2010-12-21

(Hopefully) the final little update

As my flight from London was canceled, and I couldn't get another one before xmas, I decided to try to get to Brussels (Belgium) and fly from there to home on Thursday. Tomorrow morning I will travel to Dover, take a ferry to Calais (France), and the take trains to Brussels. I don't know how long it will take, but if there are no problems on the way, I should be there at the evening. We'll see. And we'll also need to see if the flight I booked leaves on Thursday at all.

2010-12-20

Transformation/Degeneration

I woke up and took the Eurostar train from Paris to London. Naturally they didn't have any "interrail seats" available, but I couldn't care less about the money as I was just willing to get to London and closer to getting home. I started feeling a bit odd in the way, and in the tunnel below the sea the feeling got stronger. I thought it might have been about pressure or something like that, but in a while I realized I had caught a flu. When we arrived at London, I was already very exhausted and in muscle pains, so I headed straight to the tube (the London underground) and to the hotel.

I had forgotten to check out the gigs in London for the weekend earlier, so I did that in the bed of the tiny but cozy hotel room. I got really mixed feelings when I saw that my good, old (and old) friend, Dave Witte, was playing that night in London with his band, Municipal Waste. I sent Dave a message telling I might show up if I felt better, but after exchanging a few messages, I thought I could die tomorrow and enjoy that night. A VIP list, drinking, cannot resist such things. A quick shower and a whisky at the bar nearby helped me get feeling better, and I headed towards the O2 Academy.

The gig was great, and the crowd was manic. I didn't know the band had such a following around here. The circle pit went from the front of the stage to the back of the crowd, and people were tripping over all the time.


The curfew was right after the gig, but as I hadn't talked with Dave, yet, I went to wave to him in front of the stage, and he invited me on stage to hug and chat. I hadn't seen him for over four years, and it was damn nice to get to do it now! He also invited me to backstage to drink some good Belgian beers, which is another thing I cannot resist.

After that backstage closed, we went to a bar called Big Red. A cover band called Dirty/DC (covering... guess who?) was playing there, and we had too much fun (again) drinking and talking to each other. And drinking a bit more.

After the bar closed, I found myself standing alone in the street, feeling very ill again, and shivering. All the taxis seemed to be unavailable, but eventually I found a nice Turkish guy who took me near my hotel for a reasonable price. He wanted to make sure I would find my hotel, and I told him I was sure I could. And I couldn't. Only after asking three different groups of people and walking and shivering for 10 hours (might have been minutes, but felt like hours) I got it where I was, rushed to the room, and fell asleep while still shivering and feeling bad.

Of these four guys, I mostly talked with the one on the left.
I felt worse in the morning, now with the buddies Shivering and Muscle Pain reinforced with Dr Stomach Ache and Mr Hangover. I needed some food, though, as I kinda forgot to eat anything solid the last night, so about 9 PM I finally got the balls to go to buy something. My culinaristic trip received a brutal end with a Triple Whopper with fries and coke. The transformation from the food-loving traveller to a burger eating metal pig was pretty quick.

I destroyed her, in the first part and the late night's sequel.

Paris, je t'aime (despite the rain)

After sleeping the whole day, I couldn't get sleep until 6 AM or something. When I was supposed to get up, well, I just got up this time. I can be surprising like that! It took a while to get things done, though, as I'm not the quickest person alive when I'm tired. I also decided to get my flight back home, as I still wanted to see things from not only trains' windows, and the xmas is getting very close now. My final destination (uh!) will be London, where I'll spend my time from Friday night to Monday morning.

All in all, I got outside around midday, and went straight towards the restaurant I wanted to eat tonight. I kind of knew it wouldn't be open, yet, but I simply wanted to see where it is so that I'd find it later at the night. While looking for it, I went in another place to have my daily dose of salad with ham and eggs and fries, and wine, of course. The wine was in glass, you wise-asses. I really love the inventiveness of French kitchen. This wasn't a Michelin star breakfast bar, but still the salad was very good, genuine, and tasty. After the compulsory espresso (decaf, WTF?), I went looking for that other place, and found it just round the corner. It was to open at 7 PM, and I wouldn't even have been ready for it, yet, so I headed to my main destination, Louvre.


