Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Amazing Race Asia Season 4 Promo Race

I'm sure a lot of you out there have heard of or watched the Amazing Race, you know the one where teams get to go all over the world, do crazy tasks, all in the name of a cool $1 million USD.  Well there is in fact the exact same race here all over Asia and beyond, cleverly called.....The Amazing Race Asia! hahha.  Anyways, Andy and I decided that we are seriously going to audition for it and try our best to make the auditions.  We've been training hard...honestly...doing the INSANITY workouts and trying to be healthy.  This past weekend we were actually shortlisted to the top 25 teams (out of supposedly 400 applicants) to do a mock race/promo event at the SM North Edsa mall....for you non Filipinos, this is actually the 3rd biggest mall in terms of space in the world....next on the list is the West Edmonton Mall...so that tells you it's HUGE.

Anyways, so we went there for 12 noon on Saturday, November 20th (arriving late of course :P) and the area was set up very professionally.  We were greeted by organizers and had to register (Team Halifax....lame i know) and this is where we received our rules, race shirts, etc.  After changing and time to check out the rules, we were gathered as a group and went over all the details with the organizers (AXN TV station).  At that time we were then given our first list of tasks...where we had to complete 6 of 7 tasks, with one task that was mandatory for each team.

The rules were pretty simple.  You complete a task, get a stamp in your team "Passport" and you move on to the next task of your choosing. IF you do not finish the task in the allotted time, than you incur a penalty/hold of usually 2 minutes.   IF YOU WERE SNEAKY AND PLANNED AHEAD, SOME TEAMS ACTUALLY QUIT THE TASK!! This is because the standard 3 minute penalty for quitting the task AND the penalty for not completing in time were less than trying to complete a task + penalty....sneaky buggers.




ZONE 1

To begin the race, 1 partner had to pop a balloon, which had a map on the inside showing where the tasks were.  Again, they could be done randomly, but the CRANE had to be completed by ALL TEAMS.

Mistake 1
Well because I'm an idiot, I didn't look at the paper/map. I was literally the 2nd person out of the group, but then realized it said SORRY TRY AGAIN!! WTF.  So I had to scramble back, find a map on the floor and take off with Andy.  Luckily we didn't lose much ground because you WERE NOT allowed to run on the stairs/escalators, so we caught right back up.

Mistake 2
We decided to do the hardest tasks first and ran directly to them....this really killed us because one of the tasks we planned to do we unknowingly bypassed....which eventually we had to run alll the way back to...then allll the way to the pit stop....literally costing us about 5 minutes easy.

TASK #1 - the first task we completed was where we had to balance a round table top on a stick, using a combination of 8 cups of water and pebbles to balance the table top for 5 seconds on the stick.  It was actually quite easy and we did it quickly.

TASK #2 - the second task we did was the mandatory "Crane"  where you had to pick up floating balls in a makeshift pond, and put them in a basket.  The contraption was made of two fishing rods and a can like object that opened and closed.  Needless to say we did NOT get 1 ball, and wasted time.....Most teams fared very poorly on this task!!

TASK #3 - we then ran to the next task where we were given an image comprised of shapes, and then given 7 different sized triangles and paralellagram's. We then had to put the shapes together to form the image we were given.  After a little frustration, we completed this quite quickly and moved on.

TASK #4 - this task was very close, and was very easy. We had to use plastic chopsticks and transfer 20 marbles to a second bowl. I did 2, and then Andy flew through the rest.

TASK #5 - there was a combination of building blocks encased, which we would use as a reference, and than build that same display at our workstation.  It sounds easy, but with 4 other teams running back and forth, it got very confusing, and unfortunately we again ran out of time and also incurred a penalty.  It was also here (VERY CLOSE TO THE PITSTOP) that we realized we had to run all the way back to the beginning almost to complete our 6th task.

TASK #6 - here we had to wait about 2 minutes because there were no open stations....every minute counts.....until it was our turn.  Here we simply had 5 minutes to count a HUGE box of change.  Again we ran out of time and incurred a penalty.     

Here is also where I am suspicious.  The eventual girls who won the entire race left this task for the pitstop at the exact same time.  Albeit they ran much faster as Andy was hurting, so they obviously checked in just ahead of us....but I truly fail to understand how they gained SO MUCH ground on us!  They did have friends/family running with them, which would have been key for Zone 2....but Kudos to them....


After task 6 we had to run all the way back again to the pitstop, where we were given our next round of clues and just continued on.  Of the 24 teams racing, here 6 were eliminated.  Andy and I were team 14 at this point.  For those of you wondering, the task we chose not to do was to take a Rubics Cube and make one side a full colour.  We skipped this because neither of us know how.....here teams could have really jumped ahead!


ZONE 3

Mistake3
Again, we started off on a bad note as we went up an escalator to realize we had to be down....we then ran to the first of 4 tasks.  AGAIN in this leg of the race, you had to complete 4 of 5 tasks and proceed to the next pitstop.

TASK #1 - Andy was on the 2nd floor with beanbags, while i was on the 1st floor with a bucket attached to my head.  Simply I had to catch 5 of the 6 beanbags in the bucket.  EASY.  unfortunately, we lost time as Andy had the passport and didn't know we got it stamped where i was......no way of us knowing!! but that's how it goes

TASK #2 - Here we had to bring a mall patron to the Columbia store to look at the products. Once we did this we got a stamp....easy right?  Well half of the ppl we asked didn't even look at us....I mean not even polite enough to say "No thank you" or they looked at us like we had the plague. Finally after pleading and explaining to a few girls, they came with us, and we took off!  This is where the eventual champions had a lead, because their family/friends who were with them could have just volunteered.  Tricky tricky!  Unless they actually got someone to come in with them!

TASK #3 - Across the hall from Columbia we had to go to Toy Kingdom and play BOP IT until you got 20 in a row.  HERE WE WERE PISSED.  We were the first team to arrive, but had to wait for an open judge, but when he became open, he went to another team!!! Again costing us more time.  I got it very quickly, and here we ran to our last task.

