South America – part 1 (The Holiday)

Now for a post with a little more uummph. Some of you will have read this before but now there’s pictures and added extras so feel free to go through it again. Equally feel free to click like and leave

South Oxhey, England (Not technically South America)

So, the trip began and I was a lone “traveller”, actually let me rephrase, I was a lone prolonged holiday-maker. I’d left the comforts of South Oxhey to begin a South American adverture. Aside from the obvious emotions of excitement, anxiety I also was sad knowing that I’d miss everyone for a few months especially over the festive period. Or maybe I was just sad that I knew people’s life would go on completely normally without me being there.

My flight was leaving from Heathrow and arriving in Rome to catch a connecting flight on to Rio, all with Alitalia (the cheapest option of course). In homage to “Murphy’s law” , I arrived and was greeted with an hour delay and I knew this was going to cut things fine with the connecting flight but I’m a positive man and saw this as an opportunity to drink a few extra pints and when the time for boarding arrived I went to my gate as is customary, only for another 30 minute delay to be slapped on. By now I was resigned to the fact I was going to miss my flight in Rome. Towards the end of a largely uneventful flight to Italy a flight attendant lifted my spirits after approaching me and telling me there would be a man meeting me off my flight to rush me through to my connecting flight. This, it turns out, was just a ploy to lift me up to watch me come crumbling down. Me and three of my fellow passengers dashed to the gate, Alitalia employee leading the line of frantic Englishman desperate to catch another flight only to be refused entry, we were five minutes late. The airline were kind enough to seat us on the next flight which was the following evening and in compensation put us up in the Hilton (I felt ever so fancy). I took the shuttle bus to the hotel and enjoyed a warm buffet, compliments of Alitalia. Knowing that I’d be spending the day in Rome I planned my my unexpected European adventure.

Rome, Italy (still not South America)

I woke early the next day and took advantage of the free breakfast. On My two previous visits to Rome I have had some degree of misfortune with the “Trevi fountain” once we didn’t have time to see it and the second time it was enveloped in scaffolding. I got the bus in to Rome, and set off on foot towards Trevi. Marching through the back streets of Rome I felt like a young Christian being led to my death at the collesseum, it turns out my fortunes were worse, the crowds at the Trevi fountain were BIG, second only to those outside Delhi station (stay tuned for a post on that) anyway I got there and took two pictures and marched back to the bus stop. Despite having a number of hours to kill, I’d seen everything else Rome has to offer so I headed back to the airport. As an afterthought, I feel as though this may be the last time that I see Trevor and his fountain though. The first time I saw it I threw a coin in to the dried basin and I did indeed return, in line with many old wives tales, this time however I couldn’t get close enough to throw a coin and couldn’t dare risk it from far back in the crowd it’s been said that I throw like a girl.

Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

My first impression of Rio were “rundown”. The airport is nice enough but the buses weren’t great and the towns you drive through to get to to Copacabana, and other tourist hotspots, make Tottenham look friendly. I got off the bus, I kind of just guessed I was near where I needed to be, then navigated the mean streets of Rio to my hostel. I didn’t get mugged, threatened, conned or beaten up once so a large success as I fully expected to step off that bus and hand over my money, phone and passport to the local criminals and march back to the airport and fly home. This preconception of Rio was totally Mis-guided and mostly just paranoia of people saying “watch out for pickpockets” for six months leading up to the trip.

The hostel I decided to spend my first lonely nights in was called “el misti house“. I can definitely recommend it, it was a good choice for a decent price. Never having stayed in a hostel before I was a bit nervous about rules and etiquette and what not. Anyway Camillo showed me to my 9 person (triple bunks) room which was currently solely occupied by Alessandro “alé”. Thankfully one of the only person I could understand in the entire hostel. Over the next few days I met some great people my other roomates were Douglas and Alan, both of whom despite some real communication problems, were fun. There’s only so far a conversation can go with “si” and “yes” but we made it work. During the days I only ever ventured within running distance from my hostel. I would roam the beach front and people watch.


On the top it’s Douglas, Ale and Alan who were introduced above and on the bottom is my first picture in Rio. Perhaps the worst picture ever taken of Sugarloaf mountain, the relative safety of the volleyball courts allowed me to take my phone out my pocket for more than one second.

