You know when you’re at McDonald’s post-clubbing?
Yes, yes you do.
Everyone pretty much looks like hell. Girls are walking barefooted with feet dragging across the filthy filthy linoleum floor, dudes are squinty-eyed and discussing the night’s triumphs and mishaps, and it is arguably one of the grossest places to be picked up at at the end of the night.
There’s always a few people who are still club-drunk and are laughing loudly, sputtering out their menu order with the coherency of a toddler, and are generally making a fool out of themselves.
That’s Winda and I, the morning after we’ve broken Fabrizio’s ancient key, missed our morning train to Florence, and are subsequently left wondering our purpose in life in an Italian McDonald’s. We buy 1 euro espresso shots.
We are so. Freaking. hHngover.
It is 9:00 AM in Rome — we had to leave Fabrizio’s apartment due to his checkout policy/we needed to get out of there ASAP before we broke anything else of his.
We are laughing-slash-crying because our heads hurt so much from last night’s escapades. We look like crap. We have our giant backpacks with us — of which is comedic in itself because our backpacks look like they could eat us.
Just to backtrack a bit, this was not our only drunk night in Rome. We also had the opportunity to party with some ridiculous Italians.
Lemme tell you the story.
We’ve set up at Campo de’ Fiori. We have our mojitos, our grape-flavoured hookah. We are basking. A group of Italian dudes at the next table motion towards us to join their table. We submit to their boyish timidness (derived from speaking in broken English) and yet, their Casanova calibre assertiveness. They literally move all of our stuff — our drinks, hookah, table, and chairs — to join their table.
Naturally, they begin introducing themselves. Here we have a lawyer, e-commerce specialist, accountant, and..
“Taxi driver!” They exclaim in unison, pointing out their most outgoing friend whom had initially approached us. He smiles sheepishly. They pause for a second, taking in his self-consciousness. “… And stylist!” They add with enthusiasm/thick Italian accents, pronouncing it stye-leest!
We chat. They are hilarious. One of them, named Francesco, has an amazing handlebar moustache — reminiscent of our friend Alessandro — and continuously strokes it. They talk about their jobs and the friends emphasize just how stylish the Taxi Driver-sash-Stylist is. They really want us to know that he is more than just a taxi driver.
The Stylist invites us to a club.
We get into a cab and head to a Roman club. In hindsight, was it a good idea to get into a cab with strange Italians? I’m gonna say no…
Bumpin’ is not the word I’d use for the club we’re at — maybe simply interesting. The Stylist turns out to be an amazing dancer. Really amazing. Winda steals his stylish hat. We booty bump with Francesco. The Stylist does the Harlem Shake a few times. The ratio between men and women at this club is way off.
I can’t really remember all the details of getting home, but we do. A cab takes us back to our AirBnb in trastevere and I remember him asking for a kiss instead of paying him in euros.
Hard pass, my friend.
Ciao, Roma! You were so good to us.
Sidenote: I come back again for another adventure later on in my Eurotrip — this second time we meet two Italian boys who ask us if we’d like to break into the Coliseum! God bless the Italians.
I am wholly smitten by the Italians’ passion for life.
Amidst the heaps of freshly made pasta, the espresso that gives you a pep in your step, and an abundance of facial hair on men everywhere.. Italy has a feeling to it. It’s that southern European steeze for days, a lust for life — the untie your hair and let it fall loosely around your shoulders movie moment, the mimosa waiting on the table just beckoning you at brunch, and falling asleep at the beach just to wake up to a bronzed goddess type of tan.
It is basically the embodiment of Sunday Funday.
It all starts with our beloved Airbnb host, Fabrizio. He is yet another Italian character. He has thick wavy hair to his chin, a full moustache, and of course, that distinctive Italian accent. He laughs a lot. Discusses food. Is very calm even though we are an hour late (that southern European lifestyle steeze). He finds our inability to open his front door funny, instead of what it actually is — embarrassing. He is all things relaxed, often casually shaking his chestnut locks out of his eyes and smiling at our all around ridiculousness. He actually walks in on me in nothing but a towel over the course of our stay there, says, “Oops,” and giggles his way out.
In reference to this Italian love of life, even Frabizio’s wifi is appassionata. His apartment is small but quaint as ever, located in the hip district of Trastevere, and seems remarkably Italian — bidet, small chairs and tables, and medieval keys and all. I am laughing thinking about him (and that time he walked in on me).
We are in Rome during World Cup. Campo de’ Fiori is packed to the brim with onlookers, and we are relishing in all of it. We cheer. We drink beer. We scream, “Forza Italia!” whenever Italy scores a goal. I don’t even pretend to know things about football because… whatever.
