Archive | August, 2012

Happy Rant-astic Friday! Keep It Big And Dumb!

31 Aug

Every time I log on to Facebook I’m reminded of the futility of this “travel” blog, and indeed any written prose these days.

Here am I, presenting the world with at least my third* best material. Yet no one (not even people with meaningful things to say) seems to be able get any attention unless they condense their thoughts in to one sentence and write in on a “meme” or an “e-card”.

Whew! If you’ll excuse me I need to call an AM radio talk back program then go for my lie down.

*The best material I use in my secret gigs, the second best I send to the writers of Packed to the Rafters.

 

*SOME TIME LATER*

 

OK I’ve calmed down now, on to today’s topic. I was scared I wouldn’t have a topic for today’s post (not that its ever stopped me before, remember that nonsense about supermarkets?), but then I was perusing an Australian newspaper website when I happened upon this article.

‘Nine big, dumb travel experiences everyone should try’ is an article that is essentially promoting travel, therefore I am generally in favour of Ben’s aim here. I do have a few small issues to take though.

I’m not qualified to comment on all of the experiences he mentions, but one I definitely can comment on is having something stolen. Why does “everyone” have to have something stolen? While Ben asserts its an educational thing, I’ve never heard anyone say “man I’m glad I’m finally rid of that pesky passport.” Come to think of it I did have a quite a unique experience after having my camera stolen in St. Petersburg, but I’m pretty sure plenty of people have completed a lot of travels without going through that particular “learning experience”.

Another thing on the list I have not experienced but feel I can comment on in is “having dorm-room sex”. I can’t help but feel the logic is flawed here. Ben encourages everyone to “get even with the world” by makin’ some hostel dorm whoopee.

I feel bad for bringing Ghandi in to such a low-brow environment as this. But if “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind”, then what will happen with the exponential breakout of vengeful hostel boot-knockin’? Think about it. If one couple is doing it in a six-bed dorm, by Ben’s logic that’s five other people who now have to “get even with the world”. And so it grows and grows.

Seriously though, it’s gross and annoying.

He also mentions Oktoberfest. I haven’t been there and I hear it is quite a bit of fun. But he also mentions “Oi, Oi, Oi” Australians. If and when I finally make it to Oktoberfest, I will certainly be taking up his suggestion of checking out one of the 13 other beer dens where the “Oi, Oi, Oi” crowd are not hanging out. I may be super-sensitive to it because I know they’re representing my beloved home, but honestly guys, it is unimaginative, annoying and embarrassing.

Finally, I was rather disappointed to see an entry on the list called “Do ‘the London thing'”. Well, I was at first anyway, since that meant I was taking part in a “big, dumb travel experience”. As you know from previous posts, I only take part in the most sophisticated and refined travel experiences. Also, being the alternative trendsetter I am, if I’d known it had become a “thing” to live in London I would have taken a job cattle-rearing in Mongolia.

Anyway, the fact is that at the core of the article, our friend Ben is giving people more reasons to travel. While I may not agree that “everyone” necessarily has to experience these things, it can only be a good thing to promote travel in whatever form people feel comfortable (or uncomfortable, as the case may be).

So that’s my rant done for now. As you know I’m back in London for the moment, so I will need to get a bit more creative with things to post about. Just between you and me though, I’ve got some pretty exciting stuff coming up. This may include, but is not limited to, a rigourous review of the pizza cutter fork and my honest and frank opinion of the original Total Recall. Until those heady days are upon us though, why not book yourself a big, dumb travel experience?

 

Safe travels, thanks for reading. J

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A Change of Plans: Less Chocolate, More Beer (deal with it)

26 Aug

You may remember a while back I floated the idea of riding my bicycle to Belgium. However, having left more money in Turkey with kebab and fez vendors than was budgeted, I have had to change my plans slightly.

Instead, this past few days have been spent in York, which will henceforth be know as “the Belgium of The United Kingdom”.

I make no apologies for the previous misinformation. If you’ve spent more than 15 seconds here in the past you’ll be aware that such indiscretions have little impact upon my journalistic integrity (mainly because you need to have journalistic integrity upon which to impact).

Unrepentant though I am, if you are so outraged that you must navigate elsewhere, please let me hasten your exit with a link to ‘man eats seat on no.12 bus‘.

Otherwise, let me and my words transport you to a place that lies somewhere within that mythical land Londoners refer to as The North.

Source: London and You – All you need to know about the world. 

