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kimsblee [userpic]

The little jade saleswoman who wouldn't give up.

20th December 2006 (16:50)
confused

current location: Hong Kong - Harbour City
current mood: confused

Ok get excited (or sad) this will be my last post from the road. There will of course be a long and whinging post from my home base before we close down operations here at the livejournal.

So where to start (or finish). London was great and seemed to last about five minutes, of course when I look at my bank statements it becomes apparent that it might have been longer, I bled money in that joint. Since my last update we managed to fit in yet another movie (Starter For Ten which I highly reccommend)as well as Westminster Abbey and the area around Big Ben. Westminster Abbey was very dark, cold and crowded. But this doesn't change the fact that it was also grand and impressive. Its kind of hard not to be impressed by Elizabeth I's tomb, or Mary queen of Scots' tomb (they have a lot of tombs there) but my favourite was Poets corner with Chaucers tomb and monuments to decades of actors, poets and artists. We spent most of our time in London just walking and taking it all in. I did some serious shopping as I mentioned and yet have very little to show for it. Then we said a very sad goodbye to our lovely travel mate Danny and left him to his new 9-5 London life, best of luck Dan and we will see you again! Then Lisa and I trundled off to catch a plane that would take us halfway home.

No dramas at Heathrow and despite trying very hard not to we slept for most of our 12 hour flight. We're now in Hong Kong and suffering from some serious jetlag. We sleep from about 11pm-3am and then lie in bed for around 5 hours unable to sleep then at 8am we both crash into a coma like state and cannot be woken until around 2pm. Very conducive to getting out and seeing the world. Add to this a hotel room the size of a queen size bed and throbbing headaches from above mentioned sleep patterns and its a miracle Lisa and I have not killed one another or ourselves. Not to mention that Lisa has added talking gibberish to her already impressive range of nocturnal noises. I actually managed to have a semi-coherent conversation with her at 2am the other night while she was fast asleep. So battling against the odds we've hit all the markets in our little part of town Yau Ma Tei. The markets are fantastic, kind of intimidating but great fun and if you're after knock off designer gear great value. Lisa decided not to buy some knock off Chucks and the woman actually grabbed my arm and wouldn't let me walk away unless i named a price Lisa would pay for the shoes. We generally flee the stall holders like this in utter terror. We are also pretty frightened of some of the food smells wafting onto the street and given we can't read ingredients on menus we've stuck to our gluten free supermarket staples of cornflakes, corn chips and chocolate.

Today we went to the jade markets which was great fun and helped us sharpen our bargaining skills. Lisa was planning to buy a necklace but needed to go to an ATM, the stallholder everytime Lisa started to leave would lower the price further and further, we finally managed to explain that we were coming back but that we needed cash. She then summoned her very elderly looking mother to follow us to the atm with the necklace to make the transaction. We managed to convince her to let the old bird stay where she was but it was a very very odd experience. We headed up to the ferry terminal this afternoon (where we are now) and took the ferry over to Hong Kong Island and took the famous Peak Tram up the mountain. Lisa was not overly impressed with the very steep climb and rattling tram and swore both on the journey up and back that she was having chest pains and a heart attack. I however loved the tram ride and the views from the top, tried a few photos but for the billionth time its really a must see in person experience. Ok so that brings us kind of up to speed.

Tomorrow night we hop on our plane home. I'm feeling all kind of mixed up things about it, sad that our trip is over, relieved that our trip is over. Excited to see everyone, nervous to see everyone. And of course little kid style excited about Christmas. There is a lot of world left to explore so hopefully this blog will be resurrected some time very soon.

AAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH I'm seeing all my lovely people in just a few days.

Love and kisses
Soon to be retired Captain Kim

kimsblee [userpic]

Squirrel army or Jesus army? Which would you rather face...

15th December 2006 (21:55)
current location: Piccadilly Circus (still not an actual circus)
current song: The Waifs - London Still

I am still alive! I did not go into a depression spiral following the loss if my precious DS and go off and seek a new identity...but I was tempted.

We are now in London and well and truly on our last leg of the journey (can you hear my sobbing from wherever you are), I mean I love home but we really need so more much time to see everything we want to.

