Dream Trip Day 35   Porto to Madrid, Spain by plane

Our flight was at 9, so we had to wake up early, after the biggest party night of the year in Porto, too! Rough going.

As we walked onto the train, we saw many people just arriving after a night of partying down by the river. It’s 730am.

On the metro we encountered two guys, still very drunk, still bopping people on the head even though both activities are way over.

One continues to bop a girl trying to sleep across from them. First couple times she laughs, then flashes the death glare and she moves seats.

No issues at airport, just standard bullshit of arriving early just to wait for a delayed plane with no compensation from airlines.

It’s a short hour and half flight, which I sleep the whole way.

Arrive to Madrid Bajas airport and I flash back to my first euro trip years ago when I got lost trying to find the way out.

This time like a champ I lead us through a couple transfers to the Sol stop.

It’s hot hot, like 90 when we get out. No ocean breeze to cool us down.

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Si and Jeremy stop in to cell store to get SIM cards for Espana.

I text our Airbnb host to let him know we are near. He responds in Spanish that he doesn’t speak English. Damn.

We walk down a Main Street for a bit until we reach the area of our apt.

I call our host and see him waving across the street. We have arrived.

He walks us upstairs to our room, taking in Spanish. I get most of what he is saying.

He manages to say in English, ‘Do you drink? Alcohol?’ We all say yes, si.

He opens the fridge and pulls out a large bottle of a locally made wine spritzer. Tastes like red wine and Sprite.

‘Salud,’ he says after pouring us each a large glass. ‘Is local favorite sabor, toma!’

We set up in a small room, next to ours is another couple renting, out host is in a third room.

You know this guy is banking, renting out two rooms all the time. He is never there, we don’t seem him for the rest of our time in the city.

We are hungry so we walk the area, Si decides ramen, it’s 90 so why not hot soup ?

A new ramen spot just opened so we pop in.

I am totally ruined on ramen having eaten at Ten Ramen in Dallas, run by a Japanese guy to Japan standards. Ate there about every other week.

I select the kids or taster portion of ramen.

Jeremy tries to convey he is vegetarian but she thinks he is vegan, 100% vegetarian? This has egg, is ok?

He gives me his chicken goyza dumplings which comes with his meal.

Sure enough, broth, noodles are not very good and I’m happy I only have a small bowl but with the dumplings I’m satiated.

We walk down street in front of our apt, which is also a main thoroughfare, towards the royal palace.

We walk around the palatial estate, most of which is behind a metal fence.


I notice that on one side there should be a good view of the city.

Haha area is under construction and it’s boarded up, but they have cut a small section at eye level that merely shows you another small section leading up to concrete wall that does have a view.

You have a view of an area with a city view but no actual view. Fuck you Madrid, why can’t we see your city ?! Oh right, all about € as you can get a view if you pay for palace tour.

It’s hot so we walk back to apt and locate bar near Mercado.

I had forgotten they serve crisps, chips with beer. I also forgot how the waiters virtually ignore you should you want something else or chip refill.

I search for activities and find bullfighting arena. No one is interested especially when I reveal its 40€ a ticket.

Si says, ‘maybe if we get free bull tacos. I want to eat the loser.’

A quick search reveals they donate bull meat to orphanages. In Mexico I read they sell cheap bull tacos after a match.

We attempt to navigate the open mercado, but it is way too packed. Shoulder to shoulder the whole way through.

Interesting market, fresh seafood, baked goods, paella, and ham are all out on display.

I locate the church of Madrid, oldest one in town so we walk over.

It’s oldest, not most beautiful, ornate etc. just a reasonable house of worship for a change.

Back to the royal plaza for a beer, it is pretty expensive so we get one and done.

Hungry now and it seems everyone wants a table outside, plus they eat late, after 9.

We passed by a local rally of some sort, I see rainbow flags so presume its a gay rights rally. Man speaking uses bullhorn so it seems much more old style protest.

We are near the Mercado and find an outside seat with a light breeze and good people watching.

My first encounter with Jeremy’s soon to be dinner staple, potatoes bravas and grilled peppers.

