funny shit frrrr….sunday.

I really really really wanted to say Friday again.. but it would have been a boldfaced lie. I think at this point there is nowhere in the world where it is actually Friday right now. And if there’s one thing I refuse to be.. its a liar. Anyways, enough about me. Scroll down. Laugh. Leave me a comment about how funny I am (or not). Happy Sunday!

IMG_5824This gem was found on the door of the women’s bathroom at the second hostel I stayed at in Lisbon, Portugal. It wasn’t until the second morning of my stay when my grumpy morning squinty eye face finally realized what was welcoming me to my first pee of the day.. In case I wasn’t sure what lady bits I needed in order to use the facilities, here was a lovely illustration to clear things up.

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I DONT GET IT. That is a lot of misdirected anger. I can’t imagine a situation in which unicorns would do something to deserve such a public call out.  Or maybe Unicorns is a person? Unicorns the person needs to stop giving unicorns the mythical beast such a bad name.

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Seems like a waste of the rest of the week, but I guess if you are going to announce it like this your Sundays are probably pretty busy. Is this like a ‘filling up the gas tank’ for the week to come, so to speak? (OMG SO MANY PUNS NOT INTENDED)

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I know there has been some dispute over Obama’s heritage, but I was not aware that he was also a supporter of British colonization in Africa, not to mention a restaurateur. WHAT ELSE ARE YOU HIDING FROM US OBAMA, IF THAT IS EVEN YOUR REAL NAME?
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If anyone knows a young strapping doctor named Robert Tessler, will you please let him know that his doppelgänger has a budding music career as well as a vested interest in dressing like Luke Wilson from “The Royal Tenenbaums”?

Many of you may know I have a strong affinity for all that is humorous in life, and I hope to keep these posts coming more (rather than less) regularly. As a totally unqualified medical professional, my prescription for your life is a dose of hilarity as often as possible. If you come across any photos you would like me to try and caption, send them my way! Tag me on Instagram @gbennett or email to bitesizepiece@gmail.com 

consider this “fievel goes west 2: the portugal hitchhiking days”

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Cape St. Vincent

*** if you don’t get the reference, here ya go: Fievel Goes West IMDB

After leaving the hostel we were working at in Faro, it seemed like our choice of where to rest our heads at night got weirder and weirder. First, we stayed with our buddy Cosmos in Lagos, in what was basically a flat with a bunch of mismatched bunk beds shoved into each room, and a shower that for some inexplicable reason was built for 2 (literally, it had two brand new shower heads… he said it was to save water?). Our next stop, Sagres- further west in the Portuguese Algarve- appeared to have little to no hostel presence, so we decided to wing it- worst case scenario we sleep on the beach cuddled together, using our backpacks for pillows.

Cosmos palace

Cosmos palace

 

After hopping out of the ride that picked us up for the last leg to sleepy, very confusingly urban-planned Sagres, we spent approximately 4 minutes wandering around like idiots before a wrinkly peanut of a woman (approx. age.. 109) cycled up to us with an offer we couldn’t refuse. Ten minutes and a lot of broken Portuguese later, we were set up in the cheapest hostel I’ve stayed in the whole time I’ve been in Europe. 25 euro for a double bedroom, private bathroom, TV and wifi… inside this woman’s house.

Sagres hostel/house

Sagres hostel/house

Don’t take this the wrong way- there are NO complaints to be had here. All in all, it was not only a case of ‘right place at the right time,’ but this lady’s sense of entrepreneurship should inspire us all.

We dropped our bags off, repacked a backpack with the essentials (wine, cans of tuna, more wine) and headed out to catch what is deemed “possibly the best sunset you’ll ever see” (<- seriously we saw that on a sign.. way to hedge your bets, tour operators).

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the stupid facial expression is due to the carton of wine in my hand

St. Vincent is located about 6km outside of the town of Sagres, and is the western most point of the European continent. As we drove in earlier that day, the clouds started to close in on us, so we didn’t really know what (if anything) to expect of the sunset spectacular that we hoped to see. By the time we made it out there (only one carton of wine deep by then!) we still had an hour or so to spare, and with the cloud cover thickening by the minute it was hard to tell if we would end up seeing anything at all.

