by Fran 🏅🇬🇧🇬🇧🏅
Originally efforts for the 30 Day Blogging Challenge in July... now just a blog
The 30 Day Blogging Challenge ..... lets see how far I get... Pretty far it seems!|
Winner (1st place) for the July 2013 "30-Day Blogging Challenge"
Second place for the September 2014 "30-Day Blogging Challenge"
|I've just arrived in Montpellier, which means I've actually caught up with my travelling buddies - I don't know how! Determination and speed, I guess.
As I write this, I'm sat in the reception of the hostel everyone else is staying in. For some reason, the guy on the desk didn't believe I'm due to be staying here. Tricky. Thankfully, though, I've just spotted Witchy woman (my friend who organised this whole trip) coming down the stairs. As soon as she saw me, she just rolled her eyes and shook her head. She's been waiting for me, I imagine. Good ol' Lyn sorted the reception staff out straight away. I've never been happy to secure a bed!
The rest of the group was getting ready to head out for the morning when I arrived. But after fitting in four days of trips into just two days, I needed a few hours rest. As I went upstairs to dump my stuff I was greeted by cheers and hugs. Although, many of the guys said they were worried about me. I glared at Andy~your friend till the end : I had sent him a text to tell him I was on the way. He clearly forgot to pass that message on! He merely smiled and shrugged.
Just before the others left for the morning, someone dropped a large journal in my lap. Since we're all writers, they had all been documenting the trip as they went; with everyone contributing something each day. I was told to read and catch up on their antics.
I have spent the morning lying by the hostel's pool reading through stories of the group's last few days. It was a fun read. Someone had even gone to the effort of bringing shed loads of stickers and coloured pens with them to decorate the journal. I can only imagine that this was Jellyfishbones !
Everyone was back in time for a spot of lunch before we headed off to a 3.5-hour wine châteaux tour from Montpellier. It was lovely to catch up with everyone. However, I must say, I spent most of the meal contemplating how much mischief I could cause and who I could cause it with
Our wine tasting tour included: Visiting the vineyards of two magnificent châteaux wineries and sampling a variety of beautiful red, white and rosé wines with expert-led tastings. I think it is fair to say that I did more of the latter than the former.
I took some photos of the vineyards and surrounding areas (see below), but then managed to talk Andy~your friend till the end , Fivesixer Spice Latte , Sally and Jellyfishbones into staying in the bar. We tested a LOT of wine. I don't know what I can say about this. Ordinarily, I don't even like wine. But oh the hilarity! We decided to stop drinking when Sally very nearly fell off her stool. Time to be sensible!
I will say, however, it was quite nice to take a trip back in time and (try to) discover the heritage of the Languedoc region through various tastings.
On the bus back to the hostel, Fearlycia ☮ was looking through her photos on her camera and I kept hearing her sigh very loudly. I suddenly realised it was because, every time she'd tried to take a picture, I'd managed to get my face or hand in the shot, without her noticing. I giggled about it, but I do feel slightly bad.
For dinner, we went to the empanadas club, which was emblematic of Argentina. The empanadas were delicious – as were the Argentinian cocktails (virgin, of course). The meal was excellent: full of chatter and laughter. I felt right at home.
Some of the others were talking about going to a nightclub, but I reminded them that the Olympic Opening Ceremony was on tonight. So, we headed back to the hostel and took over the Communal area to watch Rio kick off their games. Indeed, I'm writing this as we watch the athletes enter the stadium
|After trekking around Barcelona this morning, I didn't feel like leaving the gorgeous little restaurant I'd found. I also wasn't sure I was keen on heading off to a theme park by myself. I love rides - I have no fear - but they are better when you have other people with you! But, I guess, that's what you get when you set off on a tour of Europe six days after everyone else!
I deliberated on whether or not I should go rollercoaster hunting for about twenty minutes or so. But after reading up on some of the rides at Port Aventura, I decided the adrenaline rush would do me good and set me up for the rest of the month ahead. So, off I went.
Apparently, Port Aventura is one of Europe's most iconic theme parks and is divided into 6 "worlds". It took about an hour to get to, which meant I had time for a nap along the way. Mind you; it also meant I wouldn't have all that long to explore, given that it was after 2 pm by the time I got there. I had a plan, though: I knew exactly what rides I wanted to go on. There wasn't many. Just the crazy ones!
