Archive | September, 2012

I love your €1 bocadillos, endless tapas and cervesa, Madrid, but I’m struggling to keep right on the escalator! September 12-17

28 Sep

It’s 1 pm and a vocal buzz perforates traffic noise from Carrera San Jeronimo, flowing onto the footpath outside Museo de Jamon, one of Madrid’s many stand-up Tapas bars. There are signs on the windows and doors advertising €1 bocadillo (bread roll with filling) or bebidas (drink), an insanely good price that is snatched up by what appears to be the City’s entire population, which is literally bursting out of the bar’s doorways into the cloying inland heat of the day.
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€1 Bocadillo or beer at Museo del Jamon

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After a couple of days practise at this typical lunchtime rush, it becomes clear that if you can think quickly, talk quickly and move quickly, you will get along just fine in Madrid. We have been here for a few days and in Ibiza for 10 days prior, so we are primed in the language and custom of ordering a meal in Spanish, but getting fed and watered in this cacophonous meat market requires the mettle only a cash-strapped and starving backpacker knows. More than 100 patrons are packed four-deep to the narrow stainless steel bar that runs around the length of the small shop on the corner of Madrid’s famous eat-street Calle Victoria, laughing, chattering, devouring food at speed and tossing napkins and crusts of bread onto the floor.
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Lunchtime rush at Museo del Jamon

If you can get close enough to the glass and plate-cluttered bar to be heard and for your cringingly pitiful Spanish to be understood, then you should come away with an unbuttered crusty bread roll with cheese, ham or chorizo slapped inside it and a half-pint glass of ice-cold Estrella or San Miguel beer for €2. So, if not for the spectacle, the price makes the ordeal worth it.

Tapas, which has recently found popularity in other parts of the world, including Australia, is one of the reasons that I cannot stop talking about Madrid. Less about the food (although it is delicious!!) and more about a culture of sharing and enjoyment, I think Tapas speaks loudly in encapsulating the Spanish ethos.

Madrid, particularly the central barrios (neighbourhood) of Sol, where we stayed, is absolutely chock-full of tapas bars, restaurants and cafeterias, mainly small and family run. We ate out a lot and drank a lot in Madrid – it’s fairly cheap, the food is to die for and beer and Sangria is cheaper than water. Chorizo and Patatas Bravas are recurring favourites and we noticed the locals ate a lot of bite-sized empanadas, which look like small pasties, green olives and deep-fried cheese and ham-filled croquettes.

One afternoon, for about €12, we bar hopped on a Sandeman’s New Europe ‘Tapas Tour.’ we met some really cool people and tasted a variety of traditional tapas foods, including tripe stew! (Sandeman’s is a really great tour company, we’ve also done a few walking tours with them and they’re fun and informative.)
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A plate of Tapas from our Tapas tour

Now, back at the beginning, a little worse for wear, but better than expected, we flew into Madrid from Ibiza on another surprisingly good Ryanair flight (highlights included watching other passengers get busted for oversize hand luggage). I thought Madrid might give us a few days rest, but how wrong I was!

Like Ibiza, Madrid does not sleep. Shops open around 7 am, after the party has finished around 5 am… every night of the week.
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Central Madrid by night

I was going to recall the ridiculous hour plus trek we made to find our hostel, Barbieri Sol, amongst Madrid’s winding alleys, but a tale of stupidity and lethargy would only ruin the story of a city so, well, perfect.

Madrid is a decent sized city, but you would never know it. There are no skyscrapers piercing holes into its’ historically rich skyline casting cold and looming shadows on taut-faced business people (Well, they are limited to one district). In fact, midweek, not even a suit can be found in its’ central parts – though there many very stylish women! Madrid did not feel like any city I have ever been in. It is intense, vibrant and non-stop, but for a large, modern European hub, Madrid is remarkably warm, inviting and homely, even for the foreigner.
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Madrid’s buzzing streets

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One of the many street performers we passed by each day

The City is divided into 21 unique districts and unfortunately we didn’t get to visit them all.
Sol, the namesake of our awesome hostel Barbieri Sol, is in the district Centro, best known for the busy Sol metro station and corresponding Puerta del Sol public square.
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Puerta del Sol on a sunny Autumn day

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Our landmark to get ‘home’ – Sol metro station

