Friday, 13 July 2012

Madrid, San Sebastian & Barcelona

With about 5 euro in my pocket and no way of accessing any more money till the next day, I took a day off from seeing stuff and didn’t leave the apartment at all, spent the day catching up on my blog and trying to figure out where I was going to go next.
Watched a bit of TV for the first time in ages, so very weird to try and watch Greys Anatomy with Spanish voice-overs, McDreamy wasn’t so McDreamy.
Was awesome to have access to a washing machine too, oh how I have come to appreciate whiteware, fridges, microwaves, washing machines, wonderful inventions J
Sick of carrying around cold weather gear in 40 degree heat, I sorted through my pack and put together a huge bag of clothing to send to the UK temporarily and also put together the presents for the family I had found along the way.
Was very stuck on where to go after Barcelona, looked into costs of trains up to the Cinque Terra coast but eventually decided that after Barcelona I would go do some wwooffing for a while in the South of France. So I emailed about 20 or so farms asking if they had space. Was chatting to George about an hour later and telling him that I wasn’t quite sure where to head from Barcelona, and he suggested I come with him to Switzerland for a few weeks and hang out in Lauterbrunnen. Sounded pretty awesome to me so I booked a cheap flight to Milan where he would pick me up along with his other mate Scotty on the way North to Switzerland.
Turns out that all the places I applied to all had space and were super keen to have me, so had to reply to them all and tell them I had already found something but that I would be in touch for maybe later on in my travels.

The next day I set out in the scorching heat to have a walk around the city, stoked that my money finally came through I went to an ATM and it told me that they couldn’t process my transaction. Went to a different ATM and it said the same thing. Slightly panicked, I went to about 5 other ATMs and they all wouldn’t let me withdraw money. Had no money on my phone to call back to NZ, had enough for one text message so I text mum to call, and as I was speaking to her about the problem I tried it in one more ATM and it worked.
The city of Madrid is nice, but at the end of the day to me it was kind of like another big city. There were a few old buildings that were nice to look at but I don’t think I will put it on my favourite places list.
I met up with Khadija for some tapas for lunch and while sitting there a girl at the next table to me had a MAC bag, I hadn’t seen MAC anywhere in Spain and was desperate for a new mascara so we found the store after lunch. I had to refrain from going crazy in there, so many awesome new things in the Spanish shop to what I have seen back home or in the UK.
All the museums in Madrid are free after about 6pm, so I headed to them via the huge park they have in the city centre. Got to the museums and the crowds were enormous! The queue to get in was about a kilometre long and they were all waiting in the boiling hot sun, I decided that I had seen enough museums in the past few months to bother waiting for these ones. Maybe if it was cloudy and not so hot I would have waited but I just couldn’t be bothered this time.

Toledo was on the agenda for the next day, it seemed like it was going to be pretty easy to get there too cause one of the main bus stations in Madrid was only down the road from the apartment and on the internet it said that the bus to Toledo left from there every 30 mins.
I stopped at the post office on the way to the bus station to send my stuff, I decided to keep a few items of clothing seeing as I was heading for the mountains of Switzerland shortly.
I waited in line at the bus station for about 30 mins to then find out that the bus doesn’t leave from there, in fact it leaves from the complete opposite side of the city. I jumped on the metro and found the other bus station and was finally on my way.
The bus trip took about an hour to get there, it rained along the way but thankfully it stopped before Toldeo.
Mum & Dad had been to Toledo on their travels years earlier and told me about all the gold plated plates and jewellery you can get there.
The little town was lovely, super old and there were shops everywhere selling the distinctive gold plated stuff.
I picked up a tiny little plate that matches the one Mum & Dad got back and also a gorgeous pendant.
I only stayed in Toledo for a few hours, again it was just so hot to really walk around for much longer than that so I caught the bus back to Madrid and just chilled out in the apartment for the rest of the day.

