A Day in Pompeii

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April last year I had the idea that I wanted to visit and explore the ruins of Pompeii, possibly staying in nearby Naples as they was the closest big city.  I was considering it for my summer holidays last yet, as I generally always take a week off around my birthday.

But I made the mistake of asking an Italian mate of mine his opinion of visiting Naples, and whether he could suggest which areas to stay in.  His response – go somewhere else.

He literally didn’t have a single good thing to say about the area – dangerous, dirty, uninteresting – and suggested I go to Sorrento instead on the other site of Pompeii (about the same distance from the ruins, but to the south).

Well, I look into staying in Sorrento or further south on the Amalfi Coast (as he also suggested), and the rooms were probably at least 3 times the cost as they were in Naples.  And from what I read online, there really wasn’t anything historic in that area.

It was more of a tourist trap, even if the views are gorgeous.

So I talked myself out of going and went to Spain instead (again).  Barcelona and Sitges were amazing, but it was more a beach holiday than the city/historical break that I’d wanted.

Anyway flash forward to my disappointing trip to Paris this past Spring (read about that here and here), I started to think about where I wanted to visit next, and I looked at Pompeii once more.  Figured the weather might still be decent in late September…

Only this time I almost gave up booking as it seemed like EVERYONE was visiting that area the month before I was looking to go… including my Italian friend (and his husband) that talked me out of going last year!!  The cheek!

I almost went somewhere else, but said screw it.. I want to go to Pompeii.  So I booked my trip, and I had an absolutely amazing time.

Honestly, I don’t know what my friend’s issue with Naples was as I quite liked it.  Perhaps it helped that I had rented myself a little studio apartment in the historic area so it was easy to walk around everywhere (which I did.. my poor feet).

But think it also helped that I met several locals that made me feel welcome.  One guy I was chatting to online as I arrived offered to pick me up and show me around the area a bit in his car.

I was somewhat hesitant (being a stranger and all..), but I went with my gut and we had an amazing evening driving up the coast, and then he took me to the ‘best pizzeria in Naples’ according to him – the pizza and home-made beer were astounding.

I spent most of the next day relaxing in the studio before going out in the afternoon for more wandering around the city.  This time I ended up just north of the historic area where it was clear this was the ‘real Naples‘ – narrow streets, washing hanging from the doorways/balconies, people talking to their neighbours across the street.

It really allowed me to see the true city away from the tourist crap, and I love that about a city.

Finally on the Sunday I made my way out of the city to Pompeii.

I hadn’t realised just how big this excavated city really was until 4 hours later when I was still walking around and still hadn’t seen it all.  Guess the online travel bloggers were right after all – don’t try to do all of Pompeii in one day.  It was just too much.

But luckily the route I’d unintentionally took (I just picked a direction and started walking, then got out the site map to see where I was) allowed me to see most of the major buildings – the amphitheatre, multiple gardens, the Basilica, the baths, and the grand theatre (pictured to the right) just to name a few.

But more than anything it was just amazing to be standing in a place so enriched with history (and mystery), to see the reconstructed ruins, and read about the different buildings (had the site guide on my mobile).

Just being there made all the idiocy in planning the trip worth it.

As for Naples itself, I do hope to return for another visit sometime in the future and see more of the surrounding areas.  There was just too much to see in such a short period of time.  Plus now I know some people in the area, so that helps.

Now.. where to next?  😀

Paris Pt 2 – Breathing at the Basilica

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Continued from Part 1

When it was all said and done, I was unsurprisingly happy when my last day in Paris arrived.  Usually when I got to the end of a holiday, the last thing I’d want to do is to go home but this time I was counting down the hours.

In fact at one point earlier in the trip, I’d actually looked at changing my train ticket to an earlier one, but it was way too expensive.

Unfortunately for me, I’d been ‘smart’ about my bookings and ensured I had a late train back to London.  Which meant after I’d checked out of the hotel, I had the entire afternoon and early evening to kill.

How silly of me.  LOL

But unbeknownst to me, the worst part of that entire trip had yet to happen as I made my way to the train station to stow my luggage, and walked to the area of Montmartre.

I’d decided to use my last afternoon to spend the afternoon exploring the Basilica du Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre.  It’s a gorgeous church and has amazing views once you climb the hill at Montmartre.

