Poor Stevie

January 2011 archive

high five: the most romantic moments

We’ve been home now for 11 days. I have spent the last few of those 11 days unexpectedly trying to get me a job. So, understandably, I have not been in the most romantic of moods. After you spend all day trying to sell yourself to strangers (on paper, that is), the last thing you feel like doing is getting weird and lovey dovey with your husband. Unless, of course, he pulls an excellent job opportunity out of his pocket and later reveals his generous super package.

So, all poor old J-man can do at the moment is read this here blog and remember the days when we were flushed with cash and in love.  From the bottom of my now cold, dead heart I bring you my five most romantic moments overseas:

lock

This is a neat tradition you see all over Europe. People put their initials on padlocks, lock ’em to bridges or railings and throw the key in the water. How cheesy and disgusting. I would never do that.

Taking in the view of Florence from Piazza Michelangelo. To get to the top of this hill in Florence, you’re forced to walk past tiny shops with strings of fresh vegetables hanging on the door frames, buzzing wine bars and lovely Italian villas. As I trudged up the hill, I wasn’t expecting that much. It’s a view of a city, I thought, I could care less. Give me Real Housewives of Beverly Hills over this crapola any day. But, as it turned out, it’s not just any view. It’s a beautiful view on top of a lovely hill, where there are stalls to buy wine and warm chestnuts, people having their wedding photos taken and young couples huddling together on the steps. An autumn breeze blew lots of lovely aromas around and I just felt so content, happy and lucky to have such a wonderful J-man to share all of this with. A wonderful J-man who didn’t mind when I forgot that most Italians can speak English and blurted out: “Look! That boy matched his socks and undies! What colour are your undies today?!”

Taking the ferry in Venice. J-man, the vulgar romantic that he is, was planning to surprise me with a gondola ride. I pried his secret plans out of him with meticulous skill and then firmly told him no, I wasn’t interested. See, the thing is, gondola rides can cost more than 100 euro. Plus, if you want your rowing man to sing, you gotta pay even bigger bucks. At the time I felt like the grinch who stole my own marriage, but I’m glad we didn’t fork out a kidney and a half for foul touristy dross. Instead, we hopped on a public ferry that took us from our place, near the train station, around to San Marco in about 20 minutes. A lot of tourists had done the same thing, but there were also some genuine Venitian businessmen and families just going about their business and taking the ferry around the city. Plus, Venice is just beautiful and it’s hard not to get all wussy about it. When we got to San Marco, we walked around the square together and happily talked about our future. Gag, I know.

Going to Disneyland.  Throughout our trip, I was hoping that we would have enough money to visit Disneyland when we finally ended up in LA. I went to Tokyo Disneyland on a school trip, but J-man has never been and, you guys, he is the cutest when he’s excited. I would pay $80 just to see THAT. We went in mid-December and it was the perfect time of year to go, with every ride somehow Christmasafied. We started the day slowly, with the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters and the Storybook Land Canal Boats. I could see J-man was kind of bummed. This stuff’s for lame, idiot kids, I could hear him thinking. That was until I took him on the kablamo awesome that is Space Mountain. It blew his mind. Of course, we did the Mad Tea Party, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and even It’s A Small World (CHRISTMAS!) My favourite was the Haunted Mansion, which was revamped in the style of Tim Burton’s A Nightmare Before Christmas (CHRISTMAS!) for Christmas. But, the best part of the day was when the sun went down and we sipped the famous Disneyland hot chocolate and watched the Christmas parade. It was nice to feel carefree and be swept up in the magic. Barf.

Hanging out in the Malasaña district, Madrid. Spain’s capital was the last stop on our four month trip around Europe and we were exhausted, dirty, a little bit sick and really over each other. Instead of visiting churches, museums and taking walking tours, we decided to take a little break. A little Spanish break, how quaint! So we saw lots of movies, including The Town (hello, Ben Affleck, touch me?), ate until our bellies hurt, drank Sangria, went to crazy food markets and slept in a lot. We spent a lot of time in Malasaña, just wandering around, checking out shops and cafes. One of my favourite moments was devouring an incredible red velvet cupcake in a deserted playground while it drizzled. Life is good, dudes. Vom.

