Thursday, 3 December 2009

I've Given Up Smoking!

The last couple of weeks have been more of the same for me really – working and football training in the week and drinking and partying at the weekend! The weekend before last I went to a birthday party on the Friday night and don’t really remember a lot! I woke up at 6pm on the Saturday and decided to just stay at home before going to bed again at about 1am. I was up nice and early the next morning in the hope that my registration was back from the league for me to make my debut for SV Kirschhausen but I was out of luck so had to make do with watching the game instead.

After the game had finished there was a big gathering of everyone connected with the club in the restaurant upstairs and we all got to eat for free which was really good. I wasn’t sure what some of the food was but I tried some of everything that was there and even went back for seconds! I was feeling pretty stuffed after that and headed off home to get a relatively early night ready for work the next day.

My last couple of weeks in the apartment in Kirschhausen I have been getting a lift into work and back home from work off Timo who works just down the road from where I work. I have been starting at about 7.30am every day and finishing at 5.15pm. As a result I was able to finish early on Friday last week and ended up only working from 10am until 3pm. I had arranged to pick up the keys for my new apartment and I also had a few things to do such as some much needed washing and I also had to get a passport photo done for my pass for football.

It was really good of the lady I am renting the apartment off to let me have the keys early and I actually moved in on Sunday 29th November but she has not charged me any more for this. I paid her the month’s rent on Monday (only €529 this month as she has given me a discount as I am in the UK from the 24th December). My rent next month will only be €506 too as I will not be back until 10th January. I think I have fallen on my feet with this apartment as the lady, Mrs Huber, seems to be very nice.

This weekend just gone I went to Apfelbaum both Friday and Saturday night. On Friday I went with Timo, Simon and Toby after we had been in the Hexenkessel with a few of our other friends. It wasn’t really that enjoyable a night to be honest – I wanted us to go and dance with a few girls and have a good time but the others were more preoccupied with drinking and I got bored fairly quickly. On Saturday night I went with Dave and Leno but again they were reluctant to go and dance with girls preferring again to just drink! Luckily, I had already decided I only wanted to stay until 2am as I had to be up for football on the Sunday so I didn’t get bored in the time we were there.

I had been looking forward to making my debut for a while by the time Sunday came so I was fairly psyched up for it. I got up at about 10.30am and was fully awake by the time that Domi and Steffen picked me up to drive to the sportplatz – we were playing away this weekend. I learnt that I would be playing in my preferred position – central defence – so was pretty happy about that. Unfortunately a couple of players had called up to say they were ill so we ended up having to play with only ten players for the whole match.

In the first half we were fairly dominant and took the lead after about 30 minutes. I won the ball just outside of my own area and took it towards the corner flag to try and buy some space but had nowhere to go. I was closed down by a striker so I held him off before turning and picking a team mate out who played a long ball forward. Domi latched onto the through ball and managed to put it past the keeper to put us 1-0 up.

My first half performance was pretty much perfect. I won every tackle that I went in for as well as winning every single header I challenged for. Every 50 50 went my way too with the opposition seemingly happy to wait for the ball to come to them – I did no such thing and forced my way around them every time to snuff out the danger before it presented itself. The only blemish on my first half was a free kick I gave away after about 5 minutes for a shove in the back near the half way line. Incidentally, that was the only foul I made all match.

In the second half the wind picked up massively and, typically, was blowing against us. A combination of this, a deficit of one man and a few tiring players meant that we didn’t finish the game very strongly and conceded two goals in the last 20 minutes. I was really disappointed with this as I feel that I could have prevented one of them if I had been in the area to defend the cross that came in but I had gone to close a player down. The first one we were totally outnumbered for; I think it was 4 on 2.

Near the end of the game I did start to boil over a little – not in a particularly bad way but my passion and determination was certainly evident with me flying into a few tackles in a desperate bid to regain possession and get the ball up the pitch to try and get an equaliser. On one occasion I flew into a tackle and got the ball but due to us playing on a hardplatz I ended up getting a massive burn down my right leg that is still pretty sore now! The referee actually told me to calm down a little after that but, to be fair, he didn’t call a foul and I had won the ball anyway.

On Monday I collected the last of my things from my old apartment and handed the keys back before heading to do some shopping just around the corner from my new apartment. Steffen had picked me up from work and drove me around. He’s a top lad and has been really helpful. Most of the German I have learnt has come from him and he is always offering to help out with things. Life could have been so much harder over the past few weeks if I had not met my new bunch of friends when I did.

I had football training on Tuesday this week which went quite well but I ended up hurting my leg again when I blocked a shot – it’s not a nice feeling to get the ball smacked into a burn from point blank range but there is no way I will be backing off from my defensive duties no matter how much it hurts. I built a rod for my own back in that respect though really as I had been telling everyone how in England we don’t go down after being tackled and hate showing that we’re hurt so I have to adhere to that now – although I would have done anyway!

After training on Tuesday I gave up smoking. I have been thinking about it for about three weeks now but have been waiting for the day when I am in the right frame of mind. That day came on Tuesday so I haven’t had a cigarette since 9pm Tuesday after training. There are a few reasons I want to give up – better fitness will mean better performances, it will save me money and I won’t stink of smoke all the time so hopefully this will be a benefit with the ladies when I have learnt a bit of German!

It has been a tough couple of days but I am determined to stick with it. I have tried to give up several times in the past and my best spell was a year without smoking. Most of the time I manage about 8 weeks before starting again for no apparent reason so I will be extra vigilant around the end of January and start of February. It would be nice if I could beat it once and for all but I will just be taking it one day at a time and seeing how things work out really.

Last night I decided to stay in as I knew it would be easier to stick to the not smoking if I was not around people who smoke. I ended up eating absolutely loads though – after eating a very large spaghetti Bolognese I then polished off a whole tube of sour cream and onion Pringles (with 25% extra free) followed by a Mars bar, a Twix, an apple, a banana, some grapes, a Clementine and a yoghurt. This was all in the space of about 4 hours max so I think I will have to be a little careful not to get fat! I am now out of chocolate and crisps though so I will just stick to fruit for my snacks over the next few days.

Today has been a real struggle for me not to smoke and I have had some pretty big cravings for most of the day but I have managed to resist. Each morning I have to walk past several cigarette machines in the street which is pretty difficult and today I have been unable to think about much else other than smoking! It’s a real pain in the arse as I cannot focus or concentrate on anything fully so I think my productivity has been a bit below par today. Still, I know this stage doesn’t last forever and hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.

Tonight I have football training again so at least the majority of this evening I will be distracted by something else. I just hope that I have a good session and manage not to hurt my right leg any more than I already have. I am looking forward to the prospect of playing again this weekend and wouldn’t want to have to cry off like a girl!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

I Have A New Apartment From December 1st

Well, the apartment viewing went pretty well. The first one I went to see was very close to work and I liked it quite a lot but the big problem there was that they wouldn't allow a dog at all so that pretty much ruled it out for me. It was a shame really as the location was great and it was pretty big. Still, the disappointment in the first one was quickly overshadowed by the elation after the second apartment viewing. Although the second apartment is a little further from work at 2.5km it is also a pretty decent size and, best of all, the lady said that I am welcome to bring Roman! I explained that he is a Rottweiler and described his temperament and she said it was no problem as a relative of hers had owned a Rottweiler and she had looked after it when they went away once so she was already familiar with the breed. A massive stroke of luck I think!

I am tied into the current apartment until 30th November so we negotiated for me to move in on the 1st December. The rent is slightly more at €700 per month but a lot of that difference will be saved on bus fares anyway and the location is so much better. There is a supermarket about 200 yards away so this is much better for me as I don't drive. It's a little awkward doing shopping where I live at the moment as a taxi is about €10 or €11 so it means that I have to buy little bits at a time and take it home from work each day. It's hardly ideal so I am made up that I will be in an apartment so close to a supermarket. Another big advantage of this apartment is the washing machine. You don't realise how valuable those things are!

I had a bit of a nightmare this week trying to find a launderette to do my washing in. I had got to the point where I literally had one more day's worth of clothes so it was imperative that I got my clothes washed. There is a new laundry service in Heppenheim but I had seen a price list and they wanted €1.50 per jumper, €2 per pair of jeans, etc... so it would have worked out to be very expensive. One of my new friends, Steffen, drove me around a few local towns here to see if we could find a launderette but the only things available were washing services and the cheapest price I could get was €24! I didn't want to pay that much - at that price I might as well get a train to Frankfurt and have a day there and then get the train back as there wouldn't be much difference. Luckily, Steffen's mum offered to do the washing for me and I now have enough to last me until I move into the new apartment.

I have made some big strides here socially now and have a pretty good collection of friends. I was in the pub one night and got talking to a lad called Daniel who was about to leave to go to the restaurant up the street so I asked if I could go with him. When we got there there were about 12 of his friends who were very welcoming to me. In particular I get along very well with two brothers, Timo and Steffen, but the rest are all very nice and I am happy that I have managed to make so many friends here so quickly.

It turned out that Timo plays for SV Kirschhausen so I asked him if I would be able to go along to training and see if I could get a game. I currently have no football boots or shin pads so he lent me both and we went last Thursday. I think the training session went well and some of the remarks that got back to me included "he's aggressive"! I think this was said in a good way but it certainly typifies the way in which I play the game quite well. After the training session I filled out some forms to sign up for them and the following day I made a copy of my passport to accompany the registration form. With any luck it will all be sorted in time for the game this weekend but should certainly be back in time for the one the weekend after.

