A Travellerspoint blog

Spain

Day 14 & 15, Barcelona

all seasons in one day 20 °C

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We spent the most memorable part of our day in a few internet cafes trying to get our pictures loaded to the internet. The wifi, as I´ve previously expressed it totally shotty. We went looking for a cafe and it took 30 minutes to find one that offered internet. The one nice part about that expierence was the cafe con leche we got to enjoy. After an hour 60% of the photos were uploaded when the internet called it quits. So we left and dropped our computer back at the hostel.
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We tried our luck at finding chicken again. The girl at the hostel found us the name and address of her favourite place, she told us they'd be open. We walked and walked, about 35 minutes, before we came to the correct address. The chicken place was closed. Closed. So we took a few steps back and sat down in a cafe for two delicious sandwiches and coca colas. Darn, the chicken beat us again. We decided to walk from the cafe to the Barri Gothic quarter. When we were just about there it started to rain. Shane lent me his hoodie as we half heartedly explored an old castle/town we came across.
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We wandered the back streets running from awning to awning trying to stay dry. We spotted a candy store (of which there are many in the city) and ducked inside, hoping to boost our spirits with sugar. It sort of worked, but we were starting to get cold. I hurridly found my requisit magnet,(I buy one in each country) and we trudged to the metro.
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We got bored quickly back at the hostel, the place was hot and damp, all our fellow travellers having taken refuge from the wet as well. We elected to go for an earlier dinner. Luckily for us it was awesome! We ate at a restaurant that specialised in Catilatin cusine (the region we were currently in.) After dinner, because it was still early we decided to go for a walk. Down the street we went until we spotted a building that looked like fun. It was called the Barcelona Sports Center, or something similar, which I only remember because it was a mall having nothing to do with sports. We took the escalators to the top where we could walk around the roof. Because it was taller than all the buildings around, the views were fantastic! We could do a complete 360 walk. The most memorable point was seeing Segrada Familia all lit up from a distance. It was really cool. We slowly made our way back tot he hostel before we slept.
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The next morning we woke up early, we ate a quick breakfast and went straight to Sagrada Familia. The line had already started forming when we got there at 8:40 (it opened at 9.) We waited for our turn and headed straight for the cathdral. Nothing could have prepared either of us for what we saw. Immediately upon entering you notice the very vivid and bright stained glass, it's to your right, to your left and straight in front of you. The room is enormous. Far larger than I could have imagined. A lot of pillars support the structure but each piller in turn branches off like a tree in multiple directions. The celing is 150 feet above your head. The place is amazing. And when we got there the very last minutes of a choir rehersal could be heard.
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We explored the interior, the exterior and the museum before called it quits. We decided to walk again, as we had a lot of time, to our next destination the Mercat Sant Antoni, the largest and most authentic market in Barcelona. It took us an hour and a half but we got there. The market was housed in a gigantic tent, I believe to be temporary quarters. The real market seems to be under resoration. The market was so cool, it made Granville Island look like childs play, and between the quailty of ingredients and knowledge of both purveyors and clientel it really was far superior.
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We tried to get some lunch at the market, but the service was spotty at the resaurant and we only got half our order. We headed back to the hostel, myself to find information about our commute the next day and Shane to do a load of laundry. By 5pm we were restless again. We got some of the cheapest food we could find. Just before we were done eating it started to storm, thunder and lightning. Because we had no where to be we sat on a bench outside the restaurant for a few minutes before we noticed very large drops of rain starting to fall. I pulled Shane off the bench and under a bus shelter. Moments later we were caught in a COMPLETE downpour. I've never seen it rain so hard in my life. Within 5 minutes the gutters had swollen on the side of the road, the cars were still flying by and we got sprayed a few times. The whole street was on standby with everyone grabbing whatever shelter they could. An old man got off the bus and we we scooted over on the bench. He starts talking to us very fast in Spanish, we told him we only speak English and he smiles and keeps jabbering on. He talked to us for a good 10 minutes, pointing and motioning. At one point the shelter was so full he was telling young girls to come sit on his lap. The rain was splashing every which way, we were getting soaked from the back and the front. And as quickly as it had come it left about 25 minutes later. On our way home we stopped at the liquor store (read:corner store) and bought three cans of Damn Lemon, a mix of 60% beer and 40% lemon soda. Very sweet and delicious.
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Back at the hostel we got all our bags packed and ready for our early departure the next morning and out of sheer desperation I pulled a book off the shelf to read. Having no internet is awful. The book however is wonderful and it gave me something to do all night.
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Posted by s-a 14:08 Archived in Spain Tagged barcelona Comments (4)

