Bar 104

For once, the bar is empty. I stroll up to the front and casually order two large beers, because a litre is only one euro and fifty cents in this particular bar, if I remember correctly. The swarthy man behind the counter balks at the sight of me, and pours my Superbocks whilst staring.
“It’s been a while since you’ve been here – maybe 2 years?”
As my hands instinctively go to my mouth out of embarrassment I’m suddenly transported back in time to the first night alone in Lisbon.
I am 21 years old, and for the second time I’ve moved country to try and figure out what I want to do in life. I had just been given my spot in a 14 bed room in a hostel, which would be home for the next 5 months.  I have hung up towels and flags to block my bed from the view of strangers. Strangers who know Lisbon better than I do at this point.
Although it’s February there is a mildness to the evening breeze. It carries me out the door and up to Barrio Alto. It’s still too early for the night crawlers to start prowling the streets, but the day shift are certainly wavering. A few lonely stag dos wander the streets, separated from the rest of the pack. It’s a sight I’ll become used to; tipsy British men roaming the white cobbled hills, but right now I just need to find my love of the city.
Along Rua da Atalaia I see an old, run down, blue and white building. It’s so unimpressive that I would have walked right past it had I been in a rush to do anything with my night. I go in and buy a litre of beer for one euro fifty. There are no seats inside, so I carefully carry it out and along to Miradouro de São Pedro de Alacantara. The beer is ice cold, hurting my hand, and the warmth has left the city to be replaced by a bruise coloured sunset. As I sat with my giant cup near the railings of the lookout point I watched the sky blossom from teal to yellow and green, and then finally to the navy stillness marking the start of my first night there.
I would return to that spot many more times over the next few months, with many different people, ritualistic in my ice cold beers from Bar 104, and my love of the night sky. And it seemed that old habits would die hard. The passing years had no effect on my vigil appreciation of the city, and fortunately, very little had seemed to change. Including the price of a litre of Superbock.

Skye in 5

Last August I visited the Isles of Skye and Mull in a Ford van turned caravan. I took hundreds of photos but these are the ones I liked best so I thought I’d share them here.

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This was the sunrise on our first morning of camping. We picked berries from the roadside and then headed off on the ferry to Mull from Loch Aline. You have to be up pretty early to see sunrise in Scotland in Autumn.

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This is the view up Ben More, one of the steepest munroes in Scotland. It starts on the shore of a sea loch in Mull. We went up and down in 5 hours, including a half hour nap at the top in the fog and a play in the crystal clear waters on the way down.

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This so me looking into the fog from the summit. Vertigo inducing stuff.

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This is one of the fairy pools on Skye at Glen Brittle. I loved this part of Skye, the waters were so clear and the colours were ethereal. We climbed down a pretty steep cliff to get to this photo but it was worth it.

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Finally the Old Man of Storr (not Stoor) Everywhere we went around this part of Skye was adorned with these cairns and I got a bit obsessed with them. I just thought they were so pretty.

So go to Skye and Mull in Autumn/Fall. The weather was amazing, the views were incredible and the food, especially at the Crab Shack and the Three Chimneys, was delicious.

Lisbon in 3

I took three snaps on my last trip to Lisbon which constantly remind me of how much I love the place. To check out things to do I wrote a post about a year ago that you should check out.

Praca do comercio at sunset

I stayed here for a good hour watching the sun go down. There’s such a great atmosphere there at golden hour, people play music, they blow giant bubbles and it’s generally just a lovely place to spend an evening.

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The view from the Museu da cerveja.

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Padrao de Descobrimentos

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Belem is a cultural hub. Spend an afternoon here soaking up the culture and eating multiple pasteis de nata in a beautiful park.

The GART – pt 2. CanaMex route.

Route 93 – The CanaMex Highway.