Over the weekend I did a fair bit of partying again - it's becoming a bit of a theme really! On Friday Steffen picked me up from work and we went to get me a mobile phone as it is difficult for anyone to get in touch with me otherwise. We managed to find a pretty decent contract on O2 that gives unlimited minutes to other O2 phones for €20 per month. I am pretty pleased with this as all of my new friends are on O2 and I even managed to get a pretty nice phone from the deal. The phone is a Nokia 6700 and is packed with decent features. It has been a few years since I owned a Nokia but I have had only bad luck with other brands so I am hoping that Nokia's reliability is still what it was.

On Friday night I ended up going to Apfelbaum with Daniel and Tobias (another one of my new friends) and I got home very late into the night, I think around 6am but can't remember fully! On Saturday morning I got woke up at 11am by Steffen who had come to take me back to pick my phone up as there had been some online fault when they were trying to put the application through. I was still pretty drunk from the night before and this made for quite a bit of comedy in MediaMarkt!

Saturday was a day dominated by the local table tennis championship and this ran from around 1pm until about 7.30pm in the hall just up the street from my apartment. I abstained from drinking in the day in the knowledge that there would be a big party at the restaurant where I had met all of my new friends, Alfredo's. Timo came third in the championships after losing to another of my new friends, Marc. Marc ended up finishing second after being beaten by a very consistant Hajo who goes by the slogan "Hard to Kill"!

After the championships we headed off to the restaurant and the drinking games began, German style! After a few rounds the 3 litre beer jugs started coming out and this proved to be quite amusing. The game here was that whoever had drunk from the glass before the person who finished it had to pay for the beer. I managed to finish four of these jugs off - I was determined not to pay for it! On one occasion I was handed a jug that was half full and I looked at it wondering whether I could finish it - I knew if I didn't that the next person would. Anyway, I managed to down the lot to the surprise of a few people!

We drank there into the early hours of the morning and there was a real party atmosphere all night. Once people had become a little innebriated the songs started and the noise level went up a few decibals. I am learning some of the German songs from them but I am also teaching them a few English ones including Steve Gerrard, Fernando Torres and You'll Never Walk Alone! After most people had left there a few of us decided to get a cab into Heppenheim to go the the Hexenkessel (a pub in the centre that stays open very late). Whilst there we engaged in a few tequilas and got even more drunk before heading home.

I got to bed some time between 5 and 6 feeling pretty drunk and dreading getting up. Sunday is football day but they don't play until 3pm over here (whereas in England they play at 11am) so at least I didn't have to be up ridiculously early. Steffen came round and woke me up at about 1pm and we headed off to the football to watch Timo play. They game finished 3-1 to the opposition but Timo again managed to get on the scoresheet - it seems that drinking with an Englishman helps his game as he now has 3 goals in his last 2 games and he had only scored a couple all season before that!

This week has been pretty busy with work and I have a lot on right now. I have been looking at the reports that are currently used here and looking at ways in which to improve the reporting dramatically. Everything is done manually and in some cases it is quite basic so I am looking to overhaul everything using automated queries through VBA to provide dashboard style reports that need very little work to maintain and update. I think that people here are impressed with the work I have done so far and also with the ideas that I have put forward.

I mentioned last week to some of the IT department that I would benefit from more RAM as some of the calculations I have been performing are very RAM intensive and yesterday I got given a new PC that is much better and was also told that they are looking to order me a brand new laptop! Even after such a short period of time I feel very welcome and valued here and am looking forward to staying here for quite a while. Ideally for me I think I would like to stay maybe 2 or 3 years but I will have to see how things work out really.

Last night I had football training and the weather was typically English. Everybody looks at me like I am crazy when I turn up in shorts and t shirt for training - they all wear full training tracksuits but you won't catch me doing that! Ich bin Englander!! I keep telling them that the weather here (despite being fairly cold) is actually fairly mild from what I am used to at this time of year but I am not sure that they believe me. Training went fairly well and, although I gave the ball away a few times, I managed to clear the ball off the line 3 or 4 times and make some last ditch tackles. I am looking forward to our next training session tomorrow and can feel my fitness returning slightly already. I think I might have to give up smoking though...

Friday, 6 November 2009

Week 3 In Deutschland

Last weekend was a really nice weekend for me. I arrived in Frankfurt airport just after 4pm to meet my stepmum and her sister and we had a coffee there before heading for a taxi to take us to the hotel. I thought it would make more sense to get a taxi direct from the airport as the train into Frankfurt was €3.70 each (€11.10 for the 3 of us) and then we would have needed to get a taxi from there to the hotel anyway. I presumed a taxi to the hotel would be around €15 but it was €24 - taxis over here are pretty expensive!!

My stepmum suggested that I should see if there was a room available in the hotel for me to stay in as it would really have eaten into our time together if I had gone back home to Kirschhausen on Saturday night and then had to get a train back on the Sunday. It seemed like a logical idea, especially when you take into account the fact that it is €10 each way on the train anyway. Luckily they had spare rooms so I booked in at the Holiday Inn Express in Frankfurt for the night.

The first thing we decided to do was to try and find somewhere to do my washing. We asked at reception in the hotel and were told that there was somewhere in the station so we headed back there. We looked around for a while but couldn't find anywhere and the staff at the station didn't seem to know anything about it either! We stumbled across a hostel on the way out of the station so I headed up to their reception to see if they could point us in the right direction. As it was there was one literally about 100 yards away. When I left the hostel I couldn't see my stepmum or her sister, Karen. It turned out that they had decided to wait on the other side of the street as the hostel was next door to an interestingly named shop, The World Of Sex!

We headed to the launderette and dumped my stuff in a washing machine before heading off to have a look round for 40 minutes whilst it washed. We managed to spot a few restaurants and bars but not before walking right through the middle of the red light district! There was sex literally everywhere in this area and it was a bit of a shock when you think what England is like. I thought it was highly amusing but I am not sure my stepmum or Karen felt entirely comfortable in the area!

Once we had been back for my washing we had to wait for it to dry. I think they must have bought their tumble dryers from NASA or something - it only took 15 minutes and it was completely dry - not bad for €1! We decided to try an Italian restaurant we had walked past but it turned out it was so busy that we couldn't even get somewhere to sit. It was a shame really as it looked really nice and if a place is that busy then it is usually good. We stumbled across another place just up the road so ate there instead. The food was good but a little on the pricy side but at least we all got to try the apple strudel!

After leaving there we decided to head back to the hotel for a drink before going to bed. I actually stayed up until 3am as my stepmum had brought Football Manager 2010 over for me after I had managed to get Nath to go and buy it the night before she came out - it had only been released that day and I didn't fancy paying the German price! I am pleased to say too that the internet network coverage in Frankfurt was superb so not only have I now got Rosetta Stone downloaded with all 3 language levels for German but I have also managed to download a few new music albums!

On Sunday we decided to take a walk up the river and head for the old town in Frankfurt. It was a nice walk but it was a lot colder than I had expected it to be. The temperatures around here have been mid teens most of the time but it felt about 7 or 8 down by the river. I think it was so cold because we were by the river because once we got back into the network of streets it certainly felt a little warmer. The old town was quite picturesque and gave my stepmum and Karen the opportunity to get some photos.

We found somewhere to eat in the main square in the old town and all had German dishes. I have to say, the meals were quite nice and I think we were all happy with what we had chosen. After we had eaten we decided to go and see if we could find somewhere to buy some socks for my stepmum - as the weather had been mild recently she had brought light shoes without socks so her feet were pretty cold! I learnt a lesson about Germany that day - everywhere is closed on a Sunday! I couldn't believe that a city the size of Frankfurt had no shops open but it was true!

We managed to find "designer district" so at least we got to have a look at some €25,000 outfits whilst we were there! We had a good look around the city - it looks very different in the day but then I suppose that is true of all places. It was a shame everywhere was closed really as it would have been nice to have a look around the shops to see what the fashion in Germany is like. In the end Karen offered my stepmum a spare pair of socks so at least that problem was solved but it was still frustrating to not be able to shop!

Our time in Frankfurt was quite funny really - every time we decided to go somewhere or to do something it seemed that it was closed. My stepmum and Karen wanted to do a Rhine boat tour but when we tried to ring the place they told us that the season had finished - we located the office a little later to find that the season hadn't finished and they booked on one for the next day! We also found a nice pub style restaurant that we wanted to eat in but, although there were staff inside, that appeared to be constantly closed too! We also wanted to try and find a tavern over the river as Karen's guide book had recommended the area for Apfelwein but when we walked down the street the guidebook mentioned we couldn't find anything!

We eventually found a place to eat on Sunday evening back in the old town - there was a traditional German pub there that looked really nice so we thought we would give it a go. It was probably the best decision we had made in our time there. The food was delicious and the Apfelwein wasn't half bad either! The dishes were all traditional German dishes and I got the chance to practise some of my German in there - I ordered all the meals and drinks in German; I'm getting better, slowly but surely!

The time came for me to get the train back to Heppenheim and I managed to get one just after 8pm that would see me arrive in Heppenheim just after 9pm. I decided to get a taxi back home as I couldn't really be bothered carrying my bags 5km! The taxi cost just over €10 which I wasn't too happy about - I won't be getting a taxi again, I will wait for the bus in future even if I do have to wait almost an hour!

I had made a promise to work that I would get something finished by Monday but, due to spending the whole weekend in Frankfurt, had not had any time to do it! As a result I ended up working until 3.30am but managed to get it pretty much done, bar a few final checks needed the following morning. Despite having such a late night I managed to get into work for about 10.30 and was happy enough that I managed to get all of the files finished quite quickly.

