Saturday, September 2, 2006

Carlos Muchos = Muchos Funos

Getting back on the road was great….
I flew out of Malta and into Milan on a Monday morning. Upon landing I felt like I had ended up in Pennsylvania as opposed to one of Europe’s fashion capitals. Either that or the rumour about the fashion industry being one Manolo short of a pair was true. As I raced into the airport centre trying to find the quickest way to Florence I was swallowed whole by an Amish convention. I could not see one other person with a hairless face or hatless head other than the child in the arms of one said hairy and hat wearing person. It was very surreal. A quick check of the signposts confirmed that I had indeed not repeated the mistake of ending up in Caen rather than Cannes and my landed had simply coincided with some strange religious convention in Milan. Sticking out like a sore thumb I was the prime suspect for a charming Italian man to approach and rescue me from my haze of confusion. Taking my bag and punctuating his instructions with words such as amore, bella, baci and bellissimo he managed to get me on the correct bus to the centre of Milan for a discount price. All went smoothly from here on in and I managed to jump on a train headed for Florence ready to meet up with my travel companions.

Something that has shocked me in each place that I have travelled to then returned to is how familiar it seems second time around. I have come to the conclusion that because in the first place you are forced to learn your way around and make so many mistakes in such a short amount of time, on the second visit all of the stress has passed and you simply remember all you need to know. With this in mind, when I arrived in Florence I knew exactly how to get to the House of Sizzle AKA The Red Garter to meet up with Matt and the other Busabout crew. I must have looked like an idiot walking through Florence as I had a massive smile on my face for no apparent reason. I just felt encompassed by everything I had experienced there a few months earlier and excited to be there again. Propping myself up at the bar for my first pint after a day of travelling Francesco the barman endeared me with stories of Florence and the travellers he has met whilst working there. I have also very quickly found out that almost everyone you meet has some connection to Malta despite not knowing where it is or how to get there, the language or whether it is a country or state of another country. Whilst Francesco kept my glass full I got chatting to the steady stream of travellers passing through and was overwhelmed with excitement when seeing Matt again. We had a fantastic night and although karaoke was on the cards the others kept me away from the microphone – I vowed not to drink with these people again, they simply missed out on the performance of the night…. as a perfect end to the night we hitched a ride back to the campsite on the Contiki coach.

Much like my first time in approaching Nice I was filled with butterflies but for an entirely different reason. The Rolling Stones.
Who knew that the location of some of my favourite memories of Europe would now provide yet another. Malta is a destination for some of Europe’s biggest DJ’s. There is a pretty big clubbing scene and dance/techno music is really popular. This has mean that I have been craving rock music and go in search (unsuccessfully I might add) for cheesy foreign bars playing a bit of Bon Jovi, ACDC or Gunners. When I heard that I a) had the opportunity to see live music of a form other than dance and b) for it to be the Rolling Stones I almost wet myself. About 15 of us went to the concert and had an amazing time. The set was incredible with a set of Jagger lips that seemed almost the size of the Harbour Bridge and a tongue that reached out to the audience. Halfway through the concert the stage started to move and slid out into the middle of the crowd. I had such a fantastic time and the whole crowd was on a high.

The Stones only served to set up the following 2 awesome days also filled with stones but the kind on the beach. Gadget, a fellow antipodean, Matt & I spent 2 days relaxing, drinking Carlos Muchos (a Spanish drink where you mix red wine and coke, it sounds gross but wait until you try it) and having an all round laugh. I went parasailing over Nice which gave an incredible and completely different view to any I have previously seen of the Cote de Azur, spent a day at Ville Franche and fell asleep on the beach as well as visited Avignon. Travelling to Avignon on the train was without a doubt one of the most beautiful stretches of scenery I have witnessed since travelling. Next time I visit the Cote de Azur I will definitely take this train trip again just to see the view. It is fairly flat but the entire 2 hr trip is spent gazing out to the clear aqua sea and clean, long beaches. Revisiting made me remember how much I loved the South of France the first time around. Despite having such a - lets put it bluntly – hatred, toward France upon my first visit I can now see myself living in the south for sometime. Investigation into employment may ensue.

A fleeting trip through Valencia, Barcelona and Madrid characterized my first 2 days in Spain followed by 2 relaxing days in San Sebastian….
Despite the brief visit, Spain was everything I had remembered from my first trip there 5 years ago. The people are very passionate, loud and nocturnal – now that I’m writing it, I realise they are quite similar to the Maltese. So many people had told me that Barcelona is stunning so I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see a great deal of scenery however I did visit a Flamenco show. Around 25 of us went to dinner off La Rambla, the main strip in Barcelona then into a bar that held only 40 or so people. The show was quite intimate and started with a drummer, guitarist and singer. About 15 minutes into the show I turned around to hear 2 men tapping their feet as they entered the room. Another 15 minutes further into the show and one of the men appears on stage and gives one of the most incredible dance performances I’ve ever seen. You could not help but to be swept up by his passion and the preciseness of his movement. For an ex-dancer it was incredibly inspirational. I left wanting to not only learn Flamenco but return to the stage.

San Sebastian is a town that has something magical about it…..
Lots of people that I had spoken to before I left Australia and then since I had been travelling, had boasted about the destination. I think I was somewhat expecting a big city on the sea, catering for tourists. It was so much more than that but somewhere I think you need to let yourself be captured by whatever the town is offering at the time. What I loved about San Sebastian was that it seemed unspoilt. Despite there being a lot of young travellers, it still felt authentically Spanish. A huge statue of Jesus overlooks the town which is a mixture of predominantly old but well maintained buildings filled with tapas and wine bars. Whilst I was there a fireworks competition was being held where each night on the waterfront a different region (of Spain) or country (of the Mediterranean) put on a performance of fireworks. It was like seeing New Years Eve fireworks 3 nights in a row. The second night was undoubtedly the best fun. Gadget, Matt & I took 3 bottles of wine, some coke and 1-litre coke cups to the beach and had the best vantage point for the show. Hundreds of people were crammed in front of us but had no idea that the best view was another 100 metres up the beach where you could lie on the sand see everything! After playing a game of “I’ve never” where I consequently divulged more information about myself than I had wanted followed by a bout of the shivers as the breeze picked up we began to walk back to the centre of town. I decided to test the theory that as long as your feet are warm the rest of you will be ok and surprisingly it is true! Gadget had to lend me his socks to stop me from shivering so as we skipped along the promenade past groups of teenagers in suits and gowns (school formals I assume) I was representing Australia in the national uniform of inebriation, thongs and socks. When we reached a carousel I demanded a ride and henceforth came my favourite memory of San Sebastian. The three of us rode this kids’ ride like we were also children and were in hysterics the entire time. Some of my best photos of the year are from this ride!

Upon returning to Malta I’ve come to the conclusion that travelling suits me. I’m happy here in Malta, learning new words each day, meeting lovely people and experiencing a different culture but what is so fantastic about travelling is sharing your new experiences with other people’s new experiences. You could drink a bottle of wine on the beach everyday of the year with a different traveller and each time, you would have a new experience because it’s their first time with you. I have a new understanding for why, despite the bad pay, lack of stability and required commitment to work, the guides and drivers for travel companies continue to do their job.

I’m trying to update my photos as we speak but it is running very slowly…. I’m missing you all and hope to hear from you soon!

Xx Loz

Friday, September 1, 2006

Only in Malta

My first week here has been very interesting to say the least. I have firstly come across and resolved many internal conflicts which I hope will provide some amusement for you all given they provided only frustration for me.

I will never complain about the heat in Australia again....
I am sure that the pain of News Years Day 2006 still resides at front of mind for many but may I say that I for one will never complain about the Aussie heat again. The heat here in Malta is unbearable. Although most places are built for the heat with concrete buildings and tiled floors, due to both the expense and the demand on resources not everywhere has air conditioning. I didn’t realize how great it was to be able to escape into a shopping centre when the heat hits in Australia, here in Malta unless you know someone with air con or you sit in the cinema from 8 in the morning until midnight you have no chance of cooling down. My apartment is fantastic except that it is on the top floor and only has fans. This means that I am basically living in an oven. It is so hot that I haven’t even turned the hot water system on. I am having hotter cold showers than some hot showers that I've had before! The other thing I will always appreciate about the Australian summer is the southerlies. Here when there is a breeze it is still hot as it is coming off the African desert and there is never a chance of a thunderstorm but I have been told that if it does actually rain the water will be really dirty given that there is so much desert sand in the air!! Mela (I am picking up Maltese) the heat will only be so excruciating for another month or so then hopefully cool down a little.

I am staying in Malta for three months for a few reasons....
Firstly, I wanted to learn Maltese so that when I return home I can speak to my grandparents in Maltese. It is also an amazing place and I really wanted to understand the people and the culture more. Actually living here is so different from visiting. The Maltese people are incredibly friendly and hospitable but also very straightforward. This is taking a lot of getting used to. Where a comment would be considered slightly or largely offensive in Australia it is simply the way people talk to each other here. For example in the last week I have been told that I look pregnant (no comments thanks Chappo), that I am stupid for not eating enough and that I have wasted my phone credit. I find myself constantly having to swallow my words and remember that I shouldn't be taking offense to anything. I've also based myself here in Malta as it is a completely different life experience to if I had have stayed in the UK. The way of life is very different (check out for a hilarious insight into the country & its people) as well as the attitudes and obviously language. I am still getting used to the more nocturnal way of living but can understand it a lot better now that I have experienced the heat.

