Sunday, December 19, 2010


This video speaks for itself - I had just spent a day exploring Paris and ended up in the porch of a cafe in Bastille where I celebrated my discoveries with some friends over some wine, olives, cigarettes and the newest friend to my taste-buds, escargot.

It's scary how big these things are once they're out of their shell and it's kind of off-putting - but once I took the leap they were not dissimilar in texture to mussels and were slathered in a basil pesto sauce which made it all pretty pleasant really!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Michelangelo...the legend...

It was a crisp winter's evening in the Tuscan countryside, I had arrived at a restaurant about 30 minutes outside of Florence in Italy and I was ready for a fantastical feast of fine cuisine.

Upon being seated, the food began to flow from the kitchen - first, a kind of meat platter with salamis, bread and pate which was probably the highlight of the meal. This was followed by courses which, unfortunately, descended in quality and I began to feel a little disillusioned with my Tuscan dream.

However - all was saved by one man. His name: Michaelangelo.

A queer character rolled through the front door of the restaurant with just a keyboard straight from an episode of Beyond 2000 and a classically Italian swagger. Slowly, he sweated his way through the assembly of his stage and visibly readied himself for his art via a series of deep breaths and swabs of the forehead.

He pressed a button on his elaborate keyboard and a fountain of midi-laden delight burst forth into the room. Then he opened his mouth.

My way of describing this larger-than-life character is as a cross between Meatloaf and Shakira - he was a stickler for the dramatic and certainly not one for lyrical accuracy. He wore his emotions on his forehead and threw his voice throughout the room without the aide of a microphone, such was his natural boom.

The first song he played was Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm by Crash Test Dummies - a herald for the type of songs to come. Always by Bon Jovi, I would Do Anything For Love by Meatloaf and Romeo and Juliet by Dire Straits, amongst other classics. All were wet with emotion and, thankfully, entertainment.

My stomach was in pain after my Tuscan feast - but not due to the average food. Michelangelo had me in fits for a full hour. He will go down forever in my mind as one of the most entertaining musical acts I've ever seen.

I loved him so much I got a photo with him and I really think I should get on to setting up a Facebook fan page for him.

I managed to capture most of his rendition of Romeo and Juliet on my iPhone - everyone else in the room was talking, while I was transfixed, so it's a little hard to hear the legend sing, but he definitely gets clearer as the video goes on and his passion rises, so persist with it! 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

La Sagrada Familia

Of the many churches, castles, cathedrals and palaces I visited on my adventure, one of the most incredible and mind-blowing was La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

This city has been lucky enough to have been touched by an amazing artist called Antoni Gaudi - various buildings, parks and squares were designed and built by him during his lifetime in the late 19th and early 20th century. I was lucky enough to check out a number of them - the highlights being Park Guell and his unfinished church, La Sagrada Familia.

Under construction since 1882 (expected to be complete in 2026), its complex architecture is both baffling and beautiful - each pillar, facade and vault is an individual meant to reflect nature. It really is the most unique religious building I've had the pleasure of witnessing - and though it is more of a spectacle than a spiritual home, its wonder is certainly not diminished.

I took a video from inside its nave, my happy memento, that's more hilarious than informative but I hope you'll enjoy it anyway. If you want to see some more of what it actually looks like then head here:

Monday, December 13, 2010

San Gimignano

The second of my joyful mementos came in the form of a place and its atmosphere.

This was a small medieval town in Italy called San Gimignano. It's a very popular place to visit so I imagine yourself or someone you know may have been there as well, but I like to think I got a unique view of it all (just to reassure myself a little more!). When I went there it was very much off-peak tourist season and the place was deserted, serene and supremely beautiful.  For a little while there was even someone playing what sounded like a lute in the gardens of an old church - was a wee bit inspired. I can't describe the feeling I got while walking its streets or taking in its surroundings, but I can show you a wee video of the view I got from one of its many stone towers - incredible.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The evidence of adventure

Adventure in any form of life is where I see people finding the pinnacle of happiness - whether it's an adventure in love, ambition or a physical journey, that's where some of one's happiest moments can occur.

You might feel it in the thrilling encompassment of a new lover, in the satisfaction and contentment of achieving a life-goal or, in my case, in experiencing foreign sights and cultures with the best of friends to share it with.

But happiness is intangible - that's why sharing it with other people is always more satisfying. Your emotion is validated by seeing someone else in the same shoes as yourself and thus it's more real, it happened, no you weren't dreaming.

This feeling doesn't last as something we can communicate and share though, so that's where souvenirs and mementos of your great happiness take its place, as tangible proof of a wonder once felt. Don't get me wrong, they don't diminish the experience (often they even magnify the adventure), but they are a very uniquely human way of holding on to your happy memories.

Anyway - enough of the musing! What I have brought back from my latest adventure is a bunch of nicely tangible mementos that I can now share with you all, probably to my own embarrassment, and reassure myself that I wasn't in a coma and dreamt this stuff up over the past 5 weeks. I'll post a few of them over the next few weeks - but first off, the wonder of Monte Carlo...and its toilets!

Yes, that's where my trip took my mind, right to the bottom. This is amazing though. I was told to go and check out the toilets in the casino there and initially I did my number ones and didn't observe anything out of the ordinary. However, I exited the facilities to find a friend of mine with a huge grin on her face and I immediately knew she had discovered what I had missed. So I took a breath and composed myself for a second visit within five minutes to this fabled lavatory, past casino staff and disgruntled millionaires, to find its hidden treasure. And this was what I found:

More mementos to come soon...