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The standard CanaMex Highway is the major North to South American route. You don’t have to cross the border, starting at Port of Roosevelt in Montana and ending up in Wickenburg, Arizona, or you can really travel the Americas by starting in Jasper, Alberta and cruising over three states to Tucson, Arizona, about 70 miles away from Nogales at the border. The first route is around 1457 miles long (or 2345 kilometres) and would probably take around three weeks. The latter is around 1995 miles/3210 kilometres, and I would suggest taking around 10 weeks to do it.

Now that the logistics of the trip are over we can get along with the Fun Parts; starting up in Jasper, Canada. The only place I have been to in Alberta was Edmonton which, granted, was a riot, but was a bit too north for me to get a look in at Jasper and Banff. However I’ve called upon some sources (Thanks Brad!) and hopefully can give some good enough information about everywhere!

Jasper is found pretty much in the middle of the Canadian Rockies. Depending on the time of year you go there are different things to do there. However, what I would suggest doing is visiting Maligne Lake. There, you can fish (check permits first!), rent kayaks and canoes, and in winter they offer snow-shoeing and Canyon ice-walking.  It’s beautiful camping territory up there as well, if that’s your thing! As for food I would suggest Evil Dave’s Grill. Their Caesers (or Bloody Mary’s for those UK readers) look lethal, as do their Lollipop shrimp and Alberta beef. Yum!

Because Canadian distances are incredibly deceptive, Banff looks close to Jasper, though it is a good 4 hour drive away. But worth it, as there is a wealth of beautiful countryside to go through and indeed see once you are there.

You can hike Sulphur mountain which is pretty much right in the town itself. It’s not terribly difficult at all and has some nice views on your way up. If needs must there is a cable car (I’m such a fan of cable cars) and I’m lead to believe it’s free to take down if you’ve walked up… however you have to pay to ride up. I have also been suggested to go out to Johnston Canyon which is about a 30 – 40 mins drive from the town. It’s a great a hike with some walkways that ends in a beautiful waterfall.

After all that hiking you’re bound to get up an appetite, so I shall give a small list of places to go and things to get there. Courtesy of Brad!

  1. A Barpa Burger from Barpa Bill’s Souvlaki Restaurant.
  2. A ‘Litre o’ Sangria from Magpie and Stump. I’ve been told it’s the best Sangria our of Spain. Ask for a ‘litre o’ to get a litre of your favourite drink!
  3. Head to Eddie’s for a gourmet burger – Aussie style! For drinks try a TrashCan. I just hope it’s tastier than it sounds!
  4. Another good watering hole is the Rose and Crown, with live music at weekends
  5. For those late night munchies head to Aardvark for pizza and sub sandwiches.

So we’re done with Canada! For now…

There’s sadly no Man v Food stop in Montana (Get on it Adam) so if you can face the prospect of a state without food challenges, travel six hours south and you’ll reach Sun River, Montana. The main information I found about this site revolves around fishing and camping. Some companies offer packrafting, which I have sort of down in my own country and would definitely root for – it’s great fun!  Another two hour drive south and you’ll come to Missoula, MT.  Now, if I was going there I’d personally be hitting up the Ghost towns, which may not be for everyone but it looks right up my street. There also a number of breweries and campsites you can visit, and if you just aren’t happy with that you can try the bar where time stands still for two hours a day and head to Finn and Porter’s bar and grill, where happy hour lasts for three hours…

Next on out whistle-stop tour of the United States (and Canada) is Bitterroot National Forest, which borders Montana and Idaho, the next state we’re heading into.  Bitterroot offers a Full Moon Walk, which starts at about 7pm and lasts an hour and a half. There’s so much else you can do during the day, such as hiking, horseback riding, boating, and hunting. Not sure how we all feel about the option but hey. The option is there for us.

