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 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 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 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.


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.