It's been quite a long week at work and I have done quite a lot of hours in the office but the advantage of working longer hours in the office is that I have not had a need to cart my laptop back and forth as I have not needed to do any work at home. That has given me the opportunity to use Rosetta Stone a bit more at home and I have been managing between an hour and two hours per night depending on what time I finish work each day. I am starting to get into a bit of a routine - I start anytime between 8am and 10am but I finish each day just before 7pm so that I can catch the pus at 7.10pm from Heppenheim to Kirschhausen. This means I have about 3 or 4 hours spare time in the evening to relax which is better.

I arranged to view some apartments this week too - yesterday I looked at an apartment that was really nice although it is about €100 a month more expensive than the one I am in right now but it has a big advantage in that the lady renting it out said she will happily do my washing for me! This is a big plus for me as I don't want to spend my spare time (and cash!) at the weekends going to the nearest town that has a launderette to do my washing. Also, it is much closer to work and is easily walkable in about 15 or 20 minutes so this will save me money on bus fares. The apartment itself was bigger than the one I am in right now and I also think it is decorated much nicer.

I have another viewing arranged on an apartment this afternoon that, from the pictures, also looks very nice. Again, the rent is about €100 more than my current rent but this one has an added advantage in that they allow dogs. I am not sure whether they will be happy with a Rottweiler but I can ask! This apartment is about 2.5km away from work but only about 1km from the station. Again, it is easily walkable so I will be saving on bus fares and this apartment has a washing machine in so that will be a money saver for me too!

I have been discussing with my boss this week about arrangements for me to go back to the UK for Christmas and have been delighted with the accomodating response I have received. As agreed when I commenced employment they have stumped up the cash for one return ticket for me and he also told me that it is no problem for me to work from the UK for a few days to allow me more time with my family and friends. I have now got a return ticket booked on Lufthansa flights to return to the UK on 24th December and to fly back to Frankfurt on Sunday 10th January. Officially, I have had to book holidays for the 28th, 29th and 30th December and the 4th, 5th and 6th January - Thursday 7th and Friday 8th will be the days I am working.

I am really impressed with the company so far. They seem to be very welcoming and very accomodating in so many ways and I have found people here to be really friendly, helpful and accomodating. The lady who I am currently sharing an office with has been ringing apartments for me to get information and has even been kind enough to take me to view them so that she can act as a translator for me! Things are good here, long may it continue....

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Week Two In Deutschland

My second week has been mostly dominated by work - I have been working until 6 or 7 every night at the office and then taking work home with me too. There is a lot going on at the moment and there are some things that need to be done as quickly as possible so I have taken it upon myself to throw myself into work the only way I know how. I am enjoying the work although some of the stuff I have to do right now is a little monotonous and quite tedious but the stuff I am doing right now is not what I will be doing long term - there was a massive need for this work to be done quickly and I am probably the most suitable person to do it given my skillset.

I have not really been out anywhere this week as I have been so busy with work but I did pop out for a few beers last night in my local, the Trio pub. I didn't leave work until just after 7 last night and went straight to the pub - it took me 45 minutes to walk there so the first beer was all the more enjoyable! I had my work laptop with me so spent a couple of hours trying to get a little ahead with the work. I know my employers don't expect me to be putting extra hours in away from the office and the official requirement is only for me to do 40 hours a week but I am just not that type of person; I would rather sacrifice my personal time to ensure that the work is done in time.

I headed home at about 10pm last night so that I could get something to eat. Once I had eaten something and freshened up (with the assistance of a very strong black coffee!!) I headed back to the pub to see if I could get a few games of pool going with the locals. Sure enough there was a group of guys in there happy to play pool and table football so I ended up drinking with them until about 3am! I have never been particularly good at pool but I suddenly seem to have gotten the knack. I won a few games and was delighted to learn that not only does the winner stay on but the loser also has to buy the winner a drink! My choice of drink was tequila shots and I had quite a few!

I got to bed at about 5am after playing far too much Football Manager - I have a save going with Fiorentina at the moment and I am really enjoying it. I started out as Frankfurt manager but got offered the job after about 6 months so thought I would give it a bash; best decision I have made on the game for a while!! I expected to have a feel a bit off this morning when I woke up given what I had drunk but I feel remarkably alright. I feel a little tired but a few strong black coffees have helped that!

I am now on my way to Frankfurt to meet my stepmum and her sister from the airport as they are coming over for a few days to see me. It will be nice to see them again and have a little bit of familiarity for a change. Although I am making friends here it's not quite the same as people you know well and it makes a big difference to be able to have a fluid conversation. I am trying to learn German but have very little spare time at the moment and I am also waiting for Rosetta Stone to download so that I can start using that - I have literally no vocabulary in German so need some help!

Most people here speak at least broken English which is good but I always feel bad not being able to speak with them in their language. I am picking up some words here and there and I am finding German words easier to pronounce but I think it may take some time before I can have decent conversations. When I was learning French and Italian I had so much spare time and also had lots of opportunities to speak the language with people. I also had a basic vocabulary in each of the languages which really helped a lot.

I have been looking at apartments on the internet this week as I would like to find one that will allow dogs so that I can bring Roman over here. I am really missing him loads and can't wait to be able to take him for long walks over here. One big problem I have with the apartment I am in right now is that there is no washing machine. This wouldn't be such a big problem if there was a launderette in Heppenheim but there isn't so I have to get myself 5km into Heppenheim and then get a train to the next big town and then wait for the washing. This means that washing takes up a day at the weekend as well as costing me far too much! I am taking the opportunity today to do a load while I am in Frankfurt - two birds one stone...

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

My First Week In Deutschland!

My last few days in the UK were pretty enjoyable. On the Friday I went to Liverpool in the daytime on a shopping mission determined to find myself a nice new Emporio Armani laptop bag. It seems that the range of Armani in the UK is nowhere near the level it is in Italy (unsurprising when you think about it of course!) and I didn't have any joy whatsoever! I did find a bit of a bargain in the USC shop in Liverpool One in the form of a Henri Lloyd laptop bag for just £30! Given that I had expected to spend a lot of money on the Armani version I decided then to go on a bit of a shopping spree as I also needed some new gear for work.

I went up to Liverpool with one of my friends, Stevo. The last time we went to Liverpool on a shopping day we ended up going to one shop then a pub followed by another shop and another pub! We were very drunk by the end of that day and even went out in Chester that night! This time we concentrated a lot more on the shopping as I only had limited time to get everything sorted in time for Monday. I wanted to get some trousers and shirts but ended up only being able to find one shirt - I am quite particular about the shirts that I wear; short sleeved with a pocket, never different! The shirt I found was a Henri Lloyd shirt but I also found another gem whilst walking around.

We decided to have a look in the Liverpool shop as we were passing and I found the new white Liverpool shirt with a really cool touch to it - instead of a traditional name and number on the back it had the number 9 and "El Nino" printed on the back in a really cool font. It cost a lot at 60 quid but it was worth every penny! This now brings my collection of Liverpool shirts to 7 so I have one for each day of the week now! After we had finished shopping we decided to go to the Wetherspoon's near St John's Market for a few pear ciders before heading off back to Chester.

I also took the opportunity whilst I was in Liverpool to meet a girl, Katie, who I had been chatting with for a while on Facebook from Liverpool but had never met. We spent an hour or so in the pub with Katie chatting before we had to leave as we had a night out in Chester with a few of my friends to partake in! It was nice to finally meet her after what must have been about 6 months chatting online. I think that this was the first time I have ever met anyone like this and I don't think I would have done it before I had gone travelling.

After I had been back to my parents' house I took a shower and had something to eat before getting ready to go out for the night. Rich, Nath, Stevo and myself were all going out and we had arranged to go out just after 10pm when Rich's girlfriend, Lisa, got in from work. Stevo arrived at my parents' house just after 9pm and we walked to Rich's house to have a beer before we went out. A friend of ours, Paul (who we all call Dude!) came to pick us up. We were hoping for him to come out with us but he is a taxi driver so can't really afford to take a Friday night off but at least I got to see him again before I left the UK.

We had a real good laugh whilst in Chester and stayed out pretty late; I think it was about 3am before we decided to head off home. We played a bit of a game throughout the night too - each time someone bought a round they had to buy a "gay" drink and nominate someone to drink it. There were some quite strange drinks being bought for a group of lads! In the first place we went to myself, Rich and Stevo immediately started what we call "dickhead dancing" - if you can't have a laugh at yourself who can you have a laugh at? Nath is a little shy so he didn't really want to as he was a bit worried about what people would think!

When I got home I decided to take Roman for a walk (yes, at 3.15 in the morning!) so walked with Stevo to his flat from my parents' house. As we were walking an old friend, Emmeline, called Stevo so I arranged to go round for a brew. It was an interesting half hour as she also has a couple of dogs. To be fair they all got on quite well but, upon reflection, maybe 3.30 in the morning wasn't the best time to be reintroducing them! I left Emmeline's flat just before 4am and walked home with Roman - it's been a long time since he has been walked at that time in the morning (I used to do it quite regularly after a night out as I felt guilty leaving him alone all evening!) but I think he appreciated it.

On Saturday I arranged to meet Katie again, this time in Chester, and met her off the train with Roman shortly after 2pm. She had said she wanted to meet him so I asked her to come down and spend the afternoon with us. We walked over to the meadows near Handbridge with him and sat talking for an hour or so there. There were a lot of other dogs about but Roman behaved very well until a guy decided to let his little rat-like dog come straight up to Roman off his lead. You could see by the way the dog approached he was slightly aggressive but his owner was a proper tosser. He seemed to think it was amusing that his dog was daft enough to try and have a go at a Rottweiler - I doubt he would have found it so amusing if I didn't have proper control of Roman and if Roman had a vicious streak....