TASK #4 - on the 5th floor we had the option of completing a Sudoku or running to 4 stores and getting stamps.  We chose the latter, and off we went.  Andy returned to Columbia and Toy Kingdom, while i went to the theatres.  It was a super easy task and we finished quickly, jumping ahead of some teams. However, here we really started to slow down.

We made it to the next pitstop as team 12...the last team to make Zone 3...again 6 teams were eliminated.....Here was a twist though, they gave us our tasks which had to be completed in order.

 Again, for those of who care, the task we opted not to complete was another joint effort where you and your teammate had to complete a maze with a pencil...however, the pencil was in a contraption where both teammates were on the opposite side of the table holding to arms of the contraption, and they had to complete it in unison.  Picture this 
\  /
 0
/  \


ZONE 3 

TASK #1 - in the food court area they had a big inflatable mat with a swinging beam. The objective was for one member to try and cross the beam.  The further you went, the less of a time penalty incurred.  I did this task and we incurred a 1 minute time penalty.  Pretty easy and fun with sooo many people watching!

TASK #2 - we then had to go outside to a grassy area to complete a hanging maze.  Essentially a big wooden maze with holes was being held by strings, and with teamwork, Andy and I had to get all 3 balls through the middle hole.  It just finished pouring rain...although with my sweaty shirt you wouldn't have noticed, and we completed this task after a few minutes.  Here I am suspicious again, as there was only 1 judge and he didn't really seem to take notice.  We could have easily cheated and not have been caught.....but we didn't :)

TASK #3 - Here FRUSTRATION was the name of the game. First off, the judges refused to tell us any rules, telling us to check ours.....but there were no rules given.  Essentially we had two 5 foot wires that were bent in different angles, and we had to take a hollowed spoon type device and go along the wires, not touching it.  THINK THE GAME OPERATION.  You had to complete both wires.  BECAUSE the guys refused to tell us we lost time. We also lost more time as we became extremely frustrated.  Finally as the allotted time was ticking down, we completed the task, and moved rather slowly to the pitstop......

At the pitstop we were informed we DID NOT make the top 8 and did not make the last zone.  We were both disappointed, but I think we both knew it was coming.  We then returned to where we started and collected our goodie bags!!  Here I also tried one of the final tasks, like a 3 part ladder, with a pole, rope net and rope....i went up rather quickly and completed it.  Here we realized that almost ALL OF THE PHYSICAL tasks were, and were bummed out as I think we would have made some noise in the final round.  other tasks included:
 
-one partner piggybacking the other BLINDFOLDED while the other partner gave directions to walk and not step on mouse traps!
 

- either 1 person (15 points) or both (30 points) had to use a machine where you use enough momentum to complete 5 rotations. Think of standing on a metal swing and swinging hard enough so you flip around completely 5 times!!

- 1 teammate had to walk on a large foam log, like a lumberjack, and while walking on it/rolling it, catch soccer balls...the more you catch, the more points


- There was a task in the basement at ACE Hardware, where the teams had to construct something

 
- They had to bowl.....I think?

-And there was a task where they through a dart at a board and whatever it landed on they had to complete.......the team we saw had to Thread a Needle......hahaha

The last stage was all about points. They had 2 hours to complete everything, and the quicker they completed the more points (example finish in 1 hour = 60pts) so teams really had to choose what was more important, completing tasks or time.




While we waited we got to socialize with people, talk to the organizers and plant seeds in their head about us applying for the actual TV Show race, and just have fun.  We were both pretty sore, tired, and me extremely sweaty (called out be the host).  However, it was a GREAT experience, really fun, and really let us understand what we would have to work on if we were ever so lucky to get on the real AMAZING RACE ASIA!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Eurotrip Wrap-up and Hostel review

Well, for my last Eurotrip entry, I'll talk about my fun flight home, and what I thought about the hostels we stayed in.

Once Brent and I left Lagos, we headed back to Faro and boarded a Ryanair flight back to Dublin. There Brent stayed for a few more days, however, I made the tough choice of just staying at the airport and save money, as I was hurting for cash, and I needed it for things such as paying for my visa to TAIWAN where I would move a few weeks later after arriving home. After about 12+ hours in the airport, I was given a tough time checking through, and I was quite grumpy. BUT when I got on the plane, it was hilarious. During this time, the EURO reached record highs against the USD, so tons of Irish were going stateside to do some shopping. Lucky for me, I was seated amidst a group of middle aged Irish lasses who proceeded to get bombed the whole way to New York, and cheerfully bought me drinks to join in with them. hahaha. Needless to say when I eventually reached Halifax, my adventures were written all over my face! I loved Europe and WILL go back!!

NOW......About the hostels

London, England

The Smart Hyde Park Hostel - located near Hyde Park, and maybe a 5 min walk to the nearest tube. It's in a really nice area (upscale) but a little far away from some places. Very clean, free breakfast, courteous staff, washer/dryers to clean your clothes, etc. The rooms are a bit small, however, it was a good stay and good first hostel experience.

Brussels, Belgium

The Van Gogh Youth Hostel - Great location and close to the city center ( only a few minutes away from the main attractions). This hostel was pretty spread out, with two buildings across the street from each other. Great common area with delicious Belgian beer to be drank. The rooms were basic as we shared a room for 3. NO complaints.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Hostel Ann Marie - this hostel might take the cake as the WORST I experienced! I'll give it credit as it has a nice location fairly close to the Van Gogh Museum, but that's where I'll end any kudos. It's old and you just feel dirty. I actually wore my track pants tucked into sock when I slept. Bed bugs? Yah I'm assuming they have those. I dunno....You just feel dirty staying there.

Berlin, Germany

Meininger City Hostel - this was a great hostel to stay at! As I'm not sure of the layout of Berlin, it was a bit far from the train station, and a bit far to the main attractions around Brandenberg Gate, but it was a great stay. The rooms were nice, had a little kitchen for you to cook in, friendly staff, and had a HUGE BREAKFAST SELECTION! It was great. So much so that I actually made sandwiches for later in the day! Just make sure you get there early!

