It’s been exactly a month since I uploaded my last blog, another month of adventure, travel and not working. I didn’t realise this until I checked my last blog to see where I’d left you and saw the date of it. Time flies when you are having month and last month was definitely one I would love to be able to re-live, but how often I find myself saying that. This time last year I was still in Australia, so it’s been a busy year in general. I’ve quite literally crossed Europe in the past four weeks, meeting various friends from around the globe in cities and towns, a fantastic way to travel and one that lets you kind of just relax and enjoy it, rather than constantly having to be sorting hostels and what you’ll do in each location.
I started off a month ago re-uniting with Georgie, who I’d spent the summer teaching with. Neither of us had visited Venice during our Italian travels, so it was quite a biggie to tick off the list. Unfortunately for us everyone wants to go to Venice so staying there was out our price range. We found a town branded the ‘mini-Venice’ called Chioggia an hours South of Venice and we’d booked an airbnb there for a few days. Google maps said the town was pretty much unreachable, but I was introduced to rome2rio that outdoes google in its travel knowledge and had us to Chioggia smoothly to our fab apartment a couple of minutes from the beach.
Chioggia is a lovely little town, the architecture is typically Italian and the canals through the town centre are very pretty. It was worthy of spending a day exploring it and the rickety bikes that came with our apartment made cruising along the beachfront good fun. We were determined that summer wasn’t over yet so went down to the now nearly deserted beach to sunbathe as the tractors cleared the beaches of all the bars’ deckchairs, just a handful of nona’s also soaking up what was left of the sun. I went for a very quick dip in the sea, nothing like the hours we spent snorkeling down in Salento a couple of months prior.
Our full day’s trip into Venice was majestic. We got up early and caught the direct ferry up the Laguna Veneta dropping us ashore by San Marco’s square. We spent over 12 hours wandering Venice, seeing the sights of the ostentatious Basilica – the interiors all clad in gold – the square itself and heading up the tower for sites over the city. I hadn’t realised the extent of the canal system in Venice, I’d known it had canals, but it has literally hundreds, with countless bridges to cross and seemingly more dead ends where the twisting path would end in water. The damage that Venice is suffering from its waterways was also evident with sinking floors and raised temporary walkways quickly placed out when the entrance to the Basilica got flooded.
Wandering the narrow back alleyways was, as usual, my favourite thing to do, finding little hidden bars for aperitivo and the deserted waterways devoid of the tourists. The grand canal was impressive though and we had an entertaining time sat on the end of a pier as the big gondolas went buy, an Italian man singing to the lanyard-ed herds of tour groups. We stayed into the evening to see the square at night as the bands came out to perform to the now dwindling numbers of tourists. We were catching a direct bus back to Chioggia in the evening, but our days meandering meant we were a bit off with our timings and actually being able to find our way round, so a last minute sprint through the canal-ways luckily had us on our bus just in time albeit slightly sweaty.
So a fantastic start to my holiday, yet as with all my fantastic re-unions there is the inevitable sad goodbye as Georgie and I parted ways, myself just across the country to Milan and her the rather longer journey back to the wilderness of Africa.
I say Milan, but really I was headed to Gavirate, to Gaz’s house, so into Milan then back out the otherside for an hour or so. Gaz unfortunately was in London working, but his sister Shaz who I have met on many occasions was there along with her friend Rod for the week. I had the luxury of being collected from the train station and Shaz’s dad had one of his famous curry’s bubbling away when we got in followed by a rather heavy cocktail session that meant it was definitely a sleep in morning the next day. Turns out Gareth has been a rubbish tour guide on my previous visits, so we checked out all the main sites over the following week. The churches, lakes, islands and neighboring towns. In typical Italian fashion we ate very well, with some of the best ribs I’ve had at a local brewery. We also did a day trip with her family and friends up into Switzerland, heading up a funicular for views over the lakes and heading to Lugano.
I also finally got to check out Expo! Something that’s been on my list all summer, I’ve just never been close enough. I got there fairly early with a semi plan of attack to try and avoid the worst of the queues. I managed to get into nearly all of the big countries that I wanted to see, although I still had to queue probably about 5 hours throughout the day, I’d have hated to see the place on a weekend in August! It was all very impressive, but I was very aware it was basically a huge propaganda scheme for each country, trying to boost tourism and show how good they were.