The game ends and the crowd begins to thin. After a few drinks — a few shots of tequila for some — with the two boys from the previous post, we venture ONWARDS! towards Trastevere. We are always down for a midnight adventure.
We trod along the cobbled streets, teetering precariously after a couple drinks. Trastevere proves to be further from the city centre than I remembered.
“It’s like, twenty minutes away.” I say flippantly. “Or something.”
“No, it’s not Kaylynn.” I think Winda has taken three consecutive tequila shots at this point, but her innate ability to navigate is still with her. Also she’s using that firm “No, Kaylynn” tone with me. Oh, Monica.
She even pulls out her phone and shows me on Google Maps just how far away we are from Trastevere. The highlighted path on Google Maps looks pretty long — but who can really know for sure? It’s kind of hard to gauge how proportionate a GPS map is to real life when you’ve been drinking…
I give in and we eventually hail a cab. We loiter around an actual tevere in Trastevere — Ponte Testaccio. We chat. I ask a lot about Italy. Alessandro’s accent makes me laugh just thinking about it. We discuss where we’re going next — Florence, Venice, and Cinque Terre. We are molto eccitato. Alessandro assures us that we will fall in love with his country (of course he does.) It’s getting late — like 4 AM late.
As previously mentioned, Rome is old as fuck. It is so old, we have to use giant medieval keys for everything. The doors to a lot of buildings need a good shove before its hinges tweak open.
So we’re saying our goodbyes by our apartment entrance. Winda’s unlocking the door to the building, as I am hugging the boys goodbye. She suddenly gasps.
“Shit!” She screams. “Shit!!!!!”
She’s holding half of the key. That giant ass key broke in the lock.
I begin to laugh (and cry at the same time.) We are on the precipice of getting completely fucked over in two ways:
a) Not getting into our apartment and waiting until dawn — most likely missing our 7:40 AM train due to lack of preparation and sleep/hysteria/more key trauma/the sheer fact that it’s at 7:40 AM
b) Royally pissing off Fabrizio and his nice-looking lady friend (who he introduced us to before we had left for World Cup festivities) by waking them up in the middle of the night/handing them broken property
I turn to Alessandro and very seriously, “You’re going to have to climb up people’s laundry lines, hop from balcony to balcony, enter our apartment, then let us in from the inside.”
Alessandro laughs. He thinks I’m joking.
“We’re just going to have to wake him up,” Winda says — commonsensical as always in the most stressful of situations. God bless.
We begrudgingly press the buzzer. Once. Twice. Multiple times. The shrill sound of it is deafening.
Fabrizio doesn’t even answer the intercom at this point. He just buzzes us in. It’s 5 AM.
We say goodbye again, walk upstairs to our apartment with our heads hanging in shame. We are positive Fabrizio hates us. We are the worst.
But guess who leaves us a raving review on Airbnb..
We end up missing our morning train to Florence anyways.
A long and enchanted sigh escapes from my lips as I think about Italian food. First order of bidness is obvious then:
After praising the Lord Holy Jesus for bringing forth Italian cuisine, we meet an Italian. By the colosseum. And he insists on buying us gelato. We are not in Rome–at least not per se–we are, in fact, in a Lizzie McGuire movie.
He’s in fitted jeans — rolled and cuffed above the ankle — spotless Converse low-tops, a loose and perfectly draped sleeveless top, and round tortoise shell glasses. His hair is nicer than mine — a sublimely curled quiff — of which he runs his fingers through a little too often. He’s got olive skin, tanned to the perfect shade of beige from this Italian heat. He speaks in erratic hand gestures and a booming voice. To add to the spectacle, the man’s donning a handlebar moustache — of which he frequently strokes with his thumb and index finger (simultaneously) when in contemplation.
He is with an American friend. Oh, and his name is Alessandro.
“It was nice meeting you.” We are trying to leave.
Contrary to popular belief, we didn’t come to Rome to meet boys, y’all.
“I-ah woulda like to buy you gelato!” Alessandro boldly declares. His English is drenched in a heavy Italian accent and every statement sounds vehemently dramatic. The dude sounds like he’s reciting lines from a Greek tragedy.
I feel a sharp nudge in my ribs. Winda is very intrigued.
I stare at Alessandro. I’m flattered but not exactly swept off my feet by his proposal. We did not come to Rome to be swindled by some Italian casanova. “No, that’s okay.”
“No! I woulda like to!” He says. With more theatric hand gestures.
