Flat trip – to PARIS!!?

What’s the best thing about living in Europe?? Easy. The weekend trips!!

Flat mate Paul was ever so kind to hook us up with £60 return train tickets from London to Paris. Sadly the UK went full retard and BREXIT happened. Paul worked for Virgin Money so with a very unpredictable weekend ahead for the world of finance, he was called in to work for the weekend.

However the trip will go on. I cracked right into it by getting to London early on Friday afternoon and meeting my buddy, Richard, at the pub for a few beers. We then all had the same idea with smuggling liquor onto the train. My first highlight of the ride was when the train took off and Heather cheered. Who cheers when a train takes off? The token Australian who’s already tipsy on the train, that’s who.

We may have a bit too much fun on the train. Disembarking in Paris, we got lectured by someone that “this is not a school trip”. Right they were.

The gang: Myself, Heather, Frida (flatmate), Derek, Valentine, Katie (flatmate) and Sami (flatmate).

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Ireland road trip

Alright so we’re going back to May 29, 2016 now… I’m going to try get caught up on these! I’ve got to be real with you though. I slipped up on my usual note taking of this trip, so I’ll be telling it more through photos, as my memory is a tad rusty.

This is the story of Mum, Dad, Hrefna and my trip round Ireland. I made this dorky little map to illustrate it while Hrenfa and I waited for the parents to fly into Cork airport in the south of Ireland.

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There we are by the crazy viking in the south. Over the next week we’ll make our way in a rental car right round the coast, and back to Dublin

It’s funny, I feel Ireland was the country I’d heard the names of all the famous sites, but would fail to match the names to the actual image of what these are, or even know that they were in Ireland. With Mum doing 99% of the planning, much of what we saw was a surprise for me. Which was great, as usually I’m google image searching every detail of a place before visiting. The first stop was the Blarney stone. I had definitely heard this name before, but had no idea that it was at the top of Blarney castle, or gave you the gift of the gab by leaning out upside down and kissing it. Now we both know this!

There it is, Blarney Castle. Looked up from where various unsuccessful attackers would’ve stood.

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…and from the other side, you can see the Blarney Stone, with the steel struts around it. This guy is about to lie down, facing skywards, and kiss it.

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Interesting garden plants at Blarney

So the 1% of the planning that I took ownership of, was a major pop culture element. Game of Thrones film sets! Which we just so happened to find in the North, at the end of our story.

We stayed our first night in Killarney. First thing I spotted on the way in was an advert for an Irish craft beer festival. An hour or two later we were at said beer festival. We were reasonably well behaved, but I didn’t volunteer for first drive the next day. What a drive it was though! We did the ring of Kerry. Winding through the stunning southern Ireland coast line.

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You can probably guess which one Mum, Dad, Hrefna and I are. 

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Old York road trip

The morning after my 28th birthday party I was terribly hungover. Surprise! My parents have flown over to the UK from NZ and are doing a very cool road trip right around the UK in a mini cooper convoy with other couples from NZ. Hrefna and I caught a train to York from Cambridge to join them over a three day trip from York to Cambridge. Hrenfa was in even worse a state than I was, a great state for meeting the parents!

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My parents, myself and Hrefna

 

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33 hours in mainland Europe

Wow, most intense trip ever? Sleep got almost completely ignored from a whirlwind trip to Amsterdam via Bruges. We explored and partied like it was our last few days in this world.

We booked a cheap return trip on the euro tunnel. For some reason it’s a lot cheaper if you return within two days. So we planned to head over first thing Saturday morning, 1.30am, (I wasn’t kidding when i said first thing), and return late Sunday, 7pm. The euro tunnel is very cool. You drive through onto a train. Park up. Wait 45 minutes, then drive off and tada. You’re in France!

We got to the euro tunnel nice and early and were in the que to drive on. At this stage everything was already in French, even though we were still on England side. So it took us a while to realise, but we ended up missing our train by only one car! The next train wasn’t until 2.45am… So Hazel chucked on a podcast about sex and such, and we waited for our train.

Our train took us to France and our car pilot, Thomas, drove us into Bruges. Successfully staying awake and pulling up to our hostel at 6am. There had been much discussion about just sleeping in the car, or skipping Bruges and driving the whole way to Amsterdam. However I’m glad my insistence eventually won, because that Bruges hostel bed was a beautiful sight.

Checkout was 10am and we wanted to capitalise on the free breakfast. So that left us with about 3 hours of quality sleep time in Belgium. We invested the next few hours aimlessly wondering around Bruges. Definitely could’ve done that city better, but at least we know what it looks like through blurry eyes. We did manage to find a pub with 700 beers.

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The team. From left to right: Thomas, Sami, myself and Hazel.

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Hiking and Hangovers – episode #1 – Cinque Terre

I created a Facebook group for friends who are passionate about both drinking and hiking. It’s part of my new years resolution to not be a sack of shit after a night out, and actually get up and get busy. Which is probably the best hangover cure anyway.

For our first trip we headed to the Cinque Terre in Italy. Which, in short, is five small historic towns dotted amongst cliffs along the Italian coast. There’s five towns with a 1.5-2.5 walk between each. There’s also a train that runs through the cliffs linking them all together. Perfect setting for low commitment, yet beautiful, hiking.

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Looking down on Vernazza

We got in at a reasonable 6pm after re-familiarising ourselves with the difficulties of non-English speaking train travel and my questionable short cuts to save a few euros on trains. We stayed at a sweet air bnb in Monterosso. We got straight to work on working up a nice hangover for the next days hiking. Although it was a Saturday night, it wasn’t quite peak season, and this area is still not known for its nightlife even in the high season. Yet we found some cool people and ended up drinking on a rooftop with some Americans after all the bars closed at 1 or 2am.

