A Travellerspoint blog

Florence

On the prowl for some poof

Florence

It is actually illegal for a backpacker to refuse anything offered to said backpacker for free, when said item is one which the backpacker would normally have paid for, given a budget greater than one which covers only essential daily sustenance (read carbohydrates) and inhabitable accommodation. 

So take the free drinks we did.

This is about the night you have all been waiting for, or not. My meeting (and avoiding) with the Jersey Shore cast. So as I was reliving my bladder for the third, or fourth time that evening, I was harassed and pulled by my traveling friends towards the middle of the bar. My lack of balance at this point of the night made me happy I had not chosen heels as this was an aggressive assault. In my drunken stupor, I took a few moments to realize what I was staring at. When I had given up all hopes for this moment, it happened, just like falling in love. There she was. Snooki herself. And Deena. Life was full again. And Florence, you have made a believer in me. Thankfully Julie had lived up to her promise from earlier in the night "Julie, under no circumstances are you allowed to let me dance, sing, befriend, or jump on any cast member from the Jersey Shore. I have a real person job with real responsibilities, and I would prefer not to get fired before I even begin!" With her tiny body somehow blocking mine from the cameras, I did as I normally do in these situations; whip up my best 'English is my second language' accent and proceed to ask a lazy sound man what they were filming and if it was German (like me!) so I could watch at home. He barely looked up from his crackberry and replied "it's an American show". I was so pleased with this because I realized I had not hallucinated seeing Snooks and Deena make their way from the bar to the dance floor. I was only questioning the situation in the first place because the camera crew filming these midgets actually hid their teeny bodies well.

I decided to take the time to then say my farewells to the new friends Fabio and Marco and proceed to make a non filmed exit. My timing was impeccable because as my wildest dreams would come true yet again I saw two more lights in the distance and saw the tallest, stiffest, Pauly D hair, followed by a gaggle of English speaking grenades. The other camera was following SPOILER ALERT a NEW cast member. Maybe it was just his girl of the night but it seemed very suspicious to me, so all you J Shore fans, be on the lookout for a new addition to the team. 

The walk home up the 400 stairs was putting a damper on my high, but just in time to secure my elation through the climb, I saw in the window of a store a shirt that read "Go back to Fucking Jersey!" Thank god the Italian people realize that breed of imbecile is not simply 'American' but those of 'Jersey'. Now I can continue to watch and love the show every Thursday night without thinking that all my hard work of befriending Italians on the behalf of saving face for the uphill battle of the European perspective of Americans had not been wasted! 

I was in Florence for 5 days so clearly a lot more happened. But all I'll tell you is I had the best hot chocolate ever, amazing view from the hostel, and great weather. The rest you will have to find out about Firenze for yourself!  

 

Posted by lschaller 04:57 Comments (0)

Rome

Let's put the Rome in Romance

It was finally time to meet up with Julie again in Rome. I arrived a day early so I could catch up on sleep and do necessary things like laundry. But I also had some time to squeeze in Gelato from the oldest factory in Rome and stumble thru Europride (the gay pride festival of Europe!)

The day of Julie's noon arrival, I decided to wait for her on the rooftop, get some sun, and read. I didn't have a phone so all I could do was wait. But her plane was delayed so I was up on that roof a few hours more than I had planned. Which would have been fine, but I seriously creeped out the cute guys passed out on the roof with me. They thought they had found a solitary place for some R&R but I had no choice but to wait there for her since I had no way to tell her if I would move. So there we were, up there for hours together, ignoring each others presence. We did chat for a few minutes and I saw them a few other times in the city and hostel but that was really it. So I thought...

Anyway, Julie showed up and we continued to have great days in Rome filled with Pasta lunches, Pizza dinners, and parties filled with English boys and tattoos. We saw all of the sights worth seeing, and walked ages. Europride was ending things with a parade one night and we even got to sneak into Lady Gagas reherasal for her free concert that night.

But the day time stuff is really all pretty predictable (to an extent, it is still unpredictable me after all) but the most memorable night is really the night that nobody fully remembers: The Colleseum Pub Crawl.

We decided that in the expensive drinking city of Rome, we would go out of our way to save a buck by spending 15€ on a ticket to a pub crawl. The deal was this: payment gets you all you can drink mixers, beer, and wine from 9-11, pizza dinner, free entry to 3 clubs and pubs, free shots, AND a t-shirt. We dragged along Luke, a friend I met in Nice, and headed towards the meeting place. 

