Spain


HAH! Finally! USB!

Alrigh, here goes. Ready thine eyne.

I believe I left you…

…here:

Fabric, floor one. By which I mean, one DOWN (from ground level), not up.

Fabric, floor one. By which I mean, one DOWN (from ground level), not up.

That was London. This (points round at surroundings) is Rome. Now for for how I got from one to the other. As I believe I have mentioned before, it involved a great deal of train.

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FRANCE

France, for me, began in Paris. That is where I popped out of a tunnel and into sunlight. The ride from London was only about two hours but even with a Eurail Pass it set me back £85. That’s like $160 Canadian, for you lazy converters. Anyhoo, didn’t stay in Paris long, so there were only three things that really impressed upon me.

One: big, wide boulevards.

Two: OMG PASTRIES!

Three: Hey! Isn’t anybody going to say Bonjour? I don’t know if it was just the fact that I loked like a scruffy backpacker or maybe I smell, but nobody seemed particularly friendly. Oh well. Their pastries covered for them there.

French Pastries! Mmmmm!And, of course, up the tower with me.

We weren’t sure what the dealio was with the elevator and the paying for it and whatnot, so we took the exit stairs up. There was no sign not to…

Tower of Eiffel

Tower of Eiffel

I walked, I talked to Emily, I headed south without a real plan but intending to go to Madrid. I scored a night train with a small booking fee to Toulouse. I didn’t really stop there. It was cold, it was morning, and I just kept heading south. Wound up in Narbonne around noon. From there, I soon found yet another southbound and made my last French stop in a place called Cerbére.

Here I got a bit worried, as it didn’t really look like there was anything there and it didn’t look like I could get to Madrid, either. I would show you the shabby shot that I thought was the entire town, but instead I’ll show you the lovely little Southern French town that I discovered as soon as I got around the corner and under a bridge from the train station.

Cerbére. Most definitely NOT just a train station.

Cerbére. Most definitely NOT just a train station.

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SPAIN

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I couldn’t get to Madrid from Cerbére, but I COULD get into Spain. My first Spanish stop was a station/town called Portbou. I then found a train to… Barcelona. Not Madrid, but hey! It’ll have hostels and I did want to go there anyway, so no biggie. Only trouble was, I couldn’t get in contact with Emily. Our phones were being problematic.  She wound up in Madrid. Moving on…

A street in Bacelona.

A street in Bacelona.

I’m lying, a little bit, in showing you this photo first. It wasn’t this nice when I arrived. In fact, Barcelona rained on us pretty much the whole time. Blegh. But it had some damn cool architecture! We went around and saw as many of the Gaudi buildings as we could, and got to go insode the Sagrada Familia! My god, what a place. It was incredible to get to witness the construction of a modern-day Cathedral. And this guy’s work really is modern-day. It’s incredible.

Sagrada Familia, front entrance.

Sagrada Familia, front entrance.

Close-up of one of the statues.

Close-up of one of the statues.

Seriously, you’ve got to love the style. Modernism meets religion. They were made for each other. Oh wait…

Anyhoo, I was seriously impressed. The overall effect was both stunning and inspiring.

The finish on the ceiling, just starting to go in. This place is going to be stunning when it is finished.

The finish on the ceiling, just starting to go in. This place is going to be stunning when it is finished.

The above photo is worth a click. Go on, click it. Click!

Barcelona was also equipped with some pretty fantastic food markets. The main one we found, along Las Ramblas, was like a visibly loud and olfactorily overwhelming circus of edible delights. It would have been an almost sinful sight of sweets and gastronomic indulgence if not for the vastly predominating fruit vendors with their naturally brightly coloured and healthful wares.

Mmm! Fruits!

Mmm! Fruits!

Oooh! Sweets!

Oooh! Sweets!

There were also meats and fish and little restaurants and juice spots. It was pretty intense. I kept my bag in my armpit and my camera tucked well inside my clothes.

We went walking along the beach but the weather wasn’t cooperating as well as it could have…
Still, there were some cool sights.

Fish building.

Fish building.

I think there was a restaurant under there or something.

And some cool art:

A cool sculpture on the beach. It was actually a sort of tower thing... quite odd, really.

A cool sculpture on the beach. It was actually a sort of tower thing... quite odd, really.

