Growing Spains

I’m leaving. It’s the long journey home.

After my short five-hour sleep, I was up and as enthusiastic as I could be at six in the morning. I managed to say my goodbyes to Emily and Dylan, who were both on their way within the next hour too. It’s difficult leaving some places. I mean, leaving Avignon was like that scene in 500 Days of Summer where Tom gets laid and he’s dancing through the streets to Hall & Oates, but leaving here was like a sad violin song.

Eventually getting to the bus station, my bus was delayed by ten minutes. Not the greatest thing to hear when you have to drag yourself from bed so early so that you’re not late, only for the bus to be late itself. At the time that I am writing this line, it has just gone half past ten and we have yet to reach Zaragoza. Love a long bus. Then again, it has chargers.

After a quick pit stop, I returned to Barcelona. Seven hours on the bus led me back to the place that sent me up north in the first place. I found the correct train to take me to my city for the night – Girona. Why here? Well, I would recommend it regardless. Lots of old parts of the city worth visiting and the food is cheaper than Barcelona or San Sebastian. However, here is where my trip ends. The day after this entry, I will be back home where I’m free to eat all the battered pizzas and drink all the Irn Bru that I desire. It’s the dream. You also forget that McDonald’s abroad (or in fact anywhere else in the UK) don’t serve Irn Bru as a drink. They’re missing out.

But Girona. It’s not far north of Barcelona, settling relatively close to Andorra and the French border. You can get from the Catalan capital to here in just under forty minutes, so it’s very close. I got to my hostel, a Bed in Girona (I know what you’re thinking, it’s an even more creative name than the last hostel I stayed in) and much like a few places I have stayed, this clearly used to be a house. There are two dining areas, a couch, a balcony with some cool old chairs, bedrooms, toilets, showers, kitchen…it’s just massive and beautiful.

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With 17 euros left to my name I thought about how I would spend it. I nearly blew a lot of it on a Menu Del Dia as a final treat for the trip, but that would have left me with six euros, and that would be considering the fact I would need to get the bus back to the airport. Too risky. I found somewhere that had lasagne for six euros and it was as good as you can expect for six euros. Could have been more, but not fussed.

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In the hostel, I spoke to a middle-aged woman from England. She’s a little kooky, but she’s kind-hearted. She gave me some of her wine and then I helped her understand how to work her smartphone – we’ve all been there. It’s always the little things in human kindness that are memorable. We have a couple of Spaniards too. They seem cool. Shame I can’t stay here longer than a night from a hostel point of view, but I am looking forward to being home. There is no place like home.

BUDGETING:
Dinner: 6.80 euros
Train reservation: 4 euros

Total: 10.80 euros.

Breakfast: Apple, water. Lunch: Lots of chorizo sandwiches. Dinner: Lasagne.

 

June 29

Adios Catalunya

And then came my 7.30am train. Oh, the joys of waking up early before breakfast is even served to get on a train. Safe to say I have suffered. On the train I had to munch on some chorizo I had left.

My coping mechanism for these long trips (nearly six hours on this train) is all about mixing up activities. Recently my laptop has been acting very strange and the battery life is lasting two hours or so, compared to four hours only a couple of months ago. That was hardly an option for a whole train journey. Instead, I read one of my books The Virgin Suicides which is a pretty quick read. By this point, I had nearly completed the novel and decided to read another fifty pages or so prior to finishing the final 25.

Then, I remembered that I had downloaded a few albums on Spotify. Nirvana: MTV Unplugged. Yeah baby. Back to finishing the book, which gave me just over an hour to write some of the content for the blog as well as other odds and ends. Fun fact: even on reserved trains, Spain’s trains don’t have sockets. Or wifi. I never thought I would utter the words: “I miss Scotrail”.

I arrived in San Sebastian. First impression? Beautiful. It was almost eerily quiet at times, mainly because it was a Sunday, but it just had a much more laid back feel to it, unlike Barcelona. After a bit of an issue trying to find my hostel from the trusty Apple Maps.

But I arrived. A Room in the City is the name of the hostel. I mean they could’ve thought of a better name, that’s my only critique. The rest is brilliant. The rooms are bunk beds, but they are in a pod form. It looks really futuristic, but basic. You can sit in your own bed and do what you like with privacy. You don’t have to worry about disturbing someone with the glare of your screen – there is a curtain for that.

They have somewhere you can chill downstairs as well as a rooftop space and an outdoor area. At first I went to find somewhere to exchange money. Nothing is open on a Sunday I discovered. No supermarkets, no currency exchanges. OK, McDonald’s is open, restaurants are open and the odd shop too, but pretty quiet. I walked around for a while before finding a place to eat. Va Bene is a popular burger restaurant in the area, so I checked it out. I had a Bacon Cheeseburger and fries for 7.20 euros. I mean, yes it was relatively cheap, but also the meal wasn’t as big as I was hoping. It was a tasty meal, but I could’ve done with some more food.

