journal #15: london, part two.

26.10.08

– There was a delicious breakfast today: toast, eggs, and bacon.  I was immensely grateful for it.  The cooking was mostly done by Dave, but I got to crack and sizzle the eggs, the action of which greatly impressed Dave for some reason.

– My hang-dried clothes caught some white, powdery substance in the wash (cocaine, washing powder, flour?), but only in some parts of the necklines and sleeves.  Some stained with crack-like lines of white, others dark dirt-like folds on the lighter, whiter places.  Needless to say, I wasn’t thrilled.

– Scarpered off in the early afternoon to __________, where this festival – called Freeze Fest – was taking place.  It was located near this now-not-in-use coal plant.  Frazer was able to get us in for free yet again.

– The Victoria Line was closed for maintenance, so we had to go another way, part of the time on the Piccadilly, and then on a bus. I hate the Victoria Line.

– Part of the festival had to do with snowboarding and jumping after going down long half-pipe chutes.  The emcee was annoying.  After every jump all he’d say was “Epic!” or “Wicked!”  Even if the person messed up.

– Yetis wandered around with clubs.

– We saw a DJ perform, one of Frazer’s musical prodigies.  She was good, professional, all that, but I can’t really watch a DJ for a very long time before boredom sets in.  Dave and I left to find a decent pub to drink and have dinner.

– Near Holbuon exit, Princess Louise.  The interior of the pub was designed oddly, each little section divided by wooden partitions, some with windows others separated and shut off by doors.  Still, the stouts were incredibly cheap and incredibly good… nothing was over 3 pounds there on tap.  All Samuel Smiths!  Two of these, and then Frazer arrived and we went for dinner.

– Korean restaurant right next to the actual Holborn station.  It looked high-end, but we ate there anyway.  Reasonable prices.  Pork and rice combination that was intensely spicy.  The three of us split a bottle of the cheapest red wine there.  Did nothing to ease the fire in my stomach. Great spread though.

– More stouts at Princess Louise after that.  Photos and stumbling through the Tube, and back to the house.

– I watched a tiny snippet of Halloween before I couldn’t take it anymore and went to bed.

27.10.08

– Two meetings today:  First with Bronwen around lunchtime where we met at Goodge St. and partook in a remarkable lunch buffet at this Chinese restaurant.  We caught up and – although it was very short – it was still a nice hangout time.

– Second was with Brittany.  I headed off to King’s Cross in the late afternoon and got my ticket for the train to Hatfield.  We hung out:  Lee, Brittany, and I shared two pizzas and I almost overindulged to the point of feeling sick.  The mangy Carlsberg’s didn’t help with things either.

– Alt Night was pretty OK.  A lot of metal and music I don’t usually care much for, but the company was fine and I had a great time seeing the pair of em again.

– Had to get a taxi back to the train station because it was so flipping freezing out.  There was already frost on cars and the ground of the platform where I waited for the 00.12 train back to Finsbury Park.

– A decent last day, if might be so bold.

28.10.08

– Good things about the travel back to the States:  food on the flight, eatable; the service was impeccably efficient; a space next to me without an occupied seat; an earlier flight to Dulles because of the lack of a bag to check-in; finished that goddamned probability book.

– Bad things about the travel back to the States: Piccadilly Line stopped for ages at Finsbury Park stop; checked in later than I wanted; loud kids that the moms couldn’t control on the plane; no audio on the plane for the TV; turbulence while landing each time; an hour wait at customs; lost luggage; quasi-helpful staff at JFK; then almost buying a $7 beer, quickly realizing the price; lastly, a cough-y woman right behind me on the 2nd flight into Dulles.

Welcome to America.

journal #14: london, part one.

23.10.08

I woke up and left no pretense of courtesy.  Rifling through the room to find the stuff that was mine, I departed in plenty of time, the rustling of my roommates’ covers in my apathetic ears as I shut the door loudly behind me.  I fight fire with fire.

It was still dark as I departed the hostel, my suitcase now without the pull-handle working or rising up.  With this obstacle to overcome, I set off to the square where my bus to the airport was to be.  Buses don’t wait for running travelers; it’d be nice though.  I missed the first bus.  Another one came shortly after and soon I was off to the terminal.

