Around the World a Bit at a Time

Travels: Past, Present and Future

Archive for October, 2004

The Last day

Posted by Leanne on October 20, 2004

After purchasing a train ticket to Alicante (the InterRail Pass had run out), I had 6 hours to kill.  As the sunniest day yet seemed to have arrived, I sat reading by the fountain which had marked my arrival in Valencia.  It was how I had spent my first few hours there and so seemed apt to spend my last few hours there too.

Fountain, Valencia

Fountain, Valencia

The 34° heat soon got the better of me and so I ended up returning to the hostel to finish the book.  That afternoon, I was simply waiting to go home.  I felt hot, sweaty and tired.

I arrived in Alicante on the train at 6:30pm and set about finding the bus station.  When I got there I couldn’t find any buses to the airport.  I should have asked, but couldn’t muster the effort to attempt to communicate in a language I didn’t understand, so returned to the train station to get a taxi instead.

On the 10 minute drive there, I watched the palm tree lined streets float past my eyes while some ballady love song played on the radio and for the first time that day I felt sad that I was leaving.

The trip had been exhausting, often hard, often enjoyable, but most of all it felt good to have achieved something.  I had learnt a lot and finally felt like I actually could be a backpacker.

I was glad that I had the chance to have those 9 days alone because it let me see that travelling alone wasn’t so scary after all and I knew that I would look to travel some more in the future.

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Valencia

Posted by Leanne on October 19, 2004

Unsure of what to do with my final full day in Spain, I set off with the idea of buying biscuits for the people at work.  When I stepped outside the sun was shining oppressively and I felt too exhausted to walk around too much so made my way back to the beach again.  After a metro ride and a 20min walk past the university and a large black bull I sat down on the sand with my book and tried to stop sand from being blown into by eyes by the brisk breeze.

Big Black Bull

Big Black Bull

It was suddenly very cloudy and windy which is why it wasn’t very long before I returned to the hostel.

That evening I made small talk with Kev the Canadian, Troy the Australian and Björn the German and joined them for one drink at a nearby bar before returning to my bed for some sleep.

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Me Gustan Tus Ojos

Posted by Leanne on October 18, 2004

The night train was surprisingly comfortable to sleep in (considering that I’d opted for the cheap, non-bed seat) but my arrival was just before 6am and I assumed that I wouldn’t be able to access the hostel until at least 10am.  I found a bench next to a fountain near to the station and sat there for a few hours, simply watching the sun rise through my tired eyes.

Sunrise in Valencia

Sunrise in Valencia

I liked Valencia immediately.  Although it is a large city, it is a nice one.

After dumping my bags at the hostel, I found my way to the beach where I sat alone, watching the sand slide between my fingers and not thinking about very much.

It wasn’t long before a Spanish man called José, dressed in white paint-splattered dungarees approached me and said something to me in Spanish. I didn’t understand.

“No hablo Español,” I said and he pointed to his wrist, from which I can only assume, knowing what I know now, that his opening line had been “¿Que hora es?”

I got my phone out of my bag and waved it in his face so that he could read the time for himself, then went back to my book, expecting him to walk away. But he kept talking at me. In spanish.

“No hablo Español.” I repeated several times while we established that, with the exception of that one phrase, I spoke no Spanish whatsoever.

It didn’t seem to put him off though. “Soy un pintor” he persisted, pointing to his paint splattered dungarees. I problably just nodded, which probably told him that he was fine to go on speaking at me in a language I didn’t understand.

“No hablo Español,” was all I could say.

He pointed to my eyes. Looking back now, I think I know what he was saying – he was saying “Me gustan tus ojos” or something to that effect. Then he tried to kiss me so I got up, said “NO” and walked away. Thankfully he didn’t follow.

Met a new Kev the Canadian at the hostel that night.

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Still in Granada

Posted by Leanne on October 17, 2004

My train to Valencia wasn’t until 10.00 that evening so I spent the entire day hanging around at the hostel, waiting to leave.  It was probably the first time during the trip that I felt bored.  Still, the Oasis was a good place to hang around doing nothing in and it did give me the opportunity to catch up with Erin the American and some Australians for tea in the Kasbah, an arabic tea shop round the corner from the hostel.

