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Published: September 30th 2017
Solar panels ...
Geo: 41.6563, -0.876606
Those of you that know Mary, know that for some strange reason, the most bizarre, random, and embarrassing things happen to her, and only her ... until today. We call them Mary Moments, and this morning, I had a very bad one of my own.
I woke up and noticed that a bunch of shoes, clothing, toiletries, etc. were scattered about the floor directly where I would normally hop off of the top bunk. Not wanting to land on any of it and twist an ankle, I slid over to the end of the bed, where the ladder was. But climbing down a ladder is for sissies, so I still hopped off - unfortunately, the two ladder posts stuck out slightly, and as I hopped off the bed, my butt landed directly on top of one of the posts. This hurt. A little. Actually, it hurt A LOT.
Not only did this cause me great pain, but it imparted a forward rotation on me, causing me to land much farther forward than I had intended, ending up on the foot of some guy's bed. I bounced off that bed, and stumbled backwards against my own bunk bed. The whole exchange
... and windmills.
sounded something like this:
Me: "Ow! $%^#! Ow! Sorry!"
Guy in the bed: "What the &*%$?"
Me: "$%^#! Sorry! %^$&! Ow! $%^@! Ow!"
I now know the pain and shame that Mary feels on a regular basis, and vow not to make fun of any more of her Mary Moments ... for a whole week ...
Couldn't find any bread once again, and was too lazy to cook any eggs, so breakfast was a few slices of serrano, cheese, and some yogurt. Seemed kind of odd eating this, without anything to accompany it. Back to the same bar for a cafe con leche, where I first stopped upon arriving in San Sebastian the other day.
Chatted again with the bartender, and also some random guy from Pamplona. I left a note with the bartender with all my contact info, for his daughter that would be moving to Quebec for work, in case she ever wanted to visit Western Canada. I know what you all are thinking - I'm such a proud Canadian patriot, wanting to show foreigners my beautiful country!
But seriously, there aren't enough Spanish women in Canada, so anything I can do to make them comfortable here and encourage more of them
I picked up a litre of juice for the bus ride, because I'm still feeling very sick, and that's my usual defence against any illness while traveling, since rest really isn't an option.
to visit, would definitely be a very good thing. I do this not for my own benefit; I do this for the greater good of all single Canadian men! I said goodbye to the bartender, and he thanked me for the info, though he probably deep down was thinking "He hasn't even met my daughter and he's already hitting on her!"
On the way to Zaragoza, the bus stopped in Pamplona - I still managed to make it here, despite missing the running of the bulls with the boys! I'll take it as a sign that I should one day return. In case you haven't noticed, I take many things as signs that I need to return to Spain - the fact that I'm alive and breathing is enough reason for me to return here.
Reading up on Aragon, the region in which Zaragoza is located, I found that it has quite an interesting history. Joining forces with Cataluna, together they formed a Mediterranean empire in the middle ages, but as always, it eventually declined. Together with Cataluna, Aragon once conquered Sardinia, which I guess explains the reason they speak Catalan in some areas there.
Zaragoza is now famous for having
I also crammed down a peach on board, in the hopes that Spain's magically-delicious-but-seldomly-eaten-by-locals fruit would make me feel less crappier.
hosted World Expo 2008, and according to my guidebook, is the perfect place to perfect the Spanish lisp ... sigh ... the Spanish lisp ... so sweet and so melodic ...
But the most interesting piece of information I found in my guidebook about Aragon is something called "La Caravan de Mujeres". There are way too many single men in Aragon's small towns, so every so often, a caravan of eligible Spanish women are shipped in to meet the local men! Upon reading this, I immediately decided to move to a small town in Aragon; any one will do, as long as the caravan pays a visit there. Or maybe I can convince the caravan to make a stop in Calgary?
Seeing a number of windmills and vast fields of solar panels as I rode on the bus, I remembered a David Suzuki documentary I saw several months ago, about renewable sources of energy. Spain was cited as being one of the world leaders in this regard, as there are a number of windy regions, and the sun seemingly never stops shining in most of the country.
This made me wonder - why haven't scientists found a way to harness Spain's greatest
Somewhere along the way, I lost one of the little sponges for my headphones. When I bought them, I remember seeing that they came with extras, and thinking "When the hell would you ever need an extra one?" Well my friends, that day came recently in Spain. Really sucks, because any song in stereo doesn't sound right when you can't use both headphones.
resource, its countless beautiful women? Laugh all you want, but humankind needs to change its approach to energy consumption, so we need to think outside the box. Perhaps the Spanish rolled double 'R's, or the Spanish lisp could cause a crystal to resonate, releasing unimaginable quantities of energy? The collective smiles of Spanish senoritas must generate at least 1000x the solar energy that the sun releases. And could all that collective sweetness somehow be synthesized into vast amounts of plant food, allowing all of Earth's citizens to be properly fed? It is my hope that one day, my groundbreaking ideas will earn a Nobel prize.
Zaragoza is ... hot - well over 30 degrees! Luckily, there is a fair bit of shade in the old town, so I tried to stay relatively cool as I made it over to the hostel. There was a bit of a wait to check in, as there was a shift change taking place. I dumped off my bag, and was off to sightsee. Zaragoza is famous for La Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Pilar, a massive edifice looking over an even more massive plaza. Unfortunately, Zaragoza didn't seem to offer much more than that.
Leonida's! Mmm ... Belgian chocolates ...
