Round the World Trip

For most backpackers and travellers the holy grail would be to take part in a Round the World trip.  This is true for myself.  From the blogs I have been following a lot people have undertaken such a trip.  It has been used as a springboard for continuous travel by others.

Why should anyone want to take such a journey?  I suspect it is all about the adventure of being on the road for a long period.  You can see a lot of the world in a short period or you can spend a long in one country.  Some people take three months while others will take a whole year.  Of course, such a trip takes a lot of planning and simply cannot be undertaken on a whim.  Particularly where do you want to go, how much money do you need to save, do you have the vaccinations, documents.

For myself it is one of the dreams I have in life.  I want to undertake such a trip before I get too old.  However, age should not be a barrier to travel.

In my ideal trip I would like to see the following:-

  1. Argentina
  2. Uruguay
  3. Chile
  4. New Zealand
  5. Australia
  6. Indonesia
  7. Thailand
  8. Burma
  9. Cambodia
  10. Laos
  11. Vietnam

How does that sound to everyone?  Where would you go on your trip?

By writing about my trip I want to use it as a spur for me to stop dreaming and start planning.  Best start saving my pennies.

Until the next post, stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

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Reflections on Madrid

I have been back in the UK for three weeks from my trip to Madrid.  This has given me time to reflect about the trip.

I have to say how lucky I was with timing.  Being in Madrid at the time of the Euro 2012 final meant that I say a city that was feeling triumphant and happy.  You would not have known Spain was suffering a big recession.  Hopefully, we in the UK can follow that same attitude.

Secondly, Madrid is a beautiful city.  Highlights were the Plaza Mayor where I could witness events going on around me.  In my eyes it represented the best of Madrid.  The museums and palaces where interesting places to visit.  So much history to witness.

The only trouble was that there was so much I missed.  Still, it is an excuse to come back again.  Then there were the gardens.  These were haven were I could go to rest and reflect about Madrid.

Thirdly, I was lucky with the weather.  No, I will rephrase that.  The weather is what I expected.  Hot and dry.  It felt good to walk in the sun.  I know the UK was experiencing extreme wet weather.  I could only chuckle to myself when I saw the news.

Finally, as a city Madrid was alive and vibrant.  The nightlife seemed to be never-ending even on a weekday.  So many bars and restaurants.  Again, so many that I did not get chance to try out.  Another excuse for me to come back.

To sum up would I recommend Madrid?  You bet I would.  It has everything for those looking for a weekend break and the seasoned backpacker.  I cannot wait to go back.

Madrid – Wednesday 4 July

I woke up in the morning with a sense of dread.  My last full day in Madrid and the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach about going home.  However, there was one place that I wanted to see.  That was the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, home to Real Madrid. Not that I am a great of stadium tours I do recognise that Real Madrid is a great club with a lot of history.  Also it was free due to holding a Madrid card.

Spain was still buzzing from victory in Euro 2012 and that was felt at the stadium.  The tour itself was excellent.  In the tour you see the museum which celebrates the victories in the European Cup and La Liga.  Also individual awards are honoured even if the players were not playing for the club at the time.

You then move towards the President’s box and get the view from there.  Afterwards you move to pitchside and the chance to sit in the dugout.  For some reason you were not allowed to visit the home dressing room but I the away one.  The ends in the club shop and this is a moment parents must dread.  I saw a lot of people purchasing club merchandise.

After the tour I made my way back to the hostel.  There I met up with the people I was speaking to last night.  We decided to have lunch in the Musee de Jambon.  A place dedicated to all things ham.  There are several of them to be found in Madrid.  My lunch was the last to arrive.  That will teach me to order beef in a restaurant dedicated to ham.

After resting I was talking to a group of Australians.  They were all looking forward to the bull runs in Pamplona.  Again that feeling of going home began to strike home.

Oh no, I’m going home tomorrow.

So I made a decision to partake in the hostel pub crawl.  As my coach tomorrow would not leave until 16:30 I thought I can shake off any hangover.  It turns out that I made the right decision.  It was an excellent night.  Free beers, free entrances to three clubs with a free shot.  Madrid’s reputation for nightlife is justified.  Guess what? I was not drunk at the end of the night.  An excellent way to end my final day.

Picture of the Week – New Library of Birmingham

This week’s picture is of the New Library of Birmingham.

