The musings and misadventures of a girl unprepared

Friday, 3 August 2012

Vienna Day 2: The Heuriger and Flex

Our second day in Vienna wasn't particularly eventful but we had fun all the same. The weather was pretty horrible so we decided to go and spend the day at a place called a Heuriger, a wine tavern typical to east Austria where it is traditional to go and taste the wines of the season. We spent around five hours there, drinking wine and playing cards. It was the chilled out day we needed after being pretty much none stop up until then.

As we were all already quite tipsy, we decided we might as well carry on and see what Vienna's night life had to offer. There was a table football competition in the lobby that Pete, Tom and Jake decided to take part in which resulted in us meeting a load of people from the hostel to go out with that night. As the people were from all over europe, this meant I got to learn bits of new languages, namely icelandic, which I found very exciting. We headed to a club called 'Flex' which is usually an electronic club but it turns out it had a special indie/rock night on, with loads of english music, so that suited us perfectly.

The bathroom wall was made entirely out of sweets... :D

As we were foreigners we also got a chance to go on the stage with the DJ set, which was pretty cool!

There was cool graffiti all over the walls near the club as it was down by the river side, so we wanted a picture with it.

Turns out that Vienna is a really good night out, if you know where to look! It appears that most of the clubs do electronic and dance music, which really isn't my cup of tea, but on the whole austrians are a really friendly and helpful people (or so I found anyway) so it's always worth asking around. Also if you want to practise your German, I've found that unlike other european countries, they will let you have a go and not reply in English as soon as they detect a slight hesitation or accent.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Vienna Day 1: Rathaus Film Festival

Once returning from the Jazz Bar, we managed to get around three hours sleep before waking up to various phone alarms. Our bus was at 6.30am but we still had to find out where we were getting it from and some people still hadn't packed. Luckily we still had time to munch on Burger King bacon and cheese sandwiches that Ben and I, as we are wonderful human beings (and the only ones with any czech money left) decided to treat everyone to.

Our bus company was AWESOME. The journey from Prague to Vienna is about four and a half hours, for which we paid 16€. For that price we got complimentary hot drinks, reclining seats and individual TV screens, with games, music, TV shows and movies (both in English and Czech). The company was called the Student Company, if anyone is interested in travelling in or out of the Czech Republic, I'd definitely recommend them.

When we arrived in Vienna we were rather sleepy, so after a few hours of relaxing and settling into our new hostel, we decided to go and visit the Rathaus (town hall). As Lauren has a friend who lives in Vienna, we had a big list of all the best things to see and do whilst there. It was really useful as our hostel was rather a long way out of town, so we could decide on our heading before leaving, rather than wandering around aimlessly, which is much easier to do when you are closer to the centre. I'll post it as a separate post after this one, if anyone is interested in having a look :)

The Rathaus is a really grand and beautiful building. Somehow we had managed to time our trip so we arrived during another festival, this time the Rathaus Film Festival. Although this meant we couldn't get a full frontal view of the Rathaus, as there was a giant projector screen propped up in front of it, there was a really cool atmosphere about the place. They had various international food stalls behind where the films were screened and big posters advertising what showing was on each night. We settled on returning later on to watch an opera in german called 'Der Freisch├╝tz - Hunter's Bride', but first we decided to explore a little more.

Unfortunately the Cathedral wasn't as spectacular as we hoped as there was a great deal of scaffolding with a billboard stuck on the front, obscuring a large portion of it from view. It was still pretty impressive though, so I'd like to see it once they've finished the cleaning, or whatever they're doing.

The open air opera (that's what we've decided to call it, so we sound extra cultured) was pretty incredible, even if we didn't understand much of what was going on. We resorted to making up our own story lines and guessing what the characters were saying and therefore found the whole thing thoroughly entertaining. We probably should have picked something that was showing in english, but then that would have been cheating wouldn't it?

