Wandering Euro Style
Trip Start Feb 04, 2010
13Trip End Ongoing
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I was expecting a lot from Istanbul as so many people had hyped it up and to be honest was pretty underwhelmed by the city. I was, naively, expecting camels to be roaming the streets and the grand bazaar to be full of spices and tea merchants. Unfortunately there were no camels to be seen and the grand bazar was full of fake adidas shoe sellers. It was far more European than I imagined. To be fair there were some impressive sights such as the blue mosque and we did have a couple of great feeds, with the aubergine kebab being a favorite. I guess any place that came after Nias was always going to find it tought to measure up.
We then shot down to Gallipoli. Gallipoli was so interesting and also very humbling. The exhibits of bullets that had hit each other mid flight and fused together gave some indiication of how much lead was flying around. We also met a couple of great Aussie lads, Gus and Jerome, on the Gallipoli tour and ended up travelling with them for a week or so which provided a lot of classic moments. We wanted to do a cruise in the med so we started to head to Fethiye, stopping in Selcuk on the way. Selcuk was pretty nice and had some insane old Roman ruins. I was unfortubqtely accosted by a dude in a truck stop toilet on the way to Selcuk (in the form of having my butt tickled as I was having a leak). Not cool although it again provided a fair bit of humour for the next week between us all although I have developed a complex about entering truck stop toilets. The blue cruise from Fethiye to Olympus was great. We spent each of the four days either swimming (it was about 40 c every day), eating or drinking. Lots of fun and again met some great crew. We had a classic captain aka "silver fox" who was very mysterious but managed not to crash the boat and whipped up some awesome feeds in the kitchen. Fethiye provided us with a squid meal i would rate in my top 5 ever which was epic.
At the end of the cruise we had a couple of nights in Antalya (which had quite a nice little old town) before shooting back to London to try and hook up an Indian visa, vote and try and suss out what to do next. Turkey was a pretty cool country although I dont think I would go back in a rush.
Our visa efforts failed but we decided to go and catch up with my mate Guillermo, who I met in Nias, in his village a little way out of Bilbao in Basque Country, Spain. Catching up with him was awesome, we were staying in his folks place and the hospitality they showed us was incredible, with home cooked meals and showing us all around Basque Country. We had a solid Monday night out in Bilbao during their yearly festival and the streets were packed with punters all night with temporary bars set up on every intersection. It was pretty awesome. I also got to check out the famous wave at Mundaka (although it was dead flat). It just shows how your experiences in places are improved by having locals show you around.
Not wanting to outstay our welcome we shot up to San Sebastian to have a night bar-hopping and smashing pintxos. Despite brutal hangovers we then rented a car and drove up to Hossegor in France. Wanting to save some cash we purchased possibly the smallest crappiest tent in all of Europe as well as an air mattress and decided to hit up some camping. The tent has survived pretty well despite some disparaging comments from fellow campers and the mattress has only had one hole, patched up by a combo of bubble gum, sticky tape and a sarong.
Hossegor is a great little town with some classic waves. Unfortunately my rib was still stuffed from a wipeout I had in Nias so I couldnt surf properly but got a great feel for the place. The French are hard to understand. On one hand it was perfectly acceptable for old men and women to saunter around the beach completely naked, however it was apparently unacceptable for me to walk into a supermarket shirtless but in my boardies. Maybe it was just me...who knows. I was also intrigued by the fact that boardshorts were banned in the camping ground swimming pool but budgie smugglers were "obligitaire". Didnt comply with that rule. This was also my first experience driving a car in Europe and it wasnt particularly enjoyable. I have never hit so many curbs, tried to change gears with the door handle and drove the wrong way down one way streets before in my life and getting out of cities generally took three or 4 attempts. I then vowed never to drive in Europe unless I had a GPS.
Next step was to head to Portugal which provided one of the low points of the trip. After a few days in Lisbon, which was a great city (very low key apart from the million dudes trying to sell me hash), we rented a car and were going to head up to Peniche, home to the famous "Supertubos" wave. After renting a car and arriving back at our hotel to pick up our luggage some random guy stabbed our car tyre with his knife (without us knowing) and literally 50m from our hotel I felt the car jolting down the road. After I pulled over the car and discovered that Fiat dont make some models with spare tyres I was trying to reinflate the tyre with the conveniently provided pump when a man approached us appearing to try to help us. He distracted us long enough for someone to come around the other side of the car and pinch about 4 grand worth of stuff, including our iphones. What a mongrel, although the clown missed my wallet and camera (and half my photos) which were on the front seat next to other things he stole. Thanks Fiat and Lisbon. So the one hour trip to Peniche ended up taking 9. To top this day off I got my first (of many) 50 euro fines for not correctly going through a toll gate. Paying those invoices will be a high priority when Im back in Oz...
On a different note, we have found that the radio stations in portugal literally only recycle about 15 songs. After two days you know them all. They are all cheesy euro dance songs. Very average.
Peniche was pretty cool and very low key seaside town. Supertubos was basically a horror closeout when I was there but it does get insane. See this. After a while in Peniche we shot down to Ericeira, another beachside town, which was pretty nice and is where I perfected my grilled piri-piri chicken technique. After a few days there Ali and Andrew arrived in Lisbon and we went to pick them up (along with our Indian visas-whoo) to do a bit of a road trip down the coast. We checked out Sintra, a very picturesque little town, before having a night in Ericiera and then headed down to the Algarve.
First stop in the Algarve was Sagres, an awesome little town on the SW tip of Europe. We had a few epic extreme bocce tournaments on the cliffs over looking the Atlantic with Al and Andrew. I was the only person undefeated i must add. The beaches were also some of the nicest Ive seen in Europe. You get pretty blase after a while as your just driving along seeing ancient forts and castles everywhere and we sometimes had to pinch ourselves a little bit. Our final main stop in Europe was Lagos. Ive never heard so many people speaking English outside of Europe as I have here. Its ridiculously touristy, but again pretty nice. Not sure if its somewhere I would come back to after hearing an aussie footy team singing waltzing matilda in the middle of the street. A little bit cringeful but we did have fun here. I managed to puncture our mattress here with the car keys.Great effort.
We then drove to Faro to drop off the piece of junk Fiat and started on our way to Morocco. After a great night in Seville we arrived in Morocco which is where we are now.
I was pretty excited to leave Europe and get back to the developing world which I always find a lot more interesting. The year is getting dangerously close to the back third, but we still have Morocco, India, Sri Lanka and more than likely another month or so in Indo to look forward to.
The blogs should be a little more eventful in those countries...