Munich, Germany

Wombats Hostel - It really seemed like a great hostel, but we were also there during Oktoberfest, which meant it was busy and messy as hell, with people who didn't even have a room staying there. It was really big. The rooms were spacious and clean, with a large bathroom. There's a small pub which was a good time. NOT sure if there is breakfast included. Super close from the Main station, and within a short walk to the Oktoberfest grounds! IF YOU ARE GOING TO OKTOBERFEST book at least 5-6 months in advance!!!! NO JOKE

Krakow, Poland

Tutti Frutti Hostel - Top 3 hostels I stayed at. Such a good time here. A bit difficult to find from the train station, but just ask to go to the town square if you're lost, and it's very close to there! Aside from the questionable name, this place is amazing. AWESOME staff. Huge Rooms, Good common room and kitchen. FREE breakfast....but make sure you're up early as it tends to go fast. Washer/dryers. Big bathrooms, great location. Honestly this place was really great, especially because of the staff.

Prague, Czech Republic

Elf Hostel - this little dingy hostel was decent, but also much to be desired. It was pretty small, however had decent sized rooms. Unfortunately, the common area was tiny and crowded, as well as the kitchen. Again, the rooms were big, with about 4 sets of bunk beds, BUT the mattresses that were used were literally cushions from a sofa or seat. MAYBE things have changed, but it was not a comfortable sleep. An early check-out was the consequence by us.

Vienna, Austria

Hostel Ruthensteiner - We stayed here for 3 nights and it is a place that I would definitely go back to. Very basic rooms, bathrooms, etc, but it was nice. Seemed like a huge place, with an excellent common area that was lively every night. The hostel also put on a really good pubcrawl that was definitely a time. There was both and indoor and outdoor kitchen(grill) which was pretty big as well. Definitely a good place to stay!

Split, Croatia

The Silver Gate Hostel - fantastic location and view from this hostel, large rooms however a little crowded in some, and decent bathrooms. The common area was pretty tiny and the hostel sort of forces you to go out and explore. The staff was definitely something to be desired....the guy was a wanker for sure. But overall it was a pretty good spot.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik Backpackers Club - fucking impossible to find!! Literally, if you arrive on bus, look across the water(on the other side of the cruiseships if they're there) and it's on top of that hill! Unfortunately we didn't know that. Also a little far out from the old walled city, BUT staying here definitely makes up for those shortcomings. GREATTT family who runs the place. Great rooms that are big and comfy. The mom will sometimes make traditional suppers if you'll pool some money together, and for us the Dad got wasted with us, sharing his homemade Bosnian moonshine! Great place to stay for sure.

Corfu, Greece

The PINK PALACE - I shouldn't even need to explain, but this place is unbelievable. First off, they'll pick you up at the port via the Pink Palace bus then take you there. Think a low scale resort. Basic rooms with single beds, but with A/C and private bathroom and balcony. It's a HUGE place. Complimentary OUZO shot upon arriving. THREE complimentary meals a day, including a 3-course dinner. Every Saturday there's a TOGA PARTY with flowing booze. TONS of activities to sign up for: Booze cruise, ATV/quad tour of the island, water sports, use of the industrial sized whirpool, bball court, beach. THIS PLACE IS AMAZING!!! honestly, and it's cheap as hell. Actually, the longer you stay the price goes down! Awesome spot!

Athens, Greece

Athens Backpackers Hostel - pretty decent spot. Lots going on here! Decent kitchen, bar/common area is a good time at night. Rooms are narrow, but enough space that it doesn't feel crowded. GREAT location to the main attractions (ex Acropolis), easy to find from the subway. Not much more you can really say. Just a solid hostel. Definitely no complaints

Pompei, Italy

AIG Youth Hostel (HI) - the face that this is a Hostel International might scare some people off, but it really wasn't that bad. Mostly due to the fact they are super strict with curfews, there's really not much trouble you're going to be getting into in Pompei, so it's a good place to stay. First off the grounds are massive, and the rooms are HUGE. So much space, even in the dorm rooms! Huge shower/bathroom area as well. Complimentary breakfast, however it's shit. Definitely a good place to stay the night, as I did, but nothing to write home about. PS if you miss curfew, then good luck trying to get through that massive door!

Rome, Italy

The Yellow Hostel - one of the more famous hostels in Rome, it has a good location, and really easy to find from the main station. Pretty busy place with lots to do, and there are a few more well known hostels neigbouring as well. The rooms are typical dorm rooms, with a locker under the bed. A little cramped, and the communal showers are TINYYY. I'm 6'1 and could barely turn around in them. But for Rome this place is decent. There's a pretty good pub attached downstairs. Make sure you sign up for the Spanish Steps Pubcrawl!!!


Florence, Italy

- to start with, it was a little out of the way from the Duomo and main square, however, it was just a short walk over the old town bridge which was a nice walk. It was in an unassuming building on it's own floor and was basically more of a glorified apartment. With that being said, we had a huge 3 bed room, actually I think dan's was more of a pull out, hahaha. The common room was big and comfortable, and it actually seemed like we had the whole place to ourselves! If you're looking for a no frills, relaxing and quiet place to stay, then I would recommend this place for sure.


Nice, France

Hotel Baccarat - after a nice little trot from the train station, this mini hotel seemed a little seedy, but was a decent place to stay. The rooms reminded me a lot of the Smart Hyde Park Hostel in London, being very cramped, however we had the dorm room of 4 bunk beds to ourselves, so we weren't complaining. There was internet downstairs, however, I cannot remember if it was free or pay. The hostel was a little bit away from the city center and beach, but it was a nice walk and seemed to be in a decent neighbourhood, so one can't complain.

Barcelona, Spain

Kabul Hostel - is conveniently located just off of Las Ramblas (the main street) in a nice little square, and in perfect location for all attractions. Upon entering the hostel we knew it was party time, as you enter almost right in the common room/dinning room/ bar of the hostel. Definitely a great spot! The hostel will organize pub crawls, play sporting events on a big screen, serve dinner (pay) and also serve beer (pay). It's a very big hostel, so you're sure to meet tons of people and find lots of great things to do in Barcelona!!


