Six weeks in this old land taught me a whole bunch of well good bollocks.
1. English pubs are the safest place ever.
As we’ve all learned from watching a bit of Rovers Return action on Coro St, visiting the pub at any time of any day is status quo in the Land of Eng.
Nice evening tipple – of course! Afternoon sip in the sunshine – lovely. Little taste with lunch – mmmmm! Beer for breakfast – why not?
Not only this, but the pub is a top notch spot for sports game viewing, bar fight viewing, newspaper reading and it’s also the safest place on the planet.
Rain – go to the pub! Flooding – go to the pub! Death of Queen (God forbid) – go to the pub! Ran out of sugar for your tea – go to the pub!
There is also, conveniently, a pub located on every corner, a man with a dog on at least one bar stool and with all the miserable sods on the rainy streets of England – there’s always a cheery face guaranteed in every dark and dingy dive.
Safety in numbers, they say. Safety in Bulmers, the English say.
2. Public transport is bad for the soul but good for the mind.
I grew up in a small town with a population of about 5000, where walking 10 minutes to school every morning was the longest walk eeeeeever, and if Mum didn’t come and pick us up when it rained then she’d better have a damn good excuse.
Well now, there was no Mummy mobile to whip us around the streets of Europe, so public transport was a fun new thing for me.
Walking into the London Underground system and a stampede of briefcases for the first time was pretty overwhelming. Everyone seems to know where they’re going before they arrive and I had no idea where I was even headed, let alone which colour line I was meant to follow.
But turns out it’s pretty simple. By the end of the trip I actually enjoyed figuring out the puzzle of the Underground, and the Paris Metro with fun French names and glamourous French peeps.
My top tips:
– Remember the maps aren’t to scale.
– If you hear the train coming – run (towards the sound, not away from it… unless you’re on the tracks…).
– Squish on – there’s always room for one more. Nothing like having your nose in a homeless accordion player’s armpit while he sings and then promptly asks for money.
– Count your stops and pay attention or you’ll end up missing out on seeing the Vatican in Rome like we did. Boo.
– Don’t “accidentally” sit in First Class. Unless you can get away with it. Because you’re adorable. Like me.
– And finally, smile because it pisses all of the grouchy commuters right off. Huzzah!
3. Italians say it better.
So I heard that Italian men were rated the second worst lovers in the world (I have no firm reference for this fact, but apparently the worst lover was a bloke called Roy).
But ya know what – I’ll let an Italian man charm me any day. It’s just not the same when a good ole Aussie bloke tries to tell you: ‘you’re pretty hot, mate’, as opposed to ‘Ciao bella, bellisimo!’ followed by glorious and adorable attempts to tell you you’re beautiful in English.
I had hundreds of kisses blown in my direction, thousands of admirers, millions of compliments, billions of ‘ti amo’ declarations and even a marriage proposal.
Our lovely Venetian gondola driver said to me: “You are so beautiful-eh, I have seen Angelina Jolie-eh from one metre away and trusta me, you are ten times more beautiful-eh. I likea my women witha more meat on the bones-eh…this is the church where we will get married”.
Cue: blushing uncontrollably. I don’t mind if they’re all talk/crap action, because they really do just say it better.
4. Pack light, pack schmight.
Every day before we kicked off our sightseeing/partying/pizza-eating I went through my handbag and tried to lighten it up a bit. I need my wallet. I need my camera. I need my phone. I need my phone charger. I need my plug adaptor. I need my language guide. I need my tissues. I need my snacks. I need my Viewmaster. It was almost impossible to get rid of things.
Every packing article I read before I left (Yes, I needed to know exactly how many pairs of underwear and socks to bring. I like to do my research) told me to pack light. Well I tried, and so should you if you ever go adventuring. But some things I would definitely recommend keeping with you are decent walking shoes, hand sanitizer, snacks, and a cheese knife. You never know when you’re going to need a cheese knife – that’s what I always say.
5. Jesus doesn’t love everyone.
The Sacre Coeur in Paris is probably one of the most stunning buildings I’ve actually ever seen. While the Eiffel Tower is the icon of Paris, it’s got nothing on this pretty religious palace. So after climbing up about 5000 steps to get to the entrance I was even more excited to have a look inside.
Lined up for a good 15-20 minutes. Paid a healthy “donation” of 2 Euros to the “lovely gentlemen” at the door. Wandered in with the rest of the crowd, only to be abruptly pulled aside by some frightening little Parisian lady saying something in French and looking at me with disgust.
She pointed to my shorts and then turned me around and pushed me back out the door. I sat on the steps outside with other short-wearers wondering what the eff just went on. Pretty sure the J-man must have buzzed her walkie talkie to warn of impending visit from a sinful Kiwi girl. Didn’t wanna see your church anyway so nerrr.