I try a pepper and while it smells spicy, it isn’t, a bit salty and resembles okra taste.

Bravas is sauce on potatoes and other Spanish items, creamy with mild to medium heat red pepper sauce.

These would be his go to items to eat for the next week as Spain is home to ham or seafood and he doesn’t eat either.

We meander around as we think we located a cool punk bar but it doesn’t look open and website reads it’s a late night bar only open after 11.

There is some sort of live music, dance going on near that we hear pretty clearly a few blocks away so we check it out for a moment.

Lots of floral colors and big dresses on the ladies as they twirl.

Band plays semi mariachi style but different with accordion and no horns.

We watch awhile then back to the punk bar, still looks closed so I give the door a push, ah another door and we are in.

Small place with long bar to one side, a few people standing at mirror wall across from the bar making it hard to navigate ordering a beer and walking to a table as you have to block the way when ordering a beer behind those hanging in front of the bar.

I get three drafts, looks like Estrella and somehow manage to not drop or spill them.

What’s strange about the bottleneck at the bar is the place opens up with tables, DJ booth and later we realize another separate room.

Beer is cheap, music is good, not too crowded.

Behind us is TV showing a live Queen DVD. The whole night they alternate between live DVDs and videos, only 80’s music, all styles.

The DJ keeps checking on us as we seem to be the only ones listening. Thumbs up!

Jeremy comes back from the bar but without beers. The bartendress arrives with a tray of beer and three small shots. Guess they like us here.

It’s late and been a long day so back to the apt.

My Airbnb selections suck, only 2 beds so I stake out a small spot and use the ample heavy bedding as a bed on the floor.

Why we had large winter blankets when it was super hot I don’t know but they made a nice, comfy bed.

Beer: Estrella Galacia
Song: Queen   Mustapha

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Dream Trip Day 34   FC Porto, St. John festival, last night in Portugal

Today we woke up to a bit of rain. Decided to check out FC Porto stadium.

30 min walk or metro ride, amount of time was the same, so we walked.

On the way locate a bakery for coffee and croissant, our Bfest of choice.

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Walked through neighborhoods until suddenly a break in housing, a small park, mall appear as does the large stadium.

The mascot is a dragon so first thing on the stadium we notice is the tribal tattoo like image of a fire-breathing dragon.

We walk around the stadium, which affords us a nice view of east Porto, not nicest part of town, lots of cargo trains and unused buildings.

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No entrance can be found so we decide to head down stairs after actually walking completely around, along the outside of the arena.

Sure enough, ground level has arrows pointing towards the tour entrance.

We are an hour and a half away from next tour, it’s a no go.

We walk back to the apt to figure out the day.

Walking along the street that runs in front of out apt, who do we see, literally the only person we know in Porto, our Airbnb host!

We shake hands and chat a moment. He reminds us of St John’s festival by the river later that night: ‘It’s all night, fireworks, fiesta!’

Oh we are planning on going to the river, maybe we will see him down there.

Make it back to the apt and we all just crash for 45 min. Just quick nap until the sun peaks out of the clouds.

We metro down near the river. We walk around awhile looking for a bev.

We decide to try a semi nice place right off the water. The maitre d directs us to a long table vs table in the middle of restaurant, which he says is only for dinner guests. He will repeat this same dialogue to several more people who sit in the middle, even some who asked for a food menu. No! Dinner only!

They have a white port drink so we try it. Sort of like a mojito, tasty and refreshing as it is hot out again.

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In the river there are firework floats ready for later.

Lots of activity as they set up booths, beer taps and other activities all around us.

We leave our nice but expensive seats to find more beverages.

Around and around we go, block after block is full of people.

I decide to get a gelato as it’s really hot and I keep seeing people walking by with them.

As with anything you want, I cannot locate a gelato spot after several minutes of wandering. Where are these people buying these gelatos? It all looks fresh, big scoops, has to be nearby.

Finally locate an option, it’s good and light.

Jeremy is hungry so we follow his lead to an Indian restaurant, always a good vegetarian option.

Man I wish I didn’t eat a gelato, ruined my appetite, as food smells great here.

