Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Humid sweet home.

We're home!! We've actually been home for two days now, but have been busy bumming around and catching up on being lazy.  It's quite nice, but I do already miss some things about Europe. 
It's so humid here that last night, when I made popcorn for the Japan-Paraguay game, it was already starting to get stale before halftime. I don't know if it was really because of the humidity, but it's humid enough to believe that it is. I miss dry weather!

Anyways, to say that this trip was fantastically amazing would be an understatement. It was way beyond awesome, and no matter how hard I try to describe it, it's barely going to scrape the surface of how awesome it was.

To our friends, hosts and everyone we met along the way, thank you for such a wonderful, exciting, humbling and inspiring experience. Thank you for feeding us, spoiling us, showing us around, making us comfortable, making us adventurous, the endless amounts of fun.  I think our trip was a hundred times better because of you!

What an adobenchaa... 

Now we're going to be couch potatoes for a little bit.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

One last post from Madrid

Hola chicas y chicos!

Day 39

It´s our last night in Spain! Claire and I are having a flurry of mixed emotions. Really sad to leave this trip, and on the other hand ready to be home.

We´re pretty on edge at this point because both of us are almost out of cash. Hence, we spent the better part of the day with Jayguer free-museum-hopping. Poor college student travelers much?

The first museum we went to was the Egyptian Temple, which was donated to Spain as a gift from Egypt. Basically, it´s an ancient Egyptian Temple hangin' out in the middle of Madrid. Isn't that awesome?

Find Claire.

And then we went to the Palacio Real (Royal Palace) where they had a bunch of free exhibitions, including one of just armors and armors and armors and armors. They even made armors for dogs back in the day.

Jayguer treated us to some delicious icecream and even cooked us a Panamanian lunch! I wish I had a picture it was delicious. It's called patacones, and it's deep fried plantains with stir fry. Yum.

The rest of the day was spent shopping :P We very carefully budgeted our purchases though, as we are extremely low in cash, as I explained above. But we've made some good purchases!

Cheers to one last giant glass of tinto de verano.

Good night!

Friday, June 25, 2010

The home stretch

Hi all,

This is it. The home stretch! We have one day left in Madrid, and we´re heading home!

Day 35

Our first day in Granada, we visited the world famous Alhambra (silent "h")!

The walk up there was a long way uphill, and several times along the way we were stopped by middle aged ladies trying to scam us into getting our palms read and selling us supposedly holy herbs. So note, if you travel to the south of Spain (because they are in Sevilla too), beware!

The inside of the Alhambra was gorgeous! It was a really interesting mix of styles of architecture, but mostly traces of Moorish influence. Being inside was also quite nice because it was a scorching hot day. Every time we saw a shaded place to sit, we sat and enjoyed the view. Like this one.

That night, we met up with Shan, who we met at our hostel in Sevilla, and Juanfra and Azahara took us to one of their favorite tapas bars, where Juanfra told us the tapas would be big. And indeed, they were big. See those plates? You would think its a meal on its own, but these came free with our drinks. It was so delicious and filling, we fell into a food coma- hence our faces.

Day 36

We went to have churros for breakfast, and then walked around the markets!

It was so hot that day, we went back to Juanfra's to siesta for a few hours and regain energy.

Later, we went to Mirador de San Nicolas for a really nice view of the Alhambra, at sunset! It was a very popular spot, as you can tell from the photo... no space to have a photo of just ourselves...


If you can't see your belongings, you must have at least one hand on it!!

Claire got her bag stolen inside a restaurant. Her whole entire bag!! Just because you are indoors does not mean a random rose vendor (whom I suspect of stealing the bag) from coming in and taking your belongings. Luckily, her passport, phone and camera weren't part of the goody bag.

Day 37

We took the bus to Madrid (because Claire's eurail pass and tickets to Madrid were stolen also) and slept the whole five hour ride. We saw a little bit of the city and came to Jayguer's where we cooked some pasta salad and watched Japan kick Denmark's ass in soccer!

