BEST LAID PLANS – 14th September

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Well, I’ve had our eight weeks in Alora booked and paid for – for months!

I emailed Mark at Finca Finex today to confirm we’re arriving tomorrow night – and got an email back saying “Yikes! You’re here tomorrow? We have you coming on the 22nd” – a week away! So, suddenly as we are just about to catch our flight from Athens to Madrid – all we have booked for a week is a night in Madrid!!

That’s okay! Although it hits our budget, we looked for accommodation in Seville and book three days from 15th Sept to 18th Sept, still leaves three days until we can check into Alora, but we don’t want to commit for a week until we see a) what the hotel is like and b) what there is to do in Seville.

Then we go to book the train from Madrid to Seville on 15th September – no train available until 17th September!! That puts a spanner in the works!

At 2pm this afternoon, I was a little stressed because we will get into Madrid airport at 10.45 pm and Eric insists we get the metro to the hotel – about an hour – then we will wander around for a while finding our hotel (google maps says 6 minutes; but it is the middle of the night in a strange city – I’m allowed to be dramatic! 🙂 )

When we wake the next day, we have to work out how to get to Seville OR how to change our ‘super cheap’ Sevilla accommodation to a couple of days later and stay in Madrid.

BUT THEN – not only are there no train tickets, but they are between $107 and $167 EACH! Cheaper to hire a car it seems; we’ve seen prices suggesting $35 AUD for 3 days! BUT, we’ll be driving out of Madrid on the wrong side of the road, with no practise! Bummer!

So, I was a little stressed at 2 pm. Then more stressed at 3.30 – when we realised we’d booked the wrong date for Alora. Then we found Seville accommodation, so less stressed by 4 pm, THEN mega-stressed at 4.50 (just as taxi driver arrived) because we don’t know how to get to Seville!

About to board our flight and Eric has been googling on the super-slow free airport WIFI – no solution yet!

I need a Hungry Jacks Whopper – chocolate won’t do it!!!

Airfare Madrid to Seville will be approx $450 AUD (blows the budget) – checking car hire prices again.

So, our Greek sojourn was excellent and our new Spain experience has begun with some challenges. Here’s to some satisfactory solutions (aka we don’t have to sleep at the side of the road, hitch-hike, get mugged and/or murdered!!)

I’ll let you know how we go! (OBVIOUSLY we survived, because I’m writing this – but more detail to come!)

YAMAS! 🙂

Finding the magic – the Joy in Life!

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My first Sangria!

OK, it’s official! I don’t know how to have fun!!

Although this post comes hard on the heels of our Milan post – I’ve put off writing about the next 8 days because I want to write cheerfully – about the joy, the discoveries, the mystery and the magic.

I’ve been ‘dreaming’ of how different it’s going to be, how different I’m going to feel.

Hong Kong to Barcelona was the ‘getting to Spain part’ and that was ‘ho hum’, but that was okay because the real journey would begin once we got to Barcelona. We are in Barcelona for 9 days (including Wednesday when we depart for Athens). We looked at doing Spanish conversation classes here, so we were more prepared when we got to Andalusia. However, we could only find classes that were full on, scheduled over several weeks (once a week kinda thing) which didn’t really suit our timing.

So, basically Barcelona feels exactly how I didn’t want our Spain visit to be – a tourist destination. You MUST visit Sagrada Familia, Picasso Museum, Guell Park, Barri Gotic, do a bus tour, visit the beach, eat tapas and drink sangria – tick, tick, tick to all of the above; which is all the mechanics done. It doesn’t capture the “Je ne sai pas!” I’m seeking. The people factor and ‘we are not just rats on the tourist wheel’. This part of the trip feels like ‘money not well spent’ and is like almost every other touristy holiday we’ve ever done – visit mandatory tourist attraction, exit via mandatory attraction shop – although, travelling light means not buying gaudy attraction souvenirs!! 🙂

See why I didn’t want to write anything?? I don’t like to be a whiner, but at the same time it is practically impossible for me to pretend things are any different to what they are!!

It has been great living in an apartment in a typical Barcelona street – right on the edge of the Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter). It has been good to have a nodding acquaintance with the nearby grocer. We’ve walked a lot! With 2-3 hours most days – finished off with a climb up five flights of stairs to our apartment – my bones ache!!

Living in an old city is a great experience. Everything is old and dusty and sometimes a bit smelly – but still very clean.

When we were dropped off by taxi a few streets from our place – at 10pm – and began our walk, it was a little scary. This small street lead to a smaller street, then an even smaller (narrower) one and our street – lots of people wandering around and lots of rubbish bags in the street. We were like “where are we?”

After a couple of days we asked Graham (the owner of our flat) “what’s the deal with rubbish removal?” and he informed us that every night after 8pm you put your rubbish on the street (don’t worry if someone breaks open the bag and rummages through it looking for finds) and after 10pm the rubbish man collects it. So, the streets are only rubbish strewn after 8pm until it is collected. During the day it all looks fine and dandy. First impressions, hey?!

We’ve probably had four meals out. I don’t advise visiting the cafes that advertise their wares with big and tacky coloured photos – the food was just as tacky!

We’ve had the crazy waiter who taught us to ask for the bill in Catalan (El compte si us plau) and the lovely waitress who told us that was the Catalan – we speak Spanish in our establishment – but also that in Catalan they say ‘Merci’ for thank you – so, Catalan is very similar to French.

In Spanish, asking for the bill is ‘La Conta, por favor”.

We went back to our favourite restaurant tonight – can’t remember the name! The slapstick duo who welcome you in (and try to bring in customers off the street – lots of competition) were great. One is a Japanese-heritage Catalan and the other an Indian-heritage Catalan and they played off each other nicely – the Indian declaring that he was the attractive one who got all the hugs and kisses and the Japanese chap was a drain on the establishment!! Also, their menu style and the fact that they spoke good english made our tapas experience much more enjoyable – I’ve also discovered I like Mojitos more than Sangria!! Oh, by the way, I haven’t turned into a drunkard! One drink lasts the meal – contrary to my ‘drunk on Sangria’ adventure last week (shared on Facebook) – and where me drunk just means giggly and more chatty – that was ONLY because the drink came in such a big-arse glass!! I didn’t want to waste it! 🙂

We also went to hear Manuel Rodriguez (Spanish guitarist) play at Palau de la Musica – a small but gorgeous concert hall just down our street. It was a nice show – he is very talented and it was only for 1.5 hours; but that was plenty of time to enjoy a performance made up entirely of guitar playing. He didn’t really show any personality until the encore – when he played a very long piece made up of a well-known romantic melody that he continually interrupted with snaps of adverts, ringtones (like the famous one out of Love Actually) Bond music, rock songs, beatle tunes, etc. He introduced the piece by saying that he loved playing music – but sometimes got distracted too easily and ruined his romantic intentions. You kind of had to be there (I tried to find it on You Tube, but no luck) but it was very funny and extremely clever!!

So, it’s Monday evening. We’ve been out to do some shopping and gone out to dinner. We leave for Athens on Wednesday, where we have a day of our own before officially joining the Greek Island tour (Trafalgar). We are really looking forward to that!!

Buenas noches and adios – for now!! xxxx