Saturday, December 29, 2007
Yes, this is a head. Sliced right in half and then packaged for the person who would want to cook with it? Found it in a grocery store in Malaga, Spain.
My first "real" Tapas, in Granada, Spain. Four of us went into the Tapas bar together, 3 of us ordered beer, the other one wine. That is all we paid for. The food on the table came free with the drinks. And every round was like that.
Gypsy caves, Granada, Spain. And yes, people do live there.
Inside the Alhambra. This place was amazing. Granada, Spain.
Ceiling in one of the side temples in the Alhambra.
Garden in the Alhambra.
A hotel in Granada with my family name. Didn't stay there, but I did walk by quite a few times, as it was on the way to my hostel.
Outside the bull fighting ring in Sevilla, Spain.
Cathedral in Sevilla, Spain.
Looking down from the tower of the cathedral.
Looking out from the tower of the cathedral at the bull fighting ring.
The cathedral tower. There are no stairs inside, instead it is all ramps leading to the top because the guy who built it wanted to be able to take people to the top on his horse.
The beaches of Lagos, Portugal.
A giant fish in the Lisbon Oceanarium. Called a sun fish.
Baby sting rays in their own breeding tank.
Gate to the city of Lisbon.
Lisbon. That is not the ocean behind me though, it is a river.
Some Lisbon police. They ride around on segways.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Though I stayed in Lisbon for 3 nights, my second night was the night to celebrate the end of my trip, as I had an early flight out and would need to get to bed early on the 3rd night if I wanted any sleep. I went out with several people from the hostel and had a great time. A couple of the staff from the hostel lead the group to a bar where there was Fado going on, the traditional Portuguese singing. Where I was sitting I was unable to see the performer, but it was a great experience anyway.
My last day in Lisbon I spent wandering the streets around the castle. I was going to visit the castle, but had lost interest by the time I finally found the place to buy my ticket. The streets were fun though, all narrow and cobblestone, winding their way around houses. As I walked the streets I imagined that Portugal might be a place that I could find myself living.
Leaving Lisbon wasn't too hard, but the journey back to Seattle was a headache. I had to leave early from Lisbon to fly to Frankfurt, Germany. The flight was nice, and a real meal was served. From Frankfurt I flew into Washington DC, and that is where things started to go wrong. My flight to Seattle kept getting delayed longer and longer, until finally it was just canceled. The earliest they told me they could get me out was 7pm the next day. I felt no need for a direct flight and I asked for anything that could get me out of DC. I ended up on a late night flight to San Fransisco with an early connection into Seattle. In DC I was told I would get a room in SF, but by the time I arrived on the West coast, I would have had only 2 hours in that room, so I opted for the chairs at gate #72 and set up camp.
After a few hours of broken sleep I managed to get breakfast on a food voucher before boarding my plane to Seattle. The plane was on time, a nice feeling after the disappointment of DC. Of course, landing in Seattle at that time in the morning meant finding a ride was hard, so I had to use the shuttle service. No big deal though, made it to my Dad's, and then spent most of the day feeling a bit off, but unable to sleep. Finally around 10pm I crashed out, and now I am ready to see what Seattle will throw at me.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
The days here are filled with sun, and the water is warm enough for swimming. For the last 3 days I have enjoyed myself on the beach, hanging out with other travelers and the locals who have added themselves to the traveling crowd, and working on a winter tan. I was getting annoyed at myself for having carried summer clothing and sandals, but the weather and beaches here have made the extra weight for the first part of my trip more than worth it. I have now used every last thing I brought with me from the States, making me feel like I have packed well for 3 months of traveling. The only thing I should have used more is my camera, but I do have new pics to post, though with only a few days left to go, they'll probably wait till I get back to my own computer.
I have also given the green wine a try. I hear that it is a Portuguese specialty, and though it looks really similar to white wine, it is quite tasty. Don't usually go for whites, but this wine has a unique taste. I wonder if I'll find it in the States?
Just a short one tonight, there is some salsa dancing going on tonight that I can't wait to see. Hope all of you are enjoying life as much as I am right now.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
From Sevilla I took a bus to Lagos, Portugal. It is a small town on the coast, and today I spent some time down at the beach. Even waded a bit in the Atlantic Ocean. Tomorrow I plan on wearing a swim suit and getting a little more wet. The water isn't the warmest, but is plenty warm enough for a dip followed by soaking up some sun. Hard to believe it is December and I am wearing summer clothing.