Pass through the forest and we end up in Idaho (No, Udaho. Guess whose least favourite joke that is. Hint, it’s everyone I know because I say it all the time) Unfortunately all three of the Man v Food locations are located in Boise, which is near the border of Oregan and far away from Highway 93. About five hours south of the Montana border is Sun Valley, where you can ice skate, snow board and climb up numerous mountains such as Bald Mountain and Dollar Mountain. There’s an activity there called Snow Tubing, which caught my attention, so after a quick google I found this video. Look at it. How peaceful does that look? Very.

For the more adventurous head down through Idaho to Twin Falls. There you can head to Shoshone Falls aka “The Niagara of the West”. It’s over 200 feet tall and 900 feet wide, and although it’s $3 entry fee it seems to be well worth it.  You can also BASE jump at Perrine Bridge, where there are festivals yearly that are worth a visit.

Let’s move swiftly through “the Loneliest road in America” to yet another state; Nevada – famed for its gambling. To break up the enormous nine hour stoat from Twin Falls to Las Vegas I would suggest a stop off at the Great Basin National Park and take a little trip up Jeff Davis’ mountain. You know, to stretch your legs a bit. After that you can jump back in the car for another four hours to the gambling centre of the world, the epicentre of cash flow, Las Vegas.

There are three spots to eat in Las Vegas, according to Richman. Let’s jump in at the deep end and eat at the challenge restaurant, the NASCAR Cafe. Food won in this 6 pound burrito challenge. If eating something the size of a small baby does not appeal to you our pal Adam can suggest Hot N’ Juicy Crawfish or Hash House a go go  which probably has a different meaning to some, but I can assure you they are talking about hash browns.

For those of you looking for something to do in Las Vegas I suggest you turn your television on and watch any American made sitcom from the 1980s onwards, as they will each have at least one episode where a main character is swept up in the lights and glamour of being in a brightly lit room 24 hours a day gambling away their children’s inheritance money. If that’s not your thing I suggest a trip to the Venetian – the biggest hotel in the world. It’s the size of a small town and has underground chambers to help staff keep the efficiency. If that doesn’t float your boat, Red Rock is a 30 minute drive away, as is Hoover Dam.

Passing through the Grand Canyon National Park at Lake Meade should provide some much needed respite from the built up chaos of Las Vegas. Drive through the Grand Canyon state and hit up a rodeo in Wickenburg before hitting up Phoenix; where our Man v Food fun begins.

Tragically, the challenge establishment Big Earl’s BBQ, where food won in a 12 slider challenge has closed. According to my (minimal) research the wonder has opened up a new place in Scottsdale, but alas. Instead, head on over to Alice Cooper’stown (no, that’s not a typo). This rock star turned golfer turned restaurateur serves up an interesting menu and you can bet your bottom dollar that it’s gonna be a memorable experience there with such a character at the forefront of it all. Acknowledge Arizona’s close links to Mexico by eating at Los Reyes de la Torta  and then heading south to Tucson.

So we’re nearly at the end of our journey. You’ve been driving for about 35 hours in total and covered 3,050km. You’ve crossed one international border and two state lines (the states are long and skinny in the west huh?) You’re so close to Mexico you can almost taste the tequila; however, you gotta make a couple of stops first. Tucson’s Lindy’s on 4th is our challenge restaurant of the city. The OMG burger (now called the OMFG burger…) is nine 1/3 lb. patties (3 lbs.) of meat with cheddar and Swiss, lettuce, tomato, onion & Lindy’s sauce and, astonishingly for the first time in a while on this trip, Man won! If you don’t fancy high blood pressure I’d suggest El Guero Canelo, famed for its hot dogs or the little nest where you can rest before the final leg of our journey, Mi Nidito.