After that we took a walk around the city walls - it has been a while since I have done that and it is a good walk at about 2 miles in total. Katie had never been to Chester so knew very little about the place and it gave me the chance to play tour guide once more! I enjoy showing people around and it's good when you know a bit about the place where you are. We then walked down towards the station so that she could get the train back to Liverpool. She had just missed a train so we sat in the beer garden of the Town Crier for a bit having a drink and this also gave Roman an opportunity to have some water. In total I think we spent around 4 hours together and it turned out to be a really nice day, even if it was a bit cold!

Saturday night was a bit of a chill out night for me - I don't really get hangovers anymore but I certainly felt a little bit tired after a heavy night the night before and not the most sleep I have ever had. I can't really remember what I got up to but, knowing me, it was probably watching football or playing Football Manager or surfing the net - these are my usual relaxation routines so I doubt I strayed from them on this occasion!

On Sunday morning I went back up to Liverpool, this time with Roman, to spend the morning and some of the afternoon with Katie again. We had clicked quite well and it is always nice getting to know someone new; it was just a shame that I would only be in the UK for such a short space of time. It is often the way though that you meet people you really connect with at inconvenient times. It was really cold in Liverpool all day and, like an idiot, I had neglected to take a coat with me! We sat about for most of the time in a park just outside of the town centre chatting and, again, it was a nice relaxing day.

I headed back to Chester just after 2pm - I had been promised a Sunday roast and there was no way I was going to miss that after about 3 months without one! I love my food and nothing quite compares to a good Sunday roast. It's the thing, other than Roman of course, that I miss the most. It always seems pointless cooking one just for myself and the washing up afterwards is never nice - at least if there are other people eating you can normally con one of them into the washing up on the grounds that you cooked!

Sunday evening saw my first game of football in 3 months too - I played for the team I used to play for on Sunday evenings. Unfortunately the opposition didn't turn up so we had to play a friendly game. We were actually lucky enough to get two games as one of the teams didn't show up for the game after us either so we stayed on. We didn't perform very well to be fair so I guess it was actually pretty fortunate that the designated opposition didn't show up as that means you get a 5-0 win by default. It was nice to get a game again after so long not playing but I will certainly be looking for a team to play for in Germany.

Monday was a bit of a rushed affair as I still needed trousers and shirts for work and also had to do loads of washing and drying in time for leaving for the airport. I did the washing in the morning and headed into town with Nath and Stevo around midday. I managed to find a couple of shirts (again Henri Lloyd) and, eventually, managed to find two pairs of trousers that I liked. I also managed to pick up some Timberland gloves - Germany was not as warm as Italy and I knew that the winter time could get quite cold so I wanted to be prepared.

Upon returning to my parents' house and checking my tickets I spotted that the airline I was flying with stated you should arrive for check in no later than 2 hours before the flight time - I had presumed that check in opened 2 hours before check in so quickly had to rearrange my lift to get me there in time. To make it worse, I hadn't done any packing but luckily Nath and Stevo helped me out a bit and we managed to get everything sorted a couple of minutes before my lift arrived!

I had to wait around for ages in the airport and was pretty hungry so went to a restaurant there for a chicken tikka masala and a cappuccino. I was pleasantly surprised not only with the quality of the food but also with the size of the portion. I had been expecting something pretty basic and fairly small but it really was quite nice! I also spotted an Emporio Armani laptop bag in the duty free section of Manchester airport for 200 quid - I was proper gutted about that but in a way it had turned out well as I had managed to get plenty of decent clothes for work.

My flight left Manchester at 6.15pm and I arrived in Frankfurt at about 9pm local time. I then had to get a train to Heppenheim which was just over an hour. By the time I had located my baggage and located the ticket office it was about 9.30pm which meant I didn't arrive in Heppenheim until just before 11pm. I couldn't find a taxi there so my new boss, David, drove down from the hotel to pick me up. It wasn't very far away but I really didn't know where I was going and I was also carrying 28kg so didn't really fancy the walk anyway!

The hotel, The Park Inn, was quite nice and, luckily for me, they had an ironing room so I could iron some clothes for work the next day. It wasn't the best iron or ironing board but I managed to get the creases out of my clothes anyway. I didn't get to sleep until about 1am and had to be in reception for 7.30am to meet David to go for my first day at work! Lack of sleep seems to follow me around no matter where I go and I rarely get more than 6 hours a night these days - it's not through choice though!

Work have been really accomodating towards me in my time there - they sorted an apartment out for me to move into on Tuesday and David gave me a lift home Tuesday night so that I could go and get some shopping. The apartment is reasonably nice; it only has 1 bedroom but the lounge is a decent size as is the kitchen. I was pleased to be able to cook myself a good meal - after so long in hostels it really was a treat!

I have been picking up a few words of German throughout the last week and am now able to count quite well, name all of the days of the week, name all of the months of the year and ask a few basic questions in German. I am downloading Rosetta Stone so that I can learn more quickly but it is quite difficult to pick up when you have literally no vocabulary! Luckily, most people here speak pretty good English so it has not been a totally alienating experience so far but I am keen to develop my German skills as I always feel bad not speaking the language of a country I spend time in.

Over the weekend I went to the local pub near to my apartment and made a few friends there. I even went to a nightclub, called Apfelbaum (The Appletree) with a woman who drinks in my local pub and we were there until 6 in the morning! I was surprised at how good the place was as Heppenheim is not the biggest place in the world but there were 3 sections playing different music - R&B, 80s and dance. I am looking forward to going there again soon....

Thursday, 15 October 2009

It's Been An Action Packed Few Weeks, Sorry For Not Updating Sooner!

Well, where to begin! Lots has happened since I last updated my blog and I feel I must apologise for not updating sooner but the only internet connection I had available was really poor - every time I tried to do anything my connection got cut and I lost everything I had done so I got to the stage where I gave up! Confession time - since my last update I have not actually kept a diary either so a lot of this update will be from memory and, consequently, there will probably be quite a lot missing. Maybe the best way for me to do this is to focus on key events as it is really hard to remember in what order and on which day things happened.

I ended up staying in a hostel in Roma for around 3 weeks and, I have to tell you, I was pretty sick of hostels by the end of this 3 weeks! Hostels are really fun places to stay if you are moving around but the minute you stay somewhere for a prolonged period of time everything changes. Sure, you still get to meet a whole bunch of people but the new experiences tend to dry up a little if you know what I mean. You find yourself going to the same places with people and the conversations begin to take a similar trend.

The 3 weeks in the hostel weren't exactly fruitful for me either. I must have sent off around 50 or 60 emails to people that had advertised accomodation online but only ever got 4 responses. 1 of these responses ended up being a room share with a girl who didn't want to share with a guy, another was outside of the city centre but had no washing machine and was overpriced when you take into consideration commuting costs, another one seemed alright but was a little small and the last one turned out to be a scam - the pictures were really good, location was excellent and the price was really good but then the guy wanted me to send him a deposit before he sent the key! Yeah right!

As for work well this wasn't exactly the easiest thing to come by either. Although I have quite a bit of experience in the job that I have been doing I have never studied for it. As a result, nobody in Roma was prepared to even entertain me for a job as they insisted on candidates having a degree, regardless of prior experience. I found this particularly frustrating as I know how capable I am of actually doing the work that would have been available to me. The only types of job that I think I would have been able to get there would have been either bar work, pub crawls or hostel work. These jobs are not particularly awful but the pay is and it would have meant I would have been living on about 100 euros a month at the most and the hours would have been ridiculous.

I was resigned to the fact that I would have to accept one of these types of jobs when I got an email out of the blue from a guy I used to work with asking what I was up to and whether I would be prepared to relocate to Germany for work as he may be able to hook me up with something. We emailed each other a few times so that I could get more information about the role and he could get more information about my current situation before I agreed to speak to another director within his company regarding the role. The following day the other director called me up and asked me whether I would be prepared to fly to Frankfurt to meet with him. I agreed and he booked me return flights for the very next day!

The meeting, which was more of an informal meeting to give us the opportunity to get to know each other a little more than a formal interview, went really well. We seemed to share a fair bit of common ground and I think that he was impressed with the way in which I answered a lot of the questions he put to me. We sat talking for around 2 - 2.5 hours before parting company and I headed back to the airport to fly back into Roma. I was really impressed with the lengths that he had gone to in order to meet with me - they paid for the plane tickets and all other transport connected with the trip, it wasn't cheap let me tell you!

After I had spoken with him I decided that I was going to take him up on the opportunity of work, if indeed the offer was forthcoming. It was a bittersweet moment for me really - although I wanted to stay in Roma and had never even contemplated moving to Germany it was becoming apparent that life in Roma would be extremely difficult without qualifications and the potential offer in Germany would be a very good one that I would be a fool to turn down. When I left the UK I pretty much gave up the career that I had worked so hard for with no guarantees about the future and the job in Germany represented a way for me to continue my career at a higher level and also means that I do not have to return to the UK - this was one of the major things about me leaving, I didn't want to live in the UK any more.

At this point I decided that I would go to Perugia to visit the American girls who I had met in Sorrento so called Jordyn to arrange it. The first night I spent with them we travelled to a place called Lucca, a charming little walled city north of Pisa. Jordyn had seen it on a Relocation, Relocation, Relocation type programme and really liked it so suggested we all go there. It was a really nice place and I enjoyed the time we spent there. We arrived at about 9pm and left around lunchtime the following day - it wasn't a particularly big place and we also wanted to go to Pisa. Whilst we were in Lucca I received a text message to tell me that the director I had been speaking with wanted to move forward, basically I had the job! To celebrate we went to the local supermarket and bought a couple of bottles of 2.59 euro champagne - you wouldn't believe how cheap wine and champagne is in Italy - and we took it to the top of a tower to drink!