As you read my blogs I think you’ll discover than I’m an average writer and a worse photographer, but you can laugh with me.

These first nights were all a bit of a blur, but I know we went in to an area called Lapa twice. The staff were always organising the guests and making sure we all went out together, on the nights out I met loads of other people, nice people and loads of other people who I assume we’re nice but they couldn’t speak a word of English. I try not to let my ignorance get the better of me, but communication in Brazil was tough all round even those in the service/tourist industry have very little knowledge of the language it was all very inconvenient. Being the language sponge that I am meant that after 1 or 2 days I was fine! Obvs! (Drozzy, who sadly and detrimental to this blog, doesn’t feature, told a story of him and his dad once having to “cluck for chicken” at a restaurant.)

Jack, Alex, Grant and Jon arrived in Rio on the Sunday, I had arrived on the Wednesday. The plan was for me to meet them off the bus and show them to our Air BnB but due to some unforeseen circumstances, about 10 caipirinha’s, I woke up very late and they had already found and checked in to our accomodation. Now the trip really had begun.

Our first day out together was to go and see the colourful steps in Santa Teresa. This is the colourful neighbourhood you’ll have seen in anyone’s pictures whose been to Rio. It’s definitely worth seeing to grab a picture but other than that the surrounding area was pretty downtrodden so we scurried back to the safety of our Air BnB for five minutes of wifi, sleep, and from a break from any possibility of social interaction with the locals or each other. Here’s a candid picture of when we went to the steps, as a group we were discussing the unique artwork when a local took a picture of us, it was completely unplanned.

Album Cover? *cute but may delete later*

It’s worth mentioning, and it will become apparent why later, Jon was sleeping in a hammock.

Anyway our first night out lead us to Leblon, the upmarket part of Rio. We went out on a Monday night and it….was….dead and so, much like a night London, we spent the majority of the night wandering around aimlessly. Eventually we happened across a small off-licence type place. As the non-socially awkward member of the guys I approached the staff “donde esta la fiesta hoy” I announced, only to be answered not by the Spanish staff member but by his sole customer who I can only assume got the faintest sniff of my English accent, “you guys English” he assumptively questioned, the gig was up we’d been rumbled. We were now in the back streets of Rio and ousted as gringos. Thankfully the man was also English and kindly pointed us in the direction of some lively bars on a Monday night. (We blindly followed his instructions without asking how he knew this information). Thankfully our trust was well placed as we found find a bar and purchased our drinks silently thankful of our run in with our fellow Englishman. That silent thanks quickly disappeared when the next customer in the bar was said Englishman.

Chris, or as he is now affectionately known, English Chris turned out to be interesting. To this day we are unable to decipher the truth from the lies. We found out he’s been in Brazil for 12 years and works on “football philosophy”. Even after some questioning from a quite persistent Grant, we still couldn’t work out what he does. It has to be mentioned at this point that Grant had and probably still has a weird adoration for English Chris. English Chris’ job was to write a report on how to develop football players roles ( not specific players) but I.e. A playmaker. Then sell that report to professional football clubs. This man is an Englishman doing THIS job in Brazil (as a trustworthy man I am going to naively continue as if everything English Chris told us is true) I can only imagine when he presented his report to Corinthians, São Paulo and the like, their responses can only have been along the lines of *vague Brazilian accent* “Mr Chris, your findings in your report are very interesting, please could you tell us more on how you develop a no-nonsense centre half”. Chris took us to a number of bars where we found out a bit more about him, Rio and Leblon. He had a weird habit of talking about football then slapping his chest and saying this is a skill. Very weird, bit annoying but overall helpful and if what he does is real then quite interesting. For more information on English Chris speak to his pen pal Grant.

It’s at this point that days and nights merge into one so things get a bit haze-y but I will do my best to keep things in order.

The next day we went to Christ the redeemer, needs no explanation. Or does it? Christ the redeemer is a statue depicting Jesus’ first miracle, the feeding of the five thousand. The moment captured was just as he was telling the crowd how big the fish is that’s going to feed all of them.