N.B. We also sampled the curry wurst. Unfortunately I have to say that it's not as good as in Germany. Sorry Austria.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Prague Day 3: Pedalos and The Bohemia Jazz Festival

Since our two previous nights had been rather heavy we decided that we'd take our last day in Prague a bit easier, so we wandered down to the Danube and hired pedalos. (They're easy enough to find, just look for the island in the middle of the river, the bridge is near to Goethe Institut on the city centre side.)

Walking down the river we saw a girl stand on one foot, put her foot over her head onto her shoulder and the smile through the arch it created to pose for a photo. Since it made such an impressive photo, Aimee and Ben decided that they would also give it a go.

The weather was lovely so after a heading to a cafe for some refreshments, we decided to have a dip in the water. Coming off the end of the island in the middle is a little beachy area, where there were people sunbathing, but no one actually swimming. However as there were no signs to say no swimming, we went in anyway. Little did I know that this would prove to be the end of my supposed 'water-proof' camera. After being in the river for about half a minute, Ben decided it would be a fantastic idea to tackle me into the water and the pressure somehow managed to water log my camera for the second year in a row. Though this time at least I got three days worth of pictures, last year it broke half way through the first day in the Mediterranean Sea.

It just so happens that we managed to be in Prague for the beginnings of the Bohemia Jazz Festival, which tours all around the Czech Republic throughout July-August. After our walking tour on the first day, we had already learned that the term 'Bohemia' had actually originated in Prague and along with a lot of the influences for this style of music. There were acts from all over the world and although we only briefly got to see one of the acts called 'The Baker Suite' (from Australia) it was pretty cool to enjoy the atmosphere that the festival had created.

One of our holiday traditions is that on our last night in each city/country, we go out for a traditional meal and sample some of the local cuisine. Having no idea about anything to do with czech food or where is good to eat, we just picked a place close to our hostel that said 'Traditional Local Food' on the outside and hoped for the best. I tried venison for the first time, which was in a curry type sauce with an assortment of dumplings and it was DELICIOUS. The Czech really do know how to make a hearty meal. However be warned about the sneaky waitresses, who told us that bread and sauces were free but then decided to charge four out of the seven of us for using them! The cheeky so and so.

After dinner we all headed out to the city centre, where the Jazz Festival was coming to a close for the day. Tom bought a CD of The Baker Suite and managed to meet the band in person, getting his CD signed of course. We then headed of to one of Prague's underground jazz bars. I don't think I've ever felt so cool. The band were pretty good and they were clearly having a really great time whilst performing, which for me makes all the difference when watching a live act.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Prague Days 1 and 2: Free Walking Tour, Drunken Monkey Bar Crawl and Prague Castle

Eurotrip 2012 amazing!! For those of you who don't know I, along with 6 friends, have just spent the last 11 days in Prague, Vienna and Budapest. Unfortunately, whilst I was away I couldn't really blog because the silly blogger people have updated the site and now my rubbish phone isn't compatible with it. So I shall update you in the next few days with a post all about our adventures in each place.

We spent the first 4 nights in Prague, which is a breath-takingly beautiful city. I would recommend anyone to visit, even just for the architecture.

On the first day we went on a free walking tour with the company all dressed in yellow (if you're looking for it on the plaza, they stick out a fair bit) which took us all around the big sites of everything on our side of the river (the side without the castle on it) and lasted around 2 and a half hours. Our guide also gave us the history of Prague in 10 minutes and was extremely knowledgeable about the city. It was a great way to start our trip as not only did we get to see a lot of things we otherwise wouldn't have thought to visit, but it also gave us plenty of ideas of how to spend the rest of our time in Prague.

Little did I know that Prague is actually the birth place of my all time favourite german author, Franz Kafka!

As it was a first night in Prague (our flight was delayed the day before so we only arrived at around 1am) we decided to have a big one and did the Drunken Monkey bar crawl, which was just 375CZK (around £12/15€) for 2 and a half hours of open bar and then entry into 4 clubs. So of course we had an epic night! It was also a great way to meet new people, as it was majority tourists. I even met a guy who is on my hispanics course at Kings College in September, small world eh?!

