Episode 11: That Time I Tried To Eat Uncooked Pasta

365 Dates of Travel Podcast

Transcript for Episode 11: That Time I Tried To Eat Uncooked Pasta

Welcome to my podcast. The main aim for this podcast is to make you smile from something I say and/or laugh at something I did. So feel free to laugh away at me and at my expense. That’s what I’m here for. 

This week, I’m going to be discussing the stories from the February chapter of the book  365 Dates of Travel: The first six months. If you’re not sure what book I’m referring to, that’s what this podcast is all about, the background stories to the stories. 

February is a small but mighty month. I’ve got some great stories for this month. There are a couple of dates which sort of round off the ending of the original America trip in 1993 that started in 1992. I visit England in 1998, and again in 2015. I have a story from Australia in 2002, Romania in 2015, and Germany also in 2015, and Portugal in 2020, which ended up being the last trip before the pandemic. 

Portugal and COVID

I managed to just squeeze Portugal in. I think I arrived back in Australia on the 10th of March 2020. There was already no toilet paper by that time, and the borders were starting to close. Quarantine became mandatory a few days after I returned. 

I ended up having a cold when I got back, which is often what happens when you’re travelling overseas and on planes. But the cold was just a cold. And despite having multiple PCR tests, I never became COVID positive. So I didn’t have to quarantine after getting home from that trip. But I was home for two weeks, or off work for two weeks anyway, due to cold symptoms, which, of course, was the enemy of the whole world at that stage. 

But Portugal was just marvellous. It blew me away. I had no idea when I started researching Portugal, the amount of places I wanted to see and things I wanted to do. There were too many based on the time I had. And again, as a lot of these trips, I was working around a work conference that was in Portugal. So if it hadn’t been for that conference, I probably wouldn’t have necessarily chosen Portugal at that time. But I am so glad the conference was held in Portugal. It just opened my eyes to so much extra history and amazement. 

Portugal in the 1990s

But it’s funny because I remember Portugal as being an unfun place to go to. It was not a country that you visited back in the 1990s. In those early 1990s, they used to make T-shirts you could buy at travel fairs and events and exhibitions and things like that. And it was a white T-shirt that, in black writing, had every country in the world on it. And beside each country was a little tick box. When you bought the T-shirt, they also gave you a pen that writes on material. And so the idea being, and it was a red pen, so you had black writing and red ticks ticking off the countries that you had visited and continue ticking as you travelled. 

Often they’d have the T-shirt out on the bench asking for the people visiting the exhibit to tick off a country. You are only allowed to tick one country per person. And they wanted to see if they could reach every single country between all the people at the exhibition. And so by the time I got to this stand one year, they were nearly finished. But one of the main places that was still unticked was Portugal. And I couldn’t believe, out of all the people who were here and out of the countries that some people had actually been to, had already been ticked off, like, you know, Afghanistan and places like that were ticked off, but Portugal hadn’t been. How could no one in this building have been to Portugal?

I had been to Portugal. It was during that first original trip with my parents, so back in 1983/84. And so I thought, oh, well, I’ll help you out, and I’ll tick Portugal. But it’s just mind boggling. I just I don’t understand why Portugal wasn’t popular back then. Maybe there wasn’t enough alcohol to drink or a party scene. That was the main thing around a lot of travellers that I met during the 90s. It was more about the party scene rather than necessarily the history. 

Portugal in 1983

For me, Portugal has a lot of history. I’m actually named after somebody from Portugal, as is my sister. My very catholic parents named my sister and I after two of the children of Fatima, so I’m named Frances after Francisco. I hated being named after a boy when I was growing up, but that’s how it was. And I do have lots of memories from that original Portugal visit in 1983, and probably because there was that personal connection. And we met the sister of one of the children of Fatima, so Lucia, who was a cousin to Francisco, and Jacinta, who my sister is named after. So Lucia’s younger sister was still alive in 1984, and we were introduced to her because the people we were staying with at, like, a guest house. There were no hotels back then in that area. And they were very excited that my sister and I were named after people from their hometown. So they really took us in, treated us like family, and, yes, introduced us to Lucia’s sister. So in the catholic world, we were famous for having achieved that. 

The Portugal stories from 2020 span February and March, and I had very full days because there was so much I wanted to include. So there’s some good solid stories about Portugal in this chapter and also in the next chapter in March. 