Day 38

Today, we finally went shopping!! We hadn't shopped the entire trip because we would have had to carry everything on our backs, but now we've only got the plane ride home left. We walked to Puerta del Sol, where there are lots of shops. We discovered that shopping in Spain is cheap and they have lots of stuff we like.

After a few hours, we walked to Parque del Retiro and chillaaaaxxxed (shout out to Laya).

This is me and my chupa chup, looking alike.

On the way back home, we got poured on - POURED ON. We were drenched, and then five minutes later it stopped. My life is G.

Dinner: pasta and salad (not pasta salad, though), accompanied by Spain vs. Chile game. What did everybody think of the last 10 minutes of that game? Sigh.

This is us cooking.

And we leave you at that. We will have more pictures of Madrid up soon.

Good night!

Monday, June 21, 2010

1 week to go!?

Hi all!  Believe it or not, this is our last week of travel!  *Gasp*  Where did time go?  Well, we just arrived in Granada tonight.  And Spain won against Honduras in the World Cup!  Woohoo!

Anyways, we´ll catch you up on our adventures in Valencia and Seville!

Day 30

First day in Valencia, we went around Valencia´s city center to do the usual - seeing all the old historic buildings.  Bonus the day?  Getting a free CocaCola glass at McDonalds.  Haha.

Mika cartwheeling in front of the beautiful Ayuntamiento (town hall)

Later on in the afternoon, we went for a walk by the beach with our host, Conny.  The sand was so so so so soft!  And there were some street vendors selling cool accessories, clothes, and random tidbits for cheap, as well as this awesome fountain shaped like a sailboat!

Day 31

We spent the day at Museo de las Ciencias,an awesome interactive science museum.  Not only were the exhibits cool, the architecture of the surrounding area, including the imax theater, museum, and opera house, was just amazing!  Below: Mika and I in front of the imax theater.  It was a nice change from all the old historic looking buildings!

The "make yourself look taller and skinnier" mirror.  There was also a "make yourself look fat and stumpy like a sumo wrestler¨mirror too.  But that picture is confidential because it is too unflattering for the public eye.

We took a break from the museum and joined Conny and her friend at the river bed in making balloon dogs and balloon flowers!  It´s so much fun, I am going to take it up as a hobby.

Day 32 was just one looong train ride from Valencia to Sevilla.  But once we got to Sevilla we joined some folks from the hostel at a free live concert and a little bar hopping!

Day 33

Seville is a historically significant city with so many cool things.  Here´s just a glimpse of what we got to see!

The cathedral!  The tower on the right is the Giralda, the watch tower of the cathedral.  It´s nice because instead of stairs all the way up it's ramps and apparently it's wide enough for two mounted guards to go up at a time.

The view of Sevilla from the top!

That night we went to see a free flamenco show!  It was in a hidden bar, which made it even cooler.  Yes, the dancer moved that fast and that is why the picture is blurry.

Day 34 (Today!)  Seville --> Granada

FREE ADMISSION!!!!  Saved €7 using our student card getting into to the Alcázar, the palace which was first built by Muslim rulers, and served many different purposes throughout the years.  Remember all the explorers?  Like Columbus and Magellan?  They used to meet here!!!

So there you have it!  Now we are in Granada, surfing Juanfra's couch!  Tomorrow we're going to visit the Alhambra!


Friday, June 18, 2010

foreign, flustered, and with big backpacks

Way overdue blogpots. This blog is as of last night.  Lol.

Foreign, flustered, and with big backpacks...that´s how we look sometimes when we´re lost.

And I think yesterday was the most extreme case of "foreign flustered big backpack" syndrome. I forgot to write down our host´s phone number, address, and how to get to her house. The plan was to look for an internet cafe when we got off the train at Valencia, but as you would imagine, the only one in the vicinity of the station had shut down. So we were all flustered and panicky until Claire got the courage to ask a random guy in a cafe with a laptop if we could use the internet really quickly. The reasoning being, if we ever came across someone looking as confused and hopeless we were needing internet, we would definitely let them use our computer. Anyways, we´re here now, after buzzing random apartments to find the one where our host lived.