Queuing up for my first ride, I realised that going to a theme park by yourself wasn't necessarily a bad thing: the "single rider" line is always 100x shorter than the standard queue. This made me very happy, indeed. Check out the rides I braved:
Furius Baco - horizontal catapult that flings you at 135 km/h in just 3 seconds. I was told by a steward that this is the fastest rollercoaster in Europe. I can believe it, too. I stupidly forgot to remove my glasses before getting on the ride. Somehow, I managed to catch them just as they were about to fly off. So lucky!
Dragon Khan - 8 loops and more than 110 km/h of speed. I loved this. But, even for me, this was verging on ridiculous! I felt like I'd have been thrown around less if I'd sat in a washing machine on a fast spin cycle.
Hurakan Condor - a 100-metre long free fall. This ride, apparently, is only suitable for the most courageous of riders. Or, indeed, the most stupid! That'd be me then. Oh, my stomach!
I did go on a few other rides. But they were nothing to write home about. Plus, I can't remember their details - I won't bore you by trying.
I'm writing this on the bus back to Barcelona. Before I left the park, I grabbed myself a big, fat, juicy burger. I feel like I won't need to eat for a week now. This can only be a good thing as all I want to do now is collapse into my nice hotel bed. It has been a very long day!
Tomorrow, I'm up at 4 am to catch my next flight: by my reckoning, I should be in France by 7 am. I may die of exhaustion. But let's see what the day brings.
*please note: The photos and ride descriptions are real, but they don't go together in 'real life'*
|It's 6 am on 3rd August (I know I'm posting this on the 9th, but none of this is real so...), and I've just arrived in Barcelona. I'm still quite a way behind my travelling companions (I happened to be delayed... because I was reading) BUT I managed to do the two-day Madrid itinerary in just one day yesterday. If I can keep that pace up, I'll find my friends in no time.
I'm quite tired already, but I'm having fun so it's all good. I've booked a hotel room to lay my weary head tonight. Then I'm due to catch an early flight to Montpellier, France in the morning. Crazy, right?
The official itinerary for our stay in Barcelona was two days. But, as I say, I'm adapting it to fit into one day. Here's my plan for the day:
Drop my backpack at the hotel
Hunt for food to eat as I go
Get on the City Sightseeing hop-on-hop-off tour for the morning
Head off to the Port Adventura theme park
Collapse into bed!
Luckily, I don't need to stick to the group bookings at the moment: I'd struggle with timings if I did! Saying that, I best get cracking! I'll write more while I have lunch.
With 44 stops, the Barcelona City Sightseeing tour is quite overwhelming. For quite a while I just sat on the bus, resting my tired body. It was fun to watch the sights of Barcelona floating past me as I sat in relative comfort. I had done a little reading on the City, however. So I knew there were a few things I wanted to take a closer look at.
My first stop was La Sagrada Familia. Which is a large Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, designed by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí. The church has divided opinion in Barcelona. But people have said it's "The most extraordinary personal interpretation of Gothic architecture since the Middle Ages." It's pretty impressive; I have to say!
I then got back on the bus for a few stops to get to Plaça dEspanya, which is one of the city's biggest square. The square includes:
Venetian Towers - (they are 47 m - 154 ft - tall)
Parc de Joan Miró 22m statue
Arenas de Barcelona - It was built in 1900 in the Moorish Revival style and has been converted into a shopping centre.
It was stupidly busy at Plaça dEspanya but interesting to see such beautiful architecture is commonplace in Barcelona.
I did stop at a few other places along the way as well, but the above stood out for me. Although the medieval alleys of the Gothic Quarter are pretty impressive, which is where you find me now.
I'm sat outside a lovely little restaurant, tucking into a platter of meats, cheese, bread and vegetables. I'm watching the world go by as I write this. Before I head off to the theme park, I thought you might like to see a couple of photos from my day so far.
I'll update you on my theme park adventure a little later on. Chao!
|After my fantastic tapas by the city market, I caught a bus up to Avila. The journey took about an hour. On the way out of Madrid, I kept my eye out for the elusive giant baby's head.
