Tuesday, July 31
States of Consciousness
I'm not the kind of person who keeps normal sleeping hours. That's one of the things that those who know me know well. Over the last few years, I've pretty much perfected the ability to sleep on, well, not very much, and also hideously large amounts at the same time. The last couple of months, though, have seen me move more or less to existing on EDT, whilst actually living in BST.
Short story? Where I am at the moment, I'm definitely sleeping less than what's normal for me. Insomniacal, even. But all the same, definitely sleeping less.
- posted at 6:08:04 AM :: feedback
Thursday, July 26
Scared... or excited?
"I've got that excited scared feeling, like 98% excited 2% scared... or maybe it's more... it could be... it could be 98% scared 2% excited..."
So, it finished, and about seven thousand people are busy filling up a mailing list saying things like this, and it's all... bizarre. Hundreds of people I don't really know are wandering around in a daze now, wondering what to do next and heartily congratulating themselves and a select few band of others.
Anyway. To recover from the epic three-week cavort around Europe, I'm popping out to the shops again. Won't be back til the third of August, but I'm sure if I know you, and you know me, then I'll tell you all about it... (though now I come to think of it, any expressions of luck and its hopeful goodness would be greatly appreciated.)
- posted at 10:22:13 AM :: feedback
Tuesday, July 24
That A.I. Game...
- posted at 10:12:29 PM :: feedback
Wednesday, July 18
Holiday, Part 9
- An Explanation...
- There have been no updates for quite a while, for a number of reasons: a) Milan's internet access capability is roughly the same as the space lauch capability of a small ant, b) for the last few days in Prague, the net cafe at the hostel where we've been staying has been unable to access blogger.com, the website I use to update this site. So, sorry!
- And with that, back to your regularly scheduled updates...
- Wednesday, Day Eighteen - Prague
- We head off today to go and catch some of the sights on the left bank, having milled around near the city centre for the last few days. First stop is the Castle, where Laura and Daniella check out the Basillica (I don't, because I foolishly left my ticket behind in my pair of shorts that I wasn't wearing).
- After the Castle, we went to Loreta (nice church type place, but overdid it on the gold), then went off to a library (don't ask), that supposedly had interesting things in glass cupboards. It did, but we're not sure if we found what we were looking for.
- A failed attempt to go to another church followed, a quick stop by Lennon's wall and a wander around town before dinner in the same restaurant we ate at on Monday.
- It started raining again.
- Photographs taken: God knows how any
- PS. Just checked news. Duncan Smith vs. Ken Clarke. Am not optimistic, but at least if Duncan Smith gets in, the Tories are finished for at least ten years (sorry to break with the impartiality there).
- Tuesday, Day Seventeen - Prague
- Wandered around town. Saw a big clock. Had a chicken burger that looked quite scary. Metro system quite nice. Not a particularly interesting day, as went around lots of shops. Dinner in a very studenty place full of English tourists.
- Monday, Day Sixteen - Prague
- First full day in Prague! It rained today, which was never a good thing. In fact, the heavens more or less opened up and entirely emptied their rather capacious bowels onto us. Not fun. Especially when you're wearing a t-shirt, shorts and sandals (thank God for umbrellas).
- Kick off the day by visiting the castle (royal gardens cathedral, old palace), then lunch at Cafe Poet, in the grounds.
- More castle in the afternoon, Charles Bridge, shopping...
- It starts raining. Duck into a gorgeous cafe to read paper and drink coffee whilst wonderful music is being played and horror at the Tory leadership race starts setting in.
- Gorgeous dinner at nearby restaurant for about six quid that would normally cost about fifteen in England. Very happy
- Sunday, Day Fifteen - Milan / Prague
- Leave hotel at about ten in the morning to catch twenty past bus into town (Cardona station) so we can catch the ten to eleven Malpensa express. Manage to make all three with time to spare. Very pleased.
- Flight to Prague delayed by an hour, eventually get into Prage at around six o'clock, then take Bus 119 to the Hostel. Incredibly cheap. Also very pleased.
