Archive for September, 2010

Klep Sluitens, an explanation for not contikians

Ok, so anyone who’s seen my photos on facebook will be wondering, why are there so many photos with Fluro vested tourists (including myself).  Here’s an explanation… it may answer the question.. or not.

The vest themselves came from a toll booth station thingy in France I think.. We recieved a cupla cartons of Red bull and vests for everyone. It was good, we ended up being able to see each other whilst roaming around big busy cities.

Now why are we so attached to them u ask? Simple… One day on a long bus ride i was sitting up the front with a young chap from Central Queensland names Tim.  The Contiki buses are dutch owned hence all the signage is in Dutch… One compartment above out heads said “Klep Sluiten” I turned to Tim and said, what is a Sluiten and why is it being ‘Klepped’ in there?

Fast forward 6 hours of bus travel and the two of us has ascertained that the Sluitens are a wild creature from Holland that need to be ‘Klepped’ to be tamed so that Contiki buses can use the tame ones to mark territories (as the Sluitens are very territorial!) around contiki camps to keep the tourists safe.

Other interesting facts is that their skin is reflective and they’re noctornal, therefore no photos can be taken as a flash is required!!!

They like cinnomon but not pepper.

They don’t like David Hasselhoff.

Oh and they’re related to the australian Drop bear!

So we created the order of the Sluitens and we all wear a vest to signify it… That’s a brief mention.. It makes no sense and we had so many laughs about it (we’re currently trying to get the’facts’ onto wikipedia).  We couldn’t wear the vest in Holland without getting some funny looks..

Oh and if ur wondering, Klep SLuiten is dutch for Keep closed.  Hence it was on a compartment in the bus..

Now u know… sort of 🙂

Contiki pt 2 ITALIA 9th-12th August

Ok so the craziness of France is over, off to crazy Italy.  Sadly my health has not improved (and only gets marginally better by the end of the Italian leg of the Journey.

Basically this part is Florence for a night, Rome for two nights and Venice for one night.

On our way to Florence we stop off and see the leaning tower of piza, very funny photos take place.  Ronald the kiwi does his now Patented “jumping with a famous backdrop” routine.

We hit Florence and have a quick look, interestingly see the place where the WWII dictator Mousilini was strung up, killed and humiliated.  A relitively quiet night leads us to an early start allowing a few hours to check out Florence.  I wont go through all the sights, check my facebook photos or grab a guidebook for Italia, they’ll show it better than I can explain it!

We do get to see some Leather making techniques, Florence very very famous for Leather!

Abes our tour manager can’t officially guide us, he needs to employ a local guide…. so in contiki fashion he just watches for the police and carries on regardless!!

We hit Roma at 9pm that night, long day! very hot sightseeing.. To bed we go.

Next day we have an excursion in to see the tour guide explain in a droll voice all about the Forums and the Colluseum.  Me the designated red headed South African Chris and Ronald the kiwi get seperated from the group… miss the train by 5 seconds… not joking!  Crap our tour! we’ll miss it, besides we paid for it! right we have to catch up to them… next Train, jump on boys!! gogogo, hop off… Didn’t abes say somthing about two trains?? Where’s the Metro map?? right need the red line now, run run… whoops slippery damn floors…. how do these Italians not fall over with their fancy shoes…. must be good grip!!

Ok next train in 5mins……. taptaptap….. here it is!!! gogogo

Roman underground is awesome! we hit the Colloseum… No sign of the group… Hmm were they going into the ruins of the Forum or Colloseum first?  Forum first, we decide.  Charging on ahead we talk our way in (as we have no tickets!) run around, no signs of the group.  Allthough the ruins are extensive and very cool!

We ascertain that there’s only one exit so we hang around there for about ten minutes.  The heat is brutal so i find a freezing cold fountain and dip my head under it for some relief (again my health was sub standard at this point).  We decide ‘bugger it’ lets just head down to the colloseum and wait there.  We get there.  Do some standard touristy photos and then within five minutes we can see the group charging down towards the Colloseum! Hallelujah! After 45 minutes we catch the tour guide to find out we have to pay to get into the Colloseum… even though we’ve already paid…. bugger, oh well only in Rome once so away we go.

After that adventure and a few photos in the Colloseum we split up and a small group of us go to the Vatican (the smallest country in the world!).

