Day 110

Day 110

As I ponder the last 110 Days, the different countries, people and experiences it is with mixed feelings that I now ready myself for a return to the real world.

It is also a day to say goodbye to my ever faithful travelling companions…..

My Deuce Shoes. I like these shoes, partly because they come with a bright red shoe bag (the obvious pun sums me up perfectly) but also because, as I have learnt over the last 110 Days, they are go anywhere, try anything, scared of nothing machines.

I had a bit of a personal goal setting out all that time ago. I wanted to walk 500k. Not all at once, that’s just silly. But, if I could manage 5k per day, all I needed was 100 of those. Time was not my issue, the only barrier was my own motivation to keep going.

Walking mind you, not running. I’ve known a few runners/joggers, they are fantastic people, whom all look deliriously happy with life… Apart from when they are running that is, then they just look kinda miserable. Maybe that’s why they look so happy the rest of the time, because they are not actually running?

I also discovered these moving sidewalks, that you walk on, but don’t go anywhere. So I’m counting those K’s too, cos if it’s alright for George Jetson, then I’m taking it.

Now, I don’t have in my possession one of those fancy counters or anything, so my announcement of triumph is solely based upon the fact that I did some big walks, up to 20k: and some little walks, to the bathroom (and back). But the general theme of it all was simply, walk everywhere you can, and some places you cant. This approach did mean I nearly got stuck in some places where I nearly needed rescuing, however. Like the great state of Ohio, I’m calling the triumph for the good-guys!

Want Some Evidence? Here Are The Shoes

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So it was a sad morning this morning, when we had to say farewell to my old champions. A fitting burial into the dustbin (I do pity the poor cleaner for whom emptying that bin will haunt for years to come)

Anyway, I am pleased I set the task, because there is just no better way to see what’s what, who’s who, here and there. Than to walk out the cities adventures. Europe is built for walking, and Treadmills are built for Thailand.

Farewell dear shoes, you have carried me well!

As for the future of Citizen111.

I am all up for suggestions of where too next..

Day 88

Day 88

October 31st, Halloween!

It was 88 days ago that I began my little adventure, when I landed at the very airport I now sit in. This was confirmed to me by the French customs agent, as I watched him counting with his fingers, trying to establish whether I had overstayed my 90 day visa.

All good, thanks to the excellent counting skills of my travel agent at Flight Centre Shore City (although she didn’t have to use her fingers).
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Off I set, in the general direction of New Zealand, and I very much hope, some slightly warmer climes. It has all got rather chilly in my last week or so. Given I packed for weather that was all the rage, 88 days ago, you know, 40 degrees in Athens, blistering heat in Crete etc etc. It’s fair to say I am stretching my limited wardrobe for all its worth. All I can say is, god bless the bloke who convinced me to by thermal tops from Katmandu just prior tony departure. Bet you didn’t know you could turn them I to pants too? Kinda like nappies, only warmer….

So what have I achieved? What wisdom has now entered my consciousness from all this splashing?

Well, apparently there is a financial crisis that continues to swirl around. The fashionable solutions still seem to be to print more non existent money, to pay back more debt because what was leveraged was either non existent, or actually made out of rubber bands and chewing gum.

People are being asked to: save more, spend more, pay more tax and earn less money. Which I think is sound.

Very important looking people, go to an endless number of very important looking meetings and emerge with very solemn looking faces, after having agreed to perhaps print just a bit more money, and get people from other countries, to pay just a bit more tax, to help out those in need.

Meanwhile, the very rich appear to remain, quite rich, getting a few more bargains along the way.
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But…….

The people, across Greece, Italy and Spain (yes even they guy who tried to rob me) just look like they are trying to get on with life. With what is actually important to them personally.

Family, friends, communities, celebrations, festivals. These countries have seen turmoil come and go, and yes, there appear to be some very big mountains ahead, around, below. But they are trying to make the most out of every opportunity.

Even the guy who tried to rob me!

I will miss Europe, for me it’s been my own little bit of Quantitive Easing, whatever the hell that is.

Majorca (Mallorca) Part 2

Part 2

The sun rises slowly at this time of year, with Spain’s insistence on being on European time, despite much of it being further west than Greenwich. They also appear to hang on to daylight savings for far longer than any semblance of summer, so the mornings are dark.

I had taken my new form of transport for a test run the previous evening, to test out both of our abilities to tackle the roads ahead. I brushed aside a few of it’s “Curiosities”. We are just getting to know each other I thought, so the persistent glowing of the engine light, and the rather impetuous behaviour of the back wheel were all just part of the feeling out process.

