Glitz, Glamour and Saggy Boobs

Day 7-8

Barcelona to the French Riviera,

French Riviera

It was another early morning wake-up, we will learn to loathe these starts, pack up the tent and coach and hit the road. Our super coach driver Rado weaved his way through the breathtaking landscapes of the Provence, famous for its fields of lavender. We arrived in a town by the name of Avignon for lunch. We were greeted by the grand Palais des Papes, “The Popes Palace” named due to the large number of popes it has produced. The Palais des Papes is steeped in history and dates back to the 14th Century. We were lucky enough to be in Avignon during the famous “Festival d’Avignon” held in the Popes Palace courtyard.Popes Palace The Festival d’Avignon is a street art, music, theatre and dance festival. I am a big fan of street festivals so you could just imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon a world famous street festival in France. I could of stayed in Avignon for days. I walked around and watched all the amazing performers, looked through all the markets and just took in all the sounds, smells and action. I found a little deli and attempted to order a Baguette and an orange juice. We sat out in the courtyard and just watched the festival pass us by. It was a great way to spend my lunch break. Throughout the amazing dance, artwork and markets there were yet again scammers. This lady came up to my pointing to a peace of paper and mumbling. It was written in French and some really bad English, but I got the gist of it. It said “Deff Society”, and she asked for a donation. Now I have already heard about this scam and was ready for it. These people can hear and speak fine so please do not fall for them. On our way back through the festival to our pre-organised meeting place I noticed a guy setting up for a gig. He had long dreads, was dressed in faded and ripped jeans and had a Didgeridoo. I thought this guy must be Aussie, I wonder where he is from? So I went up and in my best aussie accent said “g’day mate” To which reply g’day mate, good to see another Aussie”. We had a brief chat while we waited for our group to arrive. Turns out this bloke was from Byron Bay and has been travelling around Europe playing gigs at all the Festivals. What a life that would be hey? We wished him best of luck and got back on our couch. We cruised along the rugged coastline of Côte d’Azur though the famous Cannes, think famous film festival.

That night we stopped at a cool Contiki Camp ground in Antibes. My back was playing up again and I really needed some help. Lucky enough one of the Friends of the Contiki Crew who was staying there that night is a professional deep tissue masseur. I was in heaven, my back had pretty much seized up and I could hardly move. This amazing lady managed to release my back and it was so good I could touch my toes. So I told myself to look after my back and not do anything stupid. That kind of didn’t last. Just around the corner, only a 5 min walk was a great not so little theme park. We wondered down there and where amazed it was just there, we do not have anything like it in Western Australia. We went on this dodgiest looking roller coaster and mucked around

French Riviera Bumper boats

French Riviera Bumper boats

on the bumper boats. Which we all went a little crazy and got completely saturated. A few of the braver guys went on this massive swing, it was huge. You got strapped in, winched up to the top and then let loose. It was pretty cool to watch but there was no way you were getting me on that. That night I had my first taste of Frogs Legs, kind of tastes like chicken, some French Champagne and relaxed, after the excitement of the Theme Park.

Our first stop in the morning was the Fragonard perfumery where we learnt all about how French Perfume was made, much to the excitement of the all the guys on the tour. We were more interested in all the super cars in the car park. A high end rental company uses the car park as a meeting point for rich people to lease high end sports cars and drive around the French Riviera. I thought I am getting a photo of these cars but was soon pounced upon by one of the men and told no photo’s you must pay for photo. A few of the girls brought up big in the perfumery, I am sure it was a good deal as I know that French Perfume in Australia is very expensive.

That afternoon we wondered around the street and had a glimpse into how the other half live. It was very glitzy and glamorous. We thought that we would take this

Kristy and I chilling on the beach

Kristy and I chilling on the beach

opportunity to chill out down on the beach and take in the famous French Riviera beach lifestyle and maybe get a glimpse of some celebrity sunbaking topless. No such luck, all we got was this old lady whose breasts were like the ones off “Something about Mary”. I have no idea why the beach on the French Riviera is so famous. It is full of rocks, there is no sand and you need to where shoes into the water because the rocks hurt, you can not lay down on the beach as the rocks dig into your back, you need have these bamboo rugs.