So now, I will rewind to Day 26! (Tordera/Alella)

Santi and Laura fed us the typical Sunday breakfast in Catalunya consisting of churros with thick thick thick thick thick hot chocolate. Delicious! (But a little too chocolatey for me!) Then we went to the Sunday market, where they sell everything from clothes and household goods to produce, meet, and livestock! The usually empty streets are packed during the market!

Afterwards, we were fed a great lunch, and then we were off! Almost missed the train...we seriously had to jump on the train and didn´t even have time to say proper goodbye!

The train ride to Alella, which is a town on the outskirts of Barcelona was really nice, as it followed the coast line! We met our host Fito, and just chilled with him and his cats at his house for the rest of the day. For dinner we cooked yakisoba...except we didn´t have noodles, so we cooked it with spaghetti.

Day 27 Barcelona, finally!

We took are stuff to Fito´s flat in Barcelona, and then went off site seeing! We first went o Parc Guell, one of Gaudi´s works. Here it is:

And then to La Perdera, which I personally found more interesting, and where I fell more in love with Gaudi. Here it is:

The roof is sooo cool and so is the interior and the exterior...just everything.

Day 28

Ah, the Sagrada Familia. Where to begin?
I think my jaw actually dropped when I walked in, I was like WHAAAT? Not only is it humongous, its a cathedral that still continues to be under construction after a hundred years, with probably another hundred years ahead. We took a guided tour and learned a lot about the building, and that was just the tip of the iceberg. The pictures we took won´t do any justice to this amazing work. We spent 3 hours there and really got our money´s worth!

We went to the Manzana de la Discordia, where there are a couple really amazing looking buildings. One of them is Gaudi´s, and the other two are by other amazing architects. Unfortunately, Gaudi´s was closed when we got there, and the other two were not open to the public. But from the outside, they were so cool!

Then, the Gothic Quarder and Plaza de Rei, where Columbus did something historic. Not quite sure what. Then walked along Port Vell, which was a nice contrast from the rest of the town, which is very historic looking.

Then, discovered an amazing tapas dish called bombas. Yum.  It´s not in tact in the picture because we weren´t patient enough to take a picture before we nommed in up.

We even saw a flamenco show!  It was too hard to take picture of that!

Ah, what a great day!

Day 29
: Barcelona/Valencia

(from here on, I´m too lazy to write. So it´s a photo blog. Enjoy, and goodbye.)

La Boqueria

Montjuic: great view of the city!

And then went back to la boqueria to have lunch at a stall inside the market!  I got shrimp.  Bummer that Claire doesn´t like it.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Current state: food coma.

We are staying with our couchsurfing hosts in Tordera, Santi and Laura!  They just cooked us a delicious lunch of paella and salad and we are absolutely stuffed.  After eating too much chorizo and baguette over the past week, this was a fantastic treat. 

Day 24: 

Yesterday, we walked from Blanes to Tordera, probably our last hike.  It rained all morning but not long after we started walking, the sun came out and we may have gotten a little more tan.  Walking away from the sea was a little sad... but it was still a good hike, once we found the trail.  We were walking next to a highway for quite some time until we found the red and white stripe that marked the GR-92 hiking trail. 

Laura picked us up at the library and took us back to their lovely apartment. (By lovely, I mean Lovely.) Then she made us delicious dinner (leek soup, home made pizza!!!!) and we watched House in Spanish.

Day 25: 

Today, Laura´s nephew and niece (4 and 1 years old) came over for a bit, and then we walked around town for a bit.  They are so adorable.  The little one wants to do everything her big brother does! Here´s Mika, Laura and the little ones in front of the church in Tordera.

When we came back, Santi started to cook paella for lunch!

Now our hosts are siesta-ing and we are resting off our food coma.  Later, we´re going to go to a nearby town, and tomorrow we´re going to Alella, right before we head into Barcelona!

Is anyone reading this, by the way?

Friday, June 11, 2010

We were naive.

above: Girona

Remember how we said we´d hike the whole way from Begur to Barcelona? Yeah, not as simple as we thought it would be. Here´s what happened.