Absinthe shots on tap? YES please.

On the second day we wandered up to the castle where we enjoyed some lovely panoramic views of Prague. The castle itself was rather lovely, as were (what we assumed to be) the parliament buildings that we passed a long the way.

As you may or may not know, I am a very clumsy person and that evening when we headed back to the hostel I managed to add to my list of stupid things I have done. This time I managed to collapse the underside of a top bunk bed on top of myself by kicking it (because I'm an idiot) and it hit my head rather hard and I got a lovely big lump right in the middle of my forehead. This also caused me to go quite drowsy and tired so I didn't manage to make it out with the others to 'The Biggest Club in Central Europe'. At first I was a bit gutted to be missing out, as I hate to miss out on anything and this was completely my own doing, however I was informed in the morning that a more fitting name for it would be 'The Shittest Club in Central Europe' and therefore was not to bothered. Plus I felt a lot fresher than everyone else the next morning.

So that's a very brief outline of our first two days. I've decided to give each place more than just one post, as I'll just end up missing out too much, so keep an eye out over the next few days for more info on Prague :)

Saturday, 30 June 2012

22 down, 174 to go!

There are 196 countries in the world (unless you're a US citizen, then apparently you're not allowed to count Taiwan.)

I have already visited:

1. England (obv.)
2. Scotland
3. Wales
4. Germany
5. France
6. Belgium
7. Austria
8. Denmark
9. Italy
10. Switzerland
11. Spain
12. Greece
13. Portugal
14. USA
15. Canada
16. Columbia
17. Peru
18. Bolivia
19. Chile
20. Haiti
21. The Bahamas
22. Puerto Rico

Next week I'm setting off to the Czech Republic (Prague), Austria (Vienna) and Hungary (Budapest), with six other friends, so that adds two more to the list :) This is our second Eurotrip after we visited Nice, Milan, Zurich, Frankfurt and Hamburg last year. It was such a brilliant trip so we're all rather excited for this one to get underway. Only 8 days to go!!

So after this summer I'll have been to a grand total of 24 countries, which I don't think is a bad start considering I'm only 19. I've already starting planning next years grand adventure too, though we're still debating between South Africa and Australia :) I've totally caught the travelling bug now.

(N.B. I had to edit this post. You know when you know you've forgotten something and can't figure out what it is? Well this time it turns out I'd forgotten that I'd been to Haiti, Puerto Rico and The Bahamas... Silly em...)

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Bucket List

I'm back for the next 3 weeks or so before heading on my next (slightly less extravagant but no less exciting) adventure to Prague, Vienna and Budapest. Although I have been slacking quite considerably on the blogging front for the past few weeks (sorry!), I have really enjoyed keeping one and intend to do so every time I decide to go gallivanting around the world. Therefore I have decided that the blog itself needs a new make-over and purpose, considering that I won't ALWAYS be off exploring/my gap yah is very nearly over.

I mentioned briefly in a post a few months ago that at the age of 14 I wrote a bucket list outlining all the exciting things I want to do before the age of 30. I haven't really got started on this list yet even though I keep adding to it, though in fairness to myself I have probably been too young to do so until now as the majority of the list is full of things to do whilst travelling. I decided to create a challenge to combine as many things on this list as possible.

So here it is:
Visit every country in the world before I die.

Before each trip I'll also post the various challenges from my bucket list that I have to do during the trip as well as asking for more suggestions.

Now I realise the logistics of this aren't exactly straight forward. For example I'm not actually allowed into North Korea or Somalia (to name but a few) for various different reasons, but I figure I'll work around that when I get to it.

I'll also blog every so often between trips about places I go in the UK, travel advice, language learning and anything else travel related I can get my hands on that's worth sharing!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Adios Peru

So this is it... we leave Perah TODAY. It's not really sinking in to be honest, I've somehow settled into the mind frame that this how I am going to live from now on, coming back to reality is going to be SO weird.