Again I was lucky with my ears, not so much for loud kids. The one behind me on the plane decided to be restless, move around, kick, and play with Matchbox cars the entire flight to London.  So no sleep for me, only reading.  WBC was almost finished on the flight over!  Now, as the plane lowers onto Luton’s runway, I shall begin bulletpointing because my patience with this journal is wearing thin:

– The line for passport control was very short but not for EU members.  Long queue, false fire alarms, and an overpriced ticket to St. Pancras station was what I had to deal with mostly.

– Helped an old couple with putting their suitcases on the bus. That made me feel a bit better.

– Easily found Dave’s apartment/house, and got in because of the keys he left in his engine bay.  His housemate, Andy, was shocked to find me there.  Dave didn’t tell him a guest would be arriving because Andy had been in Croatia for a week.

-I hung out at Dave’s, had lunch, bought lychee juice but didn’t drink much of it, started Harry Potter #7 for sentimental purposes.

– Then, I headed out to Waterloo to meet up with Dave and the London Eye.  (COLD!!!)

– We both headed to the “cheap-Guinness” pub (called the Crown and Cushion) to get some for 2.90 while discussing politics and watching a Tottenham football match, a UEFA one where they – of course – lost.  I also indulged in some fish and chips, thankfully not ordering Vietnamese food – the menu provided a laugh.  Dave was embarrassed at the poor English by the people who lived in England.  I’m guessing most were Vietnamese immigrants, so I personally would have let it slide.

– Headed back to the house where “The Daily Show” was one of the offerings on the illegal TV.  It was Andy and Dave’s intro to the show.

– I slept so soundly that night, wrapped in a duvet and glad not to have to share a room with an unbearable snorer and drunk 20-somethings.

24.10.08

– I woke up early enough to say adios to Dave; but the things is, I don’t remember it!  I wandered around to find an empty house, and then I went and finished WBC.  Naturally, my initial stop in London was to be Charing Cross Road where I would haunt the many used bookstores to snatch my next tome.  I finally purchased one called Struck by Lightning, about probabilities and chance, which I shouldn’t have read because the awesomeness of coincidences has lost its luster for me now.

– Also found incredibly cheap Internet so that I could get in touch with Bronwen and Brittany – to see when they’d be able to meet up on my stay here.

– I got around to locating Kahn’s – the curry place Jess had mentioned.  I went there and ate some delightful chicken dish which had a spicy kick, but it wasn’t overpowering.  There was yogurt along with the rice and chicken, which I think tamed the potency.  It made it much better.  (I had wanted to use “accentuate” but I didn’t.)

– Took an obscure path from Kahn’s using the Hammersmith & City Line, along with two others in order to make it to the British Museum.

– Went to the Islamic art section and also viewed the African exhibit downstairs:  two lesser-viewed areas in my opinion.  I enjoyed both, but I had an affinity for the stuff affiliated with the Ottoman Empire.  I was at the museum for a good 2 1/2 hours looking at these exhibits.  And I was thinking about going to the Toy Museum instead! Never always trust first instincts…

– Headed back to the house.  Dave came home and cooked sausage and mash for me and Frazer, another of his roommates.  Another housemate (Sarah) said hi and bye before I could refuse a glass of Strongbow from Dave.  I drank a Red Stripe instead because I know that cider’s a no go for me.

Donnie Darko, Extended Director’s Cut. This made me like the movie 30% more, as I began to understand the whole idea about how time travel works etc. in regards to the movie.

– Dave and I set off to Camden Town where two or three bands were performing.  Frazer does PR work with music and so got us into the event for free.  The first band was Canadian (called La Gras) and had a mix of alternative and grunge.  The voice of the lead singer melded well with their music.  This particular group I rated high.  Group #2 (Kant, I think) weren’t that good.  Still fun though.  My mind rushed after shots of Sambucca.  Ugh.  The venue was cool; old stables converted into a club/bar, with special rooms you could reserve if you wanted to much on some hay.

– We lost Frazer after meandering around the dance floor as the place became more like a club.  We vamoosed after Dave’s second Sambucca shot – we weren’t too keen on another tasty sip.  Had drunk loads already.