The trip to York was my first chance to relive the joys of Megabus. For the uninitiated, Megabus is pretty much the cheapest way to get anywhere in the UK. In actual fact, I can’t fault the experience, especially when it cost £9 the day before travel. The only minor problem was slight confusion related to the fact the fare was half train/half bus, but for that price I’m happy if I don’t end up in Cardiff.

This was really a chance to extend my knowledge of the UK. My only knowledge of York beforehand had to do with an indecisive and/or cruel Duke and his large number of men, and I’m not sure how accurate that information is.

We arrived late in the day and immediately discovered that York has the requisite “eye” (huge Ferris wheel) that is apparently necessary for all cities these days, touristy or not. Fortunately York at least has stuff to see from such a structure. We didn’t go on it, however I’m sure it’s a lovely view if the ground level is anything to go by. For starters there’s York Minster, a pretty impressive cathedral that all roads in York seem to wind towards. Here is my bestest camera phone image of it:

A lot of people substitute the word “crap” for “arty” these days so I’m going to do the same.

There are also a number of sections of city walls which are like, really old (to use technical language). These are available free for the public to wander along and look at car parks.

That photo is seriously “arty”.

Or if you’re not a car park enthusiast, you can also find roman building ruins along the walls with accompanying information boards.

I’m going to pause here and just say that after that the trip became something of a pub crawl and craft beer appreciation getaway. Again I’m not apologising for this, but I prefer to keep you informed of upcoming content.

While craft beer has increased in availability in Australia of late, it is an area where The UK is still streets ahead. Nowhere is this more apparent than in York. It doesn’t hurt that York has its own brewery, but it seemed in every pub visited there was a great selection of local ales and also beers and ciders from many different places around the world.

I could go in to a detailed description of each pub, but to be honest you could venture in to almost any pub in York and find a great venue for its own reasons. The main thing is there are different beers, and lots of them. A quick round up of the best ones include The Last Drop Inn (great sausages and mash) and The Three-Legged Mare, both run by the York Brewery. These are fantastic because of their commitment to great beer and sensible, conversation-friendly rules including no music and no children (I’m not a grumpy old man).

Other good options are Pivni and my favourite, York Tap which is located conveniently at the York rail station. Both have a great range of local and international beers at very reasonable prices. The decor at York Tap also makes me feel classy despite walking around York in the same hoodie for three days.

While not being technically the best tourist on my visit to York, I can say it is genuinely a beautiful and evocative place to just wander the streets. Even if you are just looking for the next craft beer pub, you can’t help but be blown away by the quaint, cobbled streets and the obvious pride taken in preserving its history. Here is one such street:

I know it isn’t cobbled but some of them are.

All too soon it was time to say goodbye to York and jump back on the Megabus/train to London. I should also give a mention to Ace Hostel which, despite a rather rude guy who checked us in, was a very clean and comfortable place to stay at a reasonable rate.

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, we were bade an inquisitive farewell by a local avian resident.

“If you don’t have any bread, get outta my town” seemed to be its message.

 

Thanks for reading, safe travels, and may all your umbrellas stay intact. J

Do I Smell Burning? Turkey Sail Part 4

21 Aug

Sadly today I’m bringing my rambling observations of my time in Turkey to a close. It’s been a wild ride sitting and remembering all the great times and people. However I know the real reason you all come here, and I’m guessing its not to see screen grabs from 90s movies in place of actual travel photography.

Anyway in keeping with my promise, this was my majestic view as I scribbled the last of my majestic words about this country of majesty: 

And just to break any glamourous illusions you may have of an amateur “travel” blog writer’s working environment, here is my view as I type those majestic words:

No matter how many times I am invited to “socialise with George”, I’m never that tempted.

The rest of our week on Busabout Sail Turkey was spent in much the same way as the first few days. We settled remarkably quickly in to a regular routine of swim, eat, swim, relax, eat, wait 30 minutes, swim, relax, singalong to Eagle Eye Cherry, eat, drink, party, singalong to Uncle Kracker, sleep. It’s an exhausting schedule, really.

Its amazing how quickly you can slip in to such a routine, and its equally as sad how quickly the time passes once you do. We’d all love the time to pass as quickly while we’re having a colonoscopy or watching Big Brother, but sadly it only seems to happen when you’re having fun.

Among the things that do bare mentioning in the last half of the week was getting a Turkish shave. One afternoon we docked at the city of Kalkan and had some time to wander around, get some snacks, and drop a mad Facebook status.

With the afternoon wearing on, I realised I needed to purchase a new singlet, since foolishly I’d brought only one with me. Where before it was a healthy tooth-enamel white, after days of wear it was slowly turning Yarra/Thames brown. Before you ask, yes I did have t-shirts as well. However if you have to ask that, you haven’t been to Turkey in the summer.

