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Category Archives: on da road – europe

We stop and glance into the restaurant.
Gone are the days of glancing the menu to make the decision…
Yep, there are other kids… We are good.
We go in.
But wait.
Those kids are SITTING.
WTF? Are they like plastic decoys or something.
It’s too late though, we have shuffled in…
I continue scanning.
Nope, definitely all sitting.
What kind of trick is this??!!
How is it possible that these children are sitting, are they glued to their seats? Is this witchcraft?
For I have Learnt, if sitting even successfully happens in the first place…
That somewhere between “can I take your order” and “Bon appetite” restaurant chairs clearly evolve to grow red hot spikes, like electrified cactuses, the force my band of ferals to raise, possessed, from their seats and start running around, screaming, wailing, lashing manically like a cat in heat…
Never have I had one of these mythical glue chairs I can clearly see scattered throughout this restaurant that enables a child to remain stuck, seated, in one position for the duration of the meal… Foolishly, I look around at the delightfully seated children, and wonder if maybe, just maybe, this time we will get a glue chair.

And thus it was, as my little family shuffled into the cute little alfresco dining, with the perfectly postcard street umbrellas shading the well laid out little tables, and the hanging baskets dripping, raining, with a rainbow of healthy blossoms, on the sunny streets of Brussels after a day of ” enjoying each other’s company on a pleasant family holiday” ( read, trying not to kill each other whilst sending “death eyes” across the room whilst muttering evil curses towards the other under our breath and eventually cracking the utter sh*ts and simply taking off walking a foreign city alone with two wayward ferals and an expanding baby bump whilst his “lordshit” had a nap…)

Now…
Gone are the days of pouring over a menu tantalisingly…
Laughing, joking… Smiling…
Heck… Long gone are the days where conversation is so freely flowing and warm that the menu isn’t even opened before the first eager waiter appears at your table… Causing you to let out that obnoxious laugh of young people in love… With no kids.

No, menu reading today is now an exercise in speed reading. It is a contest to scan the entire volumes of food quicker than humanly possible to admit defeat that no, Vegemite sandwiches are not in offer darling, is there ANYTHING, F’ing anything, that you might eat…
It is now a talented skill to be able to scan the kids section, plus the adults section, plus the drinks, all whilst watching to make sure a little hand has not shot out at the speed of light to grab the flower vase, or salt, or knives, or anything not utterly nailed down and used it in an assault launch on their sibling… Or other diners.
It is trickier than a game of twister, the skill of juggling turning pages of a menu at lightning speed, intercepting any table missiles launched through slow detection of before mentioned hand all whilst hurling your whole body in a “go go gadget” manoeuvre to capture any escaping child via their collars before they disappear entirely.
And then somehow, when the waiter appears, not smiling as he glares at the dishevelled terrors before him and the inevitable “salt art” being created on the nice clean table, you order something that you may or may not have seen on the menu, cosy in the knowledge that neither of the kids will eat any bloody thing you choose for them, your meal will be cold before you get to touch it, if you get to touch it, and despite looking pleadingly, the waiter will still insist on bringing the kids fancy glassware for their juices and steak knives for their meal. Knives god dammit!!?? Does this guy have a death wish! No, for the love of good, don’t give my child the knife! Too late… Which will then become a further assault launch option available to them on the table.

By now… The cactus spikes in the kids seats must be searing hot and radioactive, for both of them are jumping out as if their little arses are on fire from the bites of a million bull ants. Screaming, whinging, carrying on. Extending the table items warfare past each other and now inflicting mass destruction on the tables of surrounding diners.

Our most stern hisses and reprimands falling on deaf ears, drowned out by the raucous giggles as one causes the other to run full tilt into an umbrella stand…
Our yelling gets louder. More insistent… More desperate begging, pleading.
We have past the stage where bribery works…
We are past the point of return.
The food arrives.
It looks delicious.
We salivate in anticipation, like pavlov’s dogs, only to accept that this will be another meal untouched… As one has taken off their shoes and is performing a “punch and Judy style puppet foot play” on the table ( causing some almighty looks of disproval from surrounding diners who clearly did not wish to be entertained by the sight of ten filthy toes whilst eating their dinner) while the other has started crying. That long, low, I am not planning to stop anytime soon, nothing you can do to placate me cry…

I attempt to eat dinner with the screaming banshee thrashing on my lap. A further skill is the ability to pick menu items that can be eaten one handed. Cutlery is an opulent luxury these days, one I have not enjoyed in some time…
While hubby’s dinner turns cold as he has drags the puppeteer up the street for a stern talking to, and likely a deserved butt slapping, out of ear and eye sight of our fellow diners.
They return.
We try to bribe them again. It is to no avail.
We make the theatrical song and dance of how amazing their food looks, and truly it does… We have even managed to select a variety of foods which both have eaten within the last week…
But are met with the defiant cries of “no it’s disgusting” ( where the F did they learn that word?!)
We attempt the oldest parenting tricks in the book – quick eat it before I do or I give it to your brother / sister.
Nope, their resolve is dead fast. Damn it. Stubborn little bastards truly are my children.

And thus, another 60 euros well spent, as we admit defeat, pay for our cold, untouched meals and drag the little terrors out of there, under the disproving eyes of our fellow diners and their picture perfect, glued on children ( seriously, how the F are they doing that?!)

Two steps up the street and cue the tantrum…
Waaaaaaaaaah, ( it sounds like a bomb alarm, diners nearly drop to the floor) passers by jump out of the way higher and farther than Olympic champions…
Waaaaaaaah.
I want to go back.
I want my dinner…
Oh, and my favourite,..
I want ice cream.

No way are you having ice cream.
Ice cream is a special treat, only if you’re good.
Were you good at dinner? “Yes”
WHAT THE ACTUAL F+*^
What do you mean yes? Did you stay sitting “yes” were you quiet? “Yes” did you listen to mummy and daddy? “Yes” did you eat your dinner “yes”
Whaaaaaat? What crazy parallel universe did this kid just spend the last thirty mins in??

