Thursday, September 24, 2009

Road Trip Across Spain

Well, I've never been on a road trip across the USA however this past week and a half I had the "great American experience" Spain. Here is a bit of a story about it. I must warn that I didn't edit it too much (spell check, if you're lucky) and I'm still working on uploading photos.

After returning to the west coast from my grandma’s wedding reception I spent two days and one night with my high school friends Kevin, Adam and Nathan. Kevin and Adam live in an apartment in Oakland near an incessantly busy freeway. The complex was a typical Bay Area place with closely packed units and steep stairs. They had new across-the-deck neighbors. It was a strange transition to live so close to people and not know them, as you do in a coop. It was this idea that was behind my multiple attempts to say hello, introduce myself, or invite them over. We slept that night on the roof of the apartment thanks to Adam and Kevin’s ample experience with super tall painters ladders. I woke to rush hour traffic beginning at sunrise and found the entire Bay cloaked in a fog that soaked our sleeping bags.
My mom, sister and I spent the next few days in transit to Barcelona. Due to a delayed departure from San Francisco airport we missed our connecting flight to Barcelona. We opted for a night at the HoJo in Newark, New Jersey. We ordered Chinese food, they forgot the spring rolls and opted not to stick around to give us change and took a $7 tip. I tried out my traveling hula hoop in the hotel lobby. I’m working on shoulder hoop move that, according to the Youtube tutorial, should make people want to marry me. I’m not very good at it yet.
We made it on the Saturday September 12th evening flight to Barcelona. Mom and Kasey were placed next to each other while I sat the next row up, opposite side. I missed what I feel is the critical moment to make connections with my seat mates Ya know, when you’ve sat next to someone in silence for so long that it becomes awkward to say “hi” as if you just met them. Oh well, it was an overnight flight and they fell asleep. I on the other hand, was feeling something similar to when I left for college. I didn’t want to sleep because I didn’t want to wake up and be there. Plus there was free tv and videos and didn’t want to miss some of my last opportunities to fully immerse myself in American popular culture. I stayed up all night watching Gone With the Wind and the Simpsons. Observing daybreak from it’s daily beginning was amazing and made the sleepless night worth it.
Barcelona is a great city. We stayed mostly on La Rambla and in tourist areas nearby. Instead of getting a hotel or a hostel (can you imagine mom in a hostel??) I found an apartment on the website It was the apartment of Miriam Turner, a young British women getting her MBA in Barcelona. I don’t know much about her since she was away for holiday when we were there but I have strong suspicions that is the European version of a Burner. Here is my case: she is not one, but two metallic hula hoops in her living room, her bathroom counter has a corner dedicated to large, colored, slightly irrational plastic jewelry and sunglasses, finally, she was away on holiday with friends on the island of Isbiza Spain! If this last fact doesn’t shock you, it is probably because you don’t know that the rave was invented in Ibiza by European holiday’ers.
My favorite part of Barcelona was the Parc Gaull. The park was designed by the famous Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. I know this place is older than recreational LSD, so it begs the question: what was he on?!? It is a real live Who-Ville. The park winds around for hours, unfortaunaly, a storm blew us out of the park and into a café. Fortunately, the café serves chocolate con churros. The chocolate is warm and brought to you in a cup but it is far from the liquid hot chocolate you might imagine. It is as thick and rich as pudding. Served piping hot with freshly fried and sugared churros this is heaven on a plate.
We left Barcelona for Valencia, another large metropolitan town about three hours south. The toll roads and rapidly apparent evil travel duo (night and storm) put us all into bad moods. I soaked myself running between the car and the hotel asking for vacancies, getting credit cards and arranging parking for our rental car. Lakes two inches deep and 15 feet wide were created between us and the elevator from the underground parking garage and water seeped into the hotel lobby from the patio.
By the next morning the clouds were gone and we packed up for a stressful navigation across town to another hotel. The roundabouts in Valencia proved too smart for our American orienteering skills. We hopped onto a double Decker tour bus to see the main sights of Valencia. The tour narration is done via uncomfortable ear buds that you set to your language of choice. We saw sculptures, the BioParc, main plazas and the old walls of the city. My mom and sis were not very impressed with this town but I liked it a lot. It wasn’t as full of tourists as Barcelona, slightly smaller and more easily navigable, and there is an amazing park that runs the length of the city. I also found a more obvious counter culture in this town. I saw a squatters sign, political prisoner wheat pastes and interesting graffiti, We also had the best dinner yet in this town. We found a tasty Italian resturant and I had stuffed perogies in a mushroom cream sauce.
We left Valencia after two days for Granada. The famous Arab palace, the Alhambra is located on a hill overseeing Granada. After the Arabs were forced out, King Ferdinand and Queen Isobel resided in this ornate place. The Alhambra day was probably the best yet. In the morning we fund an amazing bakery to make us sandwiches that are actually full of vegetables (what passes for filling here is pathetic), spinach breakfast croissants and sweet bread. The Alhambra visit took us six hours and was well worth every minute. If you don’t believe me, look at a few of the one million pictures I took while in the palace.
Granada, even more than Valencia has a very public counter culture. Anarchy signs, squatter symbols and stencils are everywhere. The most decorated building I found was a Dunkin Doughnuts in a church plaza. Take that globalization. A city such as Granada, has not and never will know peace. In the past, due it its fertile soil, protective mountains, and the creation of the Alhambra fortress and now to it’s young culture and liberal university, social and political unrest is so fervent you can identify it with all of your senses.
The plan was to leave Granada on the 19th and start our way back north, stopping for a few days on the Costa Blanca. A late night decision changed that plan and the next morning we were traveling still further southeast to Morocco. We took the ferry from Tarifa to Tangier and stayed one night on the African continent. You can rest assured that everything you hear about being a tourist in Morocco is true. We were approached by a “guide service” on the boat and by the time we reached Moroccan shores had a hotel, guide, itinerary and car all waiting for us. It was the end of Rammadon and everyone was grumpy after their daily fasting, not even water. The Arabic language plus the shark like vendors

1 comment:

  1. And now the fun begins...keep me updated :)

    You can always teach English :)

    Eat all the dankness you can :)