18 6 / 2012
Thanks For The Memories!
So here I am. Sitting in Singapore Airport, just hours before boarding the final plane back into little old Adelaide.
What an adventure it’s been. Do I regret going? Not for a second. Do I want to travel more? You bet.
There are plenty of things I’d do differently though. One, I’d pack far less crap. I took a first aid kit for goodness sake. On a tour. Still can’t be too careful I suppose. I’d also ensure that when I’m with other people, that I don’t fall into the trap of only doing what they want to do. That’s why I like traveling alone so much I think. It is so much easier.
I’d also perhaps attempt to eat healthier. It is really hard though. Options are so limited. Australia has embraced the healthy eating approach far more than what the United States and Europe has.
I only have two regrets on this trip. One is that I didn’t get to see show on Broadway in New York. Seeing some shows in London made me realise that I’d missed out a bit. Getting lost on the NY subway didnt help that.. The other regret is opting not to go inside the Colosseum. It was so hot the day I was there and there was a massive line. Still, I wish I had gone in. Damn me being lazy.
On a more positive note, my number one highlight of the trip was helicoptering over the Grand Canyon. It doesn’t get much better than that. The Eiffel Tower was an awesome experience and paragliding is up there too. Pardon the pun. I’ve met so many diverse and interesting people. Some, hopefully will prove to be good contacts in the future.
Venice was my biggest disappointment as I’ve mentioned. Dirty, wet, crowded. Waking up to the smell of marijuana in my room also was a lowlight. Mykonos was a disaster given my health, but I still attempted to see what I could of the place.
I got homesick at times, which really surprised me. Sometimes I think that being able to have so much contact with home is a bad thing, because you never fully let go of what’s going on.
On a whole though, what a trip. What an experience. It’s made me reevaluate so much about life and myself. It puts priorities into perspective and made me realise at times how lucky we are to live in such a diverse world. Imagine if everything was the same from country to country. How boing would that be? I’m no longer afraid of flying, got on American TV and discovered that I really like Bounty chocolate bars.
Thanks for following along at home, for the messages while I’ve been away. It’s been awesome. I hope you’ve enjoyed A Liam Abroad!
Hopefully there will be a second installment not long down the track.
18 6 / 2012
TOP 5 PLACES ON A LIAM ABROAD
Traveling across so many countries and cities for two months makes it very difficult to narrow it down to a top five. But here we go…
Switzerland was epic and the fact is at number five is an insult really. Amazing scenery, amazing differences to the rest of Europe, amazing cleanliness and a sense of freshness.
Austria. An adventure paradise. This place made me want to be fit, it encouraged me to get outdoors and to take risks.
Dubrovnik. Europe’s hidden secret. A modern history in every sense of the word. On the I want to come back list for sure.
London. Words cannot describe how much I want to live and work here. Such a great city. Fantastic public transport, nice people, beautiful surrounds. I’ll be back for sure. The rest of the UK is on my to do list too!
And number one… New York. Yes it’s busy, yes it’s dirty. But it’s New York. I really want to work here at some point. I felt at home. Very few places gave me that feeling.
So there you have it. A very tricky job to narrow that down. Several other places could probably have snuck in, but criteria is criteria and those are my choices.
I will though give honorable mentions to Slovenia and Washington. Both places I could very easily have spent more time in.
17 6 / 2012
Europe in a Nutshell
So as A Liam Abroad draws to a close, it’s time to look back at the Europe leg of the journey.
I went into this continent thinking that Italy, France and possibly Spain would be the countries with the most and the countries to be in. How wrong I was. Of course these countries are great with heaps to offer, but it was eastern Europe that really impressed me.
Dubrovnik was certainly number one on my list. What a beautiful place. In fact the whole of Croatia wins the award for my favourite European country. From the history of the walls to the stunning coastline and oceans, this country was awesome. Easy to get around, blue oceans, nice people, magnificent views.
Coming in at number two would be Austria. An adventure paradise. It was here where I faced my fear of heights when I tandem paraglided and embraced the sport of white water rafting. The scenery is stunning. Everywhere you look are mountains. Plenty of places to bike and heaps of fresh air. It was a refreshing place to be after spending a lot of time in big cities. A huge German influence, which means awesome food.
Switzerland is next. I still think snow is highly overrated. It makes you wet and is freezing cold. This country made me think otherwise though. The mountain peaks wouldn’t have been so impressive without the white stuff. The magnificent lakes and waterfalls also add to the beauty of Switzerland. Stuff is rather expensive, but you can look past that when you feel you’re getting value for money. I like the fact that they are different to the other countries. They have s different shaped flag and use a totally different charging adaptor and currency. It’s clean and they really are neutral. Wouldn’t want to be starting a war with them any day given everyone has to do a year in the army.
