Friday, May 16, 2003

16 May 2003 New Lanark, Scotland

Well here I am, in Scotland. I picked up a hire car from the airport and after only one loop of Edinburgh managed to get on the right freeway heading to where I wanted to go! I really do have the directional capabilities of a newt!

I am in the mill town of New Lanark developed by a wealthy man in the 1800s who felt that mill workers could live in decent conditions and have an education... so he built this town to prove it. Philanthropy and profit.... clever man! It's a beautiful stone town nestled down in a green valley just minutes away from Lanark and about halfway between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

I am staying at a Youth Hostel, which is in one of the old buildings, and have a 4 bedroom dorm overlooking the river to myself. I explained that I had the snuffles and would drive room mates crazy with my coughing and snorting and spluttering... and so they kindly let me have a whole room to myself! This morning there is a very atmospheric Scottish mist floating around and so far no tourist buses. The hostel is very quiet at the moment so I am not even having to arm wrestle for access to the internet (tho it is exhorbitantly expensive to use by the hour - I guess I am saving my money on the price of accommodation).

I am planning to spend the day wandering through the town, museum and along the river before another early night. By tomorrow this silly cold WILL be gone and I'll start to head in the direction of the Highlands. I might even spend a night in a castle!

I have sadly had to cut out a visit to Andrew's in-laws (my Scottish mum and dad) for fear of making them sick (like I did last time I was in Scotland!) But I will see them in London Saturday week.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

14 May 2003 Vienna

Vienna is full of Mozarts. They lurk near the railway stattions and hang out in front of the Opera House waiting for tourists to appear where upon they pounce!

'Where are you from?'
'Would you like to go to a Mozart concert'
'Opera House..... no no no you don't want to do that!'

And so on. Well having ascertained that a 3 and a half hour modern german opera in the german language was playing a the Opera Hosue I ditched any thoughts of Opera for me. In a weak moment a Mozart loamed in front waving his colour flyer and before you know it I had signed up for a Mozart recital somewhere in the Hofburg palace.

I recieved a dodgy student ticket and some very vague directions and that was it! At 7.30pm that night I left the hostel and set forth into the wet, wet, wet (tho not quiet as wet as Sydney I understand) night.

My first stroke of brilliance was to imagine that I could make my way from the station to the palace without getting lost. My second mistake was failing to consult the map (I didn't want it to get wet you see). Finally some locals took compassion on a redheaded drowned rat and I found the palace.

Not only did I find the palace but I found a little door with a sign advertising my concert outside it. I entered the door, and after wandering empty stairwells and corridors for a time (not a Mozart in sight at this point in time let me add) I exited the building with no better idea of where I was, or even where the concert was.

Suddenly out of the rain filled night I saw a frock coat disappearing around a corner.... a MOZART! I took quick persuit. Having tackled the Mozart and forced him to submission he directed me around a corner, thru and archway and the first right into the library. He didn't tell me the German for library but by then I had discovered other people who looked as tho they were also Mozart victims!

Inside all was white with gold relief, instead of barque art large modern gashes of red and orange hung the walls. The room seemed filled with seniors - perhaps they find it harder to run when a Mozart approaches!

The concert was good - although when the famale opera singer came out to do an extract from an Opera (no idea which) I must confess to having been much distracted by both the outfit (strapless green and black diamond pattern bodice, paisley skirt and a big bow) and the engineering involved that allowed her to take her bows (very cautiously let me add) without anything falling out!

I have met Amanda and spent the day catching up on gossip and wandering the streets of Vienna. We visited the Kunsthistoriches Museum - though, like the police, we were too late for Cellini's salt cellar.

We spent an hour wandering through rooms of Ruebens, Rembrant, Durer, Canaletto and more. We saw interpretations of Christ suffering on the Cross, saints suffering for Christ, and mortals simply suffering.

Fat babies and large blondes also seemed to be the artistic order of the day.

We considered a horse carriage ride around town but a 90 Euro for a tour of Vienna we decided that it we pranced a bit and tossed our heads.... then we'd probably get much the same effect for free!

Today is wet and cold. I have abandoned plans to hire a bike and ride along the Danube and instead will head to some castles and museums where I can explore in a warm and dry environment.

Tomorrow and Scotland!

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

12 May 2003 Vienna

I have arrived in Vienna and staying at a Youth Hostel near Westbahnhof which puts the city centre about 20 minutes from the front door.

But before I ramble about Vienna .... a few final words on Barcelona.

We went and saw the Sagrada Familie, the Gaudi designed Cathedral that is still under construction on Saturday. I was chatting to dad today and he commented that he had been to see it in 1960. It would be marvellous to go back to Barcelona in 2030 when it's finished.

On Sunday we caught a cable car up to the Castle overlooking Barcelona for a birds eye view of the city. We got lucky and there was an army band performing for the castle's 250th birthday - so our view was complemented by the strains of classical music!

This morning I got up early and went for a walk beside the Marina before coming back to the apartment to pack. Multi-million dollar yachts lined the docks. Only 200 metres away I passed a homeless man, stripped down to his pants and doing push-ups on the pavement next to his shirt, bags, and mornings wine cask.

This afternoon Vienna is grey and wet. I ventured into the city centre to explore - and rapidly decided I needed a better map!

I am meeting a school friend, Amanda, tomorrow morning on the steps of the Opera House. She is en route to a conference in Croatia from Poland or Bulgaria or somewhere like that and it is lucky coincidence that we are able to bump into each other for a day of exploring, coffee shops and catching up.

I am missing Merilyn already (despite out traumatic break-up!).

Sunday, May 11, 2003

11 May 2003 Barcelona

Until now the trip has been unmarred by any sour note. Unfortunately today all that changed. After nearly 3 weeks together Merilyn finally showed her true colours!

Not only was she rude and obnoxious over dinner but she accused me of being overbearing, self centred and with no directional skills whatsoever!

When I tried to defend myself she wouldn´t listen, talked over me and, as a definative gesture, threw a glass of wine over me. Well that did it! I couldn´t help myself and, I am ashamed to say, I slapped her across the face. I then proceeded to set the record straight. Who hadn´t contributed a cent to paying for the accommodation, who had used my towel from the word go, who had stolen my tampons?

We have been friends for 10 years, best of friends for 5. I was hurt. She and she alone knew what I had been through over the past 2 years and yet, with this knowledge, she could do this to me? It seemed that somewhere part of her resented my youth, my beauty, my popularity....

All of a sudden she ripped open her shirt with a cry of ´Let´s settle this the old fashioned Scottish way´ and challenged me to wrestle her. Here! In a public restaurant! I was flabberghasted (not least by the awful Scottish accent which sounded vaguely Indian). In the end I couldn´t resist the challenge. ´All right´ I cried ripping off my own shirt ´I reckon I can take you and double it!´

Needless to say after this exchange we have both been ordered to leave the country. I will head to the tourist crowds in Vienna and try and find anonymity there, She is heading to the United Kingdom and a safehouse just outside of Leeds.

I don´t know if our paths shall cross again. Perhaps this is a good thing. I must confess I have been struggling to know if it´s all about her or all about me. Now I know.

*NB Scenes, people and places in the above entry may well have been amended to protect the innocent. In fact the content may include suggestions and actions which in actual fact are purely ficticious.