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Brigid Jelsma

48 Blog Entries
3 Trips
217 Photos


Walk a little further to another plan
Brigid Jelsma's Travel Blog
Brigid Jelsma's Travel Blog

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Migrant worker?

Montreux, Switzerland

My stay in Montreux was one of the best I've had on this trip. A week's break from travelling. A week to get to know an area and its people. A week of walking past Freddy Mercury's statue, humming Bohemian Rhapsody.

I was staying with a wonderful family of three. They were responsible for my fantastic stay. They had ten days left before they had to move House. Ten stressful days of packing, cleaning and preparing the House and garden for the next lodgers.

Via WorkAway, I ended up volunteering and helping them out. It was great fun – loads of work, but even that was satisfying. And, in between the lugging of heavy boxes and the weeding, the family went out of their way to show me the surroundings and introduce me to the Swiss way of life.

They took me up the Fribourg mountains, along a trail that belongs in romanticised novels of green slopes, massive bell-bearing cows and mud. Loads of glorious mud. And Amanda and I snuck out for some chocolate fondue – the best in the world, no doubt about it!

And Montreux was a wonderful town to explore, set on the lake, with mountains all around (like the scene from Jurassic Park I when they approach the Island for the first time and you see the jagged mountains, or maybe that's just me).

permalink written by  Brigid Jelsma on June 24, 2011 from Montreux, Switzerland
from the travel blog: Walk a little further to another plan
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Headquarters of the world

Geneva, Switzerland

Geneve. Posh-central. So much money and wealth, flashy cars, ridiculously expensive hotels, headquarters of those ridiculously expensive watch companies (Rolex), primly dressed dignitaries from around the world, and spotlessly clean streets.

I felt rather out of place.

And everything was ridiculously expensive. Geneve is actually ranked as the forth most expensive city in the world – and I really do not want to visit the top three; I felt ripped off!

But then to redeem it, Geneve also has the UN headquarters (although what that three-legged chair is all about, I have no clue!

And the beautiful lake and jet.

And pianos scattered around public areas where musicians, talented or otherwise, can entertain passers-by. So it's not all bad. There's also a beautiful cathedral, some canons that I stumbled upon whose significance I am still uncertain of, and a charming old man whom I asked to take a photo of me and who promptly offered up his son as my 'arm candy'. :D

Poor guy. He was really embarrassed.

Then there was the rather entertaining series of protest-comics displayed along the lake – even one by Zapiro, a South African cartoonist.

I was staying with, surprise surprise, a guy who works at a bank. It was his first time hosting, and he did really well! He went out of his way to make sure I was comfortable and took me out to dinner by the lake with some friends.

The following day I was accosted by a girl trying to get interviews from people about Geneve. Like an idiot, I felt sorry for her and decided to participate in the survey.... Forty-five minutes later I was still trying to explain that, “Yes, I have honestly been travelling for the past several months, and, I do actually have enough knowledge of other metropolitan cities to be able to rank Geneve, and, no, I do not want to tell you exactly what my plans for Geneve are as I honestly do not have any plans, and, and, and...”

I got rather frustrated with her down-the-nose attitude, to tell you the truth.

permalink written by  Brigid Jelsma on June 15, 2011 from Geneva, Switzerland
from the travel blog: Walk a little further to another plan
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Back to France

Montpellier, France

Going to Montpelier was quite a spontaneous decision. I was fortunate enough to get a few last-minute hosts, one of them being Pat, a wonderful guy who met me at the train station. I was rather exhausted the first evening, so an early bed was apt.

The following day I met up with another couchsurfer who showed me around the city, the touristy and the not-so-touristy spots – one of which included a trip up an elevator coated in graffiti to the roof of a dilapidated apartment with the best view of the city imaginable.

I then had the comical experience of ordering a baguette in a garble of Spanish and French: “Ola! erm, uh. Bonjour. Uno... baguette, por favour - uh, merci. Uh, s'il vous plaît. Uh...” Oh, dear.... The man then proceeded to respond in perfect English.

Moving swiftly along. Montpelier was beautiful. Rue Foch in particular, with the beautiful triumphal arch and garden (although I could only see the botanical garden from the outside as it was closed).

I then finally accepted the fact that my shoes were a lost cause, gave in and bought some new ones from a cheap thrift store.

permalink written by  Brigid Jelsma on June 13, 2011 from Montpellier, France
from the travel blog: Walk a little further to another plan
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Basking in Barcelona

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona was an experience. I arrived a day earlier owing to a pretty depressing stay in Zaragoza (leaving Jaume in Valencia and arriving to an empty hostel, finding it impossible to meet people there and spontaneously booking a hostel in Barcelona. The hostel, however, was quite far from the city centre, but it was cheap - my main deciding factor - and there were actually other people staying there as well!

