Man, where haven´t I been? OK, lots of places, including much of Madrid, but it sure feels like I´ve been going all over. LOTS has happened since my last post (sorry about that, internet has been as elusive as cheap, anchovie-free canned olives. More on that later), and right now I DO actually have a USB so you´ll be getting photos! Hurrah!

It´ll be a blitz down through London to Paris to that little town in Southern France to Barcelona to Madrid to ..uum… this is where we got a bit lost and some doink in the Madrid train station sent us North when we were tryng to get south … to  Almeria Vera to Mojacar and back through Granada to Barcelona. Whee!

For this part of the journey, chairs have sadly outnumbered beds in terms of where we´ve been sleeping. Also, I dropped my backpack on my face (torso-sized thing, with flappy-straps) and we were robbed on the last night train. Pooey.

On the sunny side of the egg, the one hostel we did stay in was amazing and was owned by a very helpful and friendly Spanish family who really made our time in Mojacar a treat.

OK, enough textiness… photos!

Oh dear. USB fail.

I WILL post photos of this business! I will! Tomorrow night we have a hostel with internet, and I will make use of the computer, yes indeedy!

Advertisements

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!

>>UPDATED<< with more photos 😀

I am, once again, short on time and having to cut a few corners on this blog post. Seeing as I did a nice texty one just recently I figure it’s time for another mostly-photos post! Yay! A picture is worth a thousand words AND can upload faster than I can type.

LONDON.  <<It earns the allcaps.

As I may have mentioned, what really struck me upon arrival was how BUSY this place is!

As I may have mentioned, what really struck me upon arrival was how BUSY this place is!

Another thing that I found… unexpected? Interesting? Something, anyway, was how the atmosphere of the city centre changed with dusk. Aesthetically, it’s quite stiking.

Picadilly circus, daytime.

Picadilly circus, daytime.

Dusk.

Dusk.

Picadilly Circus, at night.

Picadilly Circus, at night.

Run, guy, run!

Run, guy, run!

Nelson, hogging the spotlight.

Nelson, hogging the spotlight.

.

Trafalgar quare was a bustling panorama of lunch the first time we got there. It was sunny, it was Saturday, and every horizontal was filled with people holding (partial) sandwiches. The second time, it was abandoned. Rather dramatically so.

This is right in the centre of town, but the busy kind of spread everywhere. You would be walking along and it would get kind of quiet and then you would hit another pocket of crowd and have to really hang on to your hair!

Emily and I just kind of wandered through it that night, poking our heads into any placethat caught our interest. Quite by accident, we discovered the toot-sweets machine from Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang in Ripley’s Believe it or Not. If we hadn’t needed tickets to get beyond the atrium this place would have warranted much further exploration!

The next day, we moved out of the centre of town to stay in this Hostel, Palmer’s Lodge, that had gotten a load of ‘Top 10 Hostel’ awards and sounded very cool. Also, we found a night that we could stay there for £10 each. Win-win! It really was an awesome place, located in this old Victorian mansion in the northern part of Camden.

I’m so glad we decided to stay here! If we hadn’t, I might never have discovered Camden…

Camden

Camden

Camden Market, Sunday.

Camden Market, Sunday.

Camden is quite a ways out of “the centre of town”. So it makes it’s own centre around its market(s). There are a few and they all kind of connect. The Horse Tunnel Market was my favorite location-wise, but exploration soon found me in the Camden Market and the Stables without ever really being aware of crossing a border.

Man, do I love shopping in TUNNELS!!

Man, do I love shopping in TUNNELS!!

There was also this awesome rave store called Cyberdog. It had the coolest interior and music (sorry, I can’t demonstrate that part) of any store I have ever been into. It was like walking into a briefly-emptied nightclub that just happened to not sell any drinks.

Cyberdog, exterior, just insode the Stables.

Cyberdog, exterior, just inside the Stables.

 

Cyberdog, interior, complete with awesome rave musics.

Cyberdog, interior, complete with awesome rave musics.

The markets also had at least one cool Bar, the one we went into being the Proud Camden Bar, in which we enjoyed our drinks in one of many converted stables. Everything was very horsey here, in a club-space kind of way.

Inside the Proud Camden bar, taken from one of the stables.

Inside the Proud Camden bar, taken from one of the stables.

I’ll do one final post on London before I leave, but I am headed off to Paris tomorrow, so expect a lot more from there!

I’ve been to London before, briefly. We stayed a few days and pretty much stuck to the Strand and the Thames and Trafalgar square, packing as much touristing into our few precious days as possible. And this was with my folks, so we did things like taking taxis and eating out.

