Archive | August, 2012

Topdeck Travel: Review Overview

17 Aug

I hope y’all have sensed that I’m not really “reviewing” the Topdeck package, just kind of talking about what we did, where we went etc. The real review will be appearing in the Australian Times next month if you’re antsy about that kind of thing.

But here, just for fun, are some things you probably won’t read in other blogs about Topdeck’s European Wonder package. I’m going to list them as optional university modules because uhh I miss my lessons and this is my blog and whatever I do what I wahnt.

Phallocentricity

Whether it belongs to a driver relieving himself at the side of the road in Switzerland, Michaelangelo’s David in Florence, a drunk ‘gappie’ in a Venice nightclub, or a performer in the Amsterdam sex show, you are probably going to see a penis. It’s alright, you won’t be alone. We saw them all.

Pharmocology

Bring cold and flu tablets. Bring a lot. Trust me, it’s easier than trying to describe your symptoms of Topdeck typhoid over the counter in a German Apotheke. The truth is that even if you don’t share drinks or make out with other travellers, you will get sick. But it will be worth it. (Even if you don’t share drinks or make out with other travellers.)

Queer Theory

If you are queer, trans*, or otherwise non cisgendered/cissexual – or if you even know what these terms mean – you will probably be the only one. People will be very openminded when it comes to trying escargot or learning Portugese, but the sad fact is that if people have never been out of their small towns before, they probably still hold small-town mentalities. The upside is that when you do meet someone who ‘gets it’, they will probably be your BFF 5ever (that’s longer than 4ever lol).

Linguistics

Most people on the coach came from English-speaking countries, but there will still be times when you have NFC what these people are saying. As an Aussie-Pom hybrid I actually had to translate; it’s ridiculous that Kiwis and Australians struggle to understand each other at times (they’re all like “Where’s the car?” and we’re like “Where’s the car?”).

Alright, I’ve got it all out of my system now. Next post, broadcasting will resume as normal – promise!

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Topdeck Travel: Days Twelve Through Fourteen

14 Aug

Amsterdam.

Oh hey internet. You know how in my last entry I was preparing for something called ‘Amsterdamage’? I was not wrong. The reason you haven’t heard from me in almost ten days is because I was in recovery. Picture foetal position and weeping, but the good kind of weeping, you know? Anyway, here’s what happened:

Day Twelve

Our first stop in The Netherlands was Rembrandt Hoeve, a clog-factory-slash-cheese-with friendly staff. Maybe a little too friendly. The clogs were actually really reasonably priced compared to what you’ll find in the heart of Amsterdam, and you got to see them being made. The cheese wasn’t really anything special in my humble opinion, but you got to sample it and see that being made, too.

Third time lucky?

As we were driving through Amsterdam I could see that we must have just missed Pride by a few days. There were rainbow flags and balloons everywhere! When I was there last year I think we’d missed it by a week as well. Oh well, there’s always next year…

Once settled, Jamie took us on a tour of the Red Light District (I’ve already shared my opinion on that particular subject), and then took those of us who were willing to brave it to a live sex show at a place called Moulin Rouge. It was pretty entertaining but once you’ve been to The Box everything kinda pales in comparison.

After the show we all went to a bar and a few of us went to a coffee shop and things just got a little hazy after that. I think even if I lived there I’d never get used to just being able to light up whenever I could afford it. Even the concept of smoking tobacco indoors is far too European for me.

Day Thirteen

The penultimate day of our tour began with an optional bike ride, which I happily slept through. It was a free day, and Vicki, Rachael, Florence and I took the tram to Waterlooplein to try and replace the sunglasses I bought there last time. However, we were a bit too early and the markets were still setting up, so we went to see the famous Flower Markets instead.

Then I dragged Florence all the way from the markets to the cafe next to Anne Frank Huis because I wanted to show off my knowledge of local cuisine. You probably won’t believe me but Lunchroom Dialoog has the best paninis in the entire universe. Goats cheese, honey and thyme, I swear. You know how a regular panini is like a piece of awful dry lukewarm bread? Like the second you take a bite of that Costa crap you wonder why you wasted £6 on the same taste you could’ve got from chewing on the napkin? Not here. No sir, not here.

Next stop was the Homomonument, which is right around the corner. At its most basic level, the Homomonument is a giant pink triangle (actually, it’s made up of three triangles) – but it was designed to inspire and support lesbians and gays in their struggle against denial, oppression and discrimination, which was particularly pertinent in the wake of our visit to Dachau. There were some quotes that people had scattered around on printed pieces of paper that I didn’t really understand, but I saw a woman crying on its steps and all I wanted to do was hug her.

Florence and I went to the RLD to buy fishnet tights for some reason and then went to Spui to check out Cafe Hoppe, a recommendation from Jamie. It’s a pretty cute little bar that’s been standing since 1670.

And then, to our last meal.

Our last night together was always going to be bittersweet. We may only have known each other for a fortnight, but I know these people better than I know most of the kids I graduated with last month. We went to a bar beforehand, a couple of us had a smoke, and then we went for dinner before an optional cruise (which everyone clearly took). The cruise had a free bar so I think we were all pretty content.

Here’s Vicki, myself, Patricia and Rachael on the cruise. Why yes, I am completely out of it, thanks for asking!

canal

After the cruise we went to Pirates Bar, what Jamie affectionately called ‘the worst bar in Europe’. The songs changed every thirty seconds, the floors were sticky, people were smoking, it was dark, and you had to pay to use the restroom. I ordered a vodka and mixer and it was over nine euro — but then again, the barman let me have it for free… and there was fire breathing. So it was actually pretty rad.