The tantrum grows.
We are now full scale meltdown on the grubby dirt, possessed by the devil, arms and legs flailing, demanding ice cream.
Each no is met with a volume increase I wouldn’t have deemed possible.
Walking away results in a rugby tackle at my feet and further display of just how epic a tantrum can be.
I scoop the writhing beast up and fling him over my shoulder like a sack of spuds in a display of my super human strength, inherited as a mother.
Good god this kid weighs a ton. I don’t know how. He doesn’t eat.
He lashes out like a many limbed mythological beast.
I feel my face getting scratched. I wince as a filthy, grubby hand, covered in street dirt and litter is thrust into my mouth, my hair is pulled.
I am now as equally dishevelled as him… But slowly, calmly, I continue walking back to the hotel.
Repeating the same clear directions.
Ice cream is a special treat.
We only get ice cream when we are good.
We were not good at dinner.
I no longer even notice the stares of onlookers as I carry my heavy sack of disobedience home and enjoy a further 15 minutes of the ice cream tantrum.
I admire my core body strength that I am still able to lug him up the four flights of stairs… Although I do ponder what happens as he gets bigger as he is nearing three quarters of my height already… And I do give a moments thought to the growing human inside who just received ( not their first) sibling pummelling…

We fill the bath and toss them in.
Wash off the street dirt,
Drown out their continued moaning.
Discuss calmly the expectations of what being good at dinner looks like.
We ask if they want ice cream tomorrow.
Of course they do.
We tell them we can try again tomorrow and all they need to do is be good.
I swear they laughed.

It is bed time.
I don’t know who is more exhausted. Them or us?
Another fun family day finished with a delightful meal in a most adorable little street side restaurant.. Overlooking the grand beguiling buildings of Brussels.
Roll on tomorrow…

May your food be warm and tasty, wherever this finds you!
Love and hugs world.

 

“Butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths” …

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hey crew…

you may be blessed with a barrage of QUICK entries!! purely because i am so damned far behind again!!!!!!!!!

so here’s a QUICK recap of the debarcle that was!

picture it…after all the effort to arrive in the lovely township of perm, the night of our departure…sweaty from the days walking marathon, including the evening 3 km hike to the train station complete with bags… to discover that the trains were indeed running on “moscow time” not local perm time…

for once… this works in our favour… early, not late!!! (which is becoming an infuriatingly increasing occurance these days…through no fault of my own!!! a big grrr…to he who is oft late!)

but sitting on a dinky concrete station…time a ticking…awaiting for our 31 hour train ride…watching the sunset on alcohol infused russians didplaying an alarming array of fashion misdemeanours…

listening to the warble and crackle of russian train announcements….

the interpretation that our train is delayed…but will be on platform one…

the deduction that this must be platform one (as the train on platform 3 is two platforms away)… (why the hell dont they signpost anything in russia???!!!!!)

the curiosity that NOONE else is going to st petersberg?? the assumption that perhaps it is because it IS 3 in the morning…

the confusion at more jibberish russian announcements regarding our “delayed train”

the stress at not knowing what the hell is going on…

then the complete and utter PANIC as it emerges…perm railway station has TWO PLATFORM ONE’s!!!!!!!

the high speed race, weariung mammoth backpacks across train tracks and through the station building

standing, dumbstruck…watching our train chug off into the distance… eyes hangdog both from exhaustion and utter frustration….the begging at the ticket window for some kind of consolation (bearing in mind…all done in a foreign language!!!) and the eventual PARTIAL refund and then exorbatent reissue of 2 tickets for the 5am train….

another 2 hours and at LONG last… on our way to st petersberg and the start of a new day… wallets considerably lighter… but a story to tell….

(albeit the very abbridged version!!! believe me…if you weant the FULL effect i am well able to recite it!!! at length!)

but a journey made worth it…by the arrival in st petersberg and the experience of the “european” side of russia.

a beautiful city…and home to some amazing architecture and art works…

but like all things travel…

never enough time…..

hugs.

l

fabulous russian fashion

fabulous russian fashion

church of spilt blood st petersberg

church of spilt blood st petersberg

top class perm tourist attractions

top class perm tourist attractions

modern perm ammenities

modern perm ammenities

red square by night

red square by night

another fabulous orthodox church

another fabulous orthodox church

moscow

moscow

             

 

        

hey crew!!!!!

well, i survived leg one of the great western voayge into the unknowns of russia…and found myself in a weird little old city named perm…

strangely…after 24 hours on a train it is hard to justify the tiny part of the great russian map we crossed!!!! but it is in fact about the same distance as between france and hungary!!!!! man this place is BIG!!)

in truth (other than recollections of my evil old hair days) this city actually has very little to offer the average punter….but in all it is jus FABULOUS to be away from the overwhelming and impersonal hussle and bustle of the city!!!!!

and having a **slight** russian speaking companion sure helps us to avoid the tourist traps of packages that cost about 10 time the price they should….

and thus… we ventured forth and took in “perm’s premier tourist attraction” the kungur ice caves (story for anoher blog…it turns out they arent actually icy in summer!!!!!) and a reconstructed wooded village that explored (in depth – in russian) the history of the area!!!! 

but the highlight of this forray into the slight east of russia????

perm zoo park

no words can describe this step back in time to the archaic remains of what can humbly be called a “zoo”… but for a whopping 80 rubles ($4) we figured it was as good a way as any to pass the time (also bearing in mind the towns musuem and art gallery are both closed down!!!) and thus… holding back the tears of anger at the EVIL metal barred cages the animals were crammed into we stumbled into the first exhibit…the beautiful and majestic tiger….

and what timing we had!!!!

as i coo’ed and aaah’ed over the beautiful beast in its tiny cage before me…and tried (somewhat unsuccessfully to take a pic thru the evil metal bars) our “good fortune” would have it that at that moment another tiger was released thru the kitty flap into the same said cage…

the trouble begins…

2 on heat females… one small cage… one male in the cage next door….

RROOOWWWRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!

massive cat fight ensues.,… and as i jumped back from the cage terrified and mortified as the 2 magnificent beasts took turns to swipe and claw at each others i was transfixed to watch nature at work….

and as with all good cat fights…there was a winner….

and a loser….

after 5 minutes of roars and kufuffle, it emerges tiger 2 has clearly lost the fight…and in her angry rage paces the tiny remote corner of the cage bearing one almighty gash to her left side!!! flesh clearly hanging down…blood for the world to see, i like all the other spectators merely stood open mouthed, helpless…. is this normal???!!!!!!

after what seemed like 10 minutes…the fawlty towers zoo crew finally copped on to the ongoing tiger calamity and efforts were made for a “rescue mission” at this point….the very archaic nature of the zoo became even more clear…

as a circus style small metal barred cage was wheeled proudly through the zoo grounds towards the tiger exhibit sending all the big cats into fits of hysteria and an almighty hiss show! (clearly, rattling metal cages brings back some surpressed negative memories…) but th comedy of the situation…. the cage was to be put thru the front door of the exhibit!!!!!! no back rooms…no special passage ways…pure and simple..open up the whole exhibit and walk on in!!!!!!

during the commotion as this unfolded….2 things occured…

one… he injured tiger..knowing full well wha was coming ran for cover out the back thru the kitty flap…

and two…the winning tiger refused to join her and was set to with a high pressure hose!!!!! when even this had no successful outcome the ingenious zoo keepers turned to their last resort of occupying said tiger to allow the entrance to the cage and lifted the kitty flap into the males cage!!!!!

in a 2 second flash…tiger porn began (and i thought the cat fight was loud and scary!!! OH MY GOD!!!!!)

transfixed now by the deafening wails of two randy tigers…but also the frantic efforts of the elderly zoo staff to lift a solid metal cage above a gutter into the exhibit next door i could do nothing but gawp with my mouth open…

eventually it was setlled that the metal cage was simply too heavy at this time (seeing as at this stage the tiger had not been secured in any way and was free to return thru the kitty flap and therefore run straight out of the open exhibit onto the gathering onlookers (ie – me!!!) and plan b was exercised…

a wooden crate was heaved and lifted into place over the kitty flap, a canvas end placed precariusly over it…and mush banging and thumping later, tha arrival of the injured tiger was announced by the thud of flesh against material and a mighty ROWWWRR!!!

(meanwhile…tiger pron next door retaliated with a mighty rowwwr of their own!!!! only overshadowed by the defeaning wails of jealousy of the lioness nesxt door who by this stage was scratching at the exit to her own cage!!!)

7 keepers in the open exhibit…

a wild tiger, subdued by a piece of canvas and an open gate to a zoo full of onlookers….

stage 2 of the high technology operation was to call in some male helpers to lift up the metal cage to place onto the end of the woodedn one…and after much abbot and costello style bumping and tripping (all in russian) the cage was finally in place….

still no tranquilisers… still gate open to the public, still no harness on the tiger… and a simple operation of lift the canvas.. poke the tiger and push her forward!!!!! she is now caged…

and somewhat angry..

(tiger porn continues next door)

keeping fingers clear of the bars, the keepers grut and grind in a very valiant effort to now wheel the tiger and cage back out of the exhibit… on the 7th attempt…after it is clearly bogged in the mud and sespit bottom of the small cage it appears this attempt is abandoned…

the only thing for it???

call in the doctor!!!

and sure enough  (like a vision from the song “polly put the kettle on”) she arrvied with her bag and her hat (and her little white cloak) and to the now somewhat more subdued moans of next door’s tiger porn proceeded to operate on the tigers gash then and there through the bars of the metal holiding cage in the open exhibit.

i love russian technology.

none the less…

asfter tha, the rest of the zoo seemed a little ho hum…

a few bears, some monkeys..a yak…

yawn….

anyways..

hope all is well in whichever cage you’re currently residing!

hugs to all.

l

red square by night

red square by nightchurch of intercession red squarecrouching tiger....hidden gashoperation rescue tiger beginsthe operation continues... safety first!tiger pornman bags

hey crew….

i sit here, still fuming…hair on end, that evil vein in my neck protruding menacingly, eyes bloodshot and knuckles clenched…all due to 3 solid days contending with the circus that is moscow….

now dont get me wrong…

i like the city…. its a constant buzz…the fashion is utterly questionable, the police wear adorable oversized hats, the architecture is amazing, the language beguiling…but sadly, they have NO COMMON SENSE… well not when it comes to public transport anyways,

i refer back to my initial fleeting glimpses on day one… peak hour in the city… i mean with a country of 150 million people you’d think they’d have electronic ticket machines, but no… like cattle to the slaughter house in the stifling underground heat of a humid summers day the hoardes swarm, bustle, push and shove… just to join the ticket queue….

and while i thought this may have just been a fleeting once off occurence, the last few days has proven me sadly mistaken….

