Press Gang

Press interview in Soderkoping

press interview

Meeting the press, buying books and not seeing any elk. Day two of our Swedish invasion went well.

We donned our finery, packed our Red Bull and at 10:30, went to the Bokhandel as Anders had arranged for us to meet with the press. We’re not used to this kind of attention! It’s like being famous. Press interviews we’ve done have either been in email or over the phone. We prefer email. It means we can think about what we want to say and not disgrace ourselves. Speaking never goes well. Surprisingly, we weren’t nervous. At home, we would’ve been shaking and wanting to cancel it. In Sweden, we’re relaxed and not at all anxious. Sweden is good for us! Three journalists and a photographer showed up.

press interview in Soderkoping

Being photographed by the press

They were all lovely and spoke excellent English, which means we didn’t have to embarrass ourselves with our attempts at Swedish. Not sure our Duolingo phrases of ‘the bear likes the vegetarian’ and ‘my parents don’t like that you eat ants’ would have been much use. Anders said they often struggle to get the press, or only one shows up, so the fact that three came was very impressive. They were fascinated with Wales and the different mythologies. Two of the journalists, Patrick from Folkbladet and Elizabeth from the Norrkoping Tidning, then wanted to take us outside and do a mini photoshoot. That was fun. Again, it was like being celebrities. We could get used to this lifestyle! They were all really lovely. And the photos turned out decent. It’s rare we like photos of us.

press interview in SoderkopingWe succumbed to temptation and bought books. Being in a bookshop, surrounded by beautiful books, there’s only so much self control we can muster. There were some fantasy books in English, written by Swedish authors, so we bought those. The only Swedish author we’ve read is Stieg Larsson, so it will be nice to read more Swedish authors. We were tempted by some of the others, but our Swedish isn’t quite up to standard. Maybe in a year or two we can come back and buy them. We did manage to read some Swedish children’s books, so impressed ourselves with that. We’re easily impressed. We bought our niece a book by Sweden’s famous children’s author, Astrid Lindgren.

one of Lars’s models

Our next stop was the museum. It was small but interesting. The volunteer, Lars, had made a model of Söderköping, complete with tiny lawnmowers, bikes, and a man peeing in the alley. It’s the little things that make it. Lars was lovely and insisted on giving us a postcard and a book for free as memories, so we donated to the museum instead. He seemed surprised that we wanted to take a photo of him with his models. And we discovered that Cat is the same height as a Penny Farthing bicycle.

We visited another church and saw the boat Pelle is making. It’s incredible. He’s very talented. We then stopped at an ice cream shop, where they make their own ice cream and sorbet. They had two vegan sorbets – dark chocolate and blood orange. They were delicious. We managed to succeed at one mission – buying Dave honey with lemon. You can only get it in Sweden, so when he found out we were going, he requested some. That mission was completed successfully. Mission: Elk is not going so well. Maybe they’re not so keen on towns and shops. We’d brought a lot of Krona with us as we heard that Sweden was expensive. So far, all we had really bought was ice cream and books. This is not a bad way to live.

Lars with his model

In the evening, we watched three episodes of the Swedish version of the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson. However, there were no English subtitles, so we had the Swedish ones on. We can read Swedish better than we can understand speech. We were thrilled when we were able to understand full sentences. Mostly, we’d pick out a couple of words and work out what it said. We finished the evening by listening to some Swedish music.

Day: 2. Number of elks we’ve seen: 0.

Made In Sweden

goths on a plane

Getting up stupidly early, having a mini meltdown in the check-in line and getting lost in a straight line. It could only be one thing: it’s travel time!

Holidays are stressful. We spend so long being excited about them then the day before comes and we don’t want to go. Packing is a nightmare and the cause of many tantrums. Leaving all our packing til the day before probably wasn’t the best idea but we were busy before. When we say busy, we mean we were doing pole. We only like Morrisons or Tesco own brand of soya milk, so that has to come with us. We also bring lots of food in case we can’t find anything we like.  Red Bull is never left behind. You don’t go on adventures and leave your soldiers at base camp.

Swedish Glace in Sweden!

We were so overwhelmed by the thought of packing, that we spent most of the day learning Swedish on Duolingo because we couldn’t control the panicky mess that were our brains. We eventually started packing, debated for ages about what to wear, fetched our books and started packing. Convinced they’d lose our suitcases, we put two copies of each book in our hand luggage. A copy of Soul Asylum and Bleeding Empire were slotted into our shoulder bags, because they’re the biggest novels and would weigh down the suitcases. The one hand luggage was just under 10kg. Perfect. The other was 7.5 kg. We also filled some rucksacks, as we’d paid for priority boarding so we could have decent sized cabin bags.

SoderkopingBut it’s always the suitcases that cause the problems. Weigh, moan about the weight, take things out, strop, rearrange things, add things, vow we’re never going on holiday again, weigh and after many hours we’re ready. We’d gone to bed at 10:30. Y’know, being sensible. We realised we didn’t have a luggage tag for the case we’d borrowed from our sister, so cue a panicky moment of creating one, laminating it and tying it on with ribbon because we couldn’t find our cable ties. We got up at the ungodly hour of 1:30 a.m. then drove the three hours to Stansted. We’ve never flown on our own before and we’ve never gone to Stansted. This was huge for us. We parked and got the bus to the airport. One man complained that people had their cases where people should stand. Sir, the bus is so crowded we can count the fibres on the passengers’ clothes. Don’t like it? Don’t get on.

Selma

We got to the airport, and luckily our check in desk was right by the doors. We tried logging on to our Ryan Air account to find our boarding passes. Lynx asked a guy where we could print them out. He said we didn’t need to, if we had them on our phones. Cat finally managed to log into our account and after much yelling at the speed of the Wifi, she found our boarding passes. It said they weren’t mobile friendly. We had to get the app. While Cat downloaded the passes and took screenshots of them, Lynx downloaded the ap and we joined the queue.

Luciferia

The downloaded speed was agonisingly slow. 2% and we’d already moved in the queue. 3%. We moved again. We reached the corner. 5%. Now we knew how Jack Bauer felt. 13%. Come on, app! We were getting hot with stress. 23%. We were near the desks. The queues were moving too fast. The download was moving too slow. 32%. The women in front of us checked in. Never have we wanted to be at the back of the queue so much. 33%. Our turn. Cat handed over her phone and we secretly prayed to Hermes that the boarding passes would scan. We don’t print them out at home anymore because they never scan properly. The boarding passes scanned. Lynx cancelled the download. Cat told the woman Lynx’s boarding pass was on the same phone. The woman swiped left, surprised to see a screenshot of Duolingo with an insult in Swedish. “The problem is you are too ugly.” Cat had saved it to remember to show people. Now it looked like she had deliberately saved it to be able to insult someone in a foreign language. Swipe right, lady, swipe right.

Soderkoping

the lockkeeper’s cottage

The suitcases were under weight, preventing another embarrassing scene like the one for Paris that will haunt us forever more. We went to security and that’s where the fun begins. Two trays for our huge coats, hoodies and spiked boots. One tray for the laptop. One tray for the power pack kindles, phones, wallets. One for each of our four bags. The lady told Cat she didn’t need to remove her boots. The scanner bleeped. Cat had to remove her boots and be subjected to a patdown. The woman poked around the boobage. Cat “That’s my bra.” The woman grabbed the hand held scanner. It bleeped. Cat “My bra.” Seriously, love, we can’t even hold a bottle with our cleavage, we’d never be able to conceal weapons.

Soderkoping

the mangling house

The first thing we did when we cleared security, was buy Red Bull. Our stress levels lessening, we headed towards the gates. We found somewhere to sit and while Lynx started on this blog post, Cat went to the toilets to put makeup on. She suggested we go one at a time to save lugging our bags.

Rule one in horror: never split up.

SoderkopingAfter several minutes, Lynx was getting concerned. Cat had been gone a long time. The Silent Hill siren wailed. Cat: ‘I’m lost! I couldn’t find my way out of the toilets either, neither could another woman, so we buddied up and left together. I thought I was heading in the right direction but I definitely didn’t walk this way!’

Lynx: ‘Can you see Boots?’’

Cat: ‘It was a straight line! I don’t know how this happened!”

two cats getting along

Lynx: ‘LOL! Head for Boots then turn right. I’m outside a travel shop.’

Cat: ‘Ooh found 5p.’

Lynx: ‘nice.’

Cat: ‘I can’t see Boots. I’m in a circular area with loads of shops. I’m going back to the toilets and trying again.’

making friends in Sweden

Two minutes later, she returned, looking sheepish. It wasn’t the best of starts for her. Lynx went to put her makeup on. She walked into the toilets and encountered a queue of women. She walked past them and only found stalls. “Where are the sinks?” A woman then said “excuse me.” Lynx headed right towards other stalls. The woman: “excuse me!” Lynx “I’m looking for the sinks.” Excuse me? Did she just accuse Lynx of queue jumping? Does she not look British? Did she not hear her clearly say out loud to herself “where are the sinks?” How insulting.

Selma has accepted us

We found our way to the gate and boarded almost immediately. Normally, we just selected ‘random seating’ so rarely sit together, but they’d put us 17 rows apart, and as it’s our first time of flying without a chaperone, Lynx paid to sit by Cat. Then we spent almost the entire flight asleep. The Sertraline makes us twitch, so Cat twitched a lot while she slept and kept getting woken by the man beside her accidentally elbowing her. Maybe he was checking she was still alive.

