Posts tagged Outrageous Eats
Thailand: Must Dos and Definitely Don'ts

Do ... eat street food. And eat it for breakfast.

There is something indescribably life fulfilling about putting down a bowl of spicy red curry at 9 am, and sweating out your head while sitting on a nearly uninhabited beach. 

Don't ... try to figure out what it is that you are eating.

This is not a place for the picky eaters or weak stomachs. You will most likely realize that those two balls floating in your soup were, in fact, testicles only after eating them. Try to leave that in the past. 

Don't .. expect the Thai street vendors to understand you.

When she hands you a spoon after you ask for your change, just take it with a smile. Then go visit your friendly 711, buy a large Leo beer, find a filthy Bangkok stoop to sit on and sweat your face off while eating this spicy deliciousness.

Don't ... stay in Bangkok any longer than necessary.

It is a foul, grey city infested and overpopulated. The steam of the sewers mixed with the steam of the air is just too much to bare. 

Do ... make the trip up north to Chiang Mai.

Southern Thailand is known for its exotic islands and they are intoxicatingly beautiful. But the north has a soul and charm of its own. Different food. Different people. Visit the long necked Karen tribes up in the mountains or immerse yourself in the abundant wildlife. 

Do ... learn to speak elephant.

Elephant riding is a popular tourist attraction in Thailand. Unfortunately, most of the parks and companies that provide it, treat these gorgeous creatures obscenely inhumane. Research. Find an elephant rescue and protection community to visit if you want to interact with these wondrous giants. You'll learn each elephant's story, history, and personality. And be able to speak their language too!

Baan Chang Elephant Park

Baan Chang Elephant Park

Do ... cuddle baby tigers. 

Ok. Yes, it's touristy. And yes, I know that there is a lot of controversy over places like Tiger Kingdom and the like who cage animals and charge people to pet them. These huge cats were meant for the wild and yes, there is something infinitely depressing about seeing those magnificent beasts all cooped up and seemingly drugged out, spending their days tolerating lines of people gawking and touching them. BUT ... those baby tigers. Oh, those sweet, innocent, wide-eyed, playful newborns. They will steal your heart and never give it back. 

Don't ... drink the water. 

If you're anything like me (and I'm assuming you're not), you will have disregarded all traveling precautions and by the time you get to Thailand, you will have drank the tap water in 6 different countries for the past 4 months and proclaim your immune system invincible. It's not. You will spend a week cradling a toilet in immense pain. (That being said, it could have been the testicle soup, or the sun cooked pork that did me in. Never could tell.)

Don't ... drink the Red Bull. Or the wine. 

The popular carbonated energy drink in America promising to give you wings is actually a syrupy concoction fueled with nitroglycerin in this country. You will have a heart attack. And die. 

Don't get me started on the wine.

Just don't. 

Don't ... book a hotel on a dead end street during Phuket's rainy season. 

You will walk through brown raging rivers to get back home. You will stub your toe on a brick. And you will fall under. 

Do ... travel by long tailed boat. 

It is now my life goal to become one of these Thai men - career boat drivers - with their shirts tied around their heads, standing cool and confident at the back of the boat, one leg pulled up by their side, steering this truly amazing piece of wooden handicraft with their foot atop the 6 foot motor rod like they've been doing it since they could walk. 

Sat with 5 strangers, the boat is in a constant state of capsizing every time somebody jumps off at the next island or beach. Turquoise sprays from the sea as you stare gape jawed through salty eyes at the towering stone eruptions that somehow emerged sporadically throughout the sea. 

Do ... go off the grid.

Go to Koh Chang - an under populated and under developed island. A rusty, decrepit ferry will take you from the port of Trat over to this island nature reserve at an impossibly slow pace, or hitch a ride with one of the local fishermen. Stay in a bungalow with no wifi, no air con, or working shower, at the edge of a beach that no one walks on.  There is nothing quite like waking up soaked in sweat, tangled in mosquito netting, with no way of communicating with anyone other than the few that wander here.

It may not sound glamorous and that's because it's not. There is no relief from the sweat or the heat because the crystal clear water is just as hot as the air and the food is hotter than the both combined. Throw the make up and the hair products off the boat because they are lost here (that goes for all of Thailand.) Remove yourself from the world. I dare you. 