and this crazy cattle like mismanagement extends to all avenues of russian transportation…and thus the problems begin…

imagine if you will, my excitement at just being here, a big tick on the long term to do list…and the anticipation of heading yonder from the city and exploring the grand countryside… mind agog of the wonders that await…

hours of meticulous research on the internet ( a small feat in itself as most sites are in russian) tussle and wrestle my way thru the underground to get to the train station (at 10.30pm!!) with the utmost goal of booking said adventure…when a sea of people greet me…what are they all doing??? surely at this time of night people shoud be in bed?? but sadly it is the “summer season” and it appears all of russia have descended on the train station for their summer holidays…. and between queuing for an HOUR to use one of the 2 electronic ticket timetable machines (which consequently dont even sell tickets??!!!) in this gargatuan oversized station you can imagine my **minor** discontent to learn that ALL of the previous evenings plans and goals have been a complete waste of time as they in NO WAY correspond with the train timetable displayed at the station…

my russian companion simply shrugs this off “its just russia”

so the thought of facing the over an hour long ticket queues thronging and buzzing at the 30 open fluorescent ticket windows when we no longer have an itienerary sends us tail between legs back to the hostel and another all-nighter on the internet…

round 2…

new itinerary planned…this time seemingly with trains that actually do exist…. and then another hurdle…

the prices (which being the tight arse that i am i had already balked at in the station the previous evening – note… RUSSIA IS NOT A CHEAP COUNTRY!!) had suddenly escalated 3 fold…

it appears…that all of russia are not only taking their summer vacations at our train station…but ALL of them are going to our destinations!!!! consequently overbooking trains and forcing prices into ridiculous levels!!! (not to mention the tendency of russian travel sites putting significant price mark ups for the sheer priveledge of english translation…)

another all night internet (and banking) session later…

new itinerary in hand… glum realisation i may need to remortgage my non-existent house and another hour wait in a sweaty, steamy ticket queue and we emerge triumphant with some tickets!! (the right ones?? that yet remains to be seen)…

the down side??

despite a recommendation by a good friend to visit the beautiful city of suzdal… due to ridiculous misinformation, overselling, a decision by russian transport department to cease direct bus services and the crazy re-routing of the nearest train line this part of the itinerary has been sadly shelved in the “too hard” basket….

what alarms me most as that once we depart moscow in 2 days time the language barrier and the sheer backwardness is estimated to increase with every new kilometre!!! how on earth will we navigate our way into the villages of the ural mountains??!!!! eeeeek!

but (ever the optimist) in celebratory light of our minor victory of the russian public transport circus, my companions and i decided to go true russian style and attend the genuine great moscow circus…

whereby we spent the evening in awe of the usual “death defying” trapeze artists, human pyramid etc etc and maintained gobsmacked that circus’s really do still have animal acts (where was the rspca on this one huh??!) and the icing on the cake??

yes a man REALLY did stick his head inside a lion’s mouth!!!!

(where else in the world huh??)

but sadly (or perhaps not so!!) just like the tourist t-shirts say…

“i’ve been to russia.

there are no bears.”

so on that note…this worn out commuter is off to bed to gain the strength to face another day in the circus that is moscow.

hugs.

l

the church of the intersession
the church of the intersession

the kremlin guards
moscow metro
moscow metro

the original moscow circus

the original moscow circus

the kremlin guards

scaffolding!!

scaffolding!!

hey crew….

coming to you live from downtown moscow….sporting an unfortunate dose of russian sunburn and suffering the excruciating ailment of a 2 am flight arrival i thought id pop by to say a quick hello and record these few opening thoughts on the grand old country of russia (home of the rather spunky russian gymnast, alexei nemov…mmmmmm…. but i digress)

so after surviving a night “sleeping” in the airport i awoke thismorning to the sights and sounds of russia…and instantly my head i whirring thru the rusty memory banks to where i have been emerged in such chaos and pandamonium before….this is india!!!! i swear, india for white people, white people with peroxided hair….short shorts and some rather questionable fashion feaux pas that even I managed to pick up on!!!!!

and as i struggle like a salmon swimming upstream against the human cattle traffic…and i avoid the peak hour underground for fear of suffocation in the masses i am excited at the prospect of the weeks before me….

adventure…

here i come!

hugs to all.

l

 (p.s… people waiting for machine…will add photos later!!!!)

as if my **secret** penchant for birdwatching wasn’t enough….

(ooh, look…there goes a seagullius maximus : NB a seagullius maximus is the considerably larger and more rotund version of the humble grey and white southern hemisphere seagull… similar in ungainly appearance, only bulkier and fluffier to withstand the ridiculously colder weather and ludicrously strong “breezes” that IS the Scottish coastline… incidentally, like its more petite southern cousin the seagullius maximus is rather adept at the art of food thievery and mid-air chip catching aerobatics)

… it emerges that your hapless hero has sunk to the depths of geekdom beyond recovery by becoming…..

a TRAIN SPOTTER

… it all started innocently enough….

with a casual jaunt through the stunning and majestic scottish highlands… a fabulous part of the world, marked by grand green craggy mountains, deep mysterious murky lochs… endless stretching glenns and dotted by quaint villages…..

now while the average punter books ahead their b&b or hostel in the stunning landscape, being as free as the wind, your hero decided to adopt the “on a whim” option…assuming (as is oft the case) that the world would supply on demand….

and thus it was, after several nights success one found oneself in the fabulous remoteness of glenfinnian staring down the clock (that said, despite their still being 3 hours of sunlight left!!!!! receptions are starting to close!!)

so… being a (not so) closet tight arse the £130 a room hotel in town was immediately left off the list and here is where the trouble arose….

20 miles to the next village

no B&B in town

no way i can afford £130 for a room…

when we saw it… SAVED!!! a “hostel”… nestled in the lonely wilderness… the

glenfinnian railway museum and hostel….

it turns out this hostel truly is the epitomy of a scottish railway enthusiast museum… and as we were greeted at the platform by a dear ditthering old man (who i firmly believe to be the ORIGINAL 1930’s trainspotter) and enthusiastically shown around the site we began to wonder…. where is the hostel???

slowly…it dawned on us (perhaps spurred on by the great excitement and twinkle in our host’s eye) that the hostel IS the train!!!…..

so after being shown how this “fabulous” ORIGINAL 1950’s carriage had been maintained, mounted and restored we were ushered to our very own cabin… complete with authentically small leather fold down beds, squeaky cabin roller doors which truthfully probably have been off their tracks since the 1950’s and the invariably “train style” toilet facilities….

but the plot thickens….