Soderkoping

St Laurentii church and belltower

Christina and Pelle met us at Skavsta airport in Nyköping with two giant cans of Red Bull. We’re not saying that’s how we expect everyone to greet us, but this is a standard we could get used to. The airport is the biggest one in Sweden. And it’s tiny. But we impressed ourselves by understanding signs. The drive to Söderköping was lovely. We spent the whole time staring out the windows, trying to spot the elk that Duolingo convinced us are everywhere. We saw a sign warning us about elk, but not elks. Day 1 Mission: Elk – Fail.

SoderkopingWe dropped our bags off then went with Christina and Pelle to return the car to Pelle’s colleague. On the way back, we stopped at the supermarket. And found the greatest surprise – they sold our vegan ice cream! We have Swedish Glace, and have never found it in any other country we’ve visited. We hoped, that as it was Swedish, Sweden would sell it, and they do! They had vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. The UK stopped stocking the strawberry years ago. We are two very happy goths. A woman saw us, stopped and stared then uttered “tvillingar?” Twins. Us “Ja.” Check us out understanding and speaking Swedish! We made sure to learn that phrase, because it’s the most common question we get asked in the UK, so we figured it would be the same in Sweden.

SoderkopingWe stopped at Söderköpings Bokhandel, where we’re doing the signing on Saturday. It’s Sweden’s oldest bookshop. We met the owner, Anders, who is lovely. Our wallets were itching to be opened and we had to resist from buying a Game of Thrones book about the history of the Targaryens. Our Swedish isn’t that good. Yet. We managed to read some children’s books, so we were happy. We also stopped at the library to get a map and information brochures.

SoderkopingLater, we took a walk around Söderköping and took photos. It’s so beautiful. The buildings are so unusual and old. It’s really peaceful and quiet. There aren’t many cars. This is not a tourist destination. It’s unusual for us not to go somewhere touristy so this has made a lovely change. We walked along the Göta Canal and called in at the local pub. The landlord is American and seems really nice. We already love it here. We explored the town, taking lots of photos.

We’ve made friends with Christina’s cats, Selma and Luciferia. Luciferia is very shy but oh so fluffy. Selma only allows three people to touch her. That number has grown to five as we won her over with our average Swedish and nose boops. By the evening, Luciferia also decided she liked us and came for fusses.

Day: 1. Number of elks we’ve seen: 0

Soderkoping

finally meeting Christina after years of Facebook friendship.

Monumental

Castillo de ColomaresVisiting a stunning castle, eating more ice cream and nearly getting into a fight on the plane. Our final day in Spain was memorable. We’d got up early to make the most of our last day then waited for Neen to text saying she was awake. An hour later, she texted. She was hungover and would be spending the last day in bed, so us and Cinta drove to Castillo de Colomares in Benalmadena. It was stunning! It’s not signposted so not many people know about it. Castillo de ColomaresYou can only see it when you get to the top of the narrow, windy road to drive down. It’s not really a castle, but various monuments honouring Christopher Colombus – who sailed from Palos – including Aragon’s House, Queen Isabella’s Tower, La Santa Maria (his flagship), the Fountain of Hope and the Oriental Tower. It was built between 1987-1993 by Steve Martin (no, not that one,) with the help of two bricklayers and it only costs €2 to see it. We have found the new Casa Raven and seeing as it’s not a proper castle, it should fall easy to our attack. We made friends with the worker’s West Highland terrier and were tempted to smuggle her home.

Castillo de ColomaresWe returned to Cinta’s apartment then walked to Café Nomad. We were supposed to meet up with Fast Eddie from Motorhead but he got stung by a bee on his eye so cancelled. If a tragedy befalls him now, we will not be happy that our chance of meeting him was scuppered by a bee sting. Neen also cancelled on us. She was still in bed. We once again had smoothies and ice cream. It would have been a crime not to sample the delicious vegan ice cream one last time and console ourselves that our holiday was over. We weren’t ready to go home!

Castillo de ColomaresAt 5:30, we sadly said goodbye to Cinta and went to fetch Neen, who was feeling better. We drove to the car hire place then got on the shuttle bus of terror. We swear the driver was trying to kill us and all road users. Why do we always get the crazy drivers? Pedestrians and other road users cowered as the bus thundered past. We hardly ever use public transport – we certainly don’t want to die on it.

Castillo de ColomaresNone of us got bleeped in security. First time ever! We feel this momentous occasion should be marked somehow. While Neen and Lynx got food from Burger King, Cat went on an expedition to find Red Bull. Neen predicted Cat would return enraged and with a tale to tell. She was right. After scouring almost the entire airport, Cat finally found some Red Bull. The queue was long. She was by an empty till. Someone came to open it, so the man in front of her (who was past the till), started nudging her back and put his can down on the counter, still proceeding to push his way in. Then his order took forever. We’re yet to launch an assault with a Red Bull can and in the airport, it would be a bad idea, but surely rudeness is an excellent motive and we’re confident not a jury in the land would convict us. Cat gritted her teeth, glared at him and pictured all the horrific ways he could meet a grisly end with his sandwich. Trust us, sir, don’t piss off writers unless you want to achieve fame by being ‘the guy who met a horrific end with a sandwich.’*Flicks through our Big Book of Pain*. Ooh page 220, that’s a good one.

Castillo de ColomaresA woman with a clipboard was giving people a chance to win a holiday. She looked at the three of us then went “no, none of you are over thirty.” Thanks, lady, you’ve made three friends today. Neen told her we were. After establishing that Neen was married and we were single, she took Neen’s details for the holiday draw. Guessing single people don’t deserve to have free holidays. Then the plane was delayed. We were supposed to fly at 9:45 p.m. At 9:50, half the plane were still boarding! Only the front door was open so they boarded the rear passengers first, which was Neen. People were standing queuing for an hour. We sat and read our Kindles. We know the Brits have a reputation for queuing but they were taking the stereotype too far. Sit, people, the plane won’t leave without you.

Castillo de ColomaresThen it went downhill. There were these two girls in their late twenties who omg, we were ready to bitch slap. We admit our tempers are shorter than we are. We admit people in general wind us up. And we admit we are one annoying person away from our meltdowns making the news. This is why we work alone and are selective in whose company we keep. We admit we can take a dislike to someone and wish for them to be covered in fire ants for absolutely no reason other than they irritate us. (Seriously, ask our mum about us using our Care Bear stares on random children in the street when we were kids.) Castillo de ColomaresBut these girls deserved our wrath. The whole way down to the plane – and we were queuing for twenty odd minutes – they were staring into the windows, checking their hair, flicking their hair, checking it, running their hands through it, checking it. Tying their hair up, letting it down. Running their hands through it, checking it, flicking it, checking it, shaking it, checking it. Calm down, you’re in an airport, not a shampoo ad. And you are definitely, not worth it. Castillo de ColomaresAnd they kept checking their arses. Yes, they are still there. They haven’t wandered off since the last twenty times you checked them. Though we wouldn’t blame their arses for wandering off out of sheer embarrassment of being trapped in those hideous trousers. We were tempted to pour our Red Bull in their hair, make it nice and sticky, but that would have been a waste of good Red Bull. The blonde was complaining that the zip on her £90 handbag was broken. Newsflash: Nobody cares. The zips on our Nightmare Before Christmas purses are broken but you don’t hear us bitching about it. Cat reckoned she’d end up sat between them. She wasn’t far wrong. She was going to be beside the blonde. Her eye twitched in murderous rage.

Castillo de ColomaresPeople had labels put on their luggage to put it in hold as there wasn’t space on the plane. Only the first 100 bags go in the cabin on Ryanair flights. Lynx had a label put on her case. They allowed Cat to keep her travel rucksack as it could fit under the seat. The girls ripped their labels off and hid them. They had large bags, which frankly, we’re surprised passed as cabin bags. Clearly they thought they could flaunt the rules like they flaunted their hair. Don’t get us wrong, we break many rules, but some rules are there for a reason. Like there was no room on the plane. Then they held up the plane cos they couldn’t find space to put their bags. Wonder why. Could it be…there was no room? They stopped at locker one, plotting to use that space but eventually moved to row 12 and blocked it. All the lockers were closed. Maybe because…There. Was. No. Fucking. ROOM!

Castillo de ColomaresThere was now an entire queue of people behind them, waiting to sit because Aeroplane Barbies were holding everyone up. After waiting patiently, Cat said, “excuse me, I’m in 12B, can I just get past?” They would have had to move forward half a step to allow her to squeeze into her seat. The blonde turned and stared at her. “I’m in 12. My friend is in 27.” Cat “So?” Thanks for that fascinating glimpse into your lives. Seeing as we’re sharing seat numbers, Lynx was in 11B and Neen was in 32. Normally, Cat would not respond so rudely, but they had irritated us more than a nettle rash to the eyeballs. Blonde “We’re together.” No shit, Sherlock! You’ve just spent the past half an hour chatting and having a hair flicking contest. Castillo de ColomaresCat *gestures to Lynx* “we’re together.” Blonde *stroppily* “Ok, I just thought you could switch seats with my friend.” Ohhh that’s what you wanted. Some of us often take things literally so you have to be more specific or we will think you’re just sharing seat information as a way of getting to know each other. Cat “No.” Switch seats? O.M.Goodness, how awful for you to be separated. Keep holding up the plane while we get out our tiny violins and weep for your heart-wrenching pain. In fact, it will be the title of our next poem ‘Ballad of the Barbies who were fifteen rows apart on the Ryanair flight from Malaga’. Hmm, that title may need work. And not much rhymes with Malaga. We were thirteen seats apart for the flight over. We didn’t demand other passengers switch seats.

