Here, there, and ever where in between…Spain to Portugal 5.13.15-5.17.15
Well, they say there’s a first time for everything, and these past few months have been all about just that, first time experiences. Back in May I had my first visitor, a friend I made back in 2008 when studying abroad. We successfully stuffed 7 years of catching up in to 48 hours of nonstop, and I do mean nonstop, adventure. On his first day in town I met him in the city’s center and we went everywhere from museums to see a few Picasso’s, visited renowned parks, famous plazas, roof top terraces, saw statues, monuments, palaces, churches and cathedrals and that’s only naming a few. I myself was impressed with my own knowledge of locations and history of these such landmarks as I still feel my time here has been short. After touring the city, we combed the town looking for fútbol (soccer) jerseys as that night we were due to attend a fútbol match, and for me it would not only my first fútbol game ever, but my first semi final match. The game was against Juventus. It was the first time I’d ever even heard of the team, and although, we (Real Madrid) lost, the experience was incredible and it was fun just to be a part of the atmosphere.
Having never really been out in Madrid past my bedtime during the week, I had no idea where to find food after the match. Many restaurants were closed or just didn’t offer what we were looking for. After about 45 minutes of searching to no avail, we settled on a kebab spot before calling it a night. After what felt like about .0 hours of sleep it was time to head to the train station to embark upon an adventure that proved to be well worth the commute and the lack of sleep. At 6 a.m. the next morning, we boarded our 3 hour train ride to Seville, rented a car and drove for another 2 hours to Huelva were we got geared up and zip lined from the tip of Spain into Portugal on the first zipline ever created to cross international borders and also provide the opportunity for time travel, as Portugal is an hour behind, allowing us to arrive 58 minute before we actually departed, delivering truly an unforgettable experience.
Upon arriving in Portugal at 12p, we realized there was no way that we were going to make it back in time for our 2 o’clock train back to Madrid. I attempted to call customer care, as they allow you to change your times as many times as you’d like up until the time of departure, however, my phone wouldn’t allow me to place a call. After 3 failed attempts we decided to accept it for what it was and buy new tickets upon arrival at the train station if need be. We toured Portugal briefly before sitting to have lunch. Afterwards, we walked around the city a bit more before boarding the ferry that took us back into Spain. Once back in Seville we stopped a few places to see the city’s must sees before heading back to the train station, a full 7 hours past our initial time of departure LOL. As suspected, we were informed we would need to purchase new boarding passes and that we had 5 minutes to catch the last train that was heading to Madrid for the night. We hastily purchased the tickets and rushed to the platform to board the train laughing and joking the whole away about how our carefree attitudes almost landed us an unplanned overnight visit in Seville. Once back in Madrid we went to dinner and recapped the days events amazed at how we successfully (depending on how you define it lol) navigated 2 countries and 3 cities in less than a 24 hour timeframe. We then said our goodbyes as Kyle prepared for his morning journey to Amsterdam and I headed to catch up on some much needed sleep. To prepare for my next visitor who would be arriving in less than 24 hours.
The next day I met up with a childhood friend who who also came to town to visit. We spent a day paddle boating in the park as we reminisced on old times and discussed future plans and even managed to catch a bull fight, a decision we both regretted halfway through the “show”. Neither of us did much research on the fight nor had any prior knowledge of the series of events that were scheduled to transpire. We sat clueless as the crowd cheered. We were completely mortified when we found out that the whole objective of this “sport” was to taunt and kill not just one bull, but 6!
We left the stadium to get some ice cream to try and lighten the mood and attept to erase the memories from our heads. In the days to come we met briefly between my work and class schedule for lunches here and there before it was time to say goodbye and send her too on her way. Although both very brief it was definitely nice seeing two familar faces in this foreign land of mine.
Canary Island Chillin’ –Lanzarote 5.22.15-5.24
I used the next couple of days to rest because I knew it was only a matter of time before I’d be faced with more sleepless nights and action packed days. The following week a friend and I ventured off to the Canary Islands, a trip that we had only planned just weeks prior while traveling together in Segovia (next blog entry). As there are 7 islands that make up the cluster, we chose the volcanic island of Lanzarote. Although very quiet and tranquil the island provided a lot to see. Among all the sites, my absolute favorite was “El Charco de los Clicos” as it offered a black sand coast where we simply sat, talked and frolicked in the water here and there. Before we left I collected sand in a bag that I brought along solely for that purpose and just stood in silence while I took some time to take the entire experience in. Seeing a black sand coast has been a dream of mine for almost 15 years and I couldn’t believe I was actually living it. After leaving, we also visited Jameos del Agua, a tunnel produced by the eruptions of a volcano, which was another one of my favorites. This natural cave slightly intervened by man provide an internal lake, a pool and two restaurants providing a nice underground escape. Keeping in line with first time experiences, in Lanzarote, I also went scuba diving another long time desire of mine. My friend and I completed our Discover Scuba Dive course, where we met at the local beach for perpetration and instruction prior to taking our 60 ft dip. The video provided doesn’t nearly capture the essence of this experience as the photographer used the wrong filter so the color of the fish and the water are not in their true form. I guess in the end this didn’t end up being a huge deal since we ended up getting the video practically free due to his error. Since this experience, I’ve already decided that I want to become scuba certified and as if I needed a reason, the poor video quality just gives me yet another excuse to go back and do it again, but perhaps on a different island next time. The rest of the time in Lanzarote, we spent touring seeing what else the island had to offer. My friend ended up leaving a couple hours before I did, so I dropped her off at the airport and continued my vacation relaxing and reading on the beach. It was nice to have some down time during the trip, because I knew once I got back I’d only had about 4 days to unpack, wash, repack and gear up for yet another adventure.