Staying in Malta for 3 months has meant that I can get a job....
Please brace yourselves because you may laugh so hard that you will fall of your chairs, wet yourself or hyperventilate (not necessarily in that order). I am glad to say that my CV will now be enriched with the skills and responsibilities acquired through working at a hot dog shop. Yes, I am the newest employee at a 24 hour take away store in Paceville specializing in hot diggity dogs (this works best if you put on an American sideshow alley accent). Basically I work from 11pm to 6am making around 5000 hotdogs (or thereabouts) for realms of drunken people who come in and make noises and signs which indicate they need food. Given that I'm only really doing this to improve my Maltese and make a bit of extra cash while traveling I shouldn’t really care but I am finding it very difficult to be criticized for my hot dog making skills. I am also now well versed in refusing marriage proposals from inebriated Sicilians as well as explaining Australian insults such as dick-head to the fiery tempered Bulgarian that I work with – try explaining this, it is not easy…..

During my first few weeks in Malta I also managed to contract PTS – post travel stress (I'm sure there is a technical term for this or even a real founded disease similar)….
As much as I had wanted to unpack my bag and settle down, as soon as I did I wanted to be back on the road again! It was so strange not to be meeting new people everyday and having to learn a new transport system, language, customs etc for living as opposed to traveling/sightseeing. Finding a cheap flight to Florence I decided to jump on a plane and meet up with Matt for 10 days traveling from Italy through France and onto Spain…..

Love you all xxxx

Monday, July 24, 2006

Returning to the motherland....

So much has happened in the last few weeks it’s hard to know where to start….

Leaving Nice was a little sad as I had intended to spend 3 nights there but ended up spending a whole week. It was so nice (get it?) to be able to relax on a beach again and just have a slower pace of life with no pressure to see all of the sites in 3 days!!

I had met so many people on the Busabout loop that told me that Lauterbrunnen was their favorite place...
I found this hard to believe given all of the other amazing places I had seen and also thought that because I would always choose beach over snow perhaps this feeling of favoritism wouldn’t ring true for me. How wrong I could be. Lauterbrunnen was the most visually stunning place I have visited since leaving Australia . Driving into the valley comprising of no less than 72 waterfalls was only marred by the vision of 6 Contiki coaches parked at our campsite.

It was a nice change to get off the bus and not be met with a wave of heat and smog comparable to running across the Anzac Bridge during peak hour traffic. We were met by Helga (or something similar) who told us ze rules of ze cambsite. Departing the bus also signaled the meeting of perhaps my best matched partner in crime (other than Kate of course), Clare Safstrong. Clare is an Aussie who has been living in London for a year or so and we spent the most hilarious night together. We went to the Oberlander for rostis, traditional Swiss potato dishes, only to be met by an Aussie larrikin running the restaurant who continually asked us if we wanted to order knuckle sandwiches (Dan I had visions of you in 30 years time). After swapping travel stories that were strangely similar we returned to the campsite to brave the Bombshelter.

Recipe for a Bombshelter:
Take a room the size of a portaloo
Pump with smoke
Add 300 Contiki passengers and a sprinkling of interested onlookers
Pour in copious amounts of highly fermented fruit juice
To the sound of Brittney Spears, Ja Rule and Men at Work expel air through kneading
Take small handfuls, consisting of 2 to 3 Contiki passengers, and roll into a small ball
Top with a spattering of tears from the princess without a pash
Place on camping mat for 2 to 4 minutes and watch for results

Enough said…. Clare and I were in hysterics and after purchasing one highly over priced sparkling wine and decided that it was funnier to remain sober and start a book on the series of events. I have never seen anything like it and as you will all appreciate, this is some feat given my introduction into the 18+ world at Club Troppo. Sadly, Clare was only spending one night in Lauterbrunnen but I am sure we will meet again for more frivolity.

Lauterbrunnen also saw the return of Lauren Croft.
Rising after the hilarity of the Bombshelter was literally breathtaking. I stood outside my cabin just staring at my surroundings. The Alps are indescribable and certainly bring to reality how flat Australia is. I went for a walk up behind a nearby waterfall before going whitewater-rafting!! I was a little apprehensive about the rafting given it was on a river with grade 5 rapids (highest being a deathly 6) but kept telling myself that if I could skydive, canyon and survive 3 years sitting next to Matt Chapman it was likely I could survive anything. As soon I was in the river I calmed down. The water was icy but incredibly clear. IU had so much fun! Despite my shoulders locking up I came out unscathed which is more than could be said for some of the nights out in Nice. At the swimming in the lake at Interlaken was one of the highlights. It was the first time I had ever swum in fresh water and it was the strangest feeling.

Mountain biking the next day was also incredible. I rode for about 3 hours (regular photo stops) through a track along the river from Lauterbrunnen to Interlaken with a couple I had met from Turramurra. After lunch we rode around Interlaken and I thought Id be really tricky and jump up a gutter only to pop a tyre!!! Thank goodness we were close to the train station so I could jump on the train rather than hike back with a flat!

Annecy take 2…..
Was completely different but equally as good as take 1. Last time I had visited Jess Brennan in Annecy it had snowed the week prior and we spent a whole day playing in the snow at Chamonix . This time it was hot, sunny and involved swimming in the lake. I had a fantastic time walking around until it got dark at 10.30. Hanging out with the kids Jess looks after and taking Vanille the dog for a walk. Saying goodbye to Jess after another week together was really difficult. We have such a great friendship now and it is horrible not knowing the next time we’ll see each other.

If I had any apprehension returning to France on my leg from Italy it was numerously multiplied upon my return to Paris …..
I had to spend one night in Paris (ha ha) on my way back to London and was not looking forward to it. After finding my room which had 3 single beds pushed together to allow entry into the cupboard space that it may have well been I luckily ran into Erika one of my favorite people from Busabout. She invited me to dinner with her and some others that she had met and we ended up at Eds, a close by bar. I felt safest OFF the streets of Paris and thought only a dose of karaoke will render my impression of Paris more positive than last time…next thing I knew I was on the stage belting out Mr Jones. So there you go Paris , present me with a bad time and see what you get as payback!!!!!

Reunions are oft not what they are built up to be…..
I constantly hear of horror stories of people reuniting with ex-partners, 10 year school reunions where you find out you are still the nerdy kid or even reuniting with study after a hefty break. The one I had with Sarah Treliving upon my return to London should really restore faith for all of those who look upon reunion with negativity. Seeing her at Victoria Station was amazing. We spent the next 3 days catching up on what had happened since I had left Australia and she returned to London . I met her fantastic friends (except for Karen who was a complete cow – Tree make sure you forward this onto her), drank plenty of red wine and was stuffed silly by her parents who were the sweetest hosts I could ask for. We met up with Duncan for lunch at Canary wharf which was even more mind blowing. It was so surreal to have made these 2 fantastic English friends in Australia and to now be in their home country with them! Although I haven’t really spent enough time in London to comment with authority it seems some things don’t change. As we sat down for lunch the wind started up, this was the first time I had required jeans, closed shoes and a jacket in the last 2 months and I was relieved that I had the foresight to think ahead. As our food was brought out my salad was picked up by the wind and deposited all over Sarah, just in time for her job interview later that day. Shortly after the waiter laughed it off without offering a replacement salad it started to rain….. Sarah and Duncan looked unfazed. I looked at them confused as to why they had returned home.

One of the best friends I have made while traveling is Matty Joyce.
Matt is one of those people that you meet and can’t help but fall in love with. I am sure that no mater whose life he enters he leaves his mark which is smile on said persons face. Matt is from Urunga near Coffs Harbour and has been working for Busabout for 2 years or so. Upon hearing my sob story about Paris he was determined that I shouldn’t leave Europe without rectifying the impression that I had built of the ghastly city and as such arranged to meet me in Paris for a guided tour. It pains me to say but I now fall into the cliché of believing that Paris truly is a beautiful city.

When I arrived in Paris I decided to climb the Eiffel tower which was pretty cool. It gives an awesome perspective of just how big the city is. That evening a group of us took some wine up to the Sacre Cour (the only hill in Paris ) and sat watching the city sparkle as we listened to those around us chatter and play music. Seeing the city at night, even from a distance was the start of my change in attitude. The next day was incredibly hot and not at all conducive to sightseeing so I hung out in the best room in Paris . I had managed to score a room with 3 balconies a view of the Sacre Coeur and Eiffel Tower for 30 euro a night. As the day cooled Matt, myself and some others from the hostel made our way to the Eiffel Tower to meet a group for a night bike ride. It was great to share the city with other people and hear all of their impressions of the sites etc. I am completely convinced that big cities should only be seen in company. Seeing the sun set through the glass pyramid of the Louvre was definitely a highlight.

The Loz you all know came out…
after a cruise along the Seine and a few local reds when we jumped back on our bikes to head back to the Eiffel Tower . Feeling a little tipsy not only made the bike ride more fun but also brought to light the dangers of drink driving. As I pumped my legs to keep up to the group I saw a pole fast approaching. Despite it being 10 metres away I knew I wouldn’t be able to swerve to miss in time and ran straight into it. This would have been fine given I didn’t fall over but as Matt was in hysterics I burst out laughing and proceeded to fall off my bike. I looked up to see a group of German students giggling behind their hands. As I tried to disentangle myself from the bike, I picked the handle bars up back to front which meant to bike wouldn’t lift and I fell back on the ground. I was unable to stop laughing and when I noticed the German students were in the same state and actually pointing at me I thought ‘OK get yourself under control’ only to wonder ‘if I didn’t hit my head why are all of those lights in my eyes’. The answer would be that the German students had started to take photos of me!!!!! Matt was almost falling off his bike by this stage and all I could do was stand up, bow and run to catch up with the group. This would have to be my stack of the trip.

My last day in Paris coincided with Bastille Day, which was part of the reason I had returned. I figured that if I was to rectify the bad impression I had of Paris what better day to do it than their national day of pride. I wasn’t disappointed. Partly due to the luck I had with my room I had the most incredible view of the fireworks and the sparkling Eiffel Tower . The city was absolutely pumping with people everywhere. By the end of my time here Paris has changed from a dirty, unfriendly destination to a sparkling city that has affirmed one of my best ever friendships.