Castillo de ColomaresThere is a reason you are assigned seats – so if the plane goes down, they know who died and can inform the families. Well, we think that’s the reason. That’s the one we’re going with. Imagine the confusion had the plane gone down and instead of finding a corpse with a fetching red mermaid dress and fishnets, they found one with ‘Made by Mattel’ stamped on its arse cheek. The Aeroplane Barbies still refused to move so Cat pushed past the blonde. Blonde “Stroppily* “Oh that is so rude!” Rude? RUDE? Listen up, Goldilocks. Rude is refusing to put your oversized case in the free hold when you are asked to. Rude is trying to steal other people’s locker space because you feel rules don’t apply to you. Rude is then blocking the entire front half of the plane from reaching their seats because you can’t find anywhere to put the cases that YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO FUCKING HAVE!

Castillo de ColomaresCat then lost her temper as the air stewardess was battling her way through the queue. Cat “I have already asked you to move and instead you are BLOCKING the aisle!” She made sure to hit Goldilocks with her bag as she passed and sat in her assigned seat while the Barbies muttered about her behaviour. We regularly tell our mate Andrew that we feel we’re bad people. He disagrees. Then we remind him of how we wanted to throw two girls off a plane mid-flight because they wouldn’t leave their hair alone. The Power Rangers wouldn’t respond is such an awful manner. The air stewardess reached them and said something about there being a lot of confusion. No, there was no confusion. The problem was two posh, self-entitled princess thought they were too good to let their bags go into the hold and thought they were entitled to tell other passenger where to sit to suit them. Goldilocks passed the air stewardess her bag and said “You can put that down the front.” No please? No thank you? This woman isn’t your servant. We have a much better idea where you can put it. Step aside, air stewardess, we’re good at Tetris. We got this.Castillo de Colomares

Rondalust

Sierre de los NievesIt’s never a good sign when you get up in the morning and your calves scream “oh dear god, why are we walking?” Today would be a day of shuffling, rather than strutting. But first we had a long car drive to the historic town of Ronda.

Sierra de los Nieves

check out this road!

We were going to catch a bus to Neen’s uncle’s house but as we got to the bus stop, the bus pulled away. We decided not to throw away what little remained of our dignity by chasing it, shaking our fists and weeping into the tarmac under a plume of exhaust fumes. We’d probably get killed on the roundabout. Luckily our travel insurance covers repatriation, but nobody wants that on their death certificate. After sitting at the bus stop for over half an hour, we texted Neen to say we had another 20 minute wait, so she came to fetch us. Neen’s uncle, Jerry, joined us for the adventure. Neen was having problems with her eyes and started feeling sick so she pulled over and Cat had to take over driving. Do you remember in our first post how we said how much we hated it and our only experience of driving in a different country would be forever marred? Now we had no choice. This would either redeem us or ruin us. Hell or glory.

Fortunately, the roads were our favourite type to drive – windy mountain roads with stunning views through the Sierra de los Nieves. Mountains one side, valleys the other. It was like being back in Wales, except there were safety barriers and no sheep. Our mate, Andrew, was suitably jealous of Cat driving the roads. So was Lynx. We stopped at El Burgo when Neen got too sick so while she rested in the car,  we wandered the market with Cinta and Jerry, had a drink in a nearby pub then continued on our way.

El Tajo, Ronda

El Tajo

Driving was so much more fun. Jerry made the perfect driving instructor on our excursion. We loved the twisty roads and the views. This was our kind of driving! We took it slow as we’re still getting used to the car, so didn’t fling it around the bends like we would normally. The Sierra de los Nieves were home to many bandits over the years and it was easy to see why. Sadly, we didn’t see any bandits, though we did see some goats. Getting held up by legendary bandits would certainly make our blog post more interesting. Though we’d have a hard time explaining it to the hire car company.

El Tajo, RondaRonda was really nice. It has so many beautiful buildings and the stunning El Tajo gorge. As we walked the streets we saw a yellow American school bus and a film crew. We often end up in places where there are film crews or big events on. Most of the cameramen were positioned around the El Tajo. Then we saw that on the front of the bus was The Fear Factor: Pain in Spain. We think that the contestants were going to bungee jump off the bridge. There is no way in hell we would ever do that. It ranks up there with putting fire ants on your eyes and sitting on an Inquisitor’s chair. Or even going to a Justin Bieber concert.

El Tajo, RondaWe had lunch (ok, chips) in a café and wandered around. We visited the Museo de Bandoleros. Bandit museum! (Our dog is called Bandit, so we had to visit it.) This was our first and only visit to a museum this holiday. We visited 7 in Venice. It was interesting to learn the history of the bandits. We especially loved the old comics related to them. Folklore had romanticised them into heroes, much like Robin Hood and the highwaymen are in Britain.

Museo del Bandoleros

Museo del Bandleros

We climbed up onto the city wall and walked along it while the others stayed at the bottom. It sort of resembled a castle, so we got to feed our castle fix for a bit. We weren’t so keen on climbing back down the walls. The steps were high and open on the one side. Despite us regularly climbing high castles and walls, our intense phobia of heights has never left us.

RondaLynx had a go at driving the mountain roads on the way back. We dropped Neen and Jerry off then drove back to Fuengirola. An hour later, we went back to meet Neen’s aunt, Carmen, who was desperate to meet us. Cinta didn’t come so we had to navigate our way to Elviria. We went from hating driving the car to having to drive it by ourselves. We still hate the size of the car, which seemed to take up the whole road. Next time they try upgrading us, we are definitely punching them.

RondaThe barman loved our tattoos, but couldn’t speak English, so Jerry translated his praise then translated us telling him the stories behind them. It turned out, he was also a twin. We can find fellow twins anywhere. As we left the bar, we got lost. We still don’t know how. We ended up driving up a road where someone had hit a fire hydrant and flooded the road. As Helen (our SatNav voice) navigated us back, we were then pulled over by the police and Cat was breathalysed. First time for everything. They were stopping every driver. We refuse to drink and drive, which is just as well, considering the size of the shots in Spain! Spending our last night in Spain in a jail cell would be a sour end to a fabulous trip.Ronda

Planet of the Apes

Rock of GibraltarToday was the day we had been waiting for – the day we would get mugged by monkeys. Ok, technically they are macaques, which are apes, but ‘mugged by monkeys’ sounds funnier. From the moment Neen suggested visiting Gibraltar, she’s been looking forward to seeing us wrestling monkeys for our phones, food and self-respect. Seeing as Lynx managed to leave a phone on the plane home from America and knock another phone in the Seine, it would be a challenge for her not to lose it to a monkey. Our mum gave us a bumbag to keep them safe. In America, bumbags are called fanny packs, whereas in Britain, ‘fanny’ is a slang term for ‘vagina’. GibraltarNeedless to say, there were countless jokes about putting stuff in our fannies. Cinta had sent us videos of the apes stealing people’s glasses and phones, and our sister regaled us of hilarious tales of our brother in law being chased by an ape. We wear glasses and while it would be safer to go without them, we would not see the monkeys until it was too late. “Is that a paper bag ahead?” would soon become “Oh dear god! It’s eating my face!” Would we escape unscathed? Possibly. Would our self-esteems cope with losing a fight with an ape? No. If our self-esteems were hooked to an ECG machine, they’d be calling in experts to see if they had a pulse.

Gibraltar

cable car selfie!

We set off for Gibraltar and got excited when we saw a Pink Smartcar on our way, though it was one of the pale ones, not the deep pink of General Pinkinton. We’d also spotted Renault 4s and Renault 4 vans on our trip and lamented that they hadn’t been available to hire. We’d have no trouble driving those, seeing as we own two of them. The minute we crossed into Gibraltar, we could tell we were on British soil – it was cold and foggy and there was nowhere to park. Gibraltar drivers are crazy! We eventually found somewhere to park, which was right at the base for the cable cars. We had chips and lemonade in a pub across the road. It’s so weird. Everything is British yet they still drive on the right and a lot of them speak Spanish. Annoyingly we forgot our British wallets and they charged more to change into Euros. So if you go to Gibraltar, pay in sterling, it works out cheaper.Gibraltar apesGibraltar ape

We rode the cable car to the top of the rock and went to the souvenir shop to look for a pin badge. We have a travel rucksack and buy pin badges from every new place we visit to put on it. We managed to find one with a monkey and the rock on. There were monkeys on the railings as you headed into the gift shop. One was eating a pack of biscuits and one looked like it had crumbs all over its face. Another one kept posing for photos every time a camera was pointed at it. We cautiously sidled up to it for a selfie and managed to get one without losing our phone or our dignity. And we got to quote the fabulous line from Kong: Skull Island “is that a monkey?” When we went to Venice, we got to quote from Back to the Future : “where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” We now feel that having a movie quote for every place we visit is as essential as learning their basic language.Gibraltar ape

We headed down through the nature reserve to St Michael’s Cave. One taxi driver got a monkey to sit on people for photos but only those who went up in the taxi were allowed to have a photo with it. The monkey had other ideas and leapt on Cat’s back. They were united in their view of ‘rules were made to be broken’. In hindsight, putting our strawberry perfume in her hair (to make the smell last longer) was a mistake. But no harm came to Cat and she didn’t achieve Internet fame by wrestling with an ape, much to Neen’s dismay. Gibraltar apeThough the monkey did refuse to get off her and kept playing with her hair. In the end we had to summon the taxi driver for assistance. Getting a monkey through airport security would prove tricky. Claiming it’s a fetching rucksack would fail when the monkey starts biting travellers and peeing on the conveyor belt.