Honorable mentions must go to Germany, with it’s food and culture and Slovenia for its youth style set up and diversity that is so often lacking in major cities today.
So Italy. Venice I though was terribly overrated. It was one of the places I wanted to visit the most, but turned out to be one of my biggest disappointments of the trip. Overcrowded, dirty and hard to get around. It was terribly wet the day I was there, which probably didn’t help, but I never felt the connection I was hoping for in this city.
Florence was by far my preferred Italian location. Slightly less touristy, good food and lots of culture. Rome is different. Much more old and far more busy. Nothing wrong with that but when you’re trying to see things and take it in, massive groups of people don’t help the situation.
Verona was my where I had my best gelati for the trip, and I got to touch a boob and now have years of good luck in love ahead of me!
Paris was good. I enjoyed it far more than any Italian city. You can’t go past the Eiffel Tower. It’s awesome. Simple as that. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. French culture is a bit rude and there are parts of Paris that have far too many gypsies and homeless people with animals. Food is different, pretty good on a whole though. Minus the frogs legs that is. Snail is okay. Anything pastry related is heavenly. Still regretting not indulging in a McBaugette.
Spain in a word is dirty. I didn’t dislike the country though. Barcelona has a lot to offer despite the fact that apart from the Olympics and World Expo it probably wouldn’t exist. Food is pretty nice and the shopping is fantastic. My flamenco dancing skills certainly got a work out while I was here.
Greece. Well I actually quite liked Athens. Maybe as it’s the spiritual home of the sporting spectacle that is the Olympics. If it weren’t for its economy it would be an ok place in my opinion. Didn’t like the fact that it’s a little dirty though. Or that you cannot flush toilet paper down the toilet. Mykonos I’m sure is nice. Being sick meant I didn’t get to see a lot of it. The island is still rather dirty in parts that haven’t been developed though. The bad news for Greece is that this situation is only going to get worse as their financial crisis continues. Food here is absolutely awesome though. Salty but delicious on a whole.
Monaco and Lichtenstein deserve s mention purely because they are clean, small and intriguing places to spend a bit of time in. Walking the Monaco Grand Prix track was definitely a highlight. A chicken snitty with fries and a main street that backs onto mountains stands out in Lichtenstein.
Albania. How could we forget that. It’s different. That’s the only way to describe it. Old school and as far from modern Europe as you can get. But that’s what makes it what it is. From donkeys pulling carts to the fact it has no roads, Albania was an experience for sure. It will make me appreciate home and what I’ve got.
The Netherlands I like. Amsterdam not so much. Drugs and sex are way too big for my liking here. It smells and you feel like a passive smoker or drug user everywhere you go. Probably my least favorite location on the tour. Outside of the city though the windmills and awesome bike rides and traditions relating to cheese and clogs I really enjoyed. Wouldn’t have minded exploring the countryside in this country a little more.
So all in all Europe is made up of many countries and they are all so different. No one is going to like them all, but having said that everywhere I went I really enjoyed something about the culture or the way the country is run.
I’m pretty keen now to do the rest of Europe. I want to visit Princess Mary in Denmark and would love to go to Sweden and Poland. I’ve heard such fantastic things about Turkey too. Want to lend me some money anyone?
17 6 / 2012
Time of my life
So what a journey it’s been. They say travel changes you. That has certainly been the case for me. It opens your eyes, removes you from your comfort zone. It’s unpredictable and it’s tiring.
Like everything in life, it didn’t all go to plan. But in proportion to the awesome bits of the trip, these small annoyances are just that, small.
I’ll wrap up Europe and look back at the last 2 months across the next 48 hours.
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16 6 / 2012
"Travel broadens the mind"
16 6 / 2012
Final day of tour number two and you guessed it rain, rain, rain!
This meant that there was to be no canal rides. Which in pouring rain didn’t bother me too much. Although I feel I haven’t seen enough of the cultural part of the place. It did leave the day open for some exploring of the city though.
Hate to say it, but not really feeling any connection to Amsterdam. It’s way too alternate and just not a me type of city. There’s a massive American, touristy influence.
I had a sandwich for lunch and was paranoid it was laced with weed. So far, so good though. I’ll just avoid the brownies.
Nothing really special to report this arvo in this city. Rain hung around most of the day. Did done admin things including posting home my heavy items. Pray to God they get back safely. Amsterdam has the cheapest postage going around.