Finally, Head through Green Valley which has some of the most diverse flora and fauna in the United States until you get to Nogales, AZ, where the film Oklahoma! was filmed…. Watch yourself here; a year ago the largest underground drug bust was carried out, resulting in the arrest of three people. Marvel at the immense security measures at the border of Mexico. Nogales, MX is one of the main ports of entry from the USA to Mexico especially for tourists. It consists of bars, strip clubs, hotels, restaurants, and a large number of curio stores, which sell a large variety of artesanias (handicrafts, leather art, handmade flowers, clothes) brought from the deeper central and southern states of Mexico. Local dishes commonly available in restaurants include many types of antojitos (Mexican food) such as enchiladas, tacos, burritos with carne machaca (dried meat), menudo and tamales, but sadly, no Man v Food.

The Backpacker Workout

After a 3 week trip around Iberia I’ve managed to shed a (tiny) bit of exam weight. I can’t imagine it’s through the strict diet of wine, port, beer, and prawns in garlic I stuck to religiously, so I reflected on my exercise regime whilst away. I jotted down some handy hints to help you with your travelling weight loss.

  1. The Deadlift – Popular with crossfitters. Lay your rucksack on the floor, and any time the person you are with says they are ready to leave, heave it onto your back in a standing position. Hold for 10 seconds until you realise they are not ready. Put it down and repeat as many times as necessary. Particularly good for the lats and quads.
  2. The “Imfurst” Sprint – Good cardio. Wait outside your dorm room with your shower stuff until someone comes out of the bathroom, then sprint in before anyone else can.
  3. The “Imfurst” Sprint Variation – Good for footwork practise. While two people are standing in line but not pay attention, side step past them at great speed into the bathroom.
  4. The Ab Weave – Particularly good for the abs and obliques. Weave through crowds of people at popular tourist locations. Try and keep your top half as still as possible for full comedic and muscle toning effect.
  5. Hitchers Arm exercises – Triceps and biceps (obviously). Walk along roads (safely) with your arm out to hitchhike. Lightly bounce your arm to add a more dynamic quality to your workout.
  6. The Lost Marathon – General cardio and leg workout. Get hopelessly lost. Walk at a slightly agitated and panicked pace for 3+ hours until you know where you are.
  7. The High Jump – Gluts and precision coordination. Enter the sea while the wave are quite strong. Try not to drown by jumping through them. Potentially dangerous but quite exhilarating and tiring

So take these tips, good travellers. Stay healthy abroad.

Untranslatable words.

Whilst browsing on reddit I discovered Playing in the World Game‘s fantastic list of words which do not exist in English. These have always fascinated me since my discovery of the word saudades (pt.) because such a feeling really can’t be described in one English words. The phrase “tener ganas” in Spanish is so much more emphatic and powerful that “desire/want/need/keen-ness” in English. I often find myself wanting to say ganas as opposed it’s rough English equivalent. Some translations don’t make aas much sense, granted. For example, a European Portuguese driver may put you in the “death spot” (lugar do morte) instead of the “passenger seat”. That may have more to do with their driving as opposed to their language but we’ll leave that to the imagination.

This train of thought lead me onto untranslatable words from English. And I am really raking my brains here. We are a far more idiomatic language than I care to imagine, so I’ve thought about a few of those as well. If any of you can come up with more, please comment below!

  • Gobbledegook – the oral version of “dasldka;dka”
  • Googly – cuter than bulgy.
  • Poppycock – talking nonsense. In an elevated manner.
  • Kitsch – being ironically garish (ok, so this word is technically German…)
  • Spam – Something posing as meat.
  • Chuffed – to be very pleased with oneself.
  • Whimsy – quaint or fanciful behaviour.
  • Cheesy – cheap or low quality. Somethign which makes you cringe under different circumstances. (think the end of every high school movie)
  • Hoodwink – deceive (I guess we have desenganar in Spanih but it has a slightly different sentiment)
  • Daunting – An immense task.
  • Hassle – Kind of like a pain in the ass but less so.