St Michael's CavesSt Michael’s caves were stunning and one area was huge – they use it as a concert hall. There were coloured floodlights which made them look lovely, but it was very difficult to take photos then. The phone took better photos than the camera. The stalactites were impressive. The caves don’t cover a huge area, unlike Dan yr Ogof, but they are well worth a visit. The next place on our list was the Great Siege Tunnels. We wanted to see the Ape’s Den so Neen and Cinta went an easier route. Apparently, there’s such a thing as too many monkeys. The Apes Den was just a wooden shelter with fruit under it and two monkeys. Not quite the den of apes we were hoping for. We’d expected to fight our way through a tunnel system with monkeys leaping out at all sides. Like a zombie attraction. Needless to say, we were a little disappointed. We didn’t see a single tourist get mauled. Sad times.St Michael's Caves

Great Siege TunnelsThe Great Siege Tunnels were interesting. The Siege lasted from 1779-1783 and they were also used during WW2. Neen and Cinta stopped halfway – Cinta doesn’t like caves as she’s claustrophobic and Neen couldn’t be arsed to walk down to look at more caves so we went by ourselves. We’re descended from miners, we’re genetically programmed to love caves. They had mannequins in there, which as many people know, are a favourite thing of ours to molest. We behaved ourselves and didn’t act inappropriately towards them. They had cannons and we didn’t think we’d come off well. Plus, they looked ‘judgy’.

Great Siege Tunnels

Tunnel rats

Moorish castle

Inside the Moorish castle

We then wanted to go and see the Moorish Castle. Neen and Cinta headed back to the pub we went to before. The Castle was just a tower with one floor and the roof but it was interesting to see a Moorish castle. SatNav then took us through the town centre to get to the pub. It was like walking on a normal British high street with Marks and Spencer, Debenhams, Peacocks, Top Shop, etc. Gibraltar’s a little disappointing. It was nice but nothing special. It’s like being back in the UK but with lizards. We stopped at Trafalgar Cemetery, which is misleading because only two of the soldiers who died at the battle of Trafalgar are buried there. The rest are victims of yellow fever. We met back at the pub and had some more chips then headed home. Our calves haven’t yet forgiven us for all that downhill walking. Lynx hobbled for the rest of the holiday. If we can’t now break a man’s neck with our calves, we are going to be very disappointed.Gibraltar

 

Spanish Invasion

FuengirolaNo problems in the airport, smooth travelling and nothing going wrong. At all. Could this really be one of our travel blogs?

The day dawned horribly early. Well, we were leaving at 7:30 a.m. The journey was uneventful apart from them closing the Brynglas tunnels but the diversion didn’t take long. FuengirolaWe got through baggage drop off without causing an incident, our suitcase was under weight and Cat managed to get through security without being patted down. Neen and Lynx didn’t escape the bleeper’s attention. You’d think airport scanners would account for underwire bras. Believe us, guards, our boobs aren’t big enough for smuggling goods. By the time we’d done our makeup, we had 15 minutes until our gate opened. We heard ‘Keith Allen’ being called over the tannoy and joked that it was the actor.

Castillo Sohail

Castillo Sohail

Lynx was right at the back of the plane – the very last seat – and sat between two large men. The man on her left was very nice. She couldn’t put her case up because everyone else was boarding so she had to wait for them to pass to put her case up. So he put her tripod, camera and kindle on her seat for her. Unfortunately, the guy to the right blocked most of the window. Lynx gets travel sick so needs to look out of the window as the plane starts moving, or she’s nauseous for the whole flight. Luckily, our friend, Hayley, lent her a travel sickness bracelet for the journey. Cat was sat thirteen rows ahead, between two women and behind a whinging, snotty baby. She plotted to put it in the overhead lockers. She was certain the parents would be glad of the peace. Airline rules don’t state you can’t put children in the lockers. Separating us was Ryanair’s plan to make us pay £6 per ticket for allocated seating. Ryanair, you have underestimated our stinginess. We have our kindles, we have no need for company.

Finca del secretario

Finca del Secretario

It turned out, it was Keith Allen the actor. He was sat across the aisle from Lynx but on the window side. The guy to Lynx’s right was doing filming with him. Lynx concluded that meant she must have been sat in first class. Check us out, flying with celebrities. Next we’ll be upgraded from budget airlines. *Checks bank balances* maybe not. The landing was pretty rough, which seems to be the case with Ryanair flights. No travel sickness bracelet in the world can counteract the nausea caused by the landings. And what is it with them not supplying sick bags? We know they’re a no-frills airline but that one tiny frill will save the cleaners an unpleasant task.

Castillo SohailCinta met us at the arrivals gate then joined us on the shuttle bus to get our car. The man uttered the words “we’ve upgraded you from the Polo to a Toyota Verso.” He was lucky he wasn’t punched in the mouth. We selected a Polo because we’ve never driven a car bigger than a Renault 4! We normally drive our SmartForTwo or our mum’s Mini. And they gave us a 7 seater barge! General Pinkington could have fitted inside the car and still left the backseat and boot free.

our hire car

We like small cars. You can fit through gaps that SUVs get trapped in and parking spaces are so much easier to find. Neen drove out of the rental place as we didn’t want to do the first drive. It’s not that far to get to Cinta’s, though we’re not convinced we’ll master roundabouts. It’s all so terrifying. And whilst we don’t want to be disparaging about the drivers, there were very few cars that weren’t covered in scratches or bumps. We feared for our rental car.

on the beach with Cinta

Neen dropped us off at Cinta’s apartment left to go to her uncle’s in Elviria. Cinta took us on a tour of Fuengirola. She’s not far from the beach. People seemed to like our outfits and complimented us in Spanish – not sure they get many goths round here. We also got strange looks for being so clothed on the beach. But after seeing all the perma-tanned, wrinkled Brits who looked like someone had dressed a leather coat in beachwear, we vowed we would cake ourselves in suncream. We would rather be pale and maintain our youthful looks. ‘Leather look’ is fine for furnishings but not for humans. We found a vegan gelato place, Stickhouse, and got fruit lollies – strawberry and raspberry. They use real fruit and the lollies were lovely. We even found time to do our flexibility stretches most evenings. We don’t let holidays get in the way of fitness!

Cafe Nomad

our vegan ice cream from Cafe Nomad

Day two was very warm. We walked to Castillo Solhail, only to find it’s closed all week for an event! Gutted. The one time we’re in Spain and they close their castle! This happens to us a lot. It’s like places don’t want us to educate ourselves. We circled the castle trying to find ways in, but this is the problem with castles – they were designed to keep people out. So we continued our new holiday tradition of honouring Polefit and did a double figurehead on the wall then found a lamppost so Cat did a polecat and Lynx did a fairy sit.

Castillo SohailWe then went to Café Nomad and had delicious vegan ice cream – vanilla, strawberry and chocolate with cream (which was lovely), strawberries, grapes and bananas. We’ve never tried cream before, so this was a moment of bravery. Surprisingly, we liked it, but Neen didn’t. Now who’s fussy? *pokes Neen* Yes, we ate the bananas. Bananas are a big ‘no!’ food for us – the colour, texture, taste, all add up to yuckyness. Devil’s food, we call them.

polecat

Even the thought of touching them makes us shudder. But we were brave and ate them like proper adults without pulling faces and spitting them out. Smothered in ice cream, we couldn’t taste them, but the texture was still upsetting on our tongues. Their Very Berry smoothie was really nice. The Strawberry Burst smoothie was nice but the banana taste was too strong for our liking. BananaMan we are not.

Lynx doing a fairy sit

Then we walked four miles to Finca del Secretario, the Roman ruins. They’re small ruins but interesting and best of all, they’re free! We love finding hidden gems not many tourists know about and the ruins were definitely one of them. One side is the pottery kiln, oven and fish storage area while the other side are the thermal baths and courtyard, complete with mosaic tiles perfectly intact. You don’t get that kind of craftsmanship these days! We sat for a while in the shade as it was 26 degrees. The ruins are a peaceful place to be and totally different to the beach image usually associated with Fuengirola.

Finca del secretarioWe then went to a quiet country road where we learned to drive the car. Driving on the left side of the car on the right side of the road was an unnerving experience. Especially as we weren’t used to being in such an enormous car. We hated it at first. It was like we’d forgotten how to drive. And the seat couldn’t be raised, which is poor form when you’re only 5’1. Finca del secretarioEnded up down a narrow dead end road so had to do a turn that had a tree one side of the road and a sheer drop the other side. That was certainly not an experience we wish to repeat! We’d had plans to share the driving between us and Neen and had been excited about this new experience but after practising, we realised our plans for a fun driving holiday were dashed and we relinquished all driving responsibilities to Neen. With our self-esteem more battered than a pinata, we got Neen to drop us off at Cinta’s and we consoled ourselves with the next day’s adventures: Gibraltar. The island of thieving monkeys.Finca del Secretario

Sharks in Venice

San Michele cemetery island, Venice

San Michele cemetery island

We spent our last day in Venice in a cemetery, visiting museums and elbowing our way through crowds. The carnival had arrived. And we did our best to avoid it. We got up early and headed to San Michele alone. San Michele is the cemetery island just off Fondamente Nove. It’s illegal to bury people on Venice. This was one of our top places to visit before we came to Venice and we were not leaving without seeing it. We spent hours in Pere Lachaise in Paris, even picnicking there. Visiting cemeteries is one of our favourite things to do. Though trying to convince other people that spending their holiday with dead people is a great use of their time doesn’t always go down well.

