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Europe Journal

Fourteen!

Another country to add to my list of visited countries 😀 Northern Ireland as in part of U.K., I still don’t know if Northern Ireland is considered as a country or part of one (U.K.).

My trip started in Cork, obviously, and my first stop was Dublin where I met a friend of mine that’s living and working there and some friends of him. First night, Friday night, party night! Again, obviously! I am getting old, but not dead 😀 The night can be simply resumed as a blast! Expensive like hell, but this is Ireland after all…

Someone said that the world is smaller than you think, and it is! What’s the odds of going to Dublin, going to a disco in Dublin and finding some friends from Galway at that exact disco??? Or the disco is the only one in Dublin (I really hope not), or this was a huge coincidence!

Next day, Saturday internationally known as the hangover day (some might get drunk the whole weekend and use the Sunday as hangover day, that wasn’t the case with me…, this time…), we had to wake up at 9am, and after a thousand snoozes I managed to move my ass out of the bed! Breakfast, rent-a-car and get into the road!

We went directly to Belfast without stopping there, while on the road we made our plans, or draft-plans, and we decided to visit the Giant’s Causeway and the Rope Bridge and before passing in Belfast we thought about doing the Coastal Route…, and we got lost trying to cross Belfast…, seriously, the traffic signage is awful! Well, just with that we lost around an hour…, so change of plans again! Directly to the Rope Bridge before it closes!

Guess what…, I was the co-pilot…, and we arrived successfully at the Giant’s Causeway…, oh wait…, the first stop was supposed to be the Rope Bridge :X

Regarding the Giant’s Causeway, it was one of the most fantastic things I have ever seen made by Nature! Something unbelievable! And since I am a lucky bastard, of course the weather was perfect!

We spent sometime there and then we headed to the Rope Bridge, it was on the way anyway, so my mistake wasn’t that big…, and about this…, the Rope Bridge is really great, the landscape is breath-taking and blablabla…, but unfortunately the price is quite high for “just a bridge”. We paid, and I don’t regret at all! I would go there again, and I would pay for it again! But still, quite expensive…

Then the Coastal Route until Belfast, where we spent the night on a hostel which the receptionist is Portuguese! Seriously, again?? What’s the odds of that??? Again, we got lost in Belfast…, that city suffers with a huge lack of information… As good “tugas”, we asked for directions to a guy that was on the industrial area (yeah, we got that lost) and the guy was precise as a compass! Every single detail leaded us to the hostel without a mistake! I think I never got so precise information until now and I am not kidding at all! The hostel, quite nice! 5 beds room to 4 guys! Private and cheap! 😀

Sunday, tight schedule because the last bus from Dublin to Cork is at 6pm…, but we had time for some sightseeing in Belfast and for the worth-to-do black taxi trip (do some googling, there is no direct link to a “good” link with that information) where we saw and heard by a 60-70 years old taxi driver about “The Troubles“, quite disturbing to hear such stories how religion can be such a bitch! I truly recommend everyone to try this tour, better if the local is old enough to tell you about “the troubles” and make you feel that he was part of it, though he never said it directly nor we asked (of course).

Then the returning to Dublin, and mine to Cork…, a long long trip!

One question that you might ask is how hard is driving in the “wrong side of the street”…, well, I still don’t know (yet) in first hand, but what I can say is that I laugh a lot! The obvious complications are the gears and changing directions, roundabouts don’t seem that hard, it’s just following the stream and you’ll get there…, but the best part, the one I would never think about, is the safety belt! I would never guess that the driver would try to pull the safety belt from his left side…, while the belt is on the right one 😛 He said that’s just a reaction, you have the gear in front of you, so the belt must be on your left! 😀

Well, next stop might be my 15th country 🙂 Still counting 🙂

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Europe Journal

Carrauntoohil

Oh gosh, I don’t know how I have strengths to write this today…, but I have to! Today makes exactly one month since I arrived in Cork, so what’s the best way to celebrate it? Check bellow!

My closest friends, and now some colleges of mine, are aware of one of my precious gifts…, I have the ability to make myself invited to almost everything 😀 Not always I am well succeeded…, but I still keep trying 😀 Well, today was more or less the same, I heard some colleges of mine planning a hiking trip and I asked if I could join them, immediately they said yes and that was the start for the amazing day I just had 😀

I knew nothing about the hiking, I asked nothing about it! I just knew I should buy some hiking boots…, and I did it! If it was one month ago, I would stay at home…, thankfully now I can spoil a little bit myself and I did it, I bought one of those boots that just saved my day today! Several times!

I woke up at 7am, everything already packet and some food on the fridge just waiting to be picked and packed, I prepared some scrambled eggs and ate it along with a tomato…, usually I just drink milk at breakfast but I thought I should eat something more…, heavy? And I started my trip the other 11 fellows! About one hour until the bottom of the “hill”, yes, I thought it was hill walking…, and I knew I was nearby Killarney, which I have never heard before so it was the same for me…, I was nearby “X”.

We started the climbing…, holy mother of gosh! The first stage was so steep!! But in a kind of concrete, which wasn’t that bad…, or not…, the way back we wish we had no concrete at all! But well, let’s proceed! The view is just amazing, I was all the time magnified with the view, in respect of irish culture and sightseeing, I am totally a virgin so maybe that’s why I was, so repeatedly, saying “wow”! I became kind of boring after a while, but I don’t care! It was really WOW!

After the first stage, we arrived nearby a lake, and then the mud bath! We had to pass through a bog, that was the first time I thanked for every single cent I paid for my boots…, I totally bury my leg until the knee and it didn’t get wet! The same I can’t say about my pants…, I was wearing jeans (what a smart move for a hiking day) that after that moment became the “shitty” jeans…, not that wet though, but kinda of full of mud…

The the first hill, it was totally ok, no problem at all just a little bit steep but nothing like the warm up stage. From the top of that hill I saw what I thought it was our goal…, and I said “I can’t do that!! It is fucking high!!!” I am so naïve…, that was just the first of three peaks!! Also the hardest, but well…, it was REALLY HARD!!!

The first peak I think it took almost a quarter of our time to get there, we arrived there around 1pm if I can recall exactly and then we had lunch there. Carrying around 5l of water didn’t help as well…, it was a really hard first peak! A lot of sheep and photos in between and climbing climbing climbing…, funny thing is that we took the hardest path and we only realized that when we were coming back and we saw the proper trail…, from the top we had a better view from what we should expect by then 😛

The second peak…, well, first we had to go down from the first peak, but through the other side…, we didn’t climb peaks just for fun, that was really the trail to get to the top of the third peak. 🙂 Something I forgot to mention, we had 3 dogs with us, two big ladies and a tiny man 😛 They were part of our fun, and they are really energetic! Oh gosh…, sometimes I wished I were a dog…

As I was trying to tell, the second peak, not that hard as the first one, but quite “sharp”. Both sides of the hill really steep and we had to ensure we did it safely, I think that is what makes that peak harder, not the path itself but the safety of it.

Then the third and last peak…, it was the easiest that one, quite bigger and only our tiredness made it harder because the trail isn’t hard at all. On the top, I finally found out where I was…, Carrauntoohil, nothing just the highest peak in Ireland! What a great way to celebrate my first month in Ireland! And then…, talking about Ireland…, rainy weather…, that wasn’t pleasant at all and made the way back more challenging!  The rain wasn’t harsh, but the foggy yes…, that kinda of freaked me out, the first (not the last) peak was really challenging and now slippery…, yes, I was really afraid of what I could expect now.

The way back was really easier than I thought, of course we already knew the path, even foggy we could see the next 10m so it was enough not to get lost nor last-minute surprises, as I said before, the way down of the first peak was easier because we did it through the proper trail, still hard for our tired bodies, but easier. The mud bath was changed, from the top we saw another path around the mud which we tried. Kinda of watery, but better than mud and no surprises at all. We did it around the lake, which was great because the dogs could swim and getting clean 😀 After that, the last break where we ate the last food 😀 The only part left was the warm up steep trail of concrete…, it really didn’t help because it’s hard to break while going down and the ground was really harsh which also didn’t help to the more than tired legs…

I was so happy when I felt straight land again! Happy, wasted and with an almost smile on my face 😀 Not a big smile because nor my facial muscles I could move after that long day…, 7 hours and a half hiking! Oh, I love my new and already dirty boots 😀

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Europe Journal

Blarney Castle and Gardens

Another Sunday, another sunny surprise! What an amazing day, I wasn’t imagining to have such a great day and enjoying it so much!

Again, the problem was lack of preparation…, I definitely should start preparing my trips in advance, and when I say in advance I mean preparing my trips.

I could compare Blarney Castle to the Portuguese Quinta da Regaleira, a playground for grownups 😀 But Blarney’s gardens are bigger, much bigger! While Quinta da Regaleira you can enjoy it properly during an afternoon…, for Blarney Castle and Gardens you’d need a full whole day…, and because I am lazy and I left home after lunch, I had to run a bit…

Blarney Castle, as the name says, is a castle 😛 Despite the fact that’s the main attraction, the gardens, the forest, the lake and the mansion makes the 10€ ticket to worth every single cent! There you can kiss the iconographic stone, which I did…, that allegedly it gives you “great eloquence or skill at flattery“…, let’s see if it really works 🙂

Walking throughout the forest and by the lake is quite a half a day…, I didn’t have time for everything since I have “L-A-Z-Y” marked on my DNA, but for the part I saw it’s worth the trouble. It is a quite relaxing walk, around 3-4 hours for the forest trails and small wood gardens, the fauna and flora is quite interesting!

Then you have the “other side” of the gardens, the Rock Close, a “not so fairy tale” corner of the gardens where you can see, allegedly, witches and druids settlements. It is funny, though, it seems that is quite old but not impressive as the rest of the castle. As I said before, it is like a playground for grownups and please, don’t miss that part!

The the “private” area…, unfortunately that’s private and I believe it might be amazing as well! The mansion, or Blarney House, where people still live in…, therefore it isn’t public 🙁 yet…

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Europe Journal

Cobh – The Cove of Cork

My first stop, quite short though, but it was a nice unexpected sunny day! Who would’ve guess? Not me, definitely!

Talking about the Cobh I visited, not the Cobh I should have read before going there…, it is a very cosy town with very characteristic houses. I can’t upload my photos, for now, due the limitations of the internet providers…, but I think you can trust on me 🙂 It remembered me some fishing villages and towns in Portugal, the area nearby the beach. Houses quite alike to each others, all together just with a different color what makes a rainbow of little houses, a nice place to walk on a sunny day 🙂

As almost everyplace in Ireland, churches…, the main “church”, the Cobh Cathedral is something worth to see, on my opinion it looks better from outside. Inside isn’t nothing that special, at least for me that I am used to the great ornamented churches and cathedrals in central Europe, but still, if you pass by you should get inside anyway!

Another curiosity about Cobh, and this was one of the nice surprises for me (because I didn’t read before going there…), is that Cobh is the homeland of the first emigrant to the USA to pass through the Ellis Island facility, Annie Moore. I knew that a lot of irish people traveled to the USA looking for a better life, but I wouldn’t guess that I’d visit the homeland of the first one passing through Ellis Island. It was nice to know, and I believe they are really proud of that!

And at least, another curiosity about Cobh and the Cork Harbor, Titanic was there! The bay is really huge and they have a landmark saying that that was the port where the passengers used to get to the Titanic, which of course couldn’t dock close to the town. They also have a sign telling that from there you can see the place where Titanic docked, so you only need to let your imagination flow and you might be able to “see” Titanic 🙂

Next stop and next blog post: Blarney Castle!

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Reviews

2010 review and 2011 goals

In the beginning of this year I wrote a summary of what happened to me in 2009, a great year indeed preceded by a better year, 2008! Well, unfortunately I can’t say the same regarding this year and the name of this blog might give you that same idea.

I started this year with a goal, visiting castles in Portugal and writing a guide how to reach them using only public transportation…, well, I didn’t do it, just visited (again) Óbidos and nothing else, neither the Castelo de São Jorge which is 3 or 4 kms away from my current house…

Last year, when I returned to Portugal, I had the goal of going abroad again this time for a longer period…, that was the main reason why I accepted this job, I naively thought that being on a multinational company I would get a better chance, maybe in a couple of years I’ll harvest the result of this bet, but so far I see no vantage of this. We are now in December, and I am still in Portugal however not unhappy as you might expect, I really had the chance to prove myself that I am better than I thought, I just need to push a little bit harder and I will get it! I got the opportunity, I blowed it but most important, I also learned with it! I’ll keep this goal, to go abroad, but now with a slight difference I won’t make such a big deal of it.

I have now a nephew! That’s really a big thing for me, considering that there is nothing to be proud of my achievements this year, this is really something that makes me happy and really overcome everything else! Needless to say, that I really mean what I just wrote.

Another thing that I want to change is my blog’s name, but for that I need that something changes in my life, something worthy. The same applies to my life goals, I am almost 28 and I really had amazing experiences that makes me feel that I am having a great life! I shouldn’t complain about it, but I do. I feel that something is missing and I already know what that is, I need to do something meaningful with my life such as volunteering and helping those that really need it! This might sound pretentious or just another “Miss World” expression, but it isn’t. As I said, I am almost 28 and eventually I will die, sooner or later (duh), why spending my life helping others getting richer when I can spend my life helping others having a better life? My goal for this year is getting a way of self-sustain and invest sometime to learn something that I can earn money working at home and anywhere, this doesn’t mean that I will quite my job but that I want to get a Plan B.

In resume, 2010 was a failure as a personal perspective, but another amazing year regarding familiar aspects! The balance is positive!

2011 WILL BE better, definitely! Nothing concrete to do, and I don’t need to. I will keep trying to go abroad, maybe I’ll push a little bit harder, but as I said, I will just try! It is not a goal, it is a bonus in case I can get it! I will find a way to self-sustain and I will invest sometime getting good at it!

I am not lowering my goals to avoid disappointments, I just want to live one day at a time and keep avoiding to get resigned with my life!

Oh, and I almost forgot! I will keep writing in English, I have friends everywhere and not all of them know Portuguese (thanks google for the translator! but it isn’t the same thing), and I really need to improve my English…, is not that bad as used to be, but I really need to improve it! All the grammar-nazis are welcome to correct me, but privately, please 🙂

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Europe Journal

A few days in Zurich

Zürich (DE), Zurich (EN) or Zurique (PT). It was nice to be away, again, and hearing german in the streets, it was a really nice sensation of nostalgia and great moments.

That was my first time in Switzerland, not counting those two hours of transfer when I went to Athens, and it was great! Of course the reason that made me go to Switzerland was responsible for 80% of the experience, visiting a friend (João Moreno)!

To describe the trip in detail, I should start from Lisbon, it is still part of the trip itself 🙂 While at the airport, just before passing through the security and the X-Ray detector, I heard a familiar foreign language…, not German as you would expect, but GREEK! They are everywhere, it’s amazing! It was great to understand some words, I really should put more effort into studying more Greek before I forget the very few I still remember…

Then the flight itself, nothing new…, the same old stuff and the same gourmet menus (not because they are good, but because of its tiny quantity). After arriving…, COLD! I was breathing Central Europe and I really like it! 😀 I went to the main station (Zürich Hauptbahnhof) and then I started my usually touristic route…, getting lost 😀 One of the main avenues, the Bahnhofstraße, is like the paradise for girls and hell for their boyfriends…, according to wikipedia, it is one of the world’s most expensive and exclusive shopping avenues! And yes, I recon that! Amazing for a walk when you don’t have money neither to buy a chocolate…, NOT! You can smell the luxuriously of that avenue, I got inside of one of those shops and immediately the shop employee looked at me with that arrogant look like if he was “X-Raying” me and detecting that I was there just to watch…, god, I felt like being accused of murder! It’s forbidden!!! That’s not my place, get out! Well.., he didn’t say anything and I didn’t get out 😀 Just enjoyed the pleasure of being inside a store where I couldn’t afford anything…

Zurich
Zurich

Well, almost 6pm, time to meet João! I went to the nearest Startbucks, ordered a coffee and relaxed a little bit until his arrival! It is great to visit a friend wherever he is 🙂

Next day…, I was on holidays, therefore I just let myself sleep until a bit late. The city center is not that big, and I had plenty of time to visit the most touristic places and also time to get lost again! That morning I tried to find out the way to João’s office, I went inside a music megastore and I spent a lot of time inside (duh), then I went for lunch with João and his co-workers! Amazing experience that I won’t describe here 🙂