We stopped several times in Madrid, as well, but didn’t get far from the train station, unfortunately. This was kind of in the middle of us getting a bit lost and turned around while trying to get South and not spend our ENTIRE trip stuck on trains.

Cool Madrid Buildings

Cool Madrid Buildings

Eventually, after much hulabaloo and trainarounding, we managed to get South. We wound up in this really nice little town called Mojàcar. It was beautiful!

Hello Cactus!

Hello Cactus!

Mojàcar, a white city.

Mojàcar, a white city.

It turned out our hostel was quite a hike from the bus station. You can see where sea level is here, and the bus station was down there, a ways up the shore. We had to hike up here with our 35-pound bags and groceries and water. Did I mention that on the way here I dropped said bag on my face? Well I did, and now I have a black eye and a band-aid. Bummer. But Mojàcar was nice!

From here we went back up to Barcelona and across to Italy by Ferry. Like I said before, I am now in Rome.

I will show you Rome later.

Right now, I am off to the Vatican, if possible, and Florence, if not.

Ciao ciao!

I´m starting to understand what it must be like to really have no place to go, or rather, no place to stop.

There have been days of going. It´s been a good while since I last sat down to update. It´s been a while since I have been able to sit down and update. This past while, It´s been pretty much constant motion and perpetual disorientation. The last place I was that I could actually navigate in my mind was London. Since then I have been to Paris, Toulouse, Narbonne, Cerbere, Port Bou (Spain) and now Barcelona. I only have photos from a couple of these places, because most I only stopped at briefly and I slept (or wasn´t awake, in any case) for most of the train ride. Rides. Train rides.

Pity, that, but I can´t blame me. I left London on the 28th. By the 29th, The last time I had slept horizontally was the night of the 26th. And James and I had to get up early that morning because checkout was at 10 again. We were up at nine and tired. We spent the day trying to find somewhere to rest or sleep. In London. There is nowhere to sleep during the day in London. The parks are too cold. The museums are warm and free and you can sit and look at awesome art, but you can´t sleep there. The underground costs money and the lines all end, unlike Glasgow´s which continues in an eternal circle. We looked for a movie theatre, thinking we could just snooze through it. Might as well just get a hotel, considering the price. It was almost 10 pounds with a student discount. Might as well get a hotel, even if we weren´t going to stay the night. Our eventual saviour and nap-zone did turn out to be the metro. Amongst all the brightly-coloured one-way lines, there was one, a yellow one, that connected back with itself. The circle line. 1.60 for a good 45 minutes of sleep and another nice warm 45 minutes of rest. So worth it.

The 28th was spent in a chair on a train from Paris to Toulouse, so at least I did get some sleep.

But I´m skipping the 27th, here. The 27th? That night was spent repelling the very forces of gravity and inertia with heavy Drum and Bass music that transformed a large crowd into a seething, heaving mass of humanity which, if harnessed correctly, could probably power a Tokyo office building. It was EPIC. The place we went to – Fabric – was bar-none the coolest dance space I have ever been into. It was like the Arches compacted and fractures and multiplied into three different levels of tunnels and music and DJ´s. I don´t think I can express in words or photos just how cool this place was. The brick hallways and atriums and the lasers and the smoke and the dancing and the sound. The sound! My god the music was good. I danced for alomost 7 hours straight, from 11pm to 6am, James and I took two breaks for drinks and then went back in. I think I must have burned as much energy as I would in a solid day of hiking. Epic. Thank you James, for inviting me. Epic.

Ejected from the club at 6am, it was cold and I was hungry and London doesn´t open until 8. Even Starbucks. There was no inside to sit in, there was no vendor of hot liquids, so we kept walking to stay warm and eventually, around 7-something found a food store (snax!) refuelled, and headed for the bus station. James back to Glasgow, me on to the train station and then to Paris. 

I got to Paris around 5pm, found Emily by 6. We went around, marvelled at the prices of everything and the incredible confectioary (sampled with abandon, mmm) and headed up the Eiffel Tower, via the exit stars, I think. Skipped the queue and paying, quite by accident. I´m still not entirely sure you have to pay if you walk up yourself.