In spite of my enjoyable experiences in Granada, I was starting to crave my home comforts now: a bed in a room of my own, a washing machine, hair straightners.  Still, there was only one more journey to go…

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The Alhambra

Posted by Leanne on October 16, 2004

As I’ve already mentioned, when I first arrived in Granada, it appeared to me to be a dirty, unattractive city, much of which was being dug up and it was fortunate that I wasn’t there for the sightseeing.

On arrival at the hostel, I realised that Granada did have one thing going for it – a lively nightlife: In Granada Tapas is done how it was always intended – you buy a drink and the food is free.

For these reasons, it wasn’t until my third day in Granada that I ventured very far from the hostel on the insistence of fellow travellers that I simply must go to see the Alhambra.  So I did.

As was my habit in this town,  I got lost very quickly and the map was next to useless as I tried to pick my way through the tangled streets.

For once I was actually pleased at my unintended detour because it took me up into the mountains via the winding cobbled pathways of the yet unseen Granada Old Town.  I discovered that, far from the unattractive city I had presumed it to be from first impressions, it is a beautiful  place which extends far up into the mountains. I was once again beginning to appreciate Spain for being a much nicer place than I had given it credit for.

On the top of a hill I stumbled across Antoine from the hostel who had decided to draw Granada in place of taking photos.

After about 2 hours I found the Alhambra and spend several hours wandering around the spectacular Arabic Fortress, overlooking the city.

The Alhambra, Granada

The Alhambra, Granada

I walked back to the hostel the correct way and was surprised to discover that it was only 15 minutes from the hostel.  Damn map.  Must have been faulty.

That evening I enjoyed a few drinks with Antoine, Cristophe and the Dutch guys.

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Erin the American

Posted by Leanne on October 15, 2004

After an enjoyable night I decided to extend my stay at the Oasis by one more night before taking the night train to Valencia where I would stay at the aptly named Hôme, before I returned to my real home.

That morning I set off for the train station to book my seat on the night train to Valencia and three hours later I found it.  (Compared to the hour it took me to get from there to the hostel without the aid of a map the day before!).  My diversion turned out to be for the best because it was at the train station that I bumped into Erin the American  who I met in Sevilla who was staying at the same hostel, so I showed her where it was (didn’t get lost this time – 20-30min walk) and then got lost trying to find a supermarket.

Erin the American, Granada

Erin the American, Granada

Again, the evening more than redeemed my less-than-successful day after going out for more tapas with Erin, Danielle, Antoine, Menne and another dutch guy whose name I can neither remember nor pronounce.  A short interlude to the evening’s festivities took us back to the hostel to collect Christophe the barman and returning to another bar.  

Both Erin and I finally wimped out at 2am to fall into bed (…our own seperate beds.)

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Granada

Posted by Leanne on October 14, 2004

My first impressions of Granada weren’t great.  As I sweated through the sun-baked streets from the train station to the hostel, with a heavy rucksack on my back, all I could see was a dirty city, a lot of which was still being built.  I also got lost which did nothing to improve my mood.

My attitude improved slightly when I found the steep and winding cobbled pathway which led to the hostel.  It was full with colourful stalls selling beautiful ethnic clothes and cushions.

I already knew that the hostel I was going to was a good one so intended to spend most of my time there resting.  I was tired of the endless sightseeing, and what’s more, had no idea of  what Granada contained in the way of tourist attractions and had no desire to find out.

That night, there was an organised Tapas tour which I forced myself to attend.  It was there that I med Danielle and Alison (Canadian), Antoine (French Canadian), Francis and Patrick (Irish) and many more.

Patrick (or Francis), Alison and Antoine, Tapas Tour, Granada

Patrick (or Francis), Alison and Antoine, Tapas Tour, Granada

I soon realised that Granada was probably going to mean a hectic social life and restful days…

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Sevilla

Posted by Leanne on October 13, 2004

My last (and only) full day in Sevilla was a pleasant one. I opted to wander the streets rather than pay to get into the 2nd largest cathedral in the world, but first, I went to the station to sort out my reservation for my next journey to Granada.