We rowed boats on the lake (€4.50 for 40 minutes) and watched rollerbladers in Retiro, home of the beautiful Retiro Park, took in some culture at the Reina Sofia Museum in Atocha, Arganzuela, mingled with dense crowds at the neverendingly huge El Rastro flea market in Latina and witnessed the slaughter of six bulls during the weekly Sunday bull fight at Las Ventas bullring in Ciudad Lineal, the ethics of which I won’t go into during this post.
We also ate a standout meal of succulent Cabrito Lechal (baby goat), downed burgers and Budweiser, American-style at Tommy Mel’s diner and indulged in our first ever ‘chocolate and churros’ at Chocolateria San Gines, which is open 24 hours!
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Rowing on the lake in Retiro Park

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The leafy Avenida de Mexico in Retiro Park

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El Rastro flea market, Sundays in Latina neighbourhood

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Before the bullfight at the beleaguered Las Ventas bullring

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Alhomora restaurant on Calle Victoria – serves a mean (and massive) leg of goat dish

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Tommy Mel’s Diner – if you need a break from Spanish cuisine, this place is fab

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All American- burger, chilli fries and Budweiser

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Chocolate, churros and coffee at San Gines Chocolateria

Madrid has been the standout City for us so far on this trip. Madrid’s Metro system is beautifully functional (the best in the world?) and sometimes quite beautiful and, albeit loud, positioned in the middle of Calle Victoria, our hostel was lovely, made even more so by the very kind and helpful staffer Sofia. We did have to move hostel for our last night in Madrid, to the old, dark and ghost-like Hostal Naranco, on the other side of Gran Via -a far cry from the fun at Barbieri Sol.
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An underground art gallery at one Metro station…

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… and this characteristically Spanish and fun mosaic at Retiro station

I ended up shipping 7 kilograms of stuff back to Perth, which cost €50 and should take about 8 weeks. And yes, Nic did say ‘I told you so.’ But, the hair straightener stayed and is being well used, I’m pleased to say, however my gold sequin hot pants got shoved into a green cardboard box at the Correos (post office) on the third floor of the maze that is Il Cortes Ingles department store, along with an assortment of other impractical items. Literally and figuratively though, it was a weight off my shoulders.

Besides still looking the wrong way for cars coming down the road, we found our feet quite quickly and easily in Madrid, even eventually mastering right-hand-side escalator and stair walking etiquette, which was quite surprising and amusing on our arrival.

HOSTEL
Hostal Barbieri del Sol, Calle Victoria 6

    Pros:

Perfectly central location, close to the best food in Madrid and 2 minutes walk from the Metro. We had a shower and sink in out private room, but the toilets were shared and they were super clean and nice. The free continental breakfast is nice and all of the staff were very friendly and helpful. Wifi is free.

    Cons:

Very very loud at night, given that it is situated atop a street of bars. Earplugs a must and even then, don’t expect to sleep much.
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Nic relaxing with the hostel cats over dinner on the terrace at Barbieri Sol hostel

HOSTEL
Naranco hostal, Calle Pueblo, 6

    Pros:

It was cheap? And available. It was also clean and the owner is a nice lady in her 50’s, but she cannot speak a word of English. Wifi is free.

    Cons:

The hostel is dark 24/7, which is a bit spooky. It’s also not in the best part of town and a bit of a trek to civilisation.
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The entrance to Hostal Naranco – it wasn’t that bad, but, you get the idea

TIME SPENT SO FAR…
In the air: 22 hours.
Total travelling including flights, buses, airport time: About 43 hours.

If Gluttony, Greed and Sloth are not for you, then don’t read this post. Ibiza, Spain September 3-12

14 Sep

The scene was immediately set for our ten days on the Balearic Island when the hotel barman poured our first vodka shot… Or should I say shots.
At our request for two vodka orange ‘let’s get our party on’ drinks about 10 minutes post check-in to Hotel Mare Nostrum in Playa d’en Bossa on the island’s south coast, Rico, a well groomed and sun-bronzed Spaniard nearing 40, took two bottles of the house liquor and simultaneously half filled two big plastic cups, which he topped up with juice.
We sipped, grimaced and quickly learned our first lesson about the White Isle: There is no such thing as measuring quantities of alcohol on Ibiza.

