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!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Meeting New People On The Way To And In Nice

Sunday 13th September

I really struggled to get to sleep last night and fell back asleep after both of my alarms that were set for 6.30am and 6.45am. I had requested a wake up call from reception so I thought I had a safety net so to speak. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, I never got the wake up call and woke up at 7.25am - just 17 minutes before my train to Nice was due to depart! I packed up in a hurry and had an extrememly wuick wash and brushed my teeth before literally sprinting up the main street in Nimes with my heavy bag on my back - I got a few funny looks from people but the ticket had cost me a lot and there was no way I was going to miss the train! I made it with about 3 minutes to spare but didn't feel particularly nice - I was now all sweaty again and felt distinctively dirty.

The sun was really hot this morning too so that didn't really help and it looked like being another fantastic day of weather with not a cloud in thesky. The train ride ended up being a fairly enjoyable one for a change. I was sat next to an extremely pretty French girl, called Isabelle, and thought it would be simply rude not to talk to her! French people definitely seem to be more friendly and we chatted for a couple of hours before she got off the train at Cannes. My French has definitely improved a lot - there were times when I didn't understand completely but my French dictionary sorted out those problems. To be able to sit and chat with someone for such a long time about varied subjects surely means I have improved massively - 2 weeks ago I probably wouldn't have understood a word and probably wouldn't have been able to speak much myself but I am feeling more and more confident every time I speak with someone French now.

Isabelle was telling me that she works on cruise ships and can earn up to €2,500 a month - admittedly she does have to put a lot of hours in for that but there is little to do on the boats and all of her food and accomodation is paid for so, in essence, it's al,ost like earning €4,000 a month really. She said a flat month would be worth around €1,500 a month which I thought was quite reasonable given the fact that you have no bills at all whilst on board. It definitely got me thinking about the future - if, for whatever reason, things didn't work out in Italy then it would always be an option. She even said that you are allowed to take your pets with you and Roman would be able to go with me!

I arrived into Nice just before midday and was welcomed by blistering 30 degree sunshine for pretty much the whole of the afternoon! The tourist office was right next door to the train station so I enquired about a youth hostel and was pleased to find that there was one less than a mile down the road in the direction of the beaches. It is more expensive than usual at €22 a night but that's a lot cheaper than a hotel and breakfast is included in the price also. The hostel is very busy and there are a lot of people buzzing around here which helps to pass the time.

I had a walk around Nice for a short while and took a stroll down the seafront once I had sorted all of my stuff out. I sat on a chair by the seafront for about an hour before deciding to go off in search of food. It was a bit of an irregular hour for eating in France so I had to make do with a KFC - it's been a while since I had one of them but I can tell you the English definitely do it better! I didn't fare much better for my evening meal - McDonald's - but I couldn't be bothered looking for a restaurant and it did save me about €10.

I rang my parents to let them know where I was and also what my new plan was for my journey into Rome. As I had originally planned to arrive at the end of October the change in plans means that I may arrive into Rome and have nobody there to meet me as originally hoped - that may change but it depends on quite a few factors so I will have to wait and see on that. I also spoke to Rich to tell him to make sure he sends off for his passport this week so he can come and visit as soon after I arrive as possible - he isn't the most organised of people and I had been telling him for weeks to get it sorted!

As I sat down to update my blog and my photos I got talking to a couple of English girls in the hostel, Gabriella and Hannah. They are coming to the end of their travels also after travelling around Croatia, Slovenia, Italy and France and will be getting a flight from Nice on Thursday afternoon back to England. They seem like fun so I arranged to go out for a few drinks with them - it can get really boring in the evenings when you have no company and English speakers have been few and far between so it's also nice to have an opportunity for free flowing relaxed conversation.

Back home I don't think I would have ever spoken to them to be honest but I think that this journey has changed me in a few ways. I am now more outward and am becoming more confident. I think the good experiences I have had with people along the way have also helped and I think I actively search out new experiences now. Also, as I have said already, it can get pretty lonely with nobody to talk to so I am now prepared to speak to people more as it is a good way of alleviating the boredom.

We went in search of some wine and beer just before 9pm but were horrified to learn that the supermarket had shut at 8.30pm! We had a walk around for a while but couldn't find anywhere else to get some from so decided to have a walk up the front for a bit instead. After a bit we sat on the beach having competitions to see who could skim stones the best and who could throw the furthest - these are the sorts of interactions I think I would struggle to have with someone I don't share a language with and it was nice to just sort of sit around doing very little and chatting about anything that sprung to mind.

Gabriella is really quite an amusing character. She seems very impulsive and loved going into the expensive hotels for a look around! Hannah seemed reluctant to do it but Gabriella just walked in - she did get escorted out and got some funny looks outside the casino too but it was quite amusing. She has a very relaxed attitude and it's quite refreshing to meet someone like that. She is currently taking a year out from studies to work for a while before going off travelling again. Hannah is certainly more reserved than Gabriella but is also a very nice girl. She is studying for a politics degree at the moment and has another couple of years to go. Although she was more reserved than Gabriella she is quite a conversationalist and I found it really easy to talk to her. Hannah commandeered my camera at one point and took some random photos - a rare opportunity for some photos of me for a change amongst all of the photos of towns and buildings!

I had a really nice evening with them even though we really didn't do very much and we decided to head back to the hostel at about midnight. We stumbled across a shop that sold alcohol on the way back - bloody typical! - so I bought a couple of cans of Kronenbourg to drink before bed time. We got back to the hostel at around 12.30am and went to bed pretty soon after. I find beer usually helps you to get to sleep if you have had a couple but this wasn't the case tonight - I struggled to get to sleep and it ended up taking me until around 2am before I finally dropped off.

Nimes - What A Fantastic Place!

Saturday 12th September

I didn't get up until about 10.30am today but I was definitely tired after the last few days and I hadd opted not to have a breakfast in the hotel anyway - I didn't fancy paying €5 for stale bread again! I had a shower and woke up properly before deciding to take a look around Nimes and see what was there and to get some photos. I was really impressed with the history on display here. In fact, I have been impressed everywhere I have been in France so far. They seem to have different attitudes towards history in France - it is not only embraced but takes a very important part within the towns and cities.

My hometown, Chester, is steeped in Roman history but this is not capitalised on properly and, in fact, is actually disregarded in places. Things in Chester seem to be hidden away whereas in France everything is signposted that is worth seeing. There is an ampitheatre in Chester that is only half uncovered - there have been petitions for years to get the other half uncovered but it has always been blocked for one reason or another. It's ridiculous really that such heritage can exist yet be so readily disregarded.

Nimes is a particularly stunning place in France. It's not only the quantity of Roman history that is on display here but the quality with which it still survives today. The Roman gardens here are truly spectacular and really put Chester to shame - it's ironic that so many people visit Chester for the Roman history when there is so much more and of more quality in other places around the world. The ampitheatre here is also breathtaking and is something that I really recommend you take the time to go and see - even if Roman history does not particularly interest you I fail to see how you could not be impressed with it.