Falling for Franschhoek

It’s a warm, blue-skied, spring morning in Franschhoek, on a date I am unaware of and a day I have no reason to place. Jack pants beside me in the lush green grass and my fingers run absentmindedly through his golden fur as I watch a pair of birds waltz together among the tiny, purple wildflowers that dust the bright green floor. The sky is the sort of blue you’ve waited a very long winter for and everything comes alive under the South African early morning sun. Rows of barren grape vines stretch longingly upwards toward the warmth. Even the lake at the end of the yard seems to be finally relaxing. The only sound for miles and miles is residential bird choir practice and Jack’s gentle breathing. I wonder in between dosing off how Linda and Bruce would feel about adopting me so I never have to leave this perfect little cove of heaven. I could just stop right here and never go any further. Just me, the birds, the flowers and Jack.

Nestled at the foothills of the Franschhoek mountains, outside the quaint little town, stands a modest piece of land and small family vineyard owned by Linda & Bruce, where they run the charming Chanteclair guesthouse. With the ease and graceful hospitality that makes you forget you are paying them to stay there, it is impossible not to feel like a welcomed guest in their home. A few elegant bedrooms named after trees hide privately in corners of this ivy wrapped, rennovated farm house and breakfast is served out on the terrace each morning, homemade by the Petro and Leonora. This is my favorite part of the day here, with their yellow lab, Jack patiently waiting for scraps at my feet (I’ve been feeding him against instruction in hopes that he will follow me when I go) as I watch the world wake up. A torrent of white clouds comes crashing over the mountaintops each morning, as fast and furious as tidal waves, racing each other in their expansive playground, tumbling down the slopes like an avalanche of powdery snow and breaking on the shore, dissipating into nothing amongst the vines. 



I’m in Franschhoek because some few days after my 27 hours of travel agg, I’ve remembered and regained my purpose for coming to South Africa in the first place – the wine. (Huh? South Africa has wine?) Yes, they do in fact and some of the greatest in the world at that. The Cape winelands are located only 45 minutes north east of Cape Town and have been making some of the most unique wines ever since this lush landscape was discovered. However, only since the 80’s have they been world recognized.

My quest began in Stellenbosch, a town only a 30 minute drive from my current location, founded and claimed by Sir Simon van der Stel who, with an ego no smaller than this country, decided to name this haven after himself, because, hey, why wouldn’t ya? Surrounded by mountains, the most famous of which is said to look like the arrogant bastard, drunk lying on his back with a bottle of wine. And that is exactly what it looks like … lazy van der Stel himself napping in a drunken haze, his profile in perfect view showcasing his rather large nose, and his hand gripping a forgotten bottle that rests on his rotund belly just below his sagging chin, ready to drink or passed out from it.

Here I discovered the native South African grape Pinotage, after which, I spent a shameful amount of hours comparing every version of this exciting wine. A wine that I had been rather uneducated in and often getting a bad rap, I instantly developed a fond fascination with this varietal. The love child of two separate grapes, Africa has birthed an heir to the New World wine family that is as unique and exciting as it claims to be. It was long since discovered that the beloved Pinot Noir did not take to these South African climates quite as well as English and French settlers had hoped and thus, some genius decided to cross breed it with the polar opposite grape, Cinsaut (formerly known as Hermitage in SA), creating the perfect offspring of the two. Pinotage yields the delicacies of its mother – the elegant and soft-spoken Pinot Noir- with the bold resilience of its daring father, Cinsaut. A dark maroon in color, this wine varies vastly from winery to winery in terms of nose and mouth, from simple table wines to elegant and robust centerpieces. The best of it’s kind, in my opinion, delivers an orchestrated dance that begins with a warm chocolate and coffee nose enticing you in before delivering a punch and loudness of fruit to shock, surprise, confuse and intrigue you. Certain to keep you coming back for more.



Despite it’s close proximity, Franschhoek has a different feel entirely to it’s brother counterpart, Stellenbosch. Discovered in the 1600’s by the French Huguenots, this quaint little town known as the “French Corner” has all the elegant feel of France without the upturned noses, and the remote picturesque landscape of Africa. What you find here today is the beautiful fusion of bold South African wine traditions intertwined with the subtlety and grace of its knowledgeable French mother. A unique and undeniable success in the marrying of Old World wine traditions and New World wine explorations.