Library of Birmingham

Located in Centenary Square in Birmingham City Centre it is due to open in September 2013.  It replaces the Central Library of Birmingham Building.  The significance of the building is that in a time where libraries are closing down in the UK it is refreshing to see a new building opening.

No Name City Hostel, Madrid – Review

For my trip to Madrid I chose to stay at the No Name City Hostel.  This was booked through http://www.hostelbookers.com and was chosen because the location was central and the reviews on the website were positive.

The address of the hostel is C/Atocha, 45 – 28012 Madrid.  The nearest Metro stop is Antón Martin on-line 1.  Plaza Mayor is only a fifteen minute walk away.

No Name City Hostel

I had booked a dorm with a private bathroom.  However, on arrival I was told that I would be in a dorm where I would have to share bathroom facilities with other dorms.  To be fair the hostel without prompting discounted €1 per day off my bill and having to share a bathroom is not the biggest hardship in the world.  You are assigned your bed with your key so you do not get the choice of upper or lower bunk.  You also have a key to safe under your bunk.  I also left a €15 deposit when I checked in.  It would be paid back to me when I checked out if I brought down the bedding.  The dorm itself was clean and spacious for six people.  The bed itself was comfortable and I managed to sleep well on all six nights.

Breakfast was included in the cost.  It consisted of fruit, cereal and toast.  You could also have a juice and a hot drink.  It is served in the Common Area.  There were also vending machines that sold food, soft drinks and alcohol.  There is also access to free wi-fi which is always a bonus.  There is a kitchen where you can cook your own meals on the third floor.

Where I felt the hostel scored really well was the multitude of events that it organised.  The most popular was the nightly pub crawl.  I took part in the crawl on my last night.  For €12 you meet at another hostel and have two free beers and make your way through the exciting Madrid nightlife.  You stop at three nightclubs where you get a free shot in each one.  An excellent night out.  Also on offer were a Tapas tour, Walking tour and Flamenco night out.

Overall, I found the No Name City Hostel an excellent place to stay.  Central and comfortable it offers plenty to the traveller who wishes to enjoy Madrid.  I recommend it to everybody.

Until the next post, stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

Madrid – Tuesday 3rd July

Feet feeling a whole lot better now.  Thought I would have a different breakfast.  So I treated myself to chocolate and churros.  A breakfast that consists of dipping pastry sticks into a cup of thick hot chocolate.  I thought it was delicious.  So did a couple of my Facebook friends.

Breakfast

Feeling happy I made my way to the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza.  What is extraordinary is the museum was once a private collection.  The paintings date from 13th to 20th century and I have to say the whole experience was amazing.  One of the best museums I have visited.  One can only guess at the value of the collection.

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

I had now decided to ditch MTrip and started to make my own way to visit a couple of museums mentioned in the book supplied with the Madrid card.  The first one was the Museum of Madrid.  This was a museum of the history of Madrid.  Being a history buff I was looking forward to this.  However, the reality was a huge disappointment.  It was one room with a couple of exhibits.  In truth there were more staff than exhibits.  So I decided to make my way to the Museo de la Biblioteca Nacional de España.  Again not a big museum but it had a whole lot more to offer especially a temporary exhibition dedicated to Leonardo de Vinci.

After resting I noticed the Hard Rock Cafe.  I must admit that I will have a meal in the Hard Rock Cafe if there is one available.  Plus with my Madrid card I was entitled to a discounted meal.  After the meal I went back to the hostel to relax with a few beers.  I ended talking to people and stayed up late talking.  All in all a really good day which made me look forward to the next day.

Until then stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

Madrid – Monday 2 July

Somehow everybody was in a good mood this morning.  I suspect there might have been a few people having a sick day in Spain today.  You could not fail to see that everybody was in red today.  That included my feet.  I should have broken in my new sandals before I left for Madrid.  My feet look like a battle zone and I could not walk anymore with my sandals.  Luckily I did bring a first aid kit and it included sticking plasters.  It meant that I was back to wearing the trainers and they felt like carpet slippers.  The Australian girls who were sharing the dorm with me agreed that my feet looked like they had been in a battle.

As most of the public buildings close on Monday it was a case of taking things easy.  I did however, take in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia.

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia

Home to mainly contemporary art it is the home of Picasso’s Guernica.  I can tick off another art masterpiece that I have seen.