There is a difference between motorbikes and scooters, perhaps it’s the way you sit upon them, perched up and ready for leisure. Not so good for taking an aggressive line through corners and certainly very different in terms of braking. With no gear change mechanism, you rely entirely on the brakes and the tyres all being in pretty good condition. This bike seemed to have had a long hard season of rentals, so having some tall fat bloke ask it it chew out a path along the coastal roads probably didn’t fill her with much joy..

Majorca’s road network falls into 2 categories: Large,impressive and very straight highway system, that connects all the major centres right through the heart of the reasonably small island, speed limit is 120kph which seems to be some type of minimum. And the much older coastal road network, that on the western coast, cuts an impossible track around, over and through the rugged terrain. Terrain that rises to craggy bear rock peaks and ridges, then falls to heavily forested valleys, or plunges into the sea. Speed limit appears optional here. I was choosing Snail!

To get to the mountains, I first needed to negotiate the freeways.

The bike told me that 80kph was fast enough, by wobbling around when I tipped the scale too much. OK, check that..

At least the locals, sympathetic to my endeavours, would cautiously pass me by and not force me dangerously close to the verge……… Yeah Right!

I finally reached the entry point of the mountains and its fair to say by this time, I was a little tense… Just the desired state for some mountain riding…..

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I commenced my attack.

The map just simply doesn’t do these roads justice. They were tight, narrow, unpredictable and generally full of traffic coming in both directions. Busses, cars, motorbikes (proper ones) and a vast number of German cyclists. There are simply no straight bits, they rise and fall just as aggressively as they bite out a path horizontally. I battled them for what seemed like hours, with each second requiring every ounce of concentration I could muster. The back half of the bike would often try to take me somewhere different that the front, and the engine light burned brighter than the sun.

I’m sure the view was spectacular, but all I could see was the sight of my own anxiety in the grubby visor in front of me. That and the multitude of vehicles that would bank up behind me, then in what should have been an impossible passing for manoeuvre for one vehicle, would overtake me in multiples.

My low point was being overtaken by a group of whistling Germans on their bikes, going up hill.

Time for the ceremonial throwing in of the towel I thought…

I stopped to investigate the map, It felt like I had been doing this for hours, so I must be miles from safety.

I found an escape route, and was both delighted and embarrassed to come across a sign saying “Palma 20km” such is the incredible landscape of the island. On the straight highways, the true size of it is laughable, but on the coast, it is she that is the comedian, with me, just her folly.

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I finally reached home and after a spell in my meditation room, rationale thought returned.

I needed a new plan.

Sheepishly I approached the rental operator, a small rotund bloke, chewing on a cigar that looked like it hadn’t been alight in many years. He reminded me of Pauly of the Rocky movies, only angrier.

In my manliest available tone, I begun to explain my dilemma. I had rented his machinery for 3 days, and after just 1, I was looking for options.

I think he could smell the fear seeping through the holes in my once sturdy pair of Dan Carters, he played me for a while, then seemed to grow bored of the game. Finally we agreed on a solution, we would swap the bike for a car, and even though the 3 day rental rate on the car was cheaper than the bike?… He agreed to not charge me any more…

I leapt at what seemed like the deal of the century!

This is what he gave me..

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Now the train spotters out there may pick up the slight whiff of “Mid Life Crisis” in this particular little vehicle. And I tend to agree..

To counter the look, I decided that outfit choice here was imperative. I pulled out of the bottom of my pack the Lycra shorts I had been carrying around (just in case I ran into a Jazzercize class I liked the look of) Perfect, although a couple of sizes to small, I thought they would do the trick nicely. And since I also decided that going shirtless, with my white hat adequate for sun protection, I could also allow my belly to just flop over to the passenger seat in cornering, acting as a type of ballast.

So, it was with great eagerness that I set out the next morning, to retake my pride amongst the mountains. To find those cyclist’s, and race past them in all my glory.

Stopping was tricky, due to the half hour required to get in and out of my mighty beast. So I would simply race past the sights, holding my camera aloft, snapping in the general direction of grandeur.

It is an incredible journey, the coast, the mountains and the road itself. Where the mountain would not relent the space needed for roadways, they have just cut right through, with what looks like an old rusty spoon. Falling rocks lay strewn everywhere, and at times the road just isn’t wide enough, leaving all sorts of forward and back manoeuvring required for progress.

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And once again, I was overtaken by crazy German cyclists.

Majorca Is covered in resorts, but if you can learn to see through them, you will find the most spectacular landscape and an exhilarating and totally unique journey though the history of how this planet was built.