But I get ahead of myself, first of all a rundown on Berlin. It reminded me a lot of Melbourne and not just because of the weather. It just had that vibe...see this is why I got good marks for English, so articulate, it just felt a bit more like home. We took things EXTREMELY easy in Berlin, we had the excellent luck of no other guests in our room for 3 out of 4 nights which was good. The things of note that we did crawl out of bed and see are the following: Checkpoint Charlie, the Reichstag, the Brandonburg Gate (I haven't checked the spelling on that...), and of course the Wall remnants which I wouldn't have missed for the world. All were suitably impressive to us jaded and weary travellers. Other things I should mention, the little green go man on the traffic lights there wears an adorable hat. Oh and for those who read this in order to laugh at anothers misfortune I have more of that for you as well. So I decided to try on some clothes...now Lisa and I are really not exaggerating when we say we're downing at LEAST one block of chocolate a day so I was pretty distressed but not surprised at the site of my considerably wibbly belly. It did however send me into a health frenzy and under the direction of ex-swimmer extraordinaire Lisa I did maybe 75 stomach/leg exercise thingos two nights in a row. That was four days ago and I am still suffering enormous amounts of stomach/leg agony. My shuffling is hilarious even to me. And of course no update would be complete without me trying to take a shower with mixed results. The shower in Berlin was very hot and very high pressure which of course is great, it was also one of those hand held ones that sits in a little holder to use like a normal shower, but alas the little holder was a bit busted so that every time you turned the tap on it would fall down and end up pointing at the wall rather than the floor. So you can picture me cowered in the corner of the shower stall being pounded in the face by hot water trying to shower. Also add into the equation a pile of wet clothes because Lisa and I are too stingy to use the paid machines, so I'm hiding behing wet clothes and using them as a shield. Still not funny enough? Try adding a large bottle of German vinegar into the equation. Why vinegar you ask? Because all my clothes permanantly smell of BO and Lisa said that vinegar would help fix this if I used it to wash the clothes. All part of the lunacy of Kim. The only other thing worth noting is Lisa and I coming within thirty seconds of missing our plane to London, they had started boarding as we arrived to check in. Hopefully you can picture me shuffling through the rain with a 17kg pack on (remember i have leg/stomach pain) with Lisa yelling "Hurry up we're gonna miss it!" and me whining "I can't hurry, this is my top speed!".

But we made it to London and we are enjoying it much much more this time around. We spent our first day shopping and managed some serious credit card damaging and then in the evening we met up again with the always bright and cheery and now gainfully employed London resident Danny. We went and saw feel good rom com The Holiday (an expensive event here) and found a superb burger joint which serves their food between lettuce leaves on request so food freak Lisa is accomodated. For our first proper day we started with some mega sized Starbucks products (about $7AUD a pop) and headed for Buckingham palace, we took the compulsory photos, generally made arses of ourselves and headed towards Kensington Gardens because I wanted a photo in front of the Peter Pan statue. The gardens were lovely if a little chilly and after we got my photo with Peter we went for a wander. We soon spotted some adorable squirrels - after my Peter Pan experience I was full of thoughts of Neverland, the Magic Faraway Tree, Narnia and all the other staple English childrens literature the daughter of a Pom grows up with so squirrels fitted right in (everyone remembers that it was a squirrel who took the cushions back up to the top of the faraway tree, and of course squirrels were messengers for Prince Caspian of Narnia). So naturally I wanted a photo, no sooner had I whipped out my camera than two more squirrels popped up, what joy! and then I look up the path and a squirrel is galloping (I kid you not, GALLOPING!) towards us, having been distracted by this (as I'm sure was their plan) I failed to notice one of the advance guard sniffing at my shoe. I of course do the mature thing, I squeal and run a little bit away, the squirrels follow...one runs halfway up Danny's leg before he bravely shakes it off! We take one last parting snap before fleeing the squirrel army as fast as we could...the terror still haunts me. This strange experience left us a little forlorn so we took a cheer up tube ride to Abbey Rd. Yes I do have a photo of myself on the iconic Beatles crossing but not quite in the way it looks on the album cover. In order to get that shot the photographer (in this case Danny) has to stand in the middle of the rd and the traffic does not respond with much patience.
Our evening was even more traditional London excitement! We went and saw a west-end theatre show, Chicago (one of my favourite musicals) was the perfect icing on our London cake. Not even the eighties flourescent 'Jesus Army' van we had to avoid on the way home distracted us from singing the whole way back.

Today we did the Tower of London, St Pauls Cathedral and the new Bond movie (hey we like movies give us a break). The tower was one of my favourite historical sites. The Yeoman Warder tour guide was actually really fantastic, funny, interesting and obviously very dedicated. If you go to London and want to avoid crowds and touristy stuff then you have my sympathy but I would do at least the Tower if nothing else. I had been hanging out to see the place where the Queens of England had been executed, the arch under which the two Princes were found and the Gate which Elizabeth passed through into the tower twice in her life, once as a prisoner and the other to prepare for her coronation. And if I was in London for Christmas the chapel at the Tower is where I would head on Christmas eve. I cannot rave enough about how interesting i found it (but I am a nerd as mentioned in earlier entries). Then over to St Pauls. Now Lisa and I being experienced world travellers now have seen our fair share of churches, small churches we didn't know the name of, and of course Notre Dame, Le Sacre Coeur, St Peters Basilica to name a few. St Pauls was our favourite hands down. Its opulence and grandeur were a little more restrained than Vatican city but it had none of the Gloom of Notre Dame. It was big and light and beautiful and generally awe inspiring. Rather than making me think of mourning and sacrifice like St Peters Basilica not to mention greed and hypocrisy. It just made me think of nice things about religion like faith and dedication. And if you are lucky enough to visit do take tre exhausting and claustrophobic climb up to the whispering gallery. Its worth it for the view alone but the acoustics which allow a whisper to travel along the wall to someone 32 metres away on the other side of the dome are definitely a neat party trick. Phew nearly done. So on a final and less interesting note, if you have not seen the new Bond film I highly reccommend you do so. I am not a Bond fan in general but this one had me squealing with excitement. Just the right mix of fun, depth and action. In my very very humble and untutored opinion - Best Bond Ever!

