It’s been so long I forgot what you look like…

20.11.2016

Dublin, Ireland.

“I love doing things people don’t expect.”

Lil’ Kim, all round bad a$$ bitch

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. So what does it mean when you share neither for  what’s been nigh on 18 months? Probably not a lot, but at the very least I’ve been very busy, like, living and ‘realising things’.

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 A lot of people have way more interesting lives and you’re probably wondering why you’re reading this stupid blog? Actually, I think you really need to question why you’re reading it, are you OK? Do you need help and have you had your breakfast this morning?  All Nicky ever does is go on about how long it’s been since her last post and she always promises to post more but never does!  Beats me, you must be one morose or bored little donut to have read even this far. But here we are, together through the interwebz, so I will do my level best to entertain you through your scrolling adventure. Or at the very least, help you procrastinate.  I take no responsibility for time wasted and brain cells lost. You can’t get it back, leave now while you can.

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“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”

Henry David-Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Like a kid that never quite seems to grasp that if you touch a fire-poker you’ll get burned,  I too never seem to learn that I am not as invincible as I like to think I am. What’s changed I hear you cry? Well, not an awful lot, but my approach and response to how one weathers the proverbial storm has. My family and I have gone through a lot over the years, as have most.

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Deaths’, divorces’, my mental disorders’ and as I sit here in my Uncle’s living room in Dublin, I can’t help but be overwhelmed with gratitude and humbled by the support and friendship I’ve received from family, friends and strangers over the few short years I’ve been on this planet. The more I travel and see new cities, cultures and religions, the more I’m reminded to launch myself wholly into situations and experiences with an open heart and an open mind. I’ve met some amazing people by going to parties on my own and even more simply, by attempting conversation with strangers on a train or a bus. It’s so much easier to close yourself off than to put yourself out there and every day I face my fear of rejection by smiling or waving at random passersby. If you ever get rejected, just style it out. People won’t be weirded out if you hi-five yourself or pull faces like you have a tic, you’ll be fine, it’s normal, it’s OK. Take. It. From. Me.

So, without further ado, I will oblige and get to it, but not before I say thank you. I love you fam and each and every person in my life that has enriched it for the better and worse, you know who you are. I draw wisdom, strength and lessons from it all. I love you, thank you a thousand times ad infinitum.

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“When I look for a woman, I look for one that’s real – that’s keeping it 100. “

Jeremih, R&B Legend

Now, I know none of you come here for my wisdom, you come here for my comedy and my insanely good travel tips, right? Right. Here is where I’ve been over the last year and a half. Seeing this list fleshed out, can you understand why I never have money to sponsor all of you bellends that decide to put yourself through the rigorous torture of running marathons? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE? Rich here’s looking at you, Kid.

Melbourne, Australia / Riga, Latvia / Edinburgh, Scotland (x3) / Salzburg, Austria / Prague, Czech Republic / Tallinn, Estonia / Helsinki, Finland / Frankfurt, Germany / Sardegna, Cinque Terre, Portofino, Genoa, Milan, Lake Como, The Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, Capri – Italy / Marlow, Cornwall, Winchester, Manchester – England / Budapest – Hungary / Monte Carlo, Monaco / Paris, Nice – France / Barcelona, Madrid – Spain / Porto – Portugal / Mostar – Bosnia and Herzegovina/ Kotor – Montenegro / Dubrovnik – CroatiaLefkada – Greece / New York – USA / Istanbul – Turkey / Dublin – Republic of Ireland  / 21 Countries, 37 cities

In the spirit of kindness and not wanting to be your cause of death, I’ve carefully curated a brief summary of all the standout places without going into an overwhelming amount of detail. Stay with me, it will be worth it*

*it probably won’t. 

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“Istanbul is a magical seal, which unites Europe and Asia since the ancient times. Without a doubt, Istanbul is certainly the most beautiful place of the world.”