I was getting a bit tired by this point, feeling quite broke after spending so much the night before (4-pound drinks, 15 to get in, but at least I didn´t have to pay accommodation for the night) and hoping to get a night train to Madrid to avoid having to pay accommodation again by making use use of these Eurail passes we paid so very much for. There were no trains to Madrid. The one that our Eurail guidebook had pointed us to… wasn´t running anymore. Oh dear. The station did have one that went to Toulouse, though, and that was good enough for me. Emily had already payed her accommodation for the night (25E *choke*), unfortunately, so I was on my own from there until I could meet up with her in either Madrid (where we were intending to go first), or, if everything went weird, in Barcelona. Our plan was to communicate via phone and email. Sounds easy enough. Well.

I arrive in Toulouse, 6:50am on the 29th. The train is late, and my connecting train left at 6:45. The next one is at 9:50. Shoot. Did I mention train stations in both London and Paris are not heated? Also, Emily´s iphone is dead and her British phone has decided it won´t work outside of Britain, despite her having been assured it would. So I can text her to let her know where I am and where I´m headed, but I get no response. Also, Paris has no visible internet cafe´s, so she´s hooped on that count. Apparently all Paris has are flower shops and bakeries. Bummer. 

I arrive in Narbonne around 10:30, successful transfer to my next train to Cerbere (there is an accent grave in there but I don´t know how to type it). Sticking point: there are no trains to Madrid from here. There is one to Barcelona but it leaves at 5:30 and would get in at 7:30. Problem: If I am on a train past 7:00pm, I have to use another Eurail day. Not going to do that just yet.

There as a board that showed trains leaving from a place called Portbou, and it looks like that is in Spain! Close enough, I´m thinking! At least I will be able to understand the language and ask questions (I really don´t speak a word of French anymore) On another board, I see there is a train to Portbou at 2:30. Hoorah! Success will be mine! But I have some time to kill. Upon looking out the window and walking aorund the train station, unfortunately, I really don´t see much. (I will show you later just how ‘not much’ I see) Upon closer inspection, that turns out to be an illusion! Cerbere reveals itself, after some exploration, to be a lovely (if completely closed) little French beach town. I sit and watch the sea.

On the way back to the station, I met a fellow who was just coming back from Barcelona. He was French and wanted to practice his English. With his Fench-speaking ability, he found an open(ish) pizza place bought a bottle of wine for four euros (I boggled, after being in Paris and London) and we chatted for maybe half and hour (and drank some wine) before I had to head off again.

The Portbou sign showed a train for Barcelona, not Madrid. But at least it´s not the middle of nowhere and I could find some internet and contact Emily! So, arrive Portbou 2:50, leave for Barcelona 3:20, arrive Barcelona 5:30. Whew. And I didn´t get off in a train station, either. It was headed for one, but after the second stop of the train saying ´Barcelona _______´I figured I must be somewhere near the middle and hopped off. I was right! Now to find some internet…

Did I mention this was a Saturday I arrived on? This is important because everything is closed on Saturdays. Especially businessy things like internet. It was 7 before I found a (expensive and RIDICULOUSLY slow) connection. That´s 1.5 hours of walking quickly with a 15 kg backpack after no sleep to look for a place that will help me look for a place to sleep. An hour or so later I had found a hostel, and it was close by to the place I was sitting. Relief, food, sleep, checkout at 9:30. Oh god it´s been WEEKS since I could sleep in. I AM NOT a morning person. That is when I get my best, most refreshing sleep. And I was denied it, again. Moving on.

Still hadn´t heard from Emily. Email, phone and text were failing us. She was obviously having just as hard a time as I. Frustration, worry, etc. Not the best situation for exploring, especially since I wasn´t sure if I should book a hostel for one or two, for one night or three, etc. 4:30pm Emily gets through! Now it becomes a success story.

We get a good hostel, reasonably priced. 15 Euros, a bit more than we would like, but food is cheap here. Emily gets in at 7:30. Subways to meet me by 8. I have food and wine (which we can afford here, YAY!). We eat and go out to see some music, come home, and SLEEP.

It´s almost 2pm. I slept until noon. I feel good.

Today, we are going out to look at Gaudi buildings. The weather is crap, but I´m also going to meet up with a friend from GSA who lives here and happens to work in the Sagrada Famillia! Cool beans!

So, no photos today (no USB) but that´s where I´m at and I can fill in the visuals later.

Lluego!