Archive for the ‘General Mess’ Category

The Top 5 Ways to Visit Tourist Cities and Not Look Like a Helpless Tourist.

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

What’s a backpacker to do if he/she wants to keep up appearances besides not washing properly and hefting about oppressively large packs? To most there’s nothing worse than coming across like a wide eyed dolt that seems to scream “rip me off.” Others fit this niche naturally. So, to not not look like the guy that you pity at the train station that’s being told the wrong directions, heed these basic rules.

1.  Pack Like You Have a High IQ

Creature comforts are not as comfortable when you have to hump them across large stretches of the city you are in. There’s nothing in error about bringing a small rolling suitcase as long as it doesn’t weigh 50kg; it can save you time in airports and train stations while on the move. The true traveler will do laundry on the road. This lack of clothing keeps more room in baggage for toiletries and souvenirs. Carrying a huge, nearly bursting pack meant for camping puts you into a special category for those that see you, and it isn’t a positive one.

2.  Have A Travel Theme

Whether it be beach, mountain, food, scenic spots, tourist traps or lingerie shops, having an idea as to what you want to do helps you stay on the move and motivated. If you don’t enjoy sitting in cafes and drinking overpriced coffee in your hometown, why do it abroad? Many that end up this way do so because they lacked perspective before buying their plane ticket. Maintain your discipline and keep hitting out for your theme. Don’t drop into lost traveler oblivion just drinking and waiting for the date on your return ticket.

3. Pick Up Take Out Pizza

Unless you have serious dough to burn, always playing around in fine dining establishments will puncture your budget almost as fast as a pick pocket lifting your wallet. Every now and again, check the nearby fast food establishments. There’s a good chance you could meet some locals and they could direct you to authentic native fare at better prices. There’s no reason to pay for your foi gras at three times the cost. The locals don’t do it, so why should you? Locals also eat burgers and pizza, so why can’t you?

4. The Internet Is More Than Facebook (wechat/QQ for Chinese)

Before even considering going for a trip, do research. The days of sitting in non-AC common rooms and scouring maps and stained travel guides in backpacker slums are over; some miss those hallowed times. Slept in enough airports and train stations, thanks. There are hundreds of free sites and apps available with all the info needed to have an enjoyable experience just about anywhere in the world. Lonely Planet’s Thorntree forums still rocks out as being the one of the  most widely frequented sites for info. Registration is free. Another good place to search are ESL forums. Teachers often will set up shop in foreign countries for years and hold info abounds about the places you go; that is, if they aren’t too jaded to talk to you.

5. A SIM Card Could Be Your God

Don’t be the guy wandering in circles, map with in hand but somehow still going the wrong direction. Google Maps. No need to say much else about it. If you don’t know the power of GM, stay home. Most countries, besides the stupid USA, have multiple phone carriers competing for all different markets and demographics carrying all sorts of mobile phones. There are usually traveler packages available from a few days to a month. See #4 and do some research or ask in the place you stay. Everyone wants to save some cash on their phone bill and most will be happy to share the info.

More Purple Villages.

Friday, July 31st, 2015

The final outing in France was a bit of a village hop to visit more old Roman stuff with a foot slightly in and out of the tourist track. Also saw the Palace of the (corrupt French) Popes in Avignon. Any of these small towns would prove to be a quiet respite away from the larger cities in Provence. Fontaine de Vaucluse is a water town with an old Roman aqueduct and some impressively clear streams running from springs up the nearby mountains. Taking a half gallon in slugs from the drinking fountain near the bridge refreshes.  

The crazy 70 degree village of Gordes.

Up another crazy mountainous stretch the vertical village of Gordes is an impressive day trip or photo op. We spent some time checking out the 12th century Cistercian Senanque Abbey in a hidden valley. Unfornuately sans car, it’s impossible to navigate the public transit to these places.

Nearby here in Arles is where Van Gogh got crazy about sunflowers if you are interested.

The next day was the train to Barcelona. If you get stuck in Nimes for a few hours changing trains, look for Le Resto to grab a well prepared meal. The plate of the day is usually 11 or 12 euros.

Been in Spain a week or more already, need to get cracking.

Missed Purple.

Friday, July 31st, 2015

Avignon has no professional anything team or any particular facility to actually do sports that I saw, unless cigarettes with espresso are considered competitive. Though, the unofficial mascot of Provence should be a sprig of lavender with wimpy appendages and bug-eyes. The entire province is dotted with Roman constructed leftovers, reconstituted to ten-euro general places of disinterest with roped off entryways. History buffs must grimace at each site, having to drop coin to see an empty building with no ancient or even faux adornment. Again, get the audio guide or you will be staring at age sans understanding.

Greed from tourist cash has a grip on this place. There’s no “local produce” besides veggies and fruits by the motorways.