Gerard De Nerval

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I decided to go to Istanbul on the August Bank Holiday weekend which was AFTER both the bombings at Ataturk Airport and the civil coup. Naturally, no one wanted to go with me. Given that I clearly have a death wish, I decided it was most definitely the safest time to go and that it didn’t matter that I was travelling solo. I can take on at least 2 men for roughly 90 seconds which would be totally enough time for me to escape into the labyrinthine streets of Istanbul like Aladdin on his magic carpet.

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Istanbul is a wondrously magical city. It’s the confluence of the Middle East, Asia and Europe which come together to create a heady cocktail of sensorial delight. It is the literal collision of continents. Why do I love it? I don’t, I ADORE it, am infatuated by it and can’t wait to return. The food, the hospitable and generous people, the sounds, the sights, the glistening water and domed mosques that decorate the city like candles on a cake. Not to mention the beautiful basilicas’ that sit side by side Islamic and Roman architecture in a perfect marriage of East vs West. Istanbul is history in real live motion. You can sip a cocktail from a hipster rooftop and in the background is a centuries old Mosque or building. Bliss.

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The Blue Mosque

Istanbul used to be called Constantinople back in Roman/Byzantium era, then it was under Ottoman rulership, and then back to being Roman. Now I am no Indiana Jones, but I’m certain that it also fell under the crusades and then the Greeks came because they did not want to miss out on the party, no sir. I managed to be my own tour guide and stumble upon relics and buildings from all of these eras. If you’ve never been to Istanbul or are planning on going, please make sure that if you do anything you do the following.

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Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace is a marbled, golden and glistening gem. It’s sprawling mass is unlike any lavish palace I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. You could wander around the grounds for hours and still find something to gaze at without running the risk of boredom. It sits a top a hill overlooking the Bosphorus like a Queen on her throne. The history and architecture are so incredibly awe inspiring that it will take your breath away. Construction of this lavishly decadent palace started in 1459 by Sultan Mehmed the 2nd, conquerer of of the Byzantine Constantinople. New developers could really take note.

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Aya Sofia

So, the Aya Sofia (Hagia Sophia) was a church, then a mosque, and then back to a church. It’s construction began 537 AD which is old AF. Grandma, don’t ask what that last abbreviation means. Kids, don’t tell her. It served as an Eastern Orthodox church originally, but in our family we don’t speak about the Ottoman Vs Habsburg wars. My grandfather is Hungarian, and he HATES Turks. In fact, he actually hates everyone, but long story short the Turks invaded Hungary and every Hungarian, except this little goulash, remain salty about it. Google it, educate yourself, broaden your historical plains.

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Sultan Ahmed Mosque (The Blue Mosque)

Just go here, it’s beautiful. The call to prayer can be heard and it’s truly enchanting. Go inside and you have to wear traditional garb which is fun, I think I would suit being Muslim. It kinda smells like feet in there but once you get past it, and by past it I mean acclimatised, the inside is so beautiful. There are so many angles, shapes and colours to look at that it really has me considering what my favourite type of architecture is. I’ve always said Art Deco/Art Nouveau is my favourite, but after Istanbul I’m not sure that it remains as such.

Hey Dad, remember when you said my lip piercing was ‘just a phase’? LOOK AT ME NOW POPS. Phase, is it? That’s Long ass phase, bitch. I’m sorry I called you a bitch, I love you, Gary. Gaz. Dad.

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Basilica Cistern

Now, this place is terribly lit, but it’s incredible. It’s cavernous, technically a church, and wonderfully weird. There are what seem to be giant koi fish swimming about and the Medusa Heads are so random that this mishmash works. Don’t bother with the audioguide, it’s terrible, my sister who can’t explain how to boil water could do a better job.

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Karaköy

Karaköy is a very eclectic part of Istanbul, it has hidden laneways reminiscent of Melbourne’s Laneways minus the tourists. It has delightful bars and restaurants with a laid back European vibe. Arty and boutique hotels have cropped up here over recent years, and it’s central location means that it’s easy to get to and from both historical sights and Taksim’s raging nightlife. I was very fortunate to stay at the 10 Karaköy and for anyone thinking of going, I highly recommend it.