and after one night in such “luxury” the excitement of our empassioned host or the smell of the coal musy have rubbed some of its magic off on us… and next morning… we found ourselves excited by the prospect that TODAY the famous fort william to mallaig steam train would in fact be chortling along these very tracks!!!!!!!!!

so dressed hastily amidst the fervent excitement and buzz of a train full of train spotters… we trekked down to stake out the ultimate vantage point to herald this tremendous occasion!!!!

fighting off a swarm of midges as they chomped our faces, stomping thru the sodden, muddy earth, up to our knees in the cold and wet… leering menacingly at the diehards that had clearly come hours before to stake out their ultiamte view point… and all the while trudging, breath held, camera at the ready to find THAT spot… that spot to watch the oncoming beast unhindered….

shivering from cold, exasperated by the nervous sweat one creates when anticipating such a tremendous occasion, i climbed my own little mound, held my breath and grasped my camera at the ready…

waiting….waiting….

then……

a distant rumbling… the hiss of steam, the cries of the whistle and the gasps of a field full of nerds and she bears upon us…

snapping madly like a japanese tourist at a koala park… i, like all the other nerds, am mesmerised by the excitement and grandeur of the oncoming steel beast as it chugs and puffs its way splendidly past….

and my only, albeit somewhat feeble, attempt to disguise my extreme dagginess in this whole sordid affair is the sheer fact that on top of my train spotting fetish this also makes me a BOOK NERD…. for as many of my fellow book nerds out there will no doubt recognise from the pics… that this sectacle is in fact the reknowned.. HOGWARTS EXPRESS….

enroute no doubt to more thrilling adventures in withcraft and wizardry… much like the adventures i’m sure, that lay before me…

hugs

l

hogwarts expressoops... im sidewayshanging with the locals

ooooh, one last thing i fogot to mention in my mad backdating of the world of laurieblog…..

mudfest 2008!

ok…. so REALLY it was called gatecrasher….

but after all the fun i had at armin (read that with  HEAVY DOSE OF SCEPTICISM) i decided to give the duf duf world a second chance…

and found myself attending a british “summer” festival called gatecrasher….

7 different stages and headline acts such as the prodigy…it couldnt be ALL bad right?????

WRONG!!!!!!!!

while pitching the tent in a promising display of sunlight…my hopes were raised….

but as night rolled in….so did the clouds…. and after the one and only performer i knew had finished (aka…said headline act) i, like all the other drunken crazies (who disturbingly were wearing a slightly disturbing array of tulle tutu’s and fluffy leg warmers (boys included!!) made my way to check out the dj’s going hard in the tents… under the cover of rainfall…..

duf duf till all hours of the morning… to emerge (feeling ashamedly underdressed) into more continued torrential rain….and the beginnings of tent city the quagmire.

feeling seedy i slept to the sounds of raindrops on my seemingly nonwaterproof tent in the daylight that is a u.k summers night….

this pleasant and good mood inducing experience was then amplified by a following 24 hours of continued rain… more unknown duf duf dj’s… an extraordinary lack of enthusiasm on my part and a bloody good case of the flu!!!!!

end result??? knee deep mud…a field of destroyed and deserted tents, 60,000 cold wet and tired party goers and the worlds biigets headache….

yep… summer in britain was celebrated just as it should be….

the man himselftrippy graveyard shot

hey crew….

well, where the time goes i will never figure out….

but at least after my 2 weeks of soul searching back in ireland i found a fitting end to break up the intensity…(p.s… thank you everyone soooooooo much for your love and support! **hugs**)

so what could possibly entertain this country girl when she find myself in the depths of the city walls of dublin???  but an all weekend-long footy comp….

33 teams… men, dancarub, footyshorts… occassional bursts of sunlight…. heck even some streakers!!!!!!

the only thing missing???? the girlfriends!!!!!! 

yes… i landed myself ringside as number one supporter of the sydney convicts as they contested the coveteted bingham cup in the GAY rugby world cup!!!!!!

what a ball!!!!!! i’ve never seen teams enjoy line outs so much in my life!!!!

an awesome competition all round!!!!!!

 and not only did i get to support my friend, develop a new passion for the sport, lose my voice screaming like a mad patrioticic aussie and have a damn good perve….. i even got to hang out with the WINNING team! woo hoo (go boys!!!)

anyways… tomorrow i head back to the land of pounds for a two week stint of scotland and surrounds…am sure there will be more antics on the way….

but in the meantime… i stopped by slane castle to get some extra support and travel banter from the man himself (st patrick of course!!!) so check out the latest in the batch of crazy laurie pics! hugs to all!

l

 

 

ok…. so have i roughly caught up on the last few weeks???

its all a blur…

but thank you to all the friends who’ve endured us as houseguests…

and all those we’re yet to visit…

all things going to plan…. after ireland… scotland might cop a look in…then maybe a sidetrip to russia…

fingers crossed!

huge hugs to all.

hope you’re well?

always.

l

feed italian pigeons...venicereflections of bordeauxtilt to the rightattend a festivalbig ben

after being inspired by the deck of lonely planet cards i have been travelling with for some time now… my trip to hungary was of course punctuated with a visit to the famous schenkiya (who knows how to spell it or say it??!) baths…

a stunning old bath house, utilising the naturally occuring marvelous warm springs set amidst the backdrop of a grogeous green park….

bliss….

and what better way to absorb the atmosphere as you watch little old men, already weathered by time wrinkle even further by participating in an extended game of within pool chess than to opt for a hungarian massage….

as you get taken into the private room with a rather camp..albeit undeniably cute, hungarian masseause…

as he pummels and stretches you…

deftly undoing your cossie top quicker than most men dream of in their fantasies

kneading the knots of your weary back….

bliss..

although i did start to wonder…was the backscratch at the end going to cost me extra?? hmmmmm….

