Sunday, August 29, 2010

Postcard From Praia das Maçás

We pretty well haven't stopped moving since we packed up our belongings several weeks ago and as a result I've woken every day feeling like I've run a marathon. Galleries, museums, castles, palaces, fantastical gardens, castles, castles and more fucking castles. And turrets? I'd be happy to not climb another damned turret ever again. It's been amazing but mummy it hurts.

We were due to go from Sintra to Lisbon but plans changed at the last minute. We climbed the Moorish Castle on the mountain in Sintra dating from about the 8th century (unfortunately electronic communication in Sintra also feels like it dates from the 8th century... we couldn't even get the public phones to work), checked out the palace (soo high up) and the friend we we were going to meet in Lisbon said she was coming to Sintra and wouldn't mind going to one of the coastal towns, so right now we're in a place called Praia das Maçás, a bustling little beach town about 40 minutes out of Sintra on the chilly waters of the Atlantic. It's great doing it like this – just changing plans and destinations on a whim. We're here for two nights then the plan is to head back to Sintra, on to Lisbon then... not sure where then. We'll probably spend a couple of days in Lisbon (great – more castles and palaces I suspect but I swear in the name of the Holy Father I'm not going up another turret) and then head back to Spain. But who knows?

Who knows anything? I mentioned in the last hastily written blog post that I'd used a bidet for the first time. It was a startling and strangely pleasant experience. It puts the “Ooh!” into Pooh. I think I may have a problem. I think I'm developing an addiction. I've started using the bidet even when I don't need to go to the toilet. The Dreaded One keeps banging on the bathroom door and shouting “Lee – what are you doing in there?”

“Nothing. Nothing, I swear.”

“You're on the bidet again, aren't you.”

“I'm not. I'm... I'm just doing normal bathroom things. Leave us alone!”

“Us? You and the bidet?”

You leave the bidet out of this!”

Hmm. I feel another Grumpy column coming on.

So what have been the highlights of the trip so far? It's very hard to say. Leaving was stressful and that came out when we got lost in Madrid and we had our usual getting lost arguments. We didn't really feel kind of normal, or as normal as you can feel when you've sold your home, quit your job and left indefinitely. But then Madrid and it's art was amazing; Boom was awesome; it was a stroke of luck coming to Sintra because not only is the historical town a gorgeous, cobblestone tourist mecca that buzzes by day with day-trippers and empties out at night, but the palaces and gardens and that Moorish Castle ruins are quite amazing. The castle is so big and it's really quite a workout to get to the top, and you can't help but be entranced by the history of the thing. The Arabs just came along, built this massive fort-like thing in another country which has been taken over at various times by various armies, and climbing the thing you have to wonder how it was possible for any army to storm such an imposing and majestic fort.

But the main highlight in Sintra has to be Quinta da Regaleira, this grand, magical estate with its secret caverns, grottos, underground towers and meandering tunnels. An honest to God fantasyland steeped in the mystery of the Masons and the legend of The Knights of Templar. It's very tempting to go back for another visit and spend another day wandering about in wonder that such a place was built so long ago and still exists.

Anyway, the sun is coming out here in Praia das Maçás, so enough from the Sintra Tourism Bureau. I don't think a hell of a lot of Maçás – it's just a quaint and bustling beach town with some admittedly nice restaurants with some admittedly über fresh looking seafood and yeah yeah some nice drinking places to sit at and watch the sun sink all pinky and orangey behind the Atlantic... but do you think I can find a decent pair of shoes here? It's doing my head in. There is simply NOWHERE to buy a decent pair of men's open shoes.

For this, I shall never forgive you, Praia das Maçás. Never.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Postcard From Sintra, Portugal

Hello from Sintra, Portugal. Just a brief mesage to say we,re traveling well and had an amazing time at Boom. It was seven or so days of party mayhem and I loved every minute of it. Came out feeling quite battered and bruised and very sore. The site is massive... I´m not sure that it´s a better party than Rainbow but it´s certainly bigger. It´s like two full Rainbows... triple Rainbows!