The public transport situation was a bit dire, so driving opened the small villages for spectation. My recollections here will be mainly mini cars, the type you can see Magnus bench pressing on the World’s Strongest Man series, wrenching around hideous curves at 90km/h. After a day of riding the break, white knuckled, I was also up to caliber and silently cursing the impotents in the way. The first stage of the caravan journey terminated at Valensole for some hours, the hometown of lavender that has since turned to a photo op town for tourists. At the Brasserie with the fewest diners, I tried the canard with honey and lavender sauce and some rustic sausage – both regional specialities I since learned. Tasty table wine.

It’s quaint and silent besides the Apple/Samsung default shutter noises; less and less cameras now. The selfsame purple buds dried and picked for oils, soaps, shampoos or whatever a month or more gone. Water’s pure enough to drink from the old pubic fountain. Ancient? When does an edifice attain that title? It had to be a few centuries at least.

The puny motor screaming up 60 degree inclined curves, seeing the cloudless blue diagonally above and through the windshield sometimes doubled my BP. Precipice to the right and rock face and other minis blurring past at the left should discount those that lack sternness or with aortic disorder from  

Which is bluer, the sky or the water?

even attempting this climb. Over the breech, Tarheel blue looked down shocked at the Lac de Sainte-Croix (lake) that rivaled even its boundless azure. It’s a 2-hour drive without regret to swim and just look on silently. After a period of the mid-afternoon sun in the water, it was the same roads back to the walled Avignon.

In the old city area, vagrancy is an issue and Meth by the looks of their grins. The homeless beggars sleeping behind buildings are all accompanied by dogs whose function are unapparent. They roam the Main Street, sitting astride banisters and reclining in arched doorways out of the sun. Are they failed actors on the famed Provence festival circuit or unable to seek out work? Drunken gangs of “punks” (I saw more than one mohawk) and motor scooters sans mufflers create a clamor that reverberates from wall to wall on the small streets makes sleeping with open windows unfortunately impossible. I can’t say I have the best impression of this place.

You won’t see the purple unless you come before July.

Côte d’zur.

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

I’m not trying to be fancy, it just simply means “the blue coast.” For years it’s been famed for being THE place for uppity, European aristocrats to sunbathe in thongs and moor their yachts while drowning in champagne. It seems the masses have wedged themselves in between that tired Hollywood cliche and how the rest of the world travels: economy class and train. The remainder of us can see through the looking glass into their gated communities, 5* hotels and their huge boats gleaming in contrast with the endless blue. They are probably drinking the same cheap wine like everyone else; it’s that good.

The area around Cannes, Montecarlo, Nice, Antibes, and Villefranche are all lined with water bluer than toilet cleaner. The Mediterranean seems twice as salty as the Atlantic so only a fool could possibly drown. It’s best to spend as much time doing aquatic activities as possible and doing shutterbug activities involving the water as the other “sites” seem  

The hidden cove I swam.

 slammed with tourists and not really worth it. After visiting Grasse, I felt like an absolute failure. Keep in mind that on Sunday as well as Monday in France, hardly anyone works. Wait, it’s just in Asia where Sunday isn’t revered as some special day. Been away from civilization too long and worked on so many Sunday’s, it’s chipped away at my humanity.

Grasse could have been a odoriferous day trip as it’s famed for being the birthplace of the perfume industry, and that’s an important distinction. Whereas the other ancient areas of the world used colognes for culture and goD, the French were some of the first to sell it and get rich. They followed the trends and the pop culture through the centuries like David Bowie changed his sound to fit the decade. I learned that Chanel #5’s bottle design was special for being ordinary and out of the bombastic trend of the day. Hindsight, didn’t feel it was really worth it to bus/train back and forth to this place to visit a museum with broken exhibits; it all seemed half-assed and a theft of 6 euros. Wikipedia has better info.

Nice is nice. Just stay here the whole time and eat sandwiches and take out pizza. The Metroprix had choices a gourmand would nod at with a shaking triple chin. Do cook if you have the facility. About 80% of the restaurants here are disposable and are looking for the single serving diner. In the middle of the “ancient area” mess is an oyster shack called Au Posiedon. It’s much better than Cafe du Turin on the main drag and has nearly the same selection of fresh shellfish. Even with no French, they are happy to help and the service is no nonsense and prompt! As for the pizza, straight down from Place Garibaldi and around a corner near Le Port Is a joint by the name Pizza Snacks. Really, no other ad. You can get a margarita pizza for like 8 euro which may come as a welcome change from mini serving sizes on huge plates.

As for the water, walk down to the port, hang a left and make your way around the rue in the opposite direction of the famous beach area. About half a  kilometer up the road, you’ll see several small shoals below with people sunbathing and swimming. These are the places the locals and other European frequenters relax. The beach area for tourists is also beautiful but rife with scammers and thieves.

I will absolutely come again and next time spend 2 weeks.