Apparently in a game of rock-paper-scissors, sun beats cloud…. most of the time. The sunset was maybe not ‘the best’ I’ve ever seen, but it was definitely worth the trek out there.

my version of Fievel Goes West (a classic tale of manifest destiny and the mouse that wouldn't give up)

my version of Fievel Goes West (a classic tale of manifest destiny and the mouse that wouldn’t give up)

 

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I totally get why people used to think the world was flat

Because we were on a ‘lets see the sun do stuff’ roll, the next morning we snuck out of our little house at the crack of dawn to check out the sunrise- thanks to a noisy and hungry mosquito in our bedroom both of us were up at 4 am. In the same sun vs. clouds game (except backwards), the sun lost bitterly to the heavy cloud cover. Literally, the sun never rose… we just sat on the beach for about half an hour, giving each other quizzical looks as the world around us became a lighter and lighter shade of grey. After a while we just shrugged and headed off in search of a decent cup of coffee.

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in the meantime, I opened my own Portuguese restaurant

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and we knitted bike and tree cozies.

That morning marked the last day my Australian friend and I stuck our thumbs to the wind together- in Odeceixe, we hugged each other goodbye, and I made my way to Lisbon (ok guys.. seriously don’t worry.. I only hitched like 20 km on my own and got free baked goods out of it!) to spend my last night in Portugal at an ACTUAL hostel- complete with too few bathrooms, plenty of dudes with dreads and guitars, and a great group of people to chat with before I hopped on a plane back to SPAIN!!!!

 

i got 99 problems and beaches are like 12 of them

Just when I thought I felt kind of ‘meh’ about portugal, I headed to the Algarve. For the first few days I was in Faro (the capital of the Algarve, I think its because of the airport), the ‘meh-ness’ continued to grow- with Faro pretty much what you see is what you get.. a city. Faro is touted as a great hub for exploring the surrounding areas- within the city there really isn’twhole lot in terms of nightlife, cultural events, scenery, or beach.. but if you are really into malls you could probably pass a couple lovely afternoons at the giant shopping center conveniently located right across the street from the prison (urban planning fail or win?).

Lucky for me, I wasn’t the only one that needed to see the ‘real’ Algarve. Teased with promises of sea caves and word class beaches, my fellow work-trade-er set up a tour for us with a friend of the hostel, and after a rough night in which I learned a valuable lesson about how vodka probably doesn’t belong in sangria, we packed into one of those ridiculously tiny European cars and headed to paradise.

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First we headed to Benegil- one of those places you drive up to and groan a bit inside due to the hordes of tourists and ridiculously overpriced restaurants- but then you arrive at your destination and you’re like.. oh nope, I totally get why everyone wants to come here. No hard feelings, fellow tourists, I also enjoy crystal clear water, soft sand, and amazing photo-ops. Turns out I’m not all that different from the guy wearing Tevas with socks and zip-off pants.

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if you look really closely you might be able to see boobs. I mean, its Europe.

This was when my hangover started to cower in fear.. nothing stops that day after feeling like jumping into super cold water. The main attraction here, apart from the amazing beach, is the sea caves (in the photo above they would be sort of down and to the left). After a few irresistible photo ops we ditched our cameras and clothes at the car and swam out to the cave.

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from above the cave

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I like to think I’m not that person.. but I TOTALLY am that person.

Although the trusty iPhone wasn’t hardy enough to brave the swim (at this point my phone case is literally about to disintegrate.. I don’t know if I can handle the trauma of choosing a new one), our friend/guide/chauffeur brought along a GoPro, so you can thank him for the following photos.

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I’m the one on the right that looks both naked and dead. I promise I am not either of those things.

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yup, still dead.

This was one of those experiences where you literally feel like the world has stopped- after passing out on the little beach inside the cave for an indeterminate period of time, the swim back to the main beach was almost an out of body experience. The cold, clear water seemed more buoyant than normal as I leaned back, sun on my face and forgot about the rest of the world. I probably would have stayed like that for a lot longer, but unfortunately I am only human and humans need lunch.

Still in our bathing suits (cause fuck clothes), we headed to Praia da Marinha for a picnic and more photo ops. This beach is considered to be one of the top 10 beaches in Europe, and in the top 100 in the world. I wouldn’t exactly call myself a beach connoisseur, but lets just say if this were a bottle of wine I probably couldn’t afford it.

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just before I slammed my head into the rock. see ya later brain cells.

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BAHAHAHA I have a rat tail. gross.

A few days later, we were fiending so hard for some more epic coastline that we headed west, signs out, thumbs in the air, and ended up in Lagos. Deemed the party capital of the Algarve, I came for the drunk Australians and beer bongs (<- that is a blatant lie, I would do no such thing). Though the allure of guys with sunburns and super short shorts wore off really quickly, I can’t say the same for the coastline. Also, Lagos is home to my new favorite person Cosmos … that guy just makes everything better.