The ampitheatre in Nimes is, of course, nowhere near the size of the Colosseum in Rome but, in a lot of ways for me personally, was actually a better experience. The condition of the ampitheatre in Nimes far outdoes that of the Colosseum in Rome, although the deteriation of the Colosseum has had a bit to do with earthquakes there I believe. One of the things I really enjoyed about the ampitheatre in Nimes was the fact that pretty much every part of it was open to you. You could, if you so chose, climb all the way to the top to get a view of the arena from up high or even to take in the view of the town from an elevated position.

To make things even better they had even taken the time to make the most of the underneath of the arena with designated rooms in the archways with displays of equipment that would have been used and clothing that would have been worn. There was a room specifically for the gladiators and also one for the bull fighters. To go a step further they also had relevant films being shown in these rooms such as Spartacus. I was really impressed with the amount of thought and effort that had gone into making the experience as good as possible for visitors. As recently as a few years ago, 2005 I think, the arena was even used for a live display with a crowd - on this occasion there was a bullfighting display as would have happened in times go by.

The Maison Carrée was aloso another marvel to behold. It is a Roman civic temple that was built around 2,000 years ago and although the architecht is unknown it is believed that he either came from Rome or had very strong connections with Rome due to the style in which it was built. There are also some distinctly French styles within the building so the common thinking is that the architecht was in fact French but had strong connections with Rome. I'm not sure if that is romanticism on the part of the French or not but it sounded logical enough. The thing that struck me most about the building was the almost perfect state in which it still stands today. The roof has been restored but other than that it is exactly as it would have been 2,000 years ago. It really is a stunning piece of architechture and gives a huge insight into Roman culture.

I have eaten better quality food than I have had for a while today and I am feeling the benefits of it already. The only drawback is that it is costing me around €14 a meal including a drink and it's these sorts of prices that really killed off my quest. I am happy to be eating good quality food again though and, with the pressure off, I don't have to budget so much anymore. I had a calzone this afternoon for lunch and was so impressed that I decided to return to the same place for my evening meal and I had a lasagne. You can get these things cheaper than I paid but you tend to find they are pretty poor quality whereas the food today was really good.

After looking at various options today to see where I will go from here I have decided that my next call will be to a place called Nice. I really wanted to go to Monaco and Monte Carlo but really couldn't afford to pay the kind of prices that a place like that would have. Nice is a 15 minute €3.30 train ride away so I have decided to stay a couple of nights there to give me plenty of time to go to Monaco. After that I have decided to go to Milan - the ticket to Nice is €45.30 whereas I can get a ticket from there to Milan for only €30. Although I have been to Milan before it made sense to go there as it has a massive station and pretty much the whole of Italy is open to me from there and it breaks the travelling up nicely whilst putting me in familiar territory.

I have always wanted to visit Pompeii and Herculaneum, the two towns buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79ad. I have decided to get the train from Milan to Naples on Tuesday which will give me the opportunity to visit both places. It will also be an opportunity for me to take a few days out and relax on the beach in Sorrento Bay - a place I believe is very beautiful also. Although I have failed in my quest to walk to Rome it has not been all bad news for me as I would not have previously had the opportunity to visit these places and they are places I have always wanted to go - expect lots of photos from those visits...

I plan to get the train from Naples to Rome on Monday 21st September and then the real hard work will start - I will have to do all the bureaucratic stuff required to allow me to live and work there and then I will have to start looking for somewhere to live and some kind of work. I am hoping that arriving earlier will be to my advantage as the tourist season will not quite be over which gives me the opportunity to get some English speaking work whilst trying to get to grips with Italian. I am hoping that this will buy me a little more time and make things easier in the long run.

I spent about 4 hours on the internet today updating my blog and photos and also took the time to send a message out to my Facebook group to inform them of my failure to complete the walk. I offered anybody who had donated the money back from my own pocket but not one person has taken me up on this yet. Everybody has been really supportive and understanding to be honest and I am very grateful for that. I was worried that people would feel let down but the reaction has been pretty good and most people have said I should be proud of what I did do rather than be disappointed with what I didn't manage.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Paris In 4 Hours

Friday 11th September

I got up pretty early this morning at 8.30am - remarkably early considering how tiring the last couple of days had been and the time I got to sleep last night! Although I only had 6 hours sleep I didn't wake up once during the night and felt much more refreshed than I had done in a while. I think that last night was the first night since I left Chester that I managed to sleep right through. I had a shower and shave and sorted myself out before going down to breakfast - coffee and stale bread, again, for €5, again!

I asked at reception if I could leave my bag with them whilst I went to do a tour of Paris for a few hours and was delighted to see that they actually had a secure, locked room for baggage - it's the first time that has happened so far! I left the hotel at 10am with a clear plan in mind of the way I was going to do it - I had studied the map and worked out a route that would take in all of the sights with as little walking as possible. I power walked for about 4 hours around Paris taking photos on the move. It staggered me just how big Paris was, I don't know why but I just didn't expect it to be so big.

I think I must have covered around 15 miles whilst walking around taking photos but I think I managed to get pictures of pretty much everything I had heard of. Upon reflection I think that 4 hours to do the whole of Paris is pretty impressive really - some people take a whole week! I decided to stop for something to eat before going to get my bag from the hotel and working out my next stop. I had a lasagne at a restaurant in one of the many side streets that was accompanied by a large salad and lots of bread - yes, I ate the lot!

I headed back to the hotel and checked a few of the destinations I had been thinking of moments before when looking at ticket prices and eventually decided on heading straight to the south coast of France - I had originally wanted to visit Dijon and Lyon but that would have added quite a lot expense and there wasn't anything specific I wanted to see in those places so decided to bypass them to make sure I had enough money to cover my travels. I was then faced with a choice between Marseille, Nimes and Avignon.

For me it was a pretty easy choice to make - I had read up about Nimes on the internet when I first started planning the walk and this town was one of the main reasons my course had taken me to the south coast. From what I had seen it was a town steeped in history and Roman history at that. The train to Nimes was from the Gare du Lyon at 4.20pm so I had to walk a couple of miles to get to the station. I didn't fancy chancing it on the underground as I was in a bit of a rush and didn't want to get lost!

The train ticket to get me to Nimes set me back €98 which is quite a lot of money but the journey would cover about 450 miles! Pretty good economy when you consider that a ticket from Chester to London - about 200 miles - costs about 120 quid! On the face of things it would have taken me about 15 days to walk there and this would have set me back between 600 and 700 quid on current costs. I have decided to work out where to go from there but my initial thoughts are a bit more of the south coast and a few cities in Italy.