After lunch I went to the Zürichsee, great walk though the riverside to the Chinese Garden (which was closed :(), then it started to rain and I went back to the city center. It’s funny that I wrote on my notebook “Nothing of rain, so far” and a few minutes later started to rain… The whole riverside was painted in Autumn colors, all brown on the green grass, not my favorite season but certainly the golden one 🙂

Returning to the city center, and close to 4pm, I went (again) to Startbucks…, one our later I decided to walk around a little bit more until it was time to meet with João. Our dinner was Bratwurst mit senf! According to João, the best in Switzerland, and it was really good! Not because of the sausage, but because of the mustard! It was so good and so spicy, it was hard to eat it without crying! I cried, but I ate that and I could repeat it again and again! Was really the best Bratwurst I have ever had! After that, we went home, I played on his flat mate’s piano. A chill out evening for a change, since I was on vacations nothing better than relaxing after a huge day walking around 🙂

Third day, once again…, I slept almost until lunch time…, don’t blame me 😛 Since the two previous days I just walked around, this time I went straight to the Swiss National Museum, some cultural activity for a change 🙂 While inside the museum, I received an SMS from an American guy, a couchsurfer in town, well…, why not enjoying the city with another traveler? 🙂 Before meeting with him I went searching for a cheap restaurant and, once again, I ended up eating sausage! While was eating, outside the café/bar, I saw a lot of music groups all dressed up with carnival costumes…, that was odd and interesting at the same time. Despite the lack of sound quality (some of them were totally out of tune…), it was great to see street performances even better when I thought I would get bored. After 2 days walking around, I didn’t know what else I could see in Zürich.

Plastic Cow
Plastic Cow

When I met Doug, the american couchsurfer, we went to those streets where the marching band guys were playing and of course we had to ask what was happening over there…, apparently it is something related with the Carnival, they have that day in November and then they come back in February…, I didn’t understand properly but I am glad they did it because that improved a lot my day!

If my day wasn’t strange enough, we went to the highway entrance, Doug is a hitch hiker and he is heading to Thailand…, what an adventure! He had to find out the best place to get a ride, then we returned to the city center to walk around a little bit more and waiting to see the Christmas lights that didn’t turn on that week 🙁 What a shame 🙁

Fourth day, and even more relaxed day! Quite rainy though, but we had some fun 🙂 João took the day off (thanks Johnny :D) and we walked a little bit through the city, we went to ETH to see it from inside (guided tour with João :P) and rain, rain, rain…

After that, we decided to go home, cod-fish for dinner to prepare (I brought it from Portugal :D) and while we waited we saw a movie at home. As I said, quite relaxed holidays 🙂 I was needing something like that 🙂 At night, cod-fish dinner with spinach and potato (João, I beg you for that recipe!!!) 😀 Finally I met with Rita, the other Portuguese girl in Zürich 🙂 We ended that night playing games at João’s place, some of them quite silly 😛

At least but not last, the fifth day in Zürich! We started with a brunch, a full brunch! And after that, we played Mahjong with those bamboo tiles 😀 Not the computer game version, but the real Mahjong game with simplified rules 😀 It is almost like poker, but with a lot of tiles and quite complex (I think I’ll buy a Mahjong set!). After that, we went out again to ETH, but with good weather! From there we could see the whole city with a great view! There we met with a friend of João, Benny, and we went to ICE SKATING!!! I felt like if I was a kid again! It was LEGEN – wait for it, wait for it – DARY! We also drunk Glühwein 😀 Which is great, because after that we skated a little bit more 😀 Well, maybe the best night ever 😀 And more still to come 😀

Mahjong
Mahjong

That night was also the Fondue night, my first fondue meal ever! 😀 I just love cheese, so I was expecting something delicious, and it was! At first the taste was quite strange for me, maybe because of the alcohol, but after a few pieces of bread with cheese I just ate like an animal 😀 Looking forward to do it again, maybe next time I’ll be the host 😀 Once again, after the meal was time for more games! Always learning new games, which is great! I hope I still remember how to play it…

And finally, now for last, my last hours in Zürich and my returning to Portugal… 🙁 And yes, I am depressing now…, nothing much to write about it, the only thing worth to tell is that, after several days in Switzerland, I was forced to speak in German! At the train station, the guy only speaks French and German! Asking for an one-way train ticket to the airport in German is easy, but well…, I am lazy 😛 It was fun, though. 🙂

Now, back to Portugal…, looking forward for my next trip and hopefully new city and country 🙂

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Europe Journal

Big Ass!

