Friday, November 28, 2008


Oh. My. Word. Has anybody actually seen the Nu Metro website lately? What the hell were they thinking. I mean the last update they did was bad (all those annoying pop-ups) but this, this is just too freaking hard to navigate! And there seem to only be about 4 or 5 cinemas listed. Did the others all close while I was away or have they not been added to the website yet? Finding information out about a specific cinema is actually downright impossible (I don't think it exists!).

Aha. I've just discovered the error of my ways. What the freak is up? There is the old (still hideous) Nu Metro site at their address, but a completely different one (freaking hard to get the information you need from) at their .com address. Now that's just plain silliness if you ask me. And this is why, no matter what, Ster Kinekor will *always* be better.

As you can probably tell, Varen & I went to movies last night. We had to see Quantum of Solace, the new James Bond.

Forensic intelligence links an MI6 traitor to a bank account in Haiti, where a case of mistaken identity introduces Bond to the beautiful but feisty Camille - a woman who has her own vendetta. Camille leads Bond straight to Dominic Greene - a ruthless businessman and a major force within the mysterious organisation.

On a mission that leads him to Austria, Italy and South America, Bond discovers that Greene, conspiring to take total control of one of the world's most important natural resources, is forging a deal with the exiled General Medrano. Using his associates in the organisation and manipulating his powerful contacts within the CIA and the British government, Greene promises to overthrow the existing regime in a Latin-American country, giving the General control of the country in exchange for a seemingly barren piece of land.

Hmmm. Daniel Craig is definitely right up there as James Bond. Hard to tell if he's better than Connery or not, but it's a close call. Pity this movie wasn't up to the standard set in Casino Royale. But it was still fun. And the dude playing the villain, Mathieu Amalric, is truly a creepy man! Needless to say, Varen thoroughly enjoyed it :) Meh, you've gotta see it either way, it's a Bond film.

In other news, I'm now happily adding recommendations to, so go check out this new travel recommendation site :)

*update* Oh my word. I forgot the most bizarre part of our movie watching experience! They showed the annoying trailer of Leon Schuster's new movie, Mr Bones 2. I mean how is this man still making movies? More importantly how do these movies make any money? I always feel embarrassed that these are South Africa's Box Office movies, what must the rest of the world think?!? Anyhoo, I learnt last night why they make money (to my horror), at least half the cinema was in hysterics over his ridiculous and slapstic on-screen antics. I hung my head. It was a sad day for South Africans.

04 November: Coimbra

This morning we grabbed a quick pastry across the road for breakfast. It was a bit of pot-luck guessing what was good. Mine was fine, but a little too sweet for breakfast (Yes, I really did just type that?!). After that we took a half hour bus ride to Conimbriga to see the Roman Ruins.

Side Note: Let me tell you, pastries get plenty boring for breakfast after 3 weeks ... I cannot wait for my first weekend back home and some eggs!

They were quite cool, lots of crumbly stones but some beautiful mosaics. The weather was a bit dismal and drizzly, but I had my handy new rain jacket with me :) I think this was the only day I really got to use it for real.

There was also a covered area (photo on right) that had some of the best mosaics (not simply patterns, but pictures - photo below). It also had a working fountain of the time (obviously restored) that played for a minute when you put in 50c. It was lovely, my favourite part.

Before we left, I sent the Peeb a postcard (her being an Archaeologist and all) and had a surprisingly delish lunch (honestly, the best meal of the trip so far!) of Game Pie with cranberry sauce.

When we got back, I took a wander around the city. I went up to the Post Office on Rua Oimpio Nicolau Rui Fernandes (yes, that is just one road name!) and then along Rua Fernando Borges to the Santa Clara bridge. Then all the way uphill (the hills in this city have serious uphills!) along Rue da Couraça de Lisboa and then all the way back to Praça 8 de Maio via the Universidade. During the walk it started raining. I'm a little soaked right now, but still glad of my new KWay waterproof jacket!

Wandered into another pet shop on my way back to the hotel and saw 4 Chinchilla's for sale. Never seen one of them before but they look cute. More buns (same colours as Bell & Henna but these were angora) and loads of squirrels too.