We spent our last night in Lima avec Samwise and we gorged ourselves on McDonalds as our last hearty meal in Peru, deciding that we've earned it as technically we've been here for so long now we are no longer gringos but Inca Warlords (Sam's logic really, I just went with it because I wanted chicken wings. You know they do those in McDonalds here?? It's awesome.)

I am so glad we decided to just do the one night in Lima, it's such a hole compared to any other place we've stayed in South America, with the only exception perhaps being Puno, but it's a blooming close call. For example our hostel has a roof terrace which anywhere else, would be lovely. Like in Cusco at night the sky is clear, starry and just beautiful. Where as in Lima, it looks white, thick with smog from the pollution. Lovely.

I woke up this morning feeling like I used to at Christmas as a child. My stomach is churning with excitement. Well that or it's something to do with the three chicken sandwiches I ate from a street vender lady yesterday. I really am in two minds, on the one hand I canNOT wait to come home and see everyone, have clean clothes, nice food, warm showers, a hair cut, comfy bed etc etc. But on the other hand I have had the time of my life and met so many awesome people! I know this isn't the last time I do a trip like this.

Our flight isn't for another 11 hours or so, so we have a day of packing and desperately trying to waste time ahead of us. Woooooooooo. We're also going to compile a few more posts with tips for future travellers, highlights and recommendations etc so watch this space, I'm not finished just yet :)

Huacaflippinchina BABY

The last 5 days or so were spent in Huacachina, a little oasis town with the population of around 115 people about 4 hours away from Lima (unless you travel with Flores, then it's more like 6 and a half. Lying so and sos.) It was AMAZING, such a good way to spend the end of our trip. Not that we did much like :P

We spent 23 hours (mas o menos) on a bus to get there when it was supposed to be 16. I am NOT going to miss peruvian buses even a little bit. To be honest its quite comforting to know that my journey back to Preston won't even take that long. It was pretty horrendous but arriving in Huacachina was so awesome, its such a beautiful place!

Most of the time was just spent chilling out and eating (I know this is quite the running theme for this trip!) The hostel we stayed at does the most amazing BBQ Chicken Wings, so if you're heading to Huacachina stay at Desert Nights Hostel and try them out. Also its only 15/s a night and if your a HI member its even cheaper, but to be honest the chicken wings should be enough of a pull.

Of course we had to test out the night life once or twice and it was EPIC. In fact we decided it was best to leave a day early before we all got stuck in the paradise of Huacachina in a permantantly hungover state achieving very little and never seeing the day light.. Ok so that's a bit of an exaggeration but you get the idea!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Goodbye Cusco :(

SO before and after the Inca Jungle Trek we spent a fair amount of time in Cusco. I think it's safe to say that Cusco has been my favourite place we've visited in South America :)

On the 31st it was EVIE'S 19TH BIRTHDAY so of course we went out to celebrate. I got her a little prezzie and a card signed by lots of different people that we've met throughout the duration of our travels. She was SO surprised so of course I was well happy that all my sneakiness had paid off. Also Matt got her some mustard...

In the evening we went out with the gang to Norton's, Indigo and the Wild Rover which was lots of fun, even if we did get kicked out at like 2.30am. I thought the Wild Rover was supposed to be like party central?? Honestly.

Another aspect of Cusco that cannot go without a mention is Jack's Cafe which is without a doubt the best place for food in South America (well, that I've been to so far!) A little pricey for Peru it has to be said but 100% worth every penny. I don't really think the pics do it justice but I'm going to share them anyways...

We also caught Corpus Christi by accident which was quite nice. Peruvians really do know how to do a religious festival! It was almost impossible to move around Plaza de Amas and they had all these massive elaborately decorated statue things that they were carrying through the streets. Plus music and dancing and food EVERYWHERE. It was great!!

I was rather sad to say goodbye to Cusco, but I reckon it wont be my last visit. I would definitely recommend a visit to anyone :)

Inca Jungle

The last few weeks have been SO good!!