It’s darned impressive i have to admit, the pope wasn’t home, but nevermind. We manage to get a few silly photos including us doing the YMCA out the front of the joint only to realise one of us had directed in inverse and we in fact did ACMY… Bugger! Bloody aussies!

Back to the camping grounds and a few quiet drinks… NOT

We hit the night club… hard! the floor was so slippery there were many falls… We survived somehow and a few drunken staggers home and we were all sort of in one piece the next day!

Off to Venice the floating city, we actually stay outside venice at a camping ground but tis ok as we head in to the island for a tour and a bite to eat (for some, not the unwell ones!)

We head back to the camping grounds where i spend the night madly booking a flight out of Amsterdam after the tour’s end into Switzerland.  Me, Bill and the two lads from Melbourne (mentioned previous post) will spend three days in switzerland before moving onto Spain Madrid!  I have a quiet night, some do not… Even less notice that a full day prior i had shaved my beard and had only a goatee remaining… They need to stop drinking…. As do I, off to bed early Germany tomorow! Munich beer hall awaits! plus a little surprise on the way…

Ok so this is a first… responding to some mail i just recieved from a fellow contikian, I will point out that It was Mark’s great Phatogenistic skills (ie he is a skilled Phatogener or takerer of photos) that allowed him to Flip the ACMY photo and make it YMCA again.. And Joe the pom was the photographer but curiously didn’t point this out BEFORE he took the photo…. Poms.. pft.

Thank you Mark for bringing this to my attention!

Contiki pt1 4th -8th august (France)

Ok, in bed by 3 am, up at 5.30… what the hell the phones ringing.. “yes? …. Yes that’s me… The bus is about to leave?…. ok I’ll be right down…. thankyou for calling… goodbye”   “Bill…. wake the F*%$ up and get your arse into gear now!” five minutes flat we make it downstairs.  Our tour manager takes a step back and gasps for air when bill says hello…. “wow you boys stink like grog!” he says in his aussie drawl.

We get on the bus in the nick of time and head off! within a couple of hours we’re  onto the Ferry and making our way to France.  It’s a trippy experience, running around like blue arsed flies and then suddenly BANG, here’s a different country. 

We’re properly introduced to our tour manager and driver Abes and Baz respectively.  We then proceed to ‘speed date’ in the bus on our way to Paris, it’s a case of one person moving 2 places back the other one staying still, u get five minutes to tell each other who u r, where ur from and what ur travel plans are.  Good way to break the ice.  I meat one American, one kiwi and one aussie.

Then, bang we hit Paris! we run over and take a few pics with the eiffel tower… standard touristy stuff then we’re back to our cabins out of town, very nice.  We bump into the lovely little ‘sack’ bar (The N that makes it snack isn’t working much to our amusement). We have a few drinks, introduce ourselves and we’re away. I find that there are three blokes that live about an hour from my hometown on the tour, classic.

I think it takes about half of the first night before the first pair of young’uns give in to the city of love and dart off to one of their rooms.  They don’t waste any time.

The next morning sees us sightseeing in Paris.  I’ve got myself into a groovy group of four (me and Bill and two blokes from Melbourne (Tom and Lee,) both of who will be playing important roles in the days to come.

I manage to get a photo of me licking the eiffel tower for a start and then to the catacombs, an hour in line sees us going through this stretch of catacombs underneath Paris.  The walls are made up of the bones of millions of ppl who’ve died (mostly from the Plague) and who couldn’t be buried in normal graves (ie not enough room) very eerie for sure.

Next is going to the top of the arc de triomphe.  Huge arch in the middle of town and a big roundabout about 7 lanes wide (in reality there’re no lanes and there are no rules!) crazy stuff, but stunning view of the city.

We go to a shop to buy a white shirt each (hold that thought it’ll be relevant a little later).  Vegemite on a bagel anyone? just me eh, kewl.