Madrid, Spain

the Euro Global Youth Hostel - is a small hostel with only about 3 or 4 rooms. I was in a large dorm room with about 5 or 6 bunk beds, while Brent was in a smaller 3 bed room. Small bathroom, small kitchen, but it was nice, and the people were friendly. Great location in the heart of Madrid.

Lagos, Portugal

RISING COCK HOSTEL. I can honestly say that this place was amazing. Lots of space, nice rooms, amazing staff, fun people, what more could you ask for? Well, aside from Selmo (the son of the family that runs the hostel) being a fantastic guy, who also runs the amazing NANABAH's restaurant across the street....best burgers ever!!.....Mama and Papa show up every morning to make FREE crepes for breakfast. YES i'll say it again, free crepes!! Now free breakfast at a hostel is good enough, but these are amazing!! Additionally, it's a convenient location to town centre, the beaches and everything else you want to do in Lagos. The hostel also organizes a Booze Cruise and can sign you up for a surfing adventure!


Well, to wrap things up, after 3 + months of traveling I was ready for a long rest and head back to the comforts of home. Europe was everything I could have imagined and then some! There are still a ton of places that I want to visit, and many places I will return to someday! Until then I'll just keep exploring the rest of the world

Saturday, October 30, 2010

LAGOS!!!!! Portugal


What more can I say? LAGOS, Portugal, not to be mistaken with lagos, nigeria, was honestly one of my favorite destinations of the journey. Perhaps it was due to the fact we stayed there for an extended period, or the perfect weather, or stunning scenery, or amazing hostel, or great people.....or just all of those things combined!! LAGOS really was amazing.

To begin with, after a long journey from Seville, Spain by bus, we finally made it to the bus station. We really had no clue which way to go once leaving the bus station, but luckily a nice older lady told us the way. After stumbling around and stopping into the Three Monkey's Pub, where we would later frequent, we arrived at the RISING COCK HOSTEL. I can honestly say that this place was amazing. Lots of space, nice rooms, amazing staff, fun people, what more could you ask for? Well, aside from Selmo (the son of the family that runs the hostel) being a fantastic guy, who also runs the amazing NANABAH's restaurant across the street....best burgers ever!!.....Mama and Papa show up every morning to make FREE crepes for breakfast. YES i'll say it again, free crepes!! Now free breakfast at a hostel is good enough, but these are amazing!! Just that alone should make you want to go!

Well back to our happenings. So when we first checked in, we met up with our old pal Dan, who had left us in Italy to come work for the Hostel. We immediately set off for a messy night, and beginning of a beauty stay. The next day we got up and hit the town and beach for some hungover relaxation, and enjoyed the sun. Unfortunately for us because it was in november, the booze cruise was shut down and the water was a tad chilly, but it was all good! Essentially for the next week + this was our life. Unbelievable.

Things got even better on Dan's first day off when he took us on a little hike along the coast for some stunning scenery of grotto's and turquoise water, and finally a beach that was easily a couple of hundred feet down, which you had to take ropes down to. It was sick! Of course, we would come back here numerous times with more and more people. We also went back to the Three Monkey's where we were introduced to a running tally for the "Beer-Bong-a-Thon" aka funnel, for each country. Over my time there we added a nice amount for Canada! haha. SIDENOTE: other great bars were INSIDE OUT and JAM (where our Aussie friend and staff from the rising cock decided to do a handstand behind the bar and take out half of the bottles! ahahhaa)

Our time in Lagos also led to a lot of random happenings!! Random happening #1. While returning from a spirited game of St. Mary's/bball. Brent, Dan and I ran into Brock & Emily again!! Yes the same couple from Corfu and Greece! Which we would again party together.
#2. Luke and Sebastien from Barcelona followed in our footsteps and came to Lagos to party it up. #3 I met Darcy Murnaghan. Who is he might ask? Well from playing the name game, we realized that we had played hockey against each other for YEARS as he played for the Charlettetown Abbies! #4 At the Three Monkey's there were pictures and flags of the Trailer Park Boys and Cape Breton! (especially random to see those things there!) AND we just met a ton of random people that we met during the course of our travels!

While I was there, I also worked a few nights for the hostel as they were in need of some workers, and I was in need of some free nights (and t-shirts!). Unfortunately, I missed out on some quality partying, but you gotta do what you gotta do! Actually, I was also bartender for a few nights making some FLying Saucers! Which actually turned out damn good!

Finally, I was introduced to the Aussie cult classic CHOPPER! What a crazy movie, in a role played by Eric Banna! There was even a life sized cutout of chopper in the awesome common/living room at the Rising Cock, where they had seemingly an endless supply of movies and free wireless internet! Again, the best hostel!

Lagos was amazing. It was one of those places that everything just fell together and we all had an amazing time! It had such a cool and relaxed feel about it and I definitely would love to make it back there!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Storytime in Seville

As I mentioned in my last post, the trains in Spain were awesome, as well as the stations, which I couldn't get over. Anyways, as we left Madrid we were in the same car as a group of Americans, and one of the guys was a spitting image of Jazzy Jeff from Fresh Prince...anyways the guy had the most RIDICULOUS laugh ever, which was funny at first, then just got plain annoying. Eventually we made it to Seville, cut across town by taxi and headed to the bus station. Didn't stay there long, but got to see a brief glimpse of The Cathedral of Seville. However, we were on a mission, and continued onwards. This is where things turn for the worse....or better...you decide. And here comes the story which deserves its own post.