Though not really hungry, I needed to get something to eat, given that it was 17:30 and I still hadn't eaten lunch yet - feeling so ill, it would only be a matter of time before I passed out. After an extremely late lunch, I popped inside the basilica - many come here to honour a little statue of the Virgin Mary, kissing the sacred pillar upon which she rests. Countless people have kissed it, which has left a large indentation in the pillar. The innumerable Spanish women that have kissed that pillar make me wish that I will one day be reincarnated as a sacred pillar in a Spanish church.
Inside are three bombs dropped on the basilica during the Spanish Civil War, but they never exploded, something locals attributed to divine intervention. And believe it or not, I read something about the little Virgin Mary statue being named an honourary general in the aforementioned civil war.
I walked back through the plaza towards the hostel, and regretted not staying in San Sebastian another night. Zaragoza wasn't that great, but I always maintain that visiting a place you don't like is a valuable experience, because it helps you refine your
View of the Basilica.
tastes and makes the good places seem even better. And besides, if you never went, how would you know it wasn't any good?
Back at the hostel, one of the bunkmates was a Chinese girl, here in Spain studying Spanish - apparently many Chinese people are now wanting so study Spanish! I'll bet anything that it usually involves a Spanish member of the opposite sex. Took a nap in the room, trying to enjoy the A/C which was difficult, since it was blowing out a lot of hot air in the beginning.
It's too bad the hostel is so dead, because it could be really good - it's located in a historic building, and the cavernous bar in the basement is huge, feeling like a cellar in a castle. A number of excursions can be booked from the hostel, and it seems like they also put on a number of activities. But given that it's the peak tourist season, and it's completely dead ... I can't imagine it lasting too long. I think part of the problem is that there isn't much going on in Zaragoza, though it appears that there are numerous adventure-type day trips that can be done nearby.
Plaza del Pilar - I think this is city hall.
After the nap, I went for a walk through the old town, then down Paseo de la Independencia, through the newer parts, and eventually ending up back at the Plaza del Pilar. There was a cafe that earlier caught my eye with a nice selection of sandwiches, so I ended up back there for a light dinner. The plaza is almost too big, so it feels empty, since there's nothing taking place in the middle of it all, and seems a bit soulless. Sitting outside, I realized that Zaragoza is missing something ... it's missing that special something that all Spanish towns seem to have.
I finished up my meal, and sat around for 10 minutes debating whether or not to have some gelato, which the cafe seemed to do a very good job of, just based on appearance. The gelato lost, because I was feeling like absolute crap, and eating something cold would not have been any good for the chills I was suffering from.
Back to the hostel, to use the internet for a bit. Sitting next to me was this cute Spanish senorita, who ended up not even being a Spanish senorita. Funny how I was constantly
Plaza del PIlar is huge, but feels a little impersonal.
trying to sneak a better peek, but couldn't without being too obvious, given that I was sitting right next to her. So all of a sudden she goes "Where exactly are you from?" Surprising, because given my appearance, not many make the immediate assumption that I speak any Spanish, and funny because the tone was almost one of extreme curiosity, possibly also because of my appearance. Us dark Spanish-speaking Chinos are a rare breed, after all!
Anyway, sounds like Paola's had an exciting few months living in Barcelona and traveling around Spain. Apparently her sister's flying out here soon, and they're going on a Mediterranean cruise before she moves back to Mexico. I don't think I could do another cruise, but a Mediterranean one might be alright, especially if there are lots of Spanish women aboard.
Back in the room was a Madrileno, a guy from Madrid - we had a really cool chat, discussing common misconceptions about Canada, the USA, and Spain. We got into the issues with the Spanish economy, and the falsehoods about working life in Spain - it's not all about sangria and siestas. Truthfully, I've always known this, but having my bubble burst was like finding
Catedral de la Seo del Salvador in the background, and a museum of Roman ruins in the foreground.
out the truth about Santa! Let me live in my ignorant bliss!
As we spoke, I realized that my Spanish worsens the longer the conversation becomes. After a while, my speaking is less deliberate, as I make the transition from translating everything between English and Spanish, to simply thinking in Spanish. As a result, I start making errors with gender and singular/plural agreement, and sometimes use the wrong verb forms. I guess that's the next hurdle with the language that I need to overcome.
Zaragoza wasn't all that great, but it was nice to be back in Spanish immersion - I don't think I spoke more than ten words of English in the first seven days of the trip, and even though I spoke a fair bit of English in San Sebastian, that was balanced out by tons of Spanish conversations. Over the years I've come to really enjoy the simple pleasure of conversing in Spanish, and slowly improving my fluency in the most beautiful of languages. I think I've attained a new, slightly higher level of Spanish comprehension on this trip, though it'll be short-lived, given that I'll soon be leaving Spain. I've been struggling for years to break
View back towards Plaza del Pilar - a nice spot for an impromptu picnic. One nice thing about this part of Zaragoza is that it offers a nice contrast between old and modern.
through to that next level, and it honestly feels great to finally get there, if even only for a week.
Anyway, the guy was really cool, a physiotherapist in town for some seminar. According to him, it's easy to get by in Spain, but you have to work quite hard to have a little better quality of life, and have to work incredibly hard to get what is only an incrementally better quality of life. He basically stated that you have to work like a dog, and even then, it's almost impossible to attain that high level of quality of life. He's quite content where he is in life, which I can understand - life is good, and the Spanish senoritas are in abundance. Who could ask for anything more?
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