June 26th - July 12th
I got to Seville a few hours early, which wouldn’t be a problem any other time except I was supposed to get in at 5am but the bus got in at 2:30am. The worse possible time cause its too late to justify spending money on getting a room for 4 hours and it was too early to check into my hostel. On the bus I met an American couple backpacking and when we got off the 3 of us found a grassy area with some trees and decided to try and sleep there. I was hoping that this could count as my “spend the night somewhere unusual” goal but I decided it wasn’t a long enough period so I got up and without a map walked to my hostel only knowing what the street name was called and what direction it was. An hour and twenty minutes later I found it, dropped my bags off, and took a walking tour of the city at 4am, the hostel gave me a map at this point. Since Seville is voted as the hottest major city in Europe, this should save me from having to do it
in the heat, which reached 106 degrees (41 Celsius) today. When I got back to the hostel I relaxed for a little before I saw someone that was at the same hostel as me in Lisbon, so we decided to go out and do another walk around the city, this time when things were open. We saw the Cathedral of Seville (where Christopher Columbus’ tomb is), the Alcazar (a Morrish Palace), and the Plaza de Espana before the heat convinced us to go back. On weekends there are bull fights here, often considered the home of bull fighting, and one of the matadors got gored the night before and was severely injured. This just reminded me the main reason why I am in Spain is to do Running of the Bulls and how terribly wrong things can go. After relaxing back at the hostel, I started talking with some people that did the run which I will explain in another post. Later a few of us went out to dinner at 11pm, when the locals eat here, at a tapas bar that had a live flamenco show. Flamenco is a type of dance and music in Spain with a singer,
guitarist, and a dancer, all of whom create songs through chanting, clapping, stomping, and singing. Look it up, it was kinda cool. And tapas are a variety of small dishes or appetizers that most people combine to make a full meal.
The next day I woke up early expecting to go to the bus station to buy tickets to my next destination. The problem with that is I didn’t know where to go. Originally i was going to go to Toledo but since my college rivals are Toledo, I am going to skip it (BGSU bitches). Well the real reason is it was going to be kinda expensive and long to get there and the few people i talked to that have been there said two nights would be too long. I also have 5 nights in Madrid coming up and since Toledo is only 45 mins from there, I just might make it a day trip. So I narrowed my choices to basically traveling south to either Morocco (Africa) or Malaga, Spain. Since some of my other plans on my trip our changing and I might be heading to the South Pacific, I thought it might be
fun to try and step foot on each continent in one trip, something my oldest sister could never do since she is not a real backpacker. It’s still not out of the question but for now I am going to catch a bus to Malalga which is a beach city in southern spain for two nights. By the time I decided this though the heat was in full force (104 degrees today) and everything in spain closes between two and four/five. So I got stuck inside the hostel all morning talking with a bunch of the other travelers that didn’t want to go out in the heat either. It turns out though that I might have found some people willing to take pictures of me doing the running of the bulls in exchange for me letting them stay with me in my hotel. Lets hope they come through.
Like Portugal, the nightlife doesn't start here till around 1-2am. This is when people start pre-gaming before heading to the bars between 2-3am. Thats crazy. Things are so much more expensive here than in Asia. I am now going on my standard travel diet of one big meal a day
and if i can stay in a city long enough, supermarket shopping. It sucks though since I am constantly meeting new people, but most are on short vacations so they like to go out and drink or sight seeing at the things that cost money. I am not willing to pay $20-30 dollars in each city i’m in to see another inside of a church or castle built by the same people as the last city’s. I am also running out of clean laundry since I haven't had anything washed since halfway through India. This became real clear on my bus to Malaga when I smelled something funky and narrowed it down to me or the guy in front of me, but I really think it was me. Sorry to the bus!
Since I didn’t get into Malaga till about 3:30pm, I spent the day giving myself a free walking tour to the outside of the main sights and a quick look at the beach where I plan on spending the day tomorrow at. Even at 6pm, the beach was still full but due to the amount of topless women, i didn't want to take my camera down
on the beach and be “that guy.” I took it easy for my first night and joined a bunch of people for dinner and chillin on the roof of the hostel. The next day I went to the beach and just chilled. The water was freezing and while it was an okay beach, the water was kinda dirty and it was pretty cloudy out. Oh, my hostel had a scale and guess what, I lost more weight, I am down to exactly 160 pounds. Anyways, afterward a few of us walked around, I bought a shirt, before joining the siesta (when the whole countries shuts down and naps from like 2-5pm during the heat). After getting up, I joined another group for dinner and drinks on the roof and four of us went out and caused trouble. No black eyes yet, but trouble none-the-less, thats all i care to say since my family reads this. Anyways, for the third time in two weeks, someone has mentioned to me that “I am one of the craziest people they have ever met,” that type of trouble. I should really start a secret blog of all my stories I'm not writing about under
a different name. Any suggestions for an alias I should use? I guess Spain wasn’t ready for me but thats still better than what people kept saying at the beginning of my trip, “You sound like Tom Hanks, are you from the same city?” In which I would reply, “I hope your not talking about the Forrest Gump Tom Hanks.”
Now I am on a five and a half hour bus ride to Madrid (it turns out it took over 7.5 hours), where I will spend five nights before heading to the craziness of San Fermin and the Running of the Bulls followed by Barcelona. I am looking forward to seeing my roomy from the China tour, Javi who lives in Madrid and promised he would take me out one night.
I also decided to randomly put in some backpacker/travel tips into my blog just for the hell of it, so I will start with a broad topic that includes several tips, Maps. The first thing I do when I get to my hostel or hotel is ask for a map of the city. About 90% will give this to you for free and always ask
them to circle exactly where the hotel/hostel is just in case you get lost. It also doesn’t hurt to pick up a business card of the hotel which are almost always out on the front desk because if you are in a country that doesn’t use English often, the places address would be written in the local language. Another thing I like to do out of revenge is to pretend I am interested in those “Sightseeing” hop on/hop off colorful buses and ask for a map and then just do it on my own. I am still bitter from 3 years ago in Rome when they took my money for a two day pass before they told me they were on strike for a week and wouldn’t give me a refund. The last extremely helpful tip I will tell anyone traveling, is to buy a cheap compass and attach it to your daypack. I would guess I use mine at least 10-15 times a day.
Thru July 11th
I will just write some short summaries about Madrid and Barcelona since during both the cities, my mind was only on San Fermin and Pamplona.
My first day in Madrid I did what I typically do on my first day in new cities, i grab a map and give myself a walking tour of all the major sites. For such a big city (the 3rd largest in Europe), Madrid is very well laid out with one of the best metros i have seen. It was very easy to see the outside of many of the major sites within a few hours just by walking. And since i am a little worn out seeing so many churches and stuff, I felt fine seeing most from just the outside. I did love all the plazas where all the streets meet and the beautiful parks scattered throughout the city. Since I have 4 days in Pamplona coming up, I decided to take it easy in Madrid, once again, i’m not a big drinker so I can’t handle drinking every other night, and i dont have the money for it. Thats what i was thinking, it turns out there was a gay pride festival my second day and a group of people in my hostel convinced me to join them. It was HUGE and it was so much
fun. I did have my ass pinched at least five times and one guy in a speedo and angel wings kept trying to get my shirt off. So there went my plan of not drinking as we were out partying till about 4:30-5 in the morning.
*Warning, this paragraph can get graphic*
The next day I slept in most of the day before I convinced some people from the night before to attend a bull fight with me in the famous Las Ventas Plaza de Toros, the second biggest bullring in the world. By the time we left, the group of 4 turned into a group of 13 and nobody knew what to expect. It only costs 4 euros so if we really didnt like it, we could leave without feeling like we wasted to much money, as we were warned it can be very gruesome. It turns out none of us were that disturbed that we wanted to leave, and I didn’t feel like the bulls showed any pain despite being stabbed with spears. As a matter of fact, i felt worse for the horses that are used with a rider on top with a spear.
The horse is completely blindfolded and taught to move a little to attract the bull. The bull runs across the ring and gores the horse which has special padding on, but more often than not, the horse goes flying over and the rider falls off. I could only imagine its like wearing a bulletproof vest and getting shot, it might not kill ya but its going to hurt. And on one of the occasions, the bull got his horn caught underneath the padding and kept trying to gore the horse, which everyone thought was dead, but it turns out after several minutes, the horse started moving again and stood up and walked away with no visible injuries. You can watch one of the videos I shot on youtube here (
) but you have been warned. Also one of the bulls clipped one of the matadors in this video i shot but its at the very end. (
). If you want to know more about bullfights or see the other videos, let me know, it was actually very interesting and i would go see it again. After I washed the bulls blood that splattered into the crowd off of me (just
kidding), I met up with my roommate from my china trip Ja Ja Javier and his girlfriend. They are so cute. They treated me to some late night dinner (remember the spanish don’t eat till like 11) and then to some wine at a wine bar on a street know for famous people. It turns out they saw several famous spanish people, but i didnt know them. As for the rest of Madrid, i took it easy and did some shopping. I did get pissed at my bank cause my ATM card almost snapped in half so I called the bank a few weeks ago to order a new one which i will have my friend Sarah bring with her but the bank forgot to tell me that my current ATM card would be turned off right away. So now i have no way of getting money out! I do have a limited number of US Dollars which i exchanged into Euros but that has to last me, and now I am one day away from meeting Sarah and I am down to my last 10 euros.
The next several day I spent in Pamplona at the San
Fermin festival doing the running of the bulls, which you can read in my other blog posts.
After Pamplona, I booked 3 nights in Barcelona although i didnt get there till around 11:30pm so I went straight to bed and caught up on some much needed sleep. Once again, my first day I spent walking around the city and unlike Madrid, Barcelona was one of the most confusing cities i have ever been. First, there are no maps were north is straight up. There were 3 times i figured out what sight i was at, and somehow got lost again with minutes of walking. Everything was messed up, maybe i did fall during the run? Either way, i eventually found my way to the miles of beaches they have and followed that back to my hostel. That was one of the best walks along a beach i have had since the beaches were covered with gorgeous topless spanish women and other tourist. It looks like I figured out what i’m doing the next day, which is my last full day in spain on this trip. That night i went with a few people from the hostel to go
see a water show and festival called Harley Days which was put on my the American company, Harley Davidson. I almost called the headquarters to warn them someone is using their name since the festival was playing classical and opera music the whole time. Very weird. Cause I’m true to my word, my last day i spent at the beaches of Barcelona. At first nobody i talked to wanted to go and I thought i was going to be going by myself but I did find someone to join me, and then another, and another. A group of 6, 3 guys and 3 girls thank g-d, went and spent most of the day there. We got there early and before you know it, it was packed. I dont know if it was because I decided to go topless and my muscles just attract women, but it turned out I was surrounded by amazing women all going topless. It was kinda funny cause the next rows of people were all groups of meatheads and old men in speedos. After a few minutes though you really do get used to the half naked women (as much as i hate to admit it)
and we just relaxed most of the day there (sorry guys, i didnt want to be “that guy” so i didn’t bring my camera). Now I am off to meet my friend Sarah in Greece where hopefully the riots have stopped long enough for our flights land and enjoy a few days in Athens before somehow island hoping over to Turkey. I can’t wait to see a face from back home and to enjoy a few weeks on some great beaches and countries.
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