the bathsbeautiful budapest

so it occurs to me…

whilst trapsing the tourist trail…. seing the sights amidst an army of other travellers each from their own corner of the world…. why cant we all speak the same language????

despite me crazy woman smiles and insistent hello’s… my greetings and meriment may just as well have fallen on deaf ears as bus after bus looked at me in confusion at the words i was born to learn

do you think when 2 dogs of a different breed bark that they dont undertand each other??? of course they do…

one might woof one might yap…but both know to waggle their tails and sniff butts….

if more people really learnt to listen to each other maybe we would finally be able to hear…

maybe all the world really needs is a little more barking and a pinch more butt shiffing and we’d all be able to stop pissing in each others territory….

just a thought anyways….

hugs

as days whiz by… and the travel scenes blur into one in my head – just like the rolling fields outside the window of my high speed train i feel the need to rewind and regale to you all just some of the beautiful places i have been blessed to see…behind the endless concrete and sandstone cities with their architecture so grand lies the hearts of the people and the countless strangers… who, unknowingly…stand in the background of my photos and feature in the snapshots of my mind

the french strawberry seller…so passionate and happy in his job, you cant help but want to buy the most tastiest strawberries from him, the israeli traveller, openminded to the world and forgiving despite the hardships he has faced, the cheeky street performer, making a living while living a life at the same time…

but beyond the heart of the cities and behind the people you might also lies the beauty of the land….

and here, i pay homage to the stunning Plitvice National park, CROATIA…

a true jewel in an industrial wasteland of a country in recovery…

from zagreb, a dusty urban sprawl to the turquoise waters of cascades and the lush green of forest… even within man’s darkest hours…his most merciless places we can find beauty… what an amazing planet we live in!!!!

so after a marathon effort to arrive there, destination plitvice was achieved… and greatfully so…

the rickety eastern european bus line, nor the argument with my companion over whose fault missing the bus really was can not dim the awe…

the ability of the tourist industry to charge exorbotent amounts for the priveledge of opening your eyesand seeing nature they didnt create couldnt even deter me…

nope… a truly stunning world…

as unsuspecting fish frolic in crystal clear waters oblivious of the glory of the waterfall crashing behind them…

as lizards scurry into bushes, just highlighting the beauty of the trees in which they reside…

and as the sun sparkles overheadleaving the world below like a glistening playground and kissing my pink nose.

yep.

life is good.

stunningplitvice

as i stand, transfixed, gazing at the ruins of the castle i once daydreamed was my own, i breathe in the freshest of air, tilt my head up to the sunshine and drink in the inner peace, my soul reminds me…. i am HOME.

perhaps not my house, not even the country to which i am tied or to which i am bound tomorrow.. but home in my heart. home in my soul.

i stand still in the field, knee deep in the softest of grass and watch as it dances and ripples in the breeze. i listen to the music it creates. each vibrant blade bowing like the waves of the ocean, glistening, reflecting the light…

the birds fly past me, oblivious to the moment i am having. they cry and call to each other – living their daily lives.. do they know who i am??? a lost soul returned to its place of being?? do they even notice me??

maybe here, i am so small i can not be seen??

i wish i understood what these feelings mean. i wosh i could hold onto them as i turn my back and walk away… back to life..back to the “real world” the reality i’ve created for myself and the fears and memories that enshroud it. i search for the path. but today. the light is out..

the roling hills of homekerry sunsetross castlecaherciveen castlecastle at ballinskelligscastle on inisheerthe burren dolmen

hey all….

and super huge apologies for the MASSIVE time delay in blog entries….where the time goes??? i have NO idea…. but alas, go it does…and thus, i find myself sitting in front of a computer for the first time in what feels like months and faced with the arduous task of reflecting upon which rock i have been hiding under for all this time…..

now, first things first…. i might start here with where i am at the present day…before venturing back through the annals of time and trying to recall the last few months travel….

and to understand the present day… i fear alas, some heavy duty stuff coming on….

so sit backon the comfy chair…grab your cuppa….you know the drill… (or heck…just forward to the next and hopefully more light hearted entries…up to you!)

as many of you already know (albeit, possibly not understand) Ireland is, was and always will be my “spiritual home” so the return to Ireland was therefore inevitable…

and while returning here brings with it the restoration of my natural inner peace, harmony and feeling of wholeness, this time it was frought with a deeper emotion…

the conincidence of this triumphant homecoming with the irreversible seperating of my past and the pain of heartbreak for a life that once was but could be no more brings with it the blood of raw wounds, the pain of a shattered heart, the cold slap of reality that life must move on now….

and hence, while i relish in the bliss that is the return to self i also struggle with the bitterness of this pain and work through the seemingly unconquerable task of finding “closure”

thus…any blog entries herein from my time in ireland are a profound exploration of the mental movements of one wayward traveller as she struggles to come to terms with a past tainted with bitterness and a future unknown yet at the same time relishes in the happiness of memories and soaks up the love of friends of a lifetime…

does it make sense? perhaps not…. but it does serve as a purge for the fizzing and bubbling of emotions that tingle inside….

so here i am…

some 8 years later…after first realising the dream of a lifetime… straddling the precipace of the time vortex that IS my schitzophrenic life…..

on one hand i face the future… the wall of not knowing that stretches forever… painted with the colours of excitement and possibility, yet behind me i yearn for the safety and beautiful familiarity of the life that has gone before…

so how is it these 2 walls have collided so spectacularly, leaving me trapped in the mental minefield of my head???

how is it…some 8 years on i still find myself inexplicably drawn to the “calling” of “home”.. the mystery and the passion that drove me here once, uprooted my life once, still burns inside me…and despite the timing… as i mourn my losses.. i am as stubborn and determined as ever to push the dream of possibility as far as it will stretch…

in 8 years past…so much has happned… and while it still tears me to do so i wish happiness on the keeper of memories past…

for me…

i am to wonder where the past has delivered me to? on a journey so real, so full, yet to land crashing back to the extact same spot where i started

a second chance perhaps??? a time to get it right? to see if i can finally find that thing that calls me here?  but is it right? am i still that fresh naive 21 year old radiating in the possibility of life or have the years taken there toll?? has cynicism, skepticism and caution crept too far in???