6. Spaniards love to argue, Americans have a bad rep for a reason and Aussies are still idiots.
Sweeping generalisation right here. But hot tip: Don’t touch the fruit in a Spanish supermarket without wearing a glove. Unless you want to start a fight that you can’t understand.
We learnt rather quickly while wandering around Palma de Majorca that the ole Spanish peeps don’t take too kindly to having your grubby mitts feeling up all their melons. Nor do they like it when you unintentionally take their place in the boarding line for your flight.
After making this silly mistake we were hit with a slew of horrid Spanish shouting – more than likely swearing.
My response: “Cool story bro”… that’ll teach them.
Speaking of teaching foreigners lessons, I recall an American lady at the back of the check-in line, suddenly appearing at the front.
Me: “How did you get up here so fast?”…
Crazy American: “Oh ya know, I just pushed in front of everyone and when they yelled at me I just pretended I couldn’t understand them.”
My response: “And that is exactly why Americans have such a terrible reputation.” Like a boss.
And finally, my fellow Aussies – here is why you also don’t have a wonderful rep…
Party night in Venice. Great time speaking Italian and French to all my new pals. And hot Italian babes.
An Aussie creeper commands my attention.
Creeper: “Hey, where are you from?”.
Me (in best French accent): “Parlez-vous Francais?”.
Creeper: “Do you speak English?”.
Me: “Non. Pardon. Parlez-vous Francais?”.
Creeper: “No, sorry.”
Me: (shrug of shoulders, apologetic look).
Creeper: “Wanna fuck?”.
Well, he knew I could speak English after that! Bloody Aussies.
7. Watch out for boobs!
They’re everywhere! In all my extensive planning I somehow forgot to remember that Spanish peeps – or old British ladies on holiday – are quite partial to letting their lady lumps out for Big Yellow on the beaches of Majorca. I can’t say I fancy myself as much of a boob connoisseur but some of them were pretty alright, most of them were probably alright about 20 years ago. I wanted to experience as many new things as possible while overseas, but I think seeing pasty white grandmas and their jingle bobs hanging round down their hips was enough to keep my precious bon bons all wrapped up forever.
8. Beggars can be choosers.
Enjoying a delicious crepe on the streets of Paris. Mmm chocolately, creamy goodness. A homeless man approaches us asking for money.
My friend: “What do you need?”.
Homeless dude: “I’m hungry, I want some food.”
Friend: “Ok well you can have this if you want” (offers crepe).
HD: “No, I need money, I want Greek food” (walks away).
So yes. Beggars can indeed be choosers.
9. Nightseeing and aircon is where it’s at homies.
If you’re a whinger like me then don’t choose the cheap accommodation just to save money. For the love of the Pope – choose aircon! (Although I will note one of the best nights we had was in a scungy hostel in Venice – pistachio eating races anyone? All you can drink sangria? Passing out on the common area couch? Fantistico!)
Also, nightseeing in Italy was awesome. Less peeps, less hot and more crazies wandering around. Just make sure you’ve got a decent camera. And pepper spray, maybe.
10. I can live without technology. Sort of.
Apparently you learn things about yourself while travelling. Well I learnt that I am Generation Y through and through.
I suffered majorly without internet access through most of Europe. A backpacker’s budget doesn’t allow for a lot of phone credit and although the toss-up between eating and Facebooking was tough – pizza and pastries won (my waistline didn’t). So there was a lot of actual, real-life, techno-free, manual navigation going on.
Trying to read foreign street names and tiny maps while traipsing the streets late at night while carrying all my worldly possessions on my back was an experience to say the least.
We spent about three hours wandering around the crazy streets and alleyways of Venice. Lost, but also exploring. Every corner we walked around I said: “We’ve been here before!”. We hadn’t.
As I didn’t have my Italian language book with me I had a brainwave to show a man on the street a photo of the Rialto Bridge that I’d taken earlier in the day. He pointed us in the right direction and by the time we got back to our hostel I reckon we’d probably walked about 10km that day. In conclusion, Google Maps is for sissys.
11. The Mona Lisa – I’ve seen better. In the mirror. Boom!
As I’ve often been called Moaner Lisa throughout my bitchin’ and moanin’ lifetime, I was particularly excited to visit the Louvre in Paris and see my namesake painting, the Mona Lisa.
First impression: The actual painting itself was surprisingly a lot smaller than I imagined.
Second: I’m the prettier one. Mainly due to my eyebrow maintenance.
But the coolest part was the ridiculous amount of people bustling to get closer to her.
Also, I highly recommend the Louvre’s Roman statue area – it’s a right willy-fest in there. I’m sure no man alive has had so many women posing for photos beside their penis.