I find a taster plate, smaller portion of rice and chicken, thinking about Marsala or vindaloo.

Luckily Jeremy’s plate has a lot of sauces so I spoon some green and red curries onto my rice. I’m shocked at the lack of spice, sabor in Portuguese food.

No worries as per usual, Indian food has a bit too much spice, got damn and this is just dipping sauces for naan! Vindaloo would have been tear inducing hot.

As it gets dark, we make our way back to the square where we hopped on the bus.

There is now a huge stage ready for a band or DJ set up that wasn’t there a couple of days ago.

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Ah got the last table on busy corner.

Tradition for St Johns day is plastic hammers that people bop you on the head. Many children walk by and bop Jeremy as he is closest to street. He presents his head for every child, as it’s the right thing to do.

Bop! Squeak!

Soon, all outside tables at our restaurant are cleared but ours, time to go so waiters can party too.

We make our way near the stage, music hits and is LOUD.

Two DJs take turns playing songs. Both drink beers, one chain smokes.

We see people of all ages dancing, swaying and bopping strangers on the head.

Everywhere around us, we see people launching paper balloons, parachute like items into the air.

A small fire is started beneath a balloon, the balloon fills with smoke and then it’s launched into the air.

More than one of these fire balloons are caught in a tree or rooftop but yet no fires are started.

We keep walking around streets, getting beers from the many vendors set up, all beer is cheap, 2€.

We are near river when we hear fireworks but damn castles are too tall to see fireworks.

It’s late, we have an early flight so we have to leave the biggest most orderly party we’ve ever been to.

At the metro stop we notice more people arriving vs leaving, it’s after midnight.

We pop into the cafe for final Portugal beer. Most everyone again is drinking espresso.

Many large groups are filing into the metro on their way to party as we walk to our apt one final time, after 1am.

Song: the Knife   Silent Shout
Beer: San Miguel

Dream Trip Day 32   Porto hop on, hop off bus, feets in the ocean

I was last in the shower and discovered the drain has a hard time doing its job so the water rose to ankle level. Nice.

I tried to pick out as much hair as I could using some toothpicks I had in my overnight bag. It didn’t help but I tried. It’s always best to try to make things better than how you found them.

We noted the previous evening that just out front of the building was a coffee spot so we tried it.

Most friendly or condescending proprietor ever once we began ordering.

‘Ah English! Americans yes? Welcome, please. Where from?’

‘Texas’ we say.

‘Ah Cowboys, guns yes, horses. Americans rich, wealthy, spend money here…welcome, please.’

He served our coffees and croissants. I’m still sorting out his comments, but I hope he was friendly and not a great English speaker so lost in translation.

We take the metro and locate the bus stop for hop on, hop off bus our host recommended.

The bus arrived shortly and we climbed to the top.

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We drove around many streets, seeing churches, forts and most of downtown.

I note that most everyone on the bus has earbuds in, guess there is a spoken history portion we will miss out on.

You don’t really need history lesson to see how old and beautiful these buildings, cathedrals are, it’s self-evident.

We hop off and walk on a long pier with a small lighthouse at the end.

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The breeze is strong and cooling against the hot afternoon sun.

We walked along the coast, looking for another bus stop that would take us in the other direction to Castelo do Queijo, better known as cheese fort.

Jeremy wants to walk around the fort, Si wants to escape the sun, I want to dip my feet into the ocean so we make plans to meet up after a while.

I sit and take my shoes and socks off sitting on a concrete wall separating the beach from walkway, then head to the water.

Sure enough, there are topless sunbathers, no tan lines, but they were facing down, no free show today.

The water is cold, but not too cold to bear.

I stand awhile in the ocean scanning around me at all the swimmers, old men in speedos and sunbathers.

I stare too long and miss a larger wave that hits me around knee level, drenching my shorts.

Heading back through the sand, a ball rolls my way. I kick it back to a kid, they love soccer here, well kicking a ball back and forth anyway.

I rinse my feet but realize that no matter what you do, sand from the beach is coming with you.

I meet back up with the fellas for a beer.