On the way back to the hostel, I found a shop that was open (praise the lord) and grabbed some juice and a big bottle of beer. If you’re unaware, Spain has 1L bottles of San Miguel for just over a euro. You’re welcome. Arriving back, I took a leap of faith and sat with a huge crowd of people in the space there. Safe to say, most of the people I have met have been in more isolated ways, or if I meet someone in a large group, I already know people in the group. This was a little intimidating. But obviously, everyone is really nice. Also, everyone here is Australian. Seriously.

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Clearly accidentally used one of the potatoes as a camera for this shot.

In a group of 15/20 people, more than half of them are Australians, all either in couples or individual people. Turns out there are a lot of waves in San Sebastian and the stereotype that Aussies are surfers is apparently true. Really, there are too many names to remember from the night, but I can remember speaking to a couple (Laura and Matt if I’m not mistaken) and a girl called Tess. All bloody Australians. We bonded over our mutual love/hate for how bad our politics is in both of our countries currently.

Then, the whole group were forced to leave the area for hostel curfew reasons and someone suggested going into the old town. I wasn’t keen on spending money on alcohol too much, but I went along anyway. Then something wonderful happened: someone had a carry out. A girl called Maddy had like three bottles of wine to go around the group and we just sat in the old town for a while. Maddy is basically Jesus, except she turns wine into more wine. It’s worth mentioning, that this is technically illegal in Spain, but the police don’t seem to mind too much as long as you aren’t off your head drunk. First night can be considered a success, looking forward to tomorrow.

BUDGETING:
LUNCH: 7.20 euros.
GROCERIES: 2.30 euros.

Total: 9.50 euros.

BREAKFAST: Chorizo. Lunch: Bacon cheeseburger and fries.

June 25

Mi Espanol es Bastante Mal

After my usual mulling around in the morning, my roommate asked me what I was going to do to which I had no idea. I really don’t seem to plan these trips out very well. Anyway, the Colombian guy from the night before turned out to be my roommate called Sebastian.

One of the most interesting things about hanging out with him was realising how poor we are at speaking each other’s languages. It was a great learning experience for me as I worked on my Spanish for a day while I taught him how to swear in English because my teaching is clearly more useful. We travelled uptown via the main train station (I had to reserve a ticket for a future train before, which took forever) before grabbing another McDonald’s, again out of convenience and because Seb wanted one. Culture.

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Once we boarded the train, we checked out the Sagrada Familia from the outside. This was due to you needing to buy tickets for the grand, incomplete building, a day in advance. It’s a shame we couldn’t see from the inside, but we moved on to the Casa Battlo, another architectural masterpiece by Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudi.

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Again, we couldn’t see it. It was 25 euros to get in. Nah.

Again it was a great place from the outside, but we decided to move from there and to someone that was at least free. Parc Guell. It’s one of the city’s largest green spaces, but also a long way up a hill to get to. One saving grace to exhausted tourists who wouldn’t know what 35 degrees felt like if it hit them in the face, is the outdoor escalators that aid you to the top for the most part.

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Once up there, you can see the whole city. The views at Parc Guell are unrivalled. You can see La Rambla in its Central Park-esque form surrounded by looming trees. You can see the busy cranes at La Sagrada Familia and you can see the beach stretching for miles along the Mediterranean Sea. Just down from this viewpoint were a few more. Seb and I walked up to the top before he stopped for a smoke. We befriended a bunch of German girls, all from Turkish and Kurdish backgrounds who were heading to the top as well. I feel like I tell a tale like this often where I just chat about life in their native country, but it’s always cool to meet total strangers and leave them feeling like you gained something out of the conversation.

We took the long walk back down towards the city centre once again. There we bought some food and drinks and got the metro back to the hostel, ready to go out at night.

It was a Friday night, and so came the Summer Solstice Fiesta. It’s basically a big party on the beach to celebrate the longest day of the year (even if a couple of days out on this occasion). Myself and Seb were heading there, along with our new roommate from Italy, Mohammed. Just before we left (my pasta was taking infuriatingly long to cook) we met more people from the hostel going. Two more Italians in Rikhard and Jose as well as a German girl, Elke. Is there a version of the Fantastic Four, Fabulous Five or Magnificent Seven for a sextet? Because we were certainly that. The Splendid Six? The Sexy Six? The Sick AF Six? All the newbies are cool. Good mix.

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I was pretty buzzed at first when down at the beach. I had a couple of drinks, danced around and jumped into the ice-cold water like many people there. Then the tiredness kicked in and I needed my bed, despite being five miles from home. Matters were not helped by Seb’s friend hanging out with us, with a whole bunch of Spanish-speaking people.

My Spanish is decent when I can concentrate, but I really just needed my bed at three o’clock. The late nights are catching up. I got the metro myself (they run all night on the Summer Solstice night) and crashed heavily to my bed. Buenas noches.

BUDGETING:
MCDONALD’S: 7 euros.
GROCERIES: (4 beers, chorizo and croissant): 4 euros.
TRAIN TICKETS: 16 euros (reservation and metro pass).
GIFTS: 2 euros.

Total: 29 euros.
Barca Total: 50 euros. Decent all things considering.

Breakfast: Cereal in hostel, Lunch: McD’s. Dinner: Homemade pasta.

June 23