Now this one took a bit of planning, infact when I first arrived, in the winter months during one of our morning conversations the host dad told me that for his bachelor party he went Canyoning (Barranquismo). Having never heard of it before, I asked him to elaborate, he described it as an adventure where you travel through canyons using a variety of techniques such as, climbing, jumping rappelling and swimming. He concluded by saying, but you don’t need any experience it to do it if your interested. “What about upper body strength?” I asked “Do I need that? Because if I don’t I’m in!” He assured me that I would be fine, and so in that moment, late January, I added Barranquismo to my list of “Must Dos”. As soon as the sun peaked from behind the clouds and flirted with the idea of rising temperatures I called to make reservations. To my disappointment the agency indicated they needed a group of a 6 people in order to confirm the reservation. In the following weeks I worked to gather a group of 6 so that we could take part in the activity. While many met my excitement, between work and travel schedules I found it rather difficult to coordinate a team. Refusing to let that be the only barrier standing between me and this sure fire adrenaline rush, I emailed the company (several times) and asked if it was possible to join another group participants. After about 4 times of them telling me no, they finally obliged as they said I was beginning to drive them crazy. Haha.
This experience not only met but exceeded my expectations! I was surprised at how effortlessly I floated down the river without even having to tread water. However, the only thing that made me a bit hesitant was the fact that ALL of the instruction was in Spanish! I mean don’t get me wrong, my Spanish is coming along quite well but there are some words I am simply not used to because I don’t have to use them on a day to day basis as I do with the others. Subsequently, there would be times where I’d hear “Be careful of the…..” and “Don’t forget to….” but wouln’t be able to make out the rest of the sentence which was a bit unsettling when preparing to jump from rocks, climb canyons, and float backwards down waterfalls, but nonetheless I made it and it was definitely an experience of a life time. After the excursion I headed to the city’s center to try some of the food typical to Cuenca before setting out to see the Casas Cogadas (Hanging Houses) of Cuenca which is a set of houses built on cliffs providing an opportunity to literally live and expereince life on the edge. Ha! Not me. After this day full of fun, I headed back home to get rest and prepare for my work week.
(City on the edge)
Granada, Did someone say gelato? 6.6.2015-6.7.2015
Since I have arrived here, I have heard on several occasions that Granda holds the title for one of the must see cities in Spain. So, when my friend told me she had plans of heading down there in the upcomng weekend, I checked/cleared my calendar and packed my bags. Things were different there in ways I can’t really even begin to describe, and ways that probably wouldn’t be useful in painting an accurate picture as I realized I haven’t really sat down to describe Madrid for you guys yet. But while walking down many of the streets in Granada I felt as if I were in New Orleans, from the architecture of the buildings to the horse and carriages that lined the streets. The women and children dressed in traditional Spanish flamenco dresses, and the men and boys in their dapper suits and bow ties, however, reminded me that I indeed was in Spain. There was some festival going on during the weekend that we were there which caused a lot of shops to be closed but provided a lot of singing and live music in the local squares. The gelato was my absolute favorite part of the trip and I didn’t hold back. I tried just about every flavor from blackberry, to pomegranate, to cookies in cream and tested every form, from sandwiches, to cones to cups. I think I was averaging about 3 scoops a day but it was more than amazing and I can only imagine what it taste like in Italy (another place on my list) ! While there we visited the Royal Palace and Fortress Alhambra, one of the most beautiful places I’ve been as it had elaborate waterfall stair cases, hidden chambers, spectacular views, beautiful gardens, very detailed hand carved ivory architecture, ponds, castles and just…..EVERYTHING! We saw several weddings while visiting the city, and when it came time for dinner, I found that food was just as exquisite as the city. The seafood platter we had for dinner one night while there was pretty amazing. The dialect was slightly different down there as well. As we sat in the square and talked to an older couple I noticed the accent I’ve heard so many Spaniards warn me that I would hear if I’d ever visited the south of Spain. In America, this dialect would be equivalent to what you’d hear in the southern states, a very relaxed and shortened verbiage, initially difficult to understand, but once you know what you’re listening for, very easy to pick up. But all and all another nice experience.