Ok so now I have some crime/romance/comedy reading to do and some more chocolate to eat. Happy Birthdays go to two of my favourite Melbourne ladies Kathy and Nat. I apologise for my absence and I am full of plans to make up for it when I return in less than a week!!!

For those who have been wanting more details I get in at 11.30 on the 22nd from Sydney and I will turn my mobile on in the afternoon.

Defeated by Squirrels but soldiering on.
Captain Kim

kimsblee [userpic]

Czeching out...

10th December 2006 (04:41)
exhausted

current location: Heart of Gold - Berlin
current mood: exhausted

I know I know its essentially the same pun I used a few entries ago but give me a break, my brain can only do so much and right now its on overload just trying not to type z instead of y on this damn foreign keyboard!

So the time seems to be slipping away like sands through the hour glass... We've left Prague and we're now in Berlin our third last city on this grand world extravaganza. Our last days in Pargue were understandably marred by the whole robbery experience but we still did some good old relaxing and a bit of touristy stuff too. We went for a great walk across the famous and very busy Charles St Bridge and up to Prague Castel which is worthwhile just for the fantastic view from the courtyard. We admired the very serious and impressive looking guards before stopping for a snack and heading back home through the christmas markets which are everywhere in the city at the moment and sooooooo pretty. Lisa and I also managed to find a cinema that was still showing Pirates of the Caribbean 2 so with the enormous (and I mean really huge, Ant and James even you guys would have struggled with this) box of popcorn in hand we sat down for some soothing Johnny Depp. And as usual he did not disappoint.

But the time came very quickly to say a sad farewell to our lovely Judy and make many many promises to meet in Canada or Australia some time soon. Then weighed down by our backpacks and bags full of snacks and Czech crystal we trundled off to the station. Getting to the station and reserving our seats was relatively excitement free with two exceptions. The first irritation was that I had gotten way too much money out at the ATM and noone will buy Czech crowns, we spent what we could on more snacks (including a tube of sweetened condensed milk i´m afraid to admit) and a way overpriced UK Marie Claire and settled in to wait for the train.

Ok so the second event of note was me trying to use the toilet at the station. You have to pay which is not unusual but I only had a 100 note (about $7AUD). The woman changed it, handed me a handful of money said something in Czech and gestured towards the toilets. I smiled and made my way to the cubicle... I was in the cubicle and was feeling suitably relieved when I noticed there was no toilet paper in the cubicle, and I don't mean it had run out, the was no place for toilet paper. So I sat for a while pondering this problem before I realised that I had my trusty notebook that I'm using as a scrapbook with me. So I did the best I could with a piece of very high quality Moleskine note paper before ducking out to the handbasin and grabbing some paper towel. It was only on my way out that I noticed the Rolls of toilet paper in front of the lady who takes the money. Yet another valuable lesson and blow to my already fragile dignity.

And now we have arrived in Berlin. We plan to do a tiny bit of sightseeing and a lot of sleeping eating and relaxing before we hit London which will be non-stop sightseeing and eating of carrot sticks (take note Danny the sightseeing if not the carrot eating includes you buddy). Our hostel is called the Heart of Gold (nerds take note) which I liked because of the Firefly episode but which is of course referring to Douglas Adams. So far its living up to its name, a painting of a whale in space of the wall, signs saying 'Don't Panic' and spaceship maps everywhere. Very cute.

So that folks brings us pretty much up to date. We were sad to realise it was our last train trip but glad to realise that on planes they take care of the bags for you. I am rapidly losing money so I plan to lay low for the next few days before we fly to London.

Thanks as usual to everyone who comments, if anyone wants an email its not that I don't have the time its more that I never remember email addresses so just send me a note to remind me.

Seeing you very very soon
Kim

kimsblee [userpic]

The great room 42 mystery...

8th December 2006 (21:47)
angry

current location: Prague
current mood: angry

This will be a very short update. Really I'm just taking advantage of the fact that for once I have unhappy not cheerful exciting travel news to tell, and I want your sympathy folks.

So we have been robbed - thats right a gasp would not be an inappropriate reaction here - we were skillfully and mysteriously robbed. Despite that we have a private room which only the front desk and the three of us have keys to someone managed to unlock our door take Judy's camera bag which also has her three rolls of film shes already shot, her migraine medicine prescription, the address book shes had for years and years and various other items of great personal value but no resale value. The door was then locked behind the dastardly thief. Compared to Judy's extremely upsetting loss mine was fairly minor. Lisa (accidentally - no blame will be apportioned in this journal) left out my Nintendo DS, hiding it under a doona rather than in one of our bags, so that and the brain training game that was in it are now gone forever. Not to mention the adapter that was plugged onto the end of the DS cord which we require to charge our cameras and Ipods.

The whole thing is pretty fucking annoying and quite puzzling. We did get to spend an exciting hour or so in a Czech police station and get a ride in a police car. So you know silver lining and all that. Fortunately I still have my Phoenix Wright game so all the hours I've put into that are not a waste. Lisa wants to buy me a new DS, anyone know if this will be cheaper in Hong Kong? Thoughts please.