Really looking forward to San Sebastian and doing some serious sunbathing on the beach there, I caught the bus at about 9am. The trip was about 5-6 hours long so I got stuck into my Italian CD again and slept.
The further North we got the more greener the scenery became, we climbed and weaved up through all these mountains and it all started to look a lot less Spanish. It started the rain but I just put that down to us being up in the mountains, that was until the bus pulled into a station and everyone got off. I asked the guy in front of me if we were in San Sebastian and he was as confused as I was, we got off and couldn’t see a beach anywhere, just mountains and it was raining. Surely it couldn’t be raining in San Sebastian!?
I got off and Phil and I started trying to figure out where to go from there, he was looking for accommodation for a surf camp he was going to and I was trying to find my hostel. All I had was a fuzzy photo of a map that the hostel sent me, with no real directions as to where to go from the bus station.
We found 2 other young Aussie guys who were also confused about the public transport there, so we all jumped in a taxi together and headed for the city centre to find an information centre.
I found my hostel on a map pretty easily but Phil was still stuck so I dragged him to my hostel so we could jump on the internet there and try and find it, which we did.
My hostel was very small, and very hard to find, we walked down the small street it was on about 3 times before finding it, no real signage at all.
My room had 3 bunks set up in it all very crammed together, I walked in to my room and met Kirk who was organising his pack on the bottom bunk opposite mine.
Kirk is from Sydney and travelling on his own too, about to go on the Sail Croatia trip that I did.
I sat and chatted to him for a while then we went out to explore the city a bit, it was still raining a little but it was a nice change from the ridiculous heat I had endured for the past few weeks.
After checking out the beach we went to a tapas place and got some food and beers, we ended up having quite a few and then going back to the hostel to get changed to go out to see a bit of the nightlife. We found ourselves in a bar watching the football, Italy playing :) Then I decided it would be a good idea to go for a swim, still trying to get over my fear of sharks so what better way to do it than swim in the sea in the dark??
We went back to the hostel and got our togs and headed to the beach, the water was super warm and there were pontoons out in the water with slides on them (or slippery-dips as Kirk would call them in his thick Sydney accent).
The tide was in but we figured that they couldn’t be too far off shore so we began swimming out to one of them, turns out its pretty tricky to judge distances across water and at night time. Good thing we were both good swimmers and got there in the end ok, hung out on the pontoon for a while then had to tackle the big swim back to shore again.
Absolutely wrecked we hit the hay shortly after that.

The next day was spent just walking around the city a bit more, I missioned to the train station to look into trains to Barcelona for the following day, they had no second class tickets left so the only option was an 80 euro ticket. I went back to the hostel and jumped on the net to look at buses, it was going to be about 30 euro cheaper to go on the bus but was going to be a nightmare of a journey. The train was 4.5 hrs, the bus would have been a 7 hr ride, then a 2 hour layover in a town to then catch another bus of 2 hours, so I went back to the train station and paid the 80 euro.
Walked around the waterfront, sat on the beach for a bit then headed back to the hostel for dinner, they were putting on 5 euro paella and sangria. After dinner I went out again to check out the sunset, because it had been cloudy or raining most of the time the sunset was pretty spectacular, there was a gap between the sea horizon and the cloud above it and when the sun got to that point the whole sky lit up.
Everyone in the hostel went out that night but I had a super early start the next day and had had a few beers the night before so I took it easy and went to bed, super glad I did.