A much smaller, quieter place than Stellenbosch, although its food and wines do not shy away in comparison, Franschhoek has all the quaint small town feel, breath taking landscape, and lazy Saturday afternoons that anyone could ask for. The town is comprised primarily of one simple street - Main Street - and what it lacks in distance, it makes up for in depth as "the food and wine capital" of the country. Just a short, peaceful walk from Chanteclair, Main Street is bustling on a Saturday with markets, African jewelry, and families enjoying lunch, wine, and laughter outdoors. One small restaurant in particular catches my eye on this certain Saturday with it’s white linen table cloths and Porcupine Ridge embroidered umbrellas, tucked into a small stone square by a bubbling fountain and although I’m not quite hungry, I ask for a table for one (a routine that I have become incomprehensibly comfortable with). I am instructed to sit where I please and a four-person table ornate with all the silverware and fancy dressings of a 5 star restaurant accompanied by farm charm aura, is the only one open so I pull out a chair.

No sooner do I allow my weight down into the white chair as elegantly as I know how, do I tumble over backwards. One leg of the chair abruptly wedging down into a grate in the cobblestone floor, landing me boots over head, ass out in daisy duke denims, sprawled out on the concrete, and knocking the back of my head into the legs of a proper lunchtime date behind me. A little more than slightly mortified in front of all these sophisticated types, I laugh hoping these fancies might join in the fun and games however, they decline. Twenty plus stares and pauses before turning their attention back to their meals while I wrestle with a chair, trying to pry it out of the grate in silence. Not my finest hour.

Taking a seat in the most poised manner possible after such a debacle, I join in the pretending that the little charade did not happen and order my lunch. Franschhoek, although a modest little town, is unabashed in boasting about the food delicacies they prepare and the perfect neighboring wine pairings they orchestrate, and my first food experience does not disappoint. Lightly battered calamari stuffed with pesto, pine nuts, and harami cheese, drizzled in a sweet chili glaze, accompanied by a glass of Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc, already has a ring on my finger before the delicate artichoke hearts dripping in a pool of garlic butter has time to seal the deal.


Careful not to trip over my own feet as I exit the restaurant, I decide it's time for what we came here for - the wineries. The Franschhoek Wine Tram hop-on-hop-off is a thing of genius and the most charming way to explore the lush wineries of this infamous Cape Wineland region. A small fee will get you an all day pass. Plan your winery route accordingly, or just hop off at one that happens to strike your fancy. An old trolley cart with open windows and an educated, bubbling driver, it gives any traveler the ideal view of the countryside and picturesque beauty that this small town encompasses in a big way. (

If you know me, you will assume that, clearly, I did not pick out any wineries beforehand, nor did I care too. Taken with the ride, I simply waited for something to tell me to get off at each winery I passed and trusted that instinct. Because so far, albeit getting me into some bastard situations, it hasn’t quite steered me wrong thus far. 

Having spent the previous night dining at Holden Manz, a romantic dinner for one that postively surpassed any date that I have ever been on, I was already swept away and couldn't wait to see what the other Franschhoek wineries had to offer, or if they dared to top my first love. Candelit tables next to a crackling fire, overlooking the stretch of Holden Manz vineyards, along with a mouth-watering, daring menu that would get any adventurous food lover's heart pumping, Holden Manz provides the same elegant and cozy, family feel that the small town of Franschhoek does, while delivering bold culinary and varietal statements that everyone should witness. ( 

Today, I come to the culmination of my previous Pinotage quest for perfection at La Couronne. An intensely ripe, fruit boasting mouth feel disguised in a chocolate and espresso aroma. Well balanced and entirely intriguing – definitely one of my favorite South African wines. (

And my venture would not be complete without the savory lunch menu of Moreson winery, a stroll through their enchanted Orchid greenhouse, and their endearing, hilarious Miss Molly collection of bubbly and wine. With tasting notes like these, I am right at home …

“MISS MOLLY IN MY BED ~ Miss Molly, the captivating Môreson Weimaraner, doesn’t do mornings. Her late night social schedule ensures that, by sunup, she’s ready for bed. After Miss Molly’s breakfast is served, and devoured, she loves to climb (uninvited) into whichever bed is available. In My Bed is a wine designed to be two of Miss Molly’s favourite things – comfortable and easy going.”

