Monday, 15 October 2012

What Happened in July

When I last left off I had just left Groningen (separate from Bradon) to Vienna, Austria. I left super early in the morning, like 7 am, so that I could take the reservation-free route through Amsterdam and some wide variety of German cities. It was a good 15 hour train ride, and I was hacking the whole time so no one wanted to sit by me. Score. I did end up having this huge black athlete guy sit beside me on the really long ride (Amsterdam to Frankfurt, I think?) and all these dutch people kept asking for his autograph ... so I think I was pressed up against a celebrity for a good 8 hours with zero knowledge of this fact. No idea who this gentleman was, but he was very polite and didn't hog the leg room. I get to Vienna at like 10 pm and Alina meets me at the train station. We walk to her boyfriend Moritz's apartment through the really nice 1st district. Alina shared her dessert knoodl with apricot in it which was SO GOOD. I slept like a baby and woke up to Bradon and our friend Claire arriving via night bus.  We had a lovely breakfast, got organized and met up with the other people coming to the festival with us: Moritz, Paul and Anna. Bradon and I drove down with Anna and we all met up around Gratz at the UrbanArtForms festival grounds. 
The first night was kind of dead, we had our tents in different areas cause Bradon and I purchased the tent hotel ticket, whereas the others brought their own. We explored the grounds, stages, lake, etc and danced around till 2 or 3 in the morning. Next day we went to a smaller town around Gratz to get supplies (alcohol) and lunch (schnitzel) in the early day and came back to the grounds for THE BEST NIGHT EVER. Paul Kalkbrenner, Pendulum, Fritz Kalkbrenner and Skrillex shows the first night -- despite all the crazy mixups with scheduling and missing a couple acts we wanted because of that. So much Red Bull. Fritz was unbelievable: there was serious technical difficulties but everyone stuck around for a good 20 mins while they tried to figure it out. Then when sound got working again, Fritz was so gracious to the crowd and everyone was so loving and happy and there was this amazing feeling of community because of that. It was pretty magical. Every night sleeping in the tent sucked. There were flimsy little foamy pads to keep up from being on solid dirt ground, and we brought a sleep sheet to share -- it was a million degrees in the tent, and it was about the size of a twin bed, but shorter. We spent as little time in there as possible. We spent some of the next day at the lake and visited Gratz to see the city before the acts. Then we saw Knife Party, Deichkind, Moonbootica and Justice. Knife Party was absolutely amazing, the sun was low and it was all dusty and everyone was dancing and jumping and so excited. Justice was straight up epic. They did an encor remix of We Are Your Friends that was so incredible my mind was actually blown, so I can't describe what it was like. After Moonbootica Bradon and I went on a quest to find as many of the plastic cups as we could because each one traded in for 2 euro. We made a good 16 euro I think, and we were competing with a couple thousand people with the same idea. We were giddy by the end of it. 

The next morning we woke up late, packed our things and headed back to Vienna. To shower for the first time in four days. We were so gross. On the way we stopped to get Goulash soup -- AMAZING. I love Austrian food. So much. Our first night in Vienna we went to this Viennese traditional style wine place with comfort food, Austrian style. I had the most amazing saurkraut in the universe, and this pork that pretty much melted in my mouth. And deep friend vegis and all sorts of good stuff. All paired with white wine spritzers by the jug. Then we went home and played this card game called Wizard which is the funnest game ever, and I really must find it in Canada!
The rest of our Vienna stay was mostly with Alina guiding us around Vienna and showing us the best places to be. We went out one night, I had a debate with Paul about whether Horse meat should be eaten by humans that lasted way longer than it should have (Him: Yes, Me: No). I tried it eventually, it was really salty and creepy. We went for final knoodl on our last night with Alina and then had to BOOK IT to the train station to catch our overnight train to Italy. I have never been that stressed out. We were running and running and screaming and we had to say goodbye to Alina in such a hurry it was so upsetting, I wanted to just cry all night. We jumped onto the train seconds before it started moving -- unlike the time with Emily and I in Lille, it wasn't comedic, it was desperate and angry. I thought my chest would explode. 

Then, another crappy night train experience, but definitely not as bad as the other time I took one to Italy. We took the train to the northern-most town we could find, because Bradon's eurail pass was only valid for Italy-France-Spain, and we had to be in Italy first before he could use it. We went from whatever that town was to Venice, missed our stop cause I could not wake Bradon up (really freaky), so we hopped off at the next one which was a Port in Venice or something. Terrible idea because NO train stopped there heading the other way and we started to get kinda snippy at each other -- night trains will do that to people. Eventually we got one back to the main station, transferred to another train that went to Florence or something and then more trains till we finally ended up in Rio Maggiore -- aka most romantic place on earth. Five nights here, staying in a little hotel/apartment-y thing. SO MANY HILLS. I was dying walking up to that room every day, and having to walk back down to get food and then back up again. AH, my calves were incredible. We had pizza and lemoncello/lemoncino every single day. There was a little boutique liquor store we bought wines at, and we went to the same pizza place every day too. There was a little coop market that we got spreads and crackers at for our hike snacks and breakfast. We hiked two of the four days. First day we went over to La Spezia to try and take out money (Our debit cards weren't accepted on the trail) and explore the, kind of lackluster, city. The first hiking day was Riomaggiore - Manarola - Corniglia. To Manarola is a sea-side walkway of only about half an hour that is the "lovers" walk, so it's super romantic. Bradon was all awkward. Manarola to Corniglia the path was washed out so we took a back route (after much getting lost in the town) through vineyards and so much beauty. SO MUCH UP HILL, SERIOUSLY. Once we got to Corniglia we got tiramisu and espresso at this little cafe. Then back we hiked. Next day we took a train to Monterosso, walked backwards to Vernazza, took another train to Corniglia, and another train back to Riomaggiore. The hiking bit was intense, it was so backwoods-style, it felt like Jurrasic park. There were more people out this day, and it got really hot by midday when the mist was burnt off. We were giddy hikers and just powered up the steeps steps. Vernazza was beautiful, we got some gelato there and I helped some tourists who needed bandaids. We hit up the same cafe in Corniglia and this time I got my mandatory hot chocolate despite the heat (so many weird looks). Time seriously stood still in this place. Leaving hurt my heart.

