Sun, Surf, and Calamari Sandwiches

Barcelona Travel Blog

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After one of the greatest weekends to date in Haus Erasmus, me and my friend Michael from Minnesota embarked on Espana. With no concrete plans and a handful of blurred information from our Spanish friends we ventured to Bratislava, Slovakia to catch our plane. RyanAir has a hub in Bratislava which is only a touch over an hour out of Vienna. It may sound strange going to another country to catch a flight but that’s how close travel is in Europe. We found the direct bus from Wien to Bratislava Airport where Michael bought a ticket but when I tried to buy a ticket they tell me the bus is full. So we scrapped the bus idea and made a mad dash to the train station to find the next train to Slovakia. The train left almost immediately but now we had the issue of trying to find the Airport from the train station. During the train ride I turned on my Ipod only to realise all the songs had been wiped off music for 10 days I thought would kill me. We arrived in Bratislava, exchanged some money, and then found a bus to the city centre. Next problem was we had no idea what direction the Airport was. After wandering around with no success we decided to get a taxi ride. We heard stories of how taxi drivers rip you off so we ended up taking a hotels limo service, which worked out, cheap anyway. We finally made it to the Airport and only just made our flight. We found seats near Ben, Isobel, Kristy, Marta, and Pete (fellow Haus Erasmusers).

After a two-hour flight we touched down in Gerona airport, which is just out of Barcelona. We took the shuttle bus to the city centre and realised we were right near our Hostel. We were staying at Gothic Point Hostel, which was recommended to us by our friend Cal. I can see why Cal liked it so much, there was more happening in the Hostel than the entire city centre, just his style. We basically slept as soon as we checked in only to be occasionally woken up by ACDC on the stereo downstairs, which the owner informed me was his favourite band. We went out for a few beers and a walk. The Spanish girls recommended we eat Tapas so I gave it a try on the first night only to realise Tapas means Entree.

The next day we woke up and had to check out of our hostel and book into another because it was full. We found a cheaper one close by so we checked our bags in there and went walking. We found the main strip, La Ramblas, which was just pedestrian walking with street performances. This took us all the way down to the ocean where we hit the harbour. We walked along the ocean until we found the beach. Here we found a beachside cafe where we had coffee and pizza and watched people on the beach. A Chinese lady offered us a massage but we spent too much on the pizza so I had to decline this time. The rest of the day we spent walking around the city looking at rolling parks and pedestrian friendly areas. The sun was bright and everything was green which was such a change from Vienna. On our walk we got to see the Arc De Triomf and other monuments. That night we made plans to head to Valencia the next day then wandered down to the beach to meet with the rest of the Haus Erasmus crew. We ended up drinking on the beach then decided to get a meal. Isobel was quite drunk and started swearing like a true Aussie. Once again I ended with Tapas but it was Calamari which was alright.