“You really don’t have to.”
“I-ah know I-ah don’t have to, but I-ah want to. I-ah inseest.” He insists.
Winda taps him on the shoulder to ask him the most important question of all. “Are you also buying me gelato?”
I can almost feel the soft breeze of her eyelashes steadily batting.
He squints at her behind his impossibly hipster glasses for a sec, as we hold our breaths, wondering just how well-versed he is in the art of Italian game. Any gentleman would extend the offer to a lady’s entire entourage.
“Yees. Yees, I-ah will!”
So, I left Denmark (extremely hungover, eyes swollen from crying, and boarding a 9-hour bus ride to Berlin) and my best friend from home met up with me in Europe..
Which only means more adventure-timing to write about. We visit London, Barcelona, Rome, and Berlin–we only get into a moderate amount of trouble.
If there exists a certain finesse to catching trains, Winda and I have not mastered it. Fuck no. Catching trains borders on the familiar processes of me going, “We’re not going to make it,” Winda saying, “We have to make it,” a scramble for appropriate train accoutrements (snacks), the preeminent mad dash (it is so not cute to run with a giant backpack, let alone with two), and a lot of panting.
We finally get on our train (arms laden with sandwiches and currywurst.) Being from Canadia and all, we rarely use trains to travel, and so the idea of reserving a train seat is beyond us. That is, until we get on the actual train and notice just how fucking packed it is.
After a lot of, “Is this seat taken?” we finally settle into a cabin with a nice Taiwanese boy who studies mechanical engineering in Frankfurt, and adult twins from somewhere in Bavaria. An older German dude joins us later, but that’s later.
Allergies? This Is New Information.
We’re slowly getting comfy in our seats, nestling deep into our nap positions, when it starts. I’m suddenly overcome with a case of the sniffles. My eyes begin to burn–it literally feels like someone smeared Tiger Balm on my eyelids. I rub them until my eyes water. My eyes hurt to open because they’re basically swollen shut now. Winda panics and says, “Are you okay?!?! Kaylynn, I think you’re having an allergic reaction!!!” Fuck me.
The rest of the train ride is spent with our cabin window closed because we figure I’m allergic to pollen. Our new Taiwanese Friend and the Adult Twins are so incredibly understanding about the whole ordeal, despite the fact that we basically spend the next 5 hours and a half in a makeshift sauna. I kid you not, it’s 23 degrees+ outside, and so our cabin is now refuge to sweaty international bodies.
Obviously, I feel like a complete fucking asshole the entire time. Old German Dude joins us for a little while, sweats his ass off for some time, and then nopes the fuck out as soon as the train starts emptying. For the rest of the train ride, Winda and I change into denim shorts, and I have aviators on to mask the hideousness that is my eye situation right now. Crisis under control.
I Buy Chocolate From A Giant Dick
Train rides are kind of like roadtrips, because you are literally stuck with a certain amount of people for a certain amount of time. In addition to Adult Twins from Bavaria, Old German Dude in khaki shorts who definitely hates me, and every Asian mom’s dream come to life (did I mention that our Taiwanese Friend is trilingual?)–there is a delightful youth marching band aboard, whom squeeze out a cheerful song every now and then; a group of Italian teens that repeatedly burst into the chorus of Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You, and abruptly stop after “I need you baby, to warm the lonely night,” because they don’t know any more of the song; and our personal fav, the Bavarian Bachelor Party.
It all starts with a group of guys in their mid-20s knocking on all cabin doors–box of condoms and candy in tow–asking if we’d like to purchase anything for a euro. I give them my best Fuck off, now glare through my sunglasses, as they badger our Taiwanese Friend about getting a condom–since he’s so appropriately seated with Winda and I. One of them is donning a giant penis costume. His friend explains that they’re collecting money because Giant Penis is getting married soon, and this is his bachelor party. Everything makes sense now. The penis. The condoms. The shameless solicitation of spare cash.
We learn that Prague is the Las Vegas of Europe, and that publicly humiliating the groom via forcing him to wear unflattering costumes for the entirety of the trip is the norm. Taiwanese Friend is a gentleman (like I said, poster child for Asian moms everywhere), and agrees to give them a euro in exchange for a photograph. Winda and I buy chocolate, and the throng of chanting Bavarians disappear for the time being.
The Bavarian Invasion
The Bavarians come back–three of them to be exact. They reek of beer and the faint smell of day-old cigarettes. Two of them start talking to us–asking us if we’re sisters (we’ve gotten that a lot), where we’re going and where we’re from, and the likes. The third Bavarian is clearly very drunk and hyper. He begins to parkour in the train. I’m dead serious. I ask his friends, “What the fuck is he doing?” and he pops his head into the cabin, “Parkour!”