After a short few days in London ….
catching up with Tree, Dunc , Mo and Brett I have now made my way to Malta . It is stifling hot here and I am about to go to the beach before heading to a party where Bob Sinclair is playing tonight.

I am missing you all lots and hope to hear from you soon. I will have a new Maltese phone number shortly and will send it as soon as it is confirmed.

Take care

Xx Loz

Thursday, July 6, 2006

Ciao Bella.... Bonjour Mademoiselle

Hello Everyone!!

The French Riviera certainly lived up to any romantic expectations I had of Cannes, in the south as opposed to Caen, in the north. Despite ending up in Slovenia rather than Italy on one leg of Busabout - apparently due to the incorrect coordinates that head office had conspiratorially wired through to the GPS system (which I later found out was nonexistent) - this time my efforts to reach the South of France could not go too wrong, or if they did were at least out of my control.

There was a moment of sadness as we cruised out of Italy. I, by this stage had spent over a month in the gorgeous country and it now holds some very special memories for me. I must also admit that thought of returning to France was less than high on my agenda and crossing the border did coincide with a wave of nausea as I remembered the defecation, arrogance and nasty bus drivers that I had encountered 3 months previous. To my great relief the only nausea that I felt after this initial wave was due wholeheartedly to excessive consumption of champagne at ladies night at Wayne’s (authentically French, I know).

Hotel Anderes seemed to be run by a group of dodgy Frenchmen……
When I walked into the 2 star hotel (it was a hotel not to be confused with a hostel) I ran into Rose who luckily warned me of the state of the rooms. When I made my way to the fifth floor carrying a backpack weighing a third of me all I wanted was an air-conditioned room. I burst through the door to be greeted by a musty smell, about 3 square centimetres of floor space and 4 bunk beds. After this initial shock I had a shower and met Rose and Ian (the other members of the Cinque Terre A-Team) for dinner. It was the 21st June when I arrived which happened to be Fete de la Musique. This is a national day of music in France where street performers, bands and attention seekers hit the streets and perform for hours on end. In the old town of Nice one couldn’t walk 100 metres without being struck with music from a different band or encountering acrobats doing back flips, people drinking and attempting to imitate the acrobats or people drinking and imitating the bands (I fell, literally into all 3 categories).
After a few hours of wandering around and checking out the sites we settled at Wayne’s where a stage had been set up on the street and bands of different nationalities played varying sets. I had such a great time particularly after I cottoned onto the fact that the neighbouring kebab shop was selling beer for one sixth of the price that Wayne’s was and if I was subtle enough I was able to buy the cheap stuff and pour it into my glass under the table – you can take the girl out of the coast but not the coast out of the girl I hear you say. Nathan, Greg and Chris, three friends from Busabout met Monika, a Canadian friend I made, and I at Wayne’s where we subsequently took to dancing on the tables and having an all round great night. It was such a lift to hear live music again. I didn’t realise how much I had missed it. I had a fantastic night, in my top 3 overseas. When the rest of us decided to head home Chris took off on a scooter with some locals and woke up at 8am the next morning on a rock in Monaco – enough said.

Most of the friends I had made in Cinque Terre moved on the next day…..
So I explored Nice by myself. Nice was quite cosmopolitan and although it is not the prettiest of cities it was much more friendly than my previous experience of France had been. I lay on the beach, well small boulders really, nursing my Fete de la Musique hangover and struggling into the water to swim every 15 minutes or so. It was so difficult to hobble in and out of the water that I thought it would be a god idea to wear my thongs in. Low and behold I suffered a blow out that would lead to a multitude of problems later in the day. I have been trying to adopt the local habits of the country that I’m in. In Malta, I ate, drank and spoke excessively. In Rome I ate nothing but Pizza and drank nothing but red wine. So in the South of France I sun baked all day, had a siesta then partied all night. After my siesta on this particular day 7 of us headed to the local chicken shop and had a feast of roast chicken and veggies. This, I must say was a surprise and delight for my pizza, pasta and ham sandwiched conditioned stomach. After dinner and a few bottles of champagne with Kirra from Melbourne and Lauren and Sarah from Canberra we trotted off to Wayne’s proudly displaying Aussie flag tattoos, to watch Australia play Croatia in the soccer. After my first €6 beer I realised it was ladies night, paid €2 and was presented with a classy plastic cup that would not be empty of sweet, gold, bubbly and most importantly alcoholic liquid for the remainder of the night. Needless to say there was more dancing on the tables.

The thong blow out from earlier in the day soon came into contention with my swiftly moving feet. During the night I had no less than three near misses to falling from the table due to further blow outs. The worst however, was imminent. At 2.50am, in a state of panic we realised that we were at least a half hour walk from the hostel which had a lock out from 3-6am. As I was wearing black tights and a black singlet I already had the lets get physical vibe and started running back to the hostel, really, there were no alternatives as cabs were nowhere to be seen. Anyone who has visited Nice in the last 2 years will appreciate that the entire main street is a mess due to construction of light rail this combined with the thong blow out was a recipe for disaster. As I set the pace for my team of partiers I sprinted along, saw a piece of wood that resembled a skate ramp and tried to slide down it sideways. Now if the makeshift ramp had not been covered in dew I would have pulled off an impressive move. Unfortunately for me, my feet slid out from under me and I was left with a scratch and bruise to reckon with the one I had endured from the roller skating incident at Kate’s 80’s party – I have photographic evidence. I bounced back to my feet undeterred, only to find myself on all fours100 meters down the road when I had yet another blow out and stacked it fair on the main road. 2 grazed knees (one now infected), a grazed wrist, swollen previously sprained ankle, grazed right foot, grazed left toes, cut and bruised back later I made it to the hostel just as the doors were closing and sweetly smiled my way in. I’m thinking of sending this story to Havaianas and requesting a free pair many of the above injuries would not have been sustained had the thongs been of my sturdy a construction.

The best thing about the South of France was not necessarily Nice (ha ha)….
It was the proximity of Nice to some of the most beautiful beaches I have seen in Europe. After 3 days in Nice I met Jess Brennan at Antibes for 2 nights. It was fantastic to see a friend and be able to chat with someone so normally – no questions about how long you’re travelling, what you do back home etc etc. Jess & I spent 1 day together in Antibes and one in Monaco.
Antibes had a lot of character. It has both a new and old part of town. It is much smaller than Nice which gave me a chance to speak to quite a few locals . Most of the people living in Antibes are transient, as they work on the mega-yachts docked in Antibes. On our second night Jess, myself and a friend Matt from Busabout went and watched the sunset with a few bottles of wine before heading to a Spanish bar. The bar itself had a great atmosphere but we decided it was a night for double dares. Had anyone wanted to test the affects of alcohol on 3 excitable young people this was the night. After Matt hit on a guy, then himself in a mirror, Jess crawled (but refused to bark) from the front door to the bar. Obviously the other two had under active imaginations as I was only dared to baby talk to a dog (WHAT were they thinking? I do that anyway) then walk up to a group of French people, smash a cup of ice and start the conversation with “now that the ice is broken”…. Obviously neither of them are completely familiar with my penchant for Dad jokes.

Monaco is gorgeous and I fell in love with it as soon as I left the train. It is incredibly clean and well kept which isn’t surprising given that to live there you must submit a €1,000,000 deposit and application and be prepared to lose this deposit if you are rejected. This rule isn’t taken lightly. Madonna’s application was rejected!!!!! The beach at Monaco is stunning. A man drives around all day on a jet ski with a net to catch any floating rubbish or seaweed so the water is constantly crystal clear. The beach is covered in the tiniest pebbles which are as comfortable as sand but nowhere near as annoying as you are not, for days following, shaking sand from all possessions taken to the beach.
Villefranche was a smaller village between Monaco and Nice that I loved. The town itself reminded me of Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre, it was still the old town painted in vivid colours but contained some fantastic shops obviously catering for the elite. The beach was quite long and sandy and had a break wall covered in brilliant purple flowers that both smelt and looked amazing. After my day here I returned to a very busy Nice as France won when they played Spain in the soccer. There were people everywhere and the atmosphere was fantastic if not a tad noisy!!!

So unfortunately my time in the South of France had to come to an end. I boarded the bus for Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland on Friday and headed away from the coast but towards the Swiss alps.

Stayed tuned for the next instalment…… there are also some personal messages below….

xx Loz

Saturday, July 1, 2006

Leather goods and leathery looks :)

Bonjour my dear friends......

Well I have now made may way from the South of Italy to the South of France and have a tan to rival Paris Hilton's fake one (but mine is real and achieved through periodic application of sunscreen).

After Rome and travelling with my partners in crime, Giddo and Spitty, I needed to sit the next few plays out.....
Siena was the perfect place to do this, as there is not a great deal to do there. Siena is in the region of Tuscany and lived up to the stereotypical image of the area. It was set in a very hilly area full of vineyards (yes Darcy, wine farms) and small towns that pop up out of nowhere. As the goal of my 2 nights here was to take it easy this is exactly what I did. On the first day I walked around Siena which had some fantastic shopping and also tasted the best gelatti that I had in Italy. Day 2 comprised of a day trip to San Giginamo a smaller fortressed town about 1 hour from Siena. It had amazing views of the region and was full of local people as opposed to tourists. All in all the stay at Siena was very relaxing but providing of very few stories given the sobriety of oneself.

Florence was a whole new kettle of fish as I made new friends!!!!
When we arrived at the camping ground in Florence I realised that I had booked the wrong accommodation and as such had to deal with a surly Italian mama who didn't want a bar of giving me the Busabout discount to which I was entitled. After giving her the sob story of losing €30 to the previous accommodation I had stayed at (this is true) and by dropping a few Italian words that I knew from Malta, she gave in and gave me a room to myself plus the discount - thanks Lionel for teaching me those negotiating skills!!