Louvre was somewhat bigger than the distant relative in my hometown in Finland. It was actually mad. After going through the renaissance era paintings and Roman sculptures, I had walked for kilometers in over an hour. Mona Lisa's smile didn't make me jizz in my pants, mostly due to the bullet-proof glass and the 5 meter security distance. Okay, I have to admit I've never really got the painting. The smile is kind of retarded to me. I saw enough of those smiles on the faces of the cerebral palsies at my youth center's Thursday disco. I was playing pool, not dancing with them, you dick.

Still, Louvre is awesome. Just when you think of getting out, your eyes hit something that you still want to see. Like the Egypt section, which took me another hour to walk through. I spent about three hours walking around the building(s), and eventually decided to just get out before I collapse.

This is what happens if you walk through the whole Louvre twice in a row.
My next destination was Arc de Triomphe. Normally you would've taken a Métro there, but I wanted to see Champs-Élysées' roads and avenues, and those booths selling glühwein, chestnuts, candies, pussy... no, not pussy, but everything that a normal tourist would grab. I just walked on and on, and on. I finally came to the arch, and it seemed like it was closed, as they were performing some kind of military "rituals" below it. Fortunately I was wrong, and I could get in by mere 9€. I'm being sarcastic here, as the wonders of Louvre cost me 9,50€, and now we're talking about walking endless stairs up to a roof of... an arch. And that's it. Well, the view was great, and even though my high anxiety was screaming for help, I felt good that I beat it and saw the whole rainy Paris there.

After the endless downward spiral of stairs, I decided it's time to do the same with the Eiffel tower. The walk was shorter, but the rain kind of pissed me off. I'm the only one whole blame, though, as the weather was good yesterday, and I was sleeping. The tower was beautiful, especially as it was dark outside and the whole structure was blossoming with lights. My high anxiety jumped out of happiness when the LED screens announced that the tower was closed. Maybe the recent terrorist threats and my pumped-up backpack did it.


It was the time to finally get to my dinner destination, La Poule Au Pot. I got there a bit late, as I had hard times reading the map and finding a Métro stop (you know, I walk, but there's a limit to it), but fortunately it wasn't fully booked and I got in easily. The restaurant was recommended by my chef friend, Antti also, and it was worth the trip and more. The food was excellent, and as an added bonus, I learned that all the big stars, from Prince to Motörhead to Norah Jones to Rolling Stones (to me now) had eaten there. They had small plaques for everyone of those on the walls, and no, they didn't ask if they can add my name there. Assholes. Anyway, the food was good, the waiters were polite but damn funny, and I had everything I wanted there plus more. A bit too much, actually, as I felt I'd fall asleep after the café and calvados. They told me I could stay there until 5 AM, but I politely asked for the check, paid the tip for the service, and got back via an even bigger rain and Métros to the hotel.

2010-12-17

An update

I'm now in London, and won't be out of here until Monday morning. I'm feeling ill, though, so let's see if I'm able to hit the Municipal Waste gig tonight.

2010-12-16

The Undisputed Heavyweight World Champion in Sleeping

The train to Paris only took 5 h 45 min, and the trip went surprisingly fast. I realized I had started to lose the final restraints in travelling alone, and going through the Paris Métro (the underground), with connections and all, felt very normal and easy. I wandered a while trying to find the hotel, again, but this time I knew I'd eventually find it, and didn't worry or start grabbing the laptop for checking the street map out. I had had my South and North reversed, and found the hotel in the right spot after returning to the Métro station. The welcome was warm, and the room was cozy. I thought of waking up early, but couldn't help watching more stuff on my computer until 5 AM.

The next day – yes, you got it – was spoiled with sleeping again. I woke up every now and then, saw a dozen different dreams, was woken up once by reception as they wanted to know if I want my room cleaned, but it wasn't until 9:30 PM when I hopped up finally. Great to spend money on a hotel night and miss a full day in Paris.

I suppose this sleeping thing is all because of the fact that I haven't had a proper vacation in 1,5 years, and I've been rather stressed out and been doing too many things at the same time, all the time. I think I haven't relaxed for ages until now. I don't feel sleepy at all, I just sleep. So, even though I've missed three full days on this trip, I take it as a good thing. I feel better than I've felt for a long time now.

Anyway, I decided to get back the day I had missed, so I booked another night in the hotel. I also needed to eat something, and went out to do so in a restaurant nearby. The food was simple but awesome, and the employees were great.

I will have two clocks ringing tomorrow. Let's see if I'll see Mona Lisa this time.

Some local sausage with potato. Looks like shit, tastes like "damn good".