- Chinese restaurant for dinner. Nice, cheap.
- Saturday, Day Fourteen - Milan
- First day without Natalie. We head off to see the Duomo and the Galleria. Stop by La Scala. Not much to do. Bored, don't like Milan that much.
- Friday, Day Thirteen - Milan
- Nat's last day. Head off to Duomo, see La Scala. Bus tragedy as we wait for eons for our number 70 bus to take us back to the Hotel. Not happy at all. McDonalds for dinner.
- Friday, Day Thirteen - Milan
- Nat's last day. Head off to Duomo, see La Scala. Bus tragedy as we wait for eons for our number 70 bus to take us back to the Hotel. Not happy at all. McDonalds for dinner.
- Thursday, Day Twelve - Barcelona/Milan
- Leave hotel in Barcelona at around nine in the morning, arrive in Milan at around half midday Take Metro out to QT8, and decide don't want to stay at hostel, so start ringing around cheap hotels. Find two doubles for the night and a triple for the other nights at a different place. Check in. Dinner.
- posted at 7:49:21 PM :: feedback
Wednesday, July 11
Holiday, Part 8!
- Wednesday, Day Eleven- Barcelona
- Today's another split-up day. Daniella heads out in the morning at around eleven to the FC Barcelona Nou Camp stadium, whilst Laura, Natalie and I head out for some shopping. The two girls then go off to see La Pedera which I saw yesterday, and we arrange to meet at two back at the hotel, or three if the girls decide to spend a little longer there.
- Back to the hotel for two o'clock and meet Daniella, who's had a wonderful time takings pictures at the stadium. We head out to have a look at some nearby art shops and pick up some presents and Daniella gets shown the Nearby Big Bear. Everyone meets again at three, then we promptly have our afternoon sleep and head out again at around half four for more shopping. Laura and Daniella head out together, whilst Natalie and I take a quick walk down La Rambla.
- Tonight's our last night in Barcelona! Milan tomorrow...
- Observation: what kind of person looks at porn in a crowded net cafe? The man sitting two seats away from me. Bizarre.
- Photographs so far: 465
- Tuesday, Day Eleven - Barcelona (continued)
- The beach was apparently a nude-fest, with acres of topless women all over the place, with the three girls sunning themselves. I on the other hand managed to sneak off and not go to the beach at all, instead sucking up Gaudi's La Pedera (photos forthcoming). We met back at eight for a cheapish dinner, then back to the hotel to mess around for a bit. Not much interesting, we've nearly done everything we set out to do in Barcelona now.
- posted at 8:04:44 PM :: feedback
Tuesday, July 10
Holiday, Part 7!
- Tuesday, Day Eleven - Barcelona
- Yet another early start (we're getting good at these) sees us leaving the hotel at around half ten in the morning.Yes, I realise that if we were going to work or lectures then that'd be classified as a late start, but this is a holiday. So there. Today is Fundacio de Miro day, the idea being that we walk up to the the Miro museum that´s at the base of Montjuvic and then walk up the mountain to see what should be beautiful views of the city and its surroundings.
- Of course, when we get to the museum, we realise that we actually have climbed the mountain, which is a rather good explanation as to why it seemed like quite hard work on the way there. The museum is--say it together now--absolutely gorgeous, and completely appeals to my inner child (and outer child as well). Natalie's liked it (even though she doesn´t get art), Laura likes it, and Daniella liked parts of it. I manage to wander around with the same kind of look on my face as a five year old kid who's been given chocolate cake, lots of jelly and all their best toys. I like it that much.
- We split up for the rest of the day, with the girlies heading off to the beach and me wandering around town checking out the shops. We're due to meet again at eight tonight.
- Photographs so far: 401
- Addendum - Mini Golf
- It has been brought to my attention that I omitted to report the results of the Mini Golf Tournament that was held on Saturday. The results are as follows:
- Laura, in first place with 36
- Dan, in second place with 37
- Natalie, in third place with an unspecified number
- Daniella, in fourth place with an even larger unspecified number
- Shame on Laura's dad for not believing that she won!