After relaxing and having an afternoon beer with Shrek and Donkey (driver & guide Matt) as well as the Kiwi spitting image of Hugh Jackman, Aaron I was ready for a night of karaoke!!!!! We all headed into Florence for an orientation tour that took in the main sites and basically showed us our way around the city then onto dinner with most people from Busabout. By this stage I'd made quite a few new friends so was in my element to get back behind the microphone. Matt, the guide thought I was all talk - obviously not familiar with the "Loz I dare you to (fill in any activity that may result in me injuring or embarrassing myself) phenomena...." which led me to wanting to prove him wrong waaaaaay too early in the night. I jumped up to sing Livin' on a Prayer only to find that this karaoke guy didn't have it. Yes Al, an absolute travesty. I decided to settle for a Land Down Under duet with another girl from the bus only to put poor Tiff and Mish to shame when I forgot most of the words. I somewhat redeemed myself with Eye of the Tiger thanks to the previous few months rehearsal with The Bollocks (Josh, you would have gone down again) and expert shadow boxing training from Kate & Todd (unfortunately sans Converse sneakers).

The next day was spent with Ian Murray, old ad exec from Melbourne. We spent most of the day trying to find a wine tasting place that had been recommended to both of us but just managed to get lost. Our frustration was only heightened by the fact that summer had well and truly set in and we were in dire need of some rehydration. We gave up looking and settled on a local wine bar in the suburbs outside of Florence. It was actually a blessing in disguise to get out of the hustle and bustle and to be surrounded by locals rather than tourists. Ian is a great guy and it was a refreshing change top have a normal conversation as opposed to the somewhat teenage dialogue that Ive been experiencing of late.

Friday saw me take off by myself into Florence where I simply wandered around for hours. My eye was caught by a stall selling leather jackets and although I had no intention of purchasing one I made my way over to take a look. After chatting with the stall owner for a bit he took me back to his shop and showed me a jacket that I fell in love with. It was marked €385 which is approximately 2 weeks food and accommodation. He instantly said I could have a 50% discount but I said I needed to think about it. On my way out he asked me to join him for a coffee and I thought - "Why not, this can only assist in the process of negotiation". Half an hour later I had him down to €150. This still wasn't good enough so I said goodbye and in the meantime received very drunken phone calls from Dan and Guy, both of whom slurring told me that I absolutely should buy the jacket and I may never be in Florence to do so again. So I decided that could I get him down to €100 I'd buy it. Half an hour later the poor guy was being admonished by his boss and I was walking out of the store with a gorgeous leather jacket!!!

Cinque Terre was the next stop and I had only heard good things about it....
If you haven't heard of it, the Cinque Terre consists of 5 small villages built into the side of cliffs along the northern Italian coast. It is absolutely stunning. All of the houses are really brightly coloured and literally built on the cliff face. I spent the first day with Ian and Rose (a lady I met from the Sunshine Coast). We took a ferry from Riomaggiore (town 5) to Monterosso (town 1). After exploring for some time we returned to Manarola (town 4) and walked back to Riomaggiore. Italy were playing.... actually I can even remember who in the soccer so the atmosphere around town was fantastic. Despite planning to do the 6 hour walk town to town the next day Ian, Rose and I enjoyed quite a few drinks before dispersing and finding our own groups of locals to chat to. I had such a great time as everyone was so happy that Italy had won the game!

Despite knowing that there was a world of pain ahead of me I rose at 8.30am to meet Ian and Rose to do the Cinque Terre `walk'. I am now more acutely aware that this so called walk, is actually quite an intense hike, and unbeknowns to any of us we were about to become the 3 billy goats gruff. We smashed the first 4 towns with ease, in around 3.5 hours and henceforth were known as the A-Team. It was here, perhaps due to the sudden bout of confidence that all party members possessed, that things started to fall apart. As you may remember I had sprained my ankle in Rome so by this stage it was once again, beginning to resemble a coconut however I insisted on pressing on so I could say that I had walked all 5 towns. We checked a map and came to the conclusion that as long as we didn't take route 8 or 8b we would be at the last town in 1.5hrs. After 2.5hrs of hiking uphill and sweating like a Kraft cheese sandwich in a 6 year old's lunch box, not seeing anyone else and having swallowed around 10 bugs we came to the conclusion that we were on the wrong track. To our alarm the first sign we saw said none other than the dreaded route 8. This was 2.5hrs into the trek and we finally ran into some serious hikers who informed us that we were at least 2.5hrs from out intended destination. By this stage I was imagining myself dying. I had visions of passing out and rolling down the side of a cliff never to be seen again. So the A-Team decided to turn around and we made it back down the track in half an hour. I hope this is an indication as to how steep the hike up was. Needless to say I was no longer up to trekking the correct track to the final town so returned to bed for a much required nap.

I have so many more stories to share about the South of France where I am now that they deserve their own email....

Thank you to everyone who has been writing to me. It really helps when I have a few days alone and the homesickness kicks in. I miss you all very much and love hearing from you. So wait with baited breath for the next installation that will cover Pisa and the South of France.

All my love



Tuesday, June 13, 2006

From the Alps to the Adriatic and back.....

The last few weeks have been pretty interesting.....

From the alps to the Adriatic....
and back again describes the ground that Ive covered. I left you last in St Johann after my experience as Lara Croft. From St Johann I travelled to Venice, Ancona, Croatia, Rome, Sorrento and currently, Siena. Each place has definitely had a defining moment and I'm pretty sure that Ive left my mark everywhere Ive been....

Its extremely cliche but it is such a small world....
About 2 months ago I visited Bath, England, with David Pashley. We shared a dorm room with 2 random guys that turned up drunk at 3am, quietly but wreaking of red wine. We chatted to them the next morning at breakfast and bid our good lucks and farewells. On the morning of heading to Venice 2 guys approached me asking where I was from - we quickly worked out that they were the randoms from Bath!! We clicked straight away after a When in Rome (think Anchorman) call from one of them and spent the next 2 hours in hysterics. Since then Daniel Spitty, Daniel Giddings (Giddo) and I have been travelling together. They are both great guys and have me laughing constantly!

The city of canals, venetian glass and flash flooding....
Not many people can say that they were stuck in a flash flood when they visited Venice but I now can. After wandering around the town centre for a day and exploring all of the shops in the tiny alleyways and tucked away backstreets I made my way to the bus station ready to return to the camp ground. As I was walking back - thoroughly lost, it started to rain. The rain got heavier and was accompanied by lightening and thunder. Whilst I had an umbrella it was rendered useless against this haphazard weather and I proceeded to get soaking wet. Before I knew it I found myself ankle deep in water and waiting for over 45 minutes for the bus! All I could do was laugh. I think it helped that the girl I was with, was constantly whinging and I had to keep positive - after all there was nothing we could do!!!! Despite this Venice was gorgeous.

Giddo, Spitty & I spent the next day visiting the basilica, San Marco Square and Lido. We had a fantastic time and the weather was stunning. Giddo had a run of bad luck which I consider karma after he had thrown bread crumbs at me in San Marco and I was consequently attacked by pigeons. As we walked along the concourse at Lido, Giddo not only had a blow out in his double pluggers but walked straight into a tree. Needless to say Spitty & I were in stitches.

Ancona was the next port of call....(Dan you should appreciate that one)
where Spitty, Giddo, Clare, Kylie and Warren (all people I met on Busabout) jumped on the 10 hour ferry to Croatia. I continued my ploy of travelling through Europe on a budget via a string of not-so-truthful tales and managed to get myself a half price ferry ticket. As a round trip this saved me about €70 so was well worth the puppy dog eyes. The ferry trip itself was pretty uneventful but I was waking up every 2 hours or so like a kid when Santa is coming. I was sooooo excited about meeting up with Darcy in Croatia. Its funny how great it is meeting new people and visiting new places but after travelling alone for 2 months, when a friend is on the horizon it is the most exciting thing in the world! (key in Jess for the South of France - I'm already counting down!)

Diversity (or Mlini)....
was the name of our old wooden ship and it was absolutely gorgeous. Darcy & I were upgraded and given a cabin with our own bathroom. The cabins were really big for a boat so any fears that I had of suffocating were quickly dissipated. The entire week was fantastic. Although the weather could have been better we had a fantastic crew on our ship and met some really nice new people. The highlight of the trip for me was definitely Dubrovnik.

We spent an entire day and night in Dubrovnik and got to see a great deal of the island. Kylie, Warren, Darcy & I hired scooters and rode around the island like BMX bandits. Warren is Russel Coit if ever Ive seen him and he managed to take us off road, down steps, through a close encounter with a snake and somehow get us back to the boat. I feel sorry for Darcy as I think he has lost the hearing in one or both of his ears and is also now the proud owner of a shirt with my sweaty hand imprints permanently marked on it. In the evening our boat as well as 2 other ships full of people went to Fuego, a latin nightclub. We tore up the dance floor (particularly Giddo with his pole dancing and Darcy with his on-stage performance) and drank massive cocktails. The weirdest thing was when I felt a tap on my shoulder, turned around and found my best friend from year 7, Maddy Rex standing behind me!!! It was so surreal. We weren't even in a very touristy spot and I hadn't seen this girl for at least 10 years. I am hopefully going to catch her again in France.