Pisa didn't really have too much to offer from what we saw of it but we did manage to get a bite to eat there before heading off to see the tower. The thing that struck me the most about the tower was just how small it was! I always expected it to be bigger but it really wasn't that big at all. We took the usual photos of each other trying to hold the tower up, hugging the tower, kicking the tower down etc.. before we had to head off to catch the train back to Perugia for a house party. We arrived back into Perugia just after 7pm and all headed off to get showered and dressed up.

The house party was really good fun and the Italians made me feel really welcome despite the fact that I couldn't speak as much Italian as I would like. I did, however, meet a guy from North Africa so I was able to speak quite well with him in French for quite a while. It was quite surprising that I remembered so much after 4 weeks of not speaking it and trying to learn Italian. When we arrived at the party we were immediately given red wine and there must have been hundreds of bottles of the stuff floating about. The Italians, contrary to popular belief, certainly know how to party!

After the party we headed off to a late night bar that had just opened in Perugia that was only open between 2am and 6am. It was free entry and the drinks were reasonably priced in there for a change. The music was also pretty good and I enjoyed myself there. After we finished there, some time around 3.30am, we headed back to a friend's apartment for some food - in Italy they don't really do fast food but like to cook pasta after a night out instead! It made a really nice change to get some decent food after a night out and we eventually headed back to Jordyn's apartment at around 5.30am.

The following morning I woke up with a bit of a sore throat and it has gradually got worse each day afterwards. At one point it was so bad that I literally could not sleep because of it. I know this is a bit gross but I will describe my problem anyway. One night I went to bed at 11pm and got out of bed at 10am the next morning although I would have been lucky if I had got more than 2 hours sleep. I was in so much pain that it was taking up to 45 minutes to get comfortable enough to get some sleep only for me to wake up within 5 or 10 minutes choking on phlegm - my mouth was producing loads of it due to my throat infection but it wouldn't go down my throat as it was so badly inflamed. It was a really horrible night.

The following day I decided to organise myself ready for returning to the UK for a few days before heading off to Germany. It had been 8 weeks since I had seen any of my family or friends and I had really missed Roman especially. My flight home was due to leave at 6.30am the following morning but I needed to check in at 4.30am as I had baggage I had to check in. To get there for that time I would have to get a shuttle bus at 3.30am from Firenze and this would mean me getting up at 2.30am! I didn't really trust myself to get up early enough so decided to get the last shuttle bus at 7.10pm and sleep in the airport.

This actually turned out to be a really bad decision. I didn't realise that Pisa was quite so small an airport and at midnight, when the airport had quietened down a little, I was just about to get my head down for a few hours when there was an announcement stating that the airport was closing until 4am! I have never been to an airport that closes before so it was a little bit of a shock and meant that I had to sit outside the airport for 4 hours waiting for it to reopen! It wasn't all bad though, there were about 20 of us that had to do this so there were people to talk with but it did mean that I got no sleep at all!

After arriving back in the UK I decided that I didn't want to sleep in the day as I wouldn't have slept at night so I spent the day at my brother's (Rich) house playing on Football Manager and catching up with him, Nathan and Stevo. It was nice to be back amongst the boys again even if I was feeling particularly tired and ill! I went to see Roman at Emma's house before heading back to my parents' house for something to eat and to sleep. It was really funny seeing Roman again - he was blatantly excited but it was almost as if he was so excited that he could hardly move! He normally bounds around all over the place but he was relatively calm despite the obvious excitement.

Yesterday I managed to get in at the doctors so I now have some antibiotics for my throat infection and I got some aspirin based painkillers off Rich that really helped me with the pain a lot. I spent another couple of hours with Rich and Stevo whilst waiting for Emma to get in from work so that I could go and pick Roman up and take him to my parents' house for a few days. Roman has behaved really well with Casper and my initial worries about him charging around the house have proved to be unfounded. He was remarkably calm once he got inside the house which I am pleased about.

Today I have come to visit my mum with Roman and will be staying here for the night. My little brother, Jamie, has apparently missed me loads so I am sure that he is happy to see me. My mum's next door neighbour has the tiniest dog in the world so we let Roman play with her. It was really funny to see as she really wanted to play and chase him around but he was a little unsure - he has never played with such a small dog before and I think he was worried that he might hurt her so he was really hesitant. Don't believe the press - Rottweilers are actually gentle giants!

Friday, 25 September 2009

Oh Cecilia - Bellissima Regazza!

Thursday 24th September

I got up pretty early today and was eating breakfast by about 8.30am. It seemed a shrewd move to arrange to do something so early in the day! I slept really well last night from about 1am although I did wake up at about 6am. Once I had finished breakfast I checked my emails to see if I had received any replies from the emails I had sent off enquiring about rooms. I didn't have a single reply at all! I was really disappointed as I wanted to try and sort accomodation out as soon as possible.

I spent pretty much the whole day with Madeliene today and had a really enjoyable day. The weather was pretty good again today also but not quite as hot as the day I walked around with the Brazilian guy. I actually remembered a couple of extra places around Roma so Madeleine got a better tour I think. We stopped off at my favourite restaurant in Roma - yes, the one by il Colosseo - and had a really nice meal. Afterwards we went and relaxed in the park close to the Colosseo for about 45 minutes before heading back to the hostel. We were out from about 9.30am until about 5pm.

When I got back to the hostel I checked my emails again and found that I had a reply from one of the people I had emailed saying that I could view the room tomorrow at 4pm. I replied to enquire about the address and confirmed that I would visit. It is actually the cheapest one that I had emailed and it's pretty central to Roma so I just hope it's reasonable. It would be great to sort out my accomodation tomorrow so I don't have to spend any more time in the hostel than the 5 days I had booked.

Once I had eaten some free pasta in the hostel I headed over to get the free pizza again and have a few drinks. I met some guys at my hostel that wanted to go to Campo de Fiori and maybe find a club so I headed off with them. They were Ned, Simarth and Kyle - all from America. They were really good fun and we had a real good laugh pretty much all night. Kyle was unbelievable with the women - nothing fazed him at all, he was happy to approach anyone. He got chatting to 4 Italian girls at a bar and then I joined in with the conversation. As I could speak Italian and these girls couldn't speak much English I had a pretty unfair advantage and I pretty much monopolised the conversation!

Kyle was really impressed with the amount of Italian I could speak and, I have to say, I was pretty impressed too! I spoke with them for about 20 minutes before they left the bar but we did exchange email addresses so we could speak on Facebook. I can't remember all of their names but I remember one for definite - Cecilia. She is very pretty and looks typically Italian if you know what I mean. She had very appealing eyes - something I particularly like! We arranged to meet up some time and agreed to organise it online some time this weekend. 4 days in Roma and I think I might have found an Italian girl to teach me Italian!!

After they left we went around a few bars and finally ended up in a club called Mood. It was pretty good but really expensive. I remember talking to some Australian girls and some Dutch girls but can't really go into much detail as I wasn't exactly sober by this point! I actually got back to the hostel at about 4.30am after a really good night. Again, I was drunk but at least I have made a connection with an Italian girl now!

I Got Up At 3pm!

Wednesday 23rd September

I was so bad today - I didn't get up until about 3pm! I slept right through the morning and afternoon and, although I woke up a couple of times when there was a cleaner in the room, there was no way I could get out of bed any earlier. I think the last few days have definitely caught up with me and I will be taking things a lot easier tonight. I have still felt tired all day and don't think I will have any problems sleeping tonight either!

Once I was up I started looking for more accomodation and sent about 10 emails off to people who had posted adverts. I have not received any replies to any of them yet but hope I will start getting replies soon as I could really do with having something sorted by the weekend. The prices here seem to range quite a bit - apartments seem to be a little expensive but if you are prepared to share it ranges between €300 and €400. Some of these are a few miles outside of Roma itself but some are actually pretty central. I would prefer somewhere central but I guess I will take what I can get really.

After the free pasta I headed over to the other hostel for free pizza and a few drinks. I had got chatting to an Australian girl called Tracy and an American girl called Madeleine so we went over there together with an English guy who was on his own. Again, I can't remember his name - I'm bloody awful! Madeleine said she was heading back early as she was tired due to jet lag but wanted to go sight seeing in Roma tomorrow and only had the one day. I offered to walk her round everywhere and she accepted. It was a pretty good way of ensuring I didn't drink all night as I arranged to leave with her at 9am!

The English guy left a little later and I sat with Tracy until around midnight having a few drinks. It was pretty amusing as I was quite sober as I only had about 4 or 5 beers but Tracy actually got quite drunk and she was almost falling over on the way back to our hostel! On the way back I saw a few people who looked lost so stopped to give them directions - I even directed an Italian guy in Italian! I never thought I would be doing that within such a short space of time. I always try and help people if they look lost now, especially at night as I can appreciate how easy it is to get lost!

Sight Seeing

Tuesday 22nd September

I have to confess to not keeping a diary, so to speak, over the course of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday so a lot of this will now be from memory so might not be as detailed as usual. I took the Brazilian guy around Roma for the day and we ended up walking around for around 6 hours I think. It was a pretty good day and, although I have already seen the things I was showing him, it was really good for me too as it gave me the chance not only to see all of those things again but also get to know Roma a little better again.

I have been low on spare clothes for a while now so managed to find a pretty cheap shop to buy a couple of t shirts in - these were much cheaper than the Armani stuff I bought in Milano and it was €16 for 2 t shirts. You don't appreciate how nice it is to have clean, fresh clothes until you have to live in the way I have for the past 5 weeks. At times I feel so dirty it's really uncomfortable. I can't wait to have somewhere to live so that I can do my washing whenever I need and also to be able to get all my clothes from the UK.