- posted at 2:49:51 PM :: feedback
Monday, July 9
Holiday, Part 6!
- Monday, Day Ten - Barcelona
- Early start at ten am when we leave to go to Parc Guell, whcih takes us about an hour to walk to. The park's absolutely gorgeous, having been designed by Gaudi and we spend time wandering around looking at the dragon, the Hansel and Gretel style houses and generally walking about pretty much slack-jawed. Lots of photos taken here. We head back to our hotel for lunch, and get back at around three o'clock for a ten minute rest before we head out to Montjuvic...
- Only we would have, had the ten minute rest not inexplicably turned into a four hour sleep in the middle of the day. You can tell that this vicious sight seeing takes it out of us somewhat. We head out at around seven to eat dinner (stuff bought at the supermarket for the girls and another quick baguette from Pans and Co. for me), then have a wander to find some of Gaudi's architecture around town (which is annoyingly at the top of buildings and consequently quite hard to appreciate if you're shorter than twenty feet tall, never mind shorter than six foot and at ground level).
- Not quite living up to Gaudi's park is the Sagrada Familia at night--we head off by metro and get there just as it starts to rain slightly, so decide that ice creams would be a great idea--and Daniella wants to try the M and M ice creams. The other side of the cathedral is lit up and is--again--absolutely gorgeous. We take pictures and leave, head back to the hotel and for net access.
- Sunday, Day Nine - Barcelona
- Okay, my mistake. I've been typing Place de Catalunya this whole time but it's actually Plaça Catalunya. So that's one thing that's been hanging over my head been corrected. Earlyish start, we head off down La Rambla to go to the Barri Gotic, a gothic cathedral, but end up at the wrong one after my laughingly misguided map reading attemps (my excuse being that there are about a million churches marked on the map on that corner alone). We wait until around midday when locals are supposed to start doing the Catalan national dance, but when nothing happens, we twig. Maybe we're in the wrong place.
- We were. Up the road is the real Barri Gotic, and it's gorgeous. They're also having a very full service inside and there's a band and dancers outside. Very... cultural. We like it.
- Next stop is the Museu Picasso, where we get tickets for both the permanent collection (about twenty rooms worth) and the temporary collection as well. Quick trip round the permanent collection and we're starving (haven't had breakfast yet, and it's around two in the afternoon), so we find somewhere nearby to eat. By the time we get back, the Museum is about to close at three, and doesn't open again til Monday. We end up having paid to see both collections but only seeing one of them. Oops.
- Next off, we're at Parc de la Ciutadella, which has a zoo, waterpiece by Gaudi, a geological museum, a zoological museum, a small lake and various other monuments and statues dotted around the place. We only see a few of those things, but manage to go for a quick half our in a row boat around the lake and get some sun in.
- Then: Arc de Triomf, which is on the way to the still-not-finished La Sagrada Familia, which, in a classic case of slow builders, was started in 1882, isn't nearly yet half finished and may not even be finished by 2040. It's gorgeous, though, and we vow to come back at night when it's lit up. Tours are prohibitively expensive for impoverished students, so we decide not to go on one and instead just marvel from behind the gates.
- Our first try at tapas in Spain is very likely to be our last: we stop off at a restaurant down the road from where we're staying on Rambla Catalunya, and the wonderful waiter offers to select our starters and tapas for us. He does, but we've got no idea how much he's oprdering and how much it's going to cost. The starters are nice, and the tapas is great--if you like seafood, which Daniella doesn't. The meal also costs about eight pounds each--which wasm uch more than we wanted to pay...
- Back to bed...
- posted at 11:01:08 PM :: feedback
Saturday, July 7
Holiday, Part 5!