Cheese fort doesn’t have much inside, cannons and a bit of a view of the ocean is Jeremy’s review.

We wait for a long while for the bus to take us back. There isn’t a set schedule, the buses arrive when they get to your stop.

We walk around river and wind up at an Irish pub and caught the next match in the Euros.

The most remarkable thing about the game and pub is the restroom was by far one of the worst smelling I’ve had the misfortune of stepping into. Looked clean too so I reckon it was pipe issue.

We wandered around a long time looking for just the right place to eat.

Jeremy is vegetarian so we tried to accommodate him as best we could. Most places you go to have salads in US but not so much in the EU.

We all commented on this fact and felt compelled to order a salad.

I selected what I though sounded good, francesinha, which is a sandwich Porto is known for creating.

Basically ham sandwich pan-fried with cheese on the outside of the bread, drowned in a nice red sauce.

One of the best meals I ate on the whole trip.

We metro back to our hood and walked around the block in search of an area not seemingly occupied by police.

We made it around a few blacks, back to the park where our metro station was located before we saw a diner.

Sure enough, they were still cooking and most importantly, serving beer.

We had a few rounds, watched traffic and bikes go by.

What makes Porto nice at night is cool breeze that sometimes gives you a chill it’s so cool.

We retired to the apt, careful to go into the correct door.

I fall asleep to the sounds of snoring and cheers from a stadium I can just make out in the distance. It’s well after midnight and they are playing futbol still.

Beer: Alhambra lager
Song: After the Fall   Attention Dependent

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View from our airbnb flat.

Dream trip Day 31    Lisboa to Oporto Portugal via train

We have to leave so waking up and showers takes a bit longer. Idiot check is improved as its done 3x.

Metro to main rail station, always an adventure locating the right track number to go to so we walk in a circle until we figure it out.

The track confusion is caused by trains going further than your destination and trains are named after their final stop.

Also cities have a different name vs what we know, eg Lisboa, Oporto, or Anvers.

Help group of Italians who are running from train to train find the correct track for their train. We just walked around the whole station, we knew where the tracks were.

A nice train and short trip north to Oporto.

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We arrive to Porto and attempt to figure out metro system.

This city’s metro is color coded, but dammit they don’t show you which color is north, south etc.

We very nearly get on the right color train but headed in wrong direction.

About 15 min later we are at our apt.

It’s in a tall apt building near the top, a long elevator ride up.

Host is still cleaning the place so we stay out of his way as he mops and wipes down the bathroom.

Friendly guy, he makes us all coffee and tells us what to do, how to get there.

He informs us we are very lucky as Thursday night is St. John festival, the entire city parties down by the sea.

He tells us which port warehouses to go to, which hop on bus is best.

I find a pub close and we walk to catch the late match.

This pub is very gangster like, small, everyone seems to know each other, dark, and empty.

We sit at the bar near TV and watch another tie game, ordering beers.

At some point, a guy staggers in and yells at the bartender about something. A waiter helps escort him out and I notice the bartender’s hands are under the bar. One imagines what he maybe holding down there, probably a bat or club.

We walk back after the match through a park. Still early, still thirsty.

The apt is next to bars but our host told us he rarely hangs out there as people are sketchy.

We struggle ordering beers even tho I say ‘tres cervejas,’ no one speaks English. I point to tap, she just looks at me.

Dammit woman, are you blind and stupid? This sort of ‘I don’t understand’ occurred a lot. I’m convinced they are messing with us, I mean you’re a bartender, 3 guys just walk in, one points to draft tap and yes poorly tries to order beer. Context clues people!

In addition to beer she places a container of some sort of legumes, butter beans seems like to be closest bean that it resembles. They look like white corn nuts.

I’m still not sure if you’re supposed to eat them whole or remove their thin skin. Flavour isn’t improved either way, it’s a bit salty, chewy.

Soon as we finished a beer, 3 more appear, we are only ones at this bar.

There are six bars next to each other, in an L shape. some have food, pool, DJs or just liquor, shot bar.

The DJ at our bar seemed to be informed we are tourist and plays only 90s US music shortly after we arrive. Pretty sure most of Nevermind is played.