Moreson is a must stop on any Franschhoek winery tour. Perfect for that midday break and a quick snack to soak up some of that early morning wine and fatten you up for a full day’s worth of drinking ahead. (


And after today, I am certain that I need to live here forever and I can't think of anything I'd rather do than curl up by the fire at Chanteclair with a glass of their newest red and Jack at my side. 

Striking out in Sorrento

No sentences are constructed this morning. Thoughts come out in turret like syllables, bounce off each other like walls, and are dismissed as fast as they came. Neither of us try to reconstruct them but allow them to lay where they fall; after 24 years growing up with each other, no words need to be spoken between my brother and I to convey how lost we both are. Last night’s energy, laughter, and adventures are left in broken shards on the hotel floor as we try to pack our bags and check out. If it were only my brother, John, in this morning after disarray state, I would thoroughly enjoy it as I always do, watching my sibling as I have so many times before, try to regain his memory and his brain as he attempts life after last night’s bender, laughing uncontrollably and poking him the whole way through. But it’s not just John, it’s both of us. And the only thing worse than one Thomas unable to function and live life, is two of them together. In a foreign country, checking out of a hotel, with no concrete plans, just a mere string of possibilities strung together last night by some blinking sea captains and World Cup fans that we have dubbed the next course of action.

Well, the best and only prospect of plans is crushed and annihilated by the hotel desk clerk, an Italian suave type with dark, shoulder length pushed back hair straight out of a Pantene advertisement. John is looking across the desk at Mr. suave in horror after asking him what he thought of our subsequent Italian plans. Suave shrugs indifferently and says things like “that place is okay,” or “it is different,” in his complex sing song tones and all I’m thinking about is where the hell he gets his shampoo. The thing about John is he likes confidence; he trusts confidence no matter what you’re selling. Suave here just unraveled everything the confident sea captains had sold to us yesterday – Pompeii, Ischa, and then Naples. As if that wasn’t enough, John finds out looking at a map that we never actually made it to Amalfi when on our coastal scooter adventure and had stopped at the town just before it.

We leave uprooted, without a shred of direction and a robbed Amalfi dream revealed as fraud, with a complete inability to make any decisions. The bags are heavy and it’s hot, the surrounding air is aimless and the first order of business is food. I had been bragging to John about the food in Italy for years and so far we had struck out twice – a hard feat to accomplish in this country. But yesterday’s tasteless lunch robbing us of a devastating eighty euros and the previous “slimy testicles” (aka gnocchi) dinner that John had gagged up, looking at me appalled and offended for suggesting, had left him in a doubt filled world of fear. See, John is the sort of person that plans his next meal while he’s eating his current meal. He goes down in a deterioration of hypothalamic sweats if food isn’t an option when he’s hungry. So we decide on the first place we see- something safe – an Irish pub and take a seat.

The thing about Italy, and Europe in general, is that none of the pictures on the menus look appetizing. Unlike the marketing gurus and mouth watering lies of American foodies, these people literally snap a polaroid of said dish and feature it in their menu. John orders the picture of the huge Italian cold cut, which mockingly comes out as a plate of slimy hams and RAW bacon (yes, raw) with no bread. The distraught in John’s eyes as his mouth furls and his eyebrows sink is soul destroying and impossibly hilarious. It’s too cruel to laugh and I feel as crushed, so I pay for the food, get John up quickly before he goes into an epileptic fit, and decide for a redo. We’ll eat lunch again somewhere else and pretend that last one never happened.

Our brains are still misfiring and there is a complete inability to form choices this morning, so we sit down at the first American restaurant we find, complete with red Coca-Cola chairs and umbrellas out front. John orders a hot dog in Italy because he’s a fool and it comes out as five baby toes on a soccer bun with french fries inside. My burger tastes like a sock and now I am trapped in hysterical fits of laughter that I cannot stifle observing John’s face, sunken in mortification and I know his feelings are personally hurt by this meal. We don’t eat more than a bite and walk to the bus station hoping someone will hold our hands and tell us where we should go from here.