Leaving the station I felt so proud that I’d managed to make myself understood all without james’ ‘moral’ support! (though after a Fuma? / No fuma argument with the attendant I still ended up with a ticket in the smoking carriage)

That evening, I met Erin the American and we went out for dinner with Anthony and Tim from Australia. On returning to the hostel, we picked up Linda (Dutch) and Mia so that we could make our pre-planned excursion to the flamenco bar which was, unfortunately closed.

Plan B was a bar nearby with an authentic Spanish piano and singing man. It was a fab day and night in which Spain started to melt my heart. Just a little bit. I was beginning to like it there.

Plaza Mayor, Sevilla

Plaza Mayor, Sevilla

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Kev the Canadian

Posted by Leanne on October 12, 2004

The internet revealed that my grand plan of country hopping between Spain and France wasn’t really viable. There were no direct flights to Nice, and anything I could find would prove to be time consuming and expensive.

When I arrived at the train station to leave for Sevilla, I suddenly felt so lonely. James had rarely spoken when we were on the move, but at least he was always there for me to get annoyed at. At least then I didn’t long to be back home with my friends.

I didn’t want to be in Spain any more. That was a country that James chose. I wanted to be in France where I felt more comfortable with the language, but it seemed that I didn’t have any option but to move forward. In just 8.5 days I would be home and I knew that I needed to make the most of the opportunity I had created to be there. I also knew that it was unlikely that I’d choose to come to Spain again, so I should see as much of it as possible while I was there.

I had spent last night in Madrid sitting in the hostel common room talking to whoever came along. They were all friendly people, but I had come to the conclusion that for the whole time I’d been away, I hadn’t met anyone who I liked enough to want to get to know them any better.

In the 17 days I’d been away, I met countless people. Three of them gave me their email addresses, yet there was only one I ever expected to see again when she came to stay with me in York.

As I sat on the train watching the scenery whiz by, I pondered over what my next move should be. If nothing else, I could just get a tan?

As soon as I stepped off the train in Sevilla, everything changed. At the bus stop, just outside, I met Kevin from Canada, who happened to start talking to me, and happened to be staying at the same hostel as me. We found it and checked in together, then went out for Spanish Omelettes on an outdoor terrace in the sundrenched streets of beautiful Sevilla.

Sevilla reminded me of York. The people don’t speak English and the trees grow oranges and lemons on them, but apart from that the two beautiful cities could have been separated at birth.

Catedral de Santa María de la Sede, Sevilla

Catedral de Santa María de la Sede, Sevilla

After Kevin went off to see his first Bull fight, I retired to my room where I met Mia, from Switzerland and we walked around the ancient dusty streets together, drank some wine and ate some olives on an outdoor terrace and chatted.

In spite of a shakey start to the day, I had a really nice time.

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Alone

Posted by Leanne on October 11, 2004

After having booked a hostel in Sevilla, James and I set off for the train station. James, who had been becoming increasingly tetchy throughout the trip suddenly decided that he wasn’t going to continue – instead he would go and stay with his grandpartents in Murcia.

I tried to suggest that he use his ticket (which was still valid until the end of the month) to travel elsewhere, alone if he didn’t want to stay with me, but as I sat at the station in the ticket queue, both with separate numbers for service and wrote about our altercation, it all seemed to have fallen on deaf ears.  

I spent the afternoon wandering around town where I happened upon the Plaza Mayor.  I couldn’t help thinking that if I’d found this place when I first arrived in Madrid, maybe I would have liked it there a little bit more:

Plaza Mayor, Madrid

Plaza Mayor, Madrid

If I end up alone in Spain, I thought, I wouldn’t mind so much. The original plan was to travel alone anyway.  Even so,  I wanted to be in France alone, where I was familiar with the language not Spain.

Still, I had just nine days left of my trip and was determined to make the most of it.

James got his reservations for a train to Murcia where his grandparents lived and, I got mine for Sevilla. After a brief burst of girly tears (after he was well out of sight) I was forced to reassess the situation and a plan started to form in my mind.

I wanted to go to Nice. After 2 days in Sevilla, I thought, I could fly to Nice where I would remain until near the end of my journey. Then I would fly back to Alicante in time for my flight home

I went away to find some internet so that I could check out flight prices.

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