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Tearfully,  left Cosmos (and his killer tattoos) for the western-most point of Europe.. Sagres!

sometimes traveling doesn’t cost an arm and a leg

Just a bit of dignity and some elbow grease.

Seriously though, gone are the days of overpriced hotel rooms and tours that make you sign over your first born child before you even leave your home country. I mean, all of those things still exist, and I know there are still subscribers to the world of “Europe on $200 a day,”  but I’ve found that the scrappier and cheaper it gets, the more fun I have.

nothing screams luxury like a blow up swimming pool

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wouldn’t you consider sleeping here over a hostel bunk bed?

This time, that meant delving into the world of hitchhiking and work trade-  yeah, I know, hitchhiking is dangerous, you never know who is going to pick you up, you might get kidnapped, stranded… I KNOW. However, I could also be robbed at gunpoint in the middle of San Francisco while minding my own business, or hit by a car while crossing the street in middle of nowhere, safe-as-hell Ojai… both of which have actually happened. (ok to be fair in the first instance the gun was fake, but still). The work trade portion of my adventures were actually probably more damaging to my health and safety than the hitchhiking was.. mostly due to a lack of sleep and lots of cleaning product fumes.

Anyways, you can all breathe easy (especially you, Grandma, I know your heart probably stopped for a second) because I made it to Spain and won’t be trying my luck in this country.. at least with hitchhiking and cleaning products. Everything else, I can’t make any promises.

 

Would I recommend using Workaway for someone who is looking to save a bit of money while still hanging out in a rad country? Hell yeah. Since my room and food was covered, the only money I spent was basically on watermelon and sangria ingredients. What would NOT recommend however, is going into the workaway experience without fully understanding the terms of your work trade. Lets just say I was not prepared for over night shifts or cleaning multiple bathrooms a day.

mad art skillz

mad art skillz

Hitchhiking, unlike Workaway, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend to everyone looking to travel cheaply. If you don’t feel like standing on the side of the road for an undetermined period of time holding a sign or your thumb in the air, feel free to rule out this method of transportation. (or, you know, you’re in a country in which hitchhiking is illegal). For me (and my lovely Australian friend on whom we can pin this newfound addiction) it became a game- we would try to make eye contact with as many passing cars as possible, and for those that didn’t stop, try to figure out the weird hand signals that drivers would give us to indicate that they were not headed where we were trying to go (“Wait does that mean you’re staying here? you’re turning around? I don’t get it.”)

off we go

i swear im not high in this photo, i was just running on 3 hours of sleep.

I met a lot of interesting characters over the last couple of weeks- an older woman and her mother from Mozambique that drove us 20km out of their way while blasting 70’s tunes, a baker in the process of developing sweet potato, bean and nut based baked goods who raced me to 3 different bus stops before we found the right one, and the guy in the amazing VW van filled with baby wipes and toilet paper- to name just a few.

other favorite: THIS GUY.

other favorite: THIS GUY.

Though I’ll miss my new favorite game, word on the street is that hitchhiking in Spain isn’t quite as fun, so I’m planning on trying Bla Bla Car (a ride sharing weebsite) for my trip to Barcelona on Monday or Tuesday.

 

Portugal, where I almost got airlifted to safety

I haven’t been writing much lately, although I can’t say its for a lack of content. In the last 2 months I’ve spent time with family in Liverpool and London, reconnected with friends and (host) family in Spain, and made my way through Portugal. This post is coming to you from a short pause for a long breath in a sleepy city called Faro, the capital city of the Algarve in southern Portugal, not too far from the Spanish border. After doing the traditional hostel-hop through Porto, Lisbon and Sintra, I finally found a Workaway position at a fairly new hostel in downtown Faro.

Faro train station at sunset

Faro train station at sunset

For some reason, my creative juices just aren’t flowing these days- not sure if that’s due to the fact that I’ve spent the last 2 nights working overnight (1am-9am) shifts at the hostel, or if I’m just not doing the right things to stoke the fires. I think the issue is that I don’t want this to be the type of blog where I just say “hey, look at this thing I did” and then post idyllic pictures of landscapes and the occasional selfie. I want this blog to portray my brand- I see myself as a bit of an eccentric, slightly off the wall, majorly sarcastic, with a healthy dose of adventurous spirit and an air of “well, that sounded like a good idea at the time.” The things you read here should reflect that. Anyone can fly into Europe, take a few photos of old stuff, recap their meals, and tell you how many bleeding Christ paintings you can find in the Prado (fact: its WAY too many).