The decision

As I had no reservations made for the night in Torino, I walked to the first hotel I saw, or actually the first one that didn't look too expensive considering my modest need of just getting a place to stay. The friendly old lady of Hotel Bologna booked me in, and I went to the room to sleep my still-going hangover milder. At the very late night, I made the decision where to go. I had thought of going South, to Spain maybe, but the feeling of getting closer to home now as I only had a week time left was the one in my mind, and that's why I chose to go to Paris. I'll get to see Spain again some other day.

In the next morning, I bought the seat to the train that went straight to Paris, and I went to abuse a free wifi in a cafeteria to reserve the hotel. This time I didn't really care about the price as long as it was in "my price range", and took a fairly good one.

After eating some ciabattas and traditional Italian döner kebap with traditional Italian fries, I headed to the station. Fortunately I was there early, as I hadn't noticed in the train ticket that the station wasn't the right one. With a mild panic I headed to the underground and got to the correct railway station well ahead of time. Another missile avoided. One of those will hit me before I'm home, I'm sure.

She must have loved me.

The proper way of tourism

I arrived at Rome in the night, and it wasn't the first time Google Maps had deceived me. I didn't find my hotel, and the check-in was to closing at 11:30 PM. Eventually, my only chance was to use the expensive internet connection on my phone, and use, yes, Google Maps. This time I understood where it tried to take me, and I got in the place in time. Rudy, or whomever the owner of Hotel Rudy was, was very precise on what I should see in Rome, and in what order. I'd have two days to do it, so it shouldn't be a problem. If you want to skip the rest of the story, yes, I basically missed them all. I saw Pantheon at night, and some other small stony things, and Vatican from long distance, and... well, that's about what I saw. I didn't even got near Colosseum. But let me try to explain.

The first night I just decided to stay at the hotel and watch the shows that I had planted on my computer. The next day... well, you know the pattern. I slept until 8 PM. I suppose that's what old people do, but I shouldn't be that old. I was a bit pissed off of myself, as I knew I wouldn't get in the museums on Sunday and Monday, but I forgave myself and decided I could just go and see the buildings those two days. Which I didn't.

Anyway, I wanted to eat, and I thought I found a good place after a 20 minute walk. I took a Roman menu, and the food was actually fairly good. It would have been very good unless they hadn't put all the salt in the first two parts and forgot about it in the next tree. Okay, I wouldn't have wanted the dessert salty, I know, so make it "next two". The best moment in the menu was the main course, roasted pork, which was maybe the most perfectly made meat I have ever tasted, and worked with added salt heavenly.

I went to see some bars again, and had a good amount of beers, after which I went to the Irish bar I had been on earlier, and then to some place that was open late. I met some people, had fun, then too much fun, and then just went to sleep.

I and my best friend, whose name I don't even remember.
I, surprisingly enough, woke up in time the next day. I had decided to try to see a football game – yes, football, not the American thing they mostly use hands in – and took the underground and tram to Stadio Olimpico to see AS Roma's game. You'd think they sell tickets there, but no, they instructed me to go "about four or five kilometers that way with bus number 69", so I did it. I found other tourists having the same problem in this normal bus, despite the number, so we stuck together with our mission. Unfortunately this Dutch guy didn't get a ticket because he didn't have his passport with him. None of us could've thought you need a passport to buy a ticket to a football game. Now we and you know.

The first half of the game was interesting, as I had never been on a stadium that big. The funnest thing was that I met Larsi, a German guy whom I'd met last night in the Irish bar, so we watched the next half next to each other. After the compulsory fan merch shopping for my father and brother, and the not-that-compulsory riding the tram without a ticket, I got to eat again. The place was excellent, both because of the food (spaghetti carbonara this time) and the service (the waiter that supports Lazio pretended he was very angry about my choice of fan stuff. Or then he didn't pretend at all.)


I didn't want to go to the hotel, as it wasn't that close by, so I decided to go the Irish bar again. Considering I was to leave the hotel the next morning at 10:30, it was a major mistake. At the door, I ran into a very drunken Irishman, and inside I met his Australian friend. They naturally wanted me to take part of their drinking games ("you Finns are mental, just mental..."), and I couldn't resist. The night was fun, though, and it eventually lead me to sitting on the streets of Napoli with Larsi's Polish friend, Kamil, who went "mental" at 6 AM when he had his first Fernet Branca ever. Kamil, as that's only alcohol and herbs :) At around 7 AM I went to sleep, slept over (not a surprise) and kicked myself out of the hotel before they could do it. I had no idea what to do and where to go, but going somewhere felt right, and I picked a seat in train going to Torino.