i straddle the vortex between myselves and i truly wonder upon which side i fall?

time will guide me and faith will catch me… it always has… but i alone drive the ship….

and this time…in the raw, facing the realities of me… tasting the bubbles of fear… realising fully the power…the passion that i possess…

perhaps my time here is a moment of clarity in a lifetime of confusion????

or a streak of confuson clouding my clarity and the path to tomorrow??

am i me today or me of yesterday??? do i turn left or right???

maybe the truth is i dont even need to know??? maybe there is no path?? no master plan??? maybe there is just being? just squeezing the juice out of life each day that we’re given??

so with that in mind i confront my fears… throw my broken heart, shattered plans and cynical doubts back at the ultimate wall as i face the place where dreams began…

time to begin a new adventure…

time to face a new tomorrow….

time to crawl back out of the bed of self pity that i’ve slept in so soundly and reface the outside world…

there are miracles out there.

there is beauty untold… there is hope and now is my turn to grab these gifts…

whatever is behind the door ahead i thank you all… for sharing the journey with me…

(and again aplogise both for the disappearance as i faced this task alone… and for your tolerance for reading my purge!!!)

enormous hugs…always.

l

venetian sunsetthe tower that leansrome rooftops

 

hey world… since i last wrote i have jetsetted far and wide across the european continent… with many a tale to regale… sadly… my computer looks like it is about to blow up…and the scary net cafe guy has just threatened to throw me out…. so i guess for now some dot points to remind me of all the things i need to make you entirely jealous of…. (oh and a quick hello… i am still alive!!!)

hugs.

l

* beautifu beautiful plitvice lakes in croatia (a far cry from cruddy crumbly old zagreb that one needs to access to get there!)

* magical mystical prague in the czech republic… with a sea of tiled roofs…

* stunning budapest with a neverending array of statues and the joy of thermal baths

* romantic italy…and gettng lost in venetian back alleys

 

* grand austria

gates to auschwitzthe wall

hey crew….

after an overnight extravaganza from amsterdam…

i arrived in berlin…to decide once and for all…that yep…other than the history…there really is NOTHING to see there!!!! by all accounts…a rather dull and plain city…

despite staying in the “eastern quarter” (just for the added dramatic effect!) berlin was decidedly…tame…

but am glad i saw the wall etc etc… and it sure was interesting to think that not that long ago this whole city was split into 2… and to stand in the “no mans land” that enticed so many in their quest for freedom

but for me…the greater joy of germany was the planning time it allowed that resulted in yesterday’s (somewhat chaotic) trip to poland..and most notably… auschwitz.

(it would seem i have developed a somewhat morbid fascination with death and destruction perhaps??)

but curiosity got the better of me and so it was…after an overnight train trip…i found myself standing on the rail lines that led millions to their death,

i stood staring at the death wall… where people were mercilessly executed…

what a surreal and morbid place…

as you walk around and piece together the stories you learned at school it just doesnt seem real…

maybe i am getting numb with old age… but standing there…looking at a never ending row of faces and names…all murdered in the most inhumane way all i feel is empty?

standing, staring at the 2000kg of human hair found at the scene… i just felt repulsion.

how can mankind do this to each other???

how can these things happen

and happen not that so far removed from my own lifetime….

how is such evil possible.. people remain ignorant…deny that it is out there…. and yet… inside each person is the capacity to love. to forgive.

what a weird world we live in..

that there can be soooo much beauty.

yet sooo much pain.

anyways…

my travels lead me further and further into the unknown…both of this world and of the unknown of myself….

after another overnight train trip (this time joined by “silent bob” who was wearing a hat he borrowed from the village people) i find myself thismorning in prague.

onwards and upwards hey.

hugs to all.

l

a quick one…after what has been a marathon blog catching up session i might say…but i figured, hey, while i am at it….

after the events of antwerp (yay armin) next step was holland

what a beautiful country..

first stop rotterdam, proved home to canals, houseboats and whacky whacky architecture (heck, the whole city was destroyed by ww2) and next stop (and a few nights well earned rest) amsterdam…

a crazy village where it seems anything goes…. but most notable…at this time of year… home to the most beautiful coloured landscape of flowers…that whisked by like rainbows from my train window…

amsterdam itself was another testiment to my mission to save money by walking..and again the poor old feet clocked up the k’s as i both checked out in mortified awe the girls that call the red light district suitable emploment (they seriously can’t all be legal age!!) the neverending labrynth of canals and the beautiful parks…full of people enjoying both a national holiday…and more importantly..the first real sun they have seen in months….

so after a few days in this blissful port…where to next for your intrepid adventurer???

well tomorrow i check out more of berlin….followed by a trip to krakow and auschwitz and thereafter adventure leads me to prague…

may the sun be shining on you wherever you are…

and remember…the only thing better than vegemite on toast is watching a foreigner try it for the first time!!!)

hugs and all that jazz.

l

the result of excessesthe red light districtbeautiful flowersa typical canal

ok…. so for some time now… some of my darling friends have questioned my taste in “music” (i stand by “dance” being a form of music!)… so this entry is dedicated espacially to them… (you know who you are!!!)

so after escaping the delightful and happening hot spot of dortmund…. my travels led me briefly thru the much more bearable cologne…and eventually onto the even more charming antwerp….

charming you say?? charming indeed…. belgium has the feel of one overseized country town after another…. the same ye olde architecture as germany…yet with a sudden mix of french (ooh lala)… and mixed up within all that… you have belgian waffles and chocolate…

so after a slight train hiccup and world war 3 over booking a hostel…. to belgium (and antwerp) we landed….

