Oh, can I just add that siesta is wonderful. People get to rest, see their families and are generally more rested and relaxed after the break. Seriously, we should adopt it in the US.
I have so much to write but I am using the internet at what seems to be a public school program so it will be short, hopefully to be expanded up later. My last night in Sevilla proved to be a pretty wild one! I met 2 women at the hostel, one from Turkey and one from Denmark. The turkish woman is an interior designer and just wide open…definitely not modest! The Dane is a student studying Spanish intensely until December. We went for tapas and beers, and eventually met 3 geologists from somewhere in the north who are working on a dam project in Sevilla. They were out celebrating one of their birthdays (the youngest, who looked exactly like Ashton Kutcher and I totally wish I had a picture). We were hanging out in the street by the bar when the police came and almost gave everyone a ticket! I had thought it was OK to walk around with alcohol, but I found out its actually not allowed…sometimes. A grey issue, they say. So one of the geologists, Pedro, had just spent his August vacation hiking in Wyoming and did his best to convince me that the north of Spain is the prettiest (at least the greenest) and that I should visit there! He has a sister in college there, and we met up with some of her friends and ended up in a club until 6am. A side note on that is that her friends gave me tremendous amounts of crap for the Minutemen. They were laughing and pretending to shoot immigrants. I desperately tried to explain that it was only a few stupid old men but they were pretty skeptical. This is the first time I really been given a hard time, not personally, of course. I have many more thoughts on what Ive learned and observed here but they must wait.
I barely checked out of my hostel on time, feeling pretty rough! I got some, ummm, breakfast (eggs scrambled with shrimp and fish that looked like worms…it was actually really good), successfully rented my car and managed to drive out of Seville without incident. It is probably good I was hungover or I would have been much more nervous, as driving in Spanish cities is crazy! My car, a Ka, is so tiny that I have to use 5th gear at about 35mph. Which is good for the tiny roads in these towns. But the down side is at 120 kph (the speed limit on the highway), it struggles!
So I drove out of town, intending to go to the beach. But through a series of random decisions, I ended up in Los Corrales, a small olive growing town of 4-5000 in Andlucia. I stumbled upon a hotel that is just beautiful (http://www.turismoruralanareverte.com/Galeria.htm). It is owned by a famous singer (http://www.anareverte.com/inicio.htm) and the women working there took me out on the town. They are so fun and crazy – I love them! Most moved here for quality of life from other parts of Spain, plus one latina from Bolivia. Collectively, they know only a little english, but we got along just fine (with the help of my dictionario electronica and expanding vocabulary). We drank late into the night and danced…I was delighted to know that somewhere else in the world amigas dance and do theatrical Karaoke the radio after a few drinks!
They tried to teach me to dance flamenco (failure) and invited me to stay another day. So I did. Today I slept LATE, had my laundry done, had a delicious lunch with a few of them, took a nap, and now I am here. Later we will meet for tapas but it will be early night, we all promised. I plan to leave early-ish in the morning for the coast. To the left is a picture of my fabulous (25 euro/night) room. The biggest I’ll enjoy for a long while…
I cannot believe I have been here only a week (the apostrophe doesnt work the same so I’ll skip it sometimes) It seems like forever ago. I was worried about time passing too fast but the days are so rich that I dont think I will feel cheated! OK, time to give up the computer. ¡Hasta luego!
Let me start by saying that I am having fun! Lots of fun, actually. I realize that my previous posts were all business and no fun details. So I am thoroughly enjoying my trip, despite the routine ups and downs. I’ve found myself subtly adjusting my pace and expectations, which seems like a normal process for someone who usually has her 2 week vacation 90% researched and scheduled for maximum efficiency.
I try not to think about the conversion rate because I’ve set my budget (in euros out of necessity). I cannot really cut much more out of it anyway! But seeing the USD price on my ATM and credit cards is a bit painful.