Locking the shit out of our love on the Pont des Arts in Paris. OK, so we carved our initials into a padlock, attached it to the bridge and threw the keys into the water. Gross, right? Our last night in Paris was the only romantic night we actually planned, but it was so much more amazing than I could have hoped. We had dinner at the McDonald’s near the Louvre, in the hopes of having a Royal with Cheese (no such thing, apparently). I remember I was worried about something and J-man worked his usual magic and talked me down from the top of the (figurative) Eiffel Tower over a serve of cold fries. When we left the Louvre to head to the bridge, it was drizzling and, huddling under umbrellas, we happened to catch the sparkling light show on the tower. Then we did the deed on the bridge (edit: some readers have mistaken this for actually doing the actual deed on the bridge. I actually mean this is the point at which we attached the love lock to the bridge). Afterwards we went to a little, empty bar and sipped on mulled wine, sitting on purple velvet chairs. A little part of me will always be in that bar in Paris (lame).

the city sunset over me

It’s the last ever night of our trip, ever.  It feels weird. We’re drinking beer and trying not to think about it.

One thing is for sure: I’m definitely not the same girl that left Australia on July 4, 2010.

departure

Photo totally stolen from Julia

My hair is longer, I think I’ve put on a  couple of kegs, I threw out those shoes in Greece after finding mould on them and those jeans are now navy blue with a hole in the crotch (I’m wearing them, anyway). Apart from those obvious changes, there a few more subtle differences now that I’ve seen the world, maaaan.

high five: my favourite hostels

One of my worst fears while travelling – other than being kidnapped and taken into the Bulgarian mountains by a crazy sect and forced to grow a beard – was having to stay in a bad hostel. The worst place we stayed on our entire trip was our first hostel in London and it nearly put me off hostels forever. We were in an eight-bed dorm, with a leaking toilet that people (read: dudes) kept using anyway. On our first night some guys came in during the middle of the night and organised their drug-taking-party-fun-times, which required a lot of whispering, racking up and the use of torches. The next night a bunch of people came in really late, obviously on the disco biscuits, as we hip young folk call them, and one couple made out and felt each other’s bits for about four hours. J-man liked it more than I did.

After that horrifying experience, we were much more picky about the hostels we chose.  In reality, I think it’s hard to find a really, really bad hostel. Like I said in my previous post, just look for the ones with the best reviews.

These were my favourites:

Centrum Hostel, Budapest: This little number reminded me a lot of a student house, ala Heartbreak High. The owner, a super cool guy named Alex (who also happened to be cute), was so accommodating and liked to confuse everyone by using the greeting “good evening” at all times of the day. We liked him a lot. He cooked everyone dinner every night, took us to some cool bars and generally just treated us like friends. It really felt like home and we ended up staying for five nights, having originally booked for three. Unlike a lot of hostels, which are more like re-jigged motels with lots of rooms, this one was actually in an apartment so we got to know everyone pretty well over wine and stew at the dinner table. Yep, a dinner table. Also, fresh bread rolls and Nutella were served for breakfast. Win!

budapest

We don’t have photos of the Budapest hostel. But here’s a picture of J-man at Buda Castle, just shooting the breeze. As in, he didn’t hit anything.

Archi Rossi, Florence: We had the greatest time of our lives in Florence – it was so, so romantic, friendly and beautiful – and it was made even better by this hostel, which had everything you could ever want. It had comfy rooms, lots of computers, really big, clean bathrooms, and was attached to a cheap restaurant that served the most incredible French toast I have ever had. Ever. Breakfast was free and simple meals could be bought for dinner. The hostel is in a grand, old building down a little lane close to all the major sites and the train station. I would absolutely recommend this place to anyone, even those who have a plentiful budget. FRENCH TOAST!

florence

The walls of Archi Rossi were covered in graffiti and stencil art. Some of it was clever. I also saw something along the lines of  “Josh and Shazza shagged here”. Umm, congratulations?