Luke made reservations online like a smarty pants so we got extra free shots and first entry. In a pub crawl group of over 75- that's heaps good! We made friends with some Very very tall Danish girls, and 2 Mexicans and I can't remember where the rest of the people were from. All unimportant people clearly. We quickly decided the way to get the most bang for our buck was to obviously drink all we wanted to drink in the first bar where it was free then just coast the rest of the night. That would have been fine if the advertisement for free pizza dinner was accurate and not actually a few pizzas with hoards of hands snatching, leaving me with 2 very small thin crust pieces. Bad excuse for a dinner. This happened to all of us though, and the main reason no one can remember anyone else from that night.

Highlights:  Julie managed some shots from some strangers who apparently weren't strangers, my contact (singular!) fell out of my right eye (this has never happened before while awake without having something touch my eye), I saw cousins make out, (that is debateable, but Im keeping the story that way)   I faked an asthma attack to get my Tshirt early, we met some guys who offered us a ride home (thank you Julie for declining the offer) and I tripped going UP the stars onto the bus bruising my bone and cutting a large gash into my leg. (this occurred June 9th and at this point and it is still largely lumped and bruised, but on the mend!)

Basically, Rome didn't escape our shenanigans and Rome really put a dent on my shin! Let the good times roll... Off to Florence we go!

Posted by lschaller 04:43 Comments (0)

Italy is Always Late

Cinque Terre & the trains

This is an interlude to my writings about my stay in Italy. 

While still in Nice, I decided it would be nice to check out the Italian Riviera- Cinque Terre. 5 beautiful small towns on the rocky cliff coast that can be seen on a 6 hour hike. Sounded like a dream. So on the public computers, I typed into hostelworld.com: Cinque Terre. Then the guy next to me said "hey, I'm going there too! Want to go together?" and like any sane person who was offered a ludicrous suggestion from a male stranger twice my size, I said "sure! Want to share a tent?" 

On the day of departure, we needed to tram to the main train station. Then train to Ventimiglia, Italy, next train to Deiva Marina, Italy All before 9pm final checkin time. It was a 5 hour commute. Easy. 

Wrong.

We left at 11am and made it by tram to the main train station 2 minutes after the train departed at 11:30. We had to wait until 1:30pm until the next train. We arrived in Ventimiglia and realized we didn't have the address to the campsite or the stop we wre supposed to get off on next so had to look for an internet café before we got on board the final train. When we got back from that quest, the next train to Deiva Marina was at 4:30, getting in around 6:30. Only half an hour late at this point. Then Italy was being all Italian and messed with everything. 

Of course the departures board read that our train left at 4:30 when in reality since it was Sunday that train did not leave at all. It was pouring rain and we were hiding in the subway that was quickly flooding with water and people. It took us until 5 to realize that our train was definitely not late. It was not going to show up. We ran around like crazy trying to find someone that worked at the station that could also speak English. Fruitless effort. There was not even an information desk. We harassed a police officer until he helped us and at 7:30 we boarded an intercity train to Rome that stopped in Deiva Marina. Whoops again. That train was apparently only for people with intercity tickets. A whopping 20€ extra charge to our 18€ pass we were holding.

We arrived at 9:30 and since the shuttle was no longer running to the campsite  we were about to need to walk 3km in the pouring rain. Thankfully, a nice Italian man saw our struggles and offered us a ride. I was already with one stranger why not make it two! He gave us a free lift and we safely made it to our tent (which quickly became the dirtiest, wet, nasty thing ever).

What I failed to mention is why Italy is always late. That day we were, but I did not once experience a train or transport that was not at least 10 minutes delayed for my entire stay. Or any transport board that made any sense. Silly Italy. 

Posted by lschaller 04:40 Comments (0)

Côte d'Azur 

South of France & Monaco

 I was recently made fun of for saying this, but to quickly recap, "I loved Nice! Except... Not the city nightlife (boring), not the French authorities, or the exorbitant prices. But I loved it."

Explaining my 3 qualms is as follows... Let's remember I had just come from Spain. It is not that Nice has NO bars or nightlife, it just is incomparable. No real clubs, only small bars, and the drinks were poured with precise shot measurements but still charged the same 9€. That starts my issue with the prices.