We visited pretty much all the sites today - Piazza della Repubblica, Fontana di Trevi, Colosseo, Foro Romano, Citta del Vaticano, Castel Sant'Angelo, il Pantheon, etc... We stopped off at a restaurant right next to the Colosseo to get some lunch. It is a restaurant I know well as I visited it a few times last year when I came here on holiday with Emma. I was pleased to see that the food there was still very good and I remembered a couple of the staff there too. I have been dying to use some of my Italian and got the chance with the waitress - I told her she was a very beautiful girl in Italian and she seemed pretty pleased! I wasn't trying to pick her up as she had an engagement ring but I just wanted to say it as early as possible...

The weather was pretty good all day and I am pretty sure that I am really going to enjoy living here with this climate. The more I think about it the more I want to work evenings somewhere so that I have the days free to sunbathe - typically English, eh? I think it would be good to maybe get some work in a hostel or a bar or a hotel as they would be English speaking roles but I would be working alongside fluent Italian speakers so this would help me to learn Italian quicker. Ideally, I need an Italian girlfriend - I will definitely learn quickly then!

We went out to Campo de Fiori this evening after having far too many sambuccas in the hostel bar and I ended up losing the Brazilian guy but spent the evening with a couple of Argentinian guys we had been speaking with in the hostel. They were really nice guys and we had a really good laugh. I was winding up all the Asian guys who come around trying to sell roses to couples - most of them were getting a bit annoyed with them so I pretended that me and one of the Argentinian guys was gay and started haggling loads on the price of a rose. They got pretty annoyed after a while but the couples near us thought it was hilarious! I got in pretty late, I think at about 3am and felt extremely drunk!

On the way to Campo de Fiori we saw some American girls by a bus stop so stopped to talk to them and it turned out that they were going to Campo de Fiori too. I knew that they were waiting in the wrong place so told them and said that they could come and get the bus with us and I would show them where they needed to get off. Once we got on the bus they were really rude - everytime I tried to talk to them they turned their back on me! I was pretty annoyed - I wasn't hitting on them, they weren't that good looking! I was just trying to help them and be nice. After that I decided to leave them on the bus and let them find their own way!

My First Day In Roma!

Monday 21st September

I woke up a few times throughout the night but finally got up at around 9am and headed down for breakfast. I got chatting with Yuli again for a while and also got chatting with a couple of students, one from West London and one from Ghana. Yuli said that if I wanted to play football with him in Napoli that I could. I think it may be a little far away to be honest but it was really nice of him to make the offer.

I sat talking with Barbara for a while this morning too before heading off for the train. She had come to Italy to meet up with her boyfriend who works on the boats in Sorrento but when she arrived here he finished with her and left her with no money! It may have been a little unwise to travel with little money but he had asked her to come and said that he would have money for her to use! She was pretty much stuck in one place with nothing to do and no money to do it with. She had enough for a night in a hostel in Napoli tomorrow before getting a plane back to Hungary tomorrow but had told me she would not have anywhere to sleep tonight.

I decided to pay for her to have a room for the night - it was only 20 euros anyway. I didn't tell her at the time that I was doing it, I just went and paid for the room and brought the key to her and she got quite upset because she said she felt stupid and was annoyed at herself for getting into the situation she was in. She tried to refuse the room but I just said her mother would be horrified if she thought that her daughter had nowhere to sleep for the night and if I had a younger sister who was in the same situation I would be too. Eventually she accepted the offer but I gave her little choice really.

I got the 11.07am train from Sorrento to Napoli and listened to a bit of Lily Allen on the way. I managed to sleep a little on the train from Napoli to Roma which was good as I was a little tired and it helped to break up the boredom somewhat. The ticket only cost me €10.50 from Napoli to Roma but that was because it was a slower train. It ended up leaving almost half an hour late and the train journey itself took around two and a half hours. It was certainly better than some of the train journeys I have had lately!

As soon as I arrived in Roma I got my bearings. I found an internet café so that I could search out some hostels and found one that was €23 a night so headed there. I booked in for 5 nights here to give me some time to be able to look for somewhere to live, I just hope that I can find somewhere within 5 days as it's not exactly cheap living out of hostels although this one provides free pasta in the evenings and its sister hostel does free pizza about an hour later which is pretty cool - at least that will keep my expenses down a little in terms of food!

I chatted with the guy on reception for a while and he gave me some really good information on sites that I could use to look for both work and accomodation so I had a look as soon as I had dumped all of my stuff in my room. I found a couple of suitable places so sent some emails off. It seems that it will be pretty expensive if I want an apartment but if I am prepared to do a share then it seems quite reasonable really. I did look for some work too but it's a little difficult as the computers here only have internet access so I can't sort a CV out right now and a lot of the places will need an address. I decided that I will concentrate on finding somewhere to live for now and worry about work once I have found somewhere.

I had some free pasta in the hostel and headed over to its sister hostel to get some free pizza and have a few drinks with anybody I could find to talk to. I got talking with an American couple for a while and then met a Brazilian guy after they left - I can't for the life of me remember his name but I am so bad with names that I seem to forget them all the time! I always feel really bad but it's really difficult when you are constantly meeting new people everyday. I arranged to spend a day walking around Roma with the Brazilian guy tomorrow as he only has one day to see the sights and has no idea how to find everything and I know Roma pretty well.

Fawlty Towers!

Sunday 20th September

I got up at about 9.30am this morning - just in time for the breakfast so I went down and had a chocolate croissant and about 5 cappuccinos! Saw Brian at breakfast and we got chatting - turns out he lives in Rome so he gave me his email address and said to let him know when I arrived as he would be happy to put me up for a couple of days while I was searching for somewhere to live! After he left I sat talking with Yuli again for a while and learnt some more Italian - I can speak very little right now but the more you try the more you learn. Yuli is a really nice bloke and he seems to really enjoy helping me learn some Italian.

I had to move rooms this morning in the hostel as there is a big party due in tonight. When I went into the room there was a Hungarian girl there called Barbara so I sat talking with her for a while. She seemed like a nice girl so I suggested going down to the beach together a little later - it would be nice to have some company now all of my American friends have left. After about an hour Barbara decided to come to the beach with me so we spent about 4 hours down there sunbathing. The weather was really deceptive today as it was a little hazy for most of the day but the sun was very strong and I ended up burning quite a bit on my back! Ah well, it will go brown in a few days I think.

It was nice to have somebody to talk to for the day and we spoke about all sorts of different things. I went swimming in the sea a few times - I love swimming in the sea and I hope there is a beach fairly close to Roma so that I can go there from time to time. Barbara thought the sea was too cold so didn't come in the sea which was a shame - it's always more fun if there is someone else in the sea with you!

I have been feeling pretty tired all day today and I am sure that I will sleep well tonight. I am going to try and get an early night tonight as I need to travel to Roma tomorrow in search of my new life. I tried using the internet in the hostel to try and plan out the trip and also to update my blog and Facebook but it was ridiculously slow so I gave up pretty quickly on that idea. It's been really frustrating and I have now fallen quite far behind on my blog so I am going to have to spend a lot of time bringing it back up to date in Roma.

I went out for an evening meal with Barbara and we went to the funniest restaurant ever. It was almost like Fawlty Towers! They were so disorganised, didn't seem to have a clue what they were doing and got pretty much everything wrong for the whole of the time we were there. I thought it was really amusing but then I never stress about things like that. Maybe somebody different might have been annoyed but I thought it was too funny to be honest!

After the meal we went to get a waffle and a gelato and the heavens opened just like the night before but only heavier. It rained so hard that within a couple of minutes there was pretty much a river running along all of the roads and we got absolutely soaked. All of the Italians were looking at me like I was crazy as I was walking quite casually in my t shirt - I'm used to this kind of weather in England so it didn't bother me in the slightest but they were all running for cover!

When we got back to the hostel we sat and had a beer before heading up to bed. I think we turned in at around 11pm which is pretty early by my recent standards! As soon as we had gone to bed a big party of German teenagers started making lots of noise so, after about 15 minutes, I went and told them to shut up or I'd shut them up. It was certainly a lot quieter after that but it was definitely not quiet! Still, I was pretty tired so it didn't take me long to get to sleep.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

My Second Day In Sorrento

Saturday 19th September

Somehow managed to get up at 9.15am today and, even more surprisingly, I actually feel pretty good, despite a hint of tiredness. I spoke with the Dutch guy again this morning and we ended up going down to breakfast together. We had a few cappuccinos and chatted for about an hour before he headed off out for the day and then I got chatting with the guy behind the bar, Yuli. I sat and chatted with Yuli for about an hour and managed to pick a fair bit of Italian up off him, particularly ways to chat Italian women up! He actually said he thought my Italian was pretty good and that I must be pretty intelligent to pick it all up so quickly.

I then realised my dad had text to say that he had transferred the money to me so I headed over to the Western Union place to pick it up. It was actually a really easy process to get hold of the money - I just needed the reference number, the name of the person who had deposited the money and my passport for identification purposes. I then headed to la farmacia to get some tweezers to try and get the spikes out of my foot but they weren't really much help and I just ended up doing more damage than good! I went back to la farmacia and asked about some creams and they gave me some stuff that stinks like tar but they assured me it would help to clear it up within a week.

I also popped into a barbers to enquire as to how much it would cost to get a haircut as it has been almost 3 weeks since my last one and my hair is now far too long for my tastes! I decided to get my hair cut there and went back after I had eaten something. It cost €10 which is a little steep for a shaven head but it was worth it and I feel so much better now. The hair cut experience in Italy is totally different to in England. The guy took such pride in what he was doing and he must have checked everything about 15 times to make sure it was perfect. When it came to the tidying up he used a flick razor to get everywhere perfect and even shaved down my neck!