The Crew soaking in the French sun

The Crew soaking in the French sun

If you wanted to be on the part of the beach were it is cool to be seen you have to pay to enter. I did not like that at all. I guess in WA we are a little spoilt with beaches. We do have the best beaches that I have seen all over the world, white sandy beaches, blue as blue water, just perfect.

Kristy and I ready to watch some cash get spilt

Kristy and I ready to watch some cash get spilt

That night we ticked off another country, Monaco. I’m still amazed that we just went to another country for a few hours. In Australia you drive 6 hours and 600km just to get to another town. It takes two days to get out of Western Australia driving, but here we are going to another country for a few hours to check out a casino. But what a casino! We went to the famous Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco the home of the formula 1. We drove over the grand Prix starting line and had a look around this amazing little Principality.

The Starting line for the famous Monaco Grand Prix

The Starting line for the famous Monaco Grand Prix

Monaco is so flash it is ridiculous. It is a place to see and to be seen. We ventured into the glitzy casino and stood out like sore thumbs. I am certain that they see all the backpackers coming into have a look around all the time but we just felt so out of place. I had to get my James Bond fix and asked at the bar for a Martini. It was the worst tasting drink I have ever had. A fellow Contiki guy went up to the same bar and said and I quote “Got any Jager?” To which the shocked bar tender replied with a stern face “No” much to our amusement. So where ever we went after that he asked “Got any Jager”. Right up till the point in Prague that he got it tattooed on him. That is another story. A few of us paid the 10euro fee and went into the “High Rollers Room”. At first there was no one in there so we actually had an entire table to ourselves which was pretty cool. We played a few games of Roulette and I even came away 20euro ahead. One of the young Americans on the tour had his first taste of gambling ever and he too won, I think he walked away 60euro up.

Then the “High Rollers” started to roll in. We watched two friends just playing around and putting bets on of up to 90K Euro rounds.  I then saw one of them flick the dealer a 5K chip. We noticed these massive square chips in the back pocket of one of the men. We watched him chuck it on the table, to our surprise it was 100K Euro chip. I witnessed his mate playfully steal one of the 100K chips and chuck it on the table this was no problem. The High Roller noticed us, gobsmacked and asked “English or French?” I asked him how much do you bet? To which he replied I don’t know, it doesn’t matter it is just a game. It was one of these weird moments where we had a glimpse into the super rich lifestyle and how they live. I managed to keep two 10 euro chips from the High Rollers Room as souvenirs.

Outside the casino was just as impressive as inside, it was a little later now so there were a few more flash cars there. This huge white car that I have been told was a “WhaleBack” a custom built car and a black Lamborghini, which we witnessed a sugar daddy and his girlfriend get into, not before he put her Louie Vuitton matching bags into the front boot.

All in all Monaco was a place to see and we absolutely loved people watching the super rich.

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Shisha, Sangria and Painkillers. Barcelona.

Barcelona Day SheetLyon to Barcelona.

Day 5-6:

We left Lyon after only a short stay and headed for the Spanish border. We passed through the Pyrénées mountains which forms a natural border between France and Spain. We stopped at a truck stop at the border and grabbed some food as well as some free Wi-Fi. Free Wi-Fi is something that you learn to grab at any chance available. We all jumped on, checked facebook, sent emails home to family and checked our bank accounts to see how budgets where going? Then back into the Coach until we reached our Barcelona campground. We set up camp and then our awesome tour staff gave us all a “Value Added Extra” a carton of Sangria each. This was the start of the end for many of the group. Everyone got stuck into the Sangria and loaded up on the cheap booze that we all brought at the campground. Unfortunately I did not make it out that night, I was struck down by an old injury which every now and then pops up and gives me no end of pain. When I was 15 I fractured my spine in a mosh pit and now I am paying for it. Any way I stayed at camp resting with a cocktail of sangria, pain killers and some deep heat that my beautiful wife massaged into my back. Lucky enough by the morning I was much better and I was able to walk around and enjoy the city.