The train is expected to arrive into Nimes at 7.17pm so I am guessing that the tourist office will be closed by thenso I just hope that there is a youth hostel or camp site sign posted. I also realised whilst looking at ticket prices that I am travelling at a peak time so I probably could have got the ticket cheaper if I had looked first thing in the morning. I will have to remember that in future and sort things out the afternoon before so that I can check to make sure I get the cheapest tickets available!

I spent about an hour noting down all of the photos I had taken in Paris so I wouldn't forget when it came to posting them on Facebook. I also took the opportunity to write down my thoughts for the day - it can be pretty boring travelling on a train in France when your French is not the best and nobody speaks any English! I listened to a bit of Lily Allen and 2Pac - interesting combination, I know! - before my iPod finally died. I had forgotten to bring my wire to recharge it and now had no way of recharging it - I really miss music right now!

I arrived into Nimes just as it was about to start getting dark and couldn't find any any signs for camping or youth hostels after walking around for an hour so finally decided to find as cheap a hotel as possible for the night. Again this was a cost I could have really done without but I had no other choice really. I headed for some food at a restaurant just over the road - it's not nice getting lost in a place at night so I decided to stay close to home, so to speak. I opted for a calwone that came with a large salad and, although it was nice and a lot better than the one in Paris, I was still a little disappointed that it had been spoilt with bloody fromage!

After I had finished my meal I headed back to the restaurant and watched some French television until about midnight. It's funny but I can't understand much of what they are saying but still find myself watching it quite intently! Nimes seems to be a fairly nice place from what I have seen so far this morning so I will have a look around tomorrow and find internet access before deciding on my next course of action.

The Adventure Continues.... Just Not On Foot

Thursday 10th September

Once I had made the decision to admit defeat I was then presented with a lot of options about what I wanted to do and exactly how I was going to get to Rome. The most obvious, and perhaps cheapest, way would have been to try and organise a flight from as close by as possible to Rome but I decided that would pretty much defeat the object of my original adventure completely so eventually decided to travel by train. There were quite a few places I wanted to go in France and Italy but finances would now not allow me to go to all of them as the train would certainly not be cheap!

I decided pretty quickly to head for Paris and then weigh up my options from there. When I had been looking at various destinations on the SNCF site it was apparent that pretty much anywhere south had to go through Päris anyway and it seemed silly to go into Paris just to get a train straight back out again! The ticket from Soissons to Paris was fairly reasonably priced at €15 too. It only took a couple of hours to get there and I arrived into Paris in the blistering heat at around 4.30pm. I spent almost 2 hours walking around Paris looking for a tourist information office to see if I could find any cheap accomodation anywhere and was pretty much on the point of getting a train straight back out of there!

I then had a moment of clarity in amongst a very stressful day and decided that it would be foolish to just leave as you don't get many chances to visit places like this so opted for the cheapest, dingiest hotel I could find. I found a 1 star hotel - not sure what the star was for, maybe because they had a door? - and checked in. It cost me €42 for the night there which I was not too happy about paying but at least I now had a bed for the night and could go and find somewhere to eat. I decided on a calzone in a restaurant close by but it was shockingly bad and I felt more hungry afterwards than I had done before!

I got hold of another phone card to call my parents again and let them know of the decision I had made and also where I was. They told me they were very proud of how far I had managed to get and that I should not think of it as a failure but rather be happy with what I had achieved. Still, I felt slightly down about the whole thing as it was something that, primarily, I wanted to do for myself and, even if others didn't feel let down, I felt like I had let myself down.

I went back to the hotel room and watched some tennis on Eurosport - thinking about it, maybe that was what the star was for! - before eventually dropping off to sleep at about 2am after a very long, difficult and, ultimately, disappointing day. The adventure, as it was originally intended, was officially over.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

I'm Gutted

Friday 4th September

I slept really well last night and must have got about 9 or 10 hours in total! I still woke up a couple of times during the night though and, interestingly, at 4am again! I managed to get online for about 20 minutes this morning before François provided coffee and breakfast! I was about to ask for the lift back into Hesdin when François told me he was having some problems fixing his son's car but, if I wanted, I could haev some lunch and then he would drop me off there. I had no idea how to get back there and it was a really kind offer so I accepted and took the opportunity to update my blog and Facebook photos and this was where I had left off at the end of the last post.

It took me an absolute age to update everything and I was dreading using a French keyboard - I remember reading on Benedict Protheroe's blog how much of a pain they are but I found it alright once I had gotten used to it. If you were wondering why there was the odd rogue 'q' instead of an 'a' in my last update then now you know why!! I think there were only about 10 mistakes though so that wasn't too bad considering the length of my update...

In the end I departed from Hesdin at about 2pm after we had eaten. François, and his family, really were brilliant. They made me feel really welcome from the first moment and were really kind. I just hope I meet more people like that along the way. It was a good thing I had only planned a normal day of walking today given the time I set off but I knew I could get 15 miles done in about 4 hours if I walked at a good pace. I stopped off in Anvin to get a much needed cup of coffee but only stopped once more to take in some water along the way.

The weather was changeable for most of the day but, luckily for me, it didn't rain at all. It was constantly alternating between cloudy and sunny but the rain would have been a real pain as it would probably not have rained all day meaning I would have had to have changed in and out of my waterproofs all day long!! The wind picked up in the late afternoon and it became a little chilly by the evening. I arrived into Saint Pol at around 7pm and mananged to find a campsite fairly quickly. The reception was closed so I just pitched up for the night before going off to get some food. I had meat and chips - it was a massive portion and I ate the lot, although it was really poor quality food and I wouldn't want to have to eat that very often - it still cost €6 though...

I went to bed early at about 9.30pm for two reasons - it had got dark and I had absolutely nothing to do and I also wanted to try and get an early start in the morning as I was hoping to reach Arras which is about 23 miles away. I needed to make sure I paced myself properly on these sorts of days as I had been really exhausted the day I walked from Boulogne to Montreuil and was on the verge of feinting. I checked Google Maps, incidentally, and discovered I actually walked 30 miles that day!!!

Saturday 5th September

I got up at around 7am this morning and packed up once I had showered. Reception was still closed so it looks like I got a free night! I could do with a few more of these along the way to keep costs down - things have been more expensive than I had originally hoped when planning this walk and I would need to try and keep an eye on the finances. I headed into the town centre and got some pains chocolats before heading off on the days walk. I left Saint Pol at about 8am and set myself a target of reaching Arras by 4pm - this meant I could have plenty of rests along the way. It would be nice to find a youth hostel tonight as France are playing Romania and I would like to watch the match.