Partied with Nick and and Renata and met a few others. Managed to meet up with Lucie too. Have loads of great photos to upload when we get the chance, it´s just a bit difficult dealing with this internet cafe in Portugal. Have laughed a lot, danced a ridiculous amount and yeah, have had moments of missing a few friends a lot. A LOT.

Goddamn this weird Portuguese keyboard.

Not a lot more to say right now. Nick and Renata have just left for Spain and home in Prague and we have to decide where to for us next. It´s supposed to be meeting Lucie in Lisbon but Sintra is insanely pretty so we might stay another couple of days, then head to Lisbon and back to Spain. I haven´t really done this kind of unstructured traveling before. I also hadn´t used a bidet before but have now. TMI? Sorry.

Whoever you are, I hope you´re well. Got to go now and soak up a bit more Sintra vibe and vino blanco. And yeah, it´s supposed to be in Portuguese but my pathetic Spanish has to suffice. Seems to work.

More to come as soon as I manage it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Postcard From Spain 2

Got this shot while wandreing through Madrid. We are not getting quite so lost now. We are not starving. We are being understood and liked and managing to find our way home.

I like this place. They have nailed it as far as food goes. We're venturing furthere and further and finding wonderful places.

We are also doing touristy stuff:

Hope that link works.

Whoever you are, I hope you are as happy as I am right now.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Horizontal Armadillo


As you read this, I don't know where in the world I am. Literally. The Dreaded One and I decided to pack everything up and become gypsies. We have no home now. We purged and packed and our stuff is in boxes in a very big box at a box storage place. It's been a crazy few weeks. So busy. So frantic. I am bruised from carrying heavy boxes of stuff down the stairs. I've had little sleep. There has been too much to think about. If I could put all the stuff there is to think about into boxes our storage rate would have gone up considerably. It's worth it, in the long run, because life is to be lived and we are bound for Madrid and Boom in Portugal and other places as yet to be specified.

But there is soooo much to do before we get to that magical party that it frequently does my head in. There has simply been no time to get excited by our looming Boomer Gypsy status. (Ooh... Boomer Gypsy – I like it).

Somehow, loose ends get tied. Nerves are frayed. Is it right to quit jobs and pack everything up to go to a party? Actually, yes, done it before. Quit my job as music editor of a dance music mag to go to Soulclipse in Turkey, and it was the right thing to do.

Still. This is big. This is serious. Most of the millions of things to be sorted get sorted. Stress, yeah baby, I'm mainlining it. I'm tired and can't imagine a time when I'm kicking back and enjoying myself.

We're getting there in one go, all the way from Australia to Madrid via Singapore and Frankfurt. It's going to be a brutal long haul of discomfort, agitation and sleeplessness but we just want to get it over and done with.

On the plane, in my delirium, searching for sleep, an Armadillo emerges from the dark.

"Psst," the Armadillo says, looking a little shifty. "Comfortable?"


"I said are you comfortable?"

"Are you kidding? It's a 26 hour flight. I can't remember comfortable. It's horrible. It's all so squishy and the bloke next to me keeps falling asleep with his head on my shoulder and I don't like it at all, Armadillo."

"I can fix that you know. And that's Mr Armadillo to you."

"What? No way, Mr Armadillo."

"No really. Ever heard of that stuff, Horizontal?"

He had my attention. "Heard of it, yeah. God what I'd do for a bit of Horizontal."

"I've got some."

"You've got some Horizontal? Some actual Horizontal?"

"Yeah, the real stuff and it's gooood shit."

"Really. Um... got any to sell?"

"That's why I'm here."

"How much?"

"It's not cheap."

"Okay, I don't care how much I gotta have some. I'm in a bad way. I gotta get me some Horizontal or I'm not going to make it through the night. Please Mr Armadillo, please, take all my money just gimme the Goddamn Horizontal."