That said, this is probably never going to be a typical ‘travel’ blog. Yeah, I travel. And I blog. But unfortunately, my specific type of travel blogging is probably not going to be a great substitute for your handy dandy Lonely Planet.

So…. Spain. but mostly Portugal. (I promise I will time-blog-hop back to my time in Spain at some point!)

Portugal is effing gorgeous. After living in the states for so long, you forget how OLD stuff is. Europe is old as fuck, and the architecture, urban planning and art reflect that. To be slightly more specific, according to Wikipedia, Porto’s origins date back as far as the 4th century. So when America was founded in 1776, Porto was over a thousand years old.

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streets of Porto

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view of the Douro river

After an altogether too short couple of days in Porto, I rushed down to Lisbon to catch the Optimus Alive music festival. Lisbon is like many European capitals- a juxtaposition of the old and new, one overlapping with the other in often ridiculous ways. I can’t help but giggle a bit to myself when I find a Zara store tucked next to a thousand year old church (which has been plastered with ads for an upcoming DJ set), or when the nearest Metro stop is located underneath a statue of Dom Pedro IV (one of Portugal’s kings). Then, to time warp my brain a little more, I headed to Sintra, home of castles, parks and old stuff galore. Although Sintra seems to cater largely to sightseers, its one of the few super touristy places I’ve visited that I feel is truly worth it.

Quinta de la Regaleira, Sintra

Quinta de la Regaleira, Sintra

However, because we all know I can’t adhere to norms (and I hate spending money when I don’t have to), I decided to say eff the tourist buses, and head up to the Castelo de los Mouros (est. somewhere between the 8th and 9th century) which happens to be located on a giant cliff overlooking the town of Sintra. Now, the 6 km hike up to the castle wouldn’t be that big of a deal.. if I hadn’t decided to take my own ‘shortcut’ which consisted of literally climbing up the face of the mountain.

if you go to sintra, this is NOT the path to the castle. at least not the path of least resistance...

if you go to sintra, this is NOT the path to the castle. at least not the path of least resistance…

The climb up was actually pretty fun. I got to find out if TOMS really are decent hiking shoes (for the record, not so bad) and I got to put my out of practice rock climbing skills to the test. In the end, I made it to the ‘top’. I use quotation marks because the top of the climb unfortunately did not coincide with the location of my destination. It did, however, have amazing views of aforementioned destination.

soooo… this is awkward. anyone see a road I could borrow?

soooo… this is awkward. anyone see a road I could borrow?

My ‘pat yourself on the back for a job well done’ moment lasted about 10 minutes.. long enough to snap some epic photos, a couple terrible selfies, and take a few deep breaths before realizing I had no freakin’ clue how I was going to make it from the boulders I was perched on to the castle 200+ meters away. If everyone is supposed to have a moment in their lives in which they strongly believe they will have to be rescued by a helicopter and possibly the foreign version of a SWAT team, this was mine.

 

but dat view doe…

but dat view doe…

Anyways, crisis (and panic attack) was averted, and eventually I squirmed through the bushes and over (and under) the boulders to make it up to the Moorish Castle. Moral of the story: next time bring climbing shoes… and, uh… maybe don’t take shortcuts?

Three days in Sintra and I managed to get my fill of old stuff.. although if I could have convinced my hostel to let me stay and work there, I totally would have. That place was awesome. (Nice Way Sintra Palace, FYI)

And that brings me to Faro.. kind of like Porto’s less old, not as picturesque, more lacking in wine’s younger brother. Which will be another silly story for me to share, and for my grandma to read (cause lets be honest… everyone else just looks at the pictures).

Optimus Alive- also known as that one time I went to a music festival by myself.

So, remember a few months ago when I was still riding the Coachella high and spent hours researching music festivals all over Europe?* As luck would have it, I managed to actually make it to one! After a week in Galicia with my host family**, I took advantage of the fact that Portugal was literally across the bridge and headed down to Porto (heard of port wine? Thats where the name comes from) to see if the Portguese accent is really as hard to understand as I heard it was. Fact: It is.

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Porto

Anyway, the original ‘plan’ was to head to Porto, drink some wine, take some selfies and take in the gorgeous architecture for an indefinite period of time. That indefinite period ended up being a grand total of a day and a half, once I realized that A) Optimus Alive was in Lisbon this weekend B) tickets were only 53 euros each and C) the lineup was incredible. Surprisingly, no one else I’ve met seems to think that impulsively buying concert tickets is a good habit, so on Saturday I headed to the show by myself but pretty damn excited.

no big deal, just an epic statue in front of an epic building.

no big deal, just an epic statue in front of an epic building.