I was fortunate enough to arrive a few hours before a free walking tour, so I made my way to the meeting point (getting lost a few times) and waited by the fountain, eying a particularly extravagant lamp post.

A few moments later I was approached by a man, who had been standing just opposite me. "Gaudi's work really is extraordinary, isn't it?"

Gaudi? Hmmm. That name did sound familiar and the man seemed to say it like one would Raphael or Da Vinci, so I nodded, did my whole goofy smile thing, and mumbled, "Yeah. It really is."

Thankfully the man then launched into all the details of his work - actually teaching art, so Gaudi's work was particularly special to him. I felt a bit of an ignoramus, by anyway.

My tour started pretty soon after that, and I got chatting to a German girl, Melly, who is doing ERASMAS in Barcelona. And then I met two guys, SOUTH AFRICAN GUYS!!! And it took me ages to realise they were from home, but then I saw his Springbok hat!

I nearly died.

Anyway, the tour was fantastic. An overload of information, but at least I learnt who Gaudi was. We were also saw a mansion in which a king died of viagra overdose (actually herbs given to him to induce *ahem* gave him stomach problems, but a viagra overdose is much more amusing).

That night I went to a couchsurfing event - meeting in a tiny pub in the backstreets of Barcelona, and I met loads of people, including a British guy, Nick. He was only there for a day (on a business trip, actually), but we ended up trawling through the streets in the middle of the night.

Then I realised the metro in Barcelona shuts at midnight on Thursdays.... Remember how I mentioned how far out of the centre my hostel was? Yup. SCREWED.

I ended up staying out all night (thank Jungle Bars that pubs and clubs actually stay open all that time), and I think Nick was hungover for his business meeting, but anyway. I arrived at my hostel feeling shattered, the guy there (luckily one I'd been chatting to earlier) burst out laughing and, even though I was meant to check out, led me to a bed downstairs that the staff use.

I collapsed.

Four in the afternoon I stumbled out, managed to find another hostel, make my way there and collapse again.

Then Rob called.

Oh, and it was pouring with rain by then.

I managed to drag myself out of bed, throw some clothes on, and make my way to Barceloneta tube stop. And there was Rob, with NO UMBRELLA, standing outside a off license alcohol store - typical. :D

We decided to risk the rain and make our way to Sagrada Familia - Gaudi's masterpiece of a basilica.

FIFTEEN EUROS. But worth every cent. Nature influenced all of Gaudi's work, and this is most visible inside. The massive pillars and curved ceiling makes it all congruent with what I imagine Elven architecture to be like. And the exterior is so detailed it would take forever to examine each figure - time we really didn't have while running around beneath an umbrella, dodging raindrops.

It's apparently only going to be finished in 2023. So that gives me another excuse to visit Barcelona again.

That night I went out with Rob and Charlie - Rob's housemate. Alcohol. So much alcohol. And I ended up crashing at their place (once again making my hostel stay redundant).

The next day, I just wandered around, down La Ramblas, along the beachfront, through the parks, before meeting up for a party on the beach.

And the water was so warm, even in the middle of the night!

So, all in all, Barcelona was a fantastic experience.

permalink written by  Brigid Jelsma on June 11, 2011 from Barcelona, Spain
from the travel blog: Walk a little further to another plan
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Zaragoza, Spain

permalink written by  Brigid Jelsma on June 8, 2011 from Zaragoza, Spain
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Valencia, Spain

My stay with Jaume was amazing!! He was one of the best hosts I could possibly have imagined. He is a musician, a really talented one, and he even took on the daunting challenge of teaching me some notes on the piano and guitar. :D

He also took me everywhere, showed me his favourite restaurants and clubs, took me for a delicious meal with his brother and then we went for a wonderful walk along the coast. It was beautiful!

The worst bit was saying goodbye. I hated that.

permalink written by  Brigid Jelsma on June 7, 2011 from Valencia, Spain
from the travel blog: Walk a little further to another plan
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Granada, Spain

Probably the most beautiful place I have ever seen!

permalink written by  Brigid Jelsma on June 5, 2011 from Granada, Spain
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Sevilla, Spain

permalink written by  Brigid Jelsma on June 2, 2011 from Sevilla, Spain
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More than just a big city

Madrid, Spain

Madrid is a city. A big city. That is what everyone said when I asked them about it.

They are not wrong. However, most of them failed to mention just how beautiful it is. Statuesque buildings, magnificent parks, numerous fountains and statues at every turn, and loads to see and do.