That experience has not in the least prepared me for how mind-bogglingly BIG and BUSY London is. It’s freaking huge! I mean, I totally expected the city to have a big and popular centre of town, but London doesn’t just have one centre of town, no, it’s got these little mini-mega nexi (nexuses?) all over the place! Today we switched hostels (I will extrapolate on the difference between the two momentarily) and I walked from King’s Cross to Camden with my backpack and watched as the area around me thinned out into suburbia and then congested once again into a seething Sunday Market. And then another. And then another. The stores have statues on top of them and the sidewalks overflow into the streets with people.

We were lucky enough to book ourselves a night in one of the top-rated hostels in London, and get in for £10 for the night. Even if we have to move again tomorrow, it is so worth it! This place is a Victorian mansion with all the amenities. I’m using the internet for free and I have a £1 beer voucher in my pocket! I’m just as pleased as punch.

I’ll post some damn cool photos of this place later, but first I’ve got to go explore some of the awesome markets I walked through on my way here!

Until later, then.

So. I believe I left off with a parade heading my way, no? Yes, I did, and yes, it went on by. The St. Paddy’s day parade in Killarney was really fun, don’t get me wrong, but what really wound up blowing me away was the SCENERY around this place! It’s a town right next to a national park in Ireland. Need I say more? Well I will: we rented bikes.

I think I’ll let the photos speak for themselves on that subject.

Parade!

Parade!

But first, the parade! It was kind of like a giant community day that somehow managed to draw tons of international tourists. Killarney is a small town; not that much bigger than West Van, only much closer together. And more importantly, it has maybe fifteen pubs insead of a sad 2.

One was even heated with coal! It smelled like trains.

Anecdote time!

Everyone gathered for the parade well in advance (of course), so  as parade time neared we were all standing there excited and filled with anticipation and just waiting for some forerunner of parade to show itself. We hear clapping coming down the amassed  audience, and crane our heads to see what it could be. Down the cleared road strolls this dog, head held high, obviously having gotten loose and not knowing what it has done to earn all this praise from so many people but absolutely loving it. He went down the whole parade line before he could find a way off that road.

Wooooo! A dog! *clapclapclap*

Wooooo! A dog! *clapclapclap*

Anyhoo, I digress.

What I really wanted to show off, really really, was our bike ride through a mountain pass, or ” Killarney’s national park. I visited it twice.

The first time was just supposed to be a quick walk but I got curious and went as far as I could into the hills before turning around. I saw some very suspicious (of me) cown and a cool stone circle! But it was the second visit that was the real corker, kicker and socks-knocker-offer.

First the cows, though.

Moo! I see you there...

Moo! I see you there...

 

Stone circle

Stone circle

This stone circle really reminded me of the one in Mckechnie Park at home in WV, except that you could go INSIDE this one! It was so cool!
But back to Killarney with me, in time for dinner.
Our street in Killarney.

One of the main streets in Killarney.

Now for my favorite part!
Our trip to the Gap of Dunloe, on bikes we rented for £12.50 each. Best £12.50 I’ve ever spent!
The Gap of Dunloe. We went through and around the mountain on the right. It was epic.

The Gap of Dunloe. We went through and around the mountain on the right. It was epic.

I’ll do this chronologically, from where we started our ride, but the really awesome views are down a ways. The above shot was taken at the start of the road in, already a ways out of Killaney.

In we go!

In we go!

Along the way we encountered many-a-sight, including lakes, mountains, sheep (most living, but also a dead one) and the occasional crumbling stone edifice.

Up a path (or driveway?) to our left.

Up a path (or driveway?) to our left.

At first everything was a hazy combination of green and brown and blue.

At first everything was a hazy combination of green and brown and blue.

At this point, the ground was sort of rising on both sides, but we were still fairly far from “the gap” itself. We could always see it ahead of us in the distance and it was cool to see it draw nearer and nearer. I’ll try to show you, but we’ll see how well that works…

After all, I kept getting distracted by the stuff around me that wasn’t the gap (which was kind of the idea, so).

I love grass.

I love grass.

I had to get off my bike and run gleefully through this field. It was glorious.

This rock... it amazed me.

This rock... it amazed me.

That rock must have been the single largest lump in the whole scenery. Or at least the coolest, with it’s jaunty slant and mossy cap and lakey backdrop.

Another ruin...

Another ruin...

Here is our road (gap approaching).

Here is our road (gap approaching).