VeniceWe tried using our Murano tickets to avoid paying for the ferry but alas, we were foiled.  The cemetery is actually pretty small. We managed to tour it in an hour. Sadly we weren’t allowed to take photos. Or picnic. We found the graves of Igor Stravinsky and Ezra Pound. Most of the graves are actually ossuaries because you rent the graves and if you stop paying, you get moved into the ossuary. So whilst the island is small, there are a lot of people buried there because they’re all in what is essentially chest of drawers. There were some huge tombs. Some even had chairs inside them with glass doors. Sadly, the doors were locked.

church of Santa Fosca, Venice

church of Santa Fosca

We returned to the apartment to collect Tom and Amy and set out for a day of museums. First we took a detour to find more haunted places and to visit a supermarket. Our first haunted place of the day was by the church of Santa Fosca. An old money-lender, Bartolomio Zenni, staggers up and down the Campo dell’Abbazia, begging for help. If you approach him he turns into a fiery skeleton. That is one of the coolest ghost stories ever. On 13th May 1437, a fire broke out on the opposite side of the canal. He refused to help his neighbours save their children because he was saving his bag with his belongings. He dragged it to a nearby canal and vanished into the waters. Several nights later, he reappeared with the bag, breathless, and asking people for help. Everyone avoided him. His soul will only be free when someone helps him carry the bag from the Campo to the church of Santa Fosca. We’re great at carrying bags. And we hate children.

Mastelli brothers, Venice

one of the Mastelli brothers

We headed for our next haunted destination and ended up walking right past some statues we wanted. Typical. Fortunately, Amy spotted them. They are the Mastelli brothers – Rioba, Sandi, Afani and Antonia and are on the wall of Campo dei Mori. They were merchants who were apparently turned to stone due to their dishonesty and meanness. Rioba used to say “May the Good Lord turn my right hand to stone if what I say is not true.” They could buy any jury and ruined many families. One day in February, a woman came to them to buy Flanders lace for her shop. Mastelli brothers, VeniceHer husband had died and she needed to re-open her shop. Rioba showed her many fabrics, claiming it was Flanders and she couldn’t afford them but he wanted to help. He and his brothers quoted his line about being turned to stone. As the woman paid, she said “May the good lord be a witness to your honesty and may you be held to what you have decided.” With that, the coins and his arm turned to stone. Then his brothers’ arms turned to stone. The woman was Saint Magdalen. “Criminals! Liars and hypocrites! You will turn into the whited sepulchres that you have shown yourselves to be during your lifetime.”Mastelli brohters, Venice

The statue of Rioba has been seen crying in February. If someone who is pure of spirit lays their hand on his chest, they might feel his heart beat. We were too short to reach his heart. Tom and Amy could touch his heart no problem. We managed to touch his stomach while stretching up on tip toes as far as we could reach. Otherwise it would’ve been a groin grab and according to legend, that’s not what you can feel throbbing.

Mastelli brothers, Venice

Rioba, whose heart you can feel beating. If you’re not short arses like we are.

We insisted on heading to the museums through parts of Venice we hadn’t yet explored. Getting lost is how adventures happen! We wanted to see as much of Venice as possible, rather than retracing the same route we’d take every day. First up, we found another vegan gelato/sorbet place, Gelateria Alaska.

Gelateria Alaska

Gelateria Alaska

The guy serving asked if we were here for the carnival. We said we were here for our birthday so he insisted on giving us an extra scoop of sorbet for free. That was so nice! We had strawberry and mango and strawberry and lemon. They were delicious.

Museo di storia Naturale, Venice

dinosauro

We managed to find our way to the natural history museum, Museo di Storia Naturale, despite Cat having the map. Usually CatNav is unreliable and easily distracted. CatNav took detours a few times but did manage to get us to the gelato place and the museum. That was a really cool one, probably our favourite after San Servolo and Doge’s Palace. To be fair, it had dinosaur bones and anything with dinosaurs is a winner. We were so excited as we headed in that we started squealing and bouncing. Some people, can’t take them anywhere. They’re just an embarrassment. There were also sharks and other creatures. We love sharks as much as we love dinosaurs. This was our happy place.

Museo di storia naturale, venice

sharks in Venice

Some people on Trip Advisor complained that none of the information was in English. However, there is an English guidebook at the desk and an English audio guide. Plus, in Britain, we don’t have museum information signs in any other language, so don’t complain when other countries do it. Wales is the exception, as we have bilingual signs in English and Welsh. We were heading upstairs saying “dinosauro” and doing our best not to show our excitement. And failing. Our friends doubted that this was the Italian for dinosaur. Turns out, we were right. It was amazing being able to touch the fossils. It’s like we were touching history without the danger of being eaten.

Palazzo MocenigoLynxNav took over and experienced technical difficulties when she ripped more of our battered map. It was one day from retirement and it was a battle to keep it intact. We headed to Palazzo Mocenigo, which was a perfume museum and had 18thc furniture. That was interesting. There were glass bottles filled with scents that you could sniff. Some places don’t trust tourists with touching furniture, but this place let you lift glass stoppers to smell the scents inside. Palazzo MocenigoCat sniffed too enthusiastically in the scent bottles and spluttered. A woman next to Cat laughed. At least we’re keeping people amused. There was also a table filled with bowls of different raw ingredients that you could smell. It’s the first time we’ve visited a museum that has an interactive olfactory section, so it was good to do something different. There was a collection of perfume bottles, some dating back 6000 years!

Ca'Rezzonico, Venice

Ca’Rezzonico

Our final museum was Ca’ Rezzonico, which had 18thc furniture and paintings. We kept our tradition by touring the museums the wrong way around and only discovering our mistakes when we found arrows pointing the opposite direction. There was a beautiful 18thc writing desk that puts our £10 IKEA metal writing table to shame. Though we have no room for a writing desk in our dungeon. We particularly liked the 18thc apothecary that was randomly inside the house but we weren’t allowed in. Each room was beautiful and proudly displayed its wealth while taunting us that we could never afford such luxury. The upper floor was all paintings.

Ca'Rezzonico

writing desk envy

Then we headed back to discover everyone had arrived for the Carnivale. We imagine the carnival itself is spectacular. The crowds, however, were not. This is officially the worst circle of Hell. You couldn’t move down the streets. We all got very frustrated and murderous and also claustrophobic, as our heads are generally chest, armpit or shoulder height to most people so all we could see was the back of the person in front of us. Being in crowds is horrible enough but when you’re short, it’s even worse. People were moving so slowly! There were even police officers directing foot traffic. We were glad to be leaving the following day to escape the madness.

VeniceWe found our way to another haunted spot, which as it turned out, we walked past every. Single. Day. It wasn’t far from our apartment. Although it gave us excuse to escape the crowds for a bit. In the Campiello del Remer on the Grand Canal, the corpse of Fosco Loredan floats to the surface holding his wife’s head. He was extremely possessive of his wife, Elena, whose uncle was Doge Marino Grimani. In 1598, the Doge heard a woman scream as she ran towards campiello del Remer chased by a knight with a sword. The Doge blocked the knight then recognised them. Fosco said “what right have you to stand between me and my wife? I am going to kill her and it is my right to do so.” The Doge replied that he wanted to know what Elena’s crime was.

Fondamente Nove, Venice

Fondamente Nove

Fosco suddenly recognised the Doge and claimed Elena had been unfaithful. Elena protested her innocence and said Fosco was jealous, even of her cousin, who was young enough to be her son. She begged the Doge to protect her and he agreed. Fosco swore he would do as the Doge wished, but Elena warned him not to trust Fosco. The Doge sheathed his sword. Fosco shouted “behind you! Armed men!” As the Doge turned, Fosco decapitated Elena.

The Doge drew his sword and Fosco dropped to his knees, begging for mercy and swearing he would do whatever the Doge asked, providing he spared him. The Doge replied “you will lift this corpse upon your shoulders and you will hold the severed head in your dirty hands. You will never put them down, day or night and you will go to Rome to see the Pope. When you appear before him, you will show him what you have done. He will decide your fate.” He threatened to chop Fosco to pieces if he disobeyed. Fosco walked for months and when he reached Rome, the pope refused to see him, sending him away without absolution. Fosco returned to the spot where he killed Elena and threw himself into the Grand Canal. His corpse now re-emerges holding her head. Sadly, he didn’t do it when we were there. Perhaps he was also avoiding the crowds.16807644_10155179942500982_5116692098111421778_n

Tom and Amy returned to the apartment while we stayed out because we wanted to find a Murano gondola with black cats and a moon that we saw a day or two before and hadn’t seen since. Lots of shops sell glass gondolas, but hardly any sell them with cats instead of people. We’re starting a collection of pewter models of the cities we’ve visited – for Paris we have the Eiffel Tower, so we wanted a pewter model representing Venice – a gondola or the Rialto Bridge. We didn’t see any, then figured that Murano is famous for its glass, so a glass gondola would be perfect. On Murano, we saw a black gondola with two cats and a heart and whilst we liked it, hearts aren’t really us, so we wanted something different. We ended up constantly in the crush because we kept going wrong. Couldn’t find the cats with the moon so decided to get the one with cats and a heart. We saw it before Tom and Amy left us but could we find it again? No. So we had to retrace our route through the crush. In one shop, a shopkeeper’s dog was barking. She hated the crowds. We agreed with the dog and told the owner we wished we could get away with barking at people too.

p1200288It was so busy, there were police directing the pedestrian traffic at crossroads. That’s the first time we’ve ever experienced that. And hopefully the last. Lynx got stuck behind three women who stopped to window shop, so a police officer marched them on to keep the crush moving. It was like being back in high school when they locked the doors, trapping several hundred kids in a corridor. We eventually found the shop with the cat gondola and headed back. By now, our tempers had frayed so much, the slightest provocation would result in someone being Hulk smashed in the face and tossed into a canal. Our rage is bigger than us.