So we're in the bus station waiting in line for tickets, when some clown shows up behind us and starts making lots of noise. After a while, we realized he was Hammered and very agitated. So much so to the point that he cut line and went to the ticket counter and tried to get a ticket. Of course he was told to wait, and he proceeded to argue. During this argument, he drops his documents and bends over to retrieve them, and lo and behold his pants ride down and gives EVERYONE a few of his man thong. At first we all were stunned and sickened. I'm pretty sure a lady dove to cover her kids eyes, and then we laughed. Anyways security came and kicked him out. So we got our tickets and the waiting game started. However, this was not the last we had seen of Thong Man. A short while later, we see him sneaking back in, with his sweet track suit. Again, security kick him out, and again we get a full shot of the said man thong. After a long laugh and shaking of our head, we finally boarded the bus for our trip to Faro, Portugal. So as we settle in, we leave the bus station, turn the corner and are just starting to cross the bridge when we see ol' Thong Man on the bridge, ass half hanging out, and looked to be even more hammered and crying. It was at this point that almost everyone on the bus laughed, and off we drove to Portugal where we'd spend the next 2 weeks.

The rest of the trip to Lagos was pretty uneventful. Once arriving in Faro, we had to get on another bus, a local one which means you stop EVERYWHERE, and then finally to Lagos. Unfortunately there was a fellow backpacker sitting in front of me who had breath so bad he could have knocked a buzzard off a shitwagon.....however i survived and made it to the last stop!

Movember in Madrid


Once we finally got our act together and got out of Barcelona, we headed west for the Capital city of Madrid for a few days. On the way, we had one of the most comfortable trains rides of the trip. Spanish railway is wicked! I would say it is almost on par with German and Austrian, and well ahead of overrated Italian rail. While on the train, I attempted to read the newspaper and came across an interesting picture of Uncle Sam, which still amuses me until this day.

When arriving in Madrid Central Station, it felt as though we just arrived by air. The place was massive, even with a forest inside! When we finally made it to our hostel, where we would stay for 3 nights, the Euro Global Youth Hostel. We checked in and relaxed before heading out to get something to eat. It is a small hostel with only about 3 or 4 rooms. I was in a large dorm room with about 5 or 6 bunk beds, while Brent was in a smaller 3 bed room. Small bathroom, small kitchen, but it was nice, and the people were friendly.

As we headed out, I told Brent to direct us to a good place to eat...and that was a mistake. After walking around aimlessly, we ended up across the street from the hostel at the truly Spanish restaurant TGI Friday's. hahah. Having a great night sleep, I was awoken by my gay Brazilian roommates who decided to hit on me and ask if we wanted to go with them. I promptly declined. That day we hit up all the main touristy places such as Bernabau Stadium, where they wanted 80Euro for nosebleed section seats, Gran Via, Plaza Mayor, and Plaza Sol. That night amidst walking around, we stumbled upon two interesting happenings. First, a red carpet event, which ended up being the ATP Womens Tennis Tour, so we hung around and got to see some of the Top Ranked Players, who I must say were very attractive! Secondly, not far away and on the street with the police station, Prostitutes were allllll over the place, which we thought was hilarious. We then made it to a nice little pub to get some food and chill.

The next day was more of the same, but at night Jermaine from the Hostel took a group of us out for a walking tour of some of the old parts of town, then to a sick little Irish Pub where we watched the Football Match and I ate some Sheppards Pie...yummmm!

Madrid was massive and very pretty, but at times felt too big. The weather was brisk, and we were both starting to get colds, so that might have made the impressions not the greatest. Although the last night with the squad from the hostel really turned my opinion and I think I'd like to return. It was also during this time that I abandoned my attempt to go to Morocco, and we decided on heading straight to Lagos, Portugal for sun, and getting healthy.....haha, and for the last days of our journey.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

VIVA ESPANA! Bouncy Bouncy in Barcelona

I didn't even realize in my last post that it had been a few months since I wrote on here!! What have I been up to!! Hahaaha. Well I was busy with my final semester of coursework for my Masters degree, now just thesis writing! Also had suspected Dengue Fever, traveled to Cebu, Philippines, and job hunting like crazy.

Anyways, ONTO SPAINNNN

After departing Nice, we took a full day train to Barcelona. It wasn't that bad of a trip actually, we ended up jumping a few different trains, and spent a few hours in a tiny town in North-East Spain, where we hit up a local pub for cervasas and hamburgesas (spelling? haha). It was pretty cool for us to struggle in Spanish, yet eat delicious food! Then we got back on the train and headed South.

When we made it into Barcelona, we had to take the subway into town. Finally making it to Las Ramblas ( the main street in the city) and onto the Kabul Hostel, which would be our home for 5 nights! It was conveniently located just off of Las Ramblas in a nice little square, and in perfect location for all attractions. Upon entering the hostel we knew it was party time, as you enter almost right in the common room/dinning room/ bar of the hostel. We then checked in and went to our 20 person dorm room aka The Barnyard because of the noises that were made when sleeping.....(snoring and more). There we ended up meeting Luke, Sebastien, Jesse (whom we met in Croatia-Dan's friend), Mary-Beth, Paige, Captain Insano (creeepy dude from Toronto area) and a few others. They were all great to hang out with, and we partied it up for the first 2-3 days before they took off. After the first night of getting HAMMERED at the hostel, Brent and I finally arose after lunch, hit up McD's for McCervezas and food, and then met everyone at the beach. Ok beach, with coooold water to cure the hangover, which only the Canadian boys and Aussies enjoyed. The rest refused. On the way back, we caught a glimpse of some beautiful yachts in an International/World race, which were really spectacular, and then headed home.