We did the deal right there on that dark plane, and Mr Armadillo was right. It was good shit. Take my advice: if you're ever on a long flight and you're tired and squished and the guy next to you keeps falling asleep with his head on your shoulder and you get approached by a shifty Armadillo selling Horizontal, don't haggle, just buy that shit.

Grumpy the Boomer Gypsy is freelance writer Lee Bemrose.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Postcards From Spain 1

Four hours in the Prado Museum today surrounded by Rubens and Goya and El Bosco and Carravagio, and the highlight for me? The typo on the plaque beside a famous painting called The Conversion Of The Duke Of Gandia which explained that what was going on in the painting was that the Duke had just "opened the coffin and looked in at the rooting corpse."

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Brainspill, Leaving, Mad World

I was walking through the tunnel from Central railway station to Broadway to the passport place thinking about the night before with friends and how much these people mean to me and it was weird... I'm thinking about all this gorgeous stuff and how lucky I am and how every now and then I'll look at these friends - Ann or Nadia or Christine - when they're talking to someone else or laughing at something that doesn't have anything to do with me and I just feel great affection, real love. And I'm thinking about this as broken people walk by hunched into their grubby clothes, and strangely there are bruised rose petals lying on the grimy tiles and I wonder how they got there, what is their story? And there's a busker singing Gary Jules' Mad World, and my head's drowning in beauty with all this human wreckage around me and this busker singing this sad song. It's not a great voice but it's in tune, and the guitar is in tune and there's a kind of perfection there, and it all just about overwhelms me. I want to cry. I really want to let myself go and howl it out. I want to be with everyone. I want to be alone. I want to fix the broken ones and make them as lucky as I am. And I look around and wonder if I let myself go, if I gave into it in this bustling tunnel would anyone even notice? I almost lose it but don't quite, and maybe all of them are doing the same thing, feeling exactly the same way I am feeling. Who knows? Who knows what the hell is going on. Mad World.

Leaving in a few short days. It's a fucked up kind of pain, the pain of leaving, because it is genuine sadness but there's beauty in it; I'm lucky to have people I love in my life who love me back, and I hate that I am leaving them. What must it have been like back in the days of ships sailing to unknown lands? When goodbyes could well have meant proper never-to-be-heard-from-again goodbyes?

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Grumpy With Bureaucracy

New Grumpy column out in Tsunami next week. I hope it's funny, but I also got a bit pissed off writing it. This is actually quite a serious rort. It's nonsense that these bureaucracies are not accountable to anyone. I'm a bit fucked off by it all... but you have to try to squint and see the humour.


Me being me, I have just realised that I have lost my passport. I'm leaving the country to go to Boom in Portugal and to maybe check out the party season in Ibiza. Boom will be spectacular, Ibiza... I don't know what to expect. That's if I make it at all, what with the Mystery Of The Vanishing Passport. I have no idea what happened to it. I just assumed it was always in its special passport place. But when I got the little passport wallet thing out and opened it, there was nothing there.

“There's no passport there,” The Dreaded One told me helpfully. I went into frantic mode, because that always helps the situation. I frantically checked the surrounding area. No passport. I frantically widened the search. No passport. I frantically checked the little wallet thing again about 17 times. Nopassportnopassportnopassportnopassport etc. I frantically checked every pocket I owned. I checked every secret stash place I could recall. I checked potential secret stash places that maybe I'd forgotten about. I checked the freezer. I interrogated the cat for hours and didn't come up with a Goddamn thing.

“Maybe you loaned it to someone,” the cat wisecracked as it left the room, chuckling in its smug way. Quite clearly the cat just wasn't getting how important this was. It's a ten day turnaround for a new passport and we leave in eight days. Not good.