Anyway, the point is I had to venture in to town with a mate to buy what turned out to be a sweet turquoise muscle tee. Having already been asked that week if I was a personal trainer, I was confident of pulling off the look (I didn’t).

While we searched we also found a Turkish barber offering shaves for 10 Turkish Lira (about 5 Euros). As someone who only ever uses an electric shaver, I’m not exactly that used to having even a Gillette Mach 12 (or whatever they’re up to) near my throat. But the deft razor work of the barber was not even the most terrifying thing. Imagine daring to breath for the first time in minutes, only to open your eyes to a flaming cotton bud being repeatedly whacked on your face.

I realised later how girlish I was being about the whole thing. In fact, that’s an insult to girls, who would’ve handled the experience with much less suppressed angst. After the complimentary head, shoulder and arm massage though, and also feeling how close the shave was, I can say I would have another one in a heartbeat.

Like I said, the rest of the week passed all too quickly. We did have another night of debauchery at Smuggler’s Inn, many more solo performances from our fantastic melodious “unique” singing talent, and a fun night at a “foam party” which turned out to be just a dangerously wet and soapy floor.

I must say, all jokes aside, that I had one of the greatest weeks since my travels began and I feel very lucky to have met the wonderful group of people I shared it with. I can heartily recommend Busabout Sail Turkey to anyone thinking of doing it. I’m told by sources that if it is a success for Busabout this season, that the prices will likely increase for next year. Even so, with an increase in price I think it will still be well worth it for the experience.

For now I’m back in London and hoping to enjoy the last of the warm weather before it returns to its usual mantle as “Europe’s car wash”, which will also be the last chance I will get to wear my summer writer’s outfit.

 

Safe travels, thanks for reading. J

 

P.S. Cheers Babaveli crew!

 

The Blunt Edge Of Sailing: Turkey Sail Part 3

15 Aug

Hello again, welcome back to your non-Olympic connection to things that happened last week but which I actually wrote about at the time.

Or at least I though about writing. Here is the latest view of where I was when I was writing, or perhaps thinking about writing.

If you’ve just joined us, I recently completed a Busabout Sail Turkey trip. You should really go back and read from part 1, you missed some pretty good stuff.

The day after paragliding we got our first chance to dock and have a bit of a walk around. This turned out to be a turning point in the trip because it allowed us to make a crucial purchase. As much as I wanted one, no, it wasn’t a pirates hat. It was a guitar.

I’ll admit that most of the time, when a guitar comes out its usually a Jeff Buckley wannabe bashing blindly, driving everyone from the immediate area (I count myself firmly in this category). Luckily however, we had a supremely talented musician and singer on board. While others went on a scuba diving trip (another optional extra, 25 euros), a few of us sat at the back of the boat doing passable Jack Johnson impressions.

Once all returned from their various activities (scuba diving was a value-for-money success, by all accounts), we motored on to our stop for the night.

On arrival another mouth-watering dinner ensued from Mr. T, our chef. Following dinner some drinks, games, games with drinking, and drinking games were enjoyed. The night was to be our first night at what our captain referred to as “disco disco”. This was actually a bar/shack located in a small cove called Smuggler’s Inn. It seemed only to be accessible by boat and to cater mainly for tourist cruises.

Aside from some alarming destructive tendencies (none of which came to fruition) from one on our boat, everyone was in very high spirits. This was no doubt helped by the barrage of singalong hits from the DJ, most notably ‘Land Down Under’ and ‘Walk 500 Miles’. If there is a party that isn’t enhanced by a jumping circle singalong to The Proclaimers, I’ve yet to attend it.

Somehow, everyone made it back to the boat more or less dry. At least, that is to say no one fell in the water. In actual fact, partying through a Turkish summer evening is one of the sweatiest experiences you’re likely to have.

Upon returning, the real entertainment started. There’s nothing quite like winding down from a night with someone (who can actually play) strumming out well-known tunes on a guitar. Now I’m no expert on the subtle art of seduction, but when a guy spends the best part of two hours transcribing the lyrics to James Blunt’s ‘You’re Beautiful’ during the day, you know he’s banking not to spend the night alone.

The rousing solo rendition of Blunt received mixed reviews, and it would be cruel to post the video footage, but that didn’t stop further attempts that week.

The next day predictably started quite slowly, but before long we were at our next destination and it was time for a spot of cliff-jumping.

The Turkish emergency response remained untested, and the lads scored some macho points. If this blogger was less concerned with journalistic integrity, I’d say I had already jumped at that point (that’s me in the water). But I work hard to bring you the truth, so I feel it necessary to say I had already jumped from a higher cliff and done a stylish armstand four and a half in the tuck position.

