the bus, it’s worth every cent of it’s €5 return ticket.

Luckily, I wasn’t the only one who had been silly enough to walk, and I met three girls from New Zealand on my hike. Crazy uphill hikes in 38C heat are always so much easier with company! But again. Worth it.

ImageMy first thought when I caught sight of Pena Palace was honestly ‘I shall bring my sisters here one day’, as soon as they have a passport (small hiccup). It’s the ultimate princess castle.

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Once I reached the entrance, I happily paid another €2 for the craziest bus ride of my life. Being English, sometimes I forget that other countries don’t have the same OTT health and safety regulations that smother my country. At Sintra, once every seat of the rickety, vintage-chic bus is full, they just start perching people wherever they can. The passenger seat next to the driver’s had been ripped up, and so I was sitting on the metal bar that was left. A kid sat awkwardly at my feet, and another little boy and his sister, who couldn’t have been older than 14 were seated on the steps at the door – or rather, doorway. There was no door.

Still, the driver was very careful, and was constantly looking back to check on the two kids in the doorway. I don’t know if that should have made me nervous as he therefore only spent about 20% of the time looking at the road, but there you go. Crazy Portuguese bus rides. I found it much too enjoyable, thanks to years being wrapped in cotton wool by England’s health and safety.

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ImageI need to go back one day and see the other two castles; The Moors Castle (which is exactly what little English me pictures when you say castle), and Sintra National Palace, which is the easiest to reach, being central in Sintra town, and not atop a hill, but when I arrived it was covered in scaffolding. I could still have gone inside but I’d rather come back one day and be able to see it properly, in all it’s beauty!

One day.

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Sandeman tours and Midnight walks

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I think it important that everyone who visits Porto should go on at least one Port cellar tour and tasting. For a start, they are extremely cheap, generally around €5 for a tour and tasting (I believe Taylor’s tour is only €3). I personally went for Sandeman, which seemed to be one of the most popular, but the whole of Gaia’s river front is lined with well known brands; starting with Burmester and Calen as you cross the Ponte de D. Luis I, and ending with Ferreira and Graham’s (and those are just those shown on my map), and if you were to turn off the river front, you would find Taylor, Offley.. I could go on and on.

Of course, I recommend that you only choose a few, or perhaps one or two a day if you seriously like your port… but take it easy, it’s strong stuff at about 20%! And with two or three half glasses per tasting… that wouldn’t end well.

As I said, I chose Sandeman, with it’s €5 tour with two wine tastings. I overheard that for €9 you can taste three types of wine; red, tawny or white, or for €10 you can have three cellar tours (with 2 tastings each); Sandeman, Offley and Ferraria. I think I was mostly drawn to Sandeman because of it’s striking logo; no, it’s not Zorro, he’s called the Don.

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Image from here.

The tour took perhaps half an hour, including a ten minute video about the Douro region, where the vineyards are located. The tourguide even dresses as the Don, hence the rather ‘noir’ (according to Matt) photo below:Image

Of course the best part is always the tasting. I’ve never tried Port wine before, and while the  tawny was nice (very rich and fruity), I wouldn’t choose it again and I really couldn’t finish the white, which tasted quite coarse, nutty and spicy. Everyone else enjoyed it though, and I by no means pretend to be some sort of connoisseur.Image

Still, I’m glad that I can now tick it off my travel bucket list, and I learnt something new in the process; firstly, I don’t like port, and secondly, I learnt allll about the port making process, and the difference between the different ageing processes. Useless information no doubt, but I like to learn. Definitely worth €5! And the three cellar tour is definitely worth €10 too!Image

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In the evening, I went to see Porto at night with a friend. I admit I haven’t seen much of the city at night before; I’m always too exhausted from walking up and down hill after hill after hill (seriously, I’m a strong walker, despite having broken my foot in April, but those damn hills under the heat of the sun kill me!) I had to see a night time view of the city before I left though, and so me and Phelgo went for one last walk before I left for Lisbon.

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This is one of my favourite parts of travelling; the music. All across Europe, everywhere you turn there are people busking (and I am yet to come across a terrible musician *touch wood*), concerts, festivals, musicians entertaining people as they dine. In fact I love buying a meal at the supermarket and then seating myself on a step or bench near a fancy restaurant, the sort with a band or an accordion player. We’re listening to the same beautiful music, but while they are paying at least €20 for a meal, I’ve paid perhaps €5. Sneaky sneaky.

So last night’s walk was no exception; music everywhere. Everyone was laughing, dancing, I mean, it was a friday night, but it was very different to friday nights in England. People go out but there’s no crazy drunks slumped in doorways or lying face first in the street. Everyone just seems so much happier and less ‘I’ll just drown my sorrows and pretend I’m happy’.