Jon (front), Me (right), Alex (looking the wrong way), Henri Cartier-Bresson (Grant), Jesus (Attacking Midfield), Christ the Redeemer (Big)

It was a fun day out. When you get to Christ the Redeemer you go and pay for your ticket and are given a time slot when you can actually get the minibus further up the mountain and see the statue in all its glory.

Being the adventurers we are, we saw a small path leading in to the jungle which we thought would be a good place to explore. Especially with Jack dressed inappropriately, stereotypically “gringo”. Bad sunglasses, flip flops white t shirt and a back pack so what the Brazilians call (roughly translated) “ a muggers dream” Despite this we continued in to the jungle, 5 comrades, 5 red blooded males, 5 men, five boys that saw one insect they didn’t recognise and almost ran out of the jungle. This was day 2 of our trip round South America and we had been chased out the jungle within two minutes by a bug. Grant must have read a book, he thought EVERYTHING was a fire ant.

The jungle trip passed the time, and a few minutes later we were on the bus to see Christo. You get a good view of the city but the statue is so big and you are forced to stand so close to it that once your up there I don’t think you can appreciate the statue to the same degree you can when you’re on the beaches looking up. We took obligatory pictures and descended back down to the mini bus and moved on. Without sounding like a hipster, it’s not all that impressive, it’s just so crowded up there and you can’t get a decent picture of it I just feel as though there better pictures to be had from other points of view. The view you of the city though is nice and despite all my negativity it’s a must see/do attraction

After this we took sometime out of our day to go the beach, Jack obviously offended someone and a man started singing to him “You haven’t got a girlfriend” then laughed in his face. Jack seemed to reflect on this fact all night, because he stayed in. To give this some context though Rio during the day is filled with toothless old drunk/high men who walk around like the world pissed in their cornflakes, they are perennially angry and are an annoyance in an otherwise decent place.

Jon, Alex, Grant and I went out and that’s where Rio showed its true colours. Now I’m not writing this to name names or point fingers it’s more of a memoir for me to read back BUT Grant decided it would a good idea to meet someone from the Internet (Grindr or Tinder I can’t remember which) so as back up we tagged along. Despite numerous warnings from multiple sources “don’t go down streets with no bars” and despite our taxi driver refusing to drive down the street we needed to go to we still went there. Grant’s, for want of a better word, date, was a no show and none of us felt entirely comfortable in the bar we was in. Grant in a show of face, to pretend he wasn’t stood up, suffered a fake panic attack which caused him to believe he was in a 1950’s gangster film, and He had been set up. To paint the picture, his date told him to meet in a bar in a dodgy neighbourhood, didn’t show up, then a waiter who was carrying a tea towel over his hand (not an entirely strange thing to do for a man in that profession) walked past not once BUT TWICE, Grant was adamant he was harbouring a weapon under the tea towel so we paid the bill and made a swift exit.

We got in a taxi and went to Lapa and when we left the bar staff wanted us to pay our entry fee, on exit, it felt like a scam but we naively paid regardless. After paying, Grant and I both turned round and accidentally step on a man who cannot have been standing more than 30 centimetres behind us. I think his intentions were questionable at best he then followed us to our next bar shouting at us and being a nuisance. We entered bar number two and the angry man demanded money from us. For those that know me and my friends you’ll know we will do whatever to avoid confrontation (especially Jon, hence why he hid in the toilet) but A justified reaction would have been to argue with the man or even reciprocate his aggression but us no, we behaved in a typically British way and pretended like he wasn’t there until a waiter came over and we told him that the vagrant was making us feel uncomfortable. The waiter and security guard went outside and then the man threw the slowest punch in the world, so slow in fact the security guard didn’t even flinch. As the punch was thrown the security guard smoked a cigarette, checked his Facebook, put his phone in his pocket slowly raised his own hand and grabbed the mans fist and pushed him away. All very anticlimactic. It’s unclear when Jon rejoined the table but what is clear it was definitely after the security guard got involved Jon then preceded to tell us how he was prepared to “end him” referring to the drunk 70 year old man.