– On the way back, I made the mention of KFC to Dave because we passed one.  He was secretly hoping I’d mention it, and we bought chicken (not needed, of course).  We chomped on genetically-headless cawers, and then we caught a night bus back to Manor House, tipsy as fuck.  Dave struck up an “I-forgot-I-did-that!” conversation with some random bloke on the bus with a guitar.  The guy was not too keen on a chat, but Dave kept blabbing away until seats opened for us and we sat, Dave murmuring to me that the guitar guy was a flipping motormouth and that he tried to get out of the discussion, but failed.

25.10.08

– Most of this day involved lounging around, although we didn’t get up ’til 11 AM.  It was Saturday.  Dave and I had toast for brekkie and sat around until I told him I had to go and exchange the rest of my lira.  I had forgotten about the deposit I had received in Istanbul.  The lira kept on looking bad against the pound and dollar, so it was time to exchange.

– The post offices had already closed for the day, so we concluded that the best thing to do would be to exchange all the dough on Monday.

– The area where Dave and company live is just south of Bronwen’s old neighborhood; it’s where most of the Turkish immigrants live.  This excited me and made me want to have some cuisine at one of the restaurants on the main road by the closed post office we had walked past.

– We settled on this small, authentic-looking place – or as authentic as you could get in London.  I ordered mercimek çorba and Dave tried some kind of lamb soup that had copious amounts of broth in it.

– Next came lamahcun for us (but with a parsley-less salad unfortunately).  At least there were lemons to put on the pizza.  I ordered an ayran, which Dave gingerly tried and enjoyed.  The meal was awesome, a passable substitute for Türkiye.  The meal definitely filled me up; I was going to burst like a cornucopia.  We lurched back to the house and napped for the rest of the afternoon, along with checking my email and reading more of my probabilities book.  I also stuffed some laundry in so I could have fresh undies for the last couple of days in London.

– Frazer, Dave, and I did a nice, easy pub crawl around the main street in Stoke Newington, using borrowed pounds from Dave.  The first two pubs involved Guinness because it was egregiously cheap.  There were Premier League matches on tonight, so I caught glimpses of a few (Arsenal was the big team on most the screens).

– The 3rd pub had a very bubbly, overexcited bird who informed me of the very expensive Guinness on tap, so I got this bitter Dave rec-ed that was very decent.

– We trekked the entire way down Church St. and then turned right down another major road.  Dave led us to a cash-point then into Wetherspoon’s: our final stop.  None of their menu items actually on tap, I found friends with Newcastle.  Two of them for a nastily cheap price.

– The walk back was slightly fogged from the beer, but not too bad.  I forgot about my wash and crashed into bed without any form of hesitation whatsoever.

journal #13: lisbon.

21.10.08

The next morning I managed to catch the free breakfast served in the just-about immaculate kitchen.  I had some bread and jam, plus exceptionally burnt-tasting coffee before bustling to get ready in time for the 10:30 tour, guided by Antonio, the Mozambique-born, Portuguese chef.  He stumbled into the lobby promptly at 11, after three hours of sleep: he had gone out last night got back home just in time to cook some breakfast and have a couple of Zs before a late arrival at the hostel.

The tour wasn’t the greatest in my life, but I enjoyed myself all the same.  Antonio took us first to two churches both with different styles, one a small Rococo-influenced one on top of a hilly street the streetcars traveled along, the other a vast cathedral closer to the city center.  Most of these buildings had to be rebuilt after a major earthquake leveled most of the city during the 18th century.  The winding, the rises and falls of the streets were charming enough along with the facades of the long buildings.  I must admit, Lisbon is unique in this right.  We headed down closer to the river, but still higher up to some nice views of the areas below us.  We sat by a terrace to have coffee, water, what-have-you.  I was introduced to two more travelers (apart from the Austrians and Spaniards on the tour); Martin from Poland and Nicole from Buffalo.

The Spanish people in the group voiced an interest in going to the Tuesday flea market.  Arnhold and I were visibly unenthusiastic about this idea, but we all traversed to that spot and had to deal while everyone gawked at the oddities and cheap goods for sale:  old records, Portuguese cassettes, timepieces, old worn books, clothes in all fashions and conditions, rag-and-bone items.

A good hour was spent here much to my chagrin.  I admit the start had its authenticity and charm, piles of boxes and for-sale items on the road on carpets and cardboard… but it quickly wore off with each ticking minute, with every single step.  A group of us – Martin, Nicole, Arnhold and I – lost the others as we stood around with apathy at the chockablock aisle-ways and millions of goods being sold.  Thankfully we found Antonio and his posse after a while.  We tried to show how bored we were but it mostly fell to deaf ears.  We left soon enough for the castle.  I found it a bit bland and not as impressive as others I’ve seen, but the walk around was fine:  at least with many people around, things like this don’t seem like an enormous bust.  I had an encounter with an irascible cat that left me disillusioned and wary about strays, more so than I had been in Istanbul.

I don’t remember how long we stayed at the castle, but it was definitely enough time for Martin and Nicole to catch up with us.  For some reason they lagged behind on the walk to the castle; as we made a corner the Spaniards – in Spanish of course – said that we all were here, Antonio nodded and dashed off before I could tell him No, we aren’t all here! Arnhold and I lagged behind as best we could to see if they’d be able to catch up with us, but that was an exercise in futility.  They were in the dust and we had to make sure we didn’t meet the same fate as they.  It was quite irritating to be a part of such a lax group with a shrug-the-shoulders mentality if someone becomes lost, or falls behind.

But they did meet us in time for lunch amid the small, twisting streets somewhere in the south.  Minus flies swirling around recklessly, the restaurant had a refreshing feel to it.  It proved to be a nice prop-up for the feet, not the reflexes, all the times I had to slap my arms or swing madly at the food in front of us.  Our appetizers were prosciutto-like pork strips, green olives, crumbly cheese, and just-about-fresh bread.  Not complimentary as Nicole and others wanted to believe; after traveling in Spain, that’s not free: you must pay for that kind of “luxury.”  For lunch, I tried another omelet as was my custom for some reason on this trip.  I had it stuffed with whole shrimps, and it turned out spectacular, as Lester Burnham would say.  There was much revelry intermixed with Nicole’s worries about getting to Faro that night before the particular bus she needed to her hotel dropped service for the night.  I wonder how she fared…

Just about everyone but our table had dessert, so we had to wait for an ungodly amount of time before the bill came to our plates.  For some reason, it was a stretch to split the check the proper way and I had to break money, so I had to wait some more for the change.

Of course – just like before – everyone started to head off without regard for anyone but themselves.  At this point, I grew tetchy and wasn’t going to put up with this shit much longer.  The waiter of course drew things out as well, wondering why on earth I didn’t give him the exact change, so there was some more confusion and there was me about to go mental if I didn’t get my change back.  Soon everything was squared away properly, and we left to extricate ourselves out of these narrow streets and off to the winery.  Antonio was nice enough to wait for us this time around.

Nicole had to go to the train station; Martin showed her the way, so that left the rest of us to head in and dabble with the wine.  Too good to be true:  the “wine tasting” consisted of two dinky glasses of red and white respectively.  I was thoroughly disappointed with this.  I sipped my wine obediently all the same.  For a second, I had thought I wouldn’t receive the bottle of wine from the Spaniards to sample, but I soon clenched my fist around that bottle and poured the final remains for Arnhold and myself.

Thus endeth the tour.  And off I went back to the hostel for a quick nap (I think the roommates were boisterous?) before stepping out to see Champions’ League football matches at the local Irish pub that showed them.  I got directions, located the first place, only to find out the Arsenal/Fenerbahçe match was not on air there.  I tried bar #2, and the same games were hogging the TVs:  ManU/Celtic; Porto/Kiev.    I sucked it up and stayed at bar #2, ordered a stout and burger, enjoyed a Manchester victory.  I managed to get erratic feeds from the A/F bout, only to be incredibly distraught at Fener’s lack of excellence on the field and abysmal potential for this upcoming year.  They lost to Arsenal 5-2.

I galumphed my way back to the hostel, quaffing my defeat in some passion fruit juice, a tiny bit of Internet, then some book before turning in.  Again, the balcony provided a ton of noise that I didn’t appreciate, kind of like now on the airplane as I write this!