The real reason we had come to this particular inlet was for sea turtle spotting. We kept a sharp eye and did spot a few paddling about the waters, but such is the quality of this blog that I forgot to even take my camera to Turkey in the first place. In fact the only reason I’ve had any photos to bring you thus far is because of my crap camera phone and the fortunate snap-happiness of other people on the trip. Some would say 700+ photos in one night of drinking/dancing is a little excessive. I say its good documentation.

Anyway I didn’t get any photos of turtles, but you can imagine I’m sure.

That’s another post done for now, I hope you’re all enjoying this because pretty soon I’m going to run out of real travel material again and I’ll be back to doing reviews of my Grande Mocha Latte (pretty good today, a little heavy on the foam).

Safe travels everyone, thanks for reading. J

Food By The A-Team: Turkey Sail Part 2

9 Aug

Welcome back to our series on Turkey and the sailing therein of with Busabout. If it has yet crossed anyone’s mind, I am not receiving anything in the way of kickbacks, discounts or the new George Michael single from the people at Busabout. These are purely my own words and punctuation, and any overly positive views expressed are a result of my experience being overly positive.

Can we move on now please?

In keeping with my promise to show you my view each time I sit down to write in my notebook, here it is this time:

I swear I bought my notebook, but now all I’ve got is a cocktail with a giant straw.

Our first stop was to be a small cove not far from Fethiye. Here we got our first blissful taste of how much of the week was to be spent.

You have to imagine me swimming and/or lying in the water with an inflatable donut.

Some might think doing this every day would start to wear thin after a while. Wait…no one would think that. Sorry.

When everyone was back on deck it was time for a more literal taste. Happily, our Busabout Sail Turkey included all meals. Now as we all know, I travel mainly for the food, so needless to say I was a little apprehensive about what it would be like. Enter….Mr. T.

I pity the fool who doesn’t like my tzatziki

Mr. T was actually a small Turkish man, but I didn’t get a picture. Basically we found it too hard to pronounce his real name, but we thought it started with T. Luckily he embraced the new moniker we gave him. Also luckily, among his many talents was cooking.

His first meal was a barbecued whole fish each, and from there it somehow got better and better as the week progressed. Barbecued chicken breasts, spiced rissoles and fish stuffed with lemon and garlic were always accompanied by delicious side dishes of rice, Mediterranean vegetables, pasta, cous-cous, fresh salads, stuffed capsicums and tzatziki-like sauces. Dinner was always followed up with fresh fruit platters of melons, cherries, and the biggest and best nectarines known to me.

In short, the food was really good.

After dinner there was some getting to know names in the form of a few drinks and games, and relative to the rest of the week, things finished up pretty early. Rather than go back to our cabins, the majority of the group snagged themselves a bed on the deck. We lay under the stars, far closer to each other than you would usually be after knowing them for mere hours. The gentle rocking of the sheltered cove quietly sent us to a peaceful slumber…

The days in Turkey tend to warm up pretty quickly once the sun comes up. Some people can handle sleeping in the morning sun for hours without stirring. I on the other hand woke up with the sun’s beam grazing my right foot and had to quickly yank it away as if I’d stood on Mr. T’s stove top. I’m quite paranoid and sensitive when it comes to sunburn, OK?

If I haven’t said this before I’m not sure why: There is NOTHING better than waking up in the morning and being able to take two steps before falling in to cool Mediterranean water. Not exactly a catchy slogan for Turkish tourism, but if everyone could start their day like that, I’m fairly sure the world would be like this:

What were we fighting about again?

After a traditional Turkish breakfast of eggs, tomato, cucumber, olives, cheese and bread, we were on our way. I was fairly sure I didn’t get seasick. Then again I was fairly sure Big Brother wouldn’t last eight seasons and then be revived by another network. Luckily I managed not to toss a sidewalk pizza on the way.

That day was to be the first of the adrenaline activities offered as extras on the Busabout Sail Turkey tour. Paragliding. As tight as my budget was, 170 Turkish Lira (roughly 85 Euro) to run off a 1800m mountain was too hard to pass up. Thank heavens for peer pressure.

Upon arriving at Ölüdeniz (Blue Lagoon) we were ferried to the small town where we piled in to a jeep. After roughly a 45-minute climb, some (me, at least) were getting fairly nervous. We finally arrived at the jump site and beheld Ölüdeniz from above. I was assigned to Mirac as my pilot and was promptly kitted up. From there I set about masking my fear by doing a movie poster-style look-down-at-the-camera shot.