Needless to say we were keen for a quick exit once again so we jumped in a taxi back to Copacabana. We went in to a bar and was having a few drinks and Jon’s temper was still bubbling away. I can only imagine he misheard what I said because after a completely innocent comment I reached for my drink and Jon attacked me, grabbed my hand and put my in some vulcan death hold. Grant, sensing my panic, grabbed my drink as it almost spilled. I explained that Jon must have misheard me and he released me. It and been a dramatic night and more worrysome group Might think “that’s enough” not us, we found one final bar three doors down from our AirBnB. Intoxication made us all a bit brave and probably allowed us to take a leave of our senses as we followed a man up a derelict stair case to the bar. In hindsight, I think the derelict staircase is the factor that should have told us it was a bad idea. We entered the bar, which it turns out was a brothel, we decided to drink our drinks and leave. Alex, Jon and Grant went to the toilet and were followed by two men (not that kind of brothel) and I thought to myself we need to leave, this was confirmed when Alex poked his not so small head in the bar and shouted “Ross, we need to leave.” I took a final gulp of my drink and swiftly followed Alex’s head out of the door. It turns out after refusing to buy drugs in the toilet things turned ugly and the workers were getting boisterous we left the bar followed by three men now. Alex and I stood gallantly facing the men whilst Grant and Jon ran to our AirBnB to gather the help of our weedy security guard. The gates to our apartment opened and Alex and I scurried behind them. I don’t think the bar staff expected us to live so close and as soon as they realised this they went back to their bar.

Early the next morning, after an eventful night, Jack gave us the itinerary for the day. Climb a mountain, it’s as if he knew to stay in the night before but didn’t warn anyone. Pedra Bonita was an hour climb, thankfully a smaller climb than it’s mountainous neighbour “Pedro De Gavea”. The ascent was made more bearable by the appearance of Monkey’s. It’s at this point I’m obliged to mention that these Monkeys would not have appeared if the Monkey Whisperer (Jon) hadn’t have called for them. Jon to my knowledge has never shown an overly keen interest in wildlife, apart from in Thailand (see Grants secret blog), but he kept reminding us that the monkeys would not have appeared had he not shook the bamboo, yes that’s all he did shook some bamboo and the Monkeys came.

Once we reached the summit the impressive views immediately called for a selfie. To crave the attention of their peers the others started taking pictures increasingly close to edge…..fools. Anyway after a small disco at the top we left and went home. (This will make sense when you see South America part 2)

After the previous nights goings on, I took charge. Being the social butterfly that I am, I had a few friends from my old hostel. I got in contact and found out where it goes off in copacabana on a Wednesday night. It turns out it goes off in a cave underground. In the cave it’s not unheard of to pay £3 for a can of beer. After the cave party we returned home, hungry. Alex, Grant and I went back out at 2am (yeah I know, were hard) looking for a place to eat. Jack stayed in ….again) we thought our best bet was to walk to the main road and get a taxi, wrong! We walked on the main round and were immediately approached by three ladies of the night. My thoughts went straight to my phone and wallet, and I shoved my hands firmly in my pockets. Grant and Alex had other ideas though and ran off, Grant once again showing his really cowardly nature (I thought Grant had contracted Yellow Belly, he was that cowardly throughout the trip. At the time of writing there is no immunisation for yellow belly and as far as I’m aware of it Grant still suffers with it) I was surprised by their betrayal but then even more surprised when I discovered these ladies were not interested in my pockets. After suffering sexual harassment, I caught up with Alex and Grant only to look back to see the ladies (of the night) doing their final advertisement and raised their tops. Needless to say advertisement was unsuccessful we dived in a taxi, “drive” we demanded. He kindly drove us to a restaurant, our hearts dropped. He dropped us in the same road as last night and refused to drive any further but helpfully pointed us in the direction of an open restaurant. Hunger won over trepidation and we walked to the restaurant. The food was decent but the restaurant had an odd obsession with pineapple. I’m not exaggerating when I say this but every single dish of there’s on the menu was “con pineapple”. Thought this was very odd but again hunger won out and I had a pineapple sandwich.