- Saturday, Day Eight
- Late start at eleven in the morning, we finally leave the hostel closer to midday. The hostel--it's closer to a hotel--is absolutely gorgeous. We're in two doubles, Daniella and Laura have a shower in their room whilst Natalie and I have a bathroom opposite ours. We've got the balcony though. Both rooms have fans as well, which is a definite step up from the last place. It's actually cool at night, which makes a change. We're starting to get bitten, though. Daniella's in the lead, with me in second place. Laura and Natalie aren't suffering at all.
- We head off La Rambla (we're staying practically right in the city centre) to walk down to the waterfront and there's a great number of stalls along the way. A quick lunch at some Pizza-Hut alike restaurant (four cheeses pizzas and omelettes), then we wander around a shopping complex right on the water. A game of mini golf in the afternoon, then back to a supermarket on La Rambla for something to make for dinner (sandwiches again), eating at Place de Catalunya.
- Back to the Hotel for a rest, then back out along La Rambla for a night time walk. It's nearly one am :)
- Friday, Day Seven (continued)
- Okay. Airport Day was nearly a complete disaster as far as flying on time was concerned. Our originally scheduled flight that was due to leave Rome at 14:50 didn't. The first sign of impending doom was when we sidled off the moving walkways to see the departure board that rather suspiciously didn't have our flight on it. At all. A quick couple of (increasingly irate) questions at the Ali Italia check in desk at around half midday let us know that there was a series of strikes at Bacelona airport, and that our flight had been cancelled. Very sorry, they said, but they would try to put us on to the Iberia flight stand by list. That was the next available flight, said the attendant. What you should do, she said, was take this new ticket that I've given you and try to check in to the Iberia flight at four o'clock. It leaves at 6:55, so you should be okay.
- Well, that was a fat lot of good. She should never have tried to transffer us to the Iberia flight. Barcelona airport had apparently been shut all day. Ther ewas no way we were going to get on the Iberia flight, because the strike stopped at six and that was the first available flight out. It was packed full of irate Iberia passengers, who'd been shunted onto the standby list for an already full plane. That neatly explains why when Daniella and I tried to check in to the Iberia flight, the attendant didn't so much as laugh at us as openly roll her eyes in derision. Back to the Ali Italia desk, then.
- Back at Ali Italia, we find out that yes, we should have been put on the next Ali Italia flight at 8:30pm. No, she didn't know why we weren't put on it. The only problem now was that there were four of us, we were numbers eleven to fifteen in the standby list for that flight, and it was already full. We had to bring our bags down to get tagged, and then, at eight o'clock, we might know for definite who wasn't coming on the flight and stand a chance of getting on.
- It was a long wait. If we didn't get on the half eight flight that night, then we had definite seats on the plane the next day, at half eight in the evening. At the same time, we had to work out what we were going to do with our accommodation in Barcelona, that we had only just got in the morning. Stressful, and with nothing particularly interesting to do.
- We got on.
- There were only six places left on the plane. The four of us, and two other people who were also waiting on the standby list.
- We got in at ten past ten, and got off the train at Place de Catalunya at quarter past eleven. The ho(s)tel was still open. Sleep.
- posted at 11:49:25 PM :: feedback
Friday, July 6
Holiday, Part 4!
- Friday, Day Seven
- Airport Day. Also Frantically Finding Somewhere to Stay in Barcelona Day. I get up at half eight to call back the hostel I spoke to yesterday to find out if they still ahve a quad room. Tehy don't. I ring around a bit more, then in a last ditch attempt call the hostels I'd marked as not having rooms free when we checked yesterday. One of them does, thank God, and I declare credit cards, my mobile phone and lonely planet guide as the most wonderful inventions in the world ever. Period. We're only paying about eleven pounds a night in Barcelona, which is cheaper than Rome. Good.
- Airport. Flight cancelled (should be at 14:50), but Ali Italia think they can get us on an Iberia flight at 6:50pm tonight. We're to try to get into the waiting list queue for tickets at four as a number of other flights have been cancelled today. Starting to get bored. More when we arrive in Barcelona!