Sadly yours
Kim

kimsblee [userpic]

"Well-informed, I think I'm using that word the right way..."

7th December 2006 (22:45)
cheerful

current location: Prague
current mood: cheerful
current song: REM - Nightswimming

Ok so my plan for the opening of this post was to apologise for my last entry which I felt was as dry and flavourless as one of Lisa's gluten free crispbread. But Lisa felt this was unnecessarily hurtful and personal, when I pointed out that she says the same thing all the time she informed me its in the same league as black people using the 'N' word.

So there you have it I will make no Gluten related analogies for fear of retribution. But I do feel that it lacked character, which is unfortunate because if there is anything Prague has in spades its character. Unfortunately there are only two computers here and I always feel pressure to make things short and sweet. But some of the things I have failed to mention are: the crazy money conversions we try and do on a daily basis ($1AUD is worth 16.6 Czech crowns and that is an annoying amount of maths), the fact that our Bus driver to Kutna Hora may or may not have been a drunken unlicensed lunatic on the country roads of Prague he could also just have been a European driver its hard to say, our guide to the mint museum who appeared to have learnt his spiels in English by rote and delivered them and ridiculous high speeds without breathing. I know I did mention the bone church but I will do so again for effect, a chandelier made out of human bones for christs sake people!! I probably haven't emphasised enough how pretty and charming Prague is, the narrow cobbled streets, the gothic extravagant buildings, the christmas markets selling a variety of sugary foodstuffs that naturally I love and the very very friendly helpful people. It is without doubt a great city, which potentially is quite cheap, only potentially because I found it difficult to walk past all the beautiful crystal and amber and garnets that seem to fill every second shop.

But now for a brief rundown on our activities so far. We had a relaxed wandering and shopping day where we convinced our Judy to get her ear pierced, this seemed like an idea given she'd bought 3 pairs of earrings. I sampled many delicious market foods and generally more than made up for Lisa not doing so. We also hit the Tesco supermarket near us which is as Lisa says like Myers during the stocktake sales, I had old Czech women elbowing me out of the way for bananas it was not very pretty.

Then for a more touristy day Lisa and I booked into a Bohemian Glass factory tour out in the town of Nizbor. Lisa and I were the only people under the age of 60 and the only people who looked like we didn't come from 'old money'. My favourite were the very well spoken elderly Poms, the woman in a massive fur coat carrying a big gold leather bag. But the real highlight of the trip was seeing the actual glassblowers. If - like me - you are picturing wild haired hippy artesans dress in flowing bright colours then you are in for surprise when you see my photos. The people producing these delicate and beautiful pieces are in fact four blokes churning out about 10 an hour. One (my favourite, hands down) was wearing a grotty white t-shirt, some very short camo shorts, sandals, and no underwear. He was also balding with a mullet and a penchant for ballscratching. How could we tell he wasn't wearing underwear? I think you dear readers can work that out on your own. It was official Lisa and I were in love. This may be what drove us to buy more crystal than we can ever hope to fit in our bags, who knows. Definitely money well spent.

We spent another relaxing evening out at a local bar/restaurant the Dogs Bollocks which does delicious steaks and pasta and very well-priced cocktails. We love Prague.

But before I surrender the computer, a small note on my diet. The breakfast here is not in my opinion worth dragging my way down the stairs for so I've augmented my standard packet of french chocolate biscuits a day along with some corn chips with a lovely morning meal of a banana chopped up with each piece entirely smothered in Nutella and a drinking yoghurt. Healthy and delicious (take note Stella the house must be well stocked with banana and nutella on my return).

Also the subject for this entry is a quote from one of the many loud annoying conversations we were forced to endure from our American neighbours before we moved rooms. This young man was explaing to his comrades what he felt was the difference between being intelligent and well-informed, the above quote was in response to their blank looks. I (being the nasty bitch I am) quite enjoy the irony.

Two weeks til I end my beloved adventure.

Kim

kimsblee [userpic]

He's making a list, he's Czeching it twice.

5th December 2006 (23:25)
ecstatic

current location: Chillis Hostel
current mood: ecstatic
current song: Snow Patrol - Run

This pun is so witty and brilliant I almost shouldn't need to write a journal entry for it.
Get it cos I'm in the Czech republic and its nearly Christmas. I love my brain.

So we left Rome, our last day was spent watching a huge political rally flares banners and all in a state of utter confusion. Some groups appeared to be anticommunists and they were very loud and scary but then some others seemed very liberal and friendly. It was all beyond Lisa and I.

So after totally shooting down our last Italian pervert we boarded a train to Vienna. This was by far our worst train ride yet. We were on terribly uncomfortable seats the whole time in a small crowded room. and then when finally we were left to ourselves and put our heads down for a well earned nap who should invade our room but a raving lunatic. Like actually raving, pacing, talking to herself, to us despite the fact that we'd made it clear we only spoke english. She was loud, scary and had a Bratz back pack. Need i say more? Not the best company at 3am. But we eventually made it to Vienna and hopped on our train to Prague. At this point I should say that we were well equipped for our longest train journey from Rome to Prague with Nutella, M&Ms, corn chips, yoghurt and salami, the food of kings I'm sure.