We took a train in the morning to Levanto or somewhere around there to grab pizza and explore, and then continued our train ride to Genoa. Where we spent four or so more days. Genoa was kind of disappointing as a town, we pretty much saw all the tourist stuff walking around the first night. Since I'm allergic to shellfish we couldn't really take advantage of the seafood at the port, and because of our budget we couldn't afford to go to the aquarium. So we went to Pasta Way every day for dinner, and got absurd portions of pasta. And we wandered around, chatting and drinking either copious amounts of Cappucinno or Sangria -- depending on the time of day. We had cable in our room, so we watched Italian Hello Kitty at night or, if we were lucky, CSI or some 90's action movie would be on in English. I have never been so content with doing nothing. It was fabulous. I managed to track down Zuppa Inglese gelato our final day in Genoa, which I desperately wanted to share with Bradon but we had been unable to find at ANY gelateria on our trip thus far -- and we seriously looked into every single one. I was content to leave Italy then.

Then we took a train over to Nice, and spent around three or four days there. Eating ice cream, drinking cheap champagne on the beach and eating McDonalds because, wow was our money dwindling. I got to familiarize myself with French again, and show my prowess at the Monoprix. We met up with some other Canadians and spent a night drinking and chatting on the beach. We went one day to Monte Carlo where we walked around marvelling at other people's money. I begged Bradon to go with me to play slots in a not-so-fancy casino, and he ended up winning 20 euro from gambling 5. We cashed out, and bought some ice cream with our winnings. It was a good day. We spent a day snoozing on the beach and giggling at boh of our inability's to really swim. Then we headed over to Avignon for a night.
O my gosh. Do not stay at the YMCA in Avignon. We left the hostel booking for this night too late, and because it was the Theatre festival, everywhere good within our price range was booked up. We ended up walking from one side of the city to the other, and then out of the city, following our not-very-reliable-because-there's-no-3G-here map on my iPhone. We were so pissy at each other because we couldn't find it and my feet were blistered and bloody so I was not a happy camper. We finally got there, sweaty and dehydrated, and no one was at the front desk. We wandere around a good forty minutes till finally someone came around. Also, it should be noted this place looked like a prison. We get to our room finally and it is a dump, there is a little ant hill on the floor with a steady high way of ants that are all over the place. The shower is tiny and you have to hold the spout over you head which is so tiny that wetting your hair takes five minutes. Try washing it. We laughed at how awful it was, made cracks about how it was NOT fun to stay at the YMCA, and headed into town. Avignon itself is breathtaking. We wandered through the streets filled with performers and went down the cobbled pedestrian streets until we found a cute little hipster bistrot where we got dinner. We wandered around until the sun started to set and we figured we should make it back to our prison before they locked us out. The beds were surprisingly comfy, and before we knew it our Avignon trip was over. 

The next day we had to walk ALL the way back to the train station to get to Barcelona. Our train had to stop in Port Bou right at the border of France and Spain to switch trains and book or train through to Barcelona because the trains in Spain don't connect into France. There was a fire somewhere in Port Bou or the surrounding area that meant all sort of trains were delayed so this tiny little station was absolutely packed and terrifying. Bradon and I were throwing elbows trying to figure out what to do. We had to wait about an hour, so we bought a really expensive pizza to share which ended up being half frozen. Unhappy. When we eventually ended up in Barcelona, we took the super awesome metro to our Hostel which was a little ways out of the city. The Hostel was so great, I'd read about it before so I was so excited when we got there. The staff was super friendly and I WAS THE ONLY GIRL IN AN EIGHT BED DORM. That was kinda weird, sharing a bathroom with that many boys. There was a kitchen there and we had incredible meals for so cheap because food was practically cents to dollars at the grocery store for what we were used to. We went out for Tapas one night (quite expensive) and then another night we made our own for so much cheaper, and we had like a mountain of food. We shared food with people in our hostel and we got some cheese and ham from one group who we shared our wine with. We went to the market on the main street in the city, didn't get robbed once! Barcelona was so beautiful. We met up with some friends from Bradon's school, Mark and David, and they took us around one night. We went to a rooftop panoramic view bar one night which looked over the whole city. We walked everywhere, went to the castle and the olympic stadium. It was really beautiful. Then I had to leave Bradon to meet up with Emily in Madrid. Saddest day, splitting up after travelling together for almost a month. So I cried a bit, and then braved Barcelona train station security which is ABSURD. The train was super nice, and it had spanish Captain America playing through the whole ride. I sat beside a grumpy old spanish lady. 

Then Madrid! Emily and I tried to get on the same train but I didn't make it on time, so we met at the Hostel. What a great hostel again! We were in an eight bed all girls dorm. We met up, wandered around till we found somewhere not sketchy to get food, and then we got the best mojitos of our lives, and a damn good plate of nachos. I'm gonna stop now, because a lot happened in Madrid and this blog entry is ridiculously long and pictureless. We're practically at the end of July at this point anyways! Till next time!

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