I phoned the passport place and spoke to a human. They told me that it was possible to get a two day turnaround, I just have to pay another $78. No problem. This was good news. $78 and my birth certificate and I could have my passport in two days... birth certificate? Who has a birth certificate? I went into frantic mode again.

Long story short: I go to the birth certificate place and the human tells me that everything is peachy and I could have the birth certificate the following day for the standard price of $39 or I could have it right now for $60. I tell her I want it now. She hits print and seconds later hands me the document and I hand her the $60. But what is that all about? If I wait a day and come back and she calls up the file and hits print, I can save myself about 40%. It's only 21 bucks, but that's massive percentage-wise for doing the same thing a day later. Um... rort anyone? Why, exactly, is it cheaper to come back a day later and do the same thing? If I come back two days later do I get my birth certificate for free?

And why does the passport thing take 10 working days at the standard rate but a speedy two for an additional fee? If it can be done in two days, just do 'em all in two days. Call me suspicious but I'll bet there's no queue to jump, no backlog to clear, just a juicy bureaucratic rip off taking place each and every day. Some kind of hangover from the days when paper files had to be manually searched for, copied and posted out days later. People, technology has made it all immediate. All of it.

You bureaucratic humans, you shit me.

Grumpy is Lee Bemrose, freelance writer at With any luck he has left the country before any passport humans have read this column.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Boom Bound

I'm finding loads of interesting relics in packing everything up. This is me and The Dreaded One a million years ago. There are some even funnier photos I hope to get around to posting. We seem to have always been laughing, seem to have always been a bit in love.

Well it's coming to crunch time. I do not have to see the wrong side of 4am again for the foreseeable future. I quit my job and The Dreaded One finishes hers on Tuesday. On Wednesday August 11 we jump on a plane just after 4pm and go Singapore/Frankfurt/Madrid. We stay in Madrid for about a week before heading to Boom with friends. We are finally going to party at Boom. There's been a lot of stress leading up to this... selling your home just isn't something that a lot of sensible people would recommend, but that's what we've done. Largely because the money people are willing to pay at the moment isn't all that sensible so we thought we'd cash in and fuck off, basically.

We've almost finished packing. The garage is full of labeled boxes. We're almost done. There is the minor issue of me losing my passport with only 8 working days until we leave, but it's okay because I can get the new passport fast tracked to two days... except I seem to have also misplaced my birth certificate. Numbnut. Seriously, I am so anal about this kind of stuff and never lose anything, but there you go. I have to get to the births, deaths and marriages place tomorrow for the birth certificate and then to the passport office on Tuesday for the passport. Both places are just near Lee Street so I'm taking this as a sign that as unnecessary as this drama is, all will be fine.

There were weird emotions leading up to all of this. I don't think you can do something this big and not feel some turmoil. I haven't been able to feel happy or excited, but these feelings are now starting to come through. I am unemployed. I am about to head over to a brilliant part of the world for an amazing party, then drifting for however long seeing wonderful things and visiting friends. I am very fortunate. Weirdly I am getting excited about every stage of the trip at once. I'm looking forward to the party (Boom just this morning posted photos of the seeing up of the stages and it's weird to think we will be there in less than three weeks); I am looking forward to seeing Barcelona again; I think I am looking forward to going to Ibiza; I want to be lost in a world of art and architecture again; I'm excited about being in New York in winter, not something I ever thought I would do; I can't wait to experience whatever San Francisco has to offer. And I am looking forward so much to catching up with all the friends these places are minding for me.

And home. Already I am looking forward to Rainbow Serpent next year. I am really looking forward to seeing all my Australian friends again at that wonderful party. I know it's a long way off and I am going to focus on the here and now while far away, but I am looking forward to that party so much. And then setting up our new life in Melbourne.

I feel little like I did when I left my job at 3D to go to Turkey for Soulcipse. We are not doing what the financial advisers would recommend, but fuck it's going to be fun.

Just got to get this passport nonsense sorted out. Quickly.