Friday, August 20, 2010

Sister Trip to Italy

They say time flies when you are having fun, and I am definitely having the time of my life. Since my last bog, well, life became complicated, interesting, full of adventure and so much more, but one constant, was my longing to travel. I returned home from Germany, making one last trip to Rome to say goodbye to the Trevi Fountain, and I threw a coin in...and you know what they say, throw a coin in and you will return, throw 2 in and you will fall in love, and throw 3 in and you will get married. Its a great place to get rid of all your change. But at that moment, I really just wanted to come back so I threw a coin in. Fast forward three months later. I am back in Italy, and this time, brought Italy's no 2 fan, my sister with me.

Its strange this love affair with Italy. Its like I can never leave it for too long. It started off in third time..and I really feel like a tour guide..the best sights in Rome in two days..wear comfortable shoes, there will be alot of walking. We made a quick stop to florence..home of beautiful shoes and bags - by this time, my sister had bought her fourth pair, and we decided to take a slow train back to rome, thought tuscany and the beautiful sunflower fields. You can lose your heart in Italy, repair your soul, and find heaven, all in one trip.

Next, we went to Venice. I had never been to venice before, so I was really excited, and since the flight only cost me 2.50 euros, it was worth every cent. Venice, is my favourite place in Italy, the canals, the alleys, I walked for hours, just taking it all in. Through the hustle and bustle, there is a peace, like I have never experience before. After Venice,on to Sicily, home of the mafia, although we didnt run into any..well, at least I dont think so. We spent most of the time in Palermo, found the fresh fruit market, bought cherries, and set off to Trapani for a day at the beach. The next day, was my birthday, I woke up in Palermo, took a flight to Rome, and ate gelato at the trevi best birthday yet..and guess what, I threw another coin Italy, you can expect to see me again

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

In Paris I did not find Love, Just Art,and a freaky old man

When you grow up, there is always this dream to go to Paris, fall in love beneath the Eifel Tower and live happily ever after. I am more of a cynic when it comes to such things, so on a recent trip, all I expected was Baguettes and cheese, and more importantly the Champs Elysee. I must admit, I did not give Paris enough time, just two days, enough time to see the Louvre from top to bottom, say hi to Mona, pose with cupid and shop along the Champs Elysee. I must admit that that was the highlight, strolling into overpriced stores, eating at sidewalk cafes, and I cant help but think how difficult it must be to french and live up to all that expectation. Even the McDonalds tries so hard, calling themselves McCafe, like that would make their coffee any better, and even the girl serving you behind the counter is plastered with make up. I do admit that I was a little disappointed with Paris as it just did not live up to the hype and romaticised picture I had in my head. It was crowded, grimy, over-priced and exceptionally cold, although the last one is no fault of Paris. I did enjoy the time in the Louvre. All that art, grandeur, and tales of yester year, captured for eternity. I looked at the Mona Lisa through the crowed and watched her staring, half smiling back at me. I went to visit Napoleans aprtments adn saw the most amazing sculptures and I wonder why today, when we have all the technlogy and acuiment, me just do not produce such marvels, or maybe, our marvels will be appreciated when we are long gone. So I realised that it was time to leave when an old man outside the Louvre started hitting on me...seriosly grandpa, it was just not you lucky day...and to Paris, Au Revoir

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Snowboarding...its extreme and so is the pain afterwards

I consider myself a bit of a cautious adventurer. I realize that that may be a contradiction of terms, but sometimes, self preservation is more important than adventure. This weekend I threw caution to the wind and decided to go snowboarding...and for those wondering, I have no clue on how to snowboard. I figured being a female of great poise and grace and balance, snowboarding would come easily. So before the crack of dawn, I was up and on a train to Feldberg, in the black forest, with a bunch of other crazy people heading off on our next adventure.

In my experience, once you look the part, you have more confidence to be the part, and so I looked like a right old snowboarder (what am I going to do with snowboard pants in South Africa is an entirely different blog) and off to the slopes I went.

Lets just say, that there is a lot of things I am a natural at, I have great beginners luck, unfortunately, that does not stem to snowboarding. For the better part of two hours, I spent most of my time falling on my ass, it was fun, painful, and cold, but the rush you get when you finally get up on the board, and snowboard down the slope in a perfect arc is priceless, its like flying though the snow, it almost makes you forget your crash landing at the end, when you are going to fast, lose your balance and end up on ur butt in a heap at the bottom of the slope.

All in all, it was a great day, completely exhausting but totally fun...the drawback however is the pain you feel the next day. Muscles you didnt even know existed are in excruciating pain, so much so that is is even an effort to put your socks on, and so you dont, you spend the day in bed, in solitude, because even talking hurts, but its still fun and still worth it, and that is why I am going snowboarding again...whoohoo

Monday, January 19, 2009

I hearby confess my love for Italy

I dont think there is a single person who goes to Italy and is not impressed. As for me, I spent just over a week in Italy, travelling South to North and the bit in between as well. So I started Genoa, the home of Christopher Columbus, a directionally challenged dude, who on his way East, discovered America. Genoa, is a great place, with the best Pizza I have eaten. Its warm and sunny and the people are really friendly and helpful. The next Italian City was Palermo, Sicily, and this is really where I fell in love with Italy. The beautiful Islands, the amazing history, the sights and sounds just engulf you and you cant help but be hypnotised. Then onto Napoli. I must confess that I was disappointed with Napoli. It was just a grimmy City. I unfortunately had no time to go and see Pompei, but I could see Vesuvius from a comfortable distance.