Lowlights were numerous but humorous.....
Incident 1: I had my first shower on the boat and managed to drop my watch and smash it, thank goodness it was the older one and not the one mum and dad had just given me prior to departure.
Incident 2: my camera met an unfortunate death with the floor of a bar in Mkarska. After taking about 40 photos of himself doing ridiculous things (ala Morts), Giddo dropped my camera and it is now no longer functioning. As you can imagine I was lost for the next few days without it before we got to Dubrovnik and was completely overcharged and ripped off when forced to buy a new one. Thank goodness insurance covers stupidity enhanced by alcohol.
Incident 3: saw me exert an overgenerous amount of energy at a beautiful beach on the way to Hvar. I swam about 300m to and from the beach to the boat and in the flourish of exercise I lost an earring.
Incident 4: After arriving back to Split on the Friday night we all hit the town. We all had a great night but the next day was a different story. It was raining and we had the unfortunate job of finding accommodation. Kylie and I took on the role of bag minders whilst the boys headed off in search of a home for us. Giddo was in a bad way. When they finally found a pension for us to stay in, we all crashed. Giddo crashed and burned. He spent the next 12 hours with his head in the toilet revisiting everything he had consumed over the previous week. I have never known someone to be so sick. It actually warranted the mother of the house that we were staying in to give him a cup of tea and some Andol.
Recurring incident 5: I have no idea how this is happening but I seem to have lost a pair of underwear in every single country I have been in. Whilst I am by no means partaking in any acts of promiscuity I can only assume that I manage to drop them on the way to and from the shower. On the boat, in a room the size of a desk in an open plan office and an accompanying bathroom one would assume that the mystery of the lost underwear would for once come to a halt. Unfortunately this was not the case and I yet again managed to lose a pair. I started out with 10 and now have 5.

This run of luck seems to be the theme of my trip at the moment....
After a night drinking cheap red wine (no 3 day growth) in Rome, I returned to my room to find a very ill lady and her husband. They were complete stoners and the husband was droning on about how he had tried to find me earlier in the evening to ask me to move as his wife was so sick (his description was punctuated with a plethora of hippy words such as whoa dude and maaaann). Long story short - he wanted me out. I proceeded to the boys tent planning to sleep on the floor only to find that Giddo had also been left high and dry after Spitty had picked up. Of course the only sensible thing left to do was scale the 2 metre fence into the pool and sleep on the pool lounges. Here we see the reason one is not allowed to use heavy machinery, drive a car or be responsible for others when under the influence of alcohol. I expertly hoisted myself to the top of the fence only to come crashing down and sprain my ankle upon landing. I woke up the next morning feeling like an overcooked frankfurt in a sweaty hot dog bun with a foot the size of a football and a bruise to envy the one I got from the rollerskating incident (yes Kate & Mich, I know - unbelievable).

My first day in Rome was somewhat marred...
by the sprained ankle and horrendous hangover. It took all of the energy I had to whinge constantly to the boys and limp like I had one leg shorter than the other. I quickly got over being such a sook and we ended up wandering around St Peter's Square, St Peter's Cathedral and the Colosseum. Despite the immense pain I was in we had a fantastic day. St Peter's Square literally took my breath away. The size of it is simply not comparable with anything I've seen before. Despite Australia having some of the most gorgeous features in the world I have never been overwhelmed by them. The sheer size of structures here in Europe just continues to blow me away. The Colosseum was also amazing. I can't get my head around how intelligent the Ancient Romans were. It was raining a bit so we stayed in the Colosseum for a few hours before heading back to the camp ground for a good nights rest.

Wednesday morning the boys & I went to visit the Pope. This again was an overwhelming experience. I felt like I was walking into a Big Day Out type of festival with security and metal detectors everywhere. The crowds were huge but luckily we got a good position on a water fountain. The Pope circled St Peter's Square and we were standing about 10metres from him. It was great to seem how emotional some people were getting but also quite unbelievable for us. We didn't realise how close we would be to the Pope, I guess I never thought that he would be so accessible.

After wandering around the Vatican City for a few hours I went and joined an Ancient Rome walking tour - made difficult due to my inability to walk properly - which was well worth the €18. The guide was an archaeologist and gave me a great insight into how and why certain things in Rome had been built. The Trevi Fountain was my favourite part of the tour but I also saw the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Palentine Hill (and Julius Ceaser's grave) and the 'wedding cake', an incredibly imposing government building. The evening once again witnessed the wrath of the 3 (Spitty, Giddo & I) on cheap red wine - €3 for 3L.

The trip to Sorrento was long, hot and uncomfortable.....
We caught a train from Rome to Naples then from Naples to Sorrento then a bus to the camping ground. I am so happy that I didn't make an effort to visit Naples as the train station itself was disgusting. We saw a pickpocket in action and Giddo had an unfortunate experience in the men's toilets with perverts hanging around. Luckily we were all in a delusional state by the time we got on the train for Sorrento and managed to amuse ourselves with a stupid, non intelligent game of 23 reasons.

Sorrento was well worth the effort. The first night we had the best meal (well Spitty says top 3) that any of us had had since being overseas. It was at little tucked away restaurant with great Italian staff and fabulous food. We all felt like we could roll out of the place but had to trek back up the hill to the campsite - this was probably a blessing in disguise considering how much I'd just eaten.

Friday we made our way along the Amalfi coast to Amalfi. It was absolutely stunning. I regret not just taking a book along and spending the day on the beach. After walking around for a few hours we headed to Positano which was equally as beautiful. This is where the day got funny for anyone who saw me but very un-funny for me. As we started to walk back to the bus I made the, in hindsight, very stupid suggestion to walk to the right. This lead us up about 1500 steps. This is NOT an exaggeration. By around the 300th step my ankle felt like it was ready to snap off and we all stank like we had been working on a cattle farm in the 40° heat. This may have been the stupidest suggestion I have made all trip and one that I immediately regretted. When we finally got to the top (about 40mins later) there was a rolling drunk man sitting at the bar. He was quite funny but had the most revolting toenails I have ever seen. After he complimented the boys on the beautiful lady they were with (cue me) they thought it would be amusing to find more disgusting things about him and point them out to me - I'm lucky I managed to keep my lunch in my stomach.

After one last huge night out together (3 x 1.5L bottles of red wine between 3 of us) it was time to say goodbye. Everyone says that on these sojourns you make friends that you will keep for life. Until this point I hadn't felt like I'd made any friends that I would even keep for a week but the time I spent with Darcy in Croatia cemented our friendship and the 3 weeks with the boys has left me with a greater sense of faith in all of those who gave me the 'friends for life' spiel. Giddo & Spitty have had me laughing since the moment we started travelling together and I can't wait to meet up with them again in Australia. I guess my lesson learnt here was to be patient and the right people will come along.

Well I bid you all farewell for the moment and will write with more stories soon.

Next leg is Siena, Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terre then the South of France.

Lots of Love

Loz xxxx

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Alps to the Adriatic

I have covered quite a distance in the last 2 weeks…. I last left you in Austria where I had been running around pretending to be Lara Croft.

The trip from Austria to Venice was relatively uneventful except to meet up with 2 guys (both named Daniel but for ease of understanding their nicknames are Giddo and Spitty) that I had spoken to for about 10 minutes when I was in Bath – Dave Pasho you should remember them, the red wine in the park boys???? They recognised me at the hostel in Austria and we hit it off straight away with an hours long quoting session from Anchorman. The boys are from Melbourne and are a great laugh. The first night in Venice was spent drinking at the camping ground and getting to know the other people on my bus. I was rooming with a girl from Perth called Clare.

I am sick of the cities of love….
Travelling is great and I’m really appreciative to have this opportunity but it absolutely sucks when you go places that are just full of couples in love and enjoying the sites together. The first day in Venice I spent by myself. It was quite overwhelming. I got thoroughly lost but made friends with a 4 month old dog that wouldn’t walk across a square that I was sitting in. The first shop I walked into was full of Venetian masks. It was incredible. I spent about 45 minutes talking to the store owner who was an architect by trade. He was lovely and explained the relevance of the masks and how he made them. The first day in Venice also heralded my first experience of the Italian Stallions in their own country. Whoa are they forward!! I had one guy follow me for about 5 minutes yacking away about my eyes so I took refuge in a shop only to find him still calling out to me from the entrance. Having shaken this bad smell I walked up a small street to get a cup of tea only to be bombarded with ciao bellas and bellissimos from the windows above. I was talking to Giddo about stereotypes and we agree that the Italians perfectly fit the stereotype with which the western world defines them – stylish, lovers of pizza and pastas and romantic (depending on how you interpret their actions).

Pigeons and laughs….
pretty much defined day two in Venice for me. After a night of playing Kings – a drinking/card game I met the Giddo and Spitty on the bus and we all fell into hysterics. Anything that could go wrong for Giddo inherently does to the great amusement of Spitty & I. We visited the basilica and took in the view of San Marco square from the top. It was an incredible site and really funny to watch all of the people surrounded by pigeons! After lunch in the square and an inevitable attack on me by a flock of pigeons (thanks to the boys throwing crumbs at my feet and hair) we moved onto Lido via a ferry. Giddo subsequently was served a terrible coffee, snapped his thong and walked into a tree. Spitty and I were in hysterics. As the day drew to a close we made our way back into the town centre and searched for a gondolier that would take us for a cruise for less than €160. It quickly became apparent that this was a nonfeasible feat and we met up with Kylie and Warren another couple that we had met from Busabout.

I could dedicate a whole email just to this guy. Think Russell Coit crossed with Troy Dan and Rex Hunt. He is absolutely hilarious but exhausting. If I’m not laughing with Warren I am laughing at him. Kylie deserves and award for being able to out up with him and his antics. I don’t actually think I can do the man justice by writing a description here so I may send an email of quotable Warren quotes – await this instalment.

The trip to Ancona took 2 hours longer than necessary after the GPS system sent us into Slovenia instead of the south of Italy. Upon arrival it was laughs all around with Warren and the boys. Luckily as 4 out of 6 of us had student cards we were able to book cabins for the 10 hour ferry trip to Croatia and save ourselves €70 each. The ferry trip was quite good as I slept the whole time. I did however wake up every few hours as I felt like Santa was coming the next day. I was so excited about getting to Croatia and starting the sailing trip as well as meeting up with Darcy.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Patstizzis and pasta to pretzels and weiner sausages

Guten Tag (yes a shameless introduction to where I am, I now)

Leaving Malta....
was a sad state of affairs. I had become quite accustomed to being spoilt, having a clean comfortable bed and not being interrupted at 2 in the morning by loud, drunk fellow travellers. Leaving Malta also made me a little nervous as it was the first time in 2.5 weeks that I was gong to be completely alone again. However, I should not have expended the extra energy (although goodness knows I had built it up with all of the food I'd eaten) on worrying. Within my first 30seconds off the plane 2 people had spoken to me offering help! Admittedly they were men and for a second there I had visions of the red headed Irish leprechauns on heat that I had encountered further north but these thoughts were quickly pushed from my head as I realised that everyone in Germany was incredibly friendly, clean and well organised.