As for phrases… Here we go…

  • To throw a party (How far can  you throw one?)
  • To throw/take a fit (Where do we get fits from to take them?)
  • To give a damn (To whom?)
  • “I’ll give you a phone” (Gee, thanks!)
  • “I’ll call you back” (Backwards? Behind?)
  • Here goes nothing (How does nothing go!?)
  • Change your mind. (But the brain!)
  • Fall in love. (From a great height one can only assume)
  • Spanking new. (What?)
  • Cut the mustard – (surely anyone can cut the mustard? Actually… That’s the point isn’t it…)
  • Flip the bird – [to give someone the finger] (Why a bird? It should be more dramatic if it’s a bird!]
  • Hit the books – [to study hard] (hitting them won’t help!)

I’m sure there are thousands more, but I have a cat to play with and some wine to drink!

Glasgow at a Glance pt. 2!

_41754302_marditonea416Once again I turn to my friends to help me make the most of my last few months in Glasgow. Today we feature one of the first friends I made at university Leslie, who is 22. He currently works at The Nancy Smillie Shop, located in the heart of Glasgow’s West End.

Best place for a first date?

Would honestly recommend any of the coffee shops around the Byres Road, they all offer something a bit different and have a really nice, relaxed atmosphere. Avenue G is to name but one.

Avenue G just had a wee vamp of their menu as well! They have a good system in which you can buy one of their travel cups and get a free coffee or tea! But you’re right, most of the shops along Byres Road offer a little bit of privacy but aren’t too intimate, though Avenue G does often get quite busy up top!

Best place for a cheap meal?

Black Rabbit, Great Western Road. Why have Two for Tuesdays when you can have Three for Tuesdays? It may not seem like much but it does great food and sides and drinks included you can easily feed three people for under a tenner.

I will say I’ve visited the Black Rabbit (though very late at night) and was underwhelmed! I might have to reconsider things now….

Best place to go all out/best night?

For a night out, The Polo Lounge has always been a great night. A cheap drinks (£1.50 for pretty much a measure of anything) through the week and free entry all weekend if you’re there early enough. Has 2 great dance floors and an adjoining cocktail bar, with some decent entertainment some nights; all in all, a great place for a few (or a lot) of drinks.

I’m a huge fan of Polo’s tea pot cocktails. And prices. And music. And their naked butlers. Ok, I’m just a huge Polo fan.

Best place to go with your S/O’s parents?

The Grosvenor (Ashton Lane). Great refurbished cinema, fully licensed with bar, restaurant, and the novelty of being able to take the bottle of wine you got with dinner into a movie never gets old. It’s a great place to go if even just for dinner, especially if the steak is still anywhere near as good.

I usually take wine into the cinema regardless but it’s nice when it’s legal to do so… Their pulled pork burgers are amazing and if you have the SR app which I mentioned in my last blog you can get cheap cocktails during the week!  Orange Wednesdays also work in the cinema there.

Hidden gems?

Tchai-Ovna, Otago Lane. Idyllic tea house hidden in one of Glasgow’s lanes, Has a huge selection of teas, shisha pipes for those inclined, and hugely tasty vegan friendly nibbles – a relaxing place to go and sit hour for ages with a book or do some work.

Dammit, this was my hidden gem! I almost considered deleting this and forging Leslie’s response as I like it so much here. The teas are fairly expensive, bu the food is very cheap and delicious! There’s a great atmosphere inside as well, perfect for a rainy Sunday afternoon.

A place you couldn’t pay me to go to.

Ashoka. Don’t do it. It has good variety, but there are far better places for curry and the like in Glasgow, such as Shish Mahal on Park Road (Kelvinbridge), had amazing food and is decently priced for the quality. Mother India is also always a safe bet, if a tad on the pricey side.

Ashoka has some good lunchtime deals, but Leslie is right, there are better and more authentic places to go! Like the Shish Mahal, which holds a special place in my heart. Get their Chicken Chasni. It’s divine. I think they know me there actually….

A huge thank you to Leslie for his little guide to Glasgow. Again, if any of you think that your favourite place is not being represented drop me a line answering the questions above and I’ll include your opinions!