22.10.08

This is my last full day in Lisbon and I have it all to myself.  I snagged some coffee before the 10:30 buzzer and planned my day, but nothing on the Internet stuck out to me.  I’ve grown quite apathetic; I’ve reached the end of my travels.  A month is plenty for a stint of city/country hopping.

I walked down the main boulevard in the old central part of the city and reached the river.  It’s a nice, touristy square with tall statues and bright, white architecture blinding to the eyes because of the intense sun, blue skies a pristine backdrop.  It was a high point in relation to the ‘fake’ cannabis sellers, three of whom stopped me asking if I’d like any weed on my jaunt here.  One of the minor downs of the journey. I finally caught the Metro to this roundabout that promised a few photos, but it was – in the end – a pretty lackluster venture.  The name of the stop was Marquis Something-or-other. Not too interesting for me to remember the name.

On the opposite end of the stop was a park, which I strolled through before apathy once again burned inside me.  I headed back to the statue in the center of the roundabout and down a very large tree-lined street eventually leading back to the older section of the town where my hostel was situated.  It was past 2 PM, so I naturally dabbled in some lunch, doing a Russian roulette sort of practice of where to go.  My knowledge of Portuguese is limited and I definitely shouldn’t lump it too close to Spanish, but I did at that restaurant.  I ordered a salad that contained polvo.  It turned out not to be chicken (as chicken is pollo in Spanish).  Octopus.  Octopus salad.  It was fresh, and I grinned and bore it until the pods clinging to the tentacles became too populous for me to ingest regularly.  I left feeling a touch hungrier, but it was a decent experience.  I wasn’t famished.  I think I felt a bit embarrassed more than anything else.

Occasionally you get the bright spot of the day … and it’s very, very sweet.  This involved a group outing to a local bar before Antonio had to make a stop to purchase foodstuffs for dinner.  It was Martin, Antonio, Arnhold, and me.  I had been writing at the time of invitation, so it was a matter of intrigue by the others that I had managed to make it up to Spain in my journal before calling it quits.  At the bar, Arnhold and I had beer, Martin and Antonio wine – and we also this deep-fried appetizer of fish, tasting similar to hush puppies.  There were also lupin beans (known as “tremoços”) that many Portuguese people eat while they have drinks at a bar.  It was great company, and Antonio insisted on treating us.  We also accompanied him to the store so he could stock up on the supplies he needed for the dinner.

I relaxed and took a quick rest before dinner, which involved turkey kebabs, an adventurous-looking vegetable soup, a spinach-based salad, and some kind of wild rice with tomatoes that I wasn’t as impressed with.  The kebabs were amazing, so overall I remained pleased with the food.  With wine and a very rich dessert, my stomach was pleading for nothing else to enter it.  I hung around the lounge mostly, chatting from time to time with the dinner people, sipping wine, or just sitting there and watching the scene.

I agreed to head out with the A’s for a short while to hear some Portuguese folk music.  I needed to have a few hours of sleep though before the flight to London.  The trek to the place didn’t take a long time; the place on the other hand, didn’t make me that pleased.  It was tiny and jam-packed.  We could barely move around in our chairs, and for most of the time we had to stand.  Smokers surrounded me.  I’ll undoubtedly be ecstatic to be at a place soon where indoor smoking’s outlawed.  I was sick of having to smell second-hand smoke on my clothes and air them out every night.  The actual act, the folk music, the authentic vibe, was superb.  I really enjoyed that bit of the night.

The walk back was done alone… but it didn’t take too long.  The sound of the plucking guitar, the singers’ sorrowful voices, and the cheers were still in my addled head as I settled down for sleep.  To my dismay, the new roommates I had were ridiculously loud; I had told this couple upon my arrival that I had to wake up very early the next morning.  They seemed to have forgotten that bit as they drunkenly made their way into the room at around 3 AM.  They had left the lights on as well.  I had had it with the rude hostelers.  I shut the lights off manually and informed one of the other blokes in the room about the individual lights, and could they please use them when it’s so bleeding late?

I was glad that’s my final night in a hostel for a long time.

journal #12: sevilla/lisbon.