We are ready to leave but three more beers are set in front of us, all ready open. ‘No mas, Es todos.’ I say and pay. They are 1€ each so not a big deal to have one more.

Si says there’s another bar across the street that may be interesting so we walk over.

There is a lighted sign, a door, but it looks closed and windows are darkened. Door seems locked too.

As we cross back to the apt we see a couple go in. We become convinced it’s a swingers club with password.

We see three police cycles ride onto the curb past our apt and stop at the pool bar with lights flashing.

They do not remove their helmets as 2 walk into the bar, the third stands outside, gun strapped to his chest.

They are focused on one guy who brings a bag out for them to search.

Back and forth they talk to a couple of guys.

Inside guys continue to play pool as if nothing is happening the entire time the police are there.

We watch a few moments but we aren’t smoking anymore so there isn’t any reason for us to be there. Cop seems to notice and looks our way more often, weapon still across his chest.

Let’s split, who knows if they can make up a charge or something.

We get to our floor and Si fumbles with the lock. I think I hear a dog bark, mat seems different too… dude wrong apt!

We hurry across the hall to our apt, but no one appears from the other apt we tried to enter.

I fling open the large window in our room, a nice breeze hits me.

Hop up to top bunk and fall asleep to snoring and faint sounds of cars.

Beer: Super Bock mini
Song: Nirvana In Bloom

 

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Dream trip Day 30   Lisboa, mas futbol, Thai fest

Wake up, see other roommate as we all 5 share shower, restroom.

Apt is multi story with many rooms and Airbnb guy rents them all out. Host sleeps in literally a large closet near kitchen. Prob makes enough on Airbnb so he doesn’t have to work much.

Plan is to train west to fort built on water and castle on high point of city.

Still don’t have cash but have enough change for metro.

Free trolley to castle is indeed comically full every time we see it with people hanging on all sides, so walk we must.

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Arrive to castle and stunning view of entire city most importantly.

Jeremy has Lisboa card so free entry to castle, it’s 8€ normally.

Si and I find cafe and get beers while Jeremy tours.

After awhile a 3 piece band sets up and plays 20s jump style jazz. Pass the hat, pay the band.

One guy I’m sure I’ve seen before as he plays 12 string guitar but with 6 strings, which I’ve never seen before.

A couple of rounds and Jeremy joins us.

Guy stops by, from Senegal, asks us where were from. ‘I love your president! He is black like me! He is friendly, good speaker, good for the world. Here have bracelets as gift from Senegal. Thank you for your president.’

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Si hands him 10€ pretty sure that’s what he is after but it is still nice to hear positive things about US vs last time I was in Europe when W. was president and we just invaded Iran so he was not popular or liked.

Hot, sweaty so we get a cab to fort in the ocean.

Jeremy goes in, it really is out in the ocean, 1 walking bridge from shore only way in.


Si and I find cafe and watch fishermen cast and cast again.

Really the fishermen don’t catch anything other than a buzz.

They also play catch with the most ready dog ever, he pants heavily but keeps dropping ball and nosing it to throw again.

We walk back to another huge, sword monument near, then under highway to palace, park.

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There is a Thai festival going on in the park, in Portugal.

Muy Thai demonstration where boxers bring up people from the crowd to spar with pads.

Little girl really goes at it as does an older Asian lady, combo punches and knees fly.

Head back to the apt for water and rest.

Big futbol match Portugal vs Spain tonight,  we make plans to see it at euro zone.

Euro zone is fairly packed so we navigate to center for view.

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Spend ER euros on beers. No mo €.

Match is a tie, but fun to see Portugal team in country.

Walk through festival next to euro zone, stop and watch 3 Portuguese rappers spit rhymes to a handful of people.

As we leave festival we notice small pool surrounded by fence and amazingly a guy peeing into the pool, facing oncoming walkers so a free show for all to see.

We find another Irish bar and sit outside.

More pints and golf on TV. Golf is not a spectator sport I feel. Its barely fun playing.