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To break down the trip chronologically would be no fun, or at least far too hard for me and tedious for you as Ibiza days and nights tend to roll into one big mess of wake, eat, drink, siesta, eat, drink, party, pass out, so I will just talk about things that we thought were interesting during our nine nights. Please feel free to leave comments about your own experiences or to let me know what I can do to improve this blog!

So here goes…

As well as extremely potent drinks, there is also a huge discrepancy in the price of alcohol across the island, depending on location and the type of establishment. We could go from ordering pints of Estrella or San Miguel (generally the cheaper Spanish brew and thus more attractive option to us!) for less than €3 at the small cafes across the road from the hotel, to paying €10+ for the same branded stubby in a club. Spirits and cocktails in the clubs fetch up to €30 each and a very small bottle of water, maybe 200mL, €8-10 and some of the clubs (Pacha definitely, others I’m not sure of) salt the tap water in the toilets, rendering it undrinkable!

But because the clubs don’t kick off until after 12 am, everyone heads to the clutter of bars or pre-party venues in their closest area, whose operators are willing to compete for patrons by allowing them to pre-tank on the cheap-ish before moving on.

We were ordering 4 cocktails (Sex, Sex, Sex on the Beach) and four shots of peach vodka for €20 at a small bar down a side street called el Mohito, where we met some really nice Libyans (it was the first holiday they had been able to take since the revolution and one of the guys had been badly injured by missile debris), some really fun Irish people and Felicity, the bar’s Pommie PR was friendly and made sure we were well looked after. Another favourite bar was the always-packed Murphy’s on the main drag near Bora Bora, where we were drawn in by 2 cocktails and 3 shots for €9 on our first night.
We were told by many people that Ibiza was particularly quiet for this time of the year, but it seemed anything but to us.

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Nic and I are pretty enthusiastic about electronic music and had our sights set on Ibiza long before we planned the Europe trip. The myth and legend that we had created for ourselves through movies, the Internet and handed-down stories from fellow ravers about what some would call the ‘seedier’ side of the island was calling out for us to test its accuracy.

I have a huge thing for late 90’s early 2000’s dance music and am a huge fan of movies like It’s All Gone Pete Tong, Trainspotting and Human Traffic. This is the scene my romantic ideas of Ibiza were based around.

We actually got to see Pete Tong’s set at Cafe Mambo in San Antonio (north coast of Ibiza). Well known for its enthusiastic celebration of the sunset… every night (similar to planes passing over Bora Bora Beach Bar, but i’ll get to that), as the daytime glare transitions to a goldy-pink glow, the waterside bar swells with revellers waiting to see that reliable orb drop below the waterline, so they can cheer, clap and get the party cranking.
In San An during September, the sun sets around 9 pm, an hour later then the south side of the isle.

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After a huge night at Amnesia for Pendulum, Nero, Feed Me and the Zombie Kids on the Tuesday, rolling home at well after 7am, we thought we would take it easy on Wednesday and check out Old Ibiza and Ibiza Town and then see this famous sunset. After eating our first proper tapas for lunch in town and meandering through the whitewash and cobble of the old parts, we met David who seemed to be a jack of all trades, working between Thailand and Ibiza, wherever he was needed. He drove us to San Antonio and in true Ibizan style, gave us his number and said he could help us out again.

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Cafe Mambo sits alongside the equally renowned Cafe del Mar and both are very cool and swanky looking, with prices to match. We tentatively ordered beers, then, more jovial than the minutes of sleep we had grabbed should have allowed, decided on a litre of Champagne Sangria and Nachos. Both were delightful.

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That particular night Cafe Mambo was hosting the pre-party for Groove Armada and Peter Tong at Pacha and both DJ’s were playing sets at the bar beforehand. It didn’t take us long to buy tickets for Pacha, which set us back about €47.
So that was our ‘quiet night.’

We had already been to Pacha (located in Ibiza Town) on our first night on Ibiza on the Monday to see trance god Tiesto. It is probably the most upmarket of the clubs (discotheques!) on the island. Many people dress up A LOT to go there… full on heels and dresses for the girls and shirts and proper shoes for the guys. But, you can also get in wearing the same sweaty shorts, bathers and thongs you have been traipsing around in all day, no worries – I know because I did it.