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10 Karaköy – A Morgan’s Hotel

Aaaaand finally for all of those of whom don’t fall under my Mormon Family category. Which is to say none of you because only Mor-Mouney’s read this damn screed. I digress. Taksim is the bar-hopping, beating heart of Istanbul’s nightlife. It has rooftop bars to rival that of Melbourne/New York/London alike and with the timings approach of Berlin (think midnight starts and 7 am finishes and that’s just on a Sunday).

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I went to Istanbul thinking that I would be in bed by 7pm because it was a nation of Islam.I could not have been more wrong and disappointed that I had assumed that. Not only is Taksim very fun, but the people you meet are amazingly hospitable and welcoming. Of course being a solo-female traveller, you get a little nervous but it’s nothing that we haven’t really gone through as a gender before. If you are worried about going by yourself, then I implore you to sign up to a pubcrawl – they’re a lot of fun and you meet fellow lone-rangers that are all in a mindset of going out and having fun. I had the privilege of meeting some very lovely people that I keep in touch with and plan on visiting next time I’m there. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a good dancer. I’m like The Dude and no one batted an eyelid.

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“The haunting of history is ever present in Barcelona. I see cities as organisms, as living creatures. To me, Madrid is a man and Barcelona is a woman. And it’s a woman who’s extremely vain.”

Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Barcelona, How do I love thee? Let me list the ways. Architecture by Gaudí, tapas, sangria, sun – it’s all such a wonderfully hazed dream from which I never wish to wake. I think you can judge a lot from a city by how it feels when it’s raining. If it’s doom and gloom like in London, then it’s dismal 50% of the time. In Barcelona, it just adds to it’s already magnificent character. The gentle pitter pattering of rain as you meander through the Gothic archways add an extra layer to the soundtrack that is Barcelona. People laughing, glasses clinking, people talking in languid Catalonian. It’s all so intoxicating and that’s just during the day. Fancy a morning jog or stroll by the beach? You got it. Barcelona has it all.

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Nighttime in Barcelona is comparable to a 24-hour festival that runs all year round. You can sit in any one of Barca’s thousands of trendy bars, restaurants or lounges. If you’re not up for a party scene it doesn’t matter because you can go to the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc and no that is not a euphemism for drugs.

The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc incorporates lights and music into this wonderful aquatic dance. Music from soundtracks such as Fantasia, The Godfather and even Queen. At nighttime the Sagrada Familia is lit and shines from the inside out like a luminescent firefly. I am in a state of flux as to when the best time to see this Gaudí masterpiece is – night or day? I can’t decide.

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Sagrada Familia

 

And where would we be without mentioning Park Güell? Another of Gaudí’s many architectural marvels. Built between 1900-1914 it is a UNESCO world heritage sight, the conception was inspired by The Temple of Apollo of Delphi.

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Park Güell

The tiled mosaics, sculptures, colonnaded footpaths, archways and the serpentine benches all collide and result in what I can only describe as a playground for your imagination, that is fully realised and in front of you. If you unleashed the full potential of your creative mind, this is what would come out of it. This park is the closest that you can get as an adult to revisiting your childhood, back when parks where untapped wells of intrigue, potential and mystery.

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Anyway… Have I lost you? I’ve lost me. I’m beat. It’s been a while since I’ve flexed these blogging muscles and WOW does it take it out of you. I should probably give you updates on places like Milan, Portofino, Greece and Sardegna but I can not be bothered. Don’t you people have passports? Go travel and quit living vicariously through me. Alas, “the time has come” the walrus said, “to talk of many things” of how I’ve uploaded a bunch of fresh photos on this site, so that you might see my tings.

Moons over and out, see you in another 2 years.

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3 Mamouney’s

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