And amazing it was.  The hill up to the church wasn’t too bad, and at least there were steps and benches you could stop for a breather as you make your way to the top.  Plus it was the first truly sunny day whilst I’d been in Paris, so there were loads of people out and sitting on the grassy hill enjoying the rare April sunshine.

It was all lovely and bright, and even a street-hawker’s attempt to get some money out of me didn’t change things.  The church inside was absolutely gorgeous and well worth the climb up the hill.

What wasn’t so great was my own stupid decision to climb the 300+ stairs to the top of the church for the stunning 360 degree views of the city.  I’d been warned by friends not to do this, but I figured why not since I was already in Paris and I may not get an opportunity to do this again.

For an overweight smoker, that was not a great idea. A really bad, almost dangerous idea.

To get to the top, you had to walk up an enclosed, narrow, winding staircase which had barely any windows and nowhere to stop to catch your breath.  I obviously didn’t run up the stairs and was trying to pace myself, but about half of the way up I started to have chest pains and difficulty breathing.

I expected to be winded after the stairs, but not that.

By the time I’d reached a brief outer walkway before the last of the stairs to the top, I literally couldn’t breath and sounded worse than the most extreme asthmatic.  And the pains in my chest had me scared shitless that I was going to have a heart attack while in Paris.  Alone.

The people behind me caught up to me about 15 minutes later, and they checked to see if I was ok and had water, as they could hear me all the way down the stairs.

After a rest, I eventually made my way up the final narrow stairway (I had to squeeze my fat ass through in a few spots) to the top of the basilica and stayed there for at least a good half hour totally ignoring the views while I tried to catch my breath.  At one point a kind older gentleman there with his adult daughter started to rub my back to help me with my breathing… not sure if it helped or if he was just trying to hit on me.  LOL

Once I taken my prerequisite pictures of the view (amazing.. but not worth that agony), I slowly made my way down the stairs (separate staircase) and spent the next hour on the hill near the church catching my breath.  And downing a couple bottles of water in the process.

And that pain in my chest?  It lingered with me for a couple of days after I’d returned to London making me wonder if I had done some sort of damage to my heart or lungs…and gave me a really good scare.

Which of course was also a catalyst for me to try to quit smoking again by going back to the vape (it’s been almost 3 months now), so at least one good thing came out of it.

Now if only I could get my fat ass to the gym. 😉

Los Hábitats Españoles

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Whenever I travel, I tend to be a bit of a worrier and double (if not triple) check all of my travel arrangements to ensure everything will be okay.  It’s basically the same whenever I leave my house, as I check and re-check that I have my keys, wallet, and so forth.

Ok.. so maybe it’s a little OCD on my part, but better same than sorry.

It all stems from a few years ago when I was supposed to travel to Madrid to meet a (then) mate from Amsterdam for a naughty weekend. It was planned a couple of months in advance, and we were both looking forward to it.

Only when I arrived at the airport to check in, there was no booking.  The person at the check-in counter checked and checked again to no avail.

Apparently when I had booked my flight, I hadn’t double-checked the travel dates, as I had actually booked the flight for another date.. a month prior!

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What a mess… And there was nothing I could do except book another really expensive flight, something I couldn’t afford so I had to let me mate know I wasn’t coming.

Well, wouldn’t you know it.. it’s kind of happened again.  And with another trip to Madrid, no less!!!

Only this time it isn’t an issue with the flights (I checked.. again), but with my accommodation.  Dammit..

When I was there in January, I’d met an absolutely gorgeous, sexy and super friendly guy, and we’d hit it off right away.  We’d spent a chunk of my weekend there together, and had kept in touch after I’d returned to London.

We were chatting just after I’d returned from Gran Canaria, and I joked that I should come for a visit.  He agreed, so I looked at flights and made sure he was around next weekend, and figured all was good to go.

But over the past week or so, I’d started to get a little niggling feeling in the back of my head, especially as I hadn’t heard from him since I’d booked my flights.  And I started to get a bit paranoid that I’d just assumed that I was staying with him as neither of us had come right out and said as much.

Well… the worrying started to get to me so I sent him a message when I got home from work on Wednesday night.

And damn.. it was a good thing I did as he forgot all about it!!!! 