And it was my first hostel experience - absolutely wonderful. I stayed in the Cat's Hostel - chosen not only for it's name, but also for it's affordability (I am a backpacker, after all). It was brilliant! I stayed in a dorm of 12 beds, but that really didn't matter. A bed is a bed, all you need it for is sleep. Time in the hostel was spent socialising in the common room, the bar area and the Cat's cave (downstairs pub).

Time outside of the hostel was spent with various other travellers who I relished in blaming for our getting lost - again and again.

I met so many people! It was wonderful! The only problem was trying to remember everyone's name.

The first day I toured the area with two American guys, both studying architecture - which was great because I didn't miss any of the important buildings.

Honestly, I am quite terrible. Every city I arrive in, I know nothing about. The main attractions, the best museums, parks, etc. - I know nothing. So I definitely have been fortunate in the people I meet.

The following morning after a delicious bowl of cereal - no one really seems to understand just how much I love cereal and how rarely I get it while travelling - I joined the free hostel walking tour and ended up with a huge bunch of Americans.

Go to Madrid. Meet more Americans than Spanish. They weren't even together!

Anyway, we saw loads. The palace and the changing of the guards. The cathedral. Numerous other breath-taking buildings whose names I can't recall. Plazas. Parks. Protests in the main square. And more. I even managed to wade through a fountain to get to an Egyptian monument.

Later on, the Americans and I ended up scouring the area for a supermercados to buy some stuff for lunch. Needless to say, we couldn't find a single one of the thousands we'd seen earlier. Eventually we ended up going to a tiny corner shop and found everything we needed - wine, sangria, bread and stuff to go on the bread.

We then sat in one of the many stunning parks and had a picnic on the grass.

Quite lovely.

Then there was the Museo de Prado (free entry on Wednesday's between 18:00 and 20:00) with amazing artwork and statues - one in particular which stood out: a marble statue of a woman wearing a veil. I would never have thought it possible to carve something transparent, but this artist (Camillo Torreggiani) did so.

And then, as if the day hadn't been awesome enough, I decided to do a pub crawl. Really good fun. More because of the people I did it with than because it was anything all that amazing. I still can't dance, but I sure did have fun stomping on the toes of the guys I danced with. :D

I even ended up ditching my shoes. Not because of the alcohol consumption, but because one of them broke and I needed new ones anyway.

Somehow (I just followed an American guy) I managed to make it back to the hostel, where I went straight to sleep - no doubt dreaming of the bowl of cereal awaiting me in the morning.

permalink written by  Brigid Jelsma on June 1, 2011 from Madrid, Spain
from the travel blog: Walk a little further to another plan
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On the road again

Faro, Portugal

Today was mainly spent in a confused daze. I woke up with the weirdest instinctive urge to get on the road again. I've spent four nights in one spot and that proves to be too much. So, seeing as though I need to go via Madrid to get to Sevilla, that seems to be where I'm spending the next two days.

At the moment I am sitting on a night train to Madrid Chamartin station. I hate overnight trains. I never sleep properly, constantly need to maintain some semblance of consciousness. And the air is always stiflingly dry.

And it doesn't help that I'm sunburnt.

But, I still get the feeling of 'I'm going to somewhere new, I don't know what's there, I don't know what will happen, but I'm sure I'll love it'. And that makes it all worthwhile.

This morning, a hectic packing session was followed by a hectic cooking session - Kristi and I determined to serve a fabulous meal for our wonderful host. He has done so much for us, despite his not being here, and we honestly are grateful. Arriving at Faro station slightly short of time, I managed to grab a ticket and hop on a train. Then, I spent the rest of the train ride (all three hours and forty-five minutes of it) wondering where on earth I was setting off for, as I had somehow failed to ensure that I hopped onto the right train.

Nevertheless, despite that, I managed to get to Lisboa Oriente station a full two hours before the next leg of train travel. I am due to arrive in Madrid at nine in the morning, and I have decided to stay in a hostel for a change. Couchsurfing is absolutely wonderful, but I feel I need a bit of a break from it. And it will be fascinating to see what hostel life is like.

My incomparable planning has left the future completely unmapped. Generally, I think I'm heading for Sevilla in two days. Then Granada. Valencia (maybe, but people say it's not that great). And then Barcelona on the 9th - that date is more fixed. Then up to Montpellier for a few days and, finally, up to Geneva on the 14th (when my Eurail pass expires).

In Geneva, I plan to find some workaway for ten or so days, otherwise I'll just have to couch-hop to kill time while I wait for the parents to arrive and come and pay for everything and take control of the maps and tickets and money and everything. That'll be really nice. Relaxing. And I do kind of miss them. Maybe. Just a little.


permalink written by  Brigid Jelsma on May 30, 2011 from Faro, Portugal
from the travel blog: Walk a little further to another plan
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