The bus is an additive in a string of foul play and hideous choices made this morning. There is no room for our bags underneath, so we sit crammed together in the front seat with them on our laps. People pile in like shipwreck survivors at every stop and when no seats are left, they push their way through and against each other in the aisle. Every time someone new comes in, a catastrophe of shoving and flailing limbs falls against John’s unwell body, shoving me against the glass window. His face twitches in pain as a screeching Teradactyle of a woman talks shrilly on her cell phone up against his ear, while two Australian teenage girls jabber incessantly in high pitches from the seat behind us. The bus, which is entirely too large to even fit on these costal roads, let alone make it around any of the never ending turns, wheezes and spits painfully along the cliffs. There is a lot of jerking and haulting and clashing of horns, as buses stand off to see who will reverse first back along the path and let the other through. A cruel and relentless game of chicken.

John lifts his eyelids ever so slightly to look at me as his head sways. They seem to be more weight that he can muster and they flutter upwardly as he looks at me. “I don’t even care if you throw up on me, just so you know. I won’t even move,” he says before his head drops back down into a sleepy haze, bouncing and swiveling around on his neck with each bump and jerk.

I am dangerously near a cloister phobic panic attack smashed against this window and my legs have gone numb under my bag. Sucking in deep breaths through clenched teeth and closed eyes, I attempt to regain composure before flailing limbs and bags go everywhere. The bus driver stops again along the cliff to let more people in and I stifle a panicked whimper; there is no more room and no more air. Sweating and trying to find any angle that allows movement, my head slams forward as the bus driver screeches on his breaks. He’s crashed into a row of parked scooters, and I watch them fall one against the other like dominos out my window. Glancing at the driver after I hear a few Italian curse words that I recognize, I watch him shrug, shake his head and go on his way.

Two hours later, the bus dumps us out in Amalfi looking like we've just clawed our way from beneath the earth. Neither of us have a clue where we are staying because the decision to get on the bus to Amalfi in the first place came from the inability to make any other ones. Ideas to go back to Capri are tossed around and shot right back down when we are informed that the sea is too rough and no ferries are going out today. Will there be any tomorrow? Who knows, the woman shrugs. Right on.

It is now appearing that there are no hostels in this luxurious coastal town unless we want to trek a few miles up the mountain with our bags, and all hotels are massively out of our price range. I look up at John across an outdoor cafe table after passing this information along. His lips are pressed together and his eyebrows furrow in a concerned and exasperated look. “Is this what you do? All the time?” He asks in concerned disbelief, the quiver escaping his voice betraying his confidence.

I laugh, shrug, and then let my smile fall again and nod at him seriously. His expression makes me laugh again. “Well, this is insane then,” John lets out half a laugh. 

"This is the gypsy breeze agg* for you. Pure agg," I smile, "Allow it because it's always worth it."

It’s time for me to do something to get us out of this since I got my brother into this trip in the first place, so I walk back into the travel office and ask about accommodation. And that’s where God intervenes, putting an end to our morning madness, unable to watch it any longer Himself. The woman behind the desk is an ancient, scary little creature, hunched over with a round body and a round head, leathery brown with a tuft of hair to match; she is so passionate when she speaks that I flinch as if everything she is telling me is a slap in the face. I wait as she sings some Italian into the telephone to her friend who lives upstairs. She appears to slam the phone when she is finished and yells at me that her friend has room for a good price and he will be right down.

We follow an impossibly tan man of maybe thirty, with a kind face and no English language through the tiny cobblestone streets of Amalfi. Under hanging dresses from windows above and around corner shops displaying disgruntled lemons, florescent yellow under the sun and bigger than John’s head. Everything in this town is yellow and the whole place smells of lemons; shops selling lemon soap, lemon candy, lemon liquor (home to the infamous Lemoncello), lemon wallets and purses and candles.

We squeeze our way up three flights of crowded, two way stairs, round a corner up the street and enter the very building we had just come from a few stories below. The buildings and houses here, all built atop one another up the mountains and into the rocks. I look back at John with wide glaring eyes when I see the vertical stone staircase upon entering the building and heave myself up behind our host. He keeps turning around and peering at me sympathetically, saying “sorry,” as we round each corner revealing more flights of vertical stairs. I just smile at him and nod since I can no longer breathe, sweating and panting, using the railing to drag myself to the top. Around the tenth flight of stairs, John is laughing in broken breaths, wheezing “holy shit,” under his breath behind me.