The Tiesto night was messy and I don’t remember much apart from the wicked time I was having. We had a great spot near the front of the dance floor and had the excellent company of a very sparkly gold hat and its’ owner Piete, our friend from Perth, who had flown in the day before from Holland to surprise four other Perthites, Chris, Kia, Daniel and Caity who all happened to be staying at the same hotel as us! This was one very happy accident!

Nic said that Pacha was really full that night and it’s not a very big club. On the Wednesday of ‘It’s all gone Pete Tong,’ it really did go Pete Tong for us! Included in the ticket price was a free bus to Pacha, leaving from San An at 12.30 am. We got talking to this, shall I say, unique, guy from Leicester, England and managed to miss the bus, wander around San An for more than an hour finding some other colourful characters, an awesome rave gear shop and an awesome playground along the way and then finally had to taxi it to the venue. Huge fail. By the time we got there it was packed and the club is in my opinion, pretty poorly designed with lots of stairs that are used as an extended dance floor and a thoroughfare at the same time, so there was a lot of pushing, getting hit, stood on and general disgruntledness. We really enjoyed Groove Armada’s set, but were left feeling a little perplexed about all the hype over Pacha in general.

On the first Pacha night, we headed out first to the famous Bora Bora Beach Bar, which goes off between lunchtime and early morning, so, all the time basically. Drinks are pricey but the place is under the flight path for quite low flying, frequent, incoming planes and each time one rumbles overhead, the Bora Bora party goes mental, welcoming more party people to the island.

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Bora Bora beach

We found Amnesia (located in San Rafael) to provide a much better night out, but our experience was always really different depending on the lineup and the crowd. Amnesia has two rooms and an upstairs VIP area, which we managed to get into on the Pendulum night, by walking straight up the stairs with no worries! We went there three times, twice on subsequent Tuesdays for Together (Pendulum etc. on September 4, then Skrillex, Knife Party and Steve Aoki on September 11) and on Thursday September 5 for Cream, headlining Eddie Halliwell and Paul Van Dyke.
We had the whole aforementioned Perth crew for Pendulum, which was really cool.
Eddie Halliwell was a highlight for me, and Steve Aoki was boss – throwing cream cakes and spraying the crowd with champagne.
The Skrillex night was a challenge though, due to a bit of a love hate relationship with dubstep and the fact it was our ninth intense night on the Island.
Amnesia also provides a free double decker bus to and from the venue from San An and Playa d’en Bossa, but it’s not always reliable.

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We also had the privilege of stepping inside the heaven that is the world’s biggest club – Privilege, on our second last night to see, or experience arguably the world’s best DJ Armin van Buuren. Tucked away behind a long and winding leafy driveway in San Rafael, this superclub has a glistening turquoise (at the beginning of the night, anyway, before it is littered with bottles and other crap) swimming pool right in the centre and puts on higher quality performers and podium dancers than the other clubs. We had seen bits of Armin’s festival sets in Perth, but had never had the opportunity to see a full club set so it was a pretty amazing experience. Cosmic Gate and Texan duo Tritonal also played, so we really got our fill of trance, complete with lasers, that night.
Privilege also provides a free bus!

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We really wanted to hit up Ushuaia Beach Hotel (in Playa d’en Bossa), one of the newer venues on Ibiza and even scored free tickets to the regular Saturday night Pooldisco. I put on my best dress and everything and due to the generosity of Piete, who had left us his all inclusive hotel wrist band (free food and drinks from the bar, all the time) got started on the bar with the intention of having one at the bar and one for the road. The one at the bar turned into a few too many at the bar and I really wanted to straighten out before we left for the evening and decided to take advantage of the free dinner. I managed to lose an hour and the wrist band in the 50 metre distance between the bar and the dining room and almost ruined a pair of Nic’s shorts and a teeshirt with some badly directed ketchup.
Hence, sadly we did not make it to Ushuaia and in another blow, lost our anyway illegitimate food and alcohol privileges for the rest of our stay. I’m sure Ushuaia was crap and over-hyped anyway and that’s what I’m sticking to.

We wandered into Space (opposite Ushuaia in Playa d’en Bossa) early on our last night because we had free tickets. We went, we saw, it was quiet and unexciting, so we left. Space has a good reputation on the island, not least represented by the masses of 18-20 year old beefcake guys wearing the branded singlets, so it’s probably great when it’s cranking. The layout looked pretty good in terms of being able to see and dance.