We woke on our final day with two things left on our Rio bucket list, Sugarloaf mountain and visiting the favelas. The first thing to do was to find a guide to take us to the Favela. Alex, being manager, had accumulated a number of business cards and we used one of these to locate a driver. After about an hour of waiting our driver appeared. The politest way to put it, is, you would feel safe with this man taking you anywhere. He was BIG.

There may be one or two people who don’t know me reading this. Lawson from Togo was our driver.

First stop he drove us to the favela. On route he explained that most the favelas are no longer dangerous as they are run by a special police force, which I believe is called the UPP. Lawson, our driver, lead us to believe that part of the job description of the UPP is to have no sense of humour because according to Lawson, who told us on at least five separate occasions “the UPP do NOT joke”. The UPP are a police force who live amongst the locals in the Favela and any sign of violence and they shoot apparently. In the early days of the UPP shoot outs between the gangs and UPP were not uncommon but despite myths they would not target non locals. In fact it’s said that the favela was more safe than the towns because drug dealers did not want Police to be called to the Favelas and so would send all the muggers and theifs to Copacabana and Ipanema.

Before we get to the Favela itself I need to describe Lawson. He was Big, from Togo and sweaty, you can’t see the sweat in the picture above. He confirmed what many people already believe that some football players from Africa lie about their age, he told us that even his brother had done it and more shockingly he is of the opinion that even the great Didier Drogba has lied about his age.

He told us that the scariest thing in the Favela for him, is the dogs, they were not the scariest thing in the Favela for us……

The scariest thing in the favela for us was when we first walked in a lady in police uniform run up the stairs gun in hand followed by a man in normal clothes with a non-standard weapon and running straight towards us with his finger on the trigger. Normally we are a group that will make light of all situations I think it’s safe to say, we didn’t make light of this situation, what we done in this situation was shut up and stay still and silent until Lawson convinced us this was normal and so we hesitantly continued our tour. I would liken the Favela to the slums in India, it really isn’t as bad as people make out. It’s a bit of a shit hole but everyone has a job and some of the houses inside look nice. They aren’t all criminals it’s just to expensive for them to live in the actual towns.

Lawson, employee turned friend, took us to the bus station to help us book tickets to Ihla Grande our next stop. We did that then he took us home and received a very generous tip. Jon then shook his hand and said “dobrigado, thanks for taking us to the Fravela” needless to say we all laughed Jon looking bemused asked us why were laughing.

After some food we headed for sugarloaf mountain one of Rio’s most famous landmarks/view points. You need to take a cable car to the top. I suffered a bout of anxiety on the cable car and resorted to taking a knee and covering my eyes whilst being laughed at by the locals. It was worth it once up there though the views once again were incredible and there is even a nature reserve bit and food/bars and shops at the summit. We planned to watch the sunset but our plans were scuppered by the clouds. Five minutes before the sunset was due the cloud come over, much to dismay of the dedicated Sunset photographer Jack. The clouds looked thunderous which sent astraphobic Alex in to a meltdown so we had to return to the room which we did with haste.

We had a big journey the next day and so it was this that ended our Rio arm of the journey.

If I’m entirely honest I wasn’t overly impressed with Rio. It gets labelled as a party capital and great beaches but from the time I spent there I would say there is better nightlife and nicer beaches closer to home. That being said I never felt anywhere near as intimidated as I was warned I would be and some of the excursions there provide you with some of the best views I have ever seen.

For an idea of what other trips I might cover check out my other post “30 before 30”

30 before 30

I was 28 and I had just come back from a Trip around South America, a trip I’d been keen to do for years and then after the trip I saw that I was close to visiting 30 countries so I decided that I wanted to get to reach that landmark before I turned 30. Now I’ve turned thirty I get to relive it all by writing it out and bore all four of you reading it.

I promise to make hardly any of it informative and I promise even less of it will be funny.

A big thing worth mentioning is, I was young for some of these trips and so if you’re expecting long detailed accounts of every trip you’re going to be disappointed, in fact, if you’re expecting anything more than a glorified diary with some personal anecdotes then you will likely be disappointed. In fact disappointment will be a running theme.

Now the low expectations have been set and I’ve mitigated any of the abuse I’ll get from my friends we can get started.

Here are the 30 countries that I visited before I was 30.