Basically, we were chatting about upcoming holidays and I’d mentioned I was looking to plan something for my week off in July.. but until I decided that holiday, I was just looking forward to my trip to Madrid next weekend.  To which he asked which dates I was coming…

That’s when the penny dropped.

After I told him my travel dates, and he immediately started to apologise.  Apparently he’d forgotten to write it in his diary and had already agreed for a ‘friend’ to come stay for the weekend.

WHAT?!?!?!

Let’s just say there was a hell of a lot of swearing and yelling (at my mobile) on my part.  A LOT.

How the hell could I have not made sure of all this before now?  I’d been worried about it awhile, so why hadn’t I mentioned something to him?

Of course, it’s not really my fault when you think about it.  I did tell him when I’d booked the flights and how long I was going to be in town for.  I even made sure he knew when my flight was arriving so we could arrange to meet up once he finished work.

I said to him point blank (finally) that I thought I was staying with him for the weekend, which was why I’d checked he was around back when I’d booked my flights.  The last thing I’d expected was to have to find a place to stay for the weekend.. especially as the main reason I was going to Madrid was to spend time with HIM.

There was a LOT of apologising on his end for obvious reasons.  He said he usually always writes this sort of thing down (how many ‘friends’ does he have come to visit him?!?), but somehow forgot about me.

Just my damn luck, huh?

He did confirm that his friend wasn’t arriving until Saturday afternoon, so I could at least stay with him on the Friday night.  So then it was about scrambling to to find something relatively decent for the remaining two nights.

It’s most definitely NOT what I had planned or budgeted for, but it’ll have to do.  My poor credit card…

All I can say is he’s definitely going to have to beg and plead for my forgiveness on the Friday night (he’s joked that he’ll be my slave for the night… hmmmm).  He can at least buy me dinner for all this trouble.

The upside is I now have a centrally located hotel for the remaining two evenings, so who knows what trouble I could get myself into.  🙂

Escapada de Madrid

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Sometimes you just need to get away from your daily routine and do something different.  And sometimes it’s more about getting away from your surroundings and seeing somewhere new.

I was starting to feel the usual urge to get out in the world a bit and do some travelling.  I’d come to the realisation that I hadn’t really been on holiday since last June when I spent my birthday in Rome.

Well, other than when I went home to Canada to surprise the family back in October.  As lovely as that was, it was less a holiday for me as for them if that makes sense.

Anyway, my decision to go to Madrid last weekend was fairly spur of the moment as I happened to find a super cheap flight online so decided to go for it.  Once that was booked, I found a simple little room that was quite central and walking distance to the Chueca area (where the gay bars are).

20170127_104721What also helped the decision was I have a friend that moved back there from London about 6 years ago and we hadn’t seen each other in at least that long.  We’d talked several times about me coming over for a visit, but I’d never gotten around to it.

Plus surprisingly I’d never been to Madrid before.  Any other trips I’d taken to Spain over the years have always been in the South or to Gran Canaria (where I’ll be visiting once again this coming April..).

Interestingly, unlike other trips I’ve made in the past, I didn’t really have a plan for once I’d arrived.  I’d kinda looked online at what there was to do there, but instead decided to just wing it and see where the weekend took me.

I just wanted to have a nice fun, relaxing weekend.  And that’s exactly what I got.

20170129_140357Unfortunately, my friend that lives there was going to be in Seville for most of the weekend and wouldn’t be free until Sunday afternoon/evening.  So that meant I had from Friday afternoon until then to keep myself entertained.

After checking into my little room (when they said small single, they weren’t kidding!), I grabbed a map and started wandered around the immediate area to get my bearings and to find a bite to eat.  It’s definitely a walking city (with an extensive Metro system) and I found my way around easily.

Once back in my room to relax a bit in the evening, I logged into the usual social/dating apps to see what sort of guys were in the area.  I had a few messages from a couple guys but one definitely caught my eye.. a tall, fit, sexy guy who clearly liked chubbier guys.

After a bit of online chatting and flirting, we decided to meet up for a drink and he even offered to meet me at my hostal to walk to the bar together.  Such a gentleman.

We spent a lovely evening together in a couple of bars chatting about life, drinking, and yes, flirting like crazy.  We seemed to get along quite easily and it felt quite comfortable spending time together… so much so, that I stayed at his place that night and we spent most of the next day together cuddled up on his sofa.