All in all, the clubs were really fun and friendly, just as we had hoped, but as Ibiza has gained in the commercial stakes over the years, as Nic puts it, there are ‘too many dicks on the dance floor.’ The clubs are packed and like anywhere, some people are discourteous, but on Ibiza there are a lot of young guys who seem to do little else than build up their biceps, get a tan, wear few clothes and throw their weight around. Another amusing thing worth mentioning for the Aussies, is the unashamed donning of the speedo, cock-jock, budgie smuggler, or whatever you want to call it. Mainly worn in purple, luminescent pink and green by waxed and dark olive Italian men by the pool, on the beach and on the street, these tiny pieces of Lycra have to be seen to be believed. And yes, topless women are also plentiful by the pool and on the sand and sunbeds of the beaches but it’s really no big deal, which is nice for everyone.

Coming back to the Space singlets, each of the clubs has its own empire of memorabilia and attire and in between the bars, cafes, Spar supermarkets and restaurants, Playa d’en Bossa is crammed with their respective shops and a whole bunch of other shops selling anything and everything ‘Ibiza.’ I’m half proud and half devastated to say that I did not buy one souvenir from Ibiza, but I really wanted to buy everything! I’m trying to convince myself that the memories will last longer than a midriff ‘I heart Ibiza’ singlet.

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Ok this has gone on far too long and we haven’t even started on the food. All I can say on the matter is that while Ibiza is a tourist-central haven of sloppy English Breakfasts, hamburgers, chips and pizza, there is decent food to be had and we were very well fed the entire trip.

There are so many other things to be said about this magical island that I either haven’t spoken about or discovered myself. This is a place Nic and I will undoubtedly return to.

    EATING – here are a few of the meals we ate in Ibiza…

HOTEL BREAKFAST – Hotel Mare del Nostrum, Avinguda de Pere Matutes Noguera Playa d’en Bossa
Rating: 2.5/5
Price : €5

Buffet Breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, cheese, baked beans, pastries, biscuits, muffins, fruit, cereals, toast and preserves, hot drinks and juice. It sounds a lot better than it was. Good for hangovers, but the hot food was tepid at best and the quality wasn’t great. Okay for what we paid though.

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LA GRIFERIA – Avinguda de Pere Matutes Noguera, Playa d’en Bossa
Rating: 4.5/5
Price : Tapas €4-6, meals €10-15

We ate Tapas of Potato Bravas, Spicy Green Peppers, Chorizo in Cider and Chicken Skewers here. In contention for the best meal we ate on Ibiza. Eating the peppers was a game of whether you would get a hot one or not, which was actually quite fun. Chorizo was probably the best I’ve had here yet.

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CAFE MAMBO – Carrer de Vara del Rei, Sant Antonio
Rating: 3/5
Price : €12-36 for mains.

We ordered Nachos for €12. The photo doesn’t do them justice but there was two types of cheese, salsa, sour cream and guacamole. Really really satisfying.

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MUMAK – Calle Porreres, San Jose
Rating: 4/5
Price : €9-20 per main, most could be shared.

Mumak is a gorgeous little oriental inspired beachfront restaurant near Bora Bora. Some of the outdoor tables double as day beds! On the waiters suggestion, we ordered the Chicken Wok (€15 I think) and some vegie samosas for €7. Both were presented beautifully and tasted equally good.

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TAPAS CAFE (can’t remember name) – Ibiza Town
Rating: 3/5
Price : €2.5-3

Traditional Spanish Cuisine. we ordered Tapas of Spanish omelette, a pork dish and chicken skewers. After another cafe in town ignored us because we couldn’t speak Spanish, the owner of this small cafe was really helpful. I think the food had been sitting out all day, as the cafe was quiet and there were some dodgy bits in the meat, but overall it was a nice introduction to tapas.

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JET CAFETERIA – Carrera de la Playa d’en Bossa
Rating: 3/5
Price : €6-10 per main

I had a pizza and Nic had chicken schnitzel with chips. Tourist food. Tasted good hungover.

CAFETERIA SAN CERIACO IBIZA – Avinguda de Pere Matutes Noguera, Playa d’en Bossa (opposite hotel)
Rating: 3.5/5
Price : €7-11 per main

We shared Vegetable Paella and nuggets and chips. This place also caters to tourists with quick, cheap fast food meals. The Paella was really yummy and was served with a wedge of lemon.