As I left Saint Pol I saw a sign that said Arras was 34km away. At 9.20am I saw another sign that said Arras was 22km away! Let me tell you, road signs in France lie...a lot! There is no way, as quickly as I walk, that I had covered 12km in 80 minutes. About 5 minutes later I saw another sign that said Saint Pol was 9km behind me - that sounded more feasible and proved that the road signs do in fact lie! I had a break at the first café after this as I had just walked about 3 miles of dual carriageway and fancied a break from the constant zooming of cars, motorbikes and vans.

The weather had been glorious this far and the sun had been out all morning. There was a little cloud about but not very much and it didn't interrupt the sun very much. It had been warm up until this point but not hot as of yet, although it looked like it would certainly get hot this afternoon - northern France seems to be quite cool in the mornings but it really warms up in the afternoon. To be honest, this morning's weather has suited me - plenty of sun to give me a tan but cool enough to not be uncomfortable walking in it.

I arrived into Arras, amazingly, at 1.30pm - this is partly my problem. I can't pace myself, I just go at everything 100% and never slow down! Luckily, it had only just started getting hot so I hadn't exhausted myself! After leaving the café I had really upped the pace and, using the road markers, I calculated that I had been walking as fast as 5mph in places, even with a bloody heavy bag on my back! I think half of the time I just want to arrive so I don't have to carry the thing any more!

I have been wearing my boots again today but will be changing back to my trainers as soon as the opportunity arises - I can feel some pretty nasty blisters on my heels again - just as I thought my feet were toughening up too! It's funny but the trainers seem to cause blisters around the balls of my feet whilst the boots cause them by my heels, at least this means I can alternate every few days to keep the pain and discomfort down though!

The first eating place I came across just happened to be a McDonald's again so I ate there, got some funny looks of the diners in there as I walked in with my huge bag on my back and dripping with sweat! Once I left there I headed off into the centre to find a tourist office. It was another couple of miles to get there so I was glad I had stopped at McDonald's as all of the food places seem to stop serving between 2pm and 6pm in France! I finally found the tourist office and discovered that the local youth hostel had closed down! Luckily there was a similar establishment in the city that I could go to so I went there. It cost €16.70 for the night which was slightly more than I had been paying at the campsites but it had a television for me to watch the football!

It was another mile to find that place and I made a point of having a shower as soon as I arrived! I had been sweating a lot in the heat and felt distinctively dirty. It's amazing also how much good a power shower can do for aching shoulder muscles, it's almost like a massage! I then decided to head back into Arras and see what the place was all about - despite the long walk it would be a shame to not make the most of my spare time in the city. It seemed like there had been some sort of military^procession in the city today but, by the time I arrived, it had pretty much finished.

I saw some people dancing in one of the squares to Michael Jackson songs and recorded it - it wasn't good, it was embarrassing but the French seemed to be loving it as they had quite a crowd! Personally, I was openly laughing at it but I think I may have been the only one - strange bunch, the French! I then went in search of more food but, typically of France, everywhere had closed for the afternoon! Do they ever work in France? I eventually managed to find a Subway that was open so decided to eat there - at least I could have as much salad as I wanted on my sandwich there...

I managed to get hold of a phone card to ring my parents but not before I had bought a top up voucher for my Virgin phone. A word of advice, don't buy a voucher abroad - I had read every word of the terms and conditions and information included in my sim pack to check for anything to say about buying credit abroad but there was no mention of it. Anyway, the voucher only had 14 numbers on it instead of 16 and I couldn't speak to anyone at Virgin as I had no credit! Grr!

I rang my parents to let them know I was alright and had arrived in Arras and also to give them my planned destinations for the next few days. My dad sent an email off to Virgin to see if they could add the credit to my phone - it was a €20 top up. He contacted me a couple of days later to tell me that they couldn't do anything but had put a quid onto my account - I can tell you now I will never be using Virgin again, I thought that was disgusting! I spoke with my mum and asked her how my gran was doing - she had been ill when I left so wanted to check she was alright. I also asked after my gramps - he checks this every day apparently to see how I am getting on so 'hi gramps!'

I continued my tour of Arras and took some photos but I think I arrived about a week too late to be honest. There appears to be loads of history here but the guide book I had said most things were only open throughout July and August! Again, do they ever work in France? I noticed there was a Roman site here that I would have liked to have visited but, again, it only opens in July and August! I headed back to my accomodation to watch France against Romania but fell asleep 5 minutes before the end! I have since found out that the score was 1-1 but it was frustrating not knowing the result!

Sunday 6th September

I got up nice and early again today at 8am and had breakfast. Yet again I was greeted by stale bread and jam with coffee. The French need to get with the program and start offering a full English but unfortunately they seem to love stale bread! I studied some maps for a while and decided to change my plans and head for Bapaume - after walking so far yesterday I didn't want to commit to another long walk with no decent sized towns in between. Cambrai was 35km away whereas Bapaume was only about 22km. Also, if I got to Bapaume and decided to continue then Pérrone was only another 20km down the road and it is a short cut on my travels to Saint Quentin anyway.

I set off at about 10am by the time I had sorted all of my stuff out and taken some photos around Arras. It's a shame I didn't have more time in Arras and it was not the high season as I think it is a place I would really enjoy spending a little more time. I set a good pace again once I had left Arras and kept it up for most of the day. I had very little pain from my new blisters - my plan to switch footwear seemed to be paying off! I popped the worst one last night and plastered it for the evening and that seems to have done the world of good.

I reached Bapaume at about 2pm but there was really very little to see or do. I couldn't see any hint of a campsite and most places were closed and I couldn't find anywhere to eat. These factors pretty much made my mind up for me so I decided to press on to Pérrone - I would have had to wait around for about 5 hours to get something to eat and I would have been so bored! I will have to make a mental note that nothing happens in France on Sundays!

I put down a good pace once I left Bapaume and arrived into Pérrone at about 6.30pm - there had been little of interest since leaving Bapaume anyway so I just pressed on. I had a few 10 minute breaks on the way but that was more to take in water and have a breather than anything else as well as to let my shoulders have a rest as they have been getting sore more often lately. My left shoulder in particular has been giving me real trouble over the past couple of days so I have to stop every couple of hours now anyway to get some pain relief!

I found a municipal campsite fairly shortly after arriving into Pérrone and that cost me €7.50 - I was surprised to be told I had to pay €1.10 for a token for the shower, cheeky buggers! I pitched my tent for the night and decided to go in search of somewhere to eat to help relieve my hunger pains! Pérrone, luckily for me, seemed much bigger than Bapaume despite how it had appeared on the map. There was quite a lot open in Pérrone and I managed to find somewhere to eat quite quickly although, again, it was poor quality food!

I was sat around fairly bored afterwards on a bench in the campsite at about 8pm half considering going to bed as I was so bored when I got chatting with an English couple. They went out to walk their dog but kindly offered me a cup of tea on their way back which I was delighted to accept - you don't know how good a cup of tea made by someone English tastes after having to drink the stuff in France!