- Thursday, Day Six
- Daniella and Laura head off at around nine to go visit Daniella's relatives outside Rome. Morning is taken up phoning practically every hostel in all of Barcelona trying to find a place to stay because the agency that we had booked through--Barcelona Central--had not so much as made a pig's ear of our booking, but a complete sow and fifteen piglets as well. We gave up at lunchtime after having even called USIT in Barcelona and STA Travel's Cambridge number. Nat and I take the metro to Barberini for lunch and have possibly the worst served pizza in the world (name coming up at some point), where both the waiter and waitrses had the biggest attitude problems in the history of mankind. I think they took apathy to new levels. The high of lunch was my first call to a Barcelona Hostel which yielded a potential quad room, but we were told to call back on Friday morning. We then had a leisurely day visiting a Jewish museum and synagogue, then tried to find some scooters to hire and go "ciao" all day, but failed miseraby. Instead, we try to take a bus back to the station, but end up taking the bus to the end of the line on the wrong side of the Tiber. We notice this when the bus fails to go back to the right side of the river, the bus stops and all the passengers get off. And the driver. Not good. Stay on the bus, we miss the stop for Termini, but it's just a short walk. Daniella and Laura meet us back at the hotel room and regale us with wonderful stories of relatives visited, cute cousins and laden with food.
- posted at 1:29:07 PM :: feedback
Wednesday, July 4
Holiday, Part 3!
Wednesday, Day Five
- An even later start today saw us leaving at around midday for a church and crypt near Piazza Barberini, but both of which were closed when we turned up, so we headed off and took the bus for the first time to the Jewish quarter and had some pizza (sorry). A wander back in time for the opening of the crypt ensured that we left completely disugsted or at least feeling somewhat strange--the Capuchin monks apparently had a thing for taking their dead's bones and doing a spot of interior decorating with them in a way that would make Carol Smilie turn in her grave. As it were. In fact, the crypt was policed by a rather old man who seemed to have something of a power fetish, since he was busy using his microphone telling people to be quiet and stop taking photographs.
- The church upstairs from the crypt was much nicer, if only because it had ornamental furnishings that the medics didn't find interesting. We then headed back to the station to sort out Daniella and Laura's tickets for tomorrow and buy something to eat for dinner.
Tuesday, Day Four
- Morning starts are getting increasingly late. We head out sometime around eleven to go to the Pantheon and after having bitten the Metro bug the other day, buy another all-day travel card to take us to Barberini. Walk down Via Tritone, past the Trevi Fountain and then find ourselves at the Pantheon, which is absolutely gorgeous. There's a (something) in the dome that lets in light and is used by a sundial. Daniella and Laura go on one of the free tours around the place whilst Natalie rests and I run around snapping away with my camera. A quick break for lunch and then we head off to Campo d'Fiora and then Piazza Navona, though we miss the flower market at the Fiora place. Piazza Navona is nice (sorry for using that dreaded word), has a whole bunch of fountains and the predictable tourist-friendly motionless, dressed-up, statue of liberty.
- We tried to catch an open air screening of Traffic, but turned up just a little too late so wandered the streets and went back to the hostel.
- posted at 6:09:55 PM :: feedback
Monday, July 2
Holiday, Part 2!
- Monday, Day Three
- Get up much earlier today and breakfast at a different bar, but still paid for by the hostel we're staying at. Buy a one-day travel card thingy from Termini Station and hop on the Metro line A to get to Vatican City. The travel cards are really good value - about two quid for a whole day's worth of travel on either the metro or the buses, but the metro system isn't as widespread as it is in London. Still gets you everywhere though. Not as clean (carriages covered in graffiti on the inside), but frequent, which is good
- Vatican City. Very cool pillars everywhere topped by Saints, and big church-type things everywhere that I suppose you'd expect if you were at the centre of the Catholic Church. We went inside a... thing, that I can't remember, but we didn't go and see the Sistine Chapel because it had a) incredibly long queues and b) cost quite a bit for us impoverished students living on around £20/day.