Next stop Florence. A really great place, filled with famous sculpures, mostly of nude guys, amazing shopping, and bags and shoes. My achilles heel. I like florence, quite, clean and less touristy then most of the other places. And then Roma, what can I say. I was in awe when I saw the colloseum. I just sat and looked at it. And yes Rome is totally over run by tourist, but it was still beautiful. My favourite place is the Trevi Fountain, and afterwards, Pizza at this little place nearby, where I ate the most heavenly piece of seafood pizza. Let us not talk about the gelato.

So Italy stole my heart, and while I enjoyed every minute of it, I regret to say, but it has been colonized. Yes, after centuries steeped in roman and Italian history, and after fighting so hard to preserve their culture and lifestyles, they have been colonized by Asians. Everywhere you go in Rome, there is an Indian person trying to sell you a miniature Colosseum or fridge magnet. Its sad, that I go all the way to Italy only to find more Indians, who assure me that I will get a good bargain if I buy a miniature sculpture of the Vatican...thanks, but no thanks...Despite all of this, I still love Italy, Italian lifestyle, food, clothes, shoes, bags...the list could go on, I am officially Italy's no. 1 fan

Those sneaky Persians

So yes, it has been a while since my last blog...where have I been hiding, you might wonder, or maybe hibernating due to the extreme cold and snow (what happened to global warming I ask you?). The truth is I have been on this crazy adventure, and the first stop is Tehran. Yes, that is the capital of Iran, the place where they have a nuclear programme, have wmds (weapons of mass destruction), oppressed you can imagine my surprised when I arrived in Tehran, slightly apprehensive, to find a most modern society. So yes, women have to wear a headscarf all the time but have a higher enrollment in Universit than in the west, but there are no loud discos, and other than that, they are just a regular society. The people are friendly, the young guys flirt with you in the street, pretty much a normal City in every sense of the word.

They are a little stange though when it comes to foreign currency. I had the unfortunate luck to arrive at 4am, and too tired to change my currencly at the airport had only US dollars and Euros. Trying to get a bank to change foreign curreny in Iran is nearly impossible. They have their own banking system, they dont accept VISA, Mastercard, Dinersclub...i after an hour of searching, and pretty much visiting every bank along the main shopping street, I found a kind soul who changed the currency for me...Other than that, I had a fantastic time in Iran. The place, the people, I just wish I had more time to see the sights and sounds of Tehran and Isfahaan. So if you considering taking a trip to Tehran, I say no matter how tired you are, change your foreign currency at the airport.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

No one does Christmas quite like the Germans

Being in Germany over the winter time has both its advantageous and disadvantages, right up there with really cold (and Im talking snow, sub-zero temperatures cold), is the best thing about winter here, a white Christmas. So as in the usual spirit, stores all around Germany start decorating a month before, with some of the most eloborate displays I have seen, and each little town hosts a weihnachtsmarkt, translated into Christmas Market. Each town, being in competition for the same christmas shopper, tries to be more unique than the next. Frankly, all the markets are the same, all selling the usual assortment of decorations, gluhwein(heated wine) , Bratwurst (it just wouldnt be German without it) and candles. But I think that the little town of Esslingen succeeds at being most unique.

The Middle Ages market is a must see, where else in the world would you find people dressed up like the middle adges, swords included. You can find anything from from traditional blacksmiths to basket weavers. Esslingen goes all out to make the market as authentic as possible and looking around I wonder, why would you want to be transported back to time where there was no running water, flushing tiolets, and savages about in the forest...not to mention central heating? Its a cute market none the less, and a good way to spend a saturday afternoon.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Dubai proves that money can buy everything

Dubai can be classified as one of the seven wonders of the engineering world, probably by the Amir of Dubai (who gave his hotel 7 stars) so when the opportunity presented itself to trek to that little desert island I was all in...then came the catch...being a South African, you need a visa, this will cost you 300 euros, which on a student budget is a bit much, almost as much as my flight....but seeing as how I already forked out the 400 Euros for the flight, I thought I might as well.

On arrival, I was in awe, completely impressed and disgusted at the chaos before me. Firstly, I hired a car, and well, everything is left-hand drive, completely opposite to us in South Africa. The drivers are impatient and well lets just say that I spent a lot of time apologizing for not taking off the split second after the traffic signal changed...I can just imagine the impatient Arab driver thinking "Bloody female driver!" With the major construction happening, roads are closed, there are detours everywhere and the traffic police are too busy to help, even though they are just standing around in the sweltering 35 degree winter heat. This resulted in me driving around for 3 hours searching for my hotel, only to find that I had passed it at least 100 times. All I can say is after that experience, I am now qualified to give guided driving tours of Dubai.

So why am I impressed? 40 years ago, Dubai was nothing more than a couple of Bedouin goat herders and today, they are building the highest building in the world, creating islands in all sorts of shapes, ski slopes in sweltering heat, and well, the list goes on. I think the Amir goes to bed at night and thinks...what is impossible to create, and then decides to create it...the latest idea is to recreate great European cities like Rome, Milan, Paris, Venice, right there in Dubai. I don't know about you, but I think I want to see the actual Rome, not some cheap Chinese (or in this case Arab) knock-off...although the latest on the flooding in Venice, that might me an alternative. So as an engineer, I thank the Amir for all the employment opportunities and I am impressed by his vision and determination.

I found Dubai to be a crazy place, that never sleeps. There are such extremes, tons of Indian labourers, leaving in almost squalor and then there are the Emiraties in their Ferrari's and over priced malls. But mostly, Dubai has no soul, its this hot as hell place, with beautiful buildings but no character. The thing that I enjoyed the most was watching the sunset on the beach, while the warm Arabian sea tickled my toes. So here surrounded by the most perverted capitalism I have ever seen, I found solace in mother nature and a perfect sunset to end a crazy week in Dubai.