Wednesday morning our enthusiasm came back as we were heading for Valencia and their world famous festival, Las Fallas. From what we were told about this festival we were expecting fire, loud noises, and lots of alcohol. The first part of the bus trip from Barcelona was spectacular. On one side it was mountains with green grass and on the other was rolling blue ocean with a bright sun beaming down. The trip was around four hours and we arrived in Valencia to fireworks in the daytime and a haze of smoke over the city. The noise was loud and the streets were full of tourists and locals. The festival actually lasts an entire week so we had caught the final day and the aftermath of the weeks celebrations could easily be seen by the rubbish and tired faces in the streets. In attempt to find our hostel we had a vague idea of its location and a map with very little detail. After two hours of walking through the masses we found an Internet cafe where we found the exact location of our hostel only to realise we had been walking past it for the past hour. We dropped our bags off in their lock-up but we actually couldn't stay at the hostel until the following night as we only booked it for that night. The plan was to party all night long and sleep for a good part of Thursday. We found a place for lunch where we once again got tiny meals with even smaller beers. We followed this by going to a kebab stand, which reminded us of Vienna. The streets were full of pageant floats where the detail was spectacular. It was amazing to think about the hours of work put into the construction of the floats only to realise in a few hours time they would be burnt to the ground. The plan was to meet with Ben and the other Erasmus kids but after a few text messages between us trying to work out where the main square was I ran out of credit and my phone battery died. Michael being the avid coffee drinker took me to a cafe where we sat out the front drinking coffees, watching kids with fire crackers, and admiring the soon to be burnt genie structure. After the sun went down we decided to get some drinks and sit in the park. Michael bought some wine but had the problem of having no wine opener. His idea was to smash off the top, which ended badly with him losing the top third of the bottle. He should have stuck with beer like me. On his second bottle of wine I suggested he just push the cork inside the bottle, which was a much better option. We sat drinking for the next two hours admiring the firework displays happening all around us. When we returned to the city the burning had already begun with smaller floats down side alleys being alight. We made our way back to the main square to get prime position to witness the burning of the genie. The display began with fireworks and then sparks started to fly out of the top of the genie. Soon he was burning quickly with loud cheers from the huge crowd. After the last flame had burnt and the black smoke began to clear the crowd started to leave with lots of pushing and shoving. We just stood and waited. The party had finished with the streets deserted at 3am. Michael came up with the great idea of sleeping in the park. He found what he thought was a great spot only for me to mention that there are a lot of middle-aged men walking by themself in this park. This gave me the notion this maybe a gay sex park. I began to leave with Michael trying to assure me it wasn't. My assumptions about the park were soon realised when a man whistled at us as we were leaving. We found a warm spot next to one of the burnt floats with people putting pallets on it to keep the flames moving. We then found a cafe where we sat until 7am with whinging American's and passed out old Spaniards. We then found a quiet part of the city where Michael went to sleep on a bench. I found a bakery and grabbed a baguette and toured the city. At 11am we could finally check in to our hostel where I went and slept straight away. There are not many stories to tell about Thursday as most of the day was spent in bed. That night we attempted to make plans for the next few days. We desperately wanted to head to the Cadiz-Tarifa region but it was impossible to find buses or hostels. We got kicked off the Internet and went to bed in a shitty mood.

The Friday morning we woke up and went straight to the Internet where almost everything worked for us. We got buses taking us to Sevilla then to Tarifa and found an amazingly cheap hostel for Sunday night. The only problem was no hostel for the Saturday night but we were keen to sleep on the beaches anyway. Our day had some structure to it with us having the entire day in Valencia then catching an eight-hour night bus at 11pm to Sevilla. We found a bike shop and hired bikes for the entire day. Riding around the tight streets was amazing and we found a place that sells cheap Paella (Chicken and Rice). We sat in front of a church on Good Friday eating our Paella with the sun beaming down and a guy with a nice mullet smoking hash behind us (I suppose Jesus wanted him to be smoking hash in front of a church to celebrate his death). After lunch we rode through the park, which led us all the way to the ocean. The park was green with people resting, walking, or riding everywhere. When we reached the ocean I was amazed at the sand and the quality of the water. Very clean with people sun-baking everywhere. We locked up our bikes and walked along the beach. We then made our way back with a quick stopover to buy dinner and beers from supermarket. We ate our food and drank our beers (1.5 litre) quickly in the park. We suddenly gained extra confidence on the bikes, so much that we attempted to ride up stairs. We returned the bikes just before the deadline then made our way back to the hostel where we picked up our bags and made our way to the bus station. Feeling slightly sad about leaving Valencia we grabbed the chance to grab one last tourist shot of us from a Spanish guy who took his job of taking one photo so seriously. Finally the bus left and we had 8 hours of sleep on a bus.

