Thursday, November 22, 2007

Seville - it doesn't have pigeons, it has doves!

After the disaster that was Budapest, I was hoping Seville would turn out better. And I have to admit it really did. No rushing to get to the plane, a few drinks on it and bugger all non-EU residents making passport control a breeze, we were in Seville, Spain.

Seville, Spain
Sevilla es gran y las mujeres hay, a pesar de todo son Americanos!
Seville is the artistic, cultural, and financial capital of southern Spain and more than two thousand years old. The passage of the various people instrumental in its growth has left the city with a distinct personality, and a large and well-preserved historical center. It has been fought over by the Romans, Portugese, French, Muslims and finally the Catholics in nearly all this time, and has finally been colonised by drunk American students.With Colombus setting off from Seville to find the New Land, Yank students flock to this place to work and learn Spanish in much the same way that Aussies do to the UK to learn public drinking and ‘flag gathering’.
Seville is much like the old city in Barcelona with its cobbled streets and beautiful old buildings from the 16th century. As Seville was the centre of the Spanish empire for trading with Africa and the Americas, much money was pumped in to it, meaning the buildings were not thrown up but meticously crafted. Also, being between France, Portugal and Africa, this place was taken more times than a drunk Kiwi at the Red Back on a Sunday, meaning many sets of defenses and extra sturdy buildings. Due to this constant occupation, the architrecture is an ecletic mix of Muslim, Catholic and, according to Scary Spices paternity test, even Eddie Murphy. This also has caused some real bastard child creations.
The main Seville Cathedral, Catedral de Santa María de la Sede, is one of the largest in the world and due to it being built in 1401, has seen more extensions than an episode of Our House, everytime the city was taken. To date, you can walk around the structure and in it, and see the dome and minarets of a mosque, the Star of David and the arches of a Catholic church. So much has it been changed that there are four pulpits where the priest may stand and a shrine smack bang in the middle. Enough history – yeah – let’s get stuck in to the tapas eating, sangria drinking, macarena dancing of the rest of the place!

Arriving in Seville we were blown away by how stunning the place is. All lit up and sparkling. Straight of to a tapas bar followed by…actually I can’t really remember. I think we may have ended up at an Irish bar. I’m really not too sure. But anyway. Friday was the walking tour of Saville and taking in all the sites. The Plaza de Espanya, Festival of Americas and everything in between. So after a day of touring, a siesta, and some more food, back on out to the friendly world around us. Deciding to cross the river to the local area of the city we were soon lost as to where to go out. This is where I took charge. Being there with two Brisbanites, I knew immediately if it wasn’t up in lights, on the beach or truly Brisvegas tacky, these boys wouldn’t know where to go. So donning my Melbourne hat we slipped down several back alleys, around a corner, under a box and tapped our left leg three times and there was a bar before us. Walking in it turned out that we had found ourselves a nice little shisha bar. Fernando, the waiter, knew there was something in the air that night, the stars were bright, Fernando – stoked up a strawberry shisha smoked through a bowl of dark rum, and we were off.
Well, that’s all I’m going to say about that night. After hobbling out of a bar bleeding on the pavement after a disagreement in the establishment, the less said the better.

The next day Toddy and I explored the fort of Seville. A combinaton of hung over and my injuries meant a slow day exploring the sites – although I did manage to get through an entire English breakfast in about 6.3 seconds. The main site to look at was the Seville Fort, popular for its oranges (Savillian oranges are famously exported to the UK to make marmalade). But yet, I was still hungry and tired. That’s when Bart’s guide to the morning after comes in.
First - find some food
Step two - hydrate
Step three - eat what you've found
Final step - sleep
The same night insued with us hitting the local scene outside of the main town (which basically involved us in a bar with 40 spanish men watching the football and trying to decipher what they were saying about us). Good times. Packing up the next day and finishing with some tapas, we made our way to the airport. But not before seeing Seville fashion at its finest.
Even getting home in London at 2am and having 4 hours sleep before work, I couldn’t shake my love of Seville. I thoroughly recommend the place. In fact, bugger Croatia, Seville is the place for my honeymoon. I said it the first time we walked in to the town and it is the perfect example of this lovely city - there is not a pigeon in sight. No winged rats like London. I shit you not, Seville doesn't have pigeons, it has doves. For more photos, click here.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Budapest, Hungary - not worth of a witty comment

After a struggle to recover from the weekend, Thursday night was around and I was flying out to Eastern Europe on Friday. So perfectly happy that Thursday was the Wandsworth Demons AGM. After a few people asked me to run for Vice President I decided at the last minute to give it a go. And what do you know; I won a fair few votes and took the position.

Strangely enough I’m the VP to Mark Wallace whose girlfriend’s father is my father’s accountant – small world. Anyway, a boozy night and I woke up ready to head to Budapest.

Budapest, Hungary
A asszony van tehát forró fáj -hoz megjelenés

That’s where the story should end. I’d usually give you a run down on what happened, the fun had and the stories – but I can’t. I spent the best part of the trip with my head in the basin, out a cab door, in a toilet or just outside with some food really not agreeing with me. But let’s give you a run down anyway.

Budapest is the capital of Hungary, and made up of two cities: the western town of Buda and the eastern town of Pest, separated by the Danube. In 1873 these cities were united. Apparently they didn’t struggle too much with the name. Across the city bridges cut back and forward between the two sides but you still get confused as to which side you are on. Lucky Coomba was able to get a local to draw us a map which vaguely resembled what Picasso would have drawn if he decided to become a cartographer and inject acid between his toes at 25 minutes intervals for 6 straight hours a day. Suffice to say we got lost on Friday night in 3 degree weather at a time where all our bank cards would not work – sign 1.