Despite my crippling stomach pains and my increasing phobia of pigeons we arrived in Prague totally unharmed and made our way to the hostel.
Prague is amazing. Its beautiful and different and has an amazing vibe. We had a great reasonably priced dinner at a local cafe run by someone who swears he is in the latest Bond movie (maybe he is, who knows) and we reunited with one of our favourite people our Canuk friend Judy who booked us a great private room so we don't have to deal (mostly) with rude strangers for a week. Great great great.

For our first full day here we took an expensive day trip out of Prague to Kutna Hora an old silver mining town. Worth every penny. I have to make this quick but I will tell you two things about the day. First of all the best thing we have seen all trip, the famous bone church. It looks like an ordinary and very humble church from the outside but when you enter, oh my god. It is entirely decorated with bones of 40 000 people, as in they've made a chandelier out of every bone in the human body (several human bodies in fact), this artist has made pictures and sculptures out of the bones, little mini buildings, candle holders, long decorative strands. And why? Because they couldn't think what else to do with them. Crazy, hilarious and very very morbid. I loved it.
Also my traditional Czech lunch. Sirloin beef with dumplings in a vege spiced cream sauce, topped with...whipped cream, lemon and cranberry jam. Strangely satisfying...

So thats the update so far. We are also feuding in a battle of the annoyings with some Americans in the hostel, they are winning as we have been reduced to changing rooms, can't win em all I'm afraid.

Have a great time at Meredith pals and those who aren't going appreciate the creature comforts at home!

Love and kisses
Kim (who may or may not come home eventually)

kimsblee [userpic]

Fleeing Italy on bread stealing charges...(lies all lies)

2nd December 2006 (21:30)
relaxed

current location: Rome
current mood: relaxed
current song: Cake - Friend is a Four Letter Word

So here I am sitting in front of the computer using up all the time left on my internet account and trying to reconcile myself to saying farewell to Rome. Its not nearly as difficult as saying goodbye to Paris (which I have not really done) but it does still cause a slight pang. Before I give a little run down on Rome in general I should mention the few things we've seen since my last post.

After our culture heavy day at the Vatican city we decided to get out of Rome for a few hours on a bit of a day trip. We headed on the train (which had a distinct 'going to get mugged' vibe to it) to Ostia Antica which is a small coastal town outside the city. While it didn't exactly strike us as a party town it does have amazingly extensive ruins of the old town. They mostly seemed to date back to around 70AD and they range for what seemed like kilometres. From the old necropolis, an amphitheatre, warehouses and some incredibly well preserved mosaic floors. I kept thinking to myself 'gee its sad we don't have anything this well preserved and ancient in Melbourne' but of course societies in Melbourne in 70AD were nomadic so you know...not so much on the tiling of plazas. After a while when you read 'this building is built in a style formed in around 50BC' it stops meaning anything. You can't grasp that you're walking down a path that was part of someones home town thousands of years ago. So we spent a good 3 hours exploring the town before heading back into Rome so I could get my free pasta dinner. So with the exception of Lisa nearly killing a sparrow with a piece of cheese, she maintains it must have been lactose intolerant, a good day was had by all.

We had a very lazy day yesterday as Lisa and I both have head colds, why we have them it was is easily the warmest place we've been I don't know. We wandered through some of the more expensive shopping areas of Rome looking but not touching, and saw the Spanish steps - which were just kind of ordinary steps to our untrained eyes, walked past the Piazza Barberini, the four fountains and various other very serious looking squares and buildings. Now to the exciting part of the day, so I'd forgotten to steal my bread rolls at breakfast yesterday (a mistake I have not made today) which meant that we had to stop for lunch. Now thanks to Vlora (you deserve to be made a saint for this) when I saw the sign saying 'Spizzico' I didn't just dismiss it as crappy fast food and head to a cafe. Now for €5.50 (which is admittedly like $10 but they charge even more at McDonalds here) I got a quarter of a margerita pizza - and I mean like a quarter of a very very large pizza, far bigger than an individual pizza hut pizza, a box of mini Arancini (for you uncultural slobs they're deep fried cheesy tomatoey balls) and a sizable soft drink. Possibly the most exciting fast food discovery of my life - and I pride myself on being a fast food authority. So thank you Vlora and Spizzico, you have made my life that much richer, in both cheese and joy.

So before we call it quits here at Alessandros Hostel here are some things I will always remember about Rome.

Their love of scooters, for every one motorbike there must have been 50 vespas.

Their love of tiny tiny cars, I started collecting photos of the tiniest, I have one of a truck that only holds one person 'for the man with carrying needs but no friends - you need a tiny truck!'.

Their inability to destroy any old historical stuff.

Their love of selling fake designer hand bags, our favourite sales pitch was 'you very very nice, I give you halfprice', I took to speaking french gibberish on the way past to put them off speaking English to us.

The fact that they appear to lock all women away in the daylight hours with the exception of the scary lady here that cleans the kitchen and who I think might be onto my roll stealing scam.