One final disclaimer, in order to record the countries I have been too I used the “been” app, some of the countries listed on there aren’t recognised UN nations, I’ll get over it I’m sure you will too.

  • Portugal
  • France
  • Spain
  • USA
  • Andorra
  • Bulgaria
  • Denmark
  • England
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Scotland
  • Sweden
  • Germany
  • Vatican City
  • Wales
  • India
  • Bahamas
  • Mexico
  • Saint Martin (French side)
  • Sint Maarten (Dutch side)
  • Argentina
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Peru
  • Uruguay

This list started when I was about 6, my parents took me to Portugal, this is where my first ever clear memories came from, questionable parenting lead me to being taught how to swim at four in the morning in the hotel pool. I was really lucky because my parents took me to other places as well like Spain and Greece so I had loads of great holidays when I was a kid and though it was lost on me then I was crossing off countries. Then I got to 18 and the holidays with my friends started.

I think the most enjoyable thing for me to do is pick out a couple of highlights from certain places then I’ll answer some specific questions….that I asked my self.

France

My parents took us to Disneyland Paris when we were kids, it was a surprise, we knew we were going somewhere and then in the morning our parents told us to wake up as we had to go and get on the coach because we were going Disneyland, I probably cried with excitement. I remember loads about the trip. We stayed in a cowboy hotel, we watched a firework display, my parents watched the Disney parade whilst me and my brother went on Thunder mountain 7 times. It really was amazing, even if I was too small too go on Space Mountain!! (I probably cried at this point as well). We went on a coach with a load of my Dads mates and their kids just a quality long weekend away.

That’s the kind of insight in to locations you’re gonna get so if you’re looking for actual insight on hotels and shit…..you’ve definitely come to the wrong place (glorified diary, remember).

Andorra

So this one was a school trip I think I was in year 9 or 10, it took forever to get there on the bus! The teachers made me sit down with them…..probably cos they knew I’d be the most entertaining over the rest of the kids, I’ll tell myself that’s the reason at least! I learnt how to Ski on this holiday …..well snow plough. Years later when I went skiing again with my girlfriend and her family I naturally thought you snow ploughed down every hill, FYI you don’t, my girlfriend and her family found my technique questionable! It was a trip that stuck out in my mind just cos it was something I’d never done before. Lovely place though! And skiing is quality.

Netherlands

More specifically Amsterdam, been a few times now.

It’s such a weird place, everything is so “in your face” the drugs, the sex, the drinking……i might sound like an actual pretentious writer here but the city has sooo much more to it. It’s so pretty. One time we woke up and my mate smoked with breakfast and I just took him out on a walk we walked so far out of the city, we walked for so long that my friend sobered up and got annoyed that we’d gone so far. I was pleased we did it though as I got to take in more of the city than I usually do on trips to Amsterdam, the architecture, the culture is so much more than just a decent stag do location. If you’re prepared to slum it you can get flights and hotel from London for a midweek stay for well under a hundred quid.

I think everyone should go there once despite it being expensive when you get there.

India

Me and my mates done a quality trip in India we went to Delhi, Goa and Mumbai. I need to split these out

Delhi

It is the most crowded place I have ever been in…..my……life. We got on the underground and it was empty….we turned up at Delhi station and I laughed out loud. It was RIDIC!!! Picture the scene of kids trying to get on their school bus all that pushing and shoving, it was like that just out in the open.

It seemed like every man and his dog was telling us we needed a security pass and to go to “Connaught place” which it turns out is a hot bed of conmen and excursion outlets. Thankfully a cab driver took pity on us after our will had finally been worn down and we were about to hand over some money to the conmen just to get them off our backs. The taxi driver took us to our hotel which was still standing despite multiple accounts from the conmen saying that it was “burnt down”.

The Locals had an odd trait of asking for pictures with us but to take them with our own phones…..here is an example –

The picture was taken at the Jama Masjid mosque in Delhi, one of the largest mosques in India. Well worth a visit it’s a proper impressive building.

I will probably go in to more detail about India at a later date but key points are it is Cheap and it is busy!!!!!