Their names were Barbara and Alan and they were travelling back to Spain after a couple of months travelling around the UK. We sat talking until about 10.30pm and it was nice to have an English conversation for a change - my French has really improved since arriving in Calais but the language barrier does make it difficult for me.

Monday 7th September

I got up at 9.15am today - I guess I needed the sleep after walking so far yesterday! I had a shower and headed off to find a tourist information and a boulangerie for some pains chocolats for breakfast! I studied the map of France and decided to try and reach Troyes by Saturday night so that I could have a rest day there on Sunday in the hope that there would be some internet access there to update my blog and photos.

I left Pérrone at about 10am to head for a place called Saint Quentin. It was only a 25km walk to Saint Quentin and I arrived shortly after 2pm. The first thing I noticed was how busy the streets were - it seemed that I had arrived on a day when the centre was shut off to vehicles and instead the streets were full of market traders! It took me an absolute age to get through the centre before I found a tourist information office, totally by chance!

The weather has been superb today with the sun pretty much uninterrupted and temperatures at around 25 degrees all afternoon! It's not the nicest weather for walking in but I appreciated the sun nonetheless - being from a country where summer lasts about as long as a football match I like to enjoy the sun when it is about!

I got a city plan and a department map from the tourist information office and asked about campsites whilst I was there. I was directed to a youth hostel that had a campsite about 2 miles outside of the city centre. I was staggered to learn that it was only €8 for a room for the night so opted for a little bit of comfort for the night and the hope of a good night's sleep. I am hoping to get to Laon tomorrow - about 50km away - so felt a good night's sleep was essential.

I had not been able to find anywhere to eat again today but managed to get hold of a pretty basic meal at around 4pm before deciding to relax outside a bar having a few beers before finding somewhere for tea. I had to go back to the hostel to get some more money for my evening meal so that added another 4 miles onto my day's walking! Checked out a few restaurants before finally deciding on one and ordered myself a 3 course meal to try and get some decent nutrition for a change.

I called Emma tonight to see how Roman was getting on and it seems I had made the correct decision in leaving him behind. Not only had his paw not got better but it had actually worsened slightly and he has needed over 100 quids worth of treatment so far. The vet, who I actually went to school with, said he was glad I had made the decision I had as it would have been really unfair on Roman to have made him undertake such a trip whilst not in full health. I offered to give Emma the money for the vet bills but she declined which I thought was nice of her.

Tuesday 8th September

Got up really early this morning at 6am so that I could get a headstart. I really hadn't wanted to get up at 6am but I forced myself to get up. Yet again I had woken up a couple of times in the night, this time at 2am and 4am. I had been thinking that waking up all of the time might have had something to do with the tent and the noises but it seems not as I have been waking up every night no matter where I have slept.

I had a quick shower before going to find a boulangerie and got 4 pains chocolats and a can of Fanta to wash them down with! I set off from Saint Quentin shortly after 7am and must admit to feeling slightly disappointed to be leaving another town so quickly. Saint Quentin seemed another charming place with plenty to take in but I am sure I will find a few more places like that along the way too.

I was glad I set off so early and set a really good pace in the morning - I managed 30km by lunchtime, partly as I knew it would be a hot afternoon and I wanted to get as far as possible as quickly as possible before it got too hot! As a result I have some new blisters on my feet but these are on the balls of my feet as I have been wearing my trainers. I will see how my feet are tomorrow but may have to change into my boots for a couple of days.

I managed to find somewhere along the way to get something to eat and had a pizza for lunch. It made a difference for sure and I felt that I had more energy in the afternoon. I decided to slow down a little from this morning's pace, partly due to the blisters - the quicker I walk the more sweat there is so the more I blister - but also due to the heat. Again today it has been pretty hot and the afternoon was no exception. The heat really takes it out of you when you are carrying a heavy bag on your back. The pain in my left shoulder has not been so bad today but it is still there. My right ankle has now started hurting and I am worried it may be a strain so that was another reason to ease up a little.

The next couple of days will see me having to walk over 20 miles each day so it is important I look after myself properly. I never thought I would say this but I hope it is a little cooler for the rest of the week - at least while I am walking anyway! I am not sure I could regularly walk 25 miles plus in this kind of heat.. Today has, once again, been 25 degrees all day and it was about 20 degrees when I set off this morning!

I arrived in Laon at about 5.30pm and went in search of a tourist office. I couldn't find one but saw some signs for a campsite so decided to follow them. They ended up taking me across lots of hills for about 3 miles before I managed to get to the campsite but, on the bright side, it was in the direction I would be walking tomorrow! The camping only cost €6 for the night but the only place close by to eat was a McDonald's so I headed there to get some food - I was so hungry I actually ate two large meals one after the other!

I got back to the campsite at about 9.30pm and decided to get an early night as it was pretty dark on the campsite and there was literally nothing for me to do. I had spoken with an English couple for a few minutes so that I could work out where I was exactly so I could try and set a route for tomorrow but they were pretty much on their way out anyway.

Wednesday 9th September

Pat, the bloke I had spoken with last night, woke me up this morning at 10am - he said he was worried as he hadn't seen me get up and it had been a chilly night last night!! To be honest I think I had just been exhausted after such a lot of walking yesterday but it was a nice gesture. He offered me a cup of tea so I accepted - it's a nice thing to wake up to for a change! Again I didn't have a great night's sleep - I woke up several times through the night and really didn't feel comfortable at all.

Chatted with Pat and his wife for about half an hour before they were ready to set off - it took him as long to hook his caravan up as it did for me to pack up but he had a remote control for his caravan!! Pat was insistent on giving me something, first of all he offered me money but I declined and asked that he gave it to charity instead. He said he would donate anyway but wanted to give me something, after about 5 attempts I finally accepted some cigarettes! I don't really like taking things from people but he really wanted to give me something and, after so many attempts, I found it difficult to say no again!

I left the campsite at about 11.30am after checking the map again. I had noticed that my originally intended route would be pretty much all dual carriageway so had been keen to find an alternate route. I managed to find a better route down country lanes that would be less busy despite adding a few kilometres to my walking but I had already saved these yesterday walking to the campsite anyway. I could see there were no decent sized towns on my way so stopped at McDonald's so that I knew I would definitely eat something!

I managed to get to Soissons by 5pm and found a tourist office pretty quickly. I was hoping for a youth hostel after a pretty poor night's sleep but could only find a municipal campsite so headed there. It was pretty cheap and the staff there were really helpful. They advised me of a couple of decent places to watch the France - Serbia match. I got a shower and pitched my tent before going in search of more food! I ate in a kebab house of sorts before heading off to take some photos of Soissons.

I rang Rich tonight who seemed happy to hear from me although he sounded very surprised when I was talking French to him! My French is really improving all of the time and I am getting more confident in my ability to converse with people. I was telling Rich about the differences over here and how expensive everything was, it has certainly been costing a lot more than I had originally thought it would.