We never get their names so, I’ll just have to name them based on their personalities: Tall Glass of Water, What-Are-You-Like-40?, and David Guetta. David Guetta is the one parkouring, by the way. While Tall Glass of Water and What-Are-You-Like-40? try to lay the mack down, David Guetta continuously cockblocks his friends by brazenly and repeatedly sliding the cabin door close. This goes on for a long period of time: David Guetta slide the door close on his friends as they are mid-sentence, TGW and 40 slide it back open in exasperation.
They tell us about their plans in Prague: strip clubs and big asses. TGW literally says they’re going to find strippers with a big ass. Being very interested in European languages, Winda and I ask the guys to sing us their national anthem. Please start picturing two grown ass men with guttural German voices, slightly inebriated and swaying, and occasionally–but pridefully–slurring the words to the Bavarian Anthem. We are laughing at this point. Such a marvellous spectacle is upon us.
In the brief moments between trying to crawl to the ceiling and do backflips off the walls, I tell David Guetta that he looks like David Guetta. He abruptly stops his acrobatics and stares at me dead on, “I am much better looking than David Guetta.”
He trudges between TGW and 40 (as they’ve been standing on either side of our cabin door), and gets to eye-level with Winda and I. Very seriously and mildly drunkenly, he wants to clarify, “I’d like to think that I am in between looking homeless and looking like David Guetta. But I think I look more homeless than I do David Guetta!”
And he goes on. He tries to say, “How dare you!” but it comes out, “How you dare!!!!!” with excess saliva, and some wobbling. He says some crude things about David Guetta that I won’t repeat. We are laughing. Offended David Guetta is hilarious. We love Offended David Guetta.
“Hey Winda, Didn’t You Say You Wanted A Pretzel?”
TGW, 40, and David Guetta eventually leave. Winda and I discuss food (one of our greatest passions.) I say I wish we had gotten more currywurst, and she says, “I really wanted to try a German pretzel.”
Lo and behold, a new face comes knocking on our door.
This guy–definitely an active member of the bachelor party–stumbles towards us, drunk eyes all wild and ablazin’, wafting in the scent of expired beer, and wielding a half-eaten pretzel. “I’ve come to offer you a pretzel!” he boldly announces, and then very nearly falls over. Winda politely declines. I look at Winda and tilt my head, “Hey Winda, didn’t you just say you wanted a pretzel?” She gives me the death glare, “No.”
Our guest introduces himself as the brother of the groom. In response to our refusal, he offers–in broken English and struggling to find the right word for chive–to butter the pretzel and serve it to us with minced chives (schnittlauchbutterbreze.) How sweet is that???? I smile at Winda and say again, “But you said you really wanted to try a German pretzel just now!” She’s about to cut off all my hair in my sleep.
Spoiler: we never take the pretzel. Because, really, where has that pretzel been? What is its life story? Do we even know about that pretzel’s life? Instead, we have a nice chat about the brother of the groom’s new piece of real estate situated on a farm. Him and his girlfriend bought it together. Very, very sweet.
And then we arrive in Prague.
Besides Blacking Out In Germany…
We visit Theatine Church, which is a smoke show of a church (oof.) We have cute German breakfasts at our hostel. We go on a Dachau concentration camp tour–of which remains the best tour I’ve been on throughout my entire backpacking trip. We go on a bike tour called Mike’s Bike Tours with a guy named Charles. We bike through a nudist meadow, the Englischer Garten (English Garden), Odeonsplatz, and Eisbach (surfing in the Isar River, So. Fucking. Cool). Winda contemplates jumping into the Isar River. I am strongly against this idea. We eat the creepiest looking fish on a stick, bratwurst, schnitzel (obvs), and beer at Königlicher Hirschgarten (largest outdoor beer garden in the world). We contemplate stealing another beer glass. We decide against it–our hostel receptionist (Jon From Australia) has already labelled us as criminals escaping from Canada.
We go to Augustiner Keller, end up sitting at the same table of a nice (and super fucking tall) Australian couple, and are fed lies about Australia (I say this in the most loving way). We make an American friend. We will eventually and unexpectedly see this American friend later on in our travels because the universe does things like that..
Bye, Germany–you were just delightful.