Now that I felt culturally restore I needed to find something to eat.  I have always wanted to try paella but it was always sold as a portion for two.  A disadvantage for the single traveller.  Finally I found a restaurant that sold paella in a single portion.  It was too good an opportunity to pass up.  After ordering myself a Valencian paella and a cold beer I surprised to be brought some tapas with the beer.

Half-eaten tapas and a refreshing cold beer

The food was delicious and I left feeling very contented.

Dinner – Valencian Paella

Back at the I was starting to hear talk that was making me feel jealous.  It was all about the bull run in Pamplona. I. would be back home next week and this make me feel a little sad.  To cheer myself I went out for a walk.  The day did end on a surreal note.  Never did I think that I would be enjoying an ice cream cone at 11pm.  Priceless, went back to the hostel feeling very happy.

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy, keep smiling.

Steve

Picture of the Week – Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow

This week picture from the archives is of Kelvingrove Art Gallert and Museum in Glasgow.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Situated on Argyle Street in Glasgow, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.  It is free to enter and is one of the most visited attractions outside London.

The museum is home to over 9,000 items and includes ‘Christ of Saint Joan of the Cross’ by Salvador Dali.

There is a popular local myth about building.  It is said that it was built back to front and when the poor architect discovered the error he jumped off one of the towers.

I found this was a excellent way to spend a morning while I was in Glasgow and I would recommend this attraction to anyone.

Until the next post, stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

R.I.P. Jon Lord

Madrid – Sunday 1 July

Excitement is in the air as today is the final of Euro 2012 and Spain are favourites to win.  Before that though there were parts of Madrid that I need to see.  So after breakfast the day began with a visit to the Almundena Cathedral.  Being Sunday there was a service taking place.  I respectively observed from a distance though one thing did disturb me.  People were taking photographs while the service was taking place.  In my eyes it is not very respectful to those who were listening to the service.

Next door to the cathedral is the Palacio Real.  No longer the main residence of the Spanish royal family it is now a major tourist attraction.  I found it to be a great way to spend the morning.

Palacio Real

After that things started to go pear-shaped.  For this trip I had chosen to use MTrip iPhone app for Madrid.  I had read good reviews for it so I decided to give it a go.  The app itself can create itinerary for you to follow depending upon your interests.  However, I was starting to suffer problems.  The first one was not being able to read the display in the glare of sunlight.  Also I found the map was steering away from the course I wanted.

I eventually found my way to the Plaza de España.  My god! what a disappointment.  There had been an event taking place on the previous evening and there was a smell of stale urine in air from the portaloos.  I quickly moved to the Museo Cerralbo.  Another disappointment to report.  It is a rich mans house.  It is alright if you are into antiques.  In hindsite my frustrations with MTrip may have clouded my view and they were about to get worse.  I just found myself walking yards that I did not need to.  In the end I gave up and made my way back to the hostel.

My mood improved with the sea of red that was heading towards the city centre.  Because of the state of my feet I decided to watch the match from the hostel.  Spain won 4-0, awesome performance.  I went outside to experience the amazing atmosphere.  Being English I felt really jealous.

Madrid – Saturday 30 June

After a good night’s rest I was ready to tackle what the city of Madrid had to offer.  I am enjoying my hostel particularly as the breakfast was free.  The first point of call was purchase the Madrid card as I plan to visit a few of the museums while I was here.  The helpful receptionist told me that the best place to purchase one would be the tourist information centre at the Plaza Mayor.

Plaza Mayor

The plaza did not disappoint as it is an impressive place.  After purchasing the Madrid card I took advantage of the free walking tour that was on offer.  The guide, Rodrigo was very knowledgeable.  He explained the history of Madrid as we were walking.  The tour took in the area of the Royal Palace.

Once the tour was complete and I had a bite to eat I made my way to the Museo del Prado.  What a great place it was too and how easy it was to use the Madrid card.

Museo del Prado

Prado is home to the works of the great Spanish artists such as El Greco, Velázquez and Goya amongst others.  It is huge and I was there for four hours.  I did feel that I rushed it.  Still, it gives me the excuse to come back to Madrid again.

Feeling a little fatigued I took solace in the Royal Botanical Gardens.  At a cost of €3 it was a great way to spend a Saturday evening.  As the sun started to go down I felt that I had found some peace.

Exhibit at the Royal Botanical Garden

At the end of the day the only concern I had was for my poor feet as they were beginning to feel sore.

Until the next post, stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve