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!”
“We’re going to THY!” I have been screaming this for the past week and a half every time someone asks me what I’m doing for Christmas abroad in Denmark.
Peter has graciously–and cautiously–taken in two wild and very foreign creatures into his family’s Danish home: a Canadian Girl and a Spanish Girl.
Peter calls us skøre piger in Danish (crazy girls.)
A Danish Christmas is straight out of a fairytale: so so so many cookies (brunkager, pebernødder, klejner, more cookies primarily made out of butter, etc.), marzipan that we make ourselves on the 23rd (lille jul aften)–rolled in nuts, dipped in chocolate, folded into nougat, molded into the shape of a cat, dancing and singing around the Christmas tree–real candles lit on the Christmas tree (juletræ) as we’re dancing around it in a holiday frenzy (Pat and I were screaming in fear at this point), a ridiculous amount of food at every meal, making Christmas ornaments with the whole family (folding Danish hearts and stars), shots of schnapps taken at appropriate celebratory intervals–“Skål!”–during Christmas lunch (julefrokost)/every lunch, an onslaught of potatoes, Danish Christmas beer (juleøl/julebryg), the most adorable of traditions–like whoever finds the almond in the risalamande (Danish rice pudding) wins a prize (or traditionally, a marzipan pig. And of course I won.), visiting extended family for more julefrokost, litres and litres of wine, and a lot of basking in each other’s presence in front of an open fire–the essence of Danish hygge.
And by the way, Thy is beautiful. I am literally just frolicking in a winter wonderland right now–casual sledding after julefrokost, leisurely walks through the snowy countryside, quiet moments by the coast with a frigid breeze, and driving through a living postcard of snow-capped evergreens and fields that go on forever.
And I get to spend Christmas with the cutest of pies. Undoubtedly, two of my favourite people in the entire kartoffel-filled, wrapped in bacon, smeared with butter, involved in rationality, smelling of freshly baked bread, Danish universe. I’m also very much in love with Peter’s parents. Very much–as I happen to be easily smitten by bountiful food spreads, gentle and hospitable souls, homemade jam, roadtrips, and people with a penchant for fine cheese and excelling in the art of relaxing during the holidays. I have since, on a number of occasions, casually suggested to Peter that his parents adopt me. Because, let’s be real–who doesn’t love homemade jam???????
Glædelig jul from
Spain Catalonia, Denmark, and Canada!
Det er meget hyggeligt.
“That will be 80 euros,” the airline dude says nervously.
Airline Dude’s very sweaty brow is reflecting off the fluorescent lights hanging above us and his attempt at feigning any last ounce of authority is more or less transparent. Poor guy probably gets reamed at on the daily for telling people they have to pay 80 fucking euros for luggage. It is literally some Utter. Fucking. Bullshit Vueling is trying to pull here.
It’s 9:30AM and I’m standing in Budapest airport with the world’s dirtiest ponytail, reeking of pálinka (Hungarian fruit brandy), and half my consciousness intact. We’ve been milling around in lineups like cattle for the past half hour. If I wasn’t still drunk from last night, I would be gratuitously casting dark gazes, making snarky comments in my head, eye rolling at conversations I’m not invited to, and being an all around salty asshat. But because I’m still mildly intoxicated from last night, I’m just floating in a vapid daze. We got home at 5AM last night, slept for 45 minutes, then booked it to the airport.
It’s been quite the night with the Hungarians.
“80 euros?” I sputter in astonishment/in my barely conscious stupor.
“That is very expensive.” I say slowly, as if he isn’t already aware and because I’m really hungover.
I stare at him, “That is very expensive.” I assume I’m repeating myself because I’m currently lacking the brain capacity to say anything remotely comprehensible.
The lady next to me starts laughing at me. She’s caught an earshot my unintelligible efforts at adult conversation. If there’s impaired driving, this is impaired negotiation.
“Fuck,” I whisper exhale and hand over my 80 fucking euros for my fucking stupid ass backpack. This is what Winda and I get for thinking we could get away with bringing our backpacks as carry-on. This is what we get for fucking with budget airlines.
Last night was such a mess. We meet Hungarians. More engineers. They buy us a lot of pálinka and we are then subsequently required to shout “Pálinka!” every time it’s consumed. We get our asses handed to us in foosball–after grabbing Winda by the shoulders and looking her dead in the eye and saying, “Don’t worry, I’m really good.” I am not really good at foosball. We go to a lot of bars. Hungarians have a way of making just about anything into a bar–twinkly lights, patio furniture, overhead projector with the FIFA World Cup on display, miscellaneous food truck, a tiki-ish bar, et voilà. Then there are the infamous ruin bars which, imagine a dirty, old, crumbling abandoned building, add various types of garage sale furniture, hang a fishing net over the ceiling, and serve alcohol. We drink Somersby apple cider, and I am extremely pleased. We almost get taken to a random flat (keyword: almost.) Hungarians are kind of romantic–I get told my beauty is like stars in the night sky, that I’m a Hungarian princess, and that this guy would marry me if he could speak English. Winda gets a stalker. I get a guy who doesn’t speak English (not the same guy who said he’d marry me.)