Goa

This was probably the best beach holiday I have ever been on. We stayed a few nights in the north of Goa then went south for a few days. There are so many beaches there you can just go to a different beach every day some of which you’ll turn up to and be the only people on the beach…..the only people….surrounded by cows and dogs.

I didn’t actually realise how big Goa was before I went I naively believed we could just stay Central and get a cab north and south as necessary but that was not the case hence the split in the trip. The good news is the cabs were like 40 quid for a 2 hour drive so not bad at all.

The north has more bars and clubs and when you think “Englishman abroad” this is more their location I think a massive plus to the North is the ability to get naan breads in the nightclubs at 3am if you really want and tbh you really should!!!!

In the North we turned up at our “hotel”, for want of a better word and after the hotel manager painfully slowly counted our money four times he led us to our rooms. We’d paid for two twin rooms, a fact which was lost on Jabba the Hutt. (Pictured below)

This man was so greedy, the way he fingered our notes as his counted them still gives me the creeps to this day. I think it’s safe to say that Grant HATED this man, much of our holiday was made up of listening to Grant rant about how much he hated him.

Anyway Jabba opens the door to our room, and we find two beds and two mattresses and we were like “nah nah nah, not in this heat” we need two twins. So he proceeded to knock on the next door neighbours room and tell them they needed to get out the room as we needed it. Rightly so, the other guests were confused and refused, giving Jabba an even bigger headache. Then he opened a third door and there was an empty room, why didn’t give us this room before trying to kick the Russians out is a mystery I don’t think we will ever get to the bottom of.

The south was much more chilled out just days spent on the beach then nights in a beach bar, the more spiritual amongst us can partake in Yoga and there are a few activities you can do in land like visiting the elephants.

Watch out for Crabs (they nip, don’t they Grant).

There’s a funny anecdote in the South of Goa, and it’s a bit of an inside joke but it ended with me with egg on my face after paying for Grant’s taxi.

Mumbai

The most cosmopolitan city. It was busy but no way near as busy as Delhi.

There were a few stand out parts to the trip to Mumbai and the number one stand out part was the hotel staff, Hotel Apollo.

Sorry to skip right to the end of the trip but it was a highlight. When we left the hotel a fight almost broke out over who would take our bags, we didn’t really understand what was happening until we got downstairs when the entire staff on this hotels payroll were standing at the bottom of the stairs in a “give me a tips” arms outstretched position waiting for us to put notes and coins in their greedy hands. Running out of money made it harder to keep track of who I had and hadn’t given money too! Then when we got in our taxi they were all standing in the road waving us off. For us this was very odd behaviour!!

Shorts were banned at one of the bars we went to. Alex and Jack were wearing shorts and the workers made them borrow trousers from the hotel and they were the worse fitting trousers ever, why none of us have a picture I’ll never know so instead –

Here’s a lovely picture of us doubling our entire holiday spend by buying one cocktail at the Four Season Mumbai.

Grant is taking the picture

Saint Martin

Famous for its beach by the airport runway and the colourful town Phillipsburg St Martin is a very nice island. I went last year with my girlfriend Carolina.

On the island You get around by “bus” or it’s more like a shuttle service-ish….these minibuses just pick you up on the side of the road. At the beginning it is very difficult to navigate these buses but once you get the hang of it you can get round the island for well cheap. The minibuses get very crowded with locals and the greedy drivers will fill their buses as if they’re trying to beat some sort of world record.

There is loads to do on the island and some of the beaches are ridiculously nice.

I would recommend staying on the Dutch side of the island as the French side was decimated by hurricane Katrina. There is a rebuild in progress but the people we spoke to have said there is not enough money to do it properly apparently the French government isn’t giving them any money……surprise suprise fucking French 😛

One town on the French side that didn’t get destroyed was Marigot, there is a really short (but steep) walk up to Fort Louie and you can get some great panoramic shots of the town. Instead of doing that I took a bang average photo as seen below.

On the walk up this Fort both Carolina and I were cat called by a bunch of community service workers. They were trying to be helpful but only came across sinister!

South America

There is so much to say about South America. I wrote notes on the who trip so I’m gonna put that in a different blog so fully expect that.

Answers to questions that no one has ever asked me.

What’s your favourite ever city break?