Sombre lion

Happy lion - just need to know where to touch them

Now Saturday, it was the usual site seeing time. So, with Crowy, Guv and Duncan deciding to go to Mongolian BBQ (more on that later) we hit the streets of Buda and of course, Pest. Now I’m not sure about this place. It was overcast and cold and seems like quite a depressing city. It looks like Berlin, but doesn’t have that feeling in the air that something is going on. It might be that it is so spread out, but I just couldn’t pin point it. So after some sites we went off to Mongolian BBQ to join the boys.

Now Mongolian BBQ is a great place. You walk in and form a line. There are dishes of all different meats marinated in all different sauces. You select what you want, hand it to the chef behind the grill and he cooks it up. All you can eat and all you can drink for about 10 quid as well. And the best is that it’s all pretty much traditional Hungarian. So with that, we couldn’t avoid anymore. We’d been tempted in Slovenia, but we couldn’t hold off for much longer. So with that, Coombe and I started with…horse. And I tell you what, it’s pretty good. Quite salty and tender, it tastes a little like a gamey version of steak, with the same consistency. After that I moved on to rabbit. Not too long later something in my stomach was saying no. Three hours later it was looking bad. I’m not going to talk any more about that night.

Sunday was a good day…in the morning. Soaking in a Hungarian bath with 100 odd other people and then watching the snow come down outside. And you feel so refreshed after these baths. You skin is all smooth, you feel all warm and just want to sit there smiling like a fool. And I don’t care how wrong having a 40 degree bath with your mates while salivating over the bikinis walking past you sounds - I enjoyed it.

I felt so smooth and happy that the 4-hour delay on my flight due to snow didn’t phase me. Or the 1.5 hour wait at Customs as 21 planes had arrived at Luton at the same time and they had not put on enough staff as they weren’t expecting this. Or being threatened to be sent to the back of the line or a holding cell after the Customs staff said this and I shouted: “It’s not as if planes fucking materialise out of thin air – don’t Customs check the Arrivals board! (well I did lose my cool there a little I guess). Or that I missed that last train and had to catch the bus, which after showing up, the driver broke the door and we had to wait for 15 minutes for a replacement. I am the calm little centre of the world.So suffice to say, I will go back there in summer as it does deserve a second chance. But for now, if anyone asks, I’ve never been to Budapest. Although the music on the underground trams was fun. More photos of the 'the trip' here. Please show me more of Bart's pain!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Racing now!!!!!

Being the other side of the world there are things that you miss: sunshine, competence, tasty food that’s not Indian and the joy of open spaces. But there are others that you don’t miss whatsoever: everywhere being far away, the Australian dollar or the Melbourne Cup.

The Melbourne Cup you say - how Bart? The sun, the races, the totty, the excitement, the day an entire nation downs tools at 12.30 and says let’s have a piss up. Hell, in my state (that’s a county English buddies) we take the day off and do no work. It’s kind of like a normal Wednesday in the UK, except we have a horse race.

But people, who needs the Cup when you have….The Wimbledon Dogs!!!!

And we’re off and racing.

In memory of the Melbourne Cup, a chilly Friday night saw Lukey, JB and I shaking like a greyhound in the cold (analogies are low on the ground today) clutching our beers and wondering how much we were going to win. Throwing 20 quid in to a kitty we had the kingly sum of 60 pounds to put a fiver on each little speed machine.

Thanks to Luke and JB we made our money back and left with our heads held high. Thanks to me for giving them something to try to win back too. We all played our part I feel. I don’t know what the other fellas were playing to do with their money, but I was going out to buy myself some bling.

The following night was Bonfire night or Guy Fawkes night. It celebrates the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot on the 5th of November, 1605, in which a number of Roman Catholic conspirators, including Guy Fawkes, attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Now if you are new to the UK you’re not sure what to expect. There are explosions going off everywhere. When I first got here I thought there were simply many illegal fireworks or a car backfiring. Now I know it’s just gun shots.

Watching Bonfire night from a house party on the top of an apartment complex (well la de dah – it was only four stories) you could see fireworks going off all across the city. You could also hear ambulances every six seconds going off to fix up some intrepid fireworks victim. It was a good night and I left with all fingers intact. Thanks to Bluey for DJing all night before having to head off to do a set in West London at 6am - you poor, poor man. Also, goodbyes to Leah and Nadia - I'd give you a blog update that I give others but you guys will be back at the start of the year so no blog for you. And Leah, hurry back. I can't take care of the kids on my own!

Well, this marks 101 blogs. Didn’t think I’d get this far. After 18 months in the UK I’ve met some amazing people and seen some brilliant things. You can have an amazing time when everything seems transitory. Friends come ago in the space of months, so you have more fun with them – squeezing in everything you possibly can. You won’t say no to an idea lest you never get that chance again. And irony becomes a very close companion. As me and several of my friends will let you know. You bump in to a long lost friend, two days before they are flying home – and they lived around the corner. You meet a Polish girl just as they move back to Poland. You meet a fantatic girl from England, and they move to Australia – what the fuck – now you’re just having a laugh!

But you’ve always got the memories. And with that, isn’t it great that just as I planned this blog my computer crashed and I lost all my photos – 18 months worth. But amazingly enough, I’m calm as a Hindu cow. After losing my photos I came to the realisation that the photos are for other people: for you to show them what you have been doing. The real experiences are in your head and all you actually need is something to spark those memories. And with a dawning realisation, I remembered - I’ve got that thing. And I’ve just finished updating it with its 101st entry.