When we returned home, our feet were back in the pans of cold water while Tom and Amy went to get pizza for them and kindly got chips for us as we couldn’t physically walk anymore. We uploaded our pics, chilled out, packed and celebrated not being outside with all those people.16730201_1452867414755530_7725308376231030617_n-1

16903144_1455424244499847_4630676275197451023_oThe next day, we left. We got to the airport very early and had to sit around for half an hour until check in opened. Our bags were underweight. Hooray! We waved them off and headed to security. Everyone got through without a patdown, except Lynx who got checked for drugs. We needed a Red Bull. We went to every shop downstairs. No Red Bull. They only sold Coke or water. We needed a Red Bull. The headaches were forming. Our thirst was increasing. Our tempers were rising. We headed upstairs, our rage starting to burn brighter than a dying star. No Red Bull. This was reaching dangerous levels. This was reaching…Edinburgh levels, where Cat had a meltdown on Canongate and nearly destroyed a man’s fridge. Finally, as the meltdown started to reach Volcanic levels, we found a shop that did one. €3.3o! For a small can! We paid in disgust, cracked it open and like a bomb being diffused with seconds to spare, our rage dissipated with each sweet sip.p1200594

Corpse Groom

VeniceOn Wednesday, we woke so full of hope. We were going to visit dungeons and torture chambers and not allow Tuesday’s curse to hang over us. We were going to conquer Venice and finally achieve something. We were…going to fail.

We decided to head to St Mark’s Square – Piazetto San Marco – and the Doge’s Palace. Doge’s Palace had been top of our list for museums. We’d promised KT, our Polefit instructor that we would honour the class in the palace. We ended up going the same route we took on Tuesday night and eventually found our way to St Mark’s Square using a combination of a little bit of map reading and mostly guesswork. The guesswork consists of ‘keeping heading south’. St Mark’s Basilica is beautiful.Venice It’s where St Mark’s body is kept, after the Venetians stole it and claimed him as their saint. They also stole the lion on the post that is his symbol and the horses on the Basilica. The Basilica also has a ghost story attached. On the corner of the Basilica are two lights, which tradition claims they symbolise atonement for when Venice wrongfully condemned Pietro Faccioli, a little baker boy, to death. On the corner of the Basilica is an execution block where he was decapitated. He was accused of killing a nobleman, Alvise Guoro. The block was a section of column in perfidy brought from Acri. Since the boy’s death, on foggy nights, people report seeing blood drops on it. clock tower, Venice

We couldn’t find it. There’s a surprise. It’s the story of our lives, being in the area something is and not finding it. As we discovered when we went to the front of the doge’s palace – Ducale Palazzo – and realised we had walked right past St Mark’s Square on our first night and didn’t see it. If only we had looked to our left. Yes. We walked past Venice’s most famous square and Did. Not. See. It. In our defence, it was dark. And we weren’t looking. And it was dark.

Doge's Palace

Doge’s Palace

We wanted to do a secret itineraries tour of Doge’s Palace but we’d read that at midday during the carnivale, an acrobat jumps from the bell tower in St Mark’s Square. As it was 11:30, we decided to hold off on the tour until after the acrobat. It didn’t happen. We decided to do the tour, and the guard with the metal scanner at the entrance took one look at the metal on our outfits and laughed. He didn’t speak much English but managed ‘sexy’ as he waved us inside. Once inside, we couldn’t decide which tour to do. We wanted to see the dungeons and the cells where Cassanova was kept. Yes, that Cassanova – world’s greatest lover – he was jailed for hitting on the magistrate’s girlfriend. And we wanted to see the torture chamber. Y’know, the touristy stuff. We were in one of the most romantic cities in the world, the day after Valentine’s Day and we wanted to see the place where people were tortured. And people think romance is dead! We suspected the secret itineraries tour was the one we wanted but the last one was at 11:35. So instead of wasting half an hour for an acrobat that didn’t show, we could’ve done the tour. Now we had to wait until Thursday. Yet another wasted day. If there’s one thing we can’t stand, it’s wasting time. It can’t be replaced. Our fury was reaching a level considered dangerous. Tourists were looking nervous. We cracked open a Red Bull and tried to deactivate Tantrum Mode.Venice

So our day wasn’t a complete disappointment, we decided to check out haunted spots we’d researched. We walked across the water front and stopped at a pizzeria so we could finally get some wi-fi. Well, the others wanted food, we just wanted the internet. It was a good job too because our sister video called us with exciting news: we have a new guinea pig! He’s two years old, called Shadow (we might change that because we had a cat called Shadow) and his owner was about to give him to Cefn Mably farm because he and the other guinea pig he was with kept fighting. So we got to see him on video, as well as our duck, our youngest cat and our dog, who was very excited to hear us and even waved at the phone. Much nicer than his usual response, which is to ignore us on the phone. While our friends enjoyed their lunch, we sat by the Grand Canal eating Discos and waving at our pets. Time well spent.

Venice

At the Grand Canal

We made our way to the island of San Pietro and San Pietro church. It was in a lovely, quiet residential part of Venice. That’s the great thing about incorporating haunted stuff into your holiday – you get to see parts of the place you wouldn’t normally see. San Pietro’s story involves two lovers – Ennio and Tosca. They met in Treviso where she lived and he worked. They swore eternal love and vowed to marry, dead or alive. Technically, two corpses marrying would be impossible as they’d be unable to say the vows and you don’t even want to think about the wedding night. Mind you, Corpse Bride managed it. Ennio, on return from a job in Florence, became ill and died within hours. Tosca didn’t know. The following night, Tosca was in bed and heard Ennio call to her from the courtyard. She ran to the window and he said, “hurry up and get ready, then come downstairs without saying a word to anyone. We’re going to get married in Venice.”Venice

Now our response would have been something along the lines of “get off our land,” but Tosca, although confused, was so in love with him that she didn’t argue. We suspect this is how most marriages happen. After a while of walking, Tosca offered Ennio bread. He said “don’t you know that the dead don’t need to eat?” A gust of wind then transported them to San Pietro. We could’ve done with that magical wind today – saved our poor feet. Tosca was too terrified to scream. Ennio left her outside the priest’s house while he went to fetch witnesses. Tosca shouted to the priest for help. The priest ran down to let her in so she explained the story. He didn’t believe her. To be fair to him, it does sound made up. Magical winds? Dead groom proposing marriage? Hollywood has probably already done this and it probably stars Johnny Depp.

Venice

San Pietro

Then the priest looked out the window and saw Ennio with a group of musicians. He had buried Ennio that day and knew he was looking at a band of dead souls. Ennio said “I want my fiancée, because we swore that dead or alive, we would be married.” The priest said “Away with you, you damned soul. Go away, you and your friends.” Ennio “Give me at least her ring finger or I will never leave her alone.” The priest told Tosca there was no other choice, (um, how about ‘no’) cut off her ring finger and threw it out the window. Ennio caught it and left with the band. Tosca’s mind never recovered and she refused to leave the priest’s house. The priest looked after her until one evening she left and was never seen again.

San Pietro Venice

San Pietro church

At night, she can be seen wandering in front of the church in elegant 19thc clothing, dressed as though for a wedding ceremony. She wanders and moans as she searches for her ring finger, because without it, she can’t enter the church to be married. We also couldn’t enter the church but that’s because we weren’t dressed modestly, not because a priest had chopped off our fingers. Plus you had to pay to enter and the ghosts haunt outside.

We made our way back to towards our apartment and en route, bought ourselves a flail. Y’know, typical Venetian souvenir. Then we ended up by the Fondamente Nove, which is also haunted by the girl who was never buried. On 29th November 1904, Francesco Quintavalle, captain of the vaporetto “Pellestrina” left Fondamente Nove for Burano, despite visibility being almost zero. Two gondolas rowed by Antonio Rosso and Andeto Camozzo were filled with inhabitants from Murano on their way back from Venice. They waited for Francesco to pass the tip of San Michele then left to ferry  their passengers home. Francesco passed the cemetery then decided to reverse. He didn’t see the gondolas and crashed into them. Rosso’s gondola split in two and sank. Four people were pulled on to the vaporetto, but five women disappeared. Rescue efforts began immediately and lasted through the night.

Fondamente NoveSeveral hours later, Maria Tosa Bullo was seen clinging to a post. She was taken to Murano but died a few minutes later. Lia Toso Borella and Amalia Padovan Vistosi’s lifeless bodies were found the next morning in the stern of the gondola. The remaining two passengers – Teresa Sandon and a little girl, Giuseppina Gabriel Carmelo – weren’t found.