Am now in my hotel room watching the US Election on CNN and about to see Band's man live from Kenya! Quite surreal seeing someone you know live on TV, expecially on something as global as CNN. Pretty darn cool.

22h00: We're just back from dinner at a Chinese restaurant. It wasn't my best meal but, I think that's because I don't often (if at all) eat Chinese food so I didn't order the best dish at the table. But it was still better than last night's "Authentic Portuguese" meal.

Now still watching the US Election. It's an hour till the first polls close. Sadly we'll no doubt be asleep by then.

Oh, and I also wanted to say that this is the best group I've traveled with so far. I don't know if it's because I'm traveling "single" for now and there are so many of our group doing the same or if it is just because it's an older group (I'm 2nd youngest and I think we range all the way up to 65!). Surprisingly enough, it seems to work really well :)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

03 November: Salamanca to Coimbra

I spent the morning wandering Salamanca before getting on another bus. First I joined some of the group and we went to a local market. Not at all what we were expecting, I don't think. This was a food market (I eventually got used to them, but this was my first), filled with fresh fruit and veg, but also plenty of meat and fish. Yep, just lying there. Often whole animals and definitely all sorts of bits of animal I never needed to see, still looking very much like the animal they once were.

I don't plan on ever becoming a vegetarian and I'm not a big meat eater, really. But I prefer my meat not to look anything like the animal it once was ... call me naive all you want I know where it comes from and that cute little animals are dying to provide it, I just prefer not to think about it too much. These little piggies were especially upsetting, I love pigs (live ones ... although bacon too). But the biggest gross-out factor definitely goes to the skinned (nothing smooth about face muscle) goats heads with their eyeballs still staring out at you. Euw.

After that, we managed to get inside the New Cathedral, it was huge and ornate as you'd expect (pretty impressive as the first Cathedral I went into, but the novelty wears off!). And then I went off in search of Salamanca's other carved icon, "The Frog (La Rana) on the Skull", hiding somewhere on the facade of the Universidad de Salamanca.

He's pretty high up so quite hard to spot, but the few of us from the tour that were there looking did manage to find him :) I also only found out about him after seeing the frog and the clam shells (from the Casa de las Conchas) on so many tourist items ... and then on the post cards, of course!

Later, we caught a 5 hour bus ride, complete with a grumpy driver and hideous music to Coimbra. Had a very boring border crossing into Portugal. Although they did take slightly more interest in my passport (I was the only one in our group who needed a Schengen Visa ... or Moroccan Visa for that matter. How sucky is that?!). I didn't even get a stamp or anything :( Seems kinda ironic actually then that I had to apply for the visa at the Portuguese Embassy since that's the one country of the three that doesn't even show up anywhere in my passport!

We arrived in Coimbra at about 6pm (now SA Time - 2 hours). We're staying at Hotel Oslo, and it's right next door to a pet shop which I explored while we waited for the keys to our rooms. They had three bunnies, one very like my sweet Henna, but a bit lighter. They also had an albino hedgehog (although all we could see of it was prickles inside it's plastic house) and a little squirrel (chipmunk, maybe?). So cute!

That evening, we went for dinner. I don't think I especially like Portuguese food. Lots of meat and potatoes. I had grilled veal or something (it was a little hard to tell since we could barely read the menus). Plus, they bring loads of food to the table before you've even ordered, a little like what they do with bread back home, but it's bread, cheeses, pate's and sometimes even plates of prawns. But, if you eat any of it (even the bread!), you pay for it. Quite rude and presumptuous if you ask me ... we had to actually ask them to take the plate of prawns away. No doubt the next table got them instead. Gross.

After dinner we did a bit of a steep walk / hike up to the Old Cathedral (Sé Velha). It's not very exciting. Instead, when we got back to the hotel, I visited the pet shop again (it was open late!) and I found some treats to take back for the bunnies. I know that sounds truly peculiar, but South Africa isn't exactly advance in the pet bunny department and this shop had so much bunny specific stuff, it was hard to just limit myself to just treats and not toys. Varen says they're all doing well, but I miss them and their cuddles!