The creature of the night

Judging by the looks of the streets of Napoli, they might have originally invented plague there, but definitely not the plaque. I arrived very early in the morning, and finding the hostel I had booked was very hard due to the sparse usage of street signs. Also, what you see on the map is not what it's like in real world. With the help of the 3€ city map I got to the destination, eventually, and went to wait for my room to be free on the couch of the common room. After sleeping there for six hours (two hours too much, yeah), I went to the room to sleep more.

Once again, I missed the daytime completely. Then again, I came to Napoli to taste, not to see. I headed to the #1 pizzeria on my list of pizzerias to visit, Da Michele, and after waiting in queue for ten minutes, I got in to have my Pizza Marinara. And boy, it was as good as they had been selling it to me in guides! It's amazing how much you can do with so little, if you just use pure ingredients and know what you're doing. The place was also cheap, so I can definitely recommend it to everyone visiting Napoli or the areas nearby.

Heavenly, even for carnivores like I am.
The next day plan was to see Pompeii, so I left my luggage at the station (as I had already reserved a room in Rome for three nights) and headed to train. When I stepped in, the helpful guy I had asked about the train, and some other men, skipped out and started running back towards the escalators. I didn't know what happened, and a young fellow explained me something in Italian, which I took as if there was a ticket inspector and those men ran out of the train because of it. I showed my ticket and smiled, and only after the second time the guy had explained me the same thing, I understood what had happened. The pick-pockets had taken somebody's wallet. Fortunately I pack all my stuff in the backpack, so it's not as (easily) accessible as a back pocket of the jeans. On the 35 minute trip to Pompeii, two other local men warned me of pick-pockets, which made me take care of my backpack more seriously.

Pompeii was pile of rocks. Yes, that's how the old, volcano-sunk towns are, but compared to things like Cambodia's Angkor Wat with all those beautiful carvings, Pompeii was a bit of a disappointment. After visualising that it has been a vital Roman city, though, it all felt a lot more interesting, and especially when I read a description of the actual moment when the whole town was buried totally in volcanic ash within mere two hours, it felt like a good idea to go there and feel the history. Worth a two hour walk, yes, but for people equipped with imagination.

This poor fellow was once hit hard by pyroclastic Boman.
My #2 pizza destination was Brandi, so when I got back to Napoli, I headed that way, with only a vague idea of where it was. I tried finding it for an hour, and wandered on the narrow streets, actually enjoying seeing how people really live there. Eventually I got enough of walking and decided to check the location on the trusty computer that I had in the backpack. I had basically walked twice by. I went in at 6 PM, just to find that it would open up at 7:30 PM. My train was to leave at 8:30 PM, but I still thought of giving it a shot as I might nevehttp://www.damichele.net/r be back to the city, and went to another bar to drink a couple of beers and a whisky for appetizers.

Brandi was a disappointment. I took Pizza Margherita, and it was closer to those frozen ones that the ones you should get in a proper (and restaurant-priced) pizzeria. Something must have changed with the place. Well, at least I tried. The guy playing guitar (and fairly badly) just in front of me while I was eating didn't help a thing. After quickly paying for the pizza, I started jogging towards the train, and on the way I found out it was impossible to get there in time. Nice shit. I basically gave up and just walked to the station, to find out that the train was leaving 10 minutes late. I rushed to fetch my luggage and got in it, after all! I even got a train compartment for myself alone.

Good bye, you thrash bag filled streets of Napoli. It was pretty nice knowing you, but I'm off to Rome.

2010-12-14

Another update before proper posts

I'm currently in Torino, Italy, and will be going to Paris tonight. After staying in Paris for 2-3 nights, the plans are open. I will most probably start heading towards home, though, as I don't want to be stuck anywhere in the xmas time.

2010-12-11

A quick update on my location

I went through Napoli fairly quickly, and am now in Rome. I will leave on Monday night, and I don't know where, yet. Either towards Spain, or then via France, Belgium and Holland towards home. More about the Napoli and Rome experiences and The Decision later.

2010-12-10

Bene, Don Corleone.

