Day 136: Travel Rules

16.05.09: After last night's antics, I'm surprised I stayed awake but then I have got a personality disorder. Matt and I jumped on the mega-mega fast train to Madrid (300kph! - whoosh!) and I drove him up the wall with my crap jokes and constant spouting of my random brain garbage. Madrid train station is BEAUTIFUL - old school golden age of steam with a tropical garden in the middle of it. I could have stayed all day, but we only had time for a coffee before hopping on another mega-mega fast train to Seville. We were there before you could say Jaffa Cakes. Now, Matt - top bloke, wouldn't have a word said against him. However, talk about throwing someone in at the deep end - he hasn't travelled much (just Oz and New York) and in a few days we're going to be ankle-deep…

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Day 135: Thanks for that, Dad

15.05.09: Early-early-sickly-feeling start to the day, and onto the 5:20 bus to the Andorran border. Quick change of buses and by about 8am I was in Andorra - another of Europe's pub-quiz-winning, micro-states. It's slap-bang on the border with France and Spain, and until recently, was jointly ruled by the President of France (as proxy for the king) and a Spanish bishop. But being a nation of Two Princes is a little too interesting for the people of Andorra and in 1993 they got their own parliament. I was last here in 1986 (in the days of Two Princes, pop-pickers). I was seven and on a camping holiday adventure around Europe with my mum, dad and brother Alex. I remember it well. It was bloody hot and we listened to Harry Chapin on the tape player. Today, however, was a cool spring day in the mountains…

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Day 134: Monte Carlo Underground

14.05.09 I had about a zillion train connections to make today. In fact, if I just wanted to get to Toulouse, I could have (get this!) got the super-duper fast TGV to Lyon and then back down again in less time, but I had to pass through Monaco, so I had to stick to the coast. Although in terms of seeing a place, Monte Carlo ranks along with Jamaica - at least in Jamaica I could stand on the bow of the ship and gaze out over Kingston's city lights - no such fun here - the station is underground! As Monaco is one of the (if not the) smallest states in Europe, it was going to be blink-and-you'll-miss-it affair as it was. Oh well. I got to see the Monte Carlo underground station - WHO SAYS I'M NOT SEEING THE WORLD?! Then the bloody train…

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Day 133: San Marino A-Go-Go

13.05.09 It was supposed to be a 23-hour ferry trip to Civitavaggio near Rome, but of course it took longer than that. Not being able to afford a cabin, I made do with sleeping on the cushioned bench seat. The GRIMaldi ferry had just three toilets between every male on board, which were of course trashed within minutes of leaving Tunis, so I spent the entire journey trying to keep the turtle's head at bay. I'll tell you what is cool, though, the book I'm currently reading, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, is set in the Dominican Republic - and DR1.com gets a mention - extra cool when you consider that the book won the Pulitzer Prize for literature last year. Go Robert and Lu! Yeah!! I had my train connection times scrawled at the back of my Lonely Planet Europe, as long as…

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Day 132: Don’t Let The Door Hit Your Ass On The Way Out

12.05.09 Not much to say really. Said my goodbyes to the chaps in the hostel, jumped in a taxi and headed on over to the port, stopping at various banks on the way out... er, can I change this wad of YOUR JOKE MONOPOLY MONEY to Euros please? No, sorry, interdit. What? Your currency is so rubbish that I can't even change it back to Euros in YOUR country? Yep, it's against the law. You can only rid yourself of your rotten Dinars in the airport. Christ Almighty. Fingers crossed, I could change the money in the sea port, I arrived in good time for my ferry which was (supposed to be) leaving at 1pm. I asked at information if I could change my Tunisian Dinarse here, they said I could but I'd have to wait for the bureau du change(s) to re-open. Er... they are…

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Day 131: You’ve GOT to be kidding

11.05.09 You can probably tell by the title of this day that things did not go according to plan. I got to the Algerian embassy for 8am, waited for it to open, waited to be let inside and then waited to find out if I could get a visa. By 10am, I had my answer. No. You can't get a visa for Algeria unless you apply for it in your home nation. Rats. This was not good news. Kicking myself AGAIN that I didn't take the boat with Laura on Saturday night, I rang Grimaldi ferries (they put the GRIM in Grimaldi) and they said they couldn't alter the ticket - I had lost it. Seventy Euro down the drain. CHINNNNG!! [the sound of Sonic the Hedgehog landing on a spike and losing all of his rings]. After a cheap and cheerful sojourn around Europe, Africa…

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Day 130: Deal or No Deal?

10.05.09: So I missed the ferry back with Laura, I had shelled out for a cabin and everything. Having a relaxing night on the boat before saying our farewells over an ice cream in Sicily would have been perfect. But the world is not a perfect place and Africa is not my friend - it doesn't want me here, I can tell. I met Raouf that morning, and we went for something to eat (not such a great idea, I was hungover to hell). There he pulled out a letter, written in Arabic, with only the words ‘visa' and ‘BBC' in Roman font. It had a stamp at the bottom and all looked quite official. But when Raouf wouldn't let me film it, that ol' spidey-sense turned into full on alarm bells. Something wasn't right. We then walked around the town to where the louages leave…

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Day 129: Close But No Cigar

09.05.09: Again we were up at the crack, I said my farewells to Laura and shoved her on a Louage back up to Tunis (or at least I thought I did). I got a Taxi to the Libyan border, and in a damn near carbon copy of what happened yesterday, the Tunisian border guards turned me back. Leo - the Webmaster - doesn't like me swearing on my blogs, but you can probably hazard a guess at the string of expletives that I launched at the desert. But they said I could get a visa from Sfax, a city halfway back to Tunis, and that the embassy was open today. I made a beeline, passing up my change to go and visit Tatouine (oh yes it exists!) and the Star Wars film sets. Bah! Upon arrival in Sfax, I headed to the Libyan embassy, which was…

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Day 128: Interdit!

08.05.09: Laura and I hauled ourselves out of bed as early as we could and jumped a taxi for the short ride to the Algerian border. Now, if this was anything like the border into Panama, Ukraine or Belarus, it would be possible to get through the first set of border guards (the ‘home nation' if you will) and talk to the second set (the country you wish to enter) and by doing so step foot over the border, which invariably runs half-way between the two. That's not the case in Tunisia, though, as I was about to discover... We arrived at the border around 7am. Laura stayed in the cab (best not filming stuff on borders - gets you into trouble!) and I went to speak to the guard - would he let me pass to go and speak to the Algerian guards? Would he…

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Day 127: Welcome to Africa

07.05.09: The ferry to Tunisia was supposed to leave at 8am, so Laura and I dragged our asses to the port for 7am. The ferry didn't arrive until 8am. By 10.30am, we were still in port. Welcome to Africa. We haven't even left Sicily yet. Better get used to it. The ferry took all day - it was supposed to get into Tunis at 4pm. Ha! We got in around 8pm. The first guy I spoke to (well, he spoke to me) claimed to be a taxi driver (he wasn't) and would charge us 20 diner (about a tenner) to take us to the bus station. I haggled him down to 15 diner and we jumped in his ‘taxi' ('twas a car). Upon arriving at the bus station, he demanded 20, which considering we had made some unscheduled stops along the way, I thought was fair…

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