The night got pretty messy and in closing I think Australians are the reason why they’re banning tourists from coffee shops.

Day Fourteen

On our last day I woke up feeling a little.. spacey from the night before. I wasn’t the only one! It’s a shame, because I was really looking forward to Bruges. I still enjoyed Belgium though! We had waffles. And my goodness, do Belguins love their dogs. I swear I saw a dog in a pram.

We touched back down in London just in time to hit rush hour on the tubes. It feels incredibly weird to be around so many English accents again. In many ways, I can’t believe it’s over. I think I crammed more into those fourteen days than I had into my whole life!

Stay tuned over the next few days for my overview of the trip, then normal broadcasting will resume.

Read the rest of my European Wonder adventures here.

Topdeck Travel: Days Ten & Eleven

5 Aug

Day Ten

Austria was a nice quiet day for me. I managed to sleep off some of the quasi-Freshers’ Flu that I’ve been the last to contract, while everyone else paraglided and canyon-jumped to their hearts’ content in Tyrol, Austria. The hostel has more of a homey vibe than a lot of places we’ve stayed.

We also managed to be there for the town’s summer festival. As it was also Vicki’s birthday, we pretty much had to try the ‘ski shots’ (six shotglasses fixed to a single ski) and local beers.

Having improved my drunken German loads, I was ready for Deutschland!

Day Eleven

I’m currently writing this in a freaking castle in the Rhine Valley, Germany. A castle. We just had an excellent chill out sesh with Croc on guitar again.

Today was quite a sombre one though, all things considered. This morning we drove to the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial. It was probably one of the most emotional experiences of my life. Travelling through the youth hostels of Europe, it’s easy to forget things like this. I’m so glad that Dachau is included on the Topdeck itinerary; it’s so important to remember the past — especially when it’s harrowing — so that it is never repeated.

We were stuck in traffic for a while so Jamie put on Love Actually for us all. I’ve seen it maybe twenty times but amused myself with the recent knowledge that the girl who sung ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’ voices Marceline from Adventure Time.

“All I want for Christmas is to bury you in the ground.”

I gotta go now because we’re going to a little place called ‘Amsterdamage’ tomorrow.

Read the rest of my European Wonder adventures here.

Topdeck Travel: Day Nine

3 Aug

Up for breakfast at 9.30 today, which happens to be the longest sleep in we’ve had all trip. Which is new, because usually getting up before noon is a triumph for me. We all headed into the heart of Venice for gondola rides and mask-buying. Apprently the local delicacy is squid ink pasta but I couldn’t find it so we had pizza instead.

Matt, Florence & Little Lion Man on a Venetian gondola.

 

Me, Patricia, Isabella & Laura on a Venetian gondola.

Another short update for me – it’s a masquerade party at the hostel bar. PICS TO FOLLOW!

Read the rest of my European Wonder adventures here.

Topdeck Travel: Day Eight

2 Aug

Ciao bella! Today was also hangover day. Grande grande hangover day.

There was a toga party at the hostel last night. I did not wear a toga, but I did drink until I felt like sheet.

The hostel here has a real Schoolies vibe. It doesn’t feel very ‘authentically Italian’ but it is a nice atmosphere for sure. Loads of Aussies by the pool, in the bar, talking loudly to each other in the toilets…

But I’m missing the important thing about today. T H E  V A T I C A N.

Today Topdeck went to the smallest state in the world. Our tour guide was pretty much the best I’ve ever seen – a bubbly American who never stopped talking for a second. She showed us the Vatican Museum, St Peter’s Basilica, and the Sistene Chapel, where my grandmother took me once when I was very small. I remember last time it was so packed that we were pushed forward by the crowd so much that I was swept away, like something out of a stampede scene from The Lion King. This time we got to surpass the crowds outside, so there was enough breathing room to truly appreciate Michelangelo’s ceiling frescos and the aesthetics of a room so literally awesome.

I think I’ve watched too much Arrested Development.

I’ve made a decision to not go too overboard for the rest of the trip. After the Vatican we bussed to Venice where we’re staying at Camping Jolly. Everyone’s still at the bar now – some guys from another trip even got naked in the middle of the dancefloor – but I’m not really feeling it. I’m still feeling pretty lovesick. This trip is going really fast – it’s hard to believe we only have six days left. But I’m not used to sleeping alone, I miss my partner, and I’m sleepy so I’ll make this a short one.

Read the rest of my European Wonder adventures here.

Topdeck Travel: Day Seven

1 Aug

Bon giorno! Today was hangover day.

The hostel is part of the Plus Hostels chain. They do their drinks in buckets here.

Vicki and Rachael kicking the bucket by the pool.

We had a six hour walking tour of Rome this morning, which was pretty awesome. We saw the Spanish Steps, where a protest was held last year, the Colosseum, and Trevi Fountain. As the legend goes, if you throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain, you’re guaranteed a trip back to Rome. I threw in a tooth last time I visited so I guess it’s literally in my bones.

Patricia & I at the Trevi Fountain. I’m throwing in one eurocent this time…

We had pizza and gelati for lunch outside the Pantheon and everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.

And it was a free day, but also a sweltering one. So instead of making the most of being in !!!R O M E!!! I kind of just went back to the hostel to have a swim. I’m by the pool now and it’s much more inviting than this shitty internet connection, so I’m gonna go back in.

P.S. If I hear “When in Rome” one more time I’m going to bludgeon someone with a scale model of the Tower of Pisa.

Read the rest of my European Wonder adventures here.