Wrinkledness, funerals and rolling clothes

Now, one of the other places I spent a lot of time at in this February month of stories was Germany. I’ve got a few background stories coming in. Germany in 2015 was where I coined the phrase wrinkledness, which I mentioned on the blurb of the book, and how I’d actually recorded the different states of wrinkles that my clothes were getting based on how I had packed them. Now, wrinkledness is not a real word. I haven’t found any spell checker or grammar checker that has approved of me using that word. But I ignored them all, and I continued to use it, and I will continue to use it. I like it. To me, it’s a thing.

But when I was reading the last proof copy before the book came out, checking that everything was okay, a story came to me about the wrinkledness. A few years ago, I attended a funeral of one of the guys that was in one of the sharehouses I lived in London with. And at that funeral, funerals are always a bit of a reunion, I caught up with somebody who I also met at the house share but hadn’t seen for 20 years. 

He didn’t recognize me instantly, but once he heard my name he was like, “Oh yes, I remember you. You taught me how to roll my clothes in my backpack.” So after 20 years, the main thing he remembers about me is I taught him to roll clothes in his backpack. 

The rumor was that rolling left less wrinkles. I haven’t particularly found that. I think it has the same amount of wrinkle potential as folding, but rolling definitely takes up less space. So for me, rolling is more about space in the backpack. But it does have a link with wrinkles. And it’s just funny that sort of memory came back to me and that’s what he remembers about me is how to roll your clothes. Memory is just weird. 

I will admit. I am an ironer, as in, I like to iron. So I’m not a fan of wrinkles in my clothes, whether it’s in my ordinary life or in my travel life. And I am one person who will often use the hotel iron, though I suspect I might be one of the only people who uses the iron. But I do appreciate an iron and an ironing board in the hotel cupboard. You didn’t have those in hostels, but in hostels, you didn’t really care as much about wrinkles. I definitely care more about wrinkles now than I did back in the 1990s. 

My love for Germany

I’ve always had an affinity with Germany. I love Germany and I’ve never known why, but Heidelberg Castle never disappoints and it’s the gift that keeps on giving in conjunction with Hampton Court Palace and the stories that you’ll read in the book. I love little coincidences in family history stories, which is what I talk about in February. 

Romantic Family History Story

Family history legends can be really fascinating and fanciful. I’ve had varying levels of success in proving or disproving family stories and I’ve had a few good ones that I would absolutely love to prove. One is a very romantic one of a great great great grandfather emigrating to Australia with his three month old baby daughter. After his young wife had died, he didn’t want to stay in England, where he was reminded of his wife, so emigrated to Australia. 

But this one I have proven to be untrue. Reality was that he had already fathered children with another woman before emigrating to Australia with this other woman and his other children. There’s no record of a second marriage. Basically, they just reinvented themselves on arriving in Australia, called themselves married, set themselves up as married and continued their new life where no one knew what their background story was. 

I’m assuming my great great grandmother made up the romantic story to pass down to the rest of the family after feeling the odd one out and maybe have been sort of semi pushed out of the family. So instead of reality, she’s told herself a different story to make it easier to digest what actually really happened to her. There’s no reason for anyone else further down the family line to make up any sort of story like that. So I have to believe the story started with her. She was meant to be the young baby who came out with her grieving father, but reality was she was the black sheep of the family, from his former life and probably not very wanted. 

Heap family history

And although this is not a German story, I do some family history research in the February chapter in the Yorkshire area where my Heap family came from. There was an inheritance story that we had with this one, which I guess semi proved correct and there wasn’t a lot of money left behind and it wouldn’t necessarily have done anything, but it was one sort of story that ended up being true. There was money left to my great great grandfather from his uncle who stayed in England, and as what often happens, the women outlive the men, and so the will, the money from the will from the uncle was only to be passed on to my direct ancestors of the next generation after his wife died. And it is true, money was changed hands after she died. 

Sorry, a correction. It wasn’t an uncle. It was the half brother of the first Heap who came out to Australia, whose will I was talking about, not an uncle. 

So I should say some of the family rumors have been proven, but there’s definitely a lot more that haven’t been proven, either proven completely wrong or haven’t quite got the details yet. And that’s part of the mystery and the excitement of family history. And it’s an ongoing pastime that will keep you interested for years and years and years and years and years. 