In September 1905, Teresa Sandon appeared to her sister in a dream and said “pray for me, for my soul, because my body is still imprisoned, but if you pray it will be freed from the bindings that hold it to the bottom of the canal, and I can rest in blessed ground.” Ten days later, a battered body was found by two fishermen in the canal of the ‘Bissa’ towards the island of the Vignole. The scarf she wore identified her as Teresa.

Giuseppina was never found. But on foggy nights, a floating casket can be seen, lit by candles so ferry boats don’t crash into her.Fondamente Nova

We returned to our apartment to rest our aching feet in a saucepan of cold water and write the blog. After an hour and a half’s rest, we headed out for food and ended up in a pasta place. Tom, Amy and Lesley all ordered. We tried our best to explain to the waiter ‘vegano’ but he couldn’t speak English and gestured for us to point to what we wanted on the menu. We pointed out chips, but ‘what are your chips cooked in’ and ‘are they cooked separately from the meat/fish’ wasn’t available to point at. We didn’t have internet access to Google translate either. We’d just about mastered basic Italian. So we just said ‘no food’. It’s easier that way. He then seemed really affronted that we were taking up breathing space and not eating as he brusquely gathered our glasses, cutlery and plates and marched off. Calm down, sir, we’re just not eating. It’s not like we punched your mother.

vegan gelatoWe then returned to the chip shop for our meal then headed to one of the gelato places on our list that did vegan gelato. We had the cherry/vanilla and it was even listed as ‘vegano’. This is what we like to see. Is it really so hard to just add ‘vegan’ to a label on food? Whilst we ate, we made our way to a pub we had seen last night – The Devil’s Forest. It turned out to be an English pub. Which meant it had football on TV. Real Madrid and Naples. We had to constantly endure deafening chants of ‘Napoli’ as we tried to play a great card game, Million Dollars But. The guy next to Lynx kept knocking her and she was sorely tempted to punch him, but we’ve never started a bar fight and would like to keep that record clean.

The pub had promised us wi-fi but the barman didn’t know the password, so we returned to a café whose wi-fi we had used before and had memorised their password so we could lurk and use it without buying anything. We know that’s bad etiquette but we needed it to access our email as our host had emailed us our apartment’s wi-fi password. That would have been useful before. Lesley then joined us and bought a coffee. We hurriedly uploaded our 200 photos under the waiter’s suspicious gaze. The upload was slow. Lesley had finished her coffee and was ready to leave. The waiter watched us. The upload icon was spinning. Lesley stood. The waiter moved closer. The photo upload froze. We avoided eye contact with the waiter. The photos uploaded. We shut down the laptop and fled before we had to buy a drink we hated. Now we know how Jack Bauer feels when he’s downloading information onto a usb stick while armed men hunt for him. Note to selves – sit further away from the establishment whose wi-fi you’re stealing.St Mark's Basilica

In Seine

River SeineIt’s a sour end to the trip when you end up naked by the Seine in an area that stinks of piss.

The others went to get breakfast while we finished packing. We were supposed to check out by 12 so they left their bags with us in case they weren’t back in time. So we just hung about the apartment catching up on our blog posts ‘til 12. We then wandered around the main street until we got to a gluten free place in an arcade. The others wanted to wander different shops picking up food as we were going to picnic by the Seine like the locals do. We couldn’t be arsed to traipse from shop to shop dragging our heavy case and carrying the heavy rucksack, so we made our own way to the Seine. There was a metro stop near us but we weren’t prepared to lug our case down all the steps so we walked instead, using Google maps and sticking to the shaded side of the road. We got there no problem.River Seine

River Seine

Don’t leave Goths in hot places

We originally sat under the bridge but it stank of river and piss so we moved to another shaded part near a decent looking guy while we waited for the others. The view was lovely and the Seine’s pretty too. By the time they came, we’d already drunk both Red Bulls and eaten, so while they guarded our stuff, we went looking for drinks and sorbet. We wanted another birthday present for our mum and spied an artist selling oil paintings on Pont Neuf. They were stunning so we bought a small canvas of the Eiffel Tower in grey and red. He’d been sheltering under an umbrella when we stopped so shaded us with it while we looked at his paintings.River Seine

River Seine

Lynx is in Seine

Then the day turned to shit. Lynx has no idea how it happened but one minute Dragonstone (her new phone) and her wallet were on the bag, the next, they were sliding down the concrete bank into the Seine. Dragonstone sank but the wallet floated. And floated away. Lynx slithered down, tossed her boots up to Cat and hurried along the small ledge after her wallet. She managed to scoop it out and returned to Cat and Neen. She got Cat to pass her the walking stick and used it to test the depth of the water. Waist deep. She prodded the rocks and found a large stable one. Against Neen and Cat’s wishes, she passed up her jewellery and carefully waded into the Seine in her lovely dress because she didn’t want to strip in public. She couldn’t see her phone and soon attracted a small audience on Pont Neuf, who thought she was crazy going into the river where people used to dump dead bodies. Not sure how they knew to shout in English – probably because the Parisians know better than to go in the Seine. But she’d had Dragonstone for less than a month and even though he would probably never work again, she could at least reuse the case. If you remember our American adventures, she left Stormborn, our other smartphone on the plane. We knew we’d be coming home without Dragonstone.

River Seine

the Seine at twilight

There was no way she was putting her face in the water so she carefully felt around the area with one foot, keeping hold of the ledge. After several minutes, Neen and Cat persuaded her to give up, as they were convinced she’d catch a disease. She hopped out onto the ledge and they grabbed an arm each, hauling her onto the bank with such force, her feet didn’t touch the bank. She discarded her fishnets and socks and used the last of our shower gel to have a quick wash. Cat got her a change of clothes and she went to hide under Pont Neuf between a van and a car to change, after making sure nobody was in the vehicles. Being kidnapped whilst half naked would put a real damper on things. The area reeked of piss so she made sure not to put her clothes in anything remotely wet. Ending up naked by the Seine was not how she wanted the holiday to end.

Conciergerie

in the women’s prison yard at the Conciergerie

It was time to go home. Our suitcase was almost half our body weight and the rucksack weighed at least a quarter of our weight so while the others went on ahead, we limped after them, not bothering to try to keep up. We went to go down into one train station and a guy offered to carry the case down. The others asked if it was the right station. He said we wanted the one across the street. So the poor guy ended up lugging the case back up. We then went to another metro station. This time, Neen carried the case down. Only for it to be another wasted journey. They eventually found the right station and we waited for the train to take us to the airport. The ticket entrances don’t hold the doors open long enough for you to struggle through with your case, so it shut on Lynx’s rucksack, jamming her. The doors only opened when a guy put his ticket in and helpfully pushed her free.

Paris Metro

riding the metro

The train was hot, sweaty and smelled of hot, sweaty people. And it was the same price as a taxi. So we could have saved ourselves a lot of walking. Disheartened at Dragonstone’s untimely death, and in pain, we made it to the airport without trouble. This time, baggage allowance was 23kg and they didn’t even weigh our hand luggage, making the fiasco of flying out even more unnecessary.

EIffel Tower lift

in the lift of the Eiffel Tower

But Paris was beautiful and we’d love to go back and see the sights we didn’t see, plus return to the catacombs. People often say the French are rude, but every person we spoke to was lovely.

flying home

flying home

They didn’t mind our terrible French and were all very helpful. If a waiter didn’t speak English, they found one who did. Almost every person we spoke to complimented us on our outfits and if they didn’t speak English, they’d gesture to us, smile and give us the thumbs up. Two people asked what our style was. They’d never heard of Goth and were pleased to learn something new. Security guards, instead of being annoyed at all our metal setting off their bleepers at tourist attractions, laughed and told us we looked amazing, while shaking their heads in despair. Paris obviously didn’t have many twins, as we’d get a lot of people pointing and saying “the same?” People would openly stare at us but not in a rude way, they’d obviously not encountered Goths before. We didn’t see anyone even remotely gothic during our stay. Paris certainly wasn’t expecting us but it embraced us.Conciergerie

Dead Famous

Pere Lachaise cemeteryToday was to be the day of the dead. First on the agenda: Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Jules and Alex didn’t want to come so us and Neen headed out on the metro. There’s not many people we could convince that spending a hot, sunny day in a cemetery is the best thing ever. Give us a city of the dead over a beach any day. We can get a tan, see beautiful mausoleums and leave without getting sand in places where sand has no right to be.

Pere Lachaise cemeteryThe metro stopped right outside, so we walked across the road, bought a map of the cemetery (without one, we’d probably still be there until the council is forced to bury our well dressed skeletons) and marked off the people we wanted to see: Oscar Wilde was top of our list, along with Jim Morrison for our friend, Rodney, and some people who either haunted it, or their graves we’d seen in our book about haunted places in France. Neen wanted to see Gertrude Stein for Zoe. And then we spotted a name we had to visit – Sex Toy. No idea who this person is. And no, we’re not Googling it. We’ve fallen for that ploy many times.