We head out for the night and start at a french restaraunt, French onion soup, Duck eleronge (Amazing!) and a desert i can’t recall.  (Dinner in a french restaraunt-TICK!) later we arrive at a Burlesque show, very funny acts and great dancing, worthy experience (yes there were breasts).  The audience participation was the best metinx, our canadian friends really got into it! see burlesque show in Paris-TICK

Most of us elect to go back to the camp ground at this point, what a great choice! Abes arranges for us to stop off and see the eiffel tower.  Now under lights and MOST spectacular.. some of the best photos of France were at that moment!  We then go back to the ‘sack’ bar and conclude the night at about 5am, another contiki group joins us and there is much Merryment.  No bar top or table top was out of bounds!

Next day sees us off to the wine region, a chateau (Beaujolois Wine region ) Chateau Fontainbleau!

Wine tasting (some wine purchased and sent back to australia!) and then off to ‘The cave!!”

Remember those white shirts? well we all had to wear one, then we drew on each other with white board markers.  By 4am the messages become a little scrawled and basically everyone has at least one poorly drawn set of genitals on them.  Eventually we all have beards and/or cat whiskers. (Get genitals drawn on me by drunken girls – TICK) The place closes at 2am finishing with a randition of Farnzy’s Ur the Voice, sung beautifully by all of course!

We keep things going until about 4am before getting the now standard 2hours sleep and back on the bus to the French Rivera!

We spend the next two nights in Antibes with a day trip to to Nice where a lazy day is spent on the beach and A night time trip takes us to another country Monaco! one of the smallest countries in the world!!

We visit ‘THE’ casino the one from the casino Royale movie.  Very cool.

Unfortunatley I’m suffering from a stomach upset at this point so I’ve got little to tell about these two days you want to hear about so we’ll leave it at that.

But in a nut shall France is finished! Next stop ITALIA!!!!!

Old friends and new

30-07-2010 _FRIDAY NIGHT

Ok, so first of all I’ve just left the medieval banquet (see previous blog) and I’m starting to get a little drunk.  Navigation through the underground in London is easy so I’m now in China town at 10pm looking for a Dutch pub (I’ll stop typing for a moment so u can re-read that and make some sense out of it 🙂

Ok ready? Well, after a  few days in London and finding out that my old friend sizer who’d i’d gone to high school with was leaving england in a couple of days, this was to finally be the chance to meet up.  I walk into the pub and he’s literally (and coincidentally) standing at the door!

*embrace, back slap, yell unintelligably but in manly fashion* (underline on the last)

He introduces me to a friend named Phil, a decent chap with a predisposition to havn’ a few.  We head to a few bars, have a beer or two and catch up, great laughs!

At some stage we end up at trafalgar square where mayhem occurs…. one of us gets accused of urinating in the fountain and gets grabbed by security… outrages false(ish) claims but we have a good laugh about it regardless!  (apparantly its a semi-traditon in england, so there u go).

the night concludes around 6am but two days laterin St albans. a Beautiful little town 40mins nth of London.  Amazing history (guiness world record-oldest pub in england) old Roman ruins and stuff.  Just stunning.  

But more importantly its home to the greatest Kebab place in history.  Ah the memories of 3am at the Train station with a 40min wait devouring the MASSIVE morsel chatting with two good mates about god knows what!!!

beautiful!!!!

Then the last night in England before the contiki tour introduces me to sizors liverpool friend!

He gave a ‘liverpool kiss’ to a phone booth and didn’t realy slow down after that.  We ended up getting home at 3am… contiki starts at 6… wowzers!

So good company, good times and a touch of history, good couple of nights out realy good value!

here I come Europe!!!

Lalalala London

What can be said about London that hasn’t been said already?  I’ve got no idea, but here’s one man’s point of view.

It’s a hustle and a bustle but it’s definitley worth a hastle.  And hustle you must.  With good directions you’d find your way to your hostel without a drama.  Set up shop and move on to exploration.  Sight after sight to see.  Lets not forget the traditional pub crawl of course.  It allows through the sweet social  lubricant a chance to meet other like minded folk.

A gentle strole through the square that links oh so many dispensers of joy shows you a man juggling a chainsaw and various other implements.  He works for tips like any street performer you will see in Europe, but like the occasional rare find you will see genuine talent.

Next stop, a cross over disco bar that doesn’t know if it’s Arthur or Marthur.  Then a Disco that knows what it is, and it is offensive.

The next day after a casual late morning start London offers herself like the common English whore.  You pay, you will enjoy the sights and you will move on.