What a convenient Segway to talk about my favourite city in the world……Florence. I first went there about 8 years ago, I thought it looked quality. Old school buildings, famous history, places to go out and small enough to walk around. It’s somewhere I think you could as a couple, alone or as a group of friends. I would happily go back again and again and I am sure I’d always discover something new.

Not only did the place look amazing I found myself intrigued by the history of the place, we grow up learning so much European history and I thought to myself that considering Florence had such an important part of that history we learn so little about it. So many famous people of history we know about today lived or visited Florence! I won’t bore you because you’re likely not as interested as me but research Florence when you have a chance.

Things to do there can be quite expensive but if your after cheap then it’s worth going and just looking round at all the buildings the big churches, the buildings that are now museums, you can go to neighbouring towns Sienna, Pisa which also have things to do and if you are there long enough you can easier do a train journey to Rome for the day.

At night there is plenty to do. My friends were skeptical when I suggested it as a venue for our holiday and were all pleasantly superprised by how good it was for food and drink at night.

It helped that our AirBnb was located in an amazing location right by the famous bridge ponte vecchio which made getting around so convenient.

I massively recommend this place.

Favourite “activity” holiday?

I was eleven we went to Florida, is that enough explanation?

Seriously though it was good of my parents to take us there I absolutely loved it and I am part of that creepy group of people that wants to go back there before I have kids…..then get moaned about by other adults on social media “ThE qUeUe WaS sO lOnG aNd It WaS aLl ChIlDlEsS aDuLtS”….yeah and what Monica? Just tell Tarquin and Erica they’ll have to wait, I wanna go on Thunder Mountain.

We stayed on International drive and had buffet for breakfast every day and steak every night. Hi America, the English have arrived.

So many of my most vivid early memories are from here, if you have kids (and there is two sad facts here 1) the people reading this are only ever gonna be my friends 2) I’m getting older so those friends have kids) then you have to go here start saving now!!!

What’s your favourite ever holiday?

So, I wanna say South America or India BUT for my 30th birthday we went to Vegas and it was the bollocks. I absolutely loved it people say “you’ll love it when you go there ” and “it’s amazing” and you go there with high hopes and think you can only be let down but you won’t be it was everything I wanted and more, if I was rich I’d go back again and again.

There was 11 of us 7 in a House 10 minutes away from the strip and 4 of us in hotels on the strip. The house was booked on air bnb and for how nice and how big it was it was so cheap I think we paid 300 each for five nights or something like. I loved staying in the house it was a highlight of the trip to spend so much time with my friends but I was envious of the guys staying in the hotels I suppose it felt like that we’re getting a more authentic Vegas holiday. Looking back though I don’t feel like I missed out at all maybe if I go back in a smaller group I’d stay in the hotels instead.

There is so much to do there for gamblers (obviously) non gamblers, drinkers and non drinkers, all types of musics, food entertainment just so much you won’t know until you go.

My favourite hotel/casino was probably New York New York on the inside but from the outside it was the Encore which is where my friends were staying.

One thing I hadn’t accounted for was how BIG the place was. It was so big! You go there thinking ahh we’ll spend the day walking up and down the strip popping in to hotels and casinos and such……you won’t you might be able to get to three maybe four a day if you whizz round them!

We took a day out of the trip to go to the Grand Canyon, it was probably the highlight of the trip. It’s mind blowing how big the place is. We went to the West ridge as it was a closer drive than the more popular South Ridge, I didn’t feel like we missed out though.

In England we would have fences up all over the place and you wouldn’t be allowed close to the edge, here though you can walk right up to the edge no barriers it was madness and sent my anxiety through the roof! All completely worthwhile. I loved it.

Get yourself to Vegas and to the Grand Canyon it’s a trip of a life time. Or perhaps I felt that way because of the company I keep, who knows.

I keep notes on most of my holidays so I think I am going to post this once or twice a month. Hope to keep myself entertained and hopefully not come across too cringey to the 8 people (it’s gone up four) that read this. My plan is too work my way down the list in a bit more detail probably break it up with the South America blog at some point as that’s already written 🙂

Other places you can see my ramblings are my twitter and facebook @dukeross and Ross Tunnicliffe