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CAFE 2 OPPOSITE HOTEL – Avinguda de Pere Matutes Noguera, Playa d’en Bossa
Rating: 3.5/5
Price : €3-10 per main

We ate here twice, first for hamburgers with egg, bacon and chips, which was edible but the meat was very pink! The second time I had Pizza and Nic had chicken in pepper sauce, chips and risotto rice. Basic home style tourist food again – cheap, but Nic’s chicken was particularly nice.

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IL PUNTOGELATO, Playa d’en Bossa
Rating: 4.5/5
Price : €4.5-6.5 per crepe

Ice-creamery and crepe shop. We had crepes here twice and they were delicious! The first time we had the famous Nutella, Helado (ice-cream), platano (cream) and then we came back for Fresca Frutta (fresh fruit), helado, platano. I would highly recommend this place.

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    HOTEL

Hotel Mare Nostrum

Pros: Good Atmosphere, big rooms, nice pool with heaps of sun beds, great location close enough to the action to walk, but far enough away to sleep well, Nice staff.

Cons: No fridge in the rooms, bar closed at 11 pm, rooms weren’t cleaned very well and the air conditioning was a bit dodgy.

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    TIME SPENT SO FAR…

In the air: 22 hours.
Total travelling including flights, buses, airport time: About 43 hours.

We knew there were pigeons in London, but this many feathers??? Day 2, Sunday September 2

5 Sep

On our only night in London until December we managed to have beers, eat Mexican, get into a feather fight on the street and bought nearly a kilogram of M&M’s in 22 different colours.

We stayed at St Christopher’s Inn, Hammersmith for the night. It was extremely noisy, way too hot and I think there were bedbugs because I have a suspicious looking rash on one of my arms and I also found a small brown bug alive in my hair at Stansted Airport.

What we saw of London we really enjoyed. We had a wander around London’s West end and, ordered the hottest dishes off the menu at Chiquitos Mexican Restaurant and visited M&M’s World, which in retrospect is just a very colourful four-storey gimmick.

We were walking back to the tube station later in the evening and there were piles of white feathers, up to thigh height, literally everywhere around Piccadilly Circus, and outwards for about a half a kilometre radius, even inside shops. We later realised that the Piccadilly Circus Circus had dropped them from top of building height as part of a performance. Much to the chagrin of dozens of City of Westminster street cleaners, fun was being had by all, with a massive feather fight breaking out around the memorial fountain. It just looked like an impossible task to try to clean it up.

It was sad to leave surprisingly warm London after just one day, because there’s so much more we wanted to see and do and eat, but Ibiza was calling… loudly.

HOSTEL
St Christopher’s Inn, Hammersmith

    Pros:

It’s right on top of a tube station and has a pub attached. It also had free wifi.

    Cons:

Room was too hot, the noise from the pub and then later from guests coming up to their rooms from the pub was pretty unbearable when we knew we had another flight the next morning.
Also suspected bed bugs and at least one other type of bug. I think the hostel has an 81% rating on Hostel World, but I wouldn’t give it that much.

LONDON (half day judgement)
Loved what we saw – there’s an awesome mix of newness interspersed with history in the form of beautifully preserved buildings and monuments.
English chocolate and milk is amazing. I almost bought a box of Ready Brek but would have had nowhere to put it so no Ready Brek for me until December. 😦

TIME SPENT SO FAR:
In the air 21 hours
Total travelling including flights, buses, airport time
About 36 hours.

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Trains are awesome! Kuala Lumpur to London. Sunday September 2

5 Sep

WE were blown away by the efficiency and convenience of public transport in Kuala Lumpur and London.
Having dealt with the impact of a poor public transport system extensively at work, it’s easy to appreciate a network that is well planned and implemented and simple – even when you don’t speak the countries’ language.
We had a 10 am flight from KL to London and somehow thought we were getting on at the domestic airport, not the international and so bought the wrong tickets, not to mention getting to the station with 2 minutes until the train left, forcing us to run to the platform (me with 18.5 kg on my back and another 6+kg in hand) and got on just in time.

Luckily we realised which airport we were going to while on the train and just stayed on the train for the International airport stop.
Anyway, the point is that we were easily able to pay the difference when we got off and there was no Transperth guard trying to slap a $150 fine on us. And the train actually goes to the airport.