That night we hit up the SHOT bar, which was another mess, but a good time had by all. The next day was more of the same, just some sight seeing, including Parc Quell which gives a beautiful view of the city and stunning scenery! That night half of the crew departed, so just the boys went on the pubcrawl, which was another good time! Followed by the next day of sightseeing and at night a truly awesome event occurred. As we were just hanging out in the hostel, we were told there'd be a HUGE pillow fight on Las Ramblas. So drinks in hand we ventured up the street and there it was. Spanish version of MTV had 2 huge crates of pillows, which was supposed to be like 2 teams with DJ's as the Captains. Anyways, it was on air, and all hell broke loose, and it was great until someone socked me in the eye, then my pillow blew up, which I ended up wearing on my head, and became a fan favorite! hahah

The next day was epic! we arose to an abundance of clamour, which turned out to be tens of thousands of Glasgow Rangers fans who were in town for the UEFA Champions League match between Rangers and FC Barcelona. These guys were awesome! hammered, loud, singing silly songs such as " Bouncy bouncy bouncy bouncy la la la la la" and even" Winter Wonderland"
They were everywhere on Las Ramblas and beyond. That night, Brent and I moved from the barnyard into a room with 2 Scottish brothers, and proceded to get hammered again at the hostel, this time I got a history lesson about the rivalry between Celtic and Rangers, which was quite interesting, especially because earlier when I first met the brothers, Brent had told them I was an Irish-Catholic, whom they said they would have jumped me if they were in Glasgow! hhahah. Anyways, the next day we hit up the Sagrada de Familia Cathedral, which was magnificent, and then at night watched the Champions League game with almost the whole hostel at the hostel bar on a huge screen they set up.

The next day, for the second day in a row, Brent aka Duck Ass (kindly given to him by Luke) and I missed trains to a destination (Valencia and San Sebastien, respectively) so we made plans to head to Madrid. After another siteseeing and nice day in Barcelona, we took off early the next morning for the Spanish Capital.

My overall thoughts of Barcelona is that it was, and still is, one of my favorite city's in the world, and I definitely want to go there with Andy!

It's Nice in Nice


After we left Florence, Brent, Dan and I took off by train heading North, where eventually we would part ways with Dan...for the time being. Dan was heading to Milan, and then flying to Portugal to work at the Rising Cock hostel in Lagos, where we'd meet up again in a few weeks time.

As for Brent and I, we decided to bypass places such as Pisa, and Cinque Terra and head directly to the sunny South of France and enjoy some relaxation. On the way we met some Americans who kindly shared their wine with us, and before we knew it we were passing through the Monte Carlo train station (underground/tunnel and just wreaked of money and high quality! Wish we really would have explored there) and then onto Nice.

My first thoughts were that it was a dirty place....especially around the train stations, but as we made our way to the hostel, the feeling of the city really took over. Super relaxing and in some area's, super high class. Relaxation was in the air, and it was very much needed.

We stayed at the Hotel Baccarat for 3 nights, and it was nice because we had about a 6 person room just to ourselves. For the most part we just relaxed for a few days, went to the beach, which was beautiful for many reasons, and just enjoyed the nice sites and beautiful weather. As well, we dominated the local Subway, because their local sub flavour was unreal! It was honestly uneventful there, aside from a very nicely dressed gentlemen walking through a pile of puppy poop that had just been dropped about a minute before! He flipped, and onlookers laughed, as we did. That's about it. For the most part we were trying to decide where we'd go and when. I was heavily looking into going to Morocco, and we were also trying to decide when to fly home to Halifax, but that took a back seat for the time being, and we just enjoyed the time there.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Roma & Firenze

So after our ridiculous departure, we headed a few hours north to the capital and ancient city of Rome. Here we only ended up staying 2 nights, as we were trying to make it to Florence for Halloween with the Americans we met in Greece.

Rome

Once in Rome, we made our way to The Yellow Hostel, which is one of the more popular hostels. It was pretty nice, pretty much all you needed. A solid place, and worth the price. So anyways, the first day we met back up with Dan, who had been there since our split just before Pompei. The first night we went on the infamous “Spanish Steps Pub Crawl,” which I must say was quite the time, and one of the best ones we were on the whole trip. Unfortunately, the next morning Brent and I planned an early wake up to hit up the Vatican before the crazy mid morning rush. Again, thanks to that hang over (evident by my picture at the Vatican), we ended up getting there later than expected, and were in crazyyyyy lines. We did make it inside though, and saw absolutely beautiful sculptures, frescoes, etc, and to be honest the Sistine Chapel was very impressive. We did manage to sneak a few pics, even though there were armed guards telling people not to. Also, the place is a zoo in there. There’s no chance of taking your time to look around. It’s like your cattle being herded and pushed down the halls at all times. That being said, inside the Vatican is pretty much a beautiful museum. Next, we made our way outside to the Square to take pictures of St. Peter's Basilica. As you can see by my pictures, I wasn’t looking the most respectable. We also decided at this point that we didn’t want to deal with the lines so we bypassed going inside the tombs. A decision that I now regret.

From the Vatican, we made our way to the Coliseum, which was really cool to see. So many tourists outside, and you could just sense the history there. We didn’t go inside because many people say that it’s just a waste of money…..in this case, a decision I don’t regret. We also checked out the surrounding grounds of the Coliseum, which were ruins of the ancient city, and definitely cool

I really liked Rome. I really wish we could have spent a few more days there, but I think we were really starting to be money conscious, and expensive cities like that were hurting the wallet. That being said, I missed out on a lot of cool sites, and only hope that I can make it back there!

Florence………

Well as my title suggests, I wasn’t overly impressed with this city. When we first got there, it took us forever to find out little hostel and it was raining, so we weren’t in the best of spirits. But, looking back, the hostel was nice. The three of us shared a huge double room, and the hostel was pretty much like a huge apartment, just renting out the rooms. Anyways, back to the city.

Florence is actually a beautiful little city, with a super Italian feel. There were some really nice sites, and lookouts of the city, and of course there were the infamous Duomo, and Michelangelo’s “David.” Both of which are stunning. There were also night cobblestone streets, and nice little shops and restaurants to boot! We even made it to a Serie A football match between Firenze (Florence) and Napoli (Naples). This was one of the best parts about the time there, as it was a good match, and we really found out how NUTS the Italian football fans are! I mean some people didn’t even watch the match, rather they just taunted and threatened the others sides fans! Works can’t do justice how fun it was there!

Now, you may ask why I have a hate on for Florence, after just giving the opening account. Don’t get me wrong, I can see why people like it and think it’s beautiful, but I was super jaded after leaving, and obviously still am. Here’s why:

1) When we went to the soccer match the first night, we weren’t allowed to bring drinks in….fine….but when Brent went and bought us all a round, they were non-alcoholic!! WTF! Haha….ok silly I know

2) I found out why people find Italians snobby. In all my life I have never felt so looked down upon. People would literally stare at you and openly check you out, and it felt like they’d spit on me if they could for not dressing to Italian standards.