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Wonder if Jockey do mail order?

Majorca (Mallorca) Part 1

It had been a long cold and stormy night on the ferry from Barcelona to Palma. The boat was virtually empty, save for the dozen or so travellers more experienced than me, whom had quickly nabbed all of the seating capable of providing and semblance of sleep during the journey. My pursuit of Uber Grande status won’t allow me to get a cabin, so with my fate sealed, I had tried to make the best of it.

I’m not exactly sure why I had chosen Majorca as my next destination, perhaps because I needed to purchase a beach towel before heading to Thailand? Majorca has lots of beaches, so towels must just be spilling on to the sidewalk…

Anyway, regardless of the why’s and what fors, Majorca was to be home for at least the next 8 nights, so, as my dear old Ma used to say.. Shut up, or I’ll really give you something to cry about..

It’s fair to say that the European summer holiday season has heard the fat ladies closing number, had her over for tea and scones, and sent her on her way. A holiday town without holidays, is a bit like those Bananas without their pyjamas.

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You know, they’re just bananas then……

Not very special aye!

The families seem long gone, but there are still a few couples left. Although the wives must be all at the day spa, leaving just the hubbies to wander around in pairs. At least they seem to get along OK, some of them even go roller blading together, helping each other keep balanced by holding hands.

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But after taking a couple of days off (even holidays need a holiday from, um, holidays) I decided to look further afield for my next adventure. And like a vision sent from “Stop looking at my arse I’m straight-land” I happened upon a map of this fine island. There are wiggles and squiggles all over this baby. Which, as we all know by now…. Means Motorbike Country!

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I scoped out all of the local rental places, which all had three things in common
Lots of available stuff, which was all exactly the same
Price lists, which were all exactly the same
Zero desire to negotiate….
Hmmm even the NZ commerce commission might be able to spot the shenanigans going on there.

Anyway, my options were confined too scooters, so I chose the most powerful one I could..

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So..
Map… check
Previous Motorcycle Rules (including cliffs) …. Check
Strong Safe and Sturdy Equipment…. Hmmmm

Tallyho…

…….. To be continued..

Barcelona – Photo Blog

I always thought getting Freddie Mercury to sing the theme song for the Barcelona Olympics an unusual choice, but risk seems to be a Catalonian right of passage. From Queen Isabella pawning the Crown Jewels to send that bloke Columbus off in the wrong direction to find the whichever place he was looking for, to letting Antoni Gaudi, well, keep going! They seem to love challenging themselves, and anyone else.

Confrontation seems to be de riguer

And it’s not just their fine antique collection

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Visiting Barcelona was always going to be a high point of my travels, any city that can count amount it’s famous offspring two of the 20th centuries most influential artists; Gaudi and Picasso can’t help but to have a couple of million tourists a year traipsing up and down La Ramblas.

We all try to pretend we understand the deeper motives, the obvious double entendre, with just that hint of artichoke and rosemary on the nose!

But to be perfectly honest, I have no idea what these guys were thinking, I just love the way you could look at it all standing on your head, and still be blown away!

And It is not just the globally famous ones that impress, there is some stiff competition on virtually every corner. Even the Jones-es would be struggling to keep up here.

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So it was fantastic to be able to share this part of my wee adventure with some great friends of mine from NZ, and an added bonus of an evening of a long lost Kiwi and his beautiful family on the top floor deck of his city apartment.

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So in no particular order, here are some of my favourites
Canta Libre
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Zaragoza Festival

My Festival Started With A Bang

Lots of them, maybe it was 21, maybe more. I had popped home for a wee nap, so missed the seeing of that, and perhaps an explanation as to what it was actually all about. I tried using my 3 quality Spanish words to make enquiries, but it turns out I was actually speaking Mexican.

So here is my photo essay and interpretation.

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These guys seemed to be the organisers

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This place looked significant, perhaps a meeting spot for lost children

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But only real children, others were just left hanging.
The Real Children seemed to have mixed feelings

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And some were just Thirsty

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But there were always friendly neighbourhood spiders, large mice and various other superheroes to keep us all safe

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There was a parade, but some of the banners told me it wasn’t a very serious one

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The Parade seemed to make them very happy, and in need of more food and drink

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But some of the must have eaten a bit quickly

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The Important People came out to wave and say a few words. And the Crowd had some things to say too

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The Important People then thanked the Crowd by showering them in hot sparkles

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People seemed really excited, running about yelling something glorious

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It was a wonderful night!