Speaking of ATM, the fee is outrageous from Bank of America. $5USD for a withdrawal. Plus the bank in Madrid charged a fee of about 2.50euro, which I was not warned about. So I paid almost $9 to withdraw about $400. Ouch – UFCU must be better! I’ve found many places will not accept the card for the 20-50 euros I want to charge (I’m just living, not shopping). This means I need a fair amount of cash so I am faced with the unpalatable choices of a) making frequent but small withdrawals and paying lots of fees or b) making infrequent but large withdrawals and carrying lots of cash. The paltry 300 euro I carried around earlier this week burned in my pockets (despite the money belt) so I think I will end up paying the fees for peace of mind…we shall see.
On another money topic, my Discover card was stolen – IN THE US! They emailed me saying to call them immediately. I grudgingly did so, only to learn that my card was used for almost $2000 worth of purchases at grocery and drug stores in Maryland. I find it odd that they have the physical card, not just the numbers. I suspect they got my replacement card (the current one expires in November) but that means they snagged it from the mail, which is bad if they get caught. I used my card the night before I left and believe I stashed it safely at a friends (I didnt bring it to Europe)…unless I was pickpocketed at Fado, which is possible! Anyway, the purchases were obviously out of character and their fraud detection center did a commendable job. The card is cancelled and another one is being sent to my parents (thanks mom!). I face some minor hassles regarding my auto-debits, but much better than paying for someone elses junk!
I was able to successfully help an older couple who live near Madrid while in the Newark airport! They didn´t speak much English and were trying to use a pay phone. Well, I couldn´t help them figure out the pay phone (it´s been so long…:-) but I was able to communicate easily with them and ultimately loaned them my phone. They gave me their number in case I get into trouble, which I gratefully accepted.
At any rate, I decided that for today I´ll just ease in, as I am still quite brain tired and I´ll be back through Madrid on the way home. So I reorganized everything for living (versus transport), shopped for a few things and ate. Tomorrow I´ll do the Prado (famous art museum), walk the tourist circuit and hopefully find someone to eat tapas with. I´m ashamed to admit that today I ate primarily jamon y queso (ham and cheese). I suppose I am craving simple comfort food. Then again, perhaps I shouldn´t be ashamed as hams and cheeses are both huge here. There is even a chain restaurant called Museo de Jamon (museum of ham)! I bought a snack from an artisan shop with ham shanks hanging everywhere and about 15 types of ham tostadas (thin sandwiches with the crust cut off…kid style). Oh and I just had a huge helado (ice cream). The helado here seems to be similar to Argentina – more creamy like gelato. Tomorrow I´ll feel more adventurous, I´m sure. But probably not adventurous enough to try baby squid in it´s own ink…
A quick technical note: you have to be registered user of blogger or google to post comments. I apologize for that inconvenience, but this blog is open to anyone (for now) and I don´t want a bunch of nasty spam comments.
Oregon is beautiful. I’ve been here for 5 days now and it’s more geographically diverse than I realized. Yes there are lots of big beautiful trees – in fact, driving on country roads at dusk, I feel like Little Red Riding Hood barreling through the forest! There are also lots and lots of UGLY clearcuts, at least in the northwest corner of the state. The logging is insane and sad.
But back to the beautiful things – there are beautiful mountians and rivers (my favorite). The coast is just crazy-pretty, almost unapproachable. You have to rewire yourself for “beach” when you come from the southeast/TX, where you can swim half the year. The Pacific is cold, wetsuit cold, so I wandered down the beach in pants and a parka. In fact, the coast was thoroughly socked in the first few hours I was on it, I was forced to wear every ounce of warm clothing I’d brought. But both my friends have settled just west of the Cascades in high desert places they claim are sunny much of the year (Sisters & Ashland). Coming over the mountian pass, you can feel the air change from the moist coastal air to dry, desert air. I think I like the moist air. At least right now. It made my skin soft and my nose clear.
I am still getting a feel for the scene out here but I like the vibe so far. There is some edgeiness to the folks out here – lots of environmental non-profits and people who are passionate about their causes. Of course, I may have a skewed view, given the company I keep and the towns they would choose! Still, it definitely has a different feel than the southeast and from Austin, although I can’t articulate why yet.
Kapow! I’m instantly a instant blogger…woot! I’m also a soon-to-be world traveler on a quest to get my proverbial sparkle back. Truth be known…I’m already hot on it’s trail. But I’m looking forward to fully catching up with it. When I do, I’m giving it a big fat hug and not letting go!