I finally found it (well, it seems there's two!) outside the Atocha Train Station. Created by Artist Antonio Lopez, the statues stand three meters high, made of bronze and weighs 2,000 kilos. I'm still unsure of the reason for these statues. So random. I was euphoric I found them, though.
Not far from Avila, the bus stopped so we could all take photos of the excellent views. To be honest, I was reading rather than taking any notice of where we were. I hate these "stop to take photos" kind of thing. However, when I looked out the window, I was so blown away, I had to get involved in the picture taking frenzy. The sun was shining, and the scenes, from all angles, were just stunning.
On arriving to Avila, I knew I was about to fall in love. I have a real thing about ancient architecture. I find myself imagining how many people have walked the same path over the centuries. I also try and picture what such places were like back when they were first used. Because of this, I just knew the Avila Cathedral was going to blow my mind.
I had a chat to the tour guide when I got off the bus, who told me that the tour's next stop (Segovia) was completely inaccessible for any kind of wheelchair. Because of this, I made a deal with him that I would stay in Avila, doing my own thing, if they could come and pick me up on their way back to Madrid from Segovia. He agreed! I made him promise they'd definitely come back. I was slightly nervous they wouldn't, but at least I was free to mooch around at my own pace.
I walked around the UNESCO-protected city walls and towers, as well as San Vicente Basilica and cathedral. They were absolutely incredible. Here's what I learnt:
The Avila walls have a a perimeter of 2516 m, 87 turrets and 9 gates
These walls were built in the 12th century, but the mediaeval city had always been protected by walls
The walls include 88 semicircular towers
The Basilica of San Vicente was built at the end of the 11th century in a Romanesque style
'Inside is the tomb of San Vicente and the Santas Cristeta and Sabina. These graves are an impressive decoration narrating the martyrdom suffered by these Saints.'
I loved this trip to Avila and headed to a beautiful café to grab some local food (yum) while I waited for my bus to return. It is in this café where you find me now, writing this post.
I'm hoping for a good night's sleep tonight, in my Madrid hotel. I'm up early to catch a quick flight to Barcelona. My group did it via train, but as I'm still playing catch up, I thought a flight would be faster.
All in all, a lovely day trip to Madrid. I'll have to come back to explore further.
|Right, I'm in Madrid! As I said, I'm days late, and my fellow backpacking friends have already moved on to Barcelona (or somewhere). But that's fine; I figure if I do the tours quickly (while trying not to kill myself) I'll be able to catch up with them in a few days time. I've just checked the "official" itinerary, and I reckon I could boil the first two days down into one
I can but try!
In case you're wondering, I checked out the hostel I was meant to be staying at. I'm sure it was lovely, and the other guys enjoyed their stay. Bunk beds, though? Hmm
But since I'll be all alone, I need to be *err* safe. Safety first! So, I've found myself a nice looking hotel for the night. I'm not a snob, but I do like to be comfortable. Hehe, check out my room. Nicer than bunk beds, huh?
On the plane here, I did a bit of reading up on Madrid - as you do. I read Pocket Rough Guide Madrid and Madrid Travel Guide: 101 Coolest Things to Do in Madrid . Apparently, there is a random, giant, baby's head statue somewhere in Madrid. This excites me! I NEED to find the giant baby head!
I need to stop chatting. It's 7 am, and I have a lot to fit in this morning:
Prado Museum Tour
Dinner Tour Madrid Authentic Tapas and History
After dumping my bag at the hotel, I grabbed a cereal bar and can of Coke to fill a hole as I wandered to the Prado Museum. I was glad I did because I was starving. But I did manage to get some Coke up my nose... Don't ask! Just don't!
Unfortunately, because I'm four days behind my travelling party, I couldn't take advantage of the museum tour. I was slightly disappointed about this. However, on the bright side, I'm in a hurry so not being held back by a chatty tour guide is no bad thing. I did manage to get myself an express one hour ticket too; result!