Day 1: Touchdown in Icelandia!!!! Our Excitement Faces Imminent Death Upon Arrival
Our stopover in Iceland is less than 24 hours, so we decide to rent out a car and explore, as opposed to booking any real accommodations. Plus, Reyjavik airport is very far away from most of Icelandic civilization, and public transit isn’t really bumping on this island. So it’s 6AM Iceland time (we left Vancouver at 3PM), jetlagged as fuck, and we fast approach the row of car rental companies located in the airport. Budget tells us they have no automatic cars. It soon occurs to us that all of Europe drives manual. Our North American driving skills are futile here. Fuck.
We have both learnt how to drive manual maybe once or twice. Ish. In the true spirit of adventure time, we get ourselves pumped up because failure is not an option at this point. “LET’S DO IT!!!” we shout. We proceed to talk a lot of shit: yolo, bitch/ain’t no thang/hair flipping/discuss watching YouTube tutorials on how to drive standard, etc. and rent out a manual car. (Mostly because a manual car is half the price of an automatic car–we are talking about from $80 CAD in comparison to $160 CAD here.)
Anyways, we get into the car, and we’re like, “Yeah, we’ll practice in the parking lot. No bigs.” Things are OK for the first 5 minutes. We can move out of the parking spot–woo fucking hoooo! We can reverse–suck my dick, automatic! The ball is rolling, we are talking more shit while simultaneously flipping our hair, and then we accidentally get into the parking lot’s exit lane.
Oh my God. We stall about ten times. More than that. A line begins to form behind us. A line of angry cars that are beginning to honk at us. I try to calm Winda down (she’s driving–could you even imagine what would be happening right now if I was?), and go through the whole, “Deep breaths. Ignore them. Just keep trying.”
There’s sharp rapping at our window. It’s a shuttle bus driver, and he’s looking pissed. His brow is exceptionally furrowed, and horn rimmed glasses are nearly falling off his face as he begins to scream at us in Icelandic. “We’re so sorry!” we say, “Could you help us move our car?” He shouts, “MOVE!!!” says more mean things in Icelandic, and skulks off angrily towards the back of the line. Well, we are in a fucking pickle.
In the rearview mirror, we can see someone getting out from the car behind us. Fucking great, more Icelandic scolding. No, wait. He’s 16. He’s 16, and he’s now knocking on our window–telling us he can move our car. Yes. A 16-year-old eventually moves our car for us.
We are back where we’re started–in the safety of the parking lot–except now we are vair rattled after getting yelled at upon our first day in Europe. We see this guy laughing at us from afar (the Kind Icelandic Gentleman pictured below.) He is knee-slapping laughing. Homeboy is revelling in our misery. We wave him over, and he tries to teach us how to drive stick. No dice. We are hopeless. So. So. Hopeless.
Long story short, we accept defeat and trade our failure of a manual car in for a beloved, ever-so-familiar, automatic vehicle. “I don’t think anyone has ever rented this car before,” the dude at the car rental place says, as he hands us the keys. We pretend to not be humiliated.
Fun Things In Iceland
With the proliferation of Tumblr, the aesthetic beauty of the Blue Lagoon is relatively renowned across the Internet. I feel like the Blue Lagoon is Helen of Troy, and yes, the rumours are true, y’all–it is very, very beautiful out here.
We bathe. We use the wet clay in buckets available for impromptu face masks. We find rocks to semi-nap on because at this point, we are beginning to get too jetlagged to function. We make the mistake of submerging our heads in the water–silica clay is horrible in your hair; it takes days to get out, and meanwhile feels like you’re just wallowing in your own filth. We rehydrate. We go upstairs to what they call a relaxation room, filled with excellent patio lounge furniture, and silence. We end up falling asleep in the relaxation room. For. Three. Hours. We decide it’s probably time to leave.
What We Ate In Iceland Because There’s Not Much Else To Talk About
After sleeping, we venture through town. We go to Taco Bell because in Iceland, they serve whale and puffin (yes, those cute little orange-beaked penguin things. They eat them.) and it costs about as much as our car rental does. We have $3 CAD tacos at Taco Bell, which is an American blasphemy. $3 for Taco Bell? My clogged arteries are crying tears of hot sauce and faux sour cream. Ameeerica, they wail. America, they whisper-exhale.
At Least There Is Free Wi-Fi At Taco Bell
We sit in our car (our Octavia Škoda) in the Taco Bell parking lot. Our eyelids grow heavy. 15 minute nap? “Okay, but just 15 minutes.” We sleep for another 2 hours. In a Taco Bell parking lot.
We also have Icelandic hot dogs, because they are a thing. And because we can’t afford anything else.
Iceland, you were not my favourite.