All These Places
My big, fat European grievance is smoking.
This continent dominates on many levels: the food, the history, the landscape, the languages and so on. But when it comes to walking down the street in my own fresh air bubble, Europe fails.
I'm not judging smokers, people are as free to smoke as I am to eat McDonald's. What I object to is having smoke constantly blown on me, so it's less smoke gets in my eyes, and more smoke gets in my eyes, ears, mouth and nose (... heads, shoulders, knees and toes anyone?).
When we arrived in France, I was prepared. Every image of a Frenchwoman I'd seen had them with a cigarette in hand.
That I sort of assumed people would be using those long, cigarette-holder things might suggest that all the pictures I was looking at were from the 1920s. But anyway. Point is, generally, I knew what to expect.
There have been several times recently when I've been reminded just how small New Zealand is, but attending a Barcelona FC football match at Camp Nou yesterday might have been the ultimate example.
Back in 2009, I covered the All Whites' World Cup qualifier match and was impressed by the sellout 35,000 crowd at the Wellington stadium.
Last night, about 75,000 people were packed into the Barcelona stadium watching a Champions League match between Barca and Spartak Moscow. And that is in no way unusual - those numbers of people turn up twice a week for games. That's just mind-blowing for a wee Wellington Phoenix fan like myself.
Of course I've seen those massive crowds on TV, but actually being surrounded by that many excessively passionate, chanting, club-shirt-kitted-out people was crazy.
Having bought the tickets at the last minute ("Can we actually afford this?"."No." "Are we going to do it anyway?". "Yes."), we ended up sitting directly below the away-team supporter zone. By the end of the game, won 3-2 by Barca, we were surrounded by angry Russians and took our cue to leave a couple of minutes before the final whistle. We've both seen Air Force One. We knew how things could go down.
In the last 14 days we have used Croation kuna, Hungarian forint, Polish zloty, Czech koruna and euros.
That is a whole lot of monopoly money to get your head around.
I have stopped counting the number of times I've looked pleadingly over shop counters, my outstretched hands filled with foreign coins, hoping the sales people will count them for me (and not rip me off).
The easiest option is obviously to hand over a note, but after doing that a few times your pants are sagging from the excessive weight of change in your pockets.
It also leaves you somewhat unpopular with the locals, like when we bought a 25 koruna body wash with a 1000 koruna bill. We thanked the woman profusely, but that didn't seem to help. My Czech isn't quite fluent, but I'm pretty sure her angry, spitting reply didn't translate as "You're welcome".
I'm coming out of the closet about a secret shame. I collect fridge magnets.
It began during a trip to Tonga with Nathan's family a couple of years ago. We had a few hours to kill at the Nuku'alofa airport and I had a couple of dollars to get rid of.
I bought a wooden turtle magnet with Tonga written on its back, and so my slightly geeky obsession with collecting travel magnets began.
Like most travellers, I have limited money, and limited space in my bag (buying a Lilo hasn't helped), so magnets are a pretty good choice of purchase.
I don't get to buy the shoes, books, or that massive, giant wooden bust of Shakespeare I really wanted (it seemed like a good idea at the time), but being able to buy a magnet every few days gives me a little spending high and satisfies my shopping needs.
For the past four years, my Facebook news feed has been full of "Sailing Croatia 2010", "Cruising in Croatia", "Island hopping in Croatia" albums.
Photos of your friends drinking and tanning on boats with sunny sea views behind them bring out a bit of envy, so I've tried not to focus too hard on them.
But now it's my turn, and I intend to call my Facebook album "Croatia finally". Either that or "Haha how does it feel now biatches? How's work?" I haven't decided for sure yet.
Today's blog comes from the Croatian city of Dubrovnik, stop three of our seven-night trip around the islands on a Busabout sail. (Boatabout?)
We arrived in Split on Friday, and this Aussie guy at the hostel told us we had just missed five days of rain and cloud, and that the weather was supposed to stay above 30C for the week. So far, so true. I've had two good days of filling in tan lines.
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