Day 12&13, San Sebastian and Barcelona

sunny 22 °C

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We spent Saturday waiting for our train in San Sebastian. We left our pension around 11 and then walked the boardwalk. Shane told me today that these beaches are among the top 3 in Europe, which made me feel pretty cool for not sun tanning with 1.3 million other people. During the summer it gets so packed you can hardly move, but it is completely different because it is the off season. We walked to the end and watched the waves crash on the walls for a while and walked on back to a place we had in mind for lunch. The square we walked to was packed full of people because the church (which looks like it is carved into the mountain) was hosting a wedding. There were traditional dancers and music, and seemed as though the whole town packed into this tiny square to watch. We inched our way closer to the door as the chimes rang out and the beaming bride and groom showed themselves at the top of the stairs. A round of cheering and kissing went as we sat for lunch.
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Shane said it was the best calamari and chicken he had ever had. Both were very good but the latter was in a Basque style, brasied to within an inch of its life with a thick sauce for mopping up with a hearty, crusty molasses flavoured piece (or two) of bread.
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We left lunch and bought dinner for the train, one dried chorizo, a half baugette, drinks, root vegetable chips and a little bag of fresh strawberries. We waited for our train (I took two Adivan, I needed it!) and climbed aboard. 6 hours and one Spanish dubbed Miley Cyrus movie (cleverly narrated by Shane and myself) later, we pulled into Barcelona.
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Our first expierences with the city were not that great. Such a large and, at this point, very new city can be daunting. Especially at 10:30pm. It took a while, but we found our hostel, took showers and slept for the night (kind of).
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The next morning we woke up to some toast and coffee, we asked about a laundromat and washed our clothes, thank goodness. After this we took the metro back to the train station to reserve tickets for a few (very important) trains. Once again we were told it was not possible, which has stuck us in a really tight situtation. The hostels and b&bs we are wanting to reserve are fast approaching tourist season, meaning all their rooms are booked up, we are having a really rough time finding accommodations. In fact in Dresden there is not one room or bed even available for our dates. Period. So we are needing to change our plans to find beds. As a result, we are booking the beds and wanting to book the trains to make sure we get there. If we don't book a train that needs reserving, we can´t get to our destination, so then we miss the bed we booked and we lose money. So we can't book the trains in advance because the different train companies don´t work together. Which means of course that we can´t book the accomadations in case we can't get to the cities. It's a very stressfull situtation for me. I REALLY wish I had known that when I bought the train passes. I might have reconsidered. To think that we spent $3300 on two tickets that can´t even really work for us. Anyways, we will do our best and I´ll try not to freak out. I might need more Adivan.
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From the unsuccessful stop at the train station, we moved on to the Gaudi's unfinished Sagrada Familia. We walked around the outside, which was a marvel, but because it was Sunday, we decided not to go in. We took the metro to Park Guell, or to where we thought the park was. It ended up being quite the hike. We finally got there and walked through the park, but by this time we were STARVING! We tried to find somewhere to eat, but there weren't very many places. Finally we saw and smelled the most AMAZING chicken we´ve ever smelled. It was slowly roasting in a rotisserie slathered in a phenomenal smelling blend of herbs and spices. We saw a line of about 15 people and hopped right in. When we got the counter 45 minutes later (I'm not joking), we said "uno chicken". The old lady and her assistant looked at us and nattered something in spanish while shaking their heads the international symbol for NO! Apparently there was a list of people who had reserved their chickens earlier in the day. Did we have a reservation? Of course we didn't. So... SHE WOULDN'T SELL US THE CHICKEN!!!!¨ I couldn't believe it. We had stood there, absolutely starving, smelling amazing chicken for 45 minutes and she wouldn´t sell it to us. I actually cried, as embarassing as that sounds, it was a culmination of a lot of things, but I cried good.
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Thirty minutes later (and still starving) I picked myself up and we went back to the hostel. Just next door is a convience store and I bought two bananas and a back of Cheetos. That was lunch.
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When we got back to the hostel we discovered we had some new roommates and they were from Coqitlem. We talked (and drank) with them for a few hours. They are pretty cool and I was stoked that we actually talked to someone, because allthough we are sharing a room with 6 other people, we STILL keep to ourselves.
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In attempts to salvage the memory of the city Shane and I went to dinner at Rias de Galicia, a very fancy (and delicious) seafood restaturant, were I ate a 42€ ($58 canadian dollar) piece of fish, that didn´t even come with vegetables or starch. It was an amazing meal and totally nessesary to keep us from hating the city.
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Posted by s-a 07:56 Archived in Spain Tagged barcelona san sebastian Comments (8)

Update

sunny 25 °C

We are in Barcelona right now, no wifi though so I`ll post when I have a chance.