I returned to the campsite for an hour or so to waste some time as I was waiting around for the football and didn't just want to sit in a bar. I headed out to find a bar at about 8.15pm and found a pretty nice one quite quickly. I got chatting with the bar staff in there, who commented on how well I spoke French. A little later I got chatting to a couple of French lads; Abdel and Aurelien. They also commented on how good my French was and were also impressed with both my knowledge of French football and my ideas for their national team! In a world of language barriers, football is the one universal language!!

I returned to the kebab house to eat again as I was starving once more to be greeted by a French guy called Christophe who insisted on paying for my food as I was 'a welcome visitor to his country!' He then insisted that I join him in the bar next door for a drink once I had finished my food. Being English, I have been sceptical on occasions when people have been so nice to me - usually in England these people want something from you. In France people seem to be genuinely nice.

I went to the bar next door for a drink with him as I thought it would be rude not to after he had paid for my food and been so nice to me. I actually ended up sitting in the bar until 1.30am chatting with Christophe, some other locals and the barmaid, Laetitia. My French has really come on leaps and bounds as I managed quite a bit of conversation with them. After the bar closed Laetitia offered me a lift back to the campsite but ended up giving me a guided tour of Soissons in her car for about half an hour! She spoke good English and seemed happy to have the opportunity to practise using it. I finally went to bed at about 2.30am safe in the knowledge that tomorrow would be a tough day!

Thursday 10th September

Got up at about 9.30am and had a shower before packing up and heading off to look for an internet café. The only one I could find charged €6 for an hour, cheeky buggers! I had no other choice though so had to pay it. I wanted to try and work out exactly how far I had come and how far I had left to go and also see if I could formulate a plan of where I hoped to be heading for the following couple of weeks. It was at this point that it dawned on me that I still had almost 1,800km to cover.

At the rate I had been going, about 40km a day, it would take me about another 52 days if you included a rest day each week. A quick calculation meant that I had covered about one sixth of the distance but a check on my money revealed I had already spent a third! I calculated that to make it on the money I had with things being as expensive as they were would mean I would have to walk about 65km a day without having any rest days! To do this I would need to walk every minute of daylight and wouldn't even have chance to stop for lunch.

I thought about the situation for a while and rung my family to discuss the problem. My dad recommended that I take a couple of days out to think about things and relax but I couldn't even afford to do that as it would mean even less money to be able to continue with. I thought about things for a few hours and made a decision. As gutting as it was for me to do it I decided that I would have to concede defeat. I had thought about the repercussions of this decision and realised that there may be some people who are unhappy to have donated for me not to have completed so have decided to offer to personally reimburse anyone who has donated money provided they can send me evidence of the donation. I am feeling totally gutted about the whole situation and it's very difficult to sum up my exact feelings.

I have quite a bit more to update but I really need to eat right now. I will try and update again in the next day or two to let you all know what I have been up to since I made that decision but thought that maybe that was a good place to finish for tonight. I have been sat in front of a computer for about 4 hours now so could do with a break anyway.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Sorry I Have Not Updated For So Long!!

It has been a while since I updated last and quite a lot has happened!! I have been keeping a diary of sorts to help me remember all of the events so am now typing up from notes I have made. One of the benefits of keeping a diary is that it means I am able to write this up on a day to day basis.

Sunday 30th August

My final day in England was almost a total disaster for many reasons. The first problem that I encountered on the day was a phone call from Nathan to tell me that he had broken down on the M25 and didn't think he would be able to make it all the way to Dover. This was a fairly large problem as Nathan was bringing me some more money to enable me to fund the next leg of my journey!! I didn't panic though. I asked him to try a few different things and call me back with updates whilst I continued on to Dover. At the same time I also got in touch with my brother, Rich, to see if he would be able to drive down and pick Nathan up and bring my additional belongings to Dover if the need arose to which he agreed immediately.

As it was, there was little that could be done for Nathan's car at the time so Rich set off from Chester at around 11am. I had to check in for the ferry by 6pm so I was praying that he didn't run in to any traffic along the way or get lost!! I took a good look at the map and gave him what I thought were the best directions and just hoped for the best. He arrived to Nathan at about 3pm and they met up with me at around 4.30pm in Dover. Disaster number & averted!!

The second problem I ran into was one of miscalculation. I didn't want to walk along the A2 as it is a main carraigeway with cars and trucks speeding along at up to 100mph. Instead I decided to use a couple of B roads through the countryside and go via Folkestone. This sounded simple enough and I was confident that I had located a decent route. My confidence was misplaced however as I ended up walking about 5 miles out of my way as I missed a turning! In total I think I must have walked about 20 miles to get to Dover when it should only have been around 15! I got there eventually though so both potential disasters were avoided although there were some extremely dangerous sections of road along the way and I nearly got killed a couple of times!

I was a little disappointed with Folkestone - sorry if you live there or like it! It reminded me of Blackpool if I am honest although the beach was probably a bit better than in Blackpool! I think after a hard day of walking through dangerous sections of road I was maybe hoping for a little more for my troubles. I rested a short while on the beach there and took the opportunity to walk in the sea to try and help the blisters on my feet.

I met up with Rich and Nathan in Dover with time to spare before check in so decided to go through my bag again and shed any more weight that I absolutely did not need. I decided to leave my MacBook behind as I could not really justify carrying it. Laptops weigh more than you think when you have to carry them 20 miles in the sun! I also got rid of some toiletries that I hadn't used as this stuff can be picked up along the way and I also got rid of some suncream - I now have factor 10 for my body and factor 30 for my shoulders and head - carrying a bag would not be nice with sunburnt shoulders! I immediately felt more comfortable with the new weight of the bag. I had been experiencing a sore neck and sore shoulders over the last few days and felt that the bag was just too havy.

Nathan tried carrying the bag as I had been carrying it and almost fell over backwards a couple of times such was the weight. We then decided to take some photos around Dover before Rich gave me a haircut in the street - people passing gave us some odd looks but it didn't matter - I want a suntan on my head by the time I reach Rome! We took some good photos but they corrupted on my camera which I was disappointed about. Ah well, such is life!

We then had a bit of a mix up when we went to collect my free ticket kindly donated by P&O Ferries - Nathan got the reference number for me from my email inbox but then decided to give me his insurance reference number instead so the lady at the desk at P&O Ferries was slightly bewildered! We had a laugh at Nathan's expense for a short while but the lady managed to sort everything out for me in the end. I then said my goodbyes once more to Rich and Nathan before getting on the bus that takes you to the boarding point for the ferry.

I took the opportuntity to make the most of what little time I had left to use the internet with a flurry of Facebook messages before I passed out of English seas and the service was no longer provided for my mobile by Virgin in the UK. As the ferry left the port I took some photos of the white cliffs of Dover before heading to the food court for some much needed grub. I decided to have the chicken tikka masala and was not disappointed.

