10.26.2009 28 °C
Hello all! Lots has happened in the last few days so I’ll get right down to it.. Pictures to follow soon!
The trip from Interlaken was long, but it went off without a hitch. Once we got to Barcelona, though, the signs were in Spanish (not a language I know well, other than “Dos cervecas, por favor!”), and none of the tourist information people spoke English! They all spoke Spanish at you, so that was fun! Naaat. Anyways, we finally made it to our hostel, dodging the pickpockets and the homeless, and settled in. We were exhausted, and hungry, so we found some pizza for dinner, as every menu was in Spanish and nobody spoke English, and I forgot my vegan passport at home. Whatever! While eating pizza, we saw a lot of drunks on the streets, and a homeless begger came right into Dominos and right up to our table to ask for money. Once he left, the pizza lady came up to us to make sure we still had our wallets! Crazy. Mom wasn’t happy about that!
Our first full day in Barcelona it rained. And by rained I mean POURED, and we were soaked and miserable. La Rambla, the huge shopping street, was hardly open other than a few souvenir shops and a few plant venders, so we didn’t really enjoy ourselves. We found a mall, so we got some shelter for a bit, then we headed back up La Rambla and found a vegetarian falafel hut to have lunch in. It was good, but it was a sort of falafel buffet, and it was nasty watching everyone go up and keep refilling their half-eaten pitas with more stuff. Sickly un-foodsafe. And we got to watch more pickpockets come in and get kicked out by the staff. Fun! Anyways, we waited in the hut until the rain let up a bit, only to get outside and have to find cover because it started pouring again. Needless to say we were not in high spirits, so we got some beer and sangria and headed back to our hostel to dry our clothes and play cards. Lame! But better than being soaking wet and grumpy. We had a siesta (nap) too, and then never got dinner because mom was too afraid to go out in the streets in the dark. I don’t blame her too much, but I was damn hungry and grumpy after that.
The next day we were meant to leave for Valencia, but because it was sunny we decided to take the metro to La Sangrada Familia, a huge church, and then grab our train tickets, and then shop a bit more and head out in the afternoon. We had bought a 10-trip metro ticket because it was cheap, but I lost the ticket, so mom was a little pissed. Then, once we bought our metro ticket to go to the station and book our train tickets, I thought I left my rail pass in the hostel so we left, only to figure out that I had it on me in my money belt, and then our single metro ticket wasn’t valid anymore even though we hadn’t used it. Great! Mom and I were not happy with each other, we still hadn’t eaten, and we just decided to screw Barcelona, grab our stuff, and head to Valencia. Finally got some expensive salad in the train station, and took the 3 ½ hour train to Valencia, only to be greeted by a beautiful city and great weather, so we were happy again. We found our hostel easily, settled in, and went to the grocery store to buy some wine and beer. On the way we found a sushi place (!!!) where everyone was eating, so we went in all excited to find sushi, and the staff told us it was closed. We asked then what time they opened back up, and a customer translated 8:30 for us. At the grocery store Mom took a picture of the prices, as a good bottle of wine is 1.49 and a single beer is 27 cents. Nice! Food is cheap too, especially compared to Switzerland! We got lunch from the grocery store, walked around (although everything was closed, damned siesta time), and then hung out in our hostel where we met a few cool guys: Rob, from England; Tom, from Czech; and Lawrence, from London. After chatting with them and drinking a few beers, we went around walking again, and found a cute square, and did a little shopping (as siesta was over). We shopped until 8:30 and went over to the sushi place. After trying to sit down, we were basically thrown out as they said they didn’t open till 9, even though earlier they said 8:30 and their sign said 8:30. We left and the guy slammed the shutters closed behind us, so we just said fine! And we’re waiting until we get home to have sushi, we’ve decided. Anyways, enough about that!
Yesterday we headed out in the morning to find this huge Saturday market that our hostel girl told us about. We walked a good half an hour, and then tried to ask around about where it was. Nobody here speaks English at all, but they try really hard to help you with hand gestures and such. It’s nice, but hard. Anyway we basically gave up and decided to walk to this big mall, and on the way we found the market! This thing was HUGE. We walked through the one part, and then kept having to pick which way we wanted to go, because it was endless! We could have shopped all day I think but it was packed with people, and after a few hours we couldn’t move and decided to call it quits. We ended up buying shoes and perfume, and mom bought a shirt. It was really fun and they had TONS of shoes I could have bought way more, but the pack is already 40 pounds, so I figured I shouldn’t. We then hit the mall, but were pretty shopped out so we headed back. On the way back we climbed one of the old city gates and got a decent view over the city, as well as a mini workout.
That night we walked the long way around the city and basically people watched. The city was packed with people, all out on a Saturday. It was about 8 pm, so people were out shopping and stuff, as they don’t even eat till 10! It was fun seeing the local culture. We also ran into an animal rights demonstration! So that was fun! I showed them my vegan passport and they got all excited! They were really peaceful, just holding up signs, handing out websites, and one guy had a laptop showing a video, but nobody was even talking, unless they were approached it was awesome. I wanted to join in! Then we went to a grocery store to grab a drink, and the cashier scanned the drink and then like knocked it over and didn’t pick it up, and I was like, “Uh, thanks for that!” but it was so funny because they don’t understand English at all. So really, you could go around lipping people off and they wouldn’t even know it!