Winda resumes her role as Monica Gellar and I’m Phoebe in that episode where Phoebe is dating a diplomat who doesn’t speak a lick of English, and Monica is dating the functioning translator. I say this multiple times throughout the night. Loudly. The guy I’m with just looks at me and smiles very often.
“Oh. My. God.” I say, about fifty times throughout the night.
We stumble less than gracefully through the front entrance of our apartment building at an ungodly hour and laugh loudly/regretfully at the ridiculousness that is our night. In hushed tones we both agree to not say bye to James because he sucks and our time to escape is now.
Next stop, the Eternal City.
The Incarnation of Snark Can Speak
“Hi, I’m James*,” he says. “I’m from Singapore.”
James lives with us. He has a very distinctive Singaporean accent, bangs so uneven they make you cringe a little, is tall and lanky, and dons a football jersey of an unidentifiable team (unidentifiable to me at least) as leisure wear.
“Oh, you’re watching FIFA?” Winda asks out of sheer affability.
“It’s called World Cup.” he replies matter-of-factly.
James is really not that bad–he doesn’t steal from us (which does in fact happen later on in our trip), lie to us, or eat our food–he’s just really annoying. Being embodiments of our country/before discovering what an Intolerable Troll he is, we are cheery, welcoming, and friendly. Although, Winda and I are generally very cheery, welcoming, and friendly (trust me, you would love living with us. We are nothing but delightful.)
We invite him for a drink and an explorative walk around the neighbourhood. We chat. We get to know one another. Winda and I giggle a lot, because we giggle a lot. We get the sense that the Intolerable Troll thinks he’s too smart for us due to our relentless giggling–which when you think about it, is quite the uneducated guess. He tells us about his intense mancrush on John Mayer–the dude waited like ten hours in layover to Heathrow just to see him for one night. I get slightly creeped out. After discussing his promising career in mechanical engineering, he insults Winda’s major majorly on our first night:
“You know what I think the most useless major in the world is?” he offers. I’m not sure if anyone had asked.
“Something in the liberal arts?” He seems like the uppity type that would think so.
“Business,” his voice drips with disdain. “The absolutely most useless major out there.”
I clasp my hand over my mouth to avoid laughing too loudly. Winda keeps her composure because she’s a classy lady, whereas I burst, “Winda studies international business!”
The Intolerable Troll gets somewhat flustered, as he’s just embarrassed himself in front of his new roomies. “Oh.. oh…”
“It’s okay,” Winda is polite–graciously forgiving–of his recent outburst. She doesn’t delve too far into his last comment because obviously he’s one of those hopeless elitist pricks.
Like I said, we are pretty friggin’ delightful. As the Intolerable Troll is traveling alone, we invite him on our excursions for the next day: breakfast, baths, a walking tour, and etc. He doesn’t like baths. Ooooh, quelle fucking surprise, didn’t see that one coming. He agrees to meet us at the communist walking tour. It’s all starting to make sense now.
Can I Just Live Here?
First of all, can I just live here? Just leave me behind in our second week of backpacking and let me revel in all the splendour that is poolside lounging–or when in Budapest, bathside lounging.
The baths are ridiculously ridiculously good-looking: an oasis of marbled perfection, Art Nouveau that feigns living in a different era, delicately staine glass, ornate mosaics, and the classiest of fountain statues. The atmosphere is basically my calling–relaxed, half nakies, the sweet sound of waves crashing (in the wave pool), some fine ass surroundings, and hot, hot heat. Budapest, you kill me slowly but so sweetly.
We are internally freaking out over just how palatial this place is, whilst being surrounded by Hungarians who do this on the daily. They’re sauntering about, all unfazed and ready to chill the fuck out on this hot summer’s day. Then there’s Winda and I ruining everything.
“I think there’s a cut on my foot,” Winda says for the 158th time. Symptoms of her particular form of OCD is being very much concerned with her feet. It’s special.
We’re sitting in the outdoor heated pool. It is super serene in here–cute old people are outlining the entirety of the pool, draped beside us in a languid daze, and bearing their tanned leathery skin to the heavens. There’s even the simulated sound of cascading water coming from...somewhere probably equally majestic as this entire establishment.