My hostel in Lagos is perhaps the best I have stayed at so far. For breakfast there is all-you-can-eat home made crepes, made by a woman who prefers to go by "Mama." Since the hostel is currently undergoing renovations, there is some extra noise in the mornings, and an endless supply of dust. Mama made everyone a Portuguese dinner, saying it was for the inconvenience of the state of the hostel. It was a rice dish full of veggies with some meat, and it was incredible.
Though I have only been here for a couple of days, I can see why this place is a "black hole" of Europe. It is not uncommon for people to come for a day or two, and stay much, much longer. The first person I met at the hostel came for a vacation from England, but found a job just a few days after arrival and will now be staying. Suppose there is still the chance of that for me, but with only a week left to go, I think it is more likely I get to Seattle first.
Sunday, December 2, 2007
The experience was something else. Having been to Europe twice before, there has been little culture shock thus far, but all that changed in Morocco. English is not widely spoken as has been the case so far in my trip. Instead, once in Morocco, people generally speak Arabic or French. Of course there was a sprinkling of people with English skills, so not all was lost. And what little I could remember from high school French proved to be very useful.
I took a ferry across from Spain, and then following the advice of travelers met along the way, headed straight for the train station to get out of Tanger. It is supposed to be full of people looking to rip-off tourists, though I can´t vouch for that either way, as I may have spent a total of 3 hours there. The train to Rabat was to be about 4 hours, according to the guy selling the tickets. My guide-book said 4 1/2 hours, but it ended up being more like 5 1/2. Unable to find anything to book online before going, I had only the name of a hostel written out on a piece of paper to show a cab driver. Turns out prices in Morocco are very cheap in comparison to that of Western Europe, so my cab ride was hardly a Euro. Though the hostel was incredibly cheap, it did lack things that most are accustomed to, such as toilet paper and warm water from the taps. No worries though, the nearby Hammam (public baths) and a package of pocket kleenex fixed all that.
Walking through the Medina was an experience all its own. The market had everything one could ever want to buy, plus some. And it was so big that it would be easy to get lost in there for days, if it weren´t for the fact that the place closes at night. Though I got lost in there, I hardly doubt I saw more than half of the market.
On Friday, couscous is a popular dish, and I had the opportunity to experience the dish homemade. The woman who ran the hostel had cooked it up, and shared her lunch. It was a load of food, and I was encouraged to eat until I could not eat anymore. Instead of each person eating from his/her own plate, the plate was shared by everyone at the table. The entire plate was not finished.
Other travelers in the hostel were much different from the travelers I have met in Europe. Most had traveled some in Europe, but were planning on carrying out extensive travels in Africa. I wish I had more time. I want to travel more in Africa. Even more time in Morocco would have been nice, but there is just so little time left before I must find myself in Lisbon.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
From Malaga I took a bus and back-tracked a bit, to Granada. I think Granada may have been one of the more memerable cities I have visited. I randomly ran into someone I had met at a previous hostel (in Valencia), had a traditional Tapas experience, and checked out the Alhambra, an amazing palace with some unreal architecture. Can´t wait to share those pics.
My first day in Granada I opted for a Kebab stand in an effort to eat something cheap and fast. Big mistake, I had some pretty nasty food poisoning later on that night. Full body chills and shakes and getting sick. All around it was a pretty miserable experience. But the other travelers I was with were really helpful, making me tea and trying to give me advice on how to make myself more comfortable. I ended up turning in early and getting a long night´s sleep that night.
My second day in Granada I leared about the traditional Tapas. Tiny drinks of beer or wine go for around 2Euro, but come with more than just a tasty morsel. My first was a ham sandwich, my second a small hamberger, made from scratch. Both came with fries.
The Alhambra was quite a hike to get to, but completely worth the effort. Even though tourist season is about dead, they are still pretty strickt about how many people can visit an any given time, make the experience better for all. There was no crowding here.