The South of France is clearly meant for old rich people and 22 year old Russian mail order brides. I had the pleasure to meet one of these fine ladies at my hostel. Her name was Svetlana...really. Anywho, my favorite example of  outrageous charges is from my favorite beach that I visited. It was in Cap d'Ail--Mala Plaga. Now this beach has caves of wonder and cliffs for climbing and jumping and some of the best water and small stoned beach I've ever seen. Better, it is only accessible by a 25 minute walk on cliffside up and down a plethora of stairs. Sounds terrible, but is quite beautiful and remote. So once there you have been tricked into staying since the relaxation and beauty makes you too lazy to walk back into 'town' to find something moderately less expensive. Since we arrived around 12 and didn't leave until 7 we had to choose to dine at one of the two chic beach restaurants. We picked the cool beach jazz club with live music. Here is an example of prices from our 9 person entourage. A steak that two of the boys split was 70€ (I was lucky enough to score some).  Being a cheap wise traveller I opted for the cheapest meal AND split it, a burger coming in at a cool 20€. But the atmosphere of that place was unlike any other, I've never felt more relaxed, all that was missing was some progressive house music for an even beachier vibe. But, like I said, we had live jazz. At one point we noticed we were all familiar with the words and were singing along somehow, even though the melody was foreign. It took a moment to place the hit song... Think slow jazz melodies with these lyrics "how could I forget I had given her an extra key, all this time she was standing there she never took her eyes off me." Yes, that would be Shaggy's "Wasn't me." Clearly you had to be there. It was phenomenal and quite hilarious. 

The only other real problem was really my own fault for succumbing to peer pressure. I was traveling one day with two girls I had just met to discover the city. The tram rolls up and I run to purchase a ticket while they boarded. The train clearly was not going to wait for me. They had the only map. I was deciding between taking public transit without paying for the first time in my life and not getting lost, or being a good moral person. That's right, I picked the dumb idea. The girls even told me "it's ok, just do it once, we do it all the time and nothing bad ever happens" well it just so happens that luck is not on my side, bc the next stop three French Ticket Checker nerds get on and beeline it for us. Clearly tourists, we are. Thankfully I had an old validated ticket in my bag so they let me off with only a 32€ fine where the other girls had to pay 43€ for never even buying a ticket. One of the girls thought it was only fair if we all split the difference (aka me give them money) I politely refused. Having lost my drinking money for the week was quite a misstep but I learned my lesson... And this is precisely why I have never fallen to other more serious peer pressures in my life. I am just not lucky enough to get away with anything. Ever. (or I'm secretly a moral righteous individual... You be the judge) 

To note: although I was well aware you needed a ticket to be on board, the whole validating it while onboard otherwise suffering the larger fine was a total tourist trap. It is written no where in English, and excuse me France, but last I checked, if you want tourists to obey your rules usually the rules are translated somewhere, at least into English, if not a cartoon or picture diagram. Poo poo on you France. 

Other memorable moments:

-Patrick (friend of my dear Finnish friend Kari) came to visit for the weekend at the great Villa. I am proud to say, in three days of knowing him, we became very brother/sisterly. I only yelled at him once, lost him for 2 hours, and  hated him for 4 hours. Not so bad! But really, he is a great individual, who has quite a rare ability to become very opinionated and condescending to complete strangers while intoxicated off of fisherman's friend and vodka. True Finn he is. Unfortunately though he was not the luckiest and was prey to some magical hands of the pickpockets and lost the entire contents of his wallet (which started the yelling, losing and hating the next day). Being the generous soul that I am, I lent him some 115€, which I only really did bc I knew at least I could make Kari pay me when I got to Finland. Patrick was the butt (literally) of many jokes on the beach for his total lack of interest in anything sun associated or energy involving, and was often found slumbering the days away and up arguing with the least intelligent hobos at the hostel until 6am. But, thank you Patrick for a completely ridiculous time. Because of you,  I am glad and only slightly embarrassed of my google search history. Oh the things I have learned. 

-While waiting for Patrick to arrive the first day, Alwyn and I were snapping some great photo booth pics and messing around on my iPad, when somehow I remembered a great day on the beach in Barcelona.  I quickly google searched the event with the Peasman (refer to other blog) and YES! Life mission complete: I am on YouTube. And the title of the video I am in, is the precise reason why I don't tan topless on the beach. Parental guidance is advised (I did not upload nor name this video): Asses and Boobs in great harmony with Peasman. Feel free to look it up. I am with my Canadian and German friends in the video for a good 45 seconds. Very confused as to where the video camera was. I never saw it. Sneaky.

-Monaco. This was a day trip that Patrick and I made, simply so that I could say I've been, look at the stands from Formula One the weekend prior, and try to marry price Albert and become the next Grace Kelly. I was not aware he had literally gotten married the day before I arrived. Talk about a let down. And if I ever return, I'm bringing a hot girl version on Patrick, because I'm convinced I could have scored a tour of some of the many mega-mansion yachts if only he weren't a boy. All I have to say about Monaco is this, one day I'll come back, on a yacht, with a chunk of change to spend at the Monte Carlo Casino. It will be a one day event, and then I'll be bored of Monaco, because there is nothing to do there. The end. (it is absolutely stunning though-still ONE day trip only...)
 