Most of all I will miss the Italian idea of a pedestrian crossing. No traffic light, no little green man telling you when its safe to walk, mostly because its NEVER safe to walk. They have Zebra crossings across 4 lane major roads, and the Italians see driving very differently to us. One essentially has to play chicken with the cars to get across the road, see who will back down first. It has made our wanderings that much more exciting, and life threatening.

Ahh Rome we will never forget you.

Onwards to Prague dear readers!

Your intrepid captain.
Kim

kimsblee [userpic]

So do you guys do a Caesar Salad?

30th November 2006 (20:05)
current location: Rome
current mood: busy
current song: Colin Hay - Waiting For My Real Life to Begin

So here we are once again. I'm here to list all the incredible stuff I've seen to make you all painfully jealous, this does get old doesn't it? Just kidding, I love boasting about my rad holiday.

So first of all a rundown on the hostel, we will then continue with my promised rant against European men and finish up with the aforementioned list of incredible stuff.

So we're staying in a place called Alessandro's Downtown hostel. The rooms are pretty much what we've become accustomed to, we're in a 6 bed dorm again which is nice as we were in a 10 bed room in Madrid and that got pretty loud and stuff after a few nights. The breakfast is pretty good, especially if (like me) you steal 4 rolls instead of just taking the alotted one roll. I have two with jam on them plus some juice and hot chocolate, and then I take two as a handy packed lunch for the day - both frugal and dishonest! They also have free pasta on weeknights, everyone knows how I feel about pasta right? Lovely lovely lovely. So we're continuing our very lucky run on hostels, and in prague we're all set to share a room with some of our pals from Paris. Yay!

So we've noticed that for some reason Lisa and I in our gross unwashed, 'I eat 3 blocks of chocolate a day' state appear to attract a fair bit of attention on the street. In New York of course there was our charming army friend and some random hobos in the subway, in London there were some people who may or may not have been prostitutes and in Paris there were several elderly men on the metro who were very errr visually pleased to be standing near to us. We have learned to accept this as par for the course. But Spain and Italy are something else entirely. I have never felt more like a gross piece of meat in my life, this is not admiring glances or funny smartarse comments, we're talking first class predatory leering. I can't explain to you what the difference is, but there is one, the vibe here feels far more threatening and unfriendly. Now Lisa and I are big girls and we've gotten used to it to some extent. But my problem is that in Australia I would know exactly how to react, but here? I'm not so sure, and i don't want to start an international incident with an ill thought out knee to the groin. So kudos to Aussie boys, the only act of chivalry we've seen on our holiday was from a nice Aussie man, not some smooth Italian lover boy. So in short Italian and Spanish men are sexist and gross, I did give some old spanish dudes a very serious greasy and the finger (which i assume is universal?) when they did some very not cool gesturing towards my pal Lisa, so i think i'll keep that strategy up.

But onto more important things, such as Rome! So I keep forgetting - cos I'm little bit of a ditz - that when people talk about Rome, we're talking about the same site as ancient Rome, as in THE Roman empire, and the holy Roman Empire and all the Caesars. So we're somewhere pretty special, the birthplace of a lot of the traditions and structures of modern western society, if I paid attention in high school. So on our first day we saw the Colosseum, which was awe inspiring and iconic and very very old. Its sad to see it in such disrepair and its sad that the experience of seeing it is tainted by keeping an eye out for pickpockets and avoiding the million people trying to sell you fake D&G belts and Louis Vuitton bags. After that we wandered up to Palatine hill, which is of course where Romulus and Remus were raised by the She-Wolf before Romulus cracked the sads and got sword happy on his mum and brother. The ruins at Palatine are incredible (I'm running out of descriptive words), just go and see them, seriously they're immense and grand and unforgettable. I took probably 70 photos just of those two sites so you can guarantee someone will have to sit through some boring photo nights.

After that we wandered over to the Trevi fountain to do the compulsory coin throwing, I only threw one because I want to come back to Rome but I don't want to fall in love with an Italian. The fountain was packed with tourists but still very beautiful. So that was our first proper day, and after it I decided that I love Rome.

So day number two we did the obvious and went to Vatican City. Yes I have now seen St Peters Basilica and the Raphael Rooms and the Sistine Chapel. Vatican city is the strangest place full of the very gaudy but (according to both Lisa and Dan Brown) deadly Swiss guards. Phew i'm getting tired of typing. So the Basilica is undeniably beautiful, but it also got more thinking very serious and sombre thoughts about organised religion. You know the sort, heres this incredible achievment built with such dedication and faith and love but also with money, there are people begging all along the walls of the outside of what is technically one of the richest sovereign states in the world. Not to mention that I kept thinking of the line in Dogma when Serendipity says 'you people don't celebrate you faith, you mourn it' and its true, the statues all look miserable, its quite lacking in natural light and everyone looks like they're at a funeral. But enough, I shouldn't complain, I have now see the tomb of Pope John Paul the second (huzzah!), and of course some beautiful early Michelangelo sculpture. The sistine chapel is as expected, mind blowing and beautiful. But the whole thing was ruined for me by Monty Python, Kevin Smith and Arrested DevelopmentI was thinking very blasphemous but very funny thoughts the whole time.