Such an amazing way to spend the day and get to know each other a bit.  I’d originally planned on leaving around midday to play tourist, but the day completely got away from us.  Next thing we knew it was about 6pm and he had to get ready to meet some friends for dinner, so I leisurely walked back to my hostal with a promise to meet up later in the evening for drinks.

20170130_122102What I hadn’t expected was to get to meet a couple of his friends when we went out for drinks that night.  And one friend of a friend turned out to be a guy I used to run into occasionally at the bear bar in Soho.  We weren’t friends so I didn’t even know he’d moved to Spain.

Anyway, it was a fun evening but I chose to be a ‘good boy’ and go back to my hostal for the night so I could get up and do the touristy thing on Sunday.. though I could have easily spent the entire weekend with him.  He was that easy to get along with, and it seemed like the feeling was mutual.

The rest of the weekend was spend wandering around, seeing the sites as planned, and then meeting up with my mate Sunday evening for a couple of drinks and a catch up.  He took me to an area I hadn’t explored yet but was quite close to when walking back from my new friend’s place.

All in all it was an excellent weekend away.  And as glad as I was to get home Monday evening, I could have easily stayed a couple more days.  I found the city to be quite comfortable to walk around with lots to look at. And yeah, lots of handsome Spanish men to check out.

It’ll definitely be one of those cities I’ll want to return to in the future.. maybe even to visit my new friend. 🙂

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Collage of pics taken over the course of the weekend

An Adventure in the Sun

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It’s amazing sometimes how something as simple as a brief holiday or getaway can recharge your batteries or help you realise your own self-confidence.

That’s what happened to me on my recent trip to Gran Canaria, staying in the Playa des Ingles/Maspalomas areas.

For me, this was my first real holiday in close to 3 years.. and by that I mean my first time abroad in that time.  I’ve done the occasional weekends in Brighton, Manchester or Edinburgh, but for some reason I still yearned for an adventure abroad.

And what an adventure it was.

20151117_174642It was a bit scary to going holiday alone, but it wasn’t the first time.  Although before was usually to stay with someone in that city after chatting online for awhile or meeting in person in London.

This was the first time in about 5 or 6 years that I’d gone away totally alone.  A Spanish mate of mine was going to be there around the same time, but we barely saw each other over the week.  Too bad, but it was good as it pushed me to actually get out there and meet people, which I did.

Also, instead of getting a hotel room or staying in one of the resorts, I’d rented a fully fitted one bedroom apartment through AirBnB.  It was perfect – quiet, with a kitchenette and a little balcony, and was a 5 minute walk from where all the bars were.

From the moment I landed, I could feel the difference in the air.. Somehow, the place seem super-charged sexually and you could feel how laid back everyone there was.

I easily absorbed this vibe and found myself more relaxed and confident with myself than ever before.  I even went out wearing a shirt completely unbuttoned, meaning anyone could see my belly and chest hair.  And for a shy guy with body issues like me, that was an accomplishment!

In fact, I was so relaxed that between the beach and the apartment, I was basically naked all week.  I’d even rigged a bit of cover on the balcony so I could sit out there naked, day or night, without anyone being able to see (much).

20151120_144736The relaxed atmosphere carried on to the beach.  Everyone seemed chilled, friendly, and didn’t give a damn what you looked like naked.  Or at least that was my perception of it.

I’m normally quite shy when on a nude beach, never standing up or walking around naked, and usually getting dressed while laying down.

Instead, I found myself not really giving a shit if anyone looked at me, and found myself standing up, walking around, and even going down to the water’s edge to go swimming in the ocean.. which meant walking through the clothed people walking along the beach.

And oh my god.. the feeling of being naked in the sea was absolutely amazing! This was my first time swimming in the ocean ever, and I had to keep pinching myself to remember that this was a reality, not just some dream.