My final stop in Italy saw me heading over to Turin to see my host family that I first stayed with in my first year and have seen every subsequent visit to Italy. Their kids are hardly kids any more, aged 17 and 15, so seeing them all grown up is fantastic. They were as hilarious as ever, still not letting up on my terrible Italian, and now with the addition of a puppy who terrorises the cats and your legs at the dinner table. We had a fantastic re-union weekend playing some football, checking out a nearby town, getting some great pizza and one of the largest BBQed meat servings I’ve had. It was just a weekend visit as everyone was back at work and school, but lovely to see them and keep in touch over all these years.
I departed early Monday morning with Simone on his train into Turin for school, for my epic 26 hour journey across Europe to Hamburg, north Germany. Plane tickets had all been very expensive, and as I wasn’t in a rush I was coaching it across the 1200km of land. It wasn’t exactly a fun journey, but it was very smooth and clean, although the coach never stopped for more than five minutes and I hadn’t brought snacks so I arrived fairly famished. I was met at the coach terminal by Julia, who I had met a couple of times in China, as she was studying her masters in Hamburg.
Hamburg is a beautiful city, centered around the Alster, with lots of beautiful architecture and large sweeping streets. I spent the first day being shown the main sites of the city and its different districts. I was pretty zonked out from the travel so it was a very relaxing day. Julia had university ongoing, so I had most of my mornings free to explore the city or head for a run around Alster lake. We checked out the tourist sites of Hamburg something Julia hadn’t actually done, which I find is pretty common when you live somewhere. The top site to see is the miniature wonderland, which was actually very impressive, followed by the large Planten un Blomen where I beat pro Julia at mini-golf. Hamburg’s central tower gave nice views out over the city and its large central shipping area, which looked cool in the evening.
Whilst we were staying in Xi’an we had a rooftop table tennis setup that we spent a couple of mornings playing, Julia had found a nearby park with a table, so we headed out there to continue our competition, she’s going to get some practice in before our next meet up! We also played some laser tag with a group of Julia’s friends, which was great fun, and shows we’re not boring adults quite yet.
We were incredibly lucky with the weather, 6 days of sun and fairly warm October temperatures, especially lucky for me as I still only had summer clothing in my rucksack. It meant we had two trips out to the beach, one a developed beach alongside the river in a very cool district of the city and another a a drive up to Germany’s North coast. It was a jumpers and mulled wine kind of visit to the beach, swimming no longer on the cards.
Hamburg is also renowned for its nightlife so we went out on Friday to the strip, (I’ve forgotten what the road is called, but its famous in Germany), it was a great night and I didn’t even feel too rough the next day. The food was also a very welcome change from Italy, some pub food, German wurstel and my first Sushi since Japan – very Westernised, but still very tasty.
I landed back into York last week after a fourth sad goodbye in the space of a month; travelling can take it out of you. I’ve had a busy week here sorting out life admin that has been piling up in the past two years, I landed in England without a single working credit card as they’re all out of date and the student loan company wanting to know when I’ll start giving them money (not yet sorry). I managed to get in a few catch-ups with most people in York heading out for a few dinners and cleared out a load of my stored items that I’ll never really look at again. After looking at things that have been sat in a box for two years it’s much easier to decide what you actually want to keep.
I jumped on the jobs market to find something to keep me busy until Christmas, so this afternoon I’m flying out to Spain, to a town call Aranda de Duero, about 90 minutes North of Madrid. Going to be teaching at a private academy everything from six year olds to adult lessons, with my first lesson tomorrow afternoon, so going to have to figure out their syllabus pretty instantly! Spain has couple of public holidays coming up in November and December so already trying to plan some mini-trips to explore a country I haven’t really seen properly. I’ll be back in the UK for Christmas and New Years, so not gone for long and next time I’ll make it down to London to see everyone down there.
Ciao for now, or I guess I should probably say Adiós. (I know basically zero Spanish).