After wandering around we found our dinner spot, a vegan Asian buffet. It was delicious, and so much fun having tons of choice! We could literally eat everything it was great, and only 7 euro! But we were STUFFED. Once back in our room we met our roomates for the night: a ditsy blonde from Lithuania, and 3 Polish girls. One of the Polish girls was sick and constantly coughing and blowing her nose, it was nasty. We were like great… but we slept fine, minus her coughing all night.
Today we went on a really good free walking tour of the city, led by an English guy who was really funny. They made us into country teams and asked like 3 trivia questions, and team Canada got them all! (Thanks to mom and I… lol seriously!). But it was a really good tour. One of the highlights I think was when he showed us this city building with 28 gargoyles all around it, and each gargoyle was carved into a different sin, and one of them was whacking off, no kidding! It was hilarious! Def got a picture of that. But he was really funny.
The last few days in Valencia have been awesome, but we’ve had some really bad luck, not just with the sushi place! I booked out plane trip to Lisbon for 1 less day than we wanted to be there (5 nights instead of 6) so that was stupid, then today we went to book our train tickets for tomorrow, and we had booked in tonight to stay in Valencia. Well, the train ticket guy couldn’t speak English, so we’re trying to write things down and understand him, and he said all the trains tomorrow morning were full! So we had to book one for late tonight instead, losing out on our prepaid room in Valencia. Not only that, but we couldn’t book a room in Madrid online because it was for tonight, and the hostel we wanted didn’t take reservations over the phone! He just told us to walk in and he’ll have room. Plus we get there at 1 am, so we have to get a cab and hopefully the place still has space! I’m sure they will it’s just dumb. Add this crap to the rain in Barcelona, and the stress about the metro and pickpockets there (which, by the way, we’ve since found out that mother had the metro ticket all along that I thought I lost… no comment!) and it makes for a pretty stressful couple of days. We’re hoping to get to Lisbon and relax in the (fingers crossed) sunny weather, before we have to make the big trip home. I’ve had pretty good luck for the last 4 months, so I guess all my travelers karma is coming back to me now, in one big bang. Lame, but I guess something was bound to go wrong!
Last night our night train went pretty quick as we both slept (and mom took pictures of my ugly sleep.. How nice!), except this guy across the aisle kept busting out this ancient hand-held radio and trying to tune it. It was so funny, but super annoying. At first we were like, “What’s that noise?!” And then we realized it was this guy’s 20 year old radio. He would sit with his thumb on it trying to adjust it, and then look at the ceiling as if he was trying to see the signals it was SO dumb! Again, I was lipping him off like, “Are you done?” or “Are you KIDDING?” So stupid. Then, once we got to Madrid, we were picking our taxi to take us to our hostel. First, we found a really friendly guy who spoke English, but we were near the middle of the line and apparently you have to get the cab’s in the order that they get there. So we move up to the front and of course there’s this short, obese, grumpy ass lady who wants to take us, and who speaks zero English. She looked at our address, and was like, “HOTEL?” “No, hostel.” “HOTEL?” “HOS-TEL. Cat’s HOS-TEL.” “HOTEL?” And we were like, ok, no, we’re going back to our nice guy. We did, but he said we had to go with the first lady, but he tried to tell her where we were going. We asked her how much it would be and she just said “meter” so we thought that would be ok. So we put our bags in the back and got in and she just starts driving. The hostel had said a cab would be around 6 euro, and the nice taxi driver said it would be less than 10. So we finally get to a street, and she just points down it saying something in Spanish. We were like, “We don’t understand you!” Keep in mind it’s 1 am. We tried asking her like, is our hostel down there? And she was like, “SOLO ANGLO ESPANOL. NO ENGLISH.” And we were like ya, that’s why we wanted the other guy!!! Anyways, she drove around and dropped us off right at the door, and the meter said 6.30, so we were like yay! Perfect. Well, then she busts out a piece of paper and writes 14.30 on it, saying that’s what we owed her and we were like, no! You said meter! And she just kept yelling at us in Spanish, clapping her hands, and trying to get us to pay. I asked a guy standing outside the hostel why our cab was so much more than the meter and he didn’t know, but I was so grumpy and sick of trying to argue to someone who doesn’t understand me, that we just paid her and she left. Mom had found 4 euro in the cab, so that made it a bit better. But like seriosuly, do we not have rights as humans to pick a taxi?? Anyways, our hostel guy was really nice and said that she probably charged us for putting our bags in the trunk, even though we did it ourselves! Stupid. Anyways now we’re off to explore Madrid for a while, while we wait for our plane to Lisbon. Hopefully it just goes up from here! Pictures soon, sorry! And home in a week!!!!