Ok nearly done, we also saw the Pantheon which was again very old and very impressive, I'm started to get jaded by the all the famous impressive stuff. And today we're off on a day trip out of Rome, fun!
Looking forward to prague where we'll be in a private room with our Paris friends Judy and Danny.

Love you all as usual.
Kim

kimsblee [userpic]

When in Rome...

28th November 2006 (19:59)
cheerful

current location: Alessandros Downtown Hostel
current mood: cheerful
current song: Emiliana Torrini - Snow

I have not forgotten this journal! I know I'm way overdue for an update so this one will be a nice long rambling chunky one that jumps all over the place and is difficult to follow. Not only do I have lots to say about the things we've seen and done since my last post but I also have several rants to get out of my system so please be patient.

Before I get onto all then fun we had in Madrid I'd like to share with everyone a revelation I have had on this holiday (its true you do learn all about yourself), I am not cool. Now I can actually in my minds eye see everyone who is likely to read this looking at their screens going "a revelation?" and yes I have realised this earlier, but I didn't realise how much of a geek I am. I mean yes I wouldn't know fashionable clothes if you slapped my in the face with them, sure my music tastes are at best eccentric, I can quote a far too many TV shows for someone with a life and I would never describe myself as a social butterfly (ie. I don't like people in general). But thats not what I'm talking about here, I (and by the way Lisa as well) am crazy, extra strength loony. Here are some examples from our trip that have led me to this conclusion. Obviously the shower incident from my earlier journal is a prime example, as is my inability to climb up ladders onto the top bunk. The fact that in New York Lisa and I were in bed by 8pm on average, the city may never sleep but we sure as hell did. Another recent symptom of my dorkiness is my response to the itchy red welts which covered (I mean really covered) my forearms recently in Paris, my response to make myself look less disease-y (Lisa's description) was to cover my arms in Pirate Bandaids. Thats right I walked around Paris one of the most fashionable cities in the world covered in Pirate bandaids, and I thought I looked awesome. But as this is dragging on I will furnish you with just one more thing, the nail in the coffin as it were. I woke up a few days ago in Madrid and started feeling around in my PJ pants for my Ipod. I should not have been let out of the city let alone the country. The logic is this: I have taken to using the sleep timer on my ipod and listening to music as i go to sleep as the hostel rooms are often quite loud, but if I just leave it in the bed I wake up with it in the small of my back or under my head or shoulder blade and its very uncomfortable, but i discover that if I put it under the waistband it at worst ends up under a knee or something which is far less of a problem. So there you have it, are these the actions of a sane normal person? Lisa informs me not.

Kudos to you if you got through that ramble. So onto Madrid, now Lisa and I were pretty intimidated by this city as you may have picked up in my last entry, the language barrier was extremely difficult to negotiate. But then two things happened to give us our groove back. The first thing was that our good mate Danny from Paris arrived to meet us, now a friendly face is always a comfort but Danny is particularly great to have in the situation we were in (if you read this Dan get someone to stick a pin in your ego before it explodes). He is not phased by anything, don't speak the language? No problem just increase the volume of your aussie accent and point and smile more, always works for him and this kind of confidence is infectious. The second thing is that we went out with Swinburne buddy Robin who know lives in Madrid and his amazingly sweet and lovely girlfriend Pepix. They taught us some very basic Spanish and gave us some good tips for getting by. We had a very authentic Spanish evening with them, first we had a platter of cold meats and cheese (tapas obviously) before moving on to a bar. I have so much respect for a culture whose drinking establishments look like our delis, with ham and salami and garlic and fish hanging up everywhere. As well as some delicious Spanish cider which only Robin and I would drink (it tasted kind of like they'd fed the cider to a goat and then collected it before serving it, but hey I liked it) I was also somehow persuaded to eat mussels, and pig stomach lining in a kind of chilli sauce. Now this is a big deal for me, I do not eat seafood and I do not try new foods but hey when in Rome and all that (he he and now I AM in Rome). So that evening out was such great fun that we started to feel a bit better about Madrid.