I can't say I'm much of a museum goer, to be honest. So, I was taken aback by the size of the Prado. Sheeeeesh it's huge!! Awesome, too. Because I arrived so early, it was really quiet. I enjoyed being able to take the art in, without being harrassed by other people. My three highlights were:
'Las Meninas' by Velázquez
'The Garden of Earthly Delights' by Hieronymus Bosch
The Emperor Charles V, on Horseback, in Mühlberg' by Titian
Part of me wished I'd had more time to explore. Sadly, time ticked by and I had to move on.
I took the decision to avoid the Segway tour. My balance, quite frankly, is shocking. Also, I've seen little Lego people trying to balance on little Lego Segways - it's not easy. I figured that if Lego can't do it right, I'd probably end up flying off or something.
Instead, I went straight for the food. The food thing was initially booked in for dinner. But I was starving and had other plans for the afternoon/evening. So, I took a stroll to one of the restaurants on the Tapas tour itinerary, keeping my eye out for the giant baby's head.
The tapas was amazzzzing! I love food! As in really really love food Ham, paella, cheese are some of my absolute favourites too.
As I write this, I'm trying to work my way through a massive platter of food, looking out towards the bustling city markets. I'm avoiding the temptation of an ice cold beer: I'd love one but, right now, it's about midday, and I need to squeeze day 3's activities into this afternoon.
Chao for now!
|*Sings* I'm going backpackingggg... but I'm not leaving homeeeeee!
We land in Madrid on 8/2 where we all meet up at Las-Musas, We will be in Madrid until Aug. 4th then we are onto Barcelona, then Montpelier, Monaco, Florence, Venice, Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Paris ending in London!
First prompt: Packing your backpack and familiarizing yourself with staying at hostels. Have you ever done this before? What do you think they are like? Have you traveled in Europe before, what was it like if you have? If you haven't what are you hoping to explore?
Ah poop. I'm only about five days late. I hate packing, hate it! So, instead of packing I read a book... then another... then... oh whatever, I'm late okay!?
Soooo... everyone is already in Barcelona and I'm, well, I'm still packing. But! It's okay! Ask me why...
I live in Europe. So, if I walk around my house with a backpack on, technically I'm backpacking in Europe!
Have I ever backpacked before? Nope. I hate backpacks
Do I like hostels? Errrmm... that's meant to say 5* hotels, right?? Right!!!!!!? Hmmm I'm not keen. Can you tell?
Have I travelled Europe before? Daily, yes. Seriously, yes I've been to most of it. It's alright, as continents go.
I'm not familiarising myself with the hostels. If I do that, I won't go. So, here's the plan: I'm going to chuck a few pants in my bag, fly to Madrid (or wherever I'm meant to be), do an extra quick whistle-stop tour of Madrid, then I'll catch up with the other hostel loving folk in Montpelier.
*looks up hotels in Madrid*
|30DBC - 30th Jan - Prompt: Invent a club that you think would be popular, but that you also wouldn't want to participate in.
Well, I did it! I finished the 30DBC. Granted I'm two days late and my posts have rarely been on time, but I don't care! I finished! I honestly didn't think I would... gold medal for me
Isn't this what I do on WDC, anyway? haha
Ooo a new club - I honestly don't know...
The Extra Efficient Club
The Anti-Procrastination Club
Those two might be popular and there is no chance I'd ever meet the criteria to join.
The "I Don't Get Harry Potter" Club
These might not be really popular here on WDC, but I'm sure I could get loads of members then run away and leave the weirdos to it.
Ooo ooo ooo, I definitely wouldn't join this on:
The Stationary Burning Club
BUT I bet I could get loads of office workers to join! Yeah! That one! That one! That one! Fools
|30DBC - 29th Jan - Prompt: On this day in 1996, Garth Brooks refused to accept his American Music Award for Favorite Overall Artist, saying that Hootie And The Blowfish had done more for music that year than he did. Have you ever, or would you consider, turning down an award of any sort because you insisted someone else was more deserving?
Hurrah... it seems I've woken up feeling marginally positive and productive! I have lots of stuff I need to do and lots I want to do. Here's hoping that the second month of the year will work out better than the first
Well, I guess it kind of depends on:
What the award is
How nominees are chosen
Who decides the winner
No it doesn't... not really.
