28 May 2010

Arghhh Matey! - A weekend in Cornwall

Penzance - the name automatically makes me think of pirates. I didn't even realise it was a real place until I moved to England! After spending so much time on the European continent - I decided I would devote some time to seeing England. Penzance is in Cornwall, the very South West tip of England. It is about 500kms from London. As I only had the weekend, I decided an overnight bus on Friday would make the most of my time.

The bus was due to depart at 11pm, so I was there nice and early, about 10:40pm. I waited in what i thought was the coach station (I have caught plenty of buses to the airport from there) for about 15 minutes. I couldn't see my bus and there was hardly anyone around. I asked a bus driver where the 404 service left from, and he told me over the road. As I turned to run he yelled after me "you've missed it". All I could think was, there is no way I'm going to miss this bus!

I ran accross the road and couldn't see anything, then out of the corner of my eye I spotted the coach station. I ran in and was surprised - it was huge! Like an airport or something. I ran past all the terminals looking for the 404. Then I saw it about 50m ahead pulling out onto the road. I ran after it - thank god it stopped at the lights just down the road. I got the drivers attention and pleaded that he let me on... But the answer was a firm no. All my plans were falling down around me. Then he said - you can get the 406 and change in Portsmouth, as the two buses meet there at 6am. I wasn't happy, but there was still a glimmer of hope.

27 May 2010

Determined - Sicily [Day Three]

There were four of us on the flight to London that did not fly. Three of us rebooked on RyanAir flights out of Trapani, and one managed to get on the EasyJet flight out of Palermo. The three of us decided that we would go to Trapani and spend the night there, just to make it easier the following day. So most of the morning was spent trying to book accomodation as well as calling insurance companies etc. By 11am we had ourselves sorted - the other two were going to go straight to Trapani and take a look around. Whereas, after yesterdays failure, I was deturmined to get to Cefalu.

I looked at the timetable in the hostel which told me there was a train leaving at 11:30am. I turned up at about 11:25... no train. The next one seemed to be at 12. So I went for a wander, got some food, printed my boarding pass for my flight. I tried to get on the 12:00 train, but apparently it was a sleeper train. Thats right, a sleeper train leaving at midday. AND it was calling at Cefalu, but they wouldnt let me on! GAH! I was well and truely over the public transport.

26 May 2010

Crazy Locals & Public Transport - Sicily [Day Two]

I had been told about this beautiful costal town, Cefalu - apparently the undiscovered gem of the Mediterranean. Sunday morning a few of us from the hostel decided to go and check it out. We set off to the train station to catch the train leaving at 10:05am. We purchased tickets, then tried to get on the train. It turns out we purchased the wrong type of tickets, so with only minutes until it departed, we went to try and swap them. No luck. We thought screw it, we will just get on the train anyway and plead ignorant tourists. We got back to the train with enough time to watch it pulling away. After a trip to the information desk we found that we couldn't get our money back, and the next train wasn't until 1pm! This was my first lesson in Sicilian public transport. There were more to follow...

21 May 2010

Ciao Bella! - Sicily [Day One]

Having attempted to travel to Sicily three weeks earlier, and the ash cloud thwarting my plans, I was determined to get there. I was only planning to go for the weekend, but as events transpired, I ended up staying an extra day... more on that later.

I was up at 2am to get to Stansted by 4, for my 6am flight. I arrived in Trapani airport mid morning, and jumped on a bus to Trapani city centre. The trip was nice, passing plenty of green grass and olive trees. First impressions were of the city were... mixed. I was wanting to head into the old town, but ended up going in the complete wrong direction - into the more urban part of the city. It was quite dirty - a lot of rubbish, old, run-down buildings. I spotted this awesome apple sign from the 90's

The weather was hot and I was dressed for London. Somewhat lost and overheating, I was getting a bit frustrated. I found a secluded spot and stripped down, then headed back to the bus station to reorientate myself. Once there, I got my bearings and set off. I found a nice park with huge trees which provided some shelter and a spot to rest for a few minutes.