(so far no music i know) but you see…here is where it gets interesting…

the real question is….what the hell were we doing in belgium???? busting our guts, dealing with missed train connections, across country (other than to escape dortmund) to get to belgium and in all places antwerp?? the answer is simple…

“armin van buurren”

armin van buurren…. some dutch guy who plays duf duf music on late night internet radio broadcasts was declared dj of the year this year and my dear and darling travel companion (whose music taste can now officially be declared worse than mine!!!) decided he just HAD to go see his victory gig….

so imagine… surviving dortmund, escaping to cologne, walking about 10km a day (because i am too much of a tight arse to pay for local transport) dealing with missed train connections due to delayed services that may have resulted in not arriving and missing our pre-paid world war 3 inducing accommodation, finally arriving (albeit late) having had no time for lunch…let alone dinner… hauling your butt to some out of the way wharehouse come nightclub where you queue for 2 hours (in the sun!!??) with a bunch of pot smoking pre-teen trance addicts… to finally survive the crush to get inside…be forced to cloak your jacket (both revealing the fact that now the sun has set it is freezing and being a backpacker you clearly didnt think to pack appropriate night club / going out clothes) you sit thru about 5 other dj#s doing their sets…each slightly more whacky…less english speaking and possibily more spaced out than the last…

you smile politely as peoole apologise in (god knows what language) for spilling their beer down your top as they dance around like possessed zombies… your tummy is rumbling louder than the sub woofers that are threatening to burst your eardrum at any given moment…

and finally (at 1am….well past MY bedtime!!!) the man himself appears. (thank god he is good looking is all i can say)

2 hours standing there trying to look impressed and dance to the never ending set of duf duf to avoid being dragged up to dance by the slightly frisky and incredibly crazy dutch girl that appears to have taken some liking to pinching your butt if you stand still too long (despite by this stage being well and truly over it) and thank god at 3 am it is FINALLY all over….

you stumble…deafened, out into the FREEZING night air… eat about 3kg of chips with mayo (which you just KNOW will repeat on you tomorrow – but hey- you#re STARVING!) walk about 2km and finally fall into bed….

to all those i have dragged out against your will…i will declare this only once…. I AM SORRY!!!!

yet at the end of the day….do you know what… chalk it down to experience…i’d do it all again!

hey all…

after my feeble attampt at some bus poetry (yes, thank you mum for pointing out my ongoing inability to rhyme!!!= poets licence i say) i am alas at the end of my tour and back on my own 2 feet

(god how much quicker the money goes in this situation!)

also… on reading my poem aloud at the farewell dinner i take this moment to most humbly apologise for my EXTREME lack of spell check…

yes, the future education of australia#s youth is in such safe hands!!!!

anyways… this blog update about absolutely nothing is coming live to you from germany…

after arriving in dortmund airport from my 3.30 am flight and spending one full day there i can now safely declare that dortmund is in fact the arse end of the earth and takes the prize (jointly shared with some parts of our beloved canberra and adelaide – sorry) as most damn boring city on the face of the earth

none the less… i quickly escaped and now find myself in cologne….

germany has slightly redeemed itself

but next step tomorrow i trek to belgium to attend some concert of a dj i dont know who i fear plays extreme duf duf music

yep… life on the road continues to throw some interesting curve balls my way…

anyways… when time permits i am brewing up 2 more blog entires for you… one to recall anzac day… a truly amazing experience i recommend to you all…and the other a piece i wrote back in egypt… ill get round to typing it up…eventually…

in the meantime, hugs to all..

check out my facebook for more pics

may the sun smile on you wherever in the world you are

hugs

l

 

hey guys…

a bit of a heavy one…

i apologise….

but this was penned on the road sometime last week… and seeing as this is MY BLOG i can write what i want to right_

anyways… i entitle this one

Äthe spark oflifeÄ

i felt it.

just a flicker + just for a second… but it äs warm glow is unmistakable. the shining light that warms from within and bubbles till it could burst the seams…

i häve missed it. i wish i could have held onto those few seconds…to drink life once more and feel itäs glow shimmer and warm me.

the spark ispassion. itäs that inner peace when your world isnt bound by shackles or pushed by the forces of others. its the moment of realisation that you truly are at peace with you. the inkling of happiness of the freedomsof childhood often forgotten in our adultlife.

it is the smell, the sound, the spirt of freedom

and it is what i eternally search for. it is why i travel….

forme travl allows me a gateway tothis freedom. the very essence of me that sooften gets lost or clouded by the material world which i am usually so selfishly, so heartlessly sotightly bound.

instead, today, just for a second, my spirit was freed from itäs shakles and icould truly feel the wind in my hair and the sun warm my face. i could taste pure happiness, taste freedom, and i adored it. just for a second i let the bubbles pop and fizz inside me.

iäve missed this feeling. i crave itlike some out of control drug and it is thislonging,this desire,this need for these moments of truth that drives me to push myself further intothe unknown.

for those of you never to have felt it, to realise it, even for a moment, the power and glory that is true happiness i urge youto seek it.

for those of you blessed enough to live in it, bask in it.. to have found their path and feel content to walk it + i urge you to cherish it. never let go of the gift youäve been given nd be greatful…

and for those of you still searching, longing, craving… i assure you those fleetingmoments, that warming from head to toe are worth the fight…

never give up on the quest. life is full of passion… even when we are blinded it survives…. just hidden sometimes in the day to day mundane and in the meantime as we search for it+ while we trek on like lifeless souls weäre given the greatest gift of all to get through these dark days..

the gift of friendship and emotion to experience it.

so toall of you…. whoäve sailed through my life… no matter on a long voyage or a fleeting visit… i thank you.

i thank you for your support for your love and for your light.

for supporting me through theselast few dark, confusing and lonely years and for continuing to support me as i search once more formy light switch into tomorrow…

stay well.

always.

laurie