Pere Lachaise cemetery

Raspail family tomb

Pere Lachaise is rumoured to be one of the most haunted cemeteries in the world. Visitors report intense eerie feelings, a deep sense of unnatural calm, shivers down the spine, ghostly apparitions and orbs. Jim Morrison is apparently seen near his grave and Chopin likes photobombing people. Some say Oscar Wilde haunts it, as well as lovers Marcel Proust and Maurice Ravel, who apparently rise from their graves searching for each other. This will be us when we’re dead – rising from our graves, searching for Red Bull. Pere Lachaise opened in 1804 on Napoleon’s orders to cope with the overflow of bodies from the Revolution. There are over 300,000 people buried here. It’s the place to be seen dead in.
Pere Lachaise cemeteryWe wandered the graveyard, taking photos and getting ideas for our tomb. So far, it’s going to have steps, skeletal hand sconces, gargoyles and castle towers. And a plaque that reads: ‘this is the story of C L Raven (they die at the end).’ But unless we start selling more books, we’ll probably end up in a pauper’s grave. Or eaten by our cats.

Pere Lachaise cemetery

Etienne Gaspard Robertson’s grave

We made our way to the closest grave on our list: Etienne Gaspard Robertson – a magician who liked to terrify people. He invented the phantasmagoria, using lantern slides to create horror shows. His grave had featured in the book and had an incredible carving of the living on one side, the dead on the other and a flying skeleton between them, playing a trumpet. We stopped by a tree and consulted our map, certain we were in the right area. Then we turned around. It was right beside us. The carving was fantastic. He also had skulls on the top of his monument. A French couple asked us where Chopin’s grave was, so we directed them.

 

Pere Lachaise cemetery

Jim Morrison’s grave

Despite our poor map reading skills, we managed to navigate the cemetery easily. Neen said it was because it was something we’re interested in. This is true. If we’re not interested, we won’t put effort in. Hence constantly failing school exams. There were quite a few people around Jim Morrison’s grave, but we managed to squeeze in and take photos. There are railings up around the whole section where he is to stop people going to his grave.

Pere Lachaise cemetery

Marie Elizabeth Demidoff’s grave.

The next grave on our list belonged to Russian princess Marie Elizabeth Demidoff, who apparently stated in her will that she would leave part of her inheritance to anyone who spent a year beside her corpse. Her monument was impressive, with columns and wolves’ heads. We stood at the bottom, trying to figure out how to get up to the other side. We eventually walked all the way around and up. Only to discover that had we gone the other way, a flight of steps would’ve taken us right to it. We were not shining today.

Pere Lachaise cemetery

Sex Toy’s grave

Our next mission was to find Sex Toy. That grave was off the path, so we had to explore amongst other graves. After fifteen minutes of failing to find it, nearly falling over and being attacked by brambles, we realised we were in the wrong area. We crossed a path to another section and continued the hunt. Cat slipped and her hand landed on some brambles. We hunted for another fifteen minutes then Lynx stopped to change her camera battery. And happened to stop by Sex Toy’s grave. Neen had walked right past it. We were expecting something phallic shaped, or with chains. Maybe even something that vibrated. Nope. A simple slab with SEX TOY written in old English font. So like men who can’t find the g spot, we were poking around, trying to look like we knew what we were doing, only to find it rather anti climatic.

Pere Lachaise cemetery, Oscar Wilde's grave

Oscar Wilde’s grave

We stopped for a picnic on a bench before finding Oscar Wilde’s grave with no difficulty. He wrote our favourite poem, the Ballard of Reading Gaol, so we had to find him. We expected it to be crowded like Jim Morrison’s was, but there were only two guys there. Oscar’s grave had a glass case around it, because there was a tradition of people kissing it and leaving lipstick marks all over it, inspired by his quote ‘a kiss may ruin a human life.’ And graves, it seems. The oils in the lipstick were damaging the stone, so the family paid to have them cleaned off and put a glass barrier around it to protect it.

 

Pere Lachaise cemetery

Auschwitz memorial

We headed to the eastern wall where 140 communards were shot at dawn on 28th May 1871 after fighting their way across the cemetery. They were buried where they fell but apparently visitors have seen them. We didn’t see them. There were some incredible memorials to the victims of the holocaust and those that died in the resistance. They showed skeletal figures, reminding people of the horror they suffered. We much preferred them to regular plaques. We found Gertrude Stein’s grave easily. She was a lesbian American novelist, playwright, poet and art collector. We also saw Edith Piaf’s grave as it was near the exit. A French woman asked us where Oscar Wilde’s grave was, so we pointed it out to her then gave her our map.

Pere Lachaise cemetery

Auschwitz memorial

We stopped at a café across the road to rest our painful feet before limping our way to the metro stop to go to the Musee Fragonard. We got off and walked down the really long Avenue de General de Gaulle. We couldn’t find it so went into a shop to buy a drink and ask where it was. They didn’t have any squash so we bought a big bottle of lemon water. The cashier didn’t know of the museum. We kept going until Neen checked the number. It was back near the metro stop. We turned around and hobbled back the way we’d come, only to find a solicitor’s at number 7. Neen got out her map. We were at the wrong end of the street. We got back on the metro and went another couple of stops. We had not come this far and put up with this much pain to quit now. We were going to the museum and it had better be damn well impressive. It also closed in an hour.

Musee Fragonard

Musee Fragonard

The museum is inside a university and was well worth a visit and the pain. We did the audio guide but there was so much information, we didn’t have time to listen to it all. There weren’t as many flayed people as were hoping – it was mostly animal skeletons and organs, as it was a veterinary university, but it was still fascinating. And cows don’t have four stomachs – their stomach is divided into four, with each section doing a different job.
Eiffel TowerWe got back on the metro to meet Alex and Jules at the Eiffel Tower. For some reason, we expected it to be silver, not brown. We got pictures as we walked past it then had to walk a long way to find the café they were in. By now, Cat’s bad knee had given up too, but luckily she’d brought her walking stick and had bought ice patches on our first day in Paris. A helpful American translated to the waiter what we meant by vegan then we sat and had chips. Our boots came off the minute we sat down. One waiter said “cook fries in with the meat? Who would be crazy enough to do that?” We replied “The UK.” He was impressed with our French when we asked for the bill.

Seine

Seine at sunset

The queue for the tower was still long so we did a cruise along the river Seine at sunset. It was the best time to do it. The boat was quiet, whereas in the day, the boats are always packed. We’d seen the Seine plenty of times in the day. It was beautiful as the sun went down and the lights came on. There was this annoying couple by us at the back of the boat. All the woman was did was take constant selfies without smiling in a single one, but doing those partial smiles with closed lips, ‘cos heaven forbid your smile should crinkle your face. The typical ‘identical facial expression in every photo so I always look beautiful’. Us and Neen had posted many unflattering photos of ourselves. We were glad when they left the boat, otherwise we were going to push her in. Let’s see her look picture-perfect after a dunking in the Seine.

SeineWe gave each other dares during the evening. Lynx had to ask a guy where the River Seine was, as we cruised along it. She even asked in French but he couldn’t understand her. Jules and Cat had to twerk picnickers as we sailed past. Having never twerked before, Jules had to teach Cat. They did it and got cheered by the picnickers.

River Seine

twerking it

Neen’s dare had been to ask someone where the Eiffel Tower was, as we stood across the road from it. He helpfully pointed it out then a man stopped his car and got out to have his photo taken with us. Alex had to lick her ice cream bowl. Us and Neen claimed it wasn’t a dare, as we’d do it anyway, so Neen dared Alex and Jules to tie their plaits together and walk around. They did it on the boat, but told the captain it was a dare so it didn’t count.

SeineIt was getting dark by the time we got back so the Eiffel Tower was lit up red white and blue. It looked beautiful, so we video called our mum and sister by it so they could see it lit up. Sarah asked if we could ring her when we were up there. We didn’t have to queue long – advantage of going up at 11 p.m. Security check through your bags at every major tourist attraction and the woman confiscated our big bottle of lemon water we’d just bought. Neen tried arguing it was just water, but the woman binned it. Not just confiscated. Binned. We spent €1.65 on that! Luckily, Neen had instructed us to pour some into the bottles we’d used for our squash, so some was saved. That wasn’t taken off us. Either the woman didn’t believe it was water, or she thought Neen looked the type to lob it at unsuspecting tourists. The top of the tower was closed unfortunately. We got the lift to the second floor then video called our mum and sister.
Eiffel TowerIt was so beautiful up there. It didn’t matter that we didn’t make it to the top. To be honest, we would’ve been terrified up there. A man behind us proposed to his girlfriend and we’re guessing by the applause that she said yes. Neen did a fake proposal to Lynx and people thought it was real. We had to explain it was just for photos and Neen is married. Quite frankly, we’re surprised nobody thought the others were real. The Eiffel Tower is seen as a romantic place to propose, even though it’s a popular suicide spot. Over 400 people have plunged to their deaths from it and most of them were distraught lovers. A famous story is about a couple who met at the tower. At the top, he proposed. She said no so he pushed her off. Apparently, you can hear her laugh then scream. Not so romantic now.

Eiffel TowerWe decided to get the full Eiffel Tower experience and walked down to the next floor. Big mistake. There were so many steps that by the time we reached the first floor, our feet were in agony. So we queued to take the lift down but had to wait ages with our feet feeling as though we were standing in lava. It was gone midnight by the time we got down but there was a sorbet place open so us and Neen had sorbet as we ambled to the metro. We had strawberry and raspberry. It was the best sorbet we’ve ever had and was the perfect way to end our last night in Paris. Then on the Metro was a hot guy. He looked like Ed Skrein from Deadpool. The views in Paris were just getting better. And he kept looking at us. So we played it cool. By ‘played it cool’, we mean we avoided eye contact and turned around. Winning.Eiffel Tower