An occasional nugget of joy stands out when you find the spectical of the medieval banquet.  In an unassuming building in an unassuming street, you stroll down in your standard evening gear to find that you’ve dressed… not ‘over’ or even ‘under’ but simply different.  The man at the door greets you whilst using his sword to direct you to the reception area.  His pantaloons most evident.  Upon arriving at the dinning area an ornately dressed gentlemen finds you a table and you can sit whilst the beer wenches deliver you pitcher after pitcher of unlimited….. UNLIMITED local ale.  It tastes a little on the ‘my horse pisses better stuff then this’ side but the price is right. 

You look around to see that your table is full of various aged women enjoying a hens party.  Behind you is a similarly fashioned occasion.  Next to you is a very drunken scotsman who would be hard to understand sober.

Next to your table the ‘king and queen’ arrive to sing you a song as servants bring in the first course.  A soup, no utensils.  Good start.  When the first juggler arrives you bash the table in approvment.  (when 200 merry revellers join you it creates quite a ruckess).

Next is a sword fight between two knights, one is felled. The beer wenches return gracefully as does the second course (utensils included this time).

Another sing song followed by another jester and more of the ample piss poor ale! Dessert arrives, your back teeth are swimming due to the excess in liquid but you choke down the pie.. It to tastes like ale (as does the next days breakfast).

Somehow a congo line has started and another song begins.  The show is concluded and more shall we say modern ‘non-minstrel’ like music ensues.  A man on his 50th b’day and his last legs regails you with tales of abroad (at a guess, he’s in fact quite unintelligable.)

The night is over, your gullet full and merryment excessive.  What truma, experience, joy this night has been.  Exhausting and rewarding. 

So there are gems amongst the colours of London, and a needle in a haystack they are not.  More can be found.  Perhaps not quite so colourful as the before mentioned but they do exist.  Just keep your eyes open.

But that’s just one man’s opinion.

It's his 50th, it's medievel banquet, and he is as drunk as ten men

The invisible man

Finding love

I had no idea what was in store for me when I hopped off the plane and left the Chicago airport.  I made my way as planned to meet my good friend Brandon at his place of work in the city.

As I walked the streets I took in the sights and I got a sense that I was looking at something good and something very much alive in its own right.

When I find Brandon at work ,pleasantries are exchanged (much to the amusement of the reception staff) we head off to his place so I can dump my cursed yet necessary backpack.  I tell him about my sense of something good when I arrived. “I think I’m going to like this place,” I said.  “Chicago has a lot to offer” he says simply.

Within one hour we’ve made our way back to ‘Millenium park’ where every monday night there’s a free concert for the residents.  Tonight  it’s some shiela who does rap and RNB and such.  She’s a local and has performed with the likes of Kanye west.  Her name washes off me as I offer nothing more then a blank stare.

The philosophy of offering free cultural good natured events is not lost on me.  Instantly I see good in the people here and the city itself.

Brandon has to work during the day but he shows me around so that I can catch busses and see what I need to.  He lives right next to Lincoln Park which is a huge beautiful area, containing a zoo, conservatoin area, a small farm as well as numerous statues.

I spend the days checking it out and relaxing at a local cafe.  Every person I’ve come across is friendly and has a smile to offer.  Even the crazy homeless man that hangs around my block.

Nights out are also good natured.  Chicago IS THE college town.  Cheap drink specials.  Beer is free flowing and cheer follows close behind.

Brandon sets a curfue of midnight every night due to his work.  We get home before 1am only once but he doesn’t seem to mind.

He introduces me to some of his friends, we go to see a baseball game (a first for me) and Chicago is also known for its comdedy and its jazz and blues.

So a night out at a comedy club leaves me searching for a new bladder, the baseball is a lot of fun (kind of like 20 20 cricket except everything is sponsered to within an inch of its life.) and a battle of the bands at the house of blues leads us to a VIP party and then having a ball at the Hilton hotel with one of the bands in their private room. (no tv’s were harmed during the party).

So I find good friends, good times and a lot of good will which is what I’m all about.  What I find that I dind’t expect was love.  I fell in Love with Chicago and even now after visiting some dozen other countries I feel it calling to me.  I want very much to answer its call and will do so at some point.

Until then I’ll just have to reminise on the week long love affair that was and look forward to renewing the passion in the future.