Other things that are cool about trains:
1. At KLIA there is a train that takes you from the main part of the airport to the boarding gates. It went down a hill and through a tunnel and it was awesome.

2.The London Underground is also awesome. You can go anywhere and it’s easy to understand. The tube map is cool and the stations have cool names like ‘Cockfosters.’ It can be expensive though.

3. We caught the Stansted Express from Liverpool Street Station right to the airport (again, are you listening Perth?) for our Ibiza flight on Monday. That was also quite expensive – £45 for both of us for about a half an hour journey. But there is free wifi!

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So, coming back to the 12.5 hour KL to London journey. We ate Burger King at KL airport. It was yum. Spent the rest of our Ringgit on snacks for the plane, but Malaysian Airlines feed you so much food! And it was all really good.

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So many sweets on the plane :s

Eat ALL of the things!!!!! (Don’t be afraid to eat from the street in Kuala Lumpur, it’s amazing) DAY 1′ September 1, 2012

3 Sep

SO we didn’t exactly plan to eat all the things in Kuala Lumpur, it just kind of happened that way. After checking into Reggae Mansion and being duped into accepting a twin room instead of the double superior we had booked (It’s a better room the concierge said, it’s got a television he said!!) neither of us really cared to argue as it was only for the one night, so we pretty much dropped our bags and headed into town in search of some good Malaysian food.

We walked and walked… and walked… and eventually found a food hall with red chairs and red plastic tablecloths and even table service and ordered Nasi Goreng, forgetting that Mee is noodle and Nasi is rice, and I realllllly wanted noodles!! (Writing this on the plane from KL to London, I cannot believe I left KL without eating noodles!)

Being the only Westerners in the ‘restoran’, we must have looked like complete dicks trying to order the meal, but it was worth it as the spicy rice was amazing, as was the ensuing culinary rampage around the streets of this hectic but inviting city.

The street markets in KL are pretty much the same as every SE Asian country I have been to, crowded, loud and vibrant, but the clothes, bags, tshirts, electronics, jewellery, sunglasses etc are interspersed with stalls of sizzling grills and woks and baskets housing a myriad of (mainly fried) meat, fish, sweets and fruit. We had to ask what most of it was and then we ate it… A lot of it.

From what i can remember, here is a list of what was consumed in far to short a period for its quantity and richness:

Grilled corn in a cup (RM2 or about AUD65 cents)

Tropical fruit cup – with flavour! No one could tell us what this brown granulated powder was, they just kept saying “flavour flavour” so we sprinkled some on the fruit and it was salty and not awesome. (RM3 or about AUD$1)

Hugest doughnut in the world – walked like 2 km back to the stall to get another one) (RM1 or about AUD30 cents)

Samosa (RM1 or about AUD 30 cents)

sweet egg pancake thing – So so delicious. (2 for RM1 or about AUD30 cents)

Fresh Spicy chickpeas (RM1)

Square coloured ice cream on a stick (RM1)

Fried onion thing chopped up with a bag with sauce. (RM1)

Tiramisu and vanilla flavoured sponge cakes – I can’t remember how much these were but it was just coloured sponge cake that looked better than it tasted!

We were literally running from one stall to another, in a cloud of excitement, eating everything in sight until we literally could not fit another morsel in… Until we found a supermarket… With a wall of Cadbury…

Walking though the streets of KL, it took me about an hour to realise I was the only female around who did not have her shoulders covered, let alone was not wearing a headscarf. I felt a bit disrespectful after that and still haven’t worked out in my mind whether i should have put a T-shirt on. There were also very few westerners about.

Back at the hostel, two beers, a bowl of wedges and finding that the amenity of the hostel far exceeded its ambiance, we went to bed, food comatose.

HOSTEL: Reggae Mansion

    Pros:

great facilities, nice bar and courtyard with buy one drink get one half price, friendly staff, nice rooms – beds were hard but I actually slept really well.

    Cons:

lack of atmosphere – but I want to put that down to us only being there one night and crashing fairly early due to an early12+ hour flight to London ahead.

KUALA LUMPUR: (half a day judgement)
Want to return. Eat everything.
I didn’t realise KL would be as ‘third world’ as it is, but everyone is super friendly and helpful and they don’t mind speaking English to ignorant tourists 😛
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