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I don’t think anyone recalls this Polaroid being taken…

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Old mates doing pretty well to lift that. Especially with no arms.

We all got back at different times, last of whom were Simon and Casey. Casey didn’t quite make it back incident-free. He ended up in the ocean. With his phone in his pocket. After a routine boat-dock jump went sour. He also became the second person I needed to support financially after getting a £300 fine from transport for London. It sounds like his rental Boris bike didn’t correctly dock back into the station and he’d been charged for the bike. The other guy I was supporting was old mate, Simon. He’d lost his wallet for the hundredth time the night before the trip.

Day #1. The hiking commences! Bright and early at 12.30pm on the dot. We took to it like athletes and walked to not one, but two towns. It really was a spectacular walk. Highly recommend. We ended it with some bomb seafood, Italian wine and beer.

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We walked from Monterosso -> Corniglia on the first day. On the second from Riomaggiore -> south off this map.

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Cool olive harvesting machinery

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Excuse the terrible filter. My new camera has this feature where it quickly takes a photo with 10 different filters on it. So there was a lot of these on my card! Here we are with Corniglia in the near distance.

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That coastline!

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Serious engineering challenges

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On the road again, beers in hand

Some might say we’re a lot better at the hangover side of things than the hiking. Night #2 would support that theory. We swiftly got through a few slabs of beer playing drinking games and talking shit at the air bnb for the night.

Hiking day #2. So we had walked from town 1-2 and 2-3 out of the five (Monterosso being our #1 start point). So today we had planned to train to town 3 and walk 3-4 and 4-5. However paths between both these two were closed due to massive land slides and not due to reopen until 2019 i think? Which was new news to us… So we needed a plan B. A few guys were rallying to spend the day in the pub, but I was pretty determined to get our hike on again. I convinced the others and we tried catching a boat from Monterosso to the furthest south of the five towns, Riomaggiore. Which was a recommendation from travel expert Mum. However the boat time table didn’t match what I had read online and we were faced with an hour and a half wait. So we decided to flag the boat and instead train to Riomaggiore. Getting in about 1.30pm.

I had a grand plan of hiking from Riomaggiore to Porto Venere. Which is further south along the coast. I naievely thought that it would be the same stuff as yesterday. Nice coastal paths. So we grabbed some food in Riomaggiore and set off walking through the town in the direction of the coast line. However these towns are serious labyrinths.

Before long we decided to ask directions of this nice Italian man. He basically said we’re idiots and it isn’t possible. We had to walk up the towering cliff that this town poked out of. We then had to walk along the top of the hills down to Porto Venere. Which is all good and well, except we’re no athletes, and even if we were, it would be a real struggle to do it before nightfall. BALLLLS!

He presented us with an alternative, that he still recommended against due to time constraints. He said we could catch a bus to a town up high in the cliffs and walk from there. So of course, that’s what we did.

The clock was against us, so we hurried to the bus stop and quickly started waiting for our bus… for an hour and a half. Which was all the more disconcerning as we didn’t understand the bus timetable and neither did anyone we ask. One bus that did arrive let a pile of locals on then shut it’s door in my face. The bus driver gave my all time least favourite gesture, that single index finger waving left to right, a favourite of primary school teachers. He drove off and we continued to wait, with no real certainty that we were doing the right thing.

Eventually another bus turned up and we got in. This trip was a success and we had a picturesque drive up the hill. The advice to not walk up the hill was very good advice indeed. After about half an hour we got to small town where we got out. Here  a few of the guys grabbed  a quick espresso and we were off on hike #2. At 4.30pm…!! We truly do suck.

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I have a rule for myself. No photos out of vehicle windows. As they are always shit. This photo however, is an exception.

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Hangover faces?

This hike took us mainly through trees and small towns. With the odd glimpse of the ocean either side of us, way down below. We found a cool abandoned house that I couldn’t say no to exploring. We ended up walking into our destination, Portovenere, as the sun was coming down. If we had of been another hour it would’ve been a very dark final decent. One benefit of hiking so late in the day, was that we saw only two other hikers the whole walk.

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Then it was a bus to La Spezia for some dinner and a train home to Monterosso. Unlike the first two nights, this one was much quieter in the house. We were smashed from the hike and the previous night of drinking. It felt reeeally good to lie down. I think we did pretty good overall for a pack of non-athletic tourists. Definitely looking forward to hiking and hangovers episode #2!

St Patrick’s Day in Dublin

Yes that’s right! We went to Dublin for St Patrick’s day and shit got messy. We flew in and got an air bnb across the road from the Guinness brewery. Our Ryan Air flight got in late with a delay, as usual, but we still managed to join some Irish friends we made in Athens on a pub crawl. One of them was a girl named India. I don’t want to confirm or deny anything, but Simon may or may not have ended up with her that night. Which lead to many hilarious jokes such as “what smells like butter chicken?” And “bro, you look tired, did you cross the Himalayas last night?”

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We chose some pretty amazing costumes to rock. Bright green Sargent Pepper costumes. They were perfect except for one minor fact. Which was that the Beatles were British and the Irish aren’t the biggest fans of the British. Surprisingly only a few locals called us out on it. At least to our faces anyway.

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Lil Bros stag du pranks

My brother, Quinn’s, stag du was awesome. Quinn had foolishly asked me to be his best man. Event planning is one of my passions so I jumped at the chance to plan his stag du. I hadn’t actually even seen my brother in four years! We had both been bouncing around the world, sometimes only missing each other by a month or two.

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You can probably guess which one is my brother. I had those green shirts made, the faces on them are actually Quinn’s face with some tweaks. “RIP The freedom of Quinny”

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