Once at the top, we enter another large wooden door, pass a kitchen where someone’s grandmother is making soup while awaiting her hair dye to set in, the dark creamy liquid covering her scalp. She nods and smiles, wooden spoon in hand over a boiling pot and I smile back through the dizzying spots in my vision. Just down the hall, our guide's wife - a beautiful Italian woman decked out in fushia finishes cleaning our room through the open door. She is humming and scurrying around as the breeze blows off the sea through the floor to ceiling window behind her, twirling the sheer curtains at its side and her long dark hair. John mutters “holy shit,” again from behind me – this time only loud enough for me to hear as he pushes past me towards the window. The view is staggering so high above the sparkling sea and coastline. Music fills the room as a dance camp practices routines on the concrete below us, muffling the sounds of horns and screeching buses.  My bag hits the floor with a bang, shaking the stone floor beneath our feet and my palm finds the bed, lowering myself down to sit attempting to slow the thud of my heart against my rib cage. The pretty wife is speaking Italian at me but her words are just echoing against my pounding ear drums. I try to confirm the price we were told, as John paces around the room whispering that it can’t possibly be that cheap, but neither of us can understand each other and I can scarcely get words out in between breaths so I just smile and nod, not knowing what I'm aggreeing to, until she leaves.

After napping on a pile of rocks that this country deems a beach, John and I set out to find the best seafood on the coast, no matter the cost in desperate attempts to right our earlier wrongs. And that is exactly what we find. Fresh lobster, squid, mussels and prawns. The most delicious and interesting dishes atop this seaside deck; not a plate is disappointing and everything exceeds our expectations. We sit there above the sea, a hole shelled out of the rocks, for hours just because we can, taking our time to enjoy every bite. We laugh as the waiters sing to us their Italian phrases introducing each dish as it comes.

“I love this country,” John says in between bites, “Best people and best food I’ve ever come across.”

I laugh, "How's that agg* looking now?" 


*Agg: a term coined by the Bonnet Boys (see past post "Snow White, 6 Dwarves, & a Joffrey); deriving from the words agony or aggrivation. May be used as a noun, verb, or adjective whenever circumstances call for it. (i.e. "What an aggy bus ride," "This is the aggiest day of my life," "I am in pure agg.")

Improv Stops in Galicia

So, I decided to give couch surfing a try. Before you say anything, let me endorse your sketchy suspicions with my own and then contradict them by telling you what I found. Contrary to terrifying assumptions, couch surfing is simply an amazing, secret, underground society of travelers helping travelers for the sake of karma, that they might be helped along their journey later down the line. And for experiences, because they simply love to travel and love meeting people who share this passion. It’s a different world in this society … no hotels, not even hostels, just locals; and let me tell you, I never would have seen Galicia the way I got to see it without couch surfing with a born and bred local Galician.

Cambados wasn’t in my plans. In fact, it wasn’t even on my radar, but those, I’ve found, are the absolute best stops in travel. However, as fate would have it, Adrian reached out to me on Couch Surfers and told me he had a room open should I wish to visit a town about 45 minutes from Santiago de Compostela, where I was currently residing. Well, it was now or never, so I decided to get it well over and done with so that the fear would be gone.

After getting off the wrong stop on the bus and wandering around with a non-English speaking, 90 year old, Galician man trying to help, Adrian met me at a local bar. I had told him I was at the bar, Estrella Galicia -only to find out later that that was actually the name of the local beer. Talk about foreigner. Adrian was a punk rock / rasta / musician looking type with unkempt facial hair and a slight mullet. He looked like he possibly sported a rat-tail for the better part of his youth.

Adrian is everything that the gypsy part of my soul longs to be. He hitch hikes through Poland and France, learns English while living with Italians in Ireland, travels around in a van for weeks in search of peaceful beaches, and plans trips to Portugal only to get onto an impulsive plane to Germany as soon as he arrives. But he always comes back to Cambados. He bleeds Galician. He was born and raised here and he will die here. He was my traveling gypsy kindred spirit and I thought about bringing him with me down through Portugal. Unfortunately, Adrian had more of a Romeo and Juliet duo in mind rather than Louis and Clark and thus the duo eventually parted ways.

Cambados is a small fishing village on the west coast of Spain above Portugal, known for Albarino and seafood. Adrian says that people come from all over the world just to have lunch here (and after lunch, I absolutely believe him.) Here being a place that wasn’t known to me for anything and had not been on my list until yesterday. An impromptu stop that I would become increasingly grateful for with each passing hour. One night turned into three and it wasn't even twenty-four hours before I had canceled all of my planned trains and hostels for the next three stops. 