Saturday number 70

It’s Saturday, for everyone else that is, I’m on about my 70th straight Saturday over here, or there. Perhaps that’s what I’ve been doing all this time, splashing about, practicing my Saturdays. Think they needed a bit of work really, think I might have wasted a fair number of them by pretending they were still Friday Night.

You can have 70 continuous Saturdays, but to have that many Friday Nights in a row, well that’s just silly.

Anyway, Saturday, in Zargoza Spain. A bloke up the square from me is belting out Van Doolans greatest hits on the fluteophone, Ah the rolling hills of Wales… Actually bare no resemblance to where am at all, but you go for your life sunshine!

All week the city has been preparing in earnest for the festival that starts tonight. Still not totally sure what we are celebrating? Seems to be some historical this or that, maybe the flutes will tell me if I listen close enough…. No, seems to be an ABBA tune now.

It’s definitely not as far back as Great Mother, the church seems to play a role, as it does with most things in the Spanish heartland. I keep getting offered a red tartan scarf to buy, but I’m as much a revolutionary as Lenin was a royalist, and I already get stopped enough at airport check points, so no gracias.

The whole thing kicks off proper tonight, on the big stage they have been building all week, hope there’s a mosh pit, I wanna have a pogo dance contest with some of the elderly that always seem to get the best pozzies these days.

So, I brushed up on my 3 good Spanish words (Tortilla, No, Cervesa), reserved a clean pair of Dan Carters, and I’ll get amongst tonight.

Maybe I’ll finally wake up tomorrow, and it will be Sunday!

City of Imagination

I guess all up, it took me a good 2 hours to wander the length of it, so, by my calculations that makes it about 500 miles long.

This long narrow parkland, set on the bed of the now diverted Rio Turia, acts as a kind of green belt running right through the heart of Valencia. It is yet another great example of Valencia, a city with imagination and a commitment to creating amazing spaces. Spaces which are not only aesthetically easy on the eye, but also look to serve the community in practical, everyday kinda ways.

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Of course, the city must move on around it and often above and below it, but not in an intrusive way. Every bridge that crosses it tells it’s own tale, but not of what travels across its back, more how it fits into the whole parks grand design.

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And what a spectacular design it is. Built for walkers, runners, cyclists and philosophers of ponderous tones alike, it provides a series of pathways, all with varying degrees of formal construction, which meander along, occasionally criss crossing with their neighbours, providing the users the opportunity to observe and perhaps, aspire to, all other possibilities available.

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There are numerous facilities held within, from large formal structures for sports or pursuits of a more botanical nature. Each grand in it’s own right, but not too grand as to dominate it’s neighbours.

There are plenty of activities and distractions, like the amazing design of the children’s playground, or the free public gyms that are spaced about 1 per kilometre and designed to look more like a playground too.

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Everything looks well used, and well respected by the community, with only spattering a of the graffiti that’s seems to be slowly enveloping the rest of Europe.

As I said, this seems to be just another example of how the city and the people of Valencia think about the importance of space, how to design it, and how to include it in everyday life.

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I hope that Valencia’s people are proud of their vision, I know that I would certainly be proud to one of it’s Citizens.

Valencia, the city of Imagination.

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Valencia – Con visión y pasión todo es posible

Santiago Calatrava must have been a troublesome child. Any mind that can conceive the CIUDAD DE LAS ARTES Y LAS CIENCIAS would have difficulty I suspect, following the rules of modern society.

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Traveling around Europe, it seems that with every corner turned, you are confronted with yet another masterpiece, be it art or architecture, the centuries past are filled with incredible feats of imagination and engineering alike. You begin to appreciate too, that the city needed the will for these ambitions to be realised, and funding, and courage.

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Not all of course were totally successful, the tower and Cathedral in Pisa, thankfully found fame in misfortune. And it would seem the cost of failure nowadays would stop many dreams before the bed-lamps had even cooled.

Not Valencia!

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Set on the old river bed and covering 350,000 sq metres, this masterpiece is simply a jaw dropping, awe inspiring, triumph of a city with a vision.

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There are officially 3 different sections to this: The Oceanographic, which like the BioPark, is an amazing example of how humans can experience wildlife, whilst still giving the wildlife some semblance of dignity.

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The Opera House

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And the Museum and Dome

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But to perfectly honest, I was struggling to work out where one started and one finished, and I spent 6 hours wandering around.

The entire complex is awe inspiring, it gives you hope that humanity, which should know better, does know better.

Valencia. The 3rd city in Spain? Im not so sure.

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Florence – Photo Blog

Florence was worth far more than the 2 days I gave it.

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