Beer: Sagres
Song: Franco   Cooperation

Dream Trip Day 29   FC Lisboa tour, futbol Saturday

Wake up and Si has bite marks. Feel bad selecting apt as it looked cool online but no a/c so how do you cool down? Open door and window= mosquitoes.

Find breakfast option near a place that actually makes cod cakes which are on every menu. They are minced cod, breading with oozy cheese in the middle, sort of croissant shaped, similar to crab cake.

Walk around city centre for a while. Jeremy wants a small messenger bag, Si looking for coin purse.

‘Sunglasses, marijuana, hashish, cocaine?’ We are asked repeatedly.

Train to FC Lisbon stadium. It is a bit of a train ride away on the northside of town.

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Take small tour, only ones who speak English so guide tells us a few points but mostly tour is him saying, ‘we will wait 5 min while you take pics.’

Mascot is Eagles and three tied up to perches on the pitch.

One regurgitates food and picks at it once we get near.

Eagles scream like seagulls.

Find mall next to stadium, locate food court.

Mexican food is the pick, build your own burrito but less flavor than US options.

I get spicy green sauce and wind up dousing it with Tapitio sauce.

I soon realize after my month on the road I’ve used up all the cash in my account.

The auto bank transfer sits on hold for a week so I have to rely on euros from Jeremy and Si for metro and just buy beers and meals with card.

Mall is adjacent to rail station so we walk over to buy tickets to Porto.

€30 per person, which is a little much but way better than flying. I’d pay more to avoid security checks, boarding process, commutes to/from airports.

Rail is near water too, so we get a table, beer and people watch.

Metro back to apt. Walk back to plaza to catch game and dinner.

Most places are packed if they have TV.

Finally located Italian spot with outside seats and TV.

Most exciting, thus high scoring game, 3-2.

Wander back to area near apt and find Irish Pub.

Several pints, wedding reception is finishing up so packed with well dressed people.

Start tab with intent to pay Si and Jeremy back, but when I close tab, I’m told, ‘cash only mate.’

Have to slouch back and get € to pay. Tell them I’ve got Bfest and next nights beers.

Beer: Kilkenny
Song: Dropkick Murphy’s   The Dirty Glass

 

 

Dream Trip Day 27   Bordeaux to Lisboa, Portugal by plane, finally sun

My flight was at noon so we left around 10. Eric has a cool small car and Snoop hops in the back taking up the whole backseat, always painting always happy!

Said goodbye to Eric and Snoop. Thanked him for cooking, room and hospitality.

Flight was in small, unfinished part of airport, hence the cost savings.

Goodbye sunscreen, thanks security.

Boarded on tarmac, ladders on front and back of plane.

Of course it rained, of course people inside took their time so I and many others got soaked despite stewards pleas to hurry as it wasn’t full flight, just get out of the aisle.

Thought it was a 2 hr flight but we lost an hour so really 3 hrs in the air.

Easy navigation to hostel via bus. Difficult to locate door to hostel however. Walked around the block twice before I found it.

Simple check in, huge room with many bunks, I’m on top per usual.

Set out to see ocean, only a few blocks away.

Stare at the sea and feel sun, cool breeze for the first time in a week.

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Men walk around selling sunglasses, marijuana, hashish, cocaine.

I was asked about 10 times to buy drugs before I left the seaport. I was there an hour.

The hostel posted a sign saying don’t buy street drugs as they are fake and it isn’t a crime to sell anything not illegal so cops do not stop them.

There is a large euro zone fan screen area nearby. I get a beer and watch a boring game until the half and people watch.

In search of food but it’s all either expensive or tapas which wind up being expensive as you’ve got to order many plates.

Settle on doner and once again it does not disappoint.

Back to hostel as sun sets to shower.

2€ bottles so I drink several on a narrow balcony, only wide enough to stand, 2 ppl max.

Hostel has guitars so I strum chords for a while and miss playing mine but yet when I was at home with guitar next to me I rarely played.

Loudest snorer ever in my dorm. A lady actually wakes him up  in the middle of the night and says, ‘please turn over. You’re snoring.’

Beer: Super Bock

Song: Edith Piaf La Vie en Rose