The final activities on this tour were a cruise down the canals and dinner.
The cruise wasn’t anything special, but did allow me to see some of Amsterdam the weather today prevented me from viewing properly. It’s similar to Venice in the respect that there are canals and small bridges everywhere.
It also gave great views of the busy streets, which currently as I’ve previously mentioned are all decorated for the football. Orange galore. Bicycles everywhere too. It’s the way to get around. Not your usual bike though. Granny bikes and oversized bikes. They have right of way. That would take some getting used to.
Dinner was a Dutch rice table affair. Asian food in Amsterdam? I know. Confused me too. I’ve gone right off the cuisine for some reason. But it was tasty enough and there was heaps of it, which is always vitally important.
Free day to roam the streets of Amsterdam on my own tomorrow! I’m thinking that I need to try a burger from the fast food joint that serves burgers next door. Purely because they come from a vending machine. Food is readily available here. People get the munchies after a few puffs of the green stuff!
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15 6 / 2012
On the road again…
So today marks the final day on the road. The drive from the Rhine Valley in Germany to Amsterdam in the Netherlands is the final leg of my European adventure.
Our first stop allowed time for a sausage roll. It’s just not the same as a meat pie though which will be high on my to eat list as soon as I arrive home. That and Farmers Union Iced Coffee.
Anyway I’m getting ahead of myself.
Stopped off at a cheese factory. They also make clogs which I initially thought was a bit strange. But they sort of go together. Hard to explain so you’ll just have to believe me. Had a taste of some of the varieties of cheese. And a very yummy wafer biscuit, but back to the cheese… Some were not too shabby. A cheese with pesto for example was quite nice. Others not so nice. In fact the normal cheese was the one I disliked the most. Weird. But that’s cheese!
The clog display was interesting. Who wears clogs anymore I hear you ask? Well the Dutch do in the garden apparently. I don’t know if you would even be able to bring them back through customs being wood and all. So no clogs for me. Good to see tradition isn’t dead here though.
There was a record attempt to see how many people could fit inside a giant clog. My claustrophobic fear prevented me from taking part in that one.
The scenery in these areas has such a country feel about it. Large, wide open spaces. All flat. Paddocks filled with cows and sheep. Extremely green. Windmills everywhere. The old school windmills and the modern wind turbines.
We then went on a gentle bike ride. I rode a granny bike for the first time. Good old pedaling backwards to brake. The short ride took in the town of Edam. Windmills and canals. Very scenic. And the sun was out too which made a pleasant change from previous days.
Eventually the final hotel stop on my world wide adventure was made in Amsterdam. Given that I have no interest whatsoever in drugs and didn’t really want to attend a sex show, I’m not sure how much I will enjoy this city. Drugs are slowly becoming illegal and rightly so. Find more productive things to do with your time people.
The famous red light district which again doesn’t hold much interest for me is quite unusual. Prostitution is legal and hence every second week all prostitutes have to have a check up. Rather than have them on the street, the Dutch attempt to look after them displaying them in windows instead. It’s not wrong it’s different…?
Looking forward tomorrow to seeing some of the markets and canals that also make Amsterdam what it is. Weather is supposed to be ordinary though so fingers crossed it all goes ok.
Finished my day with some more football. It’s huge in the Netherlands. Shops all over the place are decorated for the event. Orange galore. I blend in as a result!
14 6 / 2012
Back to Germany
So Switzerland will certainly be entering my top five countries on this trip. It’s getting a rather crowded top five now. Good on this country for being individual and doing things slightly differently to the rest of the world. Even if having completely different adapters for charging appliances is slightly annoying.
Heading back into Germany today as we continue to drive back up to the top of Europe. Forced to pay for a toilet stop again. Is it wrong that when I have to pay for using these facilities I have the sudden urge to mess everything up. Surely depriving people with no money access to a toilet is illegal? All I ask for is a clean toilet. Nothing special. No payment required.
Stop number two of the day was in Heidelberg. Visited the gummi bear capital of the world capital. Heaps and heaps of bears of all different shapes and sizes. More rain. Europe what has happened to summer?
One thing annoying me about European culture is the rudeness. I think I’ve touched on it before but the words ‘excuse me’ don’t seem to exist over here. I know it’s probably a different culture thing, but I find it so annoying when people push past you or don’t move in a polite manner.
There’s a lot of patriotism over here at the moment. I’m assuming it may have something to do with the Euro 2012 football tournament being on currently. So many cars have flags attached to them. Particularly here in Germany. Lots of merchandise is able to be bought around the place too.