3) We stood in line for almost an hour for the David. They paid a hefty fee to see it. That’s ok too. BUT, if you’re waiting and paying that much, give us something else to look at!!! The rest of the place SUCKS!! You just stay in there longer to make your money feel like it was well spent. Note: you’re better off standing outside the exit door (many people will be there) and just snap a few pics! I snuck a few pics, but they catch people and make them erase!

4) We met up with the Americano’s to hit up a Halloween party at a local club. So we all dressed up, and had a great time. BUT while there they give you like a punch card for drinks, where you pay at the end. But there system is ridiculous. Most people think you pay at the door on the way out! NO NO NO, they make you go all the way inside to pay at the bar, and of course when they’re closing, half of the bar is doing the same, so you have to fight to just pay to get out. This happened to me. Of course I got a receipt for paying…then most likely threw it out, because when I got to the door they wouldn’t let me out!! Instead they said I would have to pay like 75Euros bc I lost the receipt and thought I lied. At this point I flipped out. Everyone else was outside at this point, and the bouncers surrounded me!! Anyways, I pretended to look for the receipt, and when I had an opening I made a break for it….which included karate chopping the bounces arm who tried to stop me, and I just kept going…..STUPID bar and STUPID scenario

5) Then as were making our way back to the hostel, Brent and his lady were ahead, and some young locals decided to be tough and push him, hard, into her. Of course, I was still pissed and tried fighting them…hahaha, Angry Jim was on a rampage!! Anyways, we made our way back, and the next day Silly Florence was just a memory.

Again, it’s a beautiful city, but now you can see why I dislike it. It only takes one bad experience to ruin your outlook on something….I had more than one reason why.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Ciao Italia - Pompei & the journy to Rome

Upon splitting up from our Corfu group, and Dave going his own way, me, Brent and Dan made our way to Italy. After countless hours on crappy local trains, seeing more hopeful stowaways lurking in the streets at the port city of Patras, we finally got on a ferry to make our way back to the good ol' town of Bari, Italy. Now for a supposed shithole of a city, I actually grew quite fond of this little place. It gave an authentic Italian flavor, and we had a much better 2nd outing there. However, we didn't last too long there, as we pretty much just walked directly across the town and to the train station. After checking our bags, we walked around for a while, only to just end up at the train station. Eventually we boarded our train, sans mon chapeau, which Brent left....still sour. hahah. Along this journey, we split from Dan for a few days as me and Brent were going to the ancient city of Pompei, and Dan was going to Rome.

Once we split, our excitement began....well not really. First we ended up at some shady station waiting for a connecting train, and as we were there, a creepy Swiss kept talking to us, and he actually followed us and stayed at the same hostel as us......now looking back, he was probably harmless, however, a middle aged traveler asking tons of questions is also creepy. Also, while waiting, there was a legit Schitzo there. Literally walking around, saluting the cops, and then making barnyard noises....doing this straight for at least 30 min. Finally we got on the next local train and off to Pompei

Pompei

The actual city of Pompei (modern day) was nice, just a small Italian city. Luckily for us it was the weekend, and the nights really come alive then! We hit up a small restaurant for a delicious pizza, and then had to scurry back to our hostel. Now, this was the first "Y" hostel we stayed at...it was the AIG YOUTH HOSTEL (HI). It really wasn't that bad, the place was massive...huge rooms with few beds, etc. However, they have strict curfew rules, and gave a shitty breakfast....but really it was good for that little town..i guess

So, the ancient Pompei ruins. Unbelievable! I mean in the background you see MT. Vesuvius, the volcano that exploded thousands of years ago and buried the city in ash! I mean some of the fresco's looked no worse for the wear! The architecture and layout of the city, the intricate decorations, the planning of the city (streets, gutters, districts, etc) were astonishing for a town that existed so long ago....and then of course the perfectly preserved bodies!! It was pretty crazy. I really enjoyed our time there, even though it was basically a day trip, but definitely worth it!

Rome

After leaving Pompei, we made our way to Rome via Napoli (Naples). This is where one of the craziest stories of our journey happened....we have no pictures or videos, but believe me, this was mayhem. SO, we're at the main station in Naples, and we're just about to board our train (trains in Italy of wayyyy overpriced for the old pieces of shit you ride on! Really...they're a huge rip off!!) Anyways, so we get on, and all we hear is like a crazy rally. Shouting, Cheering, Yelling, Megaphones, Whistles....anything you can think of. So me and brent stick our heads out of the window and literally see HUNDREDS of seem to be Africans and Middle Eastern/Indians running at the train. In seconds it was like water breaking on rocks....the train was flooded with these people, and next thing you know we have people basically sitting on us. I mean trying to sit on the arms of the chair, etc. At this point I was ready to drill someone......then all of a sudden, someone outside starts yelling and they all get off.....apparently they didn't all of tickets. So, we're now we have no idea what's going on, ask the usher when we're going to leave, and he tells us to go on the train to Rome across the platform....So we grab our bags and scoot over to that car. Wouldn't you know it, as soon as we enter that train, our original one takes off!! Now we're shitting that those jokers will come on this train! Luckily for us, minutes later we're off, and left that foolishness behind in Napoli.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Athens


After a week long TIME in Corfu, a squad of us from the Pink Palace decided to travel together and make our way, via bus, across Greece to the capitol city of Athens. We shacked up at the Athens Backpackers Hostel for 3 nights, which was actually a great location and walking distance to the Acropolis, Olympic Stadium and other main sites! The hostel itself was pretty decent, with a good crowd, and actually the whole squad of American students came on the 3rd day that we were there, which was cool to see some friends again.