Wombats Hostel.....
is my home of luxury for the next 3 days. It was raining when I arrived and I had sent my coat back to England with Mo so after I got over the disappointment of having to get my freshly cut and blow dried hair wet and frizzy I set off on the expedition to finds Wombats. Although Munich is very clean and organised the instructions from the train station to the hostel had obviously been written by an Aussie and not a German. Having given myself a very interesting tour of the red light district in Munich; sexy ladies, lap dances and foggy windows all featured, I found the hostel. I went to my room and read my book - very boring I know but it was appropriate for the weather. At 6pm I ventured downstairs to claim my free drink and to do my best to find some more of these free drink vouchers and ended up having a couple of pints of Bavarian beer. It was great and meant that I met other solo travellers. I think that they lied when writing in the tourist guide that Bavarian beer doesn't give you a hangover.... trust me it does.

Friday was a stunning day and my new found friend Mark from The OC (yes really), and I went to 2 amazing castles about 2.5 hours from Munich. They were incredible. As soon as I get a chance I will update my photos. The main castle was the one which all of the Disney fantasy castles have been based on. Mark & I climbed to the top of an enormous mountain (Guy this is where I was when you called) and took some great shots. Unfortunately I was wearing my less than rugged double pluggers and managed to slip down a few times - luckily not on the side of the mountain with the 70 metre drop. After retiring to bed exhausted from a 10 hour day of touring about, I was kindly woken at 3am by 3 American guys with no concept of sound, acoustics or time. The lovely gentlemen interrupted my sleep and proceeded to snore the roof down.

Slap me on the back and call me Lara Croft......
because I have just completed 2 days of adrenalin pumping physical activity. On Saturday I took myself to the Glockenspiel in the centre of Munich which was a building that looked like it was from a fairytale. I didn't see the clock chime but the building itself was fantastic. This is where I met a group for a free bike tour. Now let me just put this into perspective. I quickly realised that the bike tour had been falsely advertised as an insight into Munich when in fact it was a dress rehearsal for my audition on The Real Cancun. I found myself surrounded by 30 or so American fraternity or sorority kids. And just to reiterate that they were 'kids' not young adults, to my alarm when they asked me what age I was and I replied 25, I was met with the response 'whoa you are so old... do you have like a real job and stuff?' (cue: Matt Mortimer when first meeting me) in addition to this I suddenly have 5 teenage boys on heat following me around and telling me how beautiful I was. I quickly cut them down telling them I was a taken women and my boyfriend would not hesitate to wrap their loose tongues around their heads. They then asked me if I could teach them to speak Australian which was a little strange because last time I checked I was speaking English. When one asked me how to say 'lets go' in Australian it briefly crossed my mind to tell him the correct phrase was 'lets all go get buggered' but I decided against it when I soon realised that they were going to have enough trouble looking after themselves without me steering them in the wrong direction.

The tour itself was quite good. We cycled past all of the major sites, through the English Gardens which have a nudist meadow (luckily it was an overcast day, however after 1 beer - no that isn't a typo, 1 beer - and the kids all decided to strip and run naked through the park. We also visited a beer garden where I managed to down a stein. My favourite part of the tour was seeing the river surfers. There is an amazing wave in the river that runs through Munich and lots of people go there to surf. It was incredible. I would have loved to have given it a go but I think it must take a great deal of practise given the river is only 3 metres wide and constantly surging. All in all it was a good day.

My second performance as Lara Croft...
takes place here in St Johann, Tirol, Austria. I arrived yesterday to pretty dull weather but woke today to a stunning day. The air is incredibly clean and the town just gorgeous, it reminds me a lot of Annecy in France. All of the people are also very helpful despite not speaking a great deal of English. I managed to rouse up 6 fellow adventurers (you needed a group) to go canyoning. Canyoning is like abseiling through white water rapids. Basically the course was an abseil down a 6 metre waterfall, climb 10 minutes up a mountain into a gorge. From here we abseiled 10 metres to a platform then jumped 11 metres into a rock pool (between very narrow rock walls) at the bottom. After this we abseiled another 20 metres down a waterfall before jumping off another 3 metre and 6 metre wall. Between each big jump we slid, walked and swam through 5-8 degree water. Thank goodness for the 10mm thick wetsuit! At first I felt like Cameron Dias in Charlies Angels in my tight black wetsuit but quickly realised that I looked more like a black jelly bean - photos to come.

Well tomorrow I leave for Venice and am quite looking forward to it. I've met one girl who is doing the same Croatia trip with me so will have her to keep me company on the ferry before I meet up with Darcy Anderson who is joining me on the sailing trip.

Well once again I'm missing everyone, please keep the emails coming!

xx Loz

Thursday, May 18, 2006

All things wog: hair gel, food & shooters

So the end of my wog experience is drawing near and for the sake of Guy and my size 8 wardrobe at home not a minute too soon. I feel like I am the size of a moose. Malta has been amazing but it is reminiscent of a lifestyle I could succumb to way too easily and some would suggest that I innately live in Australia.

Hair maintenance…..
would be one of the things I am well known for amongst family and friends alike. When my hair is straight it is the result of an hour’s worth of ironing, when it is curly it is the result of half a can of mousse, a tube of hair gel and a painstaking, ear splitting tantrum, for those in close proximity to me. I, however no longer have the Australian climate and it’s insistent humidity to blame. It seems that my Diana Ross-esque hair (yes Guy that was for you) is the result of genes. Not just my father’s but a whole island’s worth. On my first Monday here in Malta my cousin Debbie took me to Malta’s answer to Good Vibrations. A couple of thousand young people, drunk or otherwise in a beach car park all dancing to the same beat (well most of them anyway). I drank blue drinks, wore sunglasses well into the night and for the first time in my life DIDN’T have to strain to see the stage. It was amazing. Suddenly I was a tallest person in site – except for maybe a few other foreigners who had landed in the middle of the Mediterranean. This joy lasted about 5 minutes until I realized that the reason I was so tall was because all of the other girls were the size of Nicole Ritchie only with black hair and I suspect slightly hairer bodies. The guys were a league of their own. Imagine Norton Street, Leichhardt on a Saturday night. Minus the sleaze factor it was like looking into the forum and needing your sunglasses to deflect the lights shining off the wet look gelled heads. From 3pm to 3am everyone danced and sweated and became slightly delusional BUT not a single hair was out of place – incredible.

This day was also my first introduction to the Maltese party life.
Whilst I consider myself a pretty enthusiastic type of person when it comes to partying; last one standing (yes Nic), the first to the mike (yes Al) and the possessor or trophees (yes Dan & Morts) it seems that I am anything but, when it comes to the Maltese. I must warn that anyone who intends to come to Malta should do so only after attending a training camp similar to The Biggest Loser but perhaps call it The Biggest Eater, Drinker and Insomniac. I simply can’t keep up!!!! I have found myself literally exhausted and I think that it is due to my body having difficulty digesting the 500g of pasta, 600g of meat, 25 cups of tea, 2 litres of alcohol and a partridge in a pear tree that I am required to consume daily because "I’m on a holiday" (say that in a woggy accent ala Acropils Now, for effect). I also feel a bit behind the eight ball when it comes to the partying lifestyle. The typical day for a 20-something in Malta is; wake up at 7, work until 1, have a siesta until 4, work until 7, cook for an hour and a half if you are female, go to the pub if you are male, watch a bit of TV or listen to some music until 11, head to Paceville and start with a few quiet vodkas, at 12.30 get your first tray (10 shots) of shooters, by 4 you and a friend should have consumed 3 of these trays between you, dance until 6 then drive (yes drive drunk) to the closest patstizzi outlet and watch the sunrise whilst eating. Now it doesn’t sound that difficult but they do it day after day and are relentless with the drinking – the trays of shots cost around $10 so you can well imagine the temptation!!!!

Aside from the partying…..
Malta is amazing. I know that I have probably had a very different experience than most as I have family here but for such a tiny place it has so much to offer. Malta has some of the oldest temples and man made constructions in the world. Some of the structures pre-date the pyramids and show elements of sophistication such as writing and use of tools that other countries couldn’t boast until thousands of years later. Being in such a strategic location (off the end of Sicily) Malta has been fought over for thousands of years. During World War II Malta was continuously bombed for 60 days. It is incredible that such a small country was able to rebuild itself and be one of the most popular Mediterranean destinations today. The landscape is quite similar to that of Morocco (due to a 200 year occupation by the Arabs). All of the buildings are a sandy colour and very square. The houses tend to be like terraces, narrow and tall. The water is incredible. I naively thought that the Great Barrier Reef and Whitsunday’s had the most stunning water in the world but the water here in Malta is incredibly clean and blue. I’ve been swimming quite a bit since being here.

are best known for being small round chocolates that when bitten into evoke the delight of light and sweet honeycomb. I can only guess that these delicacies were based on the Maltese people. They too are small and somewhat round with a hard, dark exterior. Scratch the surface however and you find the most amazing people. Everyone here is incredibly generous and welcoming. They are so proud of their country but not at all arrogant. They are very religious but not fanatical. They work hard to maintain their culture and traditions but are open to other influences and do not reject other cultures. I really can’t get over the seeming contrast of high held morals and beliefs that meshes with the partying, laughter and general familial feeling. For instance they are so dedicated to their religious beliefs that they will party all night then be up at 10am to attend mass. As the place is so tiny (20km long and you can drive from one side to the other in 15 minutes) everyone knows everyone which in Australia would seem bad (ie the small town/Cennie Coast mentality) but here it means that you always have someone to give you a lift or help you out or to have a laugh with. All of the people seem so happy.