We arrived in St Goar in the Rhine Valley. A very different area of Germany to what I’ve seen so far. A very country feel about it and pretty cold.
I bought a beer stein which in hindsight I have no idea how I’ll get home safely. The shop was full of traditional German beer steins. Every design imaginable.
The hotel is in a wine region. I had the option of doing another wine tour but the sporting nut in me would much rather watch some of the football (soccer)! There were lots of goals too. Bonus!
One more European country to go. Holland here we come. Couldn’t give a rats about weed and sex shows which Amsterdam is so famous for, but I hear it has some beauty there somewhere and I’m about to find out.
13 6 / 2012
Ain’t no mountain high enough.
Rain rain go away. Another day and more rain, but in these parts of the world if it’s raining towards the bottom of a mountain, then it normally means snow on top. And that was certainly the case today.
I boarded a train up a mountain, which is a bit strange really. But a good concept. I believe it’s the worlds highest railway and is celebrating its 100th centenary this year.
Took about 90 minutes to get to the top. Snow began steadily falling about halfway through the journey. This is summer. I can’t imagine what winter would be like. The train had a very ‘I think I can, I think I can’ feel about going up the steep steep mountain.
Once at the top, it became apparent that skiing, snow boarding and the like was not going to happen in the blustery, heavy falling snow. Some even called it a blizzard. More wifi and hot chocolate time for me!
What was available though was the opportunity of heading briefly out into the snow for some photos and a complete loss of breath. Bloody cold. Bloody windy. So much snow! The guy told us we wouldn’t last longer than 45 seconds, I smashed his prediction second time around going out there. I am not really sure how my camera didn’t seize up. My poor hands. I promise it’s nearly over!
The high altitude made things interesting. I’d like to think that it contributed to the easy loss of breath when climbing the stairs. Surely I’m not that unfit!
The mountain also had a hall made of ice with a whole lot of ice sculptures and a slippery ice floor that I took delight in running and sliding on. Such a rebel.
The rest of the time was spent warming up with hot chocolate and curry. Yes , conditions weren’t ideal, but in hindsight I was happy to just view the mountain and take it in from the warmth of the cafe anyway. And plus how many times can you say you’ve rode a train up a steep incline. And not just any train. A traditional
little mountain climbing train.
I must admit though that despite all todays positives, I did expect a bit of a town up here. There wasn’t. Everything was very overpriced and
hideously set out in my opinion.
The train ride back was much the same. Lots of snow, few stops and quite cold as you’d expect. Naturally the closer to the base we got, the less snow there was.
Once back on ground without snow, I checked out some of the small town we are staying in and then walked up
to a waterfall. Two reasons for the walk. One, I needed some exercise and two, who doesn’t love a good waterfall? The small climb gave more great views of the snow on the mountains and the water looked and I’m sure that it was so pure.
So all in all an interesting day. But a good day.
12 6 / 2012
Tired? Stressed? You’ll feel better in Switzerland.
Back on the road and in for a big day of driving and tradition.
Three hours it took to arrive in yet another country. Lichtenstein is a small, yet nice country full of wonderful scenery and cleanliness. Another currency change which makes things a little annoying, but very much worth it. The main street almost backs onto a mountain which is unusual, but pretty cool.
Because it’s so small I think they’ve taken some bits and pieces from the surrounding countries. Snitty for lunch (again)! And then some or to be more precise a few too many traditional Swisse chocolates.
The drive after that wound through mountains with snow on top and waterfalls streaming down them. I said the scenery throughout Austria was awesome. This trumped it. Massive lakes, clear water. Brilliant.
Stopped at a town across the border in Switzerland called Lucerne. We visited a monument marking a moment where a whole lot of Swisse soldiers were killed. Quite a moving memorial really. It has been done really well. If you can say that about memorials.
We then were to a watch and Swisse army knife shop. Bought a army knife. I really wanted a watch, but at the end of the day you can get them back home and I didn’t want to rush such a large purchase. My knife is engraved though so I’m happy!
I also spent some time looking at the shops and around the town. It has a different feel to the rest of Europe. Much more modern, much more independent and certainly more expensive and up market. Very clean. They have their own currency and even their own adapter system. Rodger Federer is from here. That’s enough for me.
As the afternoon continued and I tried my hardest to resist eating anymore Swisse chocolates, the scenery continued to get awesome. Massive waterfalls on the side of the road.
We arrived at a little camping village. Halfway up a mountain. It’s summer here yet it’s snowing up the mountain and everything has a real winter feel about it. Soup was a part of dinner!
Tomorrow I hit up the snow and hopefully have some time to relax and take it all in.