Day 18: A resort with a camping option

Took a bus from Girona-->Palafrugell-->Begur, which is a really pretty town overlooking the Costa Brava. From there we walked all the way down to our campsite in a very small beach town called Sa Riera. Apparently in Spain, a campsite is basically a resort, complete with a pool, restaurant and bar, and very nice bathroom/shower facilities. At this campsite, we got a plot of land. Yes, a very square, very fenced in plot of land. Anyways, we headed down to the beach. Que lindo!!

And then we had really nice expensive 20 euro dinner to celebrate the beginning of our hike down to barcelona...or so we thought.

Day 19: Begur to Palamos in 5 hours 20 minutes? MY ASS. But we're probably the most intense people on Costa Brava right now. (And also the only Asians)

The title basically explains it all. This online source- and apparently it´s accurate because its sited on the guide book- told us that we could get to the next city, Palamos in 5 hrs 20 minutes. Maybe this is true for fast, long legged hikers with no luggage, thank you very much. We made about 1/3 of the way there in about 5 hours and we were exhausted. Hiking along coasts is beautiful, but it ain´t easy. We stopped for the night in a town called Tamariu.

(above: Claire being tired. The red and white stripe is what marks the trail all the way from the border of France and Spain to past Barcelona)

Day 20: Palafrugell, TWICE.

By now, we were already way behind schedule, so we decided to hike to a bigger town, called Calella de Palafrugell to catch a bus to get to SantFeliu de Guixols, where we had reserved a campsite. To get to Calella to Sant Feliu, we had to make a transfer in Palafrugell... making it our second time there without ever hiking through it, as we had planned to.

Another hippie moment as we waited for the bus in Palafrugell.
Day 21: Nevermind, we're the second most intense people on Costa Brava right now.

As we were packing up to leave our campsite in Sant Feliu this morning, another guy came into the plot next to ours with a bike loaded with some camping gear. He was the guy we mentioned before who programmed the Indiana Jones ride and is taking a bike tour of Spain and France. We realized that we were no longer the most intense people on Costa Brava, because he was way cooler than us.

And then once again, instead of hiking, we took the bus. No, we weren´t being lazy. We would have had to hike 21km of mountainous trail to get to any nearby town. And based on our past experience it´s not possible to hike that much. Sant Feliu --> Girona --> Tossa de Mar. Girona was waaaaay out of the way, plus that was our starting point!!! Here, see for yourself how ridicuous this all is.

Just trace your finger Girona --> Palafrugell --> Begur --> Tamariu --> Calella de Palafrugell --> Palafrugell --> St. Feliu --> Girona --> Tossa de Mar

and this is Tossa.

Day 22: Hiking! finally back on track. FELIZ CUMPLEAÑOS, CLAIRE!

Using my lovely singing voice, I sung Claire awake. I´m sure it was a lovely way to wake up. We hiked from Tossa de Mar to Lloret de Mar. It was a really nice hike! And then we met our CS host Silvia and her other couch surfer, Victoria from Argentina. Had some great food for dinner, experienced the night life of Lloret, and had delcious bday cake. It was also Silvia's birthday on the 10th!

(Me, Claire, Victoria and Silvia)

Day 23: Paella! (picture blog from here on out)

Silvia took us to have paella for lunch. It was absolutely food-coma-inducingly delicious.

The hike from Lloret de Mar to Blanes!

Day 24: There must be a thousand people on this campsite, and only one dryer for all of us.

Today, it is raining. And we are hiking out to Tordera!

The campsite we stayed at last night and where we still are right now is like tent city, people come in their vans and set up tents with fridges and TVs inside and stay here for months. Our tent looked so cute and homey next to all of them. And the site is huge, there must be a thousand people! It rained and poured this morning so the clothes we were hanging outside got drenched. Right now we are waiting for the single dryer of the campsite to open up so we can dry our clothes. But there is only one and it doesn't tell you how many minutes there are left, so this whole process is kind of ghetto.

That is all for now.