Note: That's a pic I took of the girls with one of treats I bought. They loved loved loved them :)

I Won, I Won

Last night was fab, went to the last Girl's Poker night of the year and I freaking won. It was awesome. And it wasn't one of those close win things, it was like I was the banker in Monopoly :) I feel I have the right to gush a little here because it's my first win.

Other than that there is not much going on. But I can see the end-of-year rush has certainly kicked in socially. My calendar is getting all booked up till around the 16th December (when most people start going on leave, so you have to cram everything in beforehand!). But it's good ... am just a little worried about it affecting my current 6am wake-up (gotta get up earlier to miss an hours worth of traffic these days ... drives me freaking nuts if I don't!). Am definitely a little bleary-eyed after poker last night. Yawn.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

02 November: Madrid to Salamanca

Last night after our group meeting, 8 of us went for a walk to the Puerta del Sol and then had a tapas dinner at a cosy little place called Cuervos el Secreto (or something similar meaning The Secret Cave). The food was delish! We all shared 3 salads (1 green salad, 1 tomato & anchovy salad, none of that for moi, and 1 red pepper & basil pesto salad), bread, cheese, 2 meatball stews (the best dish of the evening!), grilled potato and a variety of kebabs with Sangria to wash it all down.

This morning we were up early and got on the bus to Salamanca. It was a 3 hour trip and we arrived around midday. We had a little free time after we had arrived and checked into Hotel Condal, then we went for lunch in the Plaza Mayor. I had some yummy paella and red peppers stuffed with cheese & ham.

After lunch we wandered to the Casa de las Conchas, an old palace (now library) who's exterior is covered in approximately 400 stone shells, on to the Cathedral Nueva and then over El Puente Romano (the Roman Bridge) which was apparently built in around 89 AD.

The rest of the afternoon was spent dipping pastries into thick hot chocolate, commonly known as Chocolate con Churros.

And then I went in search of "The Astronaut in the New Cathedral (La Nueva)". It was damn tricky to find, I wandered around the entire building staring at each doorway's carvings. Eventually I gave up and asked someone at the Cathedral viewing desk (for people who want to go up to the bell tower for a view over Salamanca) who directed me to the relevant doorway.

By then there were a bunch of other people looking too which made it quite simple in the end. So funny! Side Note: After having looked it up online when I got home, I found out he was probably carved by one of the restorers in 1992. Apparently there's also an ice-cream cone somewhere on the New Cathedral, but I only found out about that one when looking online for the above link. Not that I knew to look for the Astronaut before I went either tho, I just saw him just on one of the postcards for sale after arriving in Salamanca.

After a bit of a relax at the hotel, we met up to go out for dinner, which didn't really happen. Instead we went out to drink (most of us were full from the big lunch). I started with a glass of Taurus wine (simply had to try it since I am in bullish Spain and a Taurean myself). Then we headed to a fab little bar in the Plaza Mayor called 23 that let you have 1 tapas with every drink ordered. What an ideal way to dine!

Back to Normal

Things are quite a blur at the moment. There was a whole bunch of stuff I forgot to say yesterday ... like, we watched a dvd on Monday night, Baby Mama.

Kate Holbrook (Tina Fey), a successful single businesswoman from Philadelphia, has put her career before her personal life. At the age of 37, she has finally decided to have a child on her own, but her plans change when she discovers she has only the slimmest chance of becoming pregnant. Also denied adoption, Kate hires an immature, obnoxious South Philly girl, Angie Ostrowiski (Amy Poehler), to become her surrogate mom.

We were looking for something light post-holiday and this was light enough, but not near as funny as we were hoping for. Meh, it was average.

Right now I've still forgotten some other things I'm sure. But they'll come when I remember. On the plus side I see that petrol went down in my absence. Nice. Work is a bit of a nightmare - I can not remember how to do anything after 3 weeks away! And eep, there is now officially less than a month till Xmas. Sigh.

Last night was pretty uneventful. Varen came home at a reasonable hour, we made dinner, ate, watched some TV. A nice, relaxed normal night at home. I make a point of saying that because, well, it's been a while :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

01 November: Madrid

10h00: My poor Bell had to go to the vet last night and again this morning. I hope she's feeling better!