I began to feel a little nervous as we crossed the English Channel - I had not used French in about 11 years since I left school and was unsure as to how much I would remember once I needed it. Ah well, no turning back now I thought. I would just have to do my best! The crossing was a fairly good one and we arrived into Calais at 9.30pm local time. It suddenly dawned on me that a morning crossing may have been better - it was dark, I had no idea where to go and I had no idea whether I could converse in French!!

I managed to find my way into the town centre fairly quickly and was delighted to see lots of signs pointing out the direction to the hotels! I found one fairly quickly in the end and checked in - I had no idea at all where I could have pitched a tent so thought a hotel would be the safest option. The room cost €38.70 and breakfast was €5.00 on top of that. It was certainly more expensive than I had hoped for but at least I had a bed for the night! I turned the TV on and found that they have English channels so watched a few episodes of The Office before going to sleep.

Monday 31st August

I got a good night's sleep but woke up at about 5am - strangely I have been waking every night at 4am in England too! I got up at 7.30am and breakfast was brought to my room at 8am. I was a little disappointed with the breakfast to be honest - €5 and all I got was half a baguette with butter and a choice of jam, marmalade or fromage! I did get a coffee too but it was still a bit steep! I showered and left the hotel at about 9.30am to begin my day's walk to Wissant. I remembered that Benedict Protheroe had also headed this way on his first day in France.

Before I got very far I encountered some English people waiting to see the vet in Calais so got talking with them. They offered me a cup of tea and even gave me some sandwiches! I must have been there for about 45 minutes altogether before heading off again. I spoke to a French guy on the beach who assured me that I would be able to walk all the way to Wissant on the beach as the tide was going out - I think the total distance was about 12 or 13 miles. Everything went well for about 7 miles but then I reached a section where the tide was still in and I had nothing but rocks and cliffs to my left!

I decided to climb over the rocks as I had little idea where I was and didn't want to get lost on my first day!! It proved quite dangerous and I nearly fell face first into the rocks on several occasions! There were times when I questioned my sanity in trying to climb over the rocks with a heavy bag on my back but I had reached the half way point so it seemed daft to turn back. I managed to get to the other side (somehow) unscathed and continued the rest of the way along the beach until I arrived in Wissant.

All day the weather was fantastic - the weather report in the morning had forecast 28 all day in Calais and I think it may well have gotten hotter! I managed to catch the sun auite a bit and there is now a definite difference between the colour of my arms and the rest of my body! I will have to have a few rest days on hotter days to sunbathe so that I don't have a t shirt tan when I arrive in Rome! I used the factor 30 on my head every few hours and it seems to have worked well as I did not burn at all - not like me at all, I am usually terrible in the sun!

I arrived in Wissant shortly before 3pm and was very pleased that I now had my trainers - they made the walk a hell of a lot more pleasant and I have now decided to wear my trainers on softer ground or more consistent ground and my boots will be for in the rain as they are waterproof and also where the ground is very uneven as they offer my feet and ankles more support than my trainers do.

Wissant was like a maze to me - I went seqrching for a campsite and it took ages! I finally managed to locate it with the help of a French builder who spoke no English - another chance to improve my French! It only cost €8 to cqmp there for the night, a lot cheaper than the hotel the previous night! I pitched my tent and headed back to the beach and stayed there for about 3 hours to try and top up my tan. I also spent some time walking in the sea to try and help my blisters heal.

I found a restaurant after that and decided to have a pizza and a beer - it's really expensive over here, about €5 or €6 a pint! I will have to stay away from beer in restaurants and bars otherwise my money will quickly run out! I found a shop on the way back to the campsite so got a couple of cans of Kronenbourg - €0.80 per 330ml can - and returned to the campsite to listen to some Italian on my iPod and drink my beers. I went to bed at about 10pm as it had gone dark and I was bored! One thing that I have noticed so far in France is that there are a lot of pretty girls about - I knew I should have listened better in French class!

Tuesday 1st September

I had a bit of a lie in today and didn't get up until about 8am and set about packing up once I had washed and had a cigarette. I was woken up several times in the night due to the wind and also once at about 3am by some people talking quite loudly. It was a bit of a dismal morning but didn't rain at all - it was overcast and very windy throughout most of the morning. I bought 10 pains chocolats from the local Spar (they really do get everywhere!!) and waited for the tourist information office to open at 9.30am.

I explained to the lady about the mishaps on the previous day and requested some help finding a safe way to get to Boulogne. She recommended that I use the GR route and explained how to keep on it - red and white markings dotted along the beach and also down roads through towns. I left at 9.45am and reached a town called Audresselles at 12pm feeling very hungry after walking up and down lots of sand dunes and lots of hills also! I ordered a cheese and ham omelette with chips and they brought out the biggest portion of chips you had ever seen - being typically English I polished the lot off along with all the salad and all the bread they brought me!

I had a cappuccino afterwards to provide me with some sugar and left the restaurant at about 1pm. I followed the trail again for a while and then there was a sign that made no sense at all so I had to guess which way to go. I chose the wrong way and pretty soon found myself on the beach once more! Ah well, Bouolgne is on the coast anyway so I thought I would get there if I just followed the coastline. After about a mile of walking along the beach I had my next near death experience as I encountered more rocks where the sea was still in!

These rocks were much steeper and mostly covered in seaweed and were definitely more dangerous than the rocks I encountered yesterday. I didn't want to get lost again though so I decided to just go for it, maybe not the most sensible decision in my life but what would Ray Mears do? I had to traverse about half a mile of rocks like this and it was heading around a cliff face so I couldn't even see where it would end. I was dreading the tide coming in even though I knew it was on its way out!

I got to the other side of the rocks feeling very relieved only to find the steepest steps in the world to return me to road level. The last 2 miles and the next mile there was a very sheer cliff so I thought I better take the steps rather than risk my life again! I ran up most of the steps, partly because I wanted to get back to a safe place and partly because I hate walking up steps. I got to the top and was happy to see that I only had about a mile left to wakl and it was all down hill, just a shame I didn't have roller skqtes!

The beqch in Boulogne was really nice, very clean white sand and also a pretty decent size. I walked in the sea for a while again to help my blisters and then sunbathed for a while before going in search of a campsite again. I put some factor 30 on my ankles today as they had got sunburnt yesterday! The weather has been really good this afternoon - the sun cqme out at about 3pm and was glorious until about 6pm or 7pm.

I asked a Frenchman who, again, spoke no English but managed to get enough out of him to know where to head for. I had to walk another 2 or 3 miles to find a campsite. I am not sure how many miles I covered today. I think it might have been as much as 15 but it's hard to tell as so much of it was along the coast whereas the roads are more direct. Also, it was a difficult day as the wind was so strong and most of my walking took me directly into it!