I got another phone card to call my dad and let him know I got the money ok and also called my mum for a quick chat to let her know I am alright as I had not spoken to her for a few and she sent me a message saying she was a little worried - mothers, eh? I went and bought a pair of flip flops so that my toes would be open to try and encourage the spikes to come out of my feet and headed back down to the beach for a bit of a sunbathe and to relax after another busy day.

I went back to the hostel and got chatting to another American guy called Nick who would be sharing the dormitory for the night. It turned out that Nick knew some of the American people I had been knocking about with last night so he called them to arrange to meet up with them again at some point tonight. That was pretty lucky really as I didn't have any of their phone numbers! I went out with Nick and some of his friends (Beth and Hannah) for a gelato before meeting up with the others.

We headed down to the beach for a few drinks and a few of the other Americans joined us for about half an hour. Just after they left Jordyn and John came down to join us. 6 of us ended up going skinny dipping tonight which was pretty funny but then it started raining pretty heavily and there was a thunderstorm so we got out and got dressed - it's horrible getting back into wet clothes! We headed to the bar next to the hostel and sat there until about 5am drinking before everyone but Jordyn left. We got chatting to another American guy there called Brian but he only stuck around for about half an hour.

The weather was much better than before so Jordyn and I headed back down to the beach for a while to chill out and we sat talking for a while. I walked her back to her hotel at about 7.15am and got her email address to add her on Facebook. I finally got to bed in the hostel at about 7.30am after another very long but enjoyable night! I really enjoyed spending time with the Americans and it was a shame that they would be leaving but that's the curse of the traveller I suppose!

Sorrento, Sun And Skinny Dipping!

Friday 18th September

I managed to get up at 10.30am today which was really surprising given the time I went to bed last night! Unfortunately I had already missed breakfast but I wasn't really too bothered this morning. I got a shower and packed my stuff up ready to set off for the train station to head to Sorrento. It turned out that Jeannie, the American girl, also wanted to spend a day in Sorrento so we arranged to go together. I have not really had chance to go swimming in the sea up until now as I don't like to leave my stuff on the beach totally unattended so I was glad of some company for the day.

We got the train at about 1pm from Napoli and arrived in Sorrento just after 2pm. The hostel I had booked was pretty easy to find so I dumped all of my stuff there so we could head down to the beach with a much lighter load. The beach at Sorrento is ridiculously small and I think I might well have gone to Capri or the Amalfi coast if I had realised prior to booking the 3 days in the hostel. We had a good day down there though and I spent almost 2 hours swimming in the sea.

I got chatting with some American girls in the sea - Elizabeth, Alyssa and Melissa - and arranged to meet them at the beach again tonight to have a few drinks and a mini party, so to speak. We all agreed to bring our swimming gear too so we might well end up in the sea again. I was glad that I had made some new friends so quickly as I knew I wouldn't be short of people to speak to for the night and beach parties always tend to be fun occasions.

I rang my dad to arrange for him to send me some more money as I am now running really low - I only have €40 left now and that will be gone some time tomorrow. He was in work today but has said that he will go and do it pretty early tomorrow morning so that I have the money before lunchtime. I found a place that is open from 8am until 8pm tomorrow for me to be able to get hold of the money so it doesn't really matter what time he does it.

I headed back to the hostel so that I could have another shower - it's always nice to refresh yourself after swimming in the sea and it was also pretty warm today so I am sure I sweated a bit. Once I had pretty much got ready to go out I met another 5 American students who would be sharing a room with me for the night. There was also a Dutch guy there who was on his way out for the evening. I only spoke briefly with them all before going out but they all seem nice enough.

I went to the supermarket to see what deals they had on and found a bottle of Jack Daniels for just €12.49!! Needless to say, I snapped that up immediately! I managed to find somewhere nice to eat and chilled out for a bit before heading down to the beach to meet with the Americans. We had arranged to meet around 9.30pm but they said they might be a little late as they had some big meal arranged at the hotel. They turned up just after 10pm but I wasn't too bothered.

I had a really fantastic night at the beach with the Americans and it was probably my most enjoyable night so far since setting off from Chester. We had a game of football, or soccer as the Yanks like to say, which was really good fun. I had Alyssa on my team and we played against a couple of American guys, one called Ian and I can't remember the other guy's name - I'm really bad with names! We won 5-1 so I managed to ensure that the English rep was upheld. We played barefoot and the beach was mostly stones so my feet took a bit of a pounding given the already fragile condition they were in.

I was about to start playing football again when one of the American girls asked me "to go nudo in the sea" with her. Well, it would be rude to say no to such a request so we pretty quickly ended up in the sea skinny dipping at about 1am! I think she was a little shy at first but I think she really enjoyed her first skinny dipping experience. It was funny but she said exactly the same thing I had said the first time I did it - how liberating it felt. We disappeared out into the sea for quite a while and all of her friends got worried as they were shouting us but we couldn't hear them so they thought we had drowned! I didn't drown but I did kick a urchin or something and I now have about 15 spikes in my foot!

All the Americans left shortly after we got out of the sea and I got talking to a group of four people - 2 Italian guys, an Italian girl and a Dutch girl. I sat with them for about an hour trying to speak Italian with them but it is not easy when you are a bit drunk! The centre of Sorrento is not far from the beach but there are some really steep hills so they offered me a lift up to the top which was pretty nice of them. Once they dropped me off I headed back to the hostel and sat at the bar next door having a couple of beers and trying to understand some conversations that the Italians were having - I didn't understand much but it can surely only help to listen to the language being spoken? I eventually went to bed at about 4.30am feeling pretty drunk and pretty tired too!


Thursday 17th September

I woke up pretty early this morning at about 8am and went to get some breakfast which ended up being a croissant and cereal - much better than some of the breakfasts I have had to endure recently! I got a nice refreshing shower and decided to get ready to go to Pompei. It turned out that one of the lads I was sharing with, Alex, also wanted to go to Pompei so we arranged to go together once he had sorted a couple of things out that he needed to do. It's always nice when visiting a place like that to have somebody to discuss things with.

We got on the bus at around 11am and arrived in Pompei at around midday. We walked around Pompei until about 4pm but the heat became unbearable at times. The weather forecast had said it would be overcast today so I wore my jeans thinking it would be a little cooler but the sun was out for most of the day so I just felt uncomfortably hot for most of the day. Even though we didn't see everything that Pompei had to offer we were both content with what we had seen so decided to go and get a bite to eat in the shade somewhere.

Pompei itself was really sensational. The site was absolutely huge and I could very easily have spent 8 or 9 hours in a place like that. It was almost a shame that they had not built some form of café or restaurant inside somewhere as this was one of the main things that stopped us staying longer apart from the heat. In places the quality of the buildings in tact isn't particularly great but you really get a feel from Roman life and get an understanding of how a town would have been laid out. It was really interesting to see how many similarities there were between Pompei and any modern city and it was amazing to see how little we have evolved in some ways from those times. Another thing I really liked was the grooves in the roads where the carts would have been driven.

We headed back to Napoli after having a drink and something to eat. I got chatting to 3 Irish girls at the bus stop whilst we were waiting for the bus who had also visited from Napoli. They were really impressed with it too but they had been out drinking the night before so only spent a couple of hours walking around. I know I keep saying this but I really have changed a lot - 6 weeks ago I probably never would have even spoken to these 3 girls but now I feel I can really chat with just about anyone. On the bus on the way back I managed to get some photos of Mount Vesuvius after a nice Italian guy pointed it out to us. We chatted for a little while and, even though I couldn't understand a lot of what he was saying, we managed to speak about a few things.

When we got back to the hostel I met some more people who would be sharing with me for the night - Claire and Brie, a couple of Australian girls. Sam, Ed, Claire, Brie and I all went out for a bit of a walk around Napoli and to find a supermarket to be able to get some food to cook for the evening. Once we got back to the hostel we met some more people - Jeannie (an American girl), Luke (an American guy), Mateusz (a Polish guy) and Bruno (I think a Chilean guy) and we all sat drinking and fooling around until about 4.30am!

It was a really enjoyable evening and we had a really good laugh. The language barrier threw up a few funny conversations when Mateusz misunderstood a few words and he was totally confused a couple of times trying to keep up with all of the different accents. My time at the hostel in Napoli has been really enjoyable and I have made yet more friends. Hostels in general have provided some very good experiences for me and I will definitely think about using them in the future if I decide to go travelling again.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

First Night In Napoli

Wednesday 16th September

Managed to get up at 8am this morning with no problems which was fairly surprising considering the time that I went to bed last night. Having said that though I seem to need much less sleep these days than I used to even though I am so active both mentally and physically. I sorted all of my stuff out ready to leave and exchanged email addresses with a few people I had met so that we could add each other on Facebook. We also offered each other accomodation if we were ever in each other's cities. I am not sure how serious people are when they make these offers but I know I will keep to my word on it.

I went to catch the metro with a couple of Dutch guys I had been drinking with last night and we parted company at the Duomo where I got the next train to the main station in Milan. I arrived with about 15 minutes to spare which was good as I like to have time to spare when I arrive as there is nothing worse than having to rush around in a busy train station and you always end up hot and sweaty and feeling very uncomfortable. I managed to find the train pretty easily. The train wasn't too busy but I was sat with a couple of Italian people - my Italian is nowhere near good enough to have conversations with people yet so I decided to listen to an Italian course on my iPod.

Breakfast this morning had only been light - cereal, a bread roll, cappuccino and orange juice - so I decided to get some more to eat on the train as we would not be arriving into Napoli until after lunchtime. I bought a panini and a cappuccino and it was pretty expensive but at least I felt a little less hungry and a little more awake! It was a very different experience from a train in England. In England you have a little shop and you take everything back to your seat but here there was pretty much a whole carriage for the shop with an area to eat and drink.