COMING SOON TO CINEMAS – Gliderboyz: Being the little spoon

Generally when you’re standing 1800 metres up, you don’t want to be told “run and just keep running”. Nevertheless that’s what happened, and run we did. After being slightly scolded by Mirac for forgetting his instructions to spoon, this is what I saw:

If I had only 170 Turkish Lira left in the world, I can safely say I would either buy 34 doner kebabs or this experience. Once you are in the air there is no fear, just complete wonderment at what you’re seeing. I would try to describe it, but it would be like trying to describe the taste of a Mars Milk. It has to be experienced to be believed. (Note: This is in no way a detriment to paragliding, people who’ve read this blog before will know my feelings about Mars Milk).

That will bring part 2 to a close. I’ve no idea how long this series will go, but if Big Brother gets at least 8 seasons….

 

Safe travels, thanks for your readership. J

Now THIS Is Summer: Turkey Part 1 (take note London)

8 Aug

I look up as the gentle to and fro becomes slightly more dramatic. The rolling blue hills pass under the Babaveli and on to their destination, the wild and rocky cliffs of Turkey’s south-west coast. The whimsical rocking threatens to send me in to a peaceful slumber as…

I hope you can’t stand to read another word of that nauseating prose, because I can’t stand to write it.

I thought I’d have a go at writing a real and descriptive feature piece about my fantastic Busabout Sail Turkey experience. But I realise now how foolish that thought was. I will now resume WAU (pronounced ‘wow’) which stands for Words As Usual.

I also thought it would be a nice idea to take a picture from my point of view every time I sit down to write stuff. Here’s where I am as I write this:

As I write in my douchy writing notebook, to my left is the aforementioned rocky coastline, to my right is a vast expanse of water more blue than the Friday movie at 10pm. You know the ones I mean. I’m reclining on a large bed/sofa at the back of the boat and everyone is as close to carefree as you can be while still wearing pants.

My completely unplanned escape from Olympic London began a few days ago. At least I think it did, time has kind of ceased in importance lately. A friend on the boat has a watch that has said 1:50 for the past two days, and such is the level of relaxation, I’m not entirely sure it’s wrong. Anyway, back to the beginning.

Further demonstrating my inability to learn from my mistakes, I again booked the cheapest, and therefore earliest flight from London. Making it even better, I had to get to Stansted airport, which meant getting up at 3am the previous Tuesday to get there on time.

By the look of the airport, quite a few fellow Londoners had foreseen the impending influx of Olympic spirit and goodwill, and decided they wanted no part of it. The flight passed without incident and I soon landed at Dalaman airport and got my transfer to the town of Fethiye (pronounced ‘Fetty-yay!’). The port town is an altogether very pleasant place to be. It’s relatively small and easy to get around, and like most places in Turkey, kebab shops abound.

My Busabout Sail Turkey was to leave the following day, so luckily I met some other lovely people at the hostel doing the sail as well. It’s hard to explain how lucky I was to meet these people, but the week could have turned out a LOT differently.

After a few drinks that night, the next day started fairly slowly and didn’t quicken until a coffee and kebab were located. I say quicken, but I actually sat around the pool at the hostel (V-GO guesthouse is very much recommended) and chatted with the people I’d met.

The afternoon rolled around soon enough and it was time to meet for the tour. The boat our group drew was called the Babaveli. She was promptly nicknamed Bubba so in the event we couldn’t locate her at any point, we could do this:

We settled in to meet everyone as we sailed out of Fethiye. It was then I found out that at 25, I was the oldest person on the boat. Now, it’s only recently that I’ve (occasionally) started to be the oldest person in a group. Sadly, that means you tend to be branded as the mature and responsible one. As worrying as this was for me, sometimes you just have to accept your role, step up, and be the mature responsible one.

I didn’t really know what that meant, and I’m still not that sure. I think the main thing is that I was put in charge of the “off the boat” rule. Basically whenever someone commits a foh pah pho pa faux par does something stupid, anyone can call “off the boat!”. If five people agree by calling or clicking their fingers, that person must promptly jump from the boat. I had the final say in judging to make sure the rule wasn’t abused.

All in all the rule has worked quite well, though my “off the plane” rule has since been less successful.

That brings me to the end of part 1. I realise I’ve jumped around between past and present tense. I am aware of it, but to be honest it’s lucky if I bother to spell check this thing, let alone keep consistent tents. It’s my blog and I’ll be chronologically incorrect if I want to. Stay tuned for the rest. Like a good sunburn, it gets better with age.

Safe travels, thanks for reading. J