My last night in Granada the hostel I stayed at offered a Tapas tour for 1Euro. Decided it would be a great way to dinner, and went along, with just about everyone else from the hostel. In the end I spent very little cash for a meal out with a few drinks. I only ate 4 tapas, but I was so stuffed at the end of the evening that I got a great night´s sleep. I don´t think I could have cooked for myself and eaten that well for the amount I paid. The company was great too, meeting all kinds of people from all over the world.
Now I am making progress towards Morocco. No idea what to expect there, but that is part of the adventure. And the clock is counting down too, only a little more than 2 weeks to go. Wonder what I´ll find for travel excuses back home?
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
On top of the church in Dordrect. This was the church right across a canal from my friend´s house. It chimed really loud, but luckily, it only chimed during the day so it wouldn´t keep you up all night.
´Crash Test´car in Dordrecht.
Usually this is part of a fountain, but this time of year it is just too cold in Bratislava, Slovakia.
The carton of sour milk stuff I drank. Took a picture so I could find out for sure what it was later. From what other people have told me, it was probably buttermilk. Not the best tasting stuff, but it is supposed to be good for you. At least I did learn that it was something meant to be drunk, as opposed to something used in small quanities, such as cream for coffee.
Post box in Bratislava, Slovakia
Colliseum, Rome, Italy
Monday, November 19, 2007
The train ride was nice, better than the budget airlines. Plenty of leg space, a movie with my own personal headphones handed out at the beginning, and candies halfway through. There was a food/beverage car, but I was content with the water I had so I never bothered to check the other options. The movie was dubbed in Spanish, so I listened to music and relaxed. On more than one occasion, the water was right outside my window. Hopefully I´ll find a place warm enough for swimming. Been searching for that since leaving Bratislava.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Left from Bratislava, Slovakia over a week ago, and am currently in Spain. Barcelona to be exact.
Started out Italy in Bergamo, north of Milan. Ryanair advertised Milan, but after some closer reading, I found that I would actually be north of the city of fashion. No big deal for me, I was more interested in just getting to the country. I did go to see Duomo Church, and it was incredible. There are carved statues on top of several peaks on the outside of the church. Hopefully the pics I took will turn out, but still haven´t found a computer with the ability to upload (nor have I looked hard. Why pay for internet when the hostel has it for free?)
Milan was never a big point of interest for me, so I didn´t stay long before taking a night train to Rome. Night trains are something else. Sleep is possible, but it comes in broken fragments. Every time the train stopped I woke up, and every time it went through a city the lights woke me up. Then there was just the random waking up. And it was all in the sitting position, I was trying to save on cash by only booking a seat, not a sleeper car.
While in Rome I visited the Colosseum (not sure on the spelling of this. Google gives too many options). Who can go to Rome and miss that?? It was a bit smaller than I expected, but still a great site to see. I also saw the Palestine, Vatican City, and the Parthenon. Vatican City was full of tourists, and the line to the Sistine Chapel was about 1,000 people long. Naturally, I didn´t wait in line for it. Not that I don´t have respect for the history of it, but seeing such a thing with a million other people just didn´t interest me in the way I thought it should.
From Rome I was able to fly for about the same price as a train to Sicily. The lack of sleep from Milan to Rome made the flight a more desirable option. So I took the flight. Glad I did too, it gave me a bit more time in Rome, and was much easier on the wits I am supposed to be keeping about me while traveling. My plane landed in Palermo - or at least kinda close to the city of Palermo. It was a 1 hour train ride to get to the central station.
From Palermo I got my first glimpse of the Mediterranean Sea. I wish it had been warmer, I was hoping for at least sandals. But it was still a beautiful site, even if windy and chilly. And it was in Palermo I saw my first catacombs...creepy to see dead, mummified people wearing the clothing they would have walked around in during their day. The creepiest for me was the children. No pics allowed though, so I can´t fully share the experience on that one.
While in Sicily I also visited the towns of Marsala and Trapani. I think my favorite thing in Italy (besides the food - all of it) was the way people talked. They are all so animated. Even when they are talking on their cell phones, their entire body is involved in the conversation.
And now I am in Barcelona. Got here by another plane. Sure, the Eurorail pass sounds like a good idea, but I think I have saved money so far by searching my options as I go along. And, France is on strike, so the trains aren´t running through the country right now anyway. Lotta good that would have done me (bummer though, I was thinking of going there before exploring more of Spain).