We spent a lot of our days just wandering around looking at the sites rather than planning everything too much. And Madrid is in its own way a very grand and beautiful city, it is also still quite traditional with most shops closing for Siesta between 2 and 5-6. We continued our very authentic spanish week by going to see a live Flamenco show. The singing and music weren't really my thing but still very well done, but the dancing was amazing, I could of watched another hour of the dancing and not been bored. This was also the evening that we met Megan (pronounced May-gan), Tonya and Katie, these charming Californian ladies were doing 'semester at sea' where a lot of college kids get taken on a 3 month world cruise and do classes on the boat in between stops. It costs around 25 000 US dollars. Once again I'm trying to be accepting and not racist, but I have never met such cliché stereotypes in my entire life. Megan was telling us how much she liked India because it was so cheap, you must do the accent here and a look of incredulity on your face as you say it, "for like only $1 you can buy like two necklaces and like an omelette if you wanted one", and yes Megan thats exactly what I would buy. But Katie was not impressed with India "the people were like totally rude to us and it was way dirty, there was like car accidents and dead animals and totally no one cared, it was so bad". But I shouldn't be cruel they were very sweet girls and they did point out something very important to us, the fact that just mere metres away, watching the same Flamenco show we were, was Mischa Barton! Looking very sweet, and stuffing her face with tapas mind you, was Marissa herself. Exciting yes? I snuck a quick photo at the end when she got up to pose for one with the band (in mine she has red eye and looks awful, 1 second later she saw the flash and smiled in our direction) but then I turned around and saw that whole restaurant had noticed her and everyone had run down to our end and started taking pictures and suddently I felt like paparazzi scum so we left to preserve our dignity.
The rest of the week we spent sightseeing and shopping (I'm terrible with money, I'm spending hundreds of dollars on things like bottled water and cheese, its possible I'll run out and be home early). We saw some gorgeous monuments which photos (I know I keep saying this) can not do justice to. So Madrid after a shaky start gets two very enthusiastic thumbs up.
So we planned to catch the train to Rome, now if you look at any map you have handy you will see that this is a long way. The plan was to catch one to Barcelona, then an overnight one to Milan and then another on to Rome. Now this plan is flawless except that depending on where you are you can't reserve tickets for a trip from another country or city, eg. we couldn't book our barcelona to milan train from madrid. So we arrived in Barcelona Sunday night to be told the train to Milan was full and there was no more til Tuesday (it shows how much we've matured that at this point neither of us burst into tears), all the trains into areas in the south of France which are on the way to were we wanted to be were not til the next morning. So faced with spending the night in the station or going somewhere totally illogical and out of the way we chose...Switzerland! So after a few hours in Barcelona (which gets no thumbs up from me, its like adults schoolies) we hopped on our overnight train to Bern. Best mistake ever! It added about 4 hours overall to our journey and we caught a train to Rome from Bern. But the amazing thing was that both our trains into and out of Bern went through some of the most spectacular gorgeous scenery I will probably ever see in my life. The train weaves in and out of the snow capped alps and the whole way is dotted with little villages by pretty little creeks and picture book green hills. I am not exaggerating, Switzerland is now on my list of must visit places (and before you jump to conclusions its not about the chocolate).

And so utterly exhausted and dying for some personal space we arrived in Rome last night, our hostel seems great and despite a mix up with the booking which has us paying for a night we're not actually staying all is looking good.

Ok this a long one so I'll save my rant about leering Spanish ans Italian men for my next update. I better go wake up Lisa so we can hit some famous sites!

Keep in touch amigos.

Kim

kimsblee [userpic]

Muy importante!

23rd November 2006 (04:33)
confused

current location: Cats Hostel Madrid
current mood: confused
current song: The Mountain Goats - Cobra Tattoo

So I said a teary but hopefully temporary farewell to my beloved Paris and we took ourselves off to the train station to make our way to Madrid. Our last day or so in Paris were spent window shopping and eating as many crepes as the human body can possibly stomach, for your information its quite a lot. We enjoyed a few more chats with our friend on the desk Reggie B and our new buddys from LA Michael and John who have assured us that in their journal we will be referred to as 'those two cheeky kiwi killers' due to our penchant for New Zealander jokes.

So our night train to Irun at the Spanish border was fairly uneventful, I slept most of the way and hey who cares if Lisa got any shut eye. We got off at Irun to a mostly deserted platform. There was a group of youngish men standing in a group but no one else, we started to head into the station when one of the guys stops me and flashes a badge that seemed to say 'Policia' on it and demands my passport. With my mugging alarm going off at medium volume in my head I get out my passport and try to just hold it our for him to see, no luck, he snatches it and proceeds totake his sweet time in examining almost every single page. Fortunately my mugging alarm is a little oversensitive and we lived to catch another train.

Unfortunately the train we caught smelled like piss, and not just a little bit, a whole lot. The train ride down to Madrid was nice, the Spanish countryside is of course varied and lovely. After about 5 hours though I decided I could hold on no longer, I made sure to choose the cubicle that Lisa had already patronised as she'd spent a good ten minutes scrubbing the toilet seat. So the toilet was dirty and gross obviously and had a tempermental flushing mechanism. But the most confusing part was the sign on the wall, it had 'Muy Importante!' in big yellow writing and then a small paragraph in Spanish. Now muy importante I get, but the rest is a mystery to me. I can only say that if its so muy importante maybe put it in a few other languages.

Our hostel is very pretty and secure and clean. All the things Lisa and I look for, as well as free internet. But Spain in general is terrifying, now I don't want to sound stupid or anything but did you guys know everyone here speaks Spanish? Like totally Spanish, and I'm just not a big hand gesture kind of girl. We went to try and buy food and despite knowing all the words to Christina Aguilera's Genie in a Bottle the girl serving us could not understand 'Sprite'. We went to the supermarket and when the woman gestured to the plastic bags and I said 'yes' she looked lost and then after a pause she goes 'oh si!' Yes I meant 'Si' damn it! So its kind of a struggle here... We found a Starbucks or five though and I figure I can live off their cookies for 6 days if I must. I also know the word for cheese so we've got that covered too.

Mucho confusedo
Capitano Kim

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