The highlights…..
of Malta have been numerous and varied. The first week was fantastic. Meeting family that I had never met but feeling at home instantly made me miss having people from Australia that I love in my life everyday but also made me want to stay in Malta for a long period of time so to learn more about where my grandparents are from. In the first week I visited Valetta (the capital city), St Julians, Mosta Dome (where a bomb fell during mass in WWII and didn’t ever explode), The Blue Grotto (water that looks like blue ink has been poured into it), Paceville (party-ville) and many other smaller places. I also celebrated my 25th
birthday which was a bit strange. I really missed my family & friends on this day but as many of you sent messages of love or called I felt pretty popular & just like I was at home!
Mo arrived on the Friday which was great. I had been being shuffled around from place to place in a frantic whirlwind attempt to show me everything (and feed me everything) there is to see/eat in Malta and was exhausted. Mo’s arrival meant staying in the family beach house & relaxing a bit. We spent most of the week in the sun which was fantastic and let me work on my tan! We had a few nights out and spent a day on a sailing trip around Malta, Gozo and Comino – there are plenty of photos of this on my photo site and are well worth a look, the underwater caves were amazing. It was nice to have company for the week as well. I think I just about talked Mo’s ear off but this could have been the result of me becoming accustomed to the life of a Maltese woman – constant loud talking over the top of everyone else or perhaps the result of me having constant company for the first time since I left the land of Oz. Mo flew home on the following Thursday and it was really sad saying goodbye. I’ve tended to latch onto people as soon as I make a friend or spend any period of time with them as it is so rare to even have a conversation with someone when traveling alone.
Since Mo went back to England I have spent most of my time with Debbie (a second or third cousin). We are really similar, so much so that Stuart her boyfriend keeps telling people he is living with a blonde Debbie and a dark Debbie (this is referring to hair colour not intelligence levels). We have had a great time going out dancing, shopping, sun-baking and gossiping. I leave here on Thursday and am not looking forward to the farewell.

I will return….
to the land of my roots in August. Malta has many feasts during the year and one of the biggest is the feast of Santa Maria on 15th
August. I also really want to spend more time getting to know where my grandparents are from. I have picked up quite a bit of the language since I’ve been here and it is something that I don’t want to lose before seeing my grandparents again.
Well as always I am missing you all and have a big few weeks ahead of me traveling to Germany, Austria, Italy, Croatia back to Italy, France (the south) and Switzerland. This should take me up to mid July then I’ll reassess the situation and may go after Chappo’s mate in Portugal for some work in a surf school.

Take care everyone, I’m missing you all lots, please keep the emails coming.
Xxx Loz

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Ireland to Malta


Sorry its been awhile since an update - I've have frantic messages from some of you! NO I haven't fallen off the edge of the earth I've just fallen into the arms of a very welcoming Maltese family who aren't giving me much time to email!!

Last I left you was in Dublin.....
I moved on from my luxury hostel in Dublin (which Darcy bluntly proclaimed the end of the earth). After walking me home at 2.30am after a night on the town he wanted to instantly move me out of there although it wasn't that bad - at least it was clean but unfortunately in a bad part of town. So I stayed with Darcy & his flatmate for the next 2 nights which was a bit of luxury. Damien's family home was massive. A little like David Low's house for those of you who know it but with the distinct added ambiance of a bachelor pad! I had the best sleep that I had had in weeks which refreshed me for a trip to the Guinness brewery!

I had my first pint of the black stuff after walking around the museum and learning how it was made. Much to my surprise (or perhaps as a result of a well trained liver) the black gold was not as difficult to drink as I had been told. IT was less like a meal and more like a beer (how sup rising!). I did only have one pint though so perhaps after a night of drinking it I would feel the true pain of the stuff. At the end of the day Darcy took me to a traditional Irish pub with fiddlers and all. It was awesome! I just love the Irish music! Darcy was very embarrassed to be there as I was acting like a typical tourist but a few pints later and he was jigging along with me!

Paddywagon tours....
had been recommended to me by Lowy and was definitely well worth the booking! I met at Paddy's Palace - a bright green building and jumped on a bus with 10 other girls, 2 guys and Steve the tour guide. As soon as I sat down I made a friend (yay for me!) her name was Lucie and she is from Melbourne (Lucinda Gorman for you Melbourne's if you happen to know her). Anyway we got on like a proverbial house on fire after five minutes of frantically talking over the top of each other (remember I haven't had a girly goss for almost 5 weeks now) we knew each other's life stories and were the best of friends! The tour was 3 days of the south of Ireland. The first stop was an old castle where I was more interested in food (bare in mind the hangover from the Irish pub the night before) and the second stop the Blarney Castle. The Blarney Castle was amazing! It was set in a stunning garden and had been extremely well preserved. Climbing to the top of the Blarney Castle was exhausting. I don't know how all of the old people of tour do it. I also don't know how fat people make it up the stairs! The stairwells and hallways are so narrow. Getting to the top was definitely worth it though. The view was amazing and kissing the stone an awesome and very touristy experience.

That night we stayed in Killarney then onto Galway the next day. At Killarney we stayed in great hostel which was really clean with en suite bathrooms. Lucie & managed to share a room and we still hadn't stopped talking. After sampling some Irish shots including the Irish Flag and a car bomb (half pint of Guiness with a shot of Baileys) we managed to dance up a storm at Garnnery's PUb then be chased back to the hostel by some old drunk Irishman. Luckily he was so drunk that he couldn't walk straight or very well and thus couldn't keep up with the 2fit young Aussies lasses!!

On the way to Galway...
we crossed the river Shannon and saw lots of dolphins. I was so surprised to see them outside of warm waters - although it wasn't cold but I'm sure that the water was. Lucie & I kept commenting the Ireland looked like one big Devondale Butter ad! It is so green and there are cows that pop up over hills in random places. The next stop was the Cliffs of Moher. These were very cool. Lucie & I had bought food for lunch so had a picnic at the top. Check out my photos if you want to see how amazing they are. Galway was our final destination and was very cool. The group went out for diner and ended up having a very big night - Morts I stole 2 pint glasses for you and Dan a reflector from a witches hat for you (its in the mail). Morts, I thought you could do without the pint glasses, I didn't want to encourage more drinking than you currently do! Lucie & I picked up some very hard men (bronze statues to be precise - again check the photos) before finding a kebab shop called ABRAKEBABRA!! Kate & Lowy there is a photo for you of this! Nothing else very interesting to report from Ireland except that my summation would be that it is a very beautiful place with very friendly people but sleazy men! I also think they are the hardest partiers in the world!

The 6 hour wait in Gatwick airport....
was not as bad as I had anticipated! I read a book that Lucie had given me and sent some postcards as well as slept and ate! I was so excited about getting to Malta that I'm surprised the wait didn't seem to take longer!!! The flight to Malta took 3 hours and when I got off the plane I was greeted by 2 very loving and excited family members - Dorren and her daughter Wendy. Mum, Dad and my sister had all warned me that my time in Malta would not be relaxing but more like an intense guided tour! They were rightl! From the minute I got off the plane until now I simply haven't stopped!

MY time here is about to run out so I will update everyoneon the land of the MAltesers asasoon as I'm allowed some free time again!!

Hope you are all well!

LOve Loz

Thursday, April 27, 2006

From the land of the Queen to the land of the green

Top o' the mornin' to yo all

Soho, Portobello Road, a 20 degree sunny day, Crystal maze and singstar....
have combined to make for my best times abroad so far. Getting back to London from France was a relief. Its funny how being surrounded by English speaking people and being in the proximity of a couple of people you know makes you feel so at home! On Thursday Julian - one of Sal's flatmates & I explored Soho. I was convinced that I needed to visit a music store called Mr Bingo and made Julian follow me around for ages up and down dodgy streets then back and forth up the same street only to find that it was boarded up and closed down!!!! It was a pretty dreary day so what better way to handle it than as the poms do - we stopped for a couple of pints at the Bear and Staff! That night I had my first meal 'out' over here and went to an Italian restaurant at Balham called Ferrari's. It was really good but I'm still not getting used to the food being so heavy over here - I completely understand the problem of the Heathrow injection and realise that I may need to come home via Egypt, India or some other place where I am highly likely to get amoebic dysentery and lose any pounds that I've inadvertently added to my body.

Portobello Rd was amazing - it is definitely my favourite place in London so far. Thanks for the tip on the colourful house Deckers. I loved the whole street and then was in heaven at the markets where I purchased a VERY cool pair of vintage leather boots. I walked away feeling very Kate Moss/ Sienna Miller like minus the supermodel status, famous & rich boyfriend or the drug problem. I estimate that I walked around 15km on this day. Although the whole Heathrow injection thing is a concern I think I'm fairly safe at the moment with the amount of walking I've been doing. This perfect day was capped off with Sal's farewell. In itself this was awful but the party was lots of fun. We had 2 different versions of Singstar and I had a Major fight on my hands for microphone dominance. Luckily, I skillfully manipulated the game so it was boys competing against girls and as I am highly experienced in the art of karaoke and Singstar I managed to achieve high scores thus being the prime candidate for competing for the girls..... yay - more microphone time for me!!! The best song of the night was Eye of the Tiger - I must dedicate this win the Kate for that night in Collins St with Todd & your Converse. Mr & Mrs Sutherland, it also made me think of you and I drew on the Tigers power in the grand final to achieve my win.