Tonight I arrived in Lisbon, and while it hasn’t started amazingly well; taxi drivers running off with my change and hostels losing my reservation, for example, I’m excited to explore a new city in the morning. Let’s just hope the 40C heat doesn’t kill me…

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Portugal is beautiful… if only they could understand a word I say…

I know, I have a bit of a tendency to stammer.. or rather, not quite stammer, but more like stumbling, when I talk it’s like running downhill in flip flops, there’s so much that I want to say, and sooner or later I’m going to fall flat on my face at the bottom of the hill in a muddy pile that was once a sentence. That’s why when I travel I slow down, I take my time, I take off the verbal flip flops and I enunciate. And so when I arrived in Porto I thought, my Portuguese may be pretty much non-existent (despite having read through my phrase book about 50 times!!), but my English-speaking friends will be able to understand me. So, I arrived, and in this one apartment there are my three Portuguese friends, two people from Turkey and there was until yesterday an Italian guy, and I have also been introduced to a third Turkish guy and a girl from Finland. Can any of them understand me? No.

The stumbling stammer has been left behind in England, I’ve never spoken so clearly in my life and still, no one can understand me. It’s pretty frustrating to sit in a room with people from all over Europe, talking easily in broken English between each other and as soon as I ask ‘how are you?’ or ‘how was your day?’…. ‘what did you say?’

I think it’s partly because I say things like ‘gr-arse and ‘b-arth whereas they say ‘gr-ass‘ and ‘b-ath‘, but for the most part… apparently I am just too English. It’s one thing when I can’t join in a conversation because I don’t know the language, which of course is my own fault, but quite another when I can’t join in a conversation because I have the wrong accent.

Strangely, people here always presume that I’m French. I don’t know if it’s the clothes (mostly people ask if I’m French when I wear this skirt) Can’t say that I’m complaining. In fact, early today it took me five minutes to convince an elderly Portuguese woman that I am in fact English, despite my English accent and of course, the fact that I was speaking to her in English. ‘No, no, Français!’ Sure, if you say so.. it’s not an insult so, whatever.

I really have tried to learn at least some Portuguese though, but still after 9 months, I’m still stuck at the basics: hello, please and thank you. My first phrase book wasn’t really helping me though, as it contained such ridiculous phrases such as ‘Please help me, I have lost my pen’, ‘I have ripped my pants’ and ‘I have many diseases’ and in the ‘everyday use’ section, some worrying phrases about rape and murder. Yes, you could argue that these are important phrases, but everyday use? That’s worrying.

I’m sure it’ll just click for me eventually though, especially as here people are so friendly, even when they realise I can’t speak Portuguese, they insist on talking to me all the same, which is nice I suppose. I’m not really used to it yet though, I mean personally, if there is a language barrier, that ends the conversation right there unless I have to continue it, like when I am couchsurfing or if there is something urgent that I can only say in English; ‘your house is on fire’, ‘I am having a heart attack’, ‘a bird has just pooed on your head’ etc. Maybe people think I am lying, or maybe they think that as I am apparently French, I would be able to magically understand Portuguese?

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Anyway, on a cheerier note, I’ve fallen a little bit for Portugal again. I realised it while sipping cappuccino on the harbour front in my favourite cafe; it’s unbelievable cheap for a harbour-front cafe, modern and beautiful and yet I’ve never seen it more than half full, which is just perfect. Porto is one of those places when you can just spend hours people watching, and I’ve started to collect interesting characters; Portuguese Sean Penn with a mouth ready for false teeth; a cat with a mouth like Carey Mulligan (as in it looks like a corner of it’s mouth is being pulled up towards the sky with a fish hook); a morbidly obese woman with smiley face shaped sweat patches (and somehow the face had a ketchup nose) on her back; Asian Indiana Jones meets Dame Edna. Everyone has something that they collect when they travel; this is mine, and I’m rather excited to add to it.

I love that Porto has red phone boxes and postboxes like in England. It’s taken me three days to re-notice since September, but there they are, right in Avenida dos Aliados. I love that the metro is 1000x simpler than those in London and Paris, though sometimes I think the simplicity takes the fun out of it somewhat, and I especially love that the metro has air con! Both the stations and the tube itself. London, take note, you may not have Porto’s climate, but for god’s sake, you need air con too! I love Livraria Lello bookshop, which is quite possibly the most beautiful bookshop of all time, though I rather wish they didn’t have a no camera rule… and I also wish they’d allow me to have a shoot there, but alas, no.