The campsite was just outside of Boulogne in a place called Le Portel which seemed nice enough but the camping cost more at €11.20. I managed to practise more French whilst I was talking with the lady at the reception. I feel like my French is improving day by day although I have a very long way to go before I can hold any decent form of conversation - at least I am managing to get by though!

Once I had pitched my tent I went in search of somewhere to eat and settled for a bolognaise at one of the local restaurants - strangely they were just opening as I arrived and were closed when I passed it about half an hour after I left! People just don't seem to work over here! I had a walk around Le Portel for a little while after my meal before heading back to the campsite and decided to get an early night at 9.30pm as there was nothing to do and the wind was so strong that I didn't want to get out of my tent!

Wednesday 2nd September

I had a terrible night's sleep last night as the weather was pretty horrific for sleeping in a tent! The only are to pitch was at the top of a hill and I was very exposed up there to the worst the weather had to offer. I was worried that my tent was going to fly away so struggled to get to sleep - a couple of pegs kept working loose so I had been replacing them but decided to give up in the end and sleep in a wind tunnel! I decided right then that I had to get away from the coast as soon as possible!

The weather has been dismal again this morning and I have had to deal with both a strong wind and intermittent showers. It's a real pain having to get changed in and out of my waterproofs as it is far too hot to walk in them when the sun comes out. I found a cafe in the centre of Le Portel to get some more pains chocolats and a pot of tea before braving the weather. I also took the opportunity to try and read a French newspaper to help jog my memory of French - I headed straight for the sport section as football is a universal language!

I decided to head for a place called Montreuil-sur-mer after I had visited the tourist office and was informed that the walk would be about 40km (that's about 25 miles). I took some photos around Boulogne before I left and I made sure to eat as I passed a McDonald's at about midday! About 8 miles down the road I stopped at a cafe in Condette for a coffee and got speaking to the lad in there - again he spoke no English but it was another chance to practise my French. The conversation flowed surprisingly well and I am feeling more confident now everytime I get the chance to converse in French!

The paths were pretty good pretty much all the way to Montreuil-sur-mer, certainly a damn sight better than they had been in England anyway! France, as a nation, seem to be quite keen on jogging, walking and cycling and provide decent paths for people to be able to do this on. One thing you do have to watch out for though is the odd motorbike flying up the path - I am not sure whether it is legal or not but it is certainly common!

I stopped a couple more times on the way to rest and drink water and also get a coffee when the opportunity arose but came over all dizzy on my last break about 3 miles outside of Montreuil. After realising how many miles I had to cover when speaking with the lad in Condette I had upped the pace considerably so that I could make it before dark. I think maybe I pushed a little too hard but got plenty of water and energy tablets down my neck to help.

I arrived in Montreuil-sur-mer at about 7pm and found a campsite fairly quickly. It was only €8 to camp here so I was happy about that! I went in search of a restaurant only to discover that everything was in the 'high town', meaning lots of hills to get there! I finally managed to find somewhere reasonable to eat and ordered a lasagne with an extra portion of chips - the bloke there looked a little bewildered but I ate every last bit - I'm doing us English proud! I also had a few Fantas to help replace the sugars in my body as I think this might have been why I had felt dizzy earlier.

As I finished my meal an English family approached me who had noticed I was wearing a t shirt stating I am walking to Rome and we chatted for about 20 minutes. They seemed really interested in what I was doing and they were very nice. I gave them my blgo details and they even took some photos of me!! I left the restaurant at around 9pm to head back to the campsite as I had noticed a sign stating that they closed at 10pm each night. I am glad I left so early - everywhere looked completely different in the dark and I almost got lost a couple of times!

To make matters worse I had come out in shorts and t shirt and it was now pouring down quite heavily - it's funny but I have seen more rain in 3 days in France than I saw in the whole of my 2 weeks travelling across England! I eventually managed to find my way and arrived back at the campsite soaked through at about 9.45pm - just in time! It took me until around midnight to get to sleep due to the noise of the constant downpour of rain on my tent but at least the wind had died down!

I have been trying to find a way to phone home for a couple of days now too but none of the telephone boxes seem to accept cash over here. I am trying to get hold of a phone card from somewhere but everywhere I have tried either does not sell them or can't seem to fully understand what I am asking for!! The search will continue...

Thursday 3rd September

I got up at about 8am this morning and headed off to get a shower and freshen up before packing my stuff up. Just as I started to pack everything up it decided to rain, bloody typical! It stopped after a couple of minutes though and the sun came out so at least I didn't get soaked again. Just as I finished packing everything up it started raining again and this pretty much set the tone for the rest of the day - rain one minute, roasting the next!

I headed into the town centre of Montreuil-sur-mer again so that I could try and find an internet cafe and a launderette. There was no internet cafe, I was reliably informed at the tourist information (which was only open from 10am-12pm and then 2pm until 7pm!), but there was a pc shop pretty much next door to the launderette where I could use the internet. Such is my luck that the shop was in a bit of a mess and there would be no internet access all day!

After my laundry was done I decided to head for a place called Hesdin which I think is about 15 miles away. I left Montreuil-sur-mer hoping that I would find an internet cafe there but not really expecting one. The walk was another difficult one, mainly due to the changin weather and me having to change in and out of my waterproofs constantly! I stopped off at an Aldi to get something to eat as my route had not taken me near anywhere suitable to eat.

I had a massive stroke of luck as I arrived in Hesdin that afternoon - I got speaking with a guy called Francois as I was enquiring about getting access to the internet and also about finding somewhere suitable to camp. He informed me that there was nowhere that he knew of for me to use the internet but I was welcome to use his internet at his house if I wanted. Even better, he offered me a place at his table and a bed for the night!! I fell really lucky speaking to this guy I think!

He lived in a village just outside of Hesdin so gave me a lift to his house and offered to drop me back in Hesdin on Friday so that I can continue on my way. He speaks no English at all, as do none of his family so this has been a really good opportunity for me to develop my French also. When they are speaking with each other I can barely understand a word but I have managed quite a bit of conversation with them provided they speak more slowly with me! It's surprising just how much French I cqn qctually remember and I am learning more all the time.

I am planning another 15 mile walk tomorrow to take me to a place called Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise and have another mammoth day planned after tha of 23 miles to take me to a place called Arras. I am hoping that Arras will also have internet access as it is a much bigger town than any of the others I have visited so far so I will hopefully be able to update my blog again on Saturday and upload any additional pictures if I have the time.

I must say I am really enjoying my time in France so far despite the initial nervousness about the language barrier. It is proving difficult at times but I am getting better all the time so I am sure that I will be able to converse quite well by the time I reach the south of France. I just hope that my Italian also comes on this quickly as I need to be as fluent as possible by the time I reach Rome!