Posted by s-a 08:14 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

Day 11, San Sebastian

sunny 21 °C

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We started this morning with a cup of coffee at our coffee bar here, called Ekain, where we ordered the requisit cafe con leche, which is a nice heavy shot of espresso with an thick top up of milk. We change up our pastry every morning, but it's always there. I've been asking when I want the cheque "kwan-to kwes-ta esto?" (cuanto cuesta esto? in Spanish) it means "how much is it?" and everytime I do the person serving me will kind of snicker and laugh, I'm feeling awfully insecure about it, I'm obvisouly doing something wrong.
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We walked over to the train station because we need to book a few train rides and when we asked about it the man said we would need to go back to France to make those reservations. We're obviously very confused about this because the station is part of RENFE the national train company. So we're hoping they will be more help in Barcelona and crossing our fingers our trains don't get booked up before then.
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We walked the sea wall after this and sat on the wall watching the waves crash hard onto the rocks below. The ocean here is so beautiful it makes me wish I was snorkeling in Jamaica again. On our way back to our room to change I bought a pair of red shoes and two white shirts, for something pretty. You'll see them around I'm sure.
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We got into our bathing suits and stopped across the road at the market for lunch where we picked up some serrano ham, a half baugette, a few dips and some roasted red peppers. We sauntered off towards the beach. Once we finished eating we spent an hour flipping and flopping in the sun trying not to burn. We didn't have towels so I layed on the sand and didn't go in the water very much because I couldn't dry myself off.
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After the beach Shane took a nap in our room and I tried to sort out more stuff for the rest of our vacation. All this planning while already on vacation really takes away from being in the moment. While he slept I also went for a walk and watched the surfers on the beach and the kids in the sand. People watching is a major past time for me here. We went to dinner a little earlier today, back to our favourite bar, Astelena, which once again blew our minds, it is by far the most expensive place we go to but the quality and fact that they cook everything to order AFTER you select it makes it totally worth it.
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Shane was wondering out loud last night whether or not a pintxos style restaurant would work in Canada, and I kindly pointed out that if a Canadian health inspector walked into one of these bars he would have the place shut down in half a second just based on the fact that the meat, seafood and cheese sit out ALL NIGHT for at least 5 hours, there is not really a concept of make to order when you are eating tapas. Your meat skewer or seafood topped sandwich will be there from 7 regardless of whether you order it at 8 or 12. In fact in the last bar we went into last night our ham and mayo sandwich came with not one but TWO dead flies on it trapped in the mayo, how delicious is that?
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We really enjoyed San Sebastian and it's relaxing atmosphere. We are going to miss not having a private room for the next few days, you don't know how nice it is to spread out and leave your stuff lying around until you can't do it.

Posted by s-a 00:01 Archived in Spain Tagged san sebastian Comments (7)

Day 9, San Sebastian

semi-overcast 18 °C

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We woke up in our dingy room this morning later than I would have liked, 8:15. We dressed and gathered our things and went to find breakfast at Paul's. We settled on a croissant, (best one so far) a jar of yogurt with berries and two espresso (brewed coffee is not an option in France, it simply doesn't exist). We took out loot to the park to eat in the sunshine. On our way back from breakfast we tried to get money out of the atm with our credit cards and it said (a few times) we had the wrong pin. We knew that it couldn't be the PIN numbers because we'd used them many times before.
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We got back to the hotel and checked out, walked back to a cafe to update the blog, tried to get a hold of Visa numerous times. The pay phones in France are very difficult to use, even when you do finally give a number in the correct format you get the message "number not available in this region." Shane and I walked into a bank we had tried to use earlier and talked to two of the women working there, they didn't know what to do, so we tried the visa with them watching, OF COURSE IT WORKED. WHY WOULDN'T IT WORK?! We felt so dumb! We were able to take out money no problem! In our defense we had tried 3 separate time that morning. Oh well, live and learn.
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We picked up some lunch, grabbed our bags and found our way to the train station. On our way through to the platform I couldn't resist buying an apricot tart to bring on the train. And it was SO good. I'm so glad I bought it, I'd been eyeing them up every time we went into a pastry shop for the last 9 days. It was perfect, tart apricots slightly sweetened with glaze on a flaky puff pastry crust.
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We got into San Sebastian around four and found out pension (it's getting easier every time, thank goodness) which is amazing. If any of you ever come to San Sebastian we would highly recommend Pension La Perla. It's in a great location with rooms that are both simple and beautiful, plenty of windows an ensuite bathroom, there are even mini fridges in every room. I'm going to point out the fact that this is the largest shower we have seen so far and the only one that I haven't accidentally turned off with my butt while I was turning around.
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When we first get into our rooms we always open the windows and this time the sound of Spanish music filled the room, as though they were serenading us down to the street. All around out room the streets are free of cars and people (a lot of them) cruise the shops for goods.
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Across the street is a beautiful old church and after we had showered and unpacked a little we explored our area. Eventually we came across a supermarket filled with neat things. We bought some fresh squeezed orange juice and a container of yogurt for breakfast tomorrow. We also bought a 2 euro bottle of Spanish white wine and a bag of ham flavoured chips which we promptly devoured.
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We came home to unload our goodies and I quickly booked our b&b in Rome (because we've got to keep on top of these things.) Dinner in Spain can't even be found before 7:30 so around 8:30 we walked to the old town. In this particular region of Spain (and the main reason we came here) dinner is eaten in pintxo bars, or in a tapas style. You order a drink and a few nibbles, chat a little, pay and move on to the next bar. It's a really fun way of doing things. Tonight there was a soccer game on between Madrid and Barcelona, arch nemesis in Spain, apparently this is a BIG thing. Madrid scored two goals while we were out, it was really neat to see (and hear) the streets erupt with cheers. We really enjoyed our dinner and as a bonus it was a very good value, 30 euros bought us 7 (!) drinks and dinner for two.

Posted by s-a 13:54 Archived in Spain Tagged san sebastian bordeaux Comments (7)

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