I don’t know why I said “gap approaching” up there… it was most definitely us approaching it. Anyhoo…

Almost....there...!

Almost....there...!

Up until this point, we had been suitably impressed. We had seen Irish countrtside and rolling hills with grass blowing in the wind (and did I mention – WHAT a wind! Yowza!) and lakes and trees and rocks and we were quite pleased with it all.

On the other hand, this was all uphill and we knew we still had one last *hooof* to go before we cleared the top and got to ride down again and our quads (or at least mine and Emily’s) were threatening revolt. Once we cleared the gap though, it was all worth it.

Our first view from just over the top.

Our first view from just over the top.

We couldn’t wuite see off to our left just yet because there was still a hill in the way, but MAN did that down direction look appealing at this point!

Although it looks like we're headed straight down this hill, Killarney is actually in almost the opposite direction.

Although it looks like we're headed straight down this hill, Killarney is actually in almost the opposite direction.

Sun and haze to the right.

Sun and haze to the right.

All of Killarney to the left.

All of Killarney to the left (this is a bit further down the hill, after the first or third switch).

And we get to fly-cycle down through the whole valley! Switchbacking to and fro on a gently sloping asphault flow. Exhilerating!
We're still sort of on the down-slope at this point, but it's slowly flattening out and we're almost at the level of that blue lake in the photo above.

We're still sort of on the down-slope at this point, but it's slowly flattening out and we're almost at the level of that blue lake in the photo above.

We thought that would be it for the fantastic views and it was back to the road with us, but we were wrong again! This path eventually took us through an oak forest and then on to a road running parrallel to the lakes. It was getting on toward evening by that point and the light was turning that lovely pale gold colour.

Ooh! A forest!

Ooh! A forest!

 

Oak branches are pretty cool.

Oak branches are pretty cool.

Forest time!

Forest time!

And out the other side we get... more lakes!

And out the other side we get... more lakes!

It was real road from this point outward, but there was not much traffic and the backdrop was to die for. (Not literally, one would hope. A road is no place to be distracted by pretty pictures. However, there were lots and lots of places to pull over, so don’t worry, Mum).

This highway/track actually had some of the nicest views since the gap itself, but then, it had the advantage of slanting mid-evening light.

Layered mountains in Haze.

Layered mountains in Haze.

Just in case you missed it… (by blinking and scrolling at the same time..?)

Layered mountains in haze with sun pools!

Layered mountains in haze with sun pools!

I loved this spot.

Almost around the mountain, now.

Almost around the mountain, now.

So by this point we were maybe three-quarters of the way around the mountain we had set out to circle, but we still had to get back to Killarney!

We rode on for a while and slowly the lonely highway transformed into a populated road through an area that was newly built and kind of reminded me of New Westminster in Vancouver. It wasn’t, in my opinion, particularly Irish-looking. It was also about 7:30 at this point and I was hungry and tired and concerned that it would be dark soon (nightfall would bring some seious chilly with it, despite the mild day).

Then, kind of out of nowhere, POP! We were in Killarney. It snuck up on me so sneakily that I didn’t know we were there until I was halfway down the road we came in on. Strange feeling. No matter though, happy end to the day! A guinness and a hot casserole in a pub and an early night for us!

Our room in Paddy's palace. There were about 6 other double-bunks too.

Our room in Paddy's palace. There were about 6 other double-bunks too.

The next day, it was goodbye to Killarney and to our hostel, Paddy’s Palace, that had been so cheap and good to us. *sniff*

So now I’m in London, and that is awesome, but another day and another dollar for that!

For now, I’m off to Picadilly circus!

Apologies for the lack of  updates. Computer access has been scarce, and computer access modern enough to handle a camera scarcer still.  I have finally found some (price-ey) internet with USB and will now, with great haste and an eye to my wallet, commence chronicling. Chronicling? Typing frantically and inserting photos willy-nilly.

Dublin

Dublin

Dublin was the single most expensive place  I have ever been in my whole life.  Food was extortionally priced, even things like bread, apples and canned beans. But the real kicker was the lack of places to buy even these cheap things. Dublin has about as many grocery stores as Madrid has beaches. They just ain’t there.

Dublin

Dublin, city of... priceyness and beer.

It was a bit like a big city version of many of the towns we have been through since: colourful, short, and full of Guinness. Especially that last part.

I love this: regardless of what time it is, it's ...

I love this: regardless of what time it is, it's ...

Which brings me to the absolute highlight of my time in Dublin: the GUINNESS Storehouse Museum!!