Saturday was the most stunning day. The sun was a blazing and the day was only marred by a double stabbing murder which closed of Tooting High Street and created a one hour return walk to Mo's from Sal's as opposed to the usual 10 minute. After partying on Friday night to celebrate the completeion of his exam Mo was in poor form but I dragged him out and we hung out in Clapham Common. In the spirit of the warm weather I decided to pack light. Wearing shorts and a Tshirt and not taking a jacket seemed to make me absentminded as I also forgot my wallet. It was a horrible feeling. Its weird how if I had lost my wallet in Australia I would have been angry but everything would have been OK but here I was having a panic attack that someone was going to steal my identity, empty my bank accounts and use all of my valuables as ransom in extortion attempts. Luckily when we got home it was simply hiding under the contents of my backpack.

Mo's mates had organised a Crystal Maze day for a couple of peoples' birthdays. I had sooooo much fun. Crystal maze is a TV show similar to the Amazing race. When we met them at the starting point - The Painting and the Pitcher we were put into teams where we had to compete against each other in skill, physical or mental challenges. My team were awesome - aptly named The Goats as these are my favourite animal, we managed to draw only the wooden spoon but all agreed that we did the best team bonding and had the most fun! My physical challenge was to get a date stamp on a piece of paper. Let me tell you this is much harder than it seems. Date stamps are a thing of the past. I may as well have been challenged to bring back an abacus. After 15 minutes of flat out running and 2 attempts at sticking a receipt with a date on it on my piece of paper... I lost :( The 2 boys I was competing against chatted up some young skirt and managed to get their stamps.

is a very cool place. I've only been here for 2 days but am absolutely exhausted from walking around so much. I actually came into this Internet cafe just to sit down! Having got up at 4.30 to be on the plane by 6.30, the second I got onto my siteseeing tour I fell asleep!!! I woke up at the same stop that I had got on the bus from! Needless to say the next hour was spent recapping what I had missed in the first hour. I was amazed flying into Dublin just how green Ireland is. I had expected everything to be green but had no idea that it would look like an oil painting. It was stunning. I met up with Darcy last night for a seemingly quite pint (it was Monday night) and ended up getting to bed at 3am. We ran into his flatmate & girlfriend and had a really fun night trying all of the different beers at The Porterhouse then going to a nightclub (Red's, Ev & LJ) and dancing the night away. Sorry Ev but Irishmen are soooooooooooo sleazy. I thought the French were bad but the Irish ones are so upfront and unashamed!! It probably had something to do with the place we were at being full of uni students but Ive even noticed on the streets that men make passing comments etc. Its worse than just walking past a building site in Sydney! The other weird thing was that in the toilets of the bar there was a lady there with cans of hairspray, deodorant, perfume etc etc who would freshen you up..... not a bad idea but she was getting hardly any tips and I felt sorry for her.

Staying at Darcy's place for the next 2 nights as he lives in his mates family house which apparently has 6 bedrooms & only the 2 of them living there. I'm really happy about this as the hostel had its heating turned up to somewhere between 30 degrees and Australia in the sun on a stinker of a day in the middle of a drought.

Should be meeting up with Brian Gaffney and Ian Grant (Potahhhhto's brother & mate) tonight so I'll be sure (to be sure) to get some dirt on Ev for you to use in whichever way you will Morts.

That's about it for the moment - I go on a Paddywagon Tour of Southern Ireland on Thursday, I am hoping to see a leprechaun and find a pot of gold plus eat lots of potahhhhos.

Hope you are all well & had a great ANZAC Day.

Love Loz xx.

p.s. I keep adding my photos to my album so check them out!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Across the English Channel

Hullo From London!

Well I'm back in grey London and very releived to hear english speaking people everywhere!

The last few days in France were very good. I really liked Annecy and it was fantatsic to be staying in a family home as opposed to a hostel! In the few days I was at Annecy my opinion of France changed yet again. Annecy wasn't just a collection of grey builings as I had seen in Paris and Caen. It was surrounded by unbelievable mountains and a stunning lake. Plus I was blessed with fantastic weather. The size of the mountains blew me away. Ive never seen anything like it. Annecy is on the border of Switzerland, Italy and France and at some points I felt like was in The Sound Of Music! It was very cool to be wearing a t-shirt and skirt in the sun but to look up and be surrounded by snow capped mountains.

I picked up laryngitis from somewhere which meant that I completely lost my voice for a few days. Here is one major positive about getting this in France - since I couldn't speak French anyway I didn't need to use my voice. It was pretty horrible being sick in a foreign country though. Thank goodness Ive come back to London to stay with a doctor. He's fixing me up as we speak!

The train trip home from France was relatively uneventful - no breakdowns, strikes or long periods of waiting! The most eventful thing that happened was me completeing my first ever suduko. I was quite proud of myself as ve never been able to do it but after acquiring a kids version I seemed to do ok.
So for the next few days in london I've borrowed some siteseeing walk cards of Mo's. They are pretty cool. Each card has a different city walk on it and takes you around some cool places. Yesterday I explored Soho with one of Sal's flatmates. I really liked Soho. It was a little like Newtown with lots of funky bars and shops in old narrow streets. I also had a look through Chinatown where I may as well have been in Chinatown in Sydney. Had a couple of pints at the Bear and Staff before moving onto an aptly named bar called Smoke.

Its Sal's farewell tonight & karaoke is on the cards! Watch out! This will be my first overseas karaoke session and Im not too ure if London is ready for the outbusrt. I hear that people are already queing up for the event and a rendition of Living on a Prayer is going to be absolutely necessary.
I head to Ireland on Monday which should be quite cool. Im meeting up with Barry Andersons (Bing Lee creative director) son. I'm quite looking forward to it - Ive only met him once before but he is very much like his Dad from what I remember just not as old and cranky ;) Darcy has also been living and working in Dublin for 12 months so knows his way around. Should spend 3-4 days travelling then back to Dublin to meet Evin and LJ's brothers and sisters and friends.
Ive worked out how to get my photos online so here is the link! Ive labelled most of them but was getting sick of being behind the computer so some arent labelled as yet!

Well I must go to warm up my vocal chords - I dont want to disappoint particulalrly oafter the bout of laryngitis. Also off the Portebello road today. I think Ill have to leave the credit cards at home!!!

Miss you all & keep the emails coming!

xx Loz

ps some of you are on this email for the first time - I realised that half of the names Id copied across didnt actually copy so Im sorry for not contacting you sooner!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Installment #5: Caen to Annecy

I cannot wait to leave France! So many people that Ive spoken to love France and have had great experiences here but I have had such a bad experience that I actually would advise anybody against visiting here and I never want to come back.

Caen to Annecy....
was to be a very easy trip. I had prebought my train tickets so it shouldn't have been a problem. No such luck. I rose bright and early at 5.30 to be on a train at 6. Boarding the train was fine and I was looking forward to having a rest before getting to Paris to change for Annecy. about 5 minutes out of Caen the train stopped and didn't start again for an hour and a half. They made many announcements during this time but none in English and I found out that train conductors are either deaf or just as rude as the rest of the French people despite being employed in a job where they are supposed to help people. Finally another train came and towed us back to Caen where I got on another train for Paris. By this stage I had missed my connecting train to Annecy. As a result I got to know a filthy metal bench in Gare Lyon station quite well over the two and a half hours that I waited for the next train. Having been awake since 5.30 and drunk a 1.5L bottle of Evian I was in dire need of a toilet only to find that the toilets were on strike. How you may ask? I have no idea but I also have no idea why anyone would want to live in this horrible country however the strike does somewhat explain the filth and love for defecating in public places in Paris and it did make me feel a bit sympathetic towards those who do so as they, like me, were probably also restricted from the basic human right to go to the bathroom when required. A couple of hours later I arrived in Annecy. The sun was shining and it was very warm. Things could only get better.... one would think. After speaking to Jess I knew which bus I was supposed to catch but when asking for directions as to where to catch the bus my phone cut out and I was forced to approach French people for directions. During the next 15 minutes I got yelled at by 2 separate people and physically pushed off a bus by the bus driver all the while lugging around my 15kg backpack. After standing looking very lost and by this stage recklessly abandoned I sighted the bus for St Joriz and found my way to Jess! Everyone says that travelling is full of life changing experiences but I can honestly say that seeing Jess has been my first. It changed the grimace that had been on my face for the last week in France into a smile.

Is very pretty. Despite the rude bus drivers it is much nicer than anywhere else that I have seen in France. The town is surrounded by some amazing snow capped mountains and a massive lake. I can imagine that in the sun and during the summer it must be very beautiful. Jess and I walked around Annecy for about an hour and looked at all of the old buildings and alley ways. I then proceeded to step in a puddle that was really the size and depth of a small pond which resulted in a freezing and saturated foot for the rest of the day! I suppose it was karma though as I had just been laughing at one of the row boats that had capsized unbeknown to its owner.

We caught the train to Chamonix which is one of the ski villages on the border of France, Switzerland and Italy. Chamonix was amazing. I had the first truly enjoyable time since I left Sal in Disneyland. Jess and I had crepes for afternoon tea then went and played in the snow. It was just gorgeous. I have some fantastic photos from the snow and will try and send some asap. It was so crazy being in the snow when the day before it had been so hot. The other fantastic thing about Chamonix was that there were hardly any French people there. It was full of British and Americans. Everyone was really lovely to me and Jess and I danced until 4 o'clock in the morning.

Unfortunately Ive been a bit sick over the last few days and seem to have picked up a cold which hasn't been helped by the constant moving around and today I have completely lost my voice. I think its also because so many people smoke over here and after an hour or so in a restaurant you feel like you've been smoking yourself. Ive really noticed the smoke affecting my throat and nose. It is disgusting.

Well after missing yet another train we had to wait an hour and a half for the train home then got charged 25 euro for a ten minute cab ride. Despite this we both had a fantastic night however whilst Ive been trying to be positive about France and take all of the rudeness in my stride I still really dislike it and have no desire whatsoever to return. I cannot wait to get back to England in 2 days time!