Arriving to a deserted Sevilla we walked the streets admiring the laid-back nature and warmth of the city. We had very little time to sight see as we had another bus to Tarifa to catch. The bus to Tarifa took us along the very southern coast of Spain and we arrived to crashing waves and kite surfers everywhere in the tiny coastal town of Tarifa. Tarifa is a town based around tourism with Kite-surfing being the overwhelming feature. Kite schools and surf shops make the shopping street. Another big drawcard of Tarifa is the fact that it is the most southern part of Europe and the closest point to Africa so a ferry system runs from Tarifa to Tangir in Morocco. We had an excellent breakfast where I found out I actually can eat eggs. From here we decided to make an attempt to find a hostel for the Saturday night. We went to the place we had booked for the Sunday night where they had the same room spare but at a bigger price. After doing our sums we realised the price still worked out to be an average hostel price. We ended with a two-bed room with its own bathroom and TV, which was more like a hotel room. After some small rest we made our way down to the beach to watch kite-surfing action. Michael went and bought a heap of supermarket food, which set us up for a night of r'n'r watching soccer.

The Sunday we woke and went to get the same breakfast. We ended up drinking three coffees each admiring the sun and laid back nature in the streets. After this we went to the old town where much of the action was. Small markets lined the streets and the option of whale watching almost caused me to spend some more euros but being the money conscious student I held onto my cash. The chance to see Free Willy (a killer whale) was very exciting but also expensive. We went and sat watching the Mediterranean Ocean on one side and the Atlantic the other. The difference in the two oceans was major with the Med being very calm and scenic and the Atlantic being very rough. We could see Africa just on the Horizon, which was also amazing. Michael felt the effects of the coffee on the beach with lots of energy followed by a quick comedown period. That night we cracked open some wine and watched the soccer knowing we had set plans for the following day making our way to Madrid. We got over excited watching our newly claimed team, Valencia, come from behind to beat Spanish giants Real Madrid. We then went for dinner at the usual Spanish eating time, 11pm, at a nice Spanish place where I ate the best calamari ever.

The next day we once again had breakfast at the same cafe and waited to catch our bus at 12pm back to Sevilla. On the bus w met some English guys who seemed to be having the same troubles with booking hostels and catching buses as us. The bus got us to Sevilla just before 4pm only for us to find out that we couldn't catch a bus to Madrid until 11pm, which would get us there at 5am. We split up for the afternoon to adventure around Sevilla. I sat by the river for hours enjoying the 25-degree weather and laid back nature of the city. After wandering the streets for hours we met up at the bus station and finally caught our bus that arrived thirty minutes late.

After little sleep on the bus we made it to Madrid where Michael's friend Javi met up with us. He drove us back to his place and gave us somewhere to catch a little bit more sleep while he was at work. During this time we booked another night bus back to Barcelona getting ready to fly home. After some rest we toured a bit of the city but our legs were too tired so we just sat and admired the drunken Madrid locals at midday in the square and the old prostitute with g-string easily visible smiling at us. Later that day we met back up with Javi who wanted to show us some good Madrid bars. We had some good sangria and beers in a few bars but finished in a shop that sold 2euro calamari sandwiches and big cups of sangria. The time had come for us to leave Madrid and what was going to be our last night bus ever.....hopefully.

Arriving in Barcelona early we connected to the airport bus, which got us one step closer to home. The flight back to Bratislava had some amazing views going along the Spanish and French coasts and crossing the snow-capped Alps. We arrived back in Bratislava and tried to get the bus back home. Michael got on the bus but I couldn't get on due to all the other seats being reserved. After an hour of waiting I managed to get onto the next bus but only just with a large number of reserved seats again. Finally arriving back in Vienna was an amazing feeling, apart from the cold weather. I finally could shave, have a good shower, and lie in my own bed. Overall, Spain was amazing with a relaxing nature and lots of sun. It was great to see the ocean and eat some seafood but the miles we covered definitely took a lot out of me. Next time I would want longer to spend in each city and never take a night bus again.
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photo by: fivepointpalm