As for Athens itself, I was very impressed. The history of the city smacks you right in the face, with ancient artifacts and sites seemingly everywhere! The Acropolis was really awesome. Even though there was tons of construction/rebuilding, you can't actually describe it unless you've been there. This might seem cliche, but many of the temples etc, actually seem as though gods made them! They were massive. You also get an incredible view of the entirety of the city of Athens, as the Acropolis is situated well above on a small mountain?/hill. We also hit up many of the main historical sites there too, such as the Gateway to Olympion, and the original stadium of the Olympics. We also cruised around the streets for a while, and just checked things out, and nursed ourselves back to working conditions after the Pink Palace!

There were a few random things that happened, highlighted by us walking down the street and seeing a spray-painted logo of BORF (who knows what that is>) but it looked identical do Dave!
We also had surprise guests, as on the third day we were there, when just starting the day, who roles into the room but Brock and Emily (the girl who drove off the cliff in Corfu). And this would not be the last random meeting we had. We had a few good nights at the bar in the hostel and sharing stories, and on the 3rd night we hit up the bar with the Americans, which was pretty funny and a good time. However, we also had one of the biggest rip offs happen to us in Athens as well. One of the days there we decided to go for a decent lunch, so a squad of us hit up Gods Kitchen.....well after what we thought was getting a sweet deal...the arsehole fleeced us, and when we argued that he was ripping us off/ charging us well above what we had agreed to....he threatened us to call the cops!! SO if you go to Athens, dont' eat at Gods Kitchen!!

Unfortunately, this is where our squad ended, as the Corfu folks went their own way.....Dave took off on his own adventure, and Dan, Brent and I headed for Italy.

I really enjoyed Athens, and especially the unreal and orginal Gyros there! AMAZING! I would definitely go back!

Friday, June 18, 2010

CORFUUU & the Pink Palace





So, after spending the night wandering around Bari, Italy, and sleeping in the park, we found ourselves on yet another ferry to Igoumenitsa, Greece, then on to the island of Corfu. Well, when we arrived in Igoumenitsa we quickly found out that it was a popular port for many illegal middle-eastern men to try and jump ship and make it to Italy or elsewhere. Anyways, at one point as we were waiting around for our ferry to Corfu, Brent and Dave went off to use the washroom or something, and the next thing you know I'm surrounded by guys. Now I have all of the backpacks, and had no idea what to do. So they start talking to me in broken English, and I find out they're all Kurds from Iraq. For some reason they kept saying "George Bush good" and I said no I don't think so....and that I'm Canadian. Finally, when they heard Canada, they didn't believe me...so of course like an idiot I yank out my passport and show it to them. Next thing you know they're all passing it around, and I'm thinking that's the last time I'll see it. At this point Brent and Dave come back to see this and have no idea what to do. Anyways, long story short, I got the passport back no problem, they were nice guys actually, and they told us that a lot of the time they get beat up by security on the ships.....which we saw first hand as a guy was beaten on a ship to Italy and brought back, as we were sitting there! hahah. Off to paradise!

When we arrived at the Pink Palace, we were met by an American staff member, Matt I think, and he promptly gave us our welcoming Ouzo shot at like 6am. He then proceeded to tell us that we had booked only for a few days, but we'd definitely want a week, as a ton of American exchange students from Florence were coming....so we obliged and stayed the week. We then crashed for a few hours, awaking to Dan and Jesse arriving, in what was a nutzo trip for them there too!

The whole week there was crazy....we were wasted the whole time, thus where the classic shout outs of "Your MOM (Dave)" "F*** youuuu (drunken Dave) and "Yimmmmyyy" as I was referred to. We also went on the Booze Cruise with Cpt. George....a dirty dirty old man....but that was a good time, made some really good friend, and went cliff jumping from a ridiculous height...we also met a great crew of ppl who we ended up traveling to Athens with (Wade-Aus, Rory-Irish, Spencer-Can, Sarah-Aus, Cathryn-US, and me brent dave and dan).....anyways, other highlights included the Americans (about 200) who were fun to party with, but at that time we also had a crew of our own, a great kayak trip, the Crazy ATV trip and the toga party. Side story...back to the "Your Mom," and "F- You" that Dave so loved to say, especially drunk, led to a pretty funny happening. So dave kept telling Matt, the bartender, about his mom, yada yada, therefore Matt kept making Dave drink more....leading to Dave getting FAF and going to the room and passing out. Therefore, Dan filled a bucket full of water, we all snuck to our room and threw it on Dave......but, he was so drunk, he didn't flinch, or even know it happened. The video of it is priceless. This also led to me and brent being locked out of our room. We tried boosting brent through the bathroom window, to know luck, so I took it upon myself (while hammered) to scale the balconies from Dan and Jesse's room to ours. However, this also involved a little leap to another balcony...all the while about 20ft up or more! I made it to our balcony to find that also locked......how did i rescue myself you ask? Well i went to another balcony, knocked on their patio door, walked through their room and let myself out! hahah.....later we found the key on the ledge of the bathroom window.....

First, the toga party was awesome! Everyone dresses in a pink toga, eats dinner, and then there's a disco. It's highlighted by the owner Dr. George carrying a table in his mouth that's on fire, plates being broken on his head, and a ring of fire around him.....then to top it off, we all get massive shots of Ouzo from a bucket! what a timeeeee!

The ATV tour was a sick 4 wheel trip all over the island, with some beauty spots. However, this was crazy bc a couple Brock &Emily were on it. She was only a little girl, and when we were driving up a cliff (with no guard rails) she punched it, and literally went straight off the cliff! Seeing it, we all thought she was a goner, but somehow she managed to catch a branch of some shrub, and only went down like 50 ft! the 4 wheeler went down a few hundred! She walked away with minor injuries, but it was crazyyyyy. Cristo, the tour guide, was the man too....he seemed like he belonged in a porn or something! haha

All in all, this place was awesome. Not just for the party, but the price is right too. At the time it was like 14 Euros a day, which gave you a decent 2-3 person room, breakfast, lunch and a 3 course dinner!! It really was sick. Plus this is where I learned to bartend the FLYING SAUCER, which would come in handy in Portugal.