Have arrived in Spain and am currently sitting in a McCafe drinking lukewarm Chocolate Caliente (Hot Chocolate, I presume) out of a glass!

The flight was okay. Horribly annoyed to discover that Iberia barely does in-flight entertainment. There was 1 TV screen in the middle which showed 2 movies at set times during the flight. No choices or options here. And I'd left my book & iPod behind because I thought I would hardly need them. No such luck. But with nothing much to do, I did get some sleep!

The flight left just after 10pm yesterday evening. I slept and was woken for dinner at midnight over the middle of Angola. After that I slept as best I could till breakfast.

We landed in Madrid at 7am (that's SA Time - 1hr) to 4 degreesC outside temperature and the sun had yet to emerge. Sadly I completely forgot to take a photo of "The Rain in Spain falling on a Plane" :) Not that it really would've been possible anyhow in the darkness. I was expecting an Airport Transfer but after half an hour of waiting, I made my own way to Hotel Laris. This involved a Metro trip with 3 changes and the help of a very kind little old man who spoke no English but escorted me to the hotel's street when he saw me staring, completely puzzled at the street map.

I can only check in at 2pm so I'm off to see what's within walking distance.

12h15: Am back at the same McCafe - seemed like a safe spot to lunch. And I do so like to try the weird overseas additions to McDonald's staple menu. I had a McNific Meal with the CBO
(Chicken, Bacon & Onion) Burger. Not particularly upset that we don't have it back home. Plus, it gives me a safe comfy seated spot to write all this - still have just over an hour and a half till I can check in.

Before lunch I visited the Museo Naval de Madrid. Not the sort of place you might ordinarily find me, much as I love museums, I don't find boats / ships that interesting. But it was FREE. And I figure Spain is famous for it's Armada so it was probably worth a look.

And it was very interesting ... aside from the fact that all the blurbs below each item were only in Spanish. The weaponry was interesting too, it's amazing how little guns have actually changed in all these years. But my favourite part was the room containing pieces recovered from the San Diego, which sank in 1600.

19h00: After lunch, I came back to the hotel and met a few of my fellow tour mates. This afternoon I intended to visit the Archaeological Museum, but it turned out I'd found the wrong museum on the map and walked all the way to the Anthropological Museum and found it closed before I realised my mistake. So off I headed in completely the opposite direction to the Archaeological Museum (quite a trek all the way up Plaza del Prado) only to find it was also closed. I'd left it till the afternoon because it's free after 14h30 on Saturdays (no sense on spending all my Euros on museums) but I was completely unaware that today is a public holiday, All Saints Day, and it had closed at 15h00. Sadly I won't even get to visit it during our 8 hour stop-over on the way home because that'll be a Sunday and it'll also be closed by 15h00. So annoying cause I was quite keen to see it.

Note: Bell is back to normal apparently but managed to pull out both stitches. Luckily it sounds like she's healing fine tho!

Hello Stranger

Hi y'all. I'm back in good old South Africa and having a little trouble adjusting actually. Landed back in Joburg yesterday afternoon and am back at work this morning, it is freaking hot here (!!) and I spent over an hour in traffic this morning. Sheesh.

Won't give you any of the holiday details in this post, instead I will be uploading separate holiday posts whenever time allows, like I did after East Africa :) Needless to say, 3 weeks off are always good, but I will say it is nice being back at home after living out of a bag for so long! And I was so thrilled to see my boons after so long ... things are quite different after Bell's spaying. Henna is so much calmer and she & Bell really seem to be getting on much better :)

So ye, back to the grind :P

Oh and ps. after 3 weeks of no internet, there is just too too much in my Google Reader for me to even consider catching up on any of it ... so I'm marking it all to "Read" and starting fresh from today. Hope there isn't any massive news I've missed out on (if there is, leave me a comment or otherwise I'm sure I'll catch on soon enough once I'm reading avidly again!). Sorry in advance, but it's not really optional with 1000+ unread items (literally, Google Reader stopped bothering to count them!)

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