Whenever I stay in a hostel and am leaving early the next day I always get everything organised the night before so that I cause the least amount of disturbance to everyone else as possible, however hostels do a great job of making everything you do as noisy as possible.
Every hostel I have been in, the door to the room has had horrible very loud creeks when you open them, the floorboards are creeky and  usually any cupboards or lockers also have something loud about them.
A new guy in my room was huffing and puffing like crazy that I had to get up early, but hey he is staying in a hostel you gotta get used to noise.
With a significantly lighter pack from posting stuff off, I walked to the train station along the river, San Sebastian is a really pretty city, doesn’t look Spanish at all.
I had my first class ticket in my hand thinking that maybe there would be wifi and power sockets next to my seat like the trains down South. But unfortunately first class on this train wasn’t very classy, a bit more leg room perhaps but that was about it.
Caught the metro to La Rambla and walked to my hostel which was super easy to find, my room was a 6 bed dorm and when I arrived there were 2 girls that were due to leave early the next day, they left soon after I got there and I didn’t see them again.
I hung out in my room for a while on the internet, then there was a knock on the door and 3 young guys came in. The usual hostel introductions were made and then they started getting ready to go out to meet some friends for dinner and I think it was at this point that I started to believe that possibly there may be a god.
I was sharing a room with 3 French Canadians, with some of the best bodies I have seen in a long time and they had no problem in walking around the room in just their boxers and I had no problem in appreciating the scenery ha.
They gave me their number to hopefully catch up later that night, and off they went.
I went for a stroll around the city and the Gay Pride Parade was happening, there were naked lesbians on top of trucks, there were men dressed very terribly as women and it was all a fantastic parade to watch. I stopped to take a few pictures and these Sth African guys who live in Israel started chatting to me and invited me out to dinner with them. We went to a Japanese restaurant, it was so good to finally have some Asian food and something spicy.
We all went out for a few drinks then to some nightclubs, the night went super fast and didn’t get back to the hostel till 7am.
Thankfully the boys had had a big night too and were all fast asleep when I got in, and we all slept in till about 3pm.

Slightly hungover but soon feeling better when the boys got up ha, we all went on a mission to the massive cathedral in Barcelona.
Fabrice had chipped his front tooth the night before when someone bumped him as he was drinking from a beer bottle so we were also on the look out for a dentist he could go to the next day as it was Sunday.
The cathedral was pretty spectacular, however the queue to get inside was ginormous and the skies decided to open up with torrential rain soon after we got there so we flagged it and caught the metro back to the hostel.
All day we were trying to find a place to watch the football that night, Italy vs Spain, it was going to be big, but they didn’t have it on big screen anywhere so we went to their friends hostel instead where they had it playing. I was cheering for Italy of course, but also kind of wanted Spain to win cause we knew it would be an awesome night if they did.
Spain won the match 4-0 and Barcelona went crazy! We went out into the streets and there were thousands of people on La Rambla, there were people climbing on top of traffic lights, on top of kiosks and telephone boxes. Chants were going all the time, fog horns and whistles and drums, and just cheering and screaming in general.
It didn’t take long for the boys to take their shirts off, I wasn’t going to complain, Fabrice and Mark climbed up on top of a kiosk and in climbing back down Fabrice fell and twisted his ankle pretty bad.
Mark is significantly shorter than the other boys so he was up on Julien and Fabrices shoulders a lot of the time. There were Indian guys selling cans of beers to everyone for 1 euro a can, which was so handy, we should totally have that service available in NZ at events so we don’t have to leave what’s happening to get a drink.
I then got up on Juliens shoulders to take some video and photos of the spectacle, the whole city just went so mad, it was amazing to be apart of.

It was another late sleep in, probably around 3pm again, Fabrice had to get up early though to find a dentist to get his tooth fixed which he managed to on his twisted ankle.
Once we were all up we walked to the beach, I have to say it was quite lovely to sit on a beach with 3 hot bodies sitting with you. There was a group of gay guys sitting next to us and they were loving the scenery as well, I got given a magnum ice-cream by one of the guys next to us cause he bought one too many but I cant eat a whole one so I gave the rest to Julien when he got out of the water and these two girls were just ogling him and giggling, so funny to watch.
We met up with their other friends and we all went out for dinner, it was pretty late by the time we had finished dinner, I think it was around 1am, and we had to catch a taxi to the airport at 4.30am, so we just decided to go out and not go to bed instead.
Their flight to Croatia was at 7.10am and mine was at 7.20am so it worked out really well to go to the airport together.
Really excited about heading to Switzerland, while I was swimming in Barcelona I had a thought of how cool it was that today I was swimming in Barcelona and tomorrow I would be in the mountains of Switzerland :)

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