I left my heart in Ibiza 6.26.15-6.29.15
Okay, so Ibiza is my absolute favorite place! I mean not in the way that Morocco is my absolute favorite or in the fashion that I feel Vietnam is still by far the best place I’ve ever been, but my favorite nonetheless. I wouldn’t exactly move there but if anyone ever asked me to go to Ibiza, just know I’m canceling plans and rearranging appointments to make it work. From the time I stepped out the airplane I was sold. The airport was painted in lively colors and was lined with beautiful palm trees. As I rode through the town to my hotel, I sat wide eyed and open mouth as I fell in love with the island more and more by the minute. The first night, although there was plenty to do, I didn’t do much. I checked in at my hotel, put my things down, and went to find something to eat and wandered around town for a bit just to gather my bearings and get a jump start on the morning. The next day I got up early to cover as much ground as possible. While walking along side the wharf headed to breakfast, I was deterred by a advertisement for fly boarding. Since this has been on my list for about a year now I decided, there was no better time than the present and forwent my breakfast, boarded a ferry that took me to a Reggae Beach, a coast just on the other side of the marina. The beach alone was an experience of its own as the name definitely set the tone for the atmosphere. While waiting to go up (ha, no pun intended) I relaxed to the sounds of Bob Marley and other Reggae artist.
Before long it was time to board the boat and head out to sea. I was given instruction (again in Spanish) and let out into the open waters. After doing this Superman maneuver behind the boat for a few yards to get used to the equipment it was time to fly! Having never surfed, snowboarded or done any activity that required balance maintenance while standing, it was much harder than I thought it would be, nonetheless, after several attempts I got it and was up in the air but still not nearly as high as I would have liked to go. It wasn’t until about 45 minutes, after I began to grow fatigue, that I noticed how salty the water was. My eyes burned like I was swimming in a sea full of onion juice and I was ready to call it a day. I went back to the room, showered and continued exploring the city. During the evening I ventured to Cafe Del Mar, a boardwalk (which I don’t even know if the thats the most accurate description) full of outdoor restaurants. As I walked the strip the music and the atmosphere changed about every 4 restaurants or so to accomodated the variety of people who flocked there. There was everything from classical vibes to to hip hop, with an equal variation of cuisine. Some people talked and ate, the others stood around and people watched, while many line the shore however all there for a common purpose, to watch the sun slip back below the horizon.
The next day I took a 45 minute ferry over to Fortmentara. Once there I rented a motor bike that I had planned to tour the city on. After doing a once around the block on that thing, I decided I needed to stick to what I knew, and traded it in for an old fashion bicycle. I took a coastal bike trail to view the city, stopping at the super market to pick up some fresh fruit for the ride. After about 45 minutes, I stopped at a beach that had the most crystal clear water with the pretties blue hue that I’ve ever seen. I parked and locked up my beach cruiser and took the trail down to the shore to get a closer look. I sat on the beach bit then decided to go snorkeling to get a closer look at the sea life that I was sure to be easily visable there. However, as I was traveling alone this time, I couldn’t venture too deep as I didn’t want to leave my belonging unattended for too long. After a few back and forths from the water, to shore to check on my things, to the water again, I decided it was time to journey on. I dried off, packed up and pedaled on. Before long it was time to head back to the ferry. I returned the bike and boarded the ferry to head back over to Ibiza. Once there, I caught a bus to a local bistro (Pictured above) where I sat ocean side, ate tapas and watched the sunset just behind the island. Once the sun fell, I set out back to the hotel, to pack my things and get ready for my flight back the next morning.
Feeling accomplished after having successfully navigated the public transportation system and made it to the airport not only on time for my 1:30p flight, but without getting lost, I set out to find my gate before going to get something to eat. As I gazed at the screen waiting for my flight to appear it dawned on me that my flight was not at 1:30p (13:30p) but at 1:30a just as it was printed on my ticket which meant for the first time ever in life, I missed my flight! I stared at the screen in disbelief, I couldn’t do anything but laugh and not just a slight chuckle but like a full on laugh as if someone just told me a cutest yet corniest of jokes. Although frustrated, I laughed before moving here, and as you may recall from a previous blog, I mentioned that one day, I was sure that that this military time would get my caught up, and here I was living proof of these words. I went over to the courtesy counter for assistance, and just like in Seville, they indicated I would need to purchase another ticket, I handed her my card and even though I knew this would make me late for my return to work, I asked her to find a flight that would give me a little more time in Ibiza as I loved it so much. Taken by surprise by my laidback and carefree attitude toward this situation, she stopped apologizing for my inconvenience and granted my request giving me a few more hours in paradise thus putting the Cherry on top of my prefect vacation.
Since Ibiza I’ve been to Pamplona for the Running with the Bulls festival and El Escorial to see the Royal Crypts. I have also failed to include Segovia and Valencia in this entry, but this post is already rather lengthy so I will leave it be and include them the next entry. I promise it won’t be such long wait next time, but as you see, I’ve been on the move and have had very little time to journal my adventures. However, in the mean time, I have 3 days to pull together and 4 day vacations, so I am sure I will have more to share, very very soon. Pero hasta la próxima vez…
Un Beso Fuerte,
Vamos a la Playa- Valencia 5.2.15
Pamplona with the Bulls 7.11.15-7.12.2015
Crypt walkin’ in El Escorial 7.18.2015