I knew it as soon as I hit the old town - the streets immediately got extremely narrow. There were tiny cars driving up and down that were almost touching the buildings on either side. There was no footpath, so as soon as I saw one coming I had to find a spot to hide in. There were also scooters flying up and down the streets at ridiculous speeds - I was surprised I didn't see an accident.

18 May 2010

Black Magic - Valencia, Spain [Day Four]

In contrast to the previous days crap weather, Tuesday was bright and sunny. I left the hostel early and picked up a punnet of the best strawberries I've ever tasted for breakfast.

On my tourist map I saw a building near the metro station, so I decided to take a look. It was called the Mercado de Colon. A beautifully colourful building housing a large market. The stores themselves didn't seem to have much interesting, but at least the building was cool!

Next stop was the beach! It was massive; the sand seemed to stretch forever. And the shore was lined with palm trees and seafood restaurants. I wandered down the beach and found these huge, intricate sandcastles, as well as a massive beach resort. Paradise!

Soaked - Valencia, Spain [Day Three]

Although I could have spent at least another two days soaking up the sun in Madrid, it was time to move on. I was up early and on a 9am bus to Valencia.

About an hour in to the journey it started to rain. And it did not stop. I arrived in Valencia early afternoon; the rain had really settled in. My hostel was in the centre of the old town - where the streets are so twisted and narrow that no public transport runs. I walked the 1.5kms and arrived soaking wet.

That afternoon I decided it was best to stay indoors. I was really disappointed, as I only had the following day in Valencia, and I had a lot I wanted to see.

By early evening the rain had started to ease - and because it was light until around 9pm, I decided to make the most of it. I wandered the old town, which was really authentic, again very narrow cobbled streets. But it didn't feel like every other European city, I don't know why... it just felt unique.

14 May 2010

Turtles in their hundreds! - Madrid, Spain [Day Two]

Even after a big night, I was up relatively early Sunday morning. Not feeling 100%, but my philosophy is - I'm going to feel crap weather I'm in bed or out, so I may as well be out seeing the city.

The weather was again beautiful and warm. My first destination for the day was Las Ventas - the main Bull Ring in Madrid. It is a large circular brick structure, with a lot of intricate detail. There was a tour of the Bull Ring, which I decided not to take - I'll be back in Madrid in August and I'm planning to go to a bull fight then. But I wandered around and checked the place out.

With no major plans for the day I decided to take my book and head down to Buen Retiro Park. I spent hours lying in the sun, sleeping or reading my book. Beeeautiful! After a while I decided to stop being lazy, and went for a huge walk around the park. It was really beautiful - there were small areas with sculpted gardens and colourful flowers. There were wide open green spaces, and small winding paths. The park is so big that I got completely lost for at least an hour before finding my way back to the entrance.

Beer & Tapas - Madrid, Spain [Day One]

For once I decided to be sensible and get a flight at a reasonable time of day, rather than the normal 2am wakeup. I flew out of Gatwick Airport at about 9pm Friday evening, 1st class all the way, baby! (RyanAir). I arrived into Madrid sometime after midnight, and had an airport shuttle pick me up and take me back to Tryp Diana Hotel - a really nice place close to the airport. I finally made it to bed at about 2am.

Saturday morning I allowed myself a small sleep-in, and woke to beautiful sunshine streaming in the window. I took a look outside; the sun was beating down and the sky was blue. Perfect! I dusted off my shorts and jandals, which I hadn't used in months, and navigated the metro into the city. I exited in the centre of Madrid - the hostel I booked was only 100m walk off one of the sidestreets. I decided to go and drop my bag before embarking on my exploration for the day.

The hostel was nice, the staff really friendly - one guy sat down with me and explained all the major sites and how best to spend my time. So with that, I headed out.
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