WooHoo! My favorite beer!

WooHoo! My favorite beer!

OK, I didn’t really know what to expect when I got there; brewery tour? Museum-ish rooms with photos? Tour guide with microphone? I expected something.. well, expectable. Wrong.

What I got: a massive, seven-storey pint-glass surrounded by a multi-level exhibition extolling all things Guinness punctuated by tastes of toasted Barley, Foreign Extra Stout, and a pint of the draught itself as pulled by yours truly.

ireland-036

It starts: the bottom of the pint-glass. That screen and the others like it shows a constantly-churning bath of foam.

looking up...

looking up...

And looking down...

And looking down...

Here we see the original lease as signed by Arthur Guinness himself in 1759 (this year is the 250-year anniversary) for the use of the St. James Gate Brewery for the next 6000 years. Man, this guy didn’t screw around when it came to giving himself plenty of time!

Up a stairway that would be off to the left in this photo there was the biggest Guinness gift shop I have ever seen. On the ground floor, off to the right, there was another one. Both drew a massive crowd.

A small stand of Guinness paraphenalia...

A small stand of Guinness paraphenalia...

And of course, I had to buy some chocolate. It was delicious!

And of course, I had to buy some chocolate. It was delicious!

A sea of Barley and its storey on big-screen above it.

Into the tour: we get a sea of Barley and its story on big-screen above it.

*" 99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beeeer"*

A history of bottles.

*” 99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beeeer“*

Arthur's Yeast. The original line.

Arthur's Yeast. The original line.

There was this little beaker of dry yeast inside the safe in this photo. The safe was cracked open slightly and absolutely CEMENTED in that position.

Beer!

Beer!

Passing by...

Passing by...

Going through this exhibit, there was all sorts of old-school equipment and masonry and wall. I must stop at this point and thank my camera for being so good in low light, for I was able to occassionally catch some of the (excellently preserved and crafted) atmosphere of the place.

This pretty much sums up said atmosphere. I approve.

This pretty much sums up said atmosphere. I approve.

Ambience and lighting.

Ambience and lighting.

And on up to the upper areas with us!

Yay! My very own pint!

Yay! My very own pint!

There were guides there to tell us how to pour then just so and how long to wait befortopping it up and why the harp is placed where it is on the glass and where to hold it when you pour. Also which direction and how far to pull or push the tap and when.

It was delicious!

Mmmm. Pintey.

Mmmm. Pintey.

The view from the Gravity Bar at the top was awesome, too. You could see all of Dublin, 360 degrees.

Gravity Bar.

Gravity Bar.

And on the way out, where we really honestly did NOT expect anything cool to be, there was the great dark room with the ROAR of a water fall and gushing pillars of beer all around us. It was quite the send-off.

The exit room.

The exit room.

So! That was the Brewery.

We left Dublin yesterday, and I am now in the small and lovely town of Killarney, where a parade is just starting.

St. Patrick's day is coming!

St. Patrick's day is coming!

At a later date, I will post photos of the event. Until then, adios!

I went to Mull!  And it was good.

Off we go!

Off we go!We've been trying to get there for the past two weeks, it seems, but things kept getting in the way. First I was sick, then the bus timetable was posted wrong on the internet. We were starting to think it wasn't going to happen. But it all turned out to be for good! Had we succeeded either of the first two times, we would have been hit with blizzards and harsh windchill the whole time. The day we wound up with: mild, sunny, beautiful. And on a trip to a place like Mull, the weather can really make all the difference.We packed three different towns, four buses, two ferrys, a chcolate shop and a distillery into our little trip. It was awesome. I will show you.The ride there certainly whetted our appetites for scenic vistas!A cloud is born...

I must say, taking photos from a moving bus on a sunny day is truly an excercise in avoiding reflection.

It's enough to make you want to stop the bus.

It's enough to make you want to stop the bus.

Shaggy hills, shaggy cows.

Shaggy hills, shaggy cows.

Oooh, lovely.

Oooh, lovely.

These were all taken on the way to Oban, the town with the ferry that would take us across to Mull. It was quite nice riding through the mainland. And then we got to ride a ferry! Off to Mull with us! But forst, here’s a taste of Oban:

Check out that little Colosseum on the hill there!

Check out that little Colosseum on the hill there!

And second…

oh wait. I’m out of time again. Alas.
OK, I think (I hope) I can come back and finish this in a few hours. Don’t hold your breath, though; you’ll turn blue.

I do, however, promise I will come back and finish eventually.