I came to Palermo at night, and it took a while for me to find my hostel. I had been walking the right street twice, but – another lesson learned – I didn't know they don't usually put any signs about their existence on the streets. Eventually I found the buzzer, and got in.

Riccardo, the owner, was a very helpful person, and told me everything I was supposed to see in Palermo, all of which I miserably failed to see. I went to have a pizza, which was odd looking but oddly enough, very good. Then I wandered the kebab infested sector nearby, and after having a glass of wine decided to go sleeping.

Yes, that's some kind of tortured little sausage there.
The main reason for not seeing anything historical there was that I overslept that night. Or day, exactly. I woke up to have the breakfast, and after that I decided to take a "small nap", which lead to everything being too late when I woke up again. Well, I suppose it was needed.

I wanted to have something good to eat, and knew that a certain area of the city had the best restaurants, so I headed there. A friendly fellow saw me looking for the menus, and told me where to eat. And he was right, the seafood pasta was excellent.

This very suspicious but delicious being hit the bottom of my stomach.
The dude also told me where the bar street was, so I headed there next. I met some nice people, both customers and employees of the bars, and I talked to them with their bad English and my non-existent Italian. I also found out that a very expensive (in Finland) golden retriever may be a stray dog, and after patting one for ten minutes I didn't see my palm through the dirt attached to it. Well, it was worth it, at least for him.

I hopped in another bar on the way home, and met even more people, and around 6:30AM I headed back to the hostel. I decided to wake up just in time to get those fabulous bread rolls I got the previous morning.

I woke up at 11:45AM, hung over, 15 minutes before I had to leave the room. "Nice plan, man, didn't just work." I stuffed the belongings to the bags and went to handle work problems in the lobby. I was going to go to see the Capuchin catacombs but somebody already warned me they may be closed due to a national holiday. I called them, and even I could understand the Italian words saying the place would be open the next day. Thanks, sweet mother Mary of Christ. All I could do was to wander in the city, and go to meet the bartenders I met the last night, and then I hopped inside the night train to Napoli.

Unfortunately I didn't get to pat this sweet little thing.

2010-12-07

Riga, Latvia

I arrived at Riga at around 22:30, and took the pre-reserved shuttle (yeah, I'm adventurous like that) to the hotel. After checking in, I decided it was the time to make myself familiar with the local bars. Sunday bloody sunday. Almost all the places were closed, apart from the filthy night clubs, and the only reasonable option had closed while I tried to find the rock bar in that area (closed, of course).

After wandering in the snow storm for about an hour – and running into those nice fellows that surprisingly want to go to "street bar" with you, and know words in your language, and try to take you to a street bar that's not on the street level but behind a red curtain upstairs – I decided to get back to the hotel and use the lobby bar. Which was closed. Fortunately my minibar wasn't, and I got the (this time reasonably priced) beer I was looking for.

I almost missed my flight next morning, but in the moment of desperation two friendly Swiss guys shared a cab with me, and I got to the airport in time. I tried offering them money, or even their breakfast, but my offers were politely turned down.

Lessons learned and re-learned:
- Sundays suck everywhere
- People aren't usually nice to you for no reason. I knew this earlier, though, and was cautious enough. Yes, mother, didn't even go inside the building.
- People can be nice to you for whatever reasons. I promised the Swiss guys I will pay the generosity back to somebody else while on this trip.
- Don't assume the airport shuttles are ever there in time. Pick an earlier one. Pick even one before that one.

Next stop Rome – the airport only, though. Then off to Palermo for two nights.

Not my hotel.

2010-12-02

Travelling around Europe + notes to the fans/friends/foes living there

I will be travelling alone in Europe from December 5 to xmas. I'll hit Palermo (Sicily) first, and continue wherever I want to go. I will most probably start getting to North Italy, then to Spain, and eventually fly closer to home (Paris, maybe) where from I will be interrailing back home. Still, apart from Palermo, I have no plans set.

I will post in this blog about the next destinations and the trip in general.

If you want to suggest where to go and what to do, please do so. I'm also willing to meet fans and friends wherever I roam, so feel free to come and talk to me, or add requests in comments of this blog or in Facebook. My plan is to relax, read and write, but talking to like-minded people would be very nice, too.

Oh, and if somebody knows what I could do in Riga (Latvia) at 23:30, December 6, please drop a note. Otherwise I will be having a beer or two somewhere and will go to my hotel in the old town.

Cheers,
-Antti Boman, Demilich/Winterwolf