Crazy Pasta Story

But back to Germany, there’s a story I tell about one of my interesting food stories. It’s a pasta story, and you’ll hear me talking about making pasta or cooking pasta in a hotel room with only a kettle and a mug. Now, the reason I bought the pasta, knowing that I didn’t have anything else but a kettle, was that in 1994, I had previously bought fresh pasta, but uncooked and eaten it directly out of the packet. And I don’t remember it being disgusting or bad or awful. I remember eating the whole packet from the supermarket to the place that I was staying at, so I thought I’d do it again. And it was disgusting and it was completely inedible. But I don’t understand how it could be edible in 1994 and not edible in 2015. So, yeah, there’s a bit of a funny story in there about food. And, yes, I definitely have a weird diet when I travel.

Never use a hotel kettle

But because of writing this story and thinking about it, I actually did some research on the internet about cooking in hotel rooms and seriously search  “how to cook in a hotel room with a kettle” or something along those lines. And I swear you will never use a hotel kettle ever again. Some of the things that people come up with is ridiculous. Like, back in that house share in London, there was a story where somebody tried to boil eggs by putting the egg in the kettle. So there’s more than one person in the world who uses kettles for the wrong thing. We had to throw that kettle out because the eggs exploded and there were eggs in the heating element and all sorts of things. So it definitely was not a success. But there are a lot of stories on the internet about how to use the kettle in a hotel. So I dare you to search it and see how you feel about using a hotel kettle next time you stay in a hotel. 

At least mine was just pasta. And the pasta never went in the kettle. It was just the water in the kettle. The pasta went in the mug. And it wasn’t a successful attempt at cooking in a hotel with just a kettle. So I will not be trying that again. But I am grateful it filled me up on one day back in 1994.

My birthday month

I always loved the month of February because it’s my birthday month. So starting in about 2017, I travel for my birthday. I was never a party person. I don’t drink, so I don’t like going out to bars and pubs and places like that. So it was always hard to celebrate my birthday where I actually enjoyed myself. So, 2017, I started travelling for my birthday. 

In 2015, I was in Germany for my birthday and I’d specifically booked a nice hotel and for a few days stay, so I didn’t have to get up early or do anything too much on my actual birthday. It’s always nice to have a sleep in if you can. And I’d saved a special activity, a beautiful palace where I’d get to roam around luxury and stunning architecture and also have a bit of a sleep in because it was only one activity planned for the day, but it was a lot more exciting than I expected and I’m quite easily pleased, really. It’s the small things that make you smile and that are memorable. 

I got to walk through a secret door and I’ve always wanted to walk through a secret door. Every time I go to a big house or castle or palace, I’m constantly looking for all the little things that no one else even notices. Once you know what to look for, it’s incredible how many little secrets you can find and things they used to hide back in the day. And a lot of it was so servants weren’t seen or heard and they could sneak in and out and do things. But it makes for a bit of fun detective work and I love everything secret; secret passage, secret doors, secret everything. So it was the highlight of my birthday in 2015 to walk through a secret door in a palace in Munich. 

Walking on snow and ice

When I’m talking about the Romania trip in this chapter, I mentioned Google maps and TripAdvisor. I spent hours trying to work out how I was going to walk up a hill and if I could walk up this hill, because it was winter and I have some PTSD from Finland when it comes to walking in snow and ice. I did fall over a lot in Finland and it made me very nervous ever since to walk in snow and particularly ice. 

I have increased in confidence a little bit after my recent trip in France, last year, 2022, just before Christmas. But I’d bought new boots by then and I’m pretty much deciding that a lot of the confidence in the walking and the falling over comes down to the actual boots themselves. Before every trip to snow I researched more and more about footwear and how not to slip over and things like that. And I’ve bought four pairs of boots, but I definitely think I’ve got it right this time. 

My research says you need adjustable boots to fit to your feet and ankles and legs, rather than just a single zip up the side or a slip on boot. So up until this point, I’d had all slip on boots and zips. So I finally bought for this last trip in 2022, a boot with shoelaces so that I could make it tight around the ankle. I believe it’s about having the ankle support. So I’m happy to report I did not fall over in France when I was wearing these boots, but I did not have these boots back in 2015 in Romania. 


So that’s about all I’ve got to tell you about the February Chapter. Obviously I could keep going forever and ever, but I think that is enough for now. 

Don’t forget, if you want to know the stories of what I’ve been talking about, then you can buy the book, either paperback or ebook, at multiple different venues, and you can actually hear the full stories about what I talked about today. 

Next week, I will be reading three stories from the chapter so you can have an idea of what they’re like, and I’ll call it a day for this week. Thank you for listening and I wish you an interesting day.

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