Most awards are decided by either judges or voters. Personally, I think, in general, turning down an award is a little offensive to the people deciding the winners. If I knew I had done nothing worthy of the award, I might think, "shit, sorry guys!" but I don't think I'd actually say anything because it'd piss a lot of people off.
Like 30DBC - I'm not likely to win January's round. If I did, I'd probably feel a little bad as 90% of my posts have been late and, as yet, I haven't commented enough on other posts. However, I actually know how it is judged - it is mostly based on the judges' prerogative and taste. Therefore, if I was to place in the top 3, who am I to say, "you're wrong in what you like..."?
To turn down an "American's favourite artist" award is a bit of a fucking slap in the face, in my opinion. Accept the award and be grateful that people like you. I wonder if he regrets that decision.
Speaking of awards. I've not been feeling the love here on WDC, recently. I won't really go into why, it's pretty pointless. But instead of feeling like a positive refuge and a place of endless support, it's felt a bit blaaah for me recently. Part of it is my fault, I guess. But I've just been feeling like I give quite a lot and.... Annnnnyway...
I felt a bit better about this when I came across the nominations for the Quills and realised I'd been nominated 7 times
Whether I win any Quills or not, doesn't really matter. Being nominated is a privilege in itself
|30DBC - 28th Jan - Prompt: Describe the last time you were moved to tears by something beautiful.
I don't fucking know! I'm tempted to look at other people's responses to this because I have NO idea.
It depends what is classified as beautiful.
Today (while alone) I would have been caught shedding a few tears while watching Angelique Kerber's winning speech at the Australian Open. She was the underdog. I love an underdog. But, more than that, it was obvious from the way she was speaking that she totally had not expected to win. I've been there. I've won. And I've won unexpectedly. It is a beautiful feeling. So, to me, it kinda was beautiful... but, maybe not for others. She looked rough and sweaty
Errr.... I honestly can't think of anything.
I'm not sure who cries at beautiful things? The only example I can think of is people crying at the sight of a bride in her dress... but even then, I think they're crying at what the dress symbolises rather than how beautiful the bride is.
The more often we see the things around us - even the beautiful and wonderful things - the more they become invisible to us. That is why we often take for granted the beauty of this world: the flowers, the trees, the birds, the clouds - even those we love. Because we see things so often, we see them less and less.
Joseph B. Wirthlin
|30DBC - 27th Jan - Prompt: Are you an optimist, pessimist or realist? Explain why you think so. Do you think your friends and/or family would agree or disagree with you?
Huh. It's kinda interesting that this prompt has come up. It means I can talk a little about the past week while answering the prompt.
I've been struggling with my depression quite a lot over the past few weeks and months. I'm fully aware of this and have been making a conscious effort to try and clear up my messy brain. I'm not there yet, but at least I'm trying.
The thing is, I'm a very positive person. I have to be positive in my work - so I wouldn't have got the job if I wasn't positive. In competition, I would consider the possibility of winning well before the possibility of messing up.
However, depression - or the black clouds as I call it - can suck out all the optimism and positivity from your brain. Even if you know full well that your life is pretty damn good really. So, when I say I'm trying hard, I mean I'm trying to wipe away all the negative shit to find how I really feel underneath the black clouds.
Unfortunately, Chris is currently going through a... what can I call it... a bit of a negative, moany and complaining spell. Mostly about work. Well, no, it is about work. But it has been seeping into everything. Seeing only what he hasn't got, rather than what he has, kind of thing. Pessimism at his greatest.
He goes through these stages every so often and, I think, I'm pretty good at helping him work through this stuff and making him see the positives.
But when you've got your own battles going on, it can be quite hard to deal with.
For example, the other day, I'd finally found the head space to start an essay that I'd been putting off for about 10 months(!). I was so pleased with myself. But, I was barely a paragraph in when Chris got home... straight away he started moaning about the fact nothing had been taken out the freezer for dinner. Then made a call to our mortgage company to complain about something. Nothing huge, but enough to bring negativity into the house.
Instantly, the positive head space I fought for (literally) hours to find, was gone! I was mortified.
So, I actually think that whether people are optimistic or pessimistic can totally be affected by their environment... and, obviously, internal chemical reactions.
Therefore, I need to stop Chris being grumpy AND get rid of my black clouds... then I'll be optimistic again!