Barcelona has been fun. The hostel I am in isn´t far from the beach, and the people are friendly. Everyone says Spanish would be good to learn, but turns out they don´t speak that here. Not even close. They call it Catalonian, and I don´t understand a word. But maybe Spanish will be useful later (and I still don´t know much). The pedestrian streets are a good way to pass time, and a visit to the aquarium was super cool. It focused on Mediterranean Sea life. Today I made a trip to a nearby town with a monastery. Lots of hiking around and seeing ruins of what used to be. The trains there were amazing, they go straight up the mountain. The cars are shaped more like parallelograms than rectangles.
I would tell you where I´ll be next, but I still don´t know that myself. Should be there tomorrow though.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
The next mistake came in the yogurt/milk isle. At least I thought there was milk there. I picked up a carton of what looked to be like milk, and was able to buy it because it had a barcode. But as I opened the container, I realized that maybe it wasn't milk. Smelled a little sour, and was really thick. Oops. But I couldn't just not try it, so I took a HUGE swig. Ugh. Definitely sour. But maybe it was yogurt, just not sweetened. So I drank some more. After about the second drink, it was getting better, so I decided to drink the whole thing. After all, it was all I had, since I had no "special code" for my pastries.
Once drinking all of the contents, I asked a girl at the register of a McDonald's if she knew what it was in English. They told me sour milk. Just for kicks I thought I would ask another group of kids out on the street. While asking another woman heard me, and stopped to explain what it was I had just consumed. Turns out it is about half milk, and half cream, and soured. Uhhh, not quite milk or yogurt....
Not all is bad though, I had a full belly, and I'm (still) not sick from it. I wonder what I will find to abuse my stomach with in the next place?
The weather isn't great here, cold and windy, with lots of rain. But the city is nice and small, something unexpected after visiting other capital cities across Europe.
Today is another day in the city, but a short one, I take a flight tonight to Milan, Italy. Not really sure I'll spend much time in that city, it may be more of a stop-over. Only going because I got a great deal on a flight, and I wanted to get into Italy.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
While I was still in the Netherlands, my friend there showed me around his town and told me about some of the history. I also made a day trip to Brussels, where I had the intentions of visiting a brewery, but it was closed, and when I asked around I was told all other breweries were far out of the city. So no brewery, but I did buy some fine Belgian Chocolates.
I have been in Austria since Saturday, I arrived after an 18 hour bus ride from the Netherlands. The most exciting part was some kid from Hungary getting arrested by German border patrol for trying to smuggle drugs. The rest of the time I pretended to be asleep while taking up two seats so no one would sit next to me. It worked, and I had plenty of space for the entire ride.
My German is going easier than I expected. It has been 10 years since I first came here with only two phrases, and already I feel like I am speaking the language better than the last time I came 3 years ago. I probably don't speak enough to get around entirely on my own, but with more practice I could definitely be there. If only I could drop the American accent, maybe it would be easier for people to understand what it is I am saying.
Of course I do have more pictures, but the internet connection is slow, so they'll have to wait once again. But, it'll give me a good reason to sit in front of a computer again later, as lately I have been avoiding them except for quick email checks, just to make sure I'm not missing anything important back home.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Seven Churches on Inis Mór. This was the first place I went on the island (in the Aran Islands) on my rented bike.
Finally, a more current picture of me on my blog. This was the point in Dún Aonghasa that I laid down with my head over the edge of the cliff. The wind blowing up the wall made me feel like I was on a rollercoaster. Talk about a head rush.
The coast line at another ruin, Dún Dúchathair. This one was harder to access (especially since the sign had been taken down at the main road) and therefore had fewer people visiting it. Actually, there was only one other person when I went, and he was on his way back into town.
Looking at Dún Dúchathair. The most amazing thing about these forts to me is the fact that they have little or no grout to hold them together. In most places there was none to be seen, but in a few places, it looked like someone had tried to reinforce the structures.
Looking up at the cube apartments. We even paid the €2 each to go inside the visitor cube. Though they look small from the outside, the are actually quite large, and the third floor inside would be perfect for a small get together. If you feel like buying one, you don't even have to worry about furniture, since they come fully furnished (good idea, since you would need specially built furniture to fit the slanted walls).
That's it for this slideshow. Hope to have more good pics for sharing soon.