Another big difference with the trains in Italy is that you can get off the train at every stop to have a smoke. There is a law in Italy that says you can't smoke in railway stations but nobody takes any notice of it and the police or rail staff never say anything to anyone. This was quite handy on a train journey that ended up taking 6 hours. I tried talking with an Italian bloke each time the train stopped and we went for a smoke. It was difficult to understand but we managed a little bit of chat. I find the only way to be able to learn a language quickly is to try and enter into conversation with people as much as possible. I feel comfortable enough on a one to one basis but it can be awkward if there are 4 people and the conversation is constantly broken up because you don't understand.

The weather has been overcast for most of today but the sun came out just as I arrived into Rome and I was very tempted to get off there and start my new life there and then. I resisted the temptation though and continued on towards Napoli. I really want to visit Pompei while I am in Napoli and I am also looking forward to going to Sorrento for a few days on the beach. The weather forecast is not great for Napoli today and tomorrow but apparently it will be a pretty sunny weekend!

When I arrived at Napoli the tourist information place had nobody there. I waited for about 15 minutes but nobody returned so I decided to get something to eat as I was bloody starving! The nearest place to eat was a McDonald's so I went there. As I sat down I realised there were a couple of American girls sat next to me so I asked them if they knew of any hostels in Napoli. They had a travel guide book but it wasn't really much help. I chatted with them (Jen and Steph) for about half an hour as there train was delayed before I headed back to the tourist information office.

This time there was someone there and he was pretty helpful. Not only did he tell me where the hostels were but he even called them for me to make sure that there was a room available. I thought that was really nice of him as most places just give you the information and let you find out for yourself. When I arrived at the hostel the guy there was also pretty friendly and called a hostel in Sorrento to reserve me a room for 3 nights after I leave Napoli. So far my experiences of Italian people, save the ones who laughed at my clothes in Milan, have been really good.

Not a lot happened in the evening really except for watching a football match (Inter Milan against Barcelona) and having a couple of drinks with some English guys (Sam and Ed) who I would be sharing a room with for the next couple of nights. They are currently cycling through Italy and will be finishing in Nice before catching a plance home. It's funny how a football match can kill conversation so easily. I decided to watch the match in the hostel rather than go to a bar as I had heard that Napoli has a bad reputation and there a couple of areas in particular you should avoid at night - I didn't want to get caught out in one of them!


Tuesday 15th September

Got up at around 8.30am today and had breakfast and a shower before getting ready to go and get the train. Strangely, I had no hangover this morning and, even though I felt pretty tired, I didn't feel ill in the slightest. Unlike another recent experience, I made it for my train with plenty of time to spare and found my seat in a compartment with a Chinese couple and an English lady, Julia, who now lives in Kenya.

We all talked for pretty much the whole journey which was pretty good as the journey was 5 hours and there is nothing worse than sitting with people in uncomfortable silence for such a long time and also it's boring as hell! 5 hours was a little much to be honest for a train journey. I don't mind 3 hours but 5 hours was too long. Still, at least it's not as bad as a plane where you are crammed in and pretty much just have to sit there!

Tomorrow I have another train journey and that one will take 5 and a half hours so I am glad that I decided to break the journey up. Even though I have already been to Milan I don't mind having an overnight here. It's somewhere relatively familiar to me and is the first place where I have felt confident of where I am going since I left Chester almost a month ago. As soon as I got off the train I remembered where there was a tourist information office so headed straight to the Duomo to find it and look for a hostel for the night.

The tourist information office pointed out a hostel not far from the San Siro, another area I am relatively familiar with from my trip to watch Inter Milan against Fiorentina last April. I got the metro from the Duomo to by the hostel which only cost €1 - I love travelling in Italy as it so cheap. If you are using the metro a lot you can get a day ticket for €4 that gives you unlimited use! The hostel cost me €20 for the night and although this is more expensive than some have been I can't really complain as it is in Milan. The hostel itself seems pretty good. It's fairly big and there are lots of people around to talk with.

When I arrived in Milan it was raining and continued to rain all day long. I felt somewhat strange walking around the fashion capital of the world in England shorts and a sweaty t shirt in the rain and I swear that people actually laughed at me! I decided to go and get a new outfit that would be more suitable for this kind of location and, indeed, weather. I was absolutely starving though so I had a calzone at the Galleria in the Duomo shopping centre. Again, it cost more than I would ideally like to pay but I had been there last year with Emma and remembered it being particularly nice.

Once I had satisfied my stomach I took a walk down the via Manzoni to search for my favourite shop in the world - Emporio Armani! I couldn't really afford to pay the prices there but I decided to buy something anyway and ended up walking out of there with a pair of jeans, a t shirt and a nice new zip up hoody. Even though they are all casual clothes I immediately felt better walking around Milan and, all of a sudden, people stopped looking at me strangely.

The Duomo made a massive impression on me again and I decided to get a few photos of both the cathedral and the shopping centre in the evening. As I had already visited Milan I decided not to walk around taking loads of photos, if you would like to see Milan then I have another photo album on Facebook with all the photos from last year's visit in April. The Duomo was so amazing though that I had to get more photos!

I headed back to the hostel at around 9pm and met a guy called Thomas from Spain who would be sharing the room for the night. He is in Milan for study and is in his final year of law and economics. We got talking to some people outside who showed us where we could find a few beers so we walked there and got a few bottles to sit outside the hostel with. We actually ended up sitting outside the hostel until about 3am talking with loads of people there.

There were lots of different nationalities gathered there including Dutch, Belgian, Australian, Spanish and Ukranian. I was actually the only English person there for a change but, luckily, English was the common language so most of the conversation was conducted in English. It was interesting to hear so many different languages being spoken between people though. I'm not sure why but I like to listen to foreign languages even though I can't understand a word sometimes.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Jack Daniels!

Monday 14th September

I woke up a couple of times in the night again but eventually got up at around 8am. I sorted out all of my dirty clothes so that I could do some washing this morning before heading down for breakfast. Breakfast was a refreshing change for me - cereal, orange juice and French bread (that wasn't stale!!) - and I actually enjoyed it for the first time in a while! Once I had had breakfast I went to do my washing and it took absolutely ages - over an hour to wash and almost an hour to dry and, even then, it wasn't all completely dry.

I only have one t shirt now as I decided it wouldn't be, or feel, right to wear one that says I am walking to Rome for charity. As a result it makes it quite difficult for washing right now. I put my only t shirt in the wash but then got told off by the people in the hostel for not wearing one so had to sit outside in the sun for about two hours whilst waiting for the washing - I would have spent this time catching up on Facebook so it was a little inconvenient to say the least! Still, it was a fairly pleasant morning so it was a good opportunity for me to try and get a little bit of a tan - always the optimist!

I have decided to get some more clothes when I get to Milan but will have to arrange for my clothes to be sent over as soon as I sort somewhere to live in Rome as I will need clothes then and I can't afford to buy a whole new wardrobe, especially not at Milan's prices! To be honest, it will probably cost me enough just to buy one more outfit in Milan - when I was there last year I could have spent a fortune so easily!

I managed to pick up a charger for my iPod yesterday so at least I had some music to accompany me whilst I sat around outside waiting for my washing. You wouldn't believe just how much I have missed my music since I left home. I don't think you realise how big a part it plays in your life until you can't have it! I was like a kid in a sweet shop this morning shuffling through all my favourite music!

I set off for Monaco just after 1pm and the train only took about 20 minutes to get there. I have to say I was a little disappointed when I got there - Monaco and Monte Carlo are built up so much by people that I had gone there with this image in my head of some magical place but I have to say it felt a little like a hotel resort in Spain only with Ferraris, yachts and rich people all over the place! I got bored pretty quickly there and I was on a train back to Nice by 4pm! It's a shame I didn't enjoy it more but there have been places where I expected nothing and got some really good experiences so I guess it balances itself out in the end. In a way I am actually a little gutted I didn't spend more time in Nice looking around as it seemed like a more interesting place to me.

When I got back to the hostel I updated another couple of days on my blog and this brought me pretty much up to date. Tonight I am planning to have some rest and relaxation and I have already decided I am going to get a bottle of Jack Daniels to help the time pass! It's been so long since I had a really good night on Jack Daniels and there have been some testing times recently so I think that it is definitely in order!

I spent a little time today looking online for jobs in Rome to see what was available at the moment but I will have a really good look once I have some more time. I also sent an email off to Holly at Vango offering to pay for the equipment they donated as I didn't manage to complete the walk. I am hoping that they don't take me up on it as I have already shelled out so much funding the walk itself but I felt that I had to offer in the same way as I did to the people who donated to charity.

I added a load of photos to Facebook today and labelled and tagged them all only for Facebook to not apply all of the labels and tags - I was so annoyed but didn't really have time to go through them all again so I will have to do that another time. It's a good thing I have been making notes on what all of the pictures are otherwise I would be in trouble now! Also, I have spent quite a bit of time online today and I don't really want to be sat here any longer, I just want to go and have some fun with the other people in the hostle.

I went and got the bottle of Jack Daniels and a bottle of coke and was made up as it only cost me €20. I think that works out cheaper than it is in England at the moment and, at last, a reasonable price in France. I think that it must just be really expensive to drink in bars, maybe that is a deliberate thing initiated by the powers that be to discourage binge drinking in bars. I ended up drinking the whole bottle tonight and even got another 5 beers from the bar in the hostel afterwards but, I have to admit, I was pretty wasted!

There was quite a gathering at the hostel tonight and there must have been at least a dozen of us sat outside until the early hours of the morning. It was another good opportunity to speak French and I found that I can even speak it when I am wasted so I must be getting pretty good at it now! I ended up going to bed at about 2am feeling pretty tired and extremely drunk!