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Photo from here

I was not at all surprised to learn that JK Rowling once lived in Porto and that this bookshop was a thread of inspiration behind Harry Potter.

I even love the beach, Matosinhos, though generally I am not a beach person. I hated it for a moment when the sand (I swear it wasn’t sand, it was glitter, someone has emptied 100 million pots of gold glitter and called it a beach), almost stripped the flesh from the soles of my feet, but I forgave it. It was my own fault, and I have learnt my lesson; keep the sandals on when it’s 35C+ degrees. The sand will be hot.

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And so it begins…

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Porto. Second city of Portugal after Lisbon, with a population of 238,000, and famous of course for port wine. I’ve been here before; last September, for just a short 4 day trip to end last summer’s adventures. It was a lazy holiday to end the chaos, and I was too poor to do anything much at all, having spent all of my money in Italy and France and the various other countries that I had wandered into last summer. But this time, Porto is the first stop…

I do still love Porto, but that fuzzy haze of last summer has faded; last summer I could compare the row after row of derelict shabby chic buildings to beautiful, crumbling Venice, but now they seem very much apart to me. Maybe the fuzz will be back by morning, and it will turn out that it was just the less than perfect Ryanair flight that has clouded my opinion for now… we’ll see.

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Of course, I feel like I shouldn’t bother to complain about Ryanair; you get what you pay for and for a £50 flight (and 100000000 Ryanair flights under my belt already), I really couldn’t have expected much. It was all very same-same; they don’t even consider opening the gate for boarding until the plane was due for take off, then we are all prodded and poked like bad tempered cattle up the narrow staircase with our as-heavy-as-we-dare case, and into any available seat, while we are then stripped of our luggage and watch cautiously as it is launched from one end of the cabin to the other and following a brief game of catch between crew members during which I swear they earn points as to how many heads they can clobber with each case, it is finally placed in a luggage rack miles away. None of that bothered me in the slightest, I’m more than used to Ryanair’s typical passenger treatment by now, I’ve learnt how to just breeze by, which I think is quite impressive when I’m wearing as many layers as I can get away with without looking like the Michelin Man’s self-combusting wife.

Still, I honestly think I was the cheeriest person on that flight; everyone let the 15 minute delay get to them far too much, or maybe they were just naturally a bad-tempered bunch. Even my meagre lunch of overpriced sweaty cardboard chips and soggy salt which fell in clumps onto my food couldn’t put a damper on my mood. They tasted as if they had been re-heated at least twice. In fact, I’d swear that they had been, as they tasted exactly like a bowl of chips that I ate last year shortly before we caught the freezer out on it’s infamous game of sneak-a-defrost. Sneak-a-defrost was an irritatingly secret game played by the household freezer during which it would switch off just long enough for everything to thaw, and then magically repair itself, leaving us oblivious. They tasted exactly like sneak-a-defrost chips. Still, I’m off on my big adventure, so I can forgive a short delay and a dozen re-heated chips.

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As soon as I stepped from the metro at Sao Bento, I just so happened to bump into an old acquaintance (of sorts), Scary Mary, a local homeless woman who despite a pretty serious limp and her feeble remains of a pair of sandals can chase after you at about 100mph, jingling coins at you and shouting in Portuguese about lord knows what… my bets are she’s either shouting at me about her unfortunate living conditions as one of Porto’s homeless or a detailed fantasy about the various ways she’d like to kill me; batter me to death with the sandal remains. I bet it’s one or the other. If she wasn’t so terrifying, I’d buy her a McDonalds and a coffee, but I just don’t dare to linger when I see her charging towards me, filthy, wild-hair flailing all over the place, even wilder-eyes burning through me, limping away in her shit-stained trousers and those damn sandals scraping across the cobbles. She’s truly terrifying.

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Don’t get me wrong, Porto isn’t all homeless people and crumbling buildings (though sadly 70% of the buildings here are derelict, so I’m told). It’s a beautiful city which is a strange mix of being loud and lively and full of dancing and music and people congregating in squares and at the river to laugh and talk, and equally you can walk down eerily quiet, deserted streets moments later, which is perfect for someone like me; I like my me-time, and I like my space, which of course can be impossible to find when travelling. I find it pretty admirable how happy people are here, despite buildings around them quite literally falling down around them. It’s just one of those infectiously cheery places.

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Tomorrow I will probably head to the beach, and make the most of this lovely 30-35C heat! Are you jealous my lovely friends back home in England? I hope so.

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Joie de Vivre… Part Six!

Finally, my last post!
Madrid
 
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
 
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 😉

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