I had a surreal moment while swimming in the ocean – I pinched myself when I realised that here I was, just a regular guy from small town Canada, swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, on a small Spanish island off the coast of Morocco.  Was totally an ‘oh my god, this is actually real’ moment. Lol

20151120_184744Now as for the men… all I seemed to meet were Italians!! LOL  I know I totally have a type and all, but that was just too funny… not that I was complaining, as they were all super sexy guys. 😉

At one point on the beach, I was laying down on a sun-bed reading when I realised that I was on a Spanish island and the only language I could hear spoken around me was Italian.  Hahaha

In the end, this holiday was exactly what I needed.  I felt refreshed, confident, relaxed, sun-kissed, and more comfortable in my skin that I’d been in years.  I just need to keep that feeling going now that I’m back in London.. especially with all the crap going on with work (more on that later).

For now, I’ll just revel in all my wonderful memories of my week on the Island and all the fun I had while there.. and start planning for a return trip soon, possibly in the Spring. 😉

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Itching to Fly Away

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*Sigh*

I so need a f&*%ing holiday!!

I’ve so missed travelling the past couple years.  The feeling of excitement when you arrive at the airport and check in.  The anxiousness to arrive at your destination as the plane takes off.  The annoyance of the passenger beside you snoring into your shoulder.

(seriously?? it’s only an hour’s flight!!)

And of course the dread as you realise your holiday is over as you head back to the airport.  And that within 24 hours you’ll be back at work, chained to your desk until the next time you can get away.

*Sigh*  I miss it all, the good and the bad.la-nina-hotel

The past couple of years hasn’t allowed much opportunity for me to go travelling around Europe at all.  I love nothing better than to explore a new country/city, soak in the culture, admire the architecture, and just get away from the daily grind of life in London.

The last actual holiday (read: going to another country) I had was when I spent NYE with my friend in Luxembourg back in December 2012.. almost 2 years ago!!  That just seems so long ago!

The only ‘trip’ I’ve done in the past couple years was an extended weekend with my Scottish best mate back in June when we went to Brighton for the weekend for the bear weekend.  Yeah it was an amazing weekend and was good to get away from London, but it’s not the same as flying away to some new and interesting city (preferably along the Mediterranean, with a kickass beach lol).

Of course the main reason for the lack of travelling or holidays has been money.  I was unemployed for the better part of a year, and then took jobs at companies (including my current one) that were paying a lot less than I was used to before I was unemployed.

I’m not moaning about it.. much.  I know the situation didn’t exactly allow me the funds or opportunity to go gallivanting around Europe like I might have liked.  Sometimes life makes you prioritise what’s truly important, and sometimes that’s just keeping your head above water on a daily basis.

hot naked bear beachI suppose I’ve started thinking about it lately because I’m seeing all sorts of people going away on holidays as the summer comes to a close.  Squeezing in that last bit of fun in the sun while they can, before the usual grey Autumn and Winter sneaks in over the next couple months.

Many guys I know have all travelled to Sitges this weekend for their annual bear week.  A week in the sun and sand, with tons of hot bears, cubs, chasers, and all sorts around.  And spending the days relaxing on the nude beach.

*Sigh*  Maybe next year.

My Scottish mate was supposed to come down this month so we could do another weekend in Brighton before the weather got too cold, but his work has gotten crazy busy and can’t get any time off.  He’s said he probably won’t be able to make it back down here until just before Christmas time now.

Boooooooooo

(though we have talked about me going up there for the BearScots event in October.. but we’ll see)

I do know that I probably won’t be able to take any time off between Christmas and New Years as our office remains open, and it’s apparently quite busy. Which is fine, since I don’t really do much for Christmas and can’t afford to travel back to Canada for the holidays to see my family.

joe-manganiello-beachSo this leaves me thinking of maybe planning some extended weekend away, probably by myself, somewhere warm and sunny.  Sure, I still can’t really afford it but I think it might do me some good, especially if I can find something relatively cheap but nice.

As much as I’d love to have someone to go on holiday with me, I don’t mind travelling by myself.  At least that way I can do what I want, when I want to, and not have to worry about the other person.  It allows me to wander around a city with no agenda or any pressing need to get somewhere in particular.

Anyway, we’ll see how it goes.  Maybe I’ll just take a few days off and spend them at home sleeping.  LOL

Guest Blogger: On Nakations…

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Here’s my guest post on A Guy Without Boxers all about how it feels to go to a naturalist beach while on holiday.. especially when you’re as body conscious as I am. 😀

Feel free to check out his other posts as well, all about being a gay nudist enjoying life and sharing it with others.