In a lot of ways, I knew what to expect- weird outfits, people with flags and stuff on sticks so their friends can find them, people digging through your bag, and long bathroom lines. In a pleasant turn of events, drinks were actually CHEAP (2.5 euro for a Strongbow), lines to get in flew by, the venue was easily accessible via public transportation, and they even gave you a handy hat to shield your face from the hot afternoon sun. I was a little confused about the timing of the whole thing, and would probably time my arrival for a couple hours later next time- doors to the event didn’t open until 5 pm (I couldn’t keep it in my pants, so I showed up at like 4:45), and the last show of the night ended a little past 4 am. I guess that’s Europe for ya.

don't worry, there were still crowds, i just did my best to stay out of them

don’t worry, there were still crowds, i just did my best to stay out of them

The biggest and absolute best surprise of the whole day was the fact that I was able to make it to the very FRONT of the stage for 5 out of the 6 artists I came to the show to see. Which in my book is pretty much unheard of unless you plan on camping out at the stage for an hour beforehand and don’t mind dealing with a lot of elbow throwing, pushing, and dirty looks.

i did still have to deal with a few "quacks"… get it?

i did still have to deal with a few “quacks”… get it?

If the opportunity knocks at your door anytime soon, please, I beg of you, go see these bands:

SOHN- British singer/songwriter/music producer. I like to think it sounds like updated electronic R&B, whereas other’s might describe it as ‘not-shitty’ James Blake-ish. Either way, his voice and the music he makes are both amazing.

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CHERUB- Nashville based electro-disco-funk duo. Unfortunately they dealt with some sound issues at the beginning, but managed to kill it- I pretty much lost it when they played a cover of Calvin Harris’s “Summer.” Oh and they are super nice (at least the half of the band I met)- one of the guys in the band came down to the crowd to watch Jungle- super friendly dude, which makes me like their music that much more, although I was a little disappointed when he wouldn’t agree to fire their current manager in order to hire me.

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JUNGLE- This was probably the biggest surprise of the whole day. Six white British guys were definitely not what I expected- Jungle is another group that is riding (or driving?) the disco-funk revival train, complete with the perfect amount of electronic influence. Also a giant plus that one of the singers knows how to rock a mean man-ponytail and leather jacket.

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PHANTOGRAM- I knew that Phantogram was going to be awesome, and they definitely lived up to the expectation. After the first couple of songs I stopped trying to figure out where one ended and the next one began- the rock/electro fusion was just too easy to dance to, and the singer might be my new fashion idol (if I didn’t dress like a dirty hobo most of the time).

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CHET FAKER- The only show of the night I wasn’t able to snake my way into the front for. I has planned to meet up with some new concert friends (new as in met them just before Cherub, so by then we had pretty much exchanged Social Security numbers***). Again, so surprised with how good he was live- similar to SOHN, he has an awesome voice and puts together some really interesting beats.

NICOLAS JAAR- I actually camped out for a bit to be able to watch this set from the front-ish, and then sneakily maneuvered my short self right in against the barrier. I knew that this set was going to be an experience, but I wasn’t sure what kind. Jaar managed to mind-fuck the whole tent with crazy jungle noises, voice changing microphone, and ten minute long songs that wound you up then knocked you over with intense, heart pounding beats. After 12 hours on my feet I think I would have keeled over if it wasn’t for the massive bass. My only complain is to the jackass that threw a plastic cup at his head during the encore- not sure why you would stay til after 4 am to watch him play if the plan is to ruin the end of the set. Good going, moron.

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Once the music shut down at 4:30 am, my one track mind switched from “I could listen to music forever!” to “I need to be horizontal with my eyes closed 15 minutes ago.”  The way home wasn’t quite as smooth as the way there- I may or may not have broken one of the ticket machines at the train station (it erupted in sirens after refusing to take my 10 euro note), and had to take a cab back to my hostel since it was too early for the local metro to start running for the day. Would I do it again though? Oh hell yes. And you’re all invited to join me.

*Also why has no one called me out on the use of ‘holy shitballs’ in a blog post?

**from my year abroad in Spain (2002-2003)

***reality check, I can’t even remember their names. So, if  you are 3 dudes from New York reading this, and you inducted a wolf cub into your wolf pack on Saturday and then promptly lost her, IM RIGHT HERE.