Why such an awful blog title? Well, obviously there is a really good reason for that, actually, a few good stories to share, so let’s start by the Genesis. One friend of mine (Natalie) told me that Greek people have an expression to describe someone that has too much luck, as we (Portuguese people) say “You borned with your ass pointed to the moon” (or something alike, it’s hard to translate expressions), Greek people take things easier, they just say “You have a Big Ass“, what for some people could be a compliment…, but whatever…

I could share with you a few situations that would prove how big my ass is, but this story, definitely, the best one!

I, Gil Sousa, hereby declare that I have the biggest ass in the whole world! Quote this, please!

Friday night I went to a party with some friends, a great party on a terrace (yeah, yeah, it’s already hot in Greece :P), and…, I got drunk…, no comments about this, please… The problem here, is, that I had bought tickets to Syros for the next DAWN (7:35 is still dawn for me)…

I got at home at 3:00, I looked at the time when I was changing my alarm settings to 6am. Usually, 30 minutes is enough to get to the boats, but on weekends the metro line that goes to Piraeus has some interruptions in some parts of the path for maintenance, so I thought that 1:30 before should be safer…, if I didn’t get drunk on that night…

Me in Galissas
Me in Galissas

At 6am I woke up with the alarm (is so sad that I remember so many details…), and I changed the alarm to 6:15…, but…, I don’t remember to wake up with the new alarm…

At 7:05 I woke up, again…, I looked at my phone and I saw the time! I only had 30 minutes to get to the boats!!! I was SO SCREWED!!! I don’t know how fast I go dressed and I got to the street! Thankfully I had already everything packed (sometimes it’s nice to be psychotic :P)!

Usually, I never see taxis passing in my street, but that morning I saw 2, the first one was booked, the second one was my (crazy) driver! And in that precise moment, I realized that I need some diet…, my ass is growing day after day…, I told the guy that I only had 20 minutes to get to Piraeus, apparently, he thought he had enough time to stop and try to get an extra passenger into the taxi. I don’t know…, but I barely manage myself not to kill him in that precise moment! Him and Nikos, who cursed me about the weekend 😛 Jealousy is such a bad thing 😛

At 7:35, I was inside the ferry 😛 After this…, I think I already spent all my lucky credits at once! For whom that doesn’t know Athens, this doesn’t sound “amazing”, but believe me, it was! Nobody has so much luck! I am agnostic, but after this it isn’t hard to believe in something powerful “up there”…

Now…, my trip 😀 The “I want to make you jealous” part 😀 First things first, what I really needed there? A BIKE!!! I rent one amazing bike which has the speed control panel broken 😀 The island isn’t big, but big enough to take a couple of baths at different beaches 😀 I have photos 😀 I don’t want to describe everything, it’s boring for you to read how amazing was my weekend was, so let’s make it shorter 😛

I bought a camping tent for the islands, it’s cheaper and I love to camp! But it was even cheaper than I was counting on (and with this, my ass grew a little bit more…). When I’ve got to the camping park, the reception was closed…, I just thought I had to do free camping, and I did…, inside the camping park! 😀 And with authorization, one old man who was there and told me that I could camp for free inside of the park 😀 I could tell you about the detail that I tried to mount my tent on a bees’ nest, but it is too boring to do this without Ouso 😛 That story is really juicy with Ouso’s inspiration 😛 I tell you later 🙂

Old broken pier
Old broken pier

Despite what I initially though, I wasn’t alone in that park. We were 2, but I was the only one with a camping tent, the woman was sleeping inside of a camping-“dorm” or something alike. Strange “room” 😡 We spoke a lot after dinner, then I had to sleep…, there were no lights on the park…

The next day, yesterday, I woke up at 7:30, I packed all my things and I went to another beach 😀 (Am I close of getting you upset with this? :D) Then…, Ermoupoli, the Cyclades‘ capital! It isn’t that beautiful when you see it from the boat…, but it get’s really amazing when you walk through city! Ahh, and I spent a couple of hours on another beach until I went back to the port 😀

Ok, this is the short version of my weekend 😛 Pretty amusing, no? 😀

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