From 1st-4th I completed a 4 day Inca Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu with Dan, Sam and Matt. I had such a good time even though it was bloody difficult.

The first day was Mountain Biking where we spent 2 and a half hours whizzing around 2500m downhill. I did get a little over excited at one point when racing Matt around a bend and executed Face Plant #4 with absolute grace and style, landing with the bike on top of me in a nearby ditch. Luckily I've managed to escape with nothing but a few rather large and impressive (if I do say so myself) bruises on my upper thighs. Silly em.

The rest of the evening was spent chilling with the 3 spaniards in our group (Jose, Carlos and Jose Carlos - how cool is that?!) attempting to speak Spanish/English to each other, until the others got back from rafting. After dinner we were joined by the guys and the three dutch girls in a our group and we decided to have a bit of a sing song until it was just Sam, Dan and I keeping everyone awake with our extremely tuneful drunken renditions of Jack Johnson and Tracy Chapman.

The second day was probably the hardest as we had to walk around 10 hours, mostly uphill and my asthma decided to be a cow. However the views and scenery were 100% worth it; it was totally incredible. Pretty cool to be on the real inca trail too!

The Hot Springs at the end of the day were SUCH a relief as we girls could finally chill out and watch whilst the lads, somehow still full of beans, decided to throw each other around.

Day 3 was ZIP-LINING 150m above the tree tops. Wowzer, it was AMAZING!! Its so high up it's completely surreal.

That little black dot in the sky. That's a person.

After that we only had 3 more hours walking until we arrived at Aguas Calientes and much to my delight it was almost all flat along the train track. I did however discover from our guide that I had left my steroid inhaler at the previous hostel, meaning I was to miss two doses before climbing Machu/Huayna Picchu the next day. Oops.

At 4am the next day we woke up to the unwelcome sound of our various alarms. By this time I was pretty terrified that I wouldn't make it by my lack of inhaler, whilst being completely exhausted and covered in bites and blisters. I don't think anyone has ever been less inclined to Machu Picchu.

However once we got started up the bazillion inca stairs up to the top, my spirits began to lift as I realised it wasn't actually so bad and the excitement sank in that I was going to watch the sunrise of the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu. How very gap yah. It was absolutely incredible too.

I have to say Huayna Picchu was a little bit more of a challenge but the overwhelming feeling of awe that you get when you reach the top is unbelievable!

That's Machu Picchu looking teeeeeeeeeeeeny tiny from so high up!

Us lot with the Picchus in the background. Look how high we climbed!!

We stumbled down just as the sun was setting and managed to catch the train back to Cusco just in the nick of time.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Lake Titicaca and the Isla del Sol

After La Paz we headed to Copacabana on Lake Titicaca, joined by Charles and Lucy who we met at the Wild Rover. En route we had the nice surprise of having to get off the bus and take a boat across part of the lake whilst our bus did the same, on a rather rickety looking barge. We came to the conclusion that we had to get off the bus as the barge it came across on looked so unstable, there must have been instances in the past where the whole thing has capsized... Luckily the boat, bus and all our luggage made it across safe and sound.

Our bus... on a barge.

Once in Copacabana we spent a couple of days enjoying the sunshine and hiking up a nearby hill which was quite the challenge at this altitude (we're over 4000m up!!) but the view of the lake was beautiful. I can't believe how HUGE it is, seriously puts 'the lake' at the bottom of Newman College to shame :p

Outside the Cathedral!

It took real skill to get the self timer on this right.

We're now back in Copacabana after spending the past few days on the Isla del Sol, which was ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE. We spent a day hiking from the north to the south side of the island and checking out the ruins at the Inca creation sight. The views were stunning, take a gander:

Steve, Georgia, Lucy and Charles have all head of to Arequipa for a few days before coming to meet us in Cusco for EVIE'S BIIIIIIIIRTHDAY on the 31st. I can't wait! We're still debating whether our next move will be staight back to Cusco or to the Uros Islands on the peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. All depends on pennies really, but fingers crossed we'll be able to get everything in :)