Back at his house, Adrian cooked lunched for us. A plate of mussels fresh from the dock down the street, where he knew the fishermen by name and they often gave him mussels for free because they were harvested in such abundance here that people didn’t know what to do with them. He steamed them in a pot without water because he said the salt water inside the shells was the only flavor you needed. We ate them with our hands. He picked some herbs from his garden, sliced some tomatoes and other vegetables, threw them in a pot with more mussels, rice and Berberchose – tiny clam like creatures and my new favorite word. (Pronounced “barry barry truce”, I later said it constantly, with or without reason, adding it into any sentence that I could or just attaching it onto the end of phrases.) After lunch, we had fruit digestives made in his friend’s grandfather’s basement out of various fruits and grappa. It tasted like cold medicine and jet fuel had a baby, but it didn’t take long for me to grow accustomed to the flavor (and the buzz).

The sun was shining and the wind was dancing off the sea. Adrian took me all over the town, showing me only local things that I never would have discovered on my own. We walked along the sea at low tide, which was more like no tide, leaving vast expanses of green algae covered ocean floors and boats beached along them with their anchors still in the ground. Adrian said the sea changed every 45 minutes. Sometimes the water would be level with the road for a week and then be miles of beach for the next.

I’m like a child, skipping around like a curious 5 year old, asking every question that pops into my head on any given moment. “What’s that?” “Do you eat these?” “How do you say this?” “When do you eat this?” “But what are they?” “What’s this plant called?” “What is growing on this rock?” “What do you call algae?” “Why is there so much green here?” “Does the algae get tangled on you when you swim? I hate that.” “Do you swim?” “When does it get hot here?” “Does it ever snow?” “Do young people vote?” “What exactly does the King do?” Adrian seemed to find this amusing and answered every question patiently with a delighted grin.

We walked to the ruins of a look out tower and climbed up, sitting on the rocks of what used to be a wall with the water splashing up against the stones below, while a man fished beside us. Walking through the town, we pass houses covered in shells (an old Galician architecture meant to protect the buildings from the coast’s weather conditions), and through a beautiful, old cemetery. It was covered in tiger lilies and after telling Adrian they were my favorite flower, he plucked one straight off a grave and put it in my hair. Certain that we were now going to some sort of doomed after life for that, I ran out. We climbed up a hill covered in a pinecone forest, which reminded me of home, up to a look out at the top. With Adrian’s help, I climbed to the top of the boulders and sat up there for awhile, out of breath and awe struck, overlooking the seaside town. The wind danced through my hair peacefully and I wondered how I could have come through Spain never knowing that this little town existed.

Once down on level ground again, we walked to a small winery. Albarino vines covered the Galician landscape like ivy roof tops, standing straight up, taller than me, and arching over one another to form a canopy above our heads. There were grassy floors dusted with flower petals and ponds covered in lily pads. An old man rolled an ancient looking, open barrel six times the size of him into one of the ponds to wash it, sending the lily pads soaring out on the waves. It had to be without a doubt, the most romantic setting that I had ever come across and I wanted to bottle it so that I could take it out for the perfect moment.

Aside from Albarino, there was another wine Cambados was known for … an underground, unproduced, unsold wine – Black wine. It was never labeled and it technically did not exist. Home made and home served, it was only served out of people’s garages. A piece of fennel in somebody’s doorpost meant that they had wine and to come on in. We sat in one such garage, complete with folding tables, and the man of the house grilled up spicy peppers for us in garlic and olive oil- complimentary with your massive mug of black wine. It was for all intensive purposes similar to a very dry, harsh, red wine but it was deep, deep purple – almost black – hence the name. It stained your mouth purple for days and if you got it under your fingernails, your fingertips would be stained for weeks. Local old men played cards at the long plastic fold out table we sat at and it was just another regular afternoon in Galicia.

Later, we met some of Adrian’s friends at an outdoor café in a square full of aggressive youngsters playing football. We drank a café liquor and I was becoming increasingly hazy at this point after all of this intense Galician alcohol. Adrian’s friends were interesting to say the least. There was Goyo, who was by all intensive purposes black inside, obsessed with American rap and NBA. Nebraska looked American but he was Galician through and through. The only English he knew came from video games so he would say things like “Destruction!” or “Carnage!“ I am told he was the town badass that used to have long blonde wavy hair down his back and hold the wildest parties known, but he is clean cut now and sporting a Nebraska sweatshirt which I thought a very odd American state to make it’s way here out of all the rest. And thus, I deemed him Nebraska. Adrian played guitar and sang in his low growl of a voice and we all laughed and sang for hours.