- There was Yet Another Free American Tour Guide at the Vatican City, so this time we were slightly more trusting and folowed an ex-Irish priest around for about twenty minutes until we realised that if he stopped every thirty seconds to give us a five minute talk, we'd get nowhere rather quickly (blame short-attention span youth for this). Had to get changed near the loos to put some trousers on to get inside, but then took some absolutely gorgeous photos.
- Wandered around the Vatican City for a while longer, then headed back on the metro to the Spanish Steps. We climbed them. There's not that much more than you can do with steps, really, I suppose. There were a few blokes at the top drawing pictures of people that we watched for a while, but the place was swarming with tourists. We took a very cool picture of the Basilica on top of the Spanish Steps reflected in Natalie's eye. Back to the hostel afterwards to rest for two hours or so...
- Back to Spanish Steps after a quck break at the hostel and we had dinner in a side street away from the main road. Natalie and I went for pizzas, Laura went for a chicken salad and Daniella had gnocchi. Of course, the day had to top yesterday's watermelon story, so Natalie had to go and buy a very interesting figurine which was also a lighter. I suppose the rest should be left to your imagination. Wandered around for a while after the meal to find ice creams and Laura and Daniella had a photo taken in mock horror at a particularly ghastly shop window.
- Back home to bed!
- posted at 10:19:15 PM :: feedback
Sunday, July 1
- Saturday, Day One
- Train from Cambridge to London Liverpool Street (links to Kings Cross aren't working today. Tube from Tottenham Hale to Victoria, and then the Gatwick Express to Gatwick. Get to Gatwick at around quarter past one in the afternoon, check in and then a quick lunch at McDonald's. Boarding gate finally opens at around four o'clock (when the flight was supposed to leave) and we take off at around twenty past. Uneventful flight to Leonardo Airport, Rome (but we manage to get Daniella into the plane's cockpit).
- We take the Leonardo Express from the Airport into the centre of town and then spend a few stressed minutes wandering around because we can't find the hostel. Not a problem. We get there in the end and are directed to the hotel where we're staying (Hotel Virginia), which is just a couple of blocks away.
- Attempt to sleep. Far too hot. Very tired.
- Sunday, Day Two, Rome
- Alarm goes off at nine in the morning, but due to extremely broken sleep (do you have any idea how hot it is here?!) we actually get up at around ten (when Laura and I finally wake up). Daniella's been up since at least six in the morning and Natalie's spent most of the morning learning Italian.
- Breakfast at the bar downstairs from the hostel--we get a brioche each and a coffee. Head back to the Hotel and make plans for the day.
- Head off to the Santa Maria Maggiore Basillica which is absolutely gorgeous. I take lots of photos. There's a nice fountain outside.
- Quick detour to the Piazza Vittario Emanuele where we find out that they do open air film screenings. We might pop by and see Traffic there sometime later this week. Laura finds a great place that sells water melon (it's only 30p). She thinks it's very nice.
- Walk over to the Colloseum where a) there are extremely funny fake gladiators, b) the world's longest queue snakes around to pay to get inside and c) said gladiators charge people extortionate amounts of money to have pictures taken with them. We get Laura and Daniella's picture taken, act incredibly aghast when we find out how much it costs and Natalie has an argument with them in Hebrew. We run away without paying.
- Head off to the Forum, great collection of completely and utterly ruined buildings. Take lots of photos again. Find an American guide, but ditch him before he has a chance to get us to join his group. Go inside a Very Large Room. We think they used to have parties in it, but it seems very old, so probably not.
- We share two pizzas at a nearby restaurant and then head back to the Hotel for a change and a shower, then hit a small restaurant nearby for incredibly cheap spaghetti carbonara, head out for ice cream and then come in here (net cafe) to check email and find out about our bookings for Barcelona.
Next installment coming soon!
- posted at 8:06:22 PM :: feedback
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