Athens Backpackers, Athens: The first thing we did in Athens was our washing. While waiting for our undies to dry we got talking to the most boring teenager ever, who said he chose this hostel because “I just pick what comes up under ‘party hostel’ on Google”. Man, I almost cried into my fabric softener upon hearing that. I had just gotten over the worst, longest-running case of weebum I had ever had and the last thing I felt like doing was partying with a pimply Pom, who could not register the “I’M BORED” look in my stone cold eyes. Yes, this hostel has an amazing rooftop bar with a view of the Acropolis, but if getting drunk isn’t your number one priority in life you’ll still have a great time. Again, it was comfortable, clean, offered a simple breakfast, free walking tours, a movie room and was close to everything important. Plus, the staff were super friendly and helpful. On your travels lots of people might tell you Athens is awful, but we loved it and this hostel was a great place to call home.

athens

This is the famous view, even more beautiful at night when it’s all lit up. As a side note – see how my fly is half undone here? My jeans are too small for me. Yes, I ate a lot of gyros in Athens, but not THAT MUCH. Turns out this particular brand are designed to shrink a few sizes if you wash them in hot water. You can’t wash in anything else in Europe. Thanks a lot, jerks.

Kismet Dao, Brasov: Romania was not really on my list of “holy crap, I have to go there immediately” countries. But I am so, so glad we didn’t skip it. It’s a challenging place – most of the towns we visited were very industrial, grey and cold – but once you conquer it, just like Dracula, it’s amazing. Beautiful Brasov was definitely one of our favourite places, thanks in part to this really cool hostel. We stayed in a private room (called The Shagging Room [vom]) with its own little balcony overlooking the mountains, which felt very luxurious. The hostel offered a free drink for each night you booked, free breakfast, a huge lounge room, lots of balconies, tours of Bran Castle and seemed to attract the coolest of travellers.

brasov

Here’s me looking weary and manish on the aforementioned balcony. I’m accepting J-man’s very unique brand of romance. Thanks, J-man!

Greg and Tom’s Junior, Krakow: Everything I heard about this hostel and the larger one, simply called Greg and Tom’s, was “duuuuuude, they have the best paaaarties”. From what I heard through my foam earplugs, the parties did indeed seem to be tubular, radical and awesome. Poor old J-man, who loves people, definitely made an epic mistake in choosing me as his life party partner. Here are the things that stick with me about this hostel: being greeted with fresh juice after an overnight train trip, clean showers with radios and water massagers, comfortable beds and incredibly friendly, young and helpful staff. They also offered tours of Auschwitz-Birkenau, which is a must-do if you visit Poland. I can’t finish on such a sad note. They also had fresh fruit! Best grapes I’ve ever eaten.

krakow

Again, no photos of the actual hostel. Instead, here’s evidence of how happy we were on our first day in Krakow, after being allowed to have a hot shower and juice after a night on a train.

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2010 has been the best year of my life.

– I married my one true love.

– We bought plane tickets, packed up everything and went overseas.

– We saw Europe, complete with night-train rides, hostel dorm rooms, ancient cities, romance, fights, gastro and exultant happiness.

– We drove across the United States of America. We walked 5th Avenue in New York City, we stood in awe of the Grand Canyon, we got remarried by Elvis in Las Vegas (a story for another time) and tonight we will see in the new year in San Francisco.

– Also, I became a very proud aunty.

I’m sure 2011 is tempted to bring me down a peg or two, but if there’s one thing travel gives you it’s perspective. I realise what a great life I get to lead and I’m determined to be fitter, happier, more productive.

Happy New Year!