The next day it was raining. It rains everyday in Galicia, but in Galicia, they say that rain is art. If you haven’t seen Santiago in the rain, then you haven’t really seen it. All of the colors change. Personally, I preferred the colors in the sunshine, but I was down for the artistic view.

We go across the sea to the Island, which Adrian pronounces “Iceland,” (the silent s is not a concept yet accepted here.) We ate Pulpo (octopus) in a small corner street bar that up until 30 years ago had been the island doctor’s office. The people here still refer to the place as the “Consulta.” It is the best octopus in Spain (Galica hoards all the best seafood in the world and only exports out the crap) and I am told that the creatures have to be punched and beaten in order to soften them before cooking. You used to see all of the local fishermen smacking the live pulpa against the ground and docks after they came in for the day, but now a week in the fridge achieves the same job. Still, you must scare the octopus right before cooking it to ensure the utmost tenderness. Cooks torture the creature by dipping it in and out of the boiling water several times before submersing it. It all seems very cruel, but the pepporcini and oil covered sea creature is so delicately delicious that I cannot protest.

We eat calamari too (unlike any I have ever had), drink Albarino - unlabeled like all wine in Galicia, it just comes in a naked wine bottle, and watch the Spanish news on TV. The King has decided that he no longer wishes to rule- bored with his current responsibilities, so he has left the throne open and hopefully claimed by his son. The news station flashes to a clip of Obama, whom they call the most powerful man in the world, doing pushups in a suit on a basketball court and sinking lay ups. I am instantly embarrassed to be associated with this nation. It looks like we do absolutely nothing. Not even the President has any worries.

That night 2 American couch surfers, currently teaching English in the south of Spain are joining us and I am so excited to have comrades. Trevor from Wisconsin is outrageous and fluent in Galician. Tall and blonde and skinny, he eats more than the three of us combined and remains rail thin. Fallen, also super thin, is beautiful. She is Trevor’s roommate and originally from Texas. Dark hair and dark skin, she could easily be Spanish herself.

Trevor falls with a wicked flu of some sort or food poising, but it’s impossible to tell from what since he’s eaten everything. Fallen, Adrian and I go to a music festival called “Green Corn” full of dauntless looking individuals. Anarchist hippies with dread locks, and piercings everywhere, all in dark browns and army greens. In Spain, they call hippies “para floutas,” translating to dog flutes because they are always with flutes and dogs, which I find hilariously brilliant. No one neuters their dogs here, so they are everywhere- some with overfull utters that drag on the ground. We dress up in Panda suits – full head to toe, ears and all, panda suits – because I guess that’s a thing here and stay up all night with the music.

Aside from the actual performer’s on stage, back at the tents – all of Adrian’s friends sit cross-legged in circles and lay sprawled out in the grass as they play a various symphony of instruments and sing songs all night long. I fall in love with a Spanish girl’s voice who plays guitar and harmonica and has my dream singing voice. She is by all visual appearances, a homely looking, 14 year old, American girl who has been homeschooled her entire life, but she is nothing like that at all. She can’t speak English but she can sing it, so when she does attempt to speak, she only speaks in beautiful, poetic words.

The sky is splattered with stars everywhere, like the artist standing in front of a blank canvas dipping his brushes into paint and swinging them side to side sending paint flying across the whiteness before him; they keep appearing more rapidly than the moment before. After all the singing and dancing that my little Panda self can take, I finally crawl into the tent around 6am and fall asleep instantly. (Side note: it is not a rough morning until you wake up sweating, face down in a tent on top of rocks as a dirt covered Panda.) Everyone is still drinking, banging on cans and sticks and playing guitar, singing in the rising sun. And since we have about 5 more hours here, there is nothing to do but join in.

Note: I am NOT a morning person.

Note: I am NOT a morning person.

Adrian and Fallen drop me off drunk at the bus station and help me find my bus. With an address written on my hand, a dead phone and mud-ridden ankles, I attempt to make my way to nowhere in Particular.