We went up to the Montjuic to get a great view over Barcelona and what a view it was. Pity I do not have any photo’s to show you. If you have read my previous posts our camera was stolen in Rome, sorry still a saw point. We visited the 1992 Olympic Games complex which we couldn’t get into as it was all closed up. However we were treated to a cool display of remote control aircraft, these tiny little planes buzzing around like giant bee’s was a cool look into social life in Barcelona. We wondered through the side streets and made our way to the Sagrada Família church, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926). Although incomplete, the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This massive building is totally awe inspiring and seriously popular by tourists. We arrived there far too late to even consider lining up to enter and climb one of the breath taking spires. However the Sagrada Família church did have its use’s on our tour. One of the guys who was lost the previous night found his way to the church and just waited for us to turn up. He had no idea if we were going to that church, he just assumed it was a site to see and hoped that we would turn up some time. It turns out he got pick pocketed and had lost his phone and wallet. So really a good start to our tour hey?

My very first everHard Rock Café lunch.

My very first everHard Rock Café lunch.

My new friends, my wife and I all headed to my first ever Hard Rock Cafe for lunch one of the days in Barcelona. I was pretty excited to be in a Hard Rock Cafe and to be eating in one in Barcelona was quite a little bit exciting for me. I brought my very first ever Hard Rock Cafe shirt and a Hard Rock Cafe breast cancer band which I still have not taken off.

Richo Swinging it

Richo Swinging it

That afternoon we went out to watch a Flamenco Show at the Agua de Luna where we learnt the saying “Ole Wapa” sorry for my bad translation, which we were told to yell out at the Flamenco dancers and afterwards hit the Porte Olympico to party. This time I went out, however it was a Sunday and was a little slow out on the Porte. We wondered through the bars and found ourselves chilling out at a Shisha bar. Where I was offered once again some more pot, when I said no thankyou he then offered me coke. So be aware again travellers, drugs are very easy to get in Europe but be careful you never know who is selling to you.

Hamish and Me enjoying a Spanish Shisha

Hamish and Me enjoying a Spanish Shisha

The Shisha bar was a great place to spend the night. We sat around smoking all the different flavours, drinking and getting to know our group. I noticed that the Shisha bar had some Arabic writing on the sign, I can not read Arabic however I had just come from Egypt and thought I would give my very basic Arabic a go. I said hello and thankyou in Egyptian Arabic. Sorry I am not even going to try and write them. This worked a treat and we were waited on hands a feet. The waiter sat and spoke to us in broken English and we had a great, chilled out night. Needless to say that night we had a crash course in European tipping, being Australian’s we do not tip so we do not understand the tipping culture. So we gave this great service a pretty good tip and he was hugely appreciative.

Barcelona is pretty cool city however I was a little disappointed. I was rather surprised that the city pretty much shuts down on Sunday’s even though there were plenty of tourist around. Walking the streets and wondering through some Sunday markets was a nice way to spend our time in Barcelona. I just feel that I did not get the vibe that I have heard all about from this city. I witnessed some street life along the  tree-lined La Rambla as well as bunch of “Performers” I use that term rather loosely as they are just more scammers but are pretty cool to watch and try and figure out how they rip you off.

I found myself watching this guy with 3 small boxes and a ball bearing. It was the simple old game that you played when you were kids. All you had to do was follow the box with the ball bearing and choose the correct box. I watched for ages and no one was winning. I knew it was dodgy the second I spotted the man however I was intrigued on how he was performing the scam. I was playing along and I could pick the winning box every time, it was not hard and I was perplexed on how he was scamming everyone. I gathered that the people playing along where in on the scam which turns out is correct. The man pointed to me to choose a box so after watching for probably 10 mins or more I had realised that it was a slight of hand trick. I am still not certain when he did it. So I went to touch a box with my foot, he quickly grabbed the box and asked for money to play. I quickly walked away. It was so intriguing what he was doing and even how people get scammed by this man. If any of you know how he does it please let me know. I look forward to returning to Barcelona and to really experience Spain.