Thankfully for me, the South of France proved to be an amazing time. I stayed at an awesome hostel (Villa Saint Exupery) and made some amazing South African friends (next big trip to Africa?!). I had more cheese, fruit, bread and wine than I knew possible. And had some great laughs, whirlwind romances (just a quick marriage and divorce, nothing major), and no major sunburns, thank you SPF 30. I eill definietly return one day, but preferable when I'm older and have made some serious money... Or when I marry an old oil tycoon on a ventilator. 

Bon Voyage France and Monaco,  next stop Italy! 

Posted by lschaller 07:36 Comments (0)

The Fountain

The true tales of adventures in Alicante

Julie and I were meeting an Austrian friend, Manu, in Alicante. He and his 20 Austrians crew. And what an exciting bunch of people they were. From what I gathered, without much of a formal count, there were approximately 8 couples, Manu, and 3 other male single ready to mingles. For being a couple fest, we still had a pretty good time. And Alicante was no different than the rest of Spain I had seen in terms of the late party crowd. The clubs we frequented did not open until 3am, meaning we had to get thru the hours of 10pm-3am in the small city without losing anyone from our 22 person group. We were never successful in that endeavor. I think Julie, Manu, the single boys and I only made it out with a few of the couples each night. Their loss! 

Most days and nights were similar, simple and fun. Beach, long meals, lots of tapas, and lots of partying, especially dancing. That was until there was one night. (Yes, you Austrians, you have waited so patiently for this post and here it is...) 

I will try to keep all facts consistent to the original story but since I don't know the extent of my viewers it will be censored. Only those of you who really were able to experience such a night will know the truth. 

Julie and I were not staying at the creep infested hostel that the Austrians practically booked solid. So as per our daily routine, we had gone home, showered off the salt water and sand, changed, took pictures of the creepy man who stood outside our hotel window for 6 hours every day, polished off the rest of our bottle of kettle one, and some tinto de verano and set off to meet up with the gang around 12am. 

Austrians might be worse than the Italians I know, in that, when you get more than 4 together, the process of decision making is completely thrown out the window. It takes about 30 minutes to move the group 30 meters. So as we started at the Casino, in the next 2 hours we had really only made it across the street to the large fountain at the end of the esplanade. At this time of the evening, 2am, people were really going hard, the pubs and bars were packed and streets were filled as people anticipated that 3am opening of clubs. (I should say 'club' here, since I, as per usual, made friends with the bouncers at one particular club so we could stroll up any night and skip the 300 person line-finally being a "rich" tourist paying off! I say rich because I promised the bouncers that the "too many guys" in our group were rich Austrians wanting to blow money- half true?)

Back to the fountain. 

There we were, 2am, with many people gathered around. Not a clue how to transport the group the other 8 blocks to the club in the next hour. Seriously. Then one of the single Austrians, whom I will call Mr.Karate Kid, came over to me with a tissue shoved nicely up one side of his nose to stop the bleeding for the third time that night. He was flirting, or what I think was his attempt at flirting (a burp in the face, a quick removal of said tissue, and an explanation that he is a karate genius). At this point I'm clearly swooning and asking him to do his best Arnold Schwarzenegger impression. Being a brash drunken European, he clearly had one thing on his mind. He also made this very clear to me and everyone around me. At this point my not so sober, and devilish brain was kicking in. 

The fountain.

All I could think about was how can I make this silly Austrian make a fool of himself in a huge public space? What I was not prepared for was that he had not an ounce of pride left. 

I told Mr.KK something along the lines of "I dare you to go swim in that fountain in the next 30 seconds." His response was more of a dash. He ran straight to the fountain; shoes, belt, socks, shorts, and shirt thrown every which way. I was impressed at his determination, and embarrassed for him. We all, all hundreds of us, witnessed an enthusiastic splish splash from the nearly nude karate kid. I had to pay him for this, which taught me to never dare a drunken Austrian person to do something ever again. But really, it was worth it.

That set the night off, we made it right at 2:59 to the club, proceeded in first, and we all had an enjoyable night of dancing and fun until the wee hours of the morning. Memorable, or not so much for some of us. A great last night in Spain. 

Tired and prepared for a break in Nice was something I yearned for, but not something I received.... 

Posted by lschaller 04:08 Comments (0)

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