“Let me see,” Being the good friend that I am, I fully accept Winda for who she is. And I need her to stop talking about feet before I start hating her. So you can imagine my displeasure at what she does next.
She raises her foot in the air towards me. “You may kiss my feet,” she says jokingly and laughs.
Lo and behold, a circa 1997 (6-year-old Kaylynn and Winda) splashing war wages out between us because rude. We are in no survivors mode and are splashing the shit out of each other–as well as the previously unperturbed bath patrons encircling us–in the crazed way you would only behave in a girls versus boys water crusade. We really should be arrested for disturbing the peace.
Our pool fight eventually dissolves (after lots of girlish screams and Hungarian frowns), and we have to rush to make our communist walking tour. We contemplate staying and skipping the tour altogether, but James. We fucking have to go meet with James.
Because A Communist Tour Sounds Fun
We find James. We embark on the communist walking tour, and subsequently leave five minutes into it because the contemptuous vibes are cramping our style. We do a shit ton of walking despite not actually being on a walking tour. We drink out of public fountains because you can do that in Budapest. We visit the parliament buildings. We have Hungarian food (potato-ey as well). Winda nearly falls off an ocean edge and into a pit of rocks. We take a lot of pictures and indulge in Tumblr-approved novelties.
James conveniently reminds that our names are unconventional.
“So do all your friends have funky names too?” James asks.
Winda and I exchange glances.
“What do you mean funky?”
“Yeah funky like how?”
Clap your hands because James has reached the peak of his quest for self-actualization–he has fulfilled his identity as an incarnation of snark, the Intolerable Troll. With an onslaught on snide commentary during the whole damn day, remarks laden with condescension, and repeated belittlement of our enthusiasm…
We’re just so tired of his shit. God damn it, James. Winda and I exchange a telepathic agreement that we will no longer bless James with our simply delightful presence. We’re tired of your shit, James/will see you at home later.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the annoying.
If you couldn’t tell already, Winda is the ringleader of all things organizational. I occasionally call her Monica–as in Monica from Friends–to shine light on her particular OCD-ness and to purposely grind her gears (she’s not too fond of Monica–the word hate is often used when I bring her up), but for real–God bless Winda and her incessant need for order.
She is the reason we have yet to be kidnapped and then human trafficked as a limited time Asian commodity. She is the reason why this trip exists. She is the reason why I get up in the morning–because, quite literally, she is the one near-violently shaking my shoulders and going, “Kaylynn! We have stuff to do today! Get up.”
As a personal challenge to myself (and possibly a means of amusement for Winda), I am given the reins upon our arrival in Budapest. It is my sole responsibility to find shelter in this foreign country. Our European adventuring vitality is in my hands.
“Go, Kaylynn.” Winda nods to what’s ahead of us. It’s almost 9PM in Budapest, the sun is beginning to set, and we’ve arrived in what looks like a neighbourhood where panhandling is its main source of income.
I pause and look at her with the uncertainty of a child. We have just taken a bus from Prague to Hungary, and it was sooooo relaxing: cappuccinos were flowing and righteously handed to us; we were all happily nestled in plushy leather seats and basking in non-stop air con.
Now I’m holding a fucking map. I hate maps. Don’t give me a map. I’m not in Vancouver anymore–there are no mountains indicating where north is. I’m so confused. And sad. So very sad.
Winda crosses her arms and gets increasingly tight-lipped as we venture back and forth around the subway station. We walk one direction. We stop. We go the other direction. We stop. The walking aimlessly continues.
We are padding along the dirty sidewalk with our massive backpacks and a look of perpetual bewilderment plastered on my face. I know the Monica Gellar that resonates deep inside her wants to point us in the right direction/wants to yell at me for being a navigational aberration.
I stall a little. I’m hoping to awaken the OCD beast within her.
“Ummmmm,” I bite my lip and pretend to read the street signs. It’s all in Hungarian. We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore. We venture towards what looks like a very dirty, spray-painted red, and audibly abandoned nightclub.
I get really sad for about ten seconds and wonder if I accidentally booked us a nonexistent/located in a shithole Airbnb. I had one job.
Winda’s now irritated and muttering under her breath–because I’m clearly leading us towards a Hungarian drug lord or a room full of money launderers.
I smile at her innocently, “Maybe it’s this way?” I offer despairingly, banking on any ounce of sympathy.
She doesn’t answer.
“Okay! I DON’T KNOW ANYMORE! Winda, help me!!!”
She snatches the map out of my hands and subsequently gets our shit in order. We arrive at our destination (it was five minutes away, in my defense) and meet our lovely Hungarian host. We also meet the most annoying person on the planet. And he lives with us.