19.10.08

Before I start the new day, I forgot another instance with the cleaning lady that really got my goat.  It was when Micah and I were coming back from the store, and we’re very close to the entrance to Oasis; CL was heading out for the day.  She saw our bags of food and decided to tell us that there was a bar and that we shouldn’t bring our booze into the hostel.  I shot back that we had our dinner in these bags as well and showed the contents to her evil face, so if the barman wanted to go the store FOR us, well, then all the merrier.  Of all the presumptuousness that had been thrown at me by her, this crossed the quite visible line.  It took a lot of energy for me not to say something exceptionally cruel to her in Spanish.

—–

The morning arrived quickly.  Most of it involved me being blind; I had to leave the shutters down so as not to awaken the other sleepers in my room.  This proved to be slow – trying to snatch up all my stuff in the dark.  I finally got out of there, had a very un-filling brekkie and soon was out the door and to the bus station for the nearby city of Sevilla.

I swear – and I noticed this all over Spain – that people don’t like listening to rules. People decided to smoke all over the waiting area; my lungs are going to both collapse soon with all the fumes I’ve inhaled.  There’s something wrong when I’m still coughing up phlegm and I’m not even a smoker!

The ride to Sevilla was uneventful; none of the Granadans were on my bus.  I made it to the hostel in one piece, but almost busted.  I had forgotten to purchase a ticket at the very secluded machine by the tram stop, so I had my fingers crossed during the journey to Plaza Nueva that I wouldn’t get stopped by the trolley police.  After putting my stuff at the hostel and using small bills to pay when I wanted to use big ones (the receptionist had very little change, which I believed to be a lie), I set off to the bus station to purchase my ticket for the next day.  I was personally impressed with the pool on the terrace (I was tempted to jump in it actually!), and the bathroom was much nicer in the room than the one in Granada.

After I’d been informed as to when the buses to Lisbon left, I was ready to get them at the riverside station.  The ticket window I needed was not open on Sundays, though.  Figures!  Take the goddamn Sabbath card, and I am stuck hoping that I can get a seat for the bus at 10 the next day.

The waste of a visit soon led me to the main party of the town, where the cathedral and Alcazar sat.

But first, let me mention my lunch.  I stopped at this hole-in-the-wall place on the way to the ticket station.  I sat at the bar for a quick beer and an omelet.  The ambiance was homey and relaxed; families sat around wooden tables, genial, having a grand time on the weekend.  My asparagus omelet won me over, and I left for the bus station full and immeasurably content – and then I had to have disappointment at the empty station.

Now back to the cathedral:  the main road had this strange photo exhibition involving women of all shapes, sizes, and even genders wearing traditional Spanish dancing garb:  all black, with fans and frills.  There was one large photo of a heavyset woman from the back, fully nude, butt visible and rolls rippling.  Not sightly in the least, but I received an amusing photograph that can me seen currently in my ‘photos’ section on the blog.

I entered the cathedral, as Alcazar wasn’t open on Sundays, and paid the entrance fee despite being inside in 2001 and not being overly moved by the experience.  There was a tiny exhibit before getting into the main cathedral with paintings and also sculptures of various people, artifacts, the even the head of John the Baptist!  As I was gazing at it, some 50-year-old American ‘tard shouted:  “They did a lot of that back then!”  I think I was just irritated because the man didn’t bother to check out whose head was actually ON display; and then put two and two together, that this cathedral (and Catholicism) didn’t exist when John’s head was lopped off.  The ignorance grated on me as I passed by other tourists, strangled by giant SLR cameras, sandals and socks, and visors that would weigh down Arnold Schwarzenegger.

A lot of the cathedral was being renovated, so the scaffolding overtook many areas and there was a lot of draped cloths over walls and around columns and candelabras.   I managed to get a lot of photos of that.  I learned to realize that I don’t enjoy places with way too many people, most noted as in tourists; some of the magic fades away when a huge number of people stampede through a building, making it cluttered, and gawking at the same worn-away monument that will most likely crumple and disappear in ten years because of their stupidity.

I did walk up to the bell tower, especially as it didn’t cost a cent.  The exertion I had to give wasn’t too extensive; 35 ramps hadn’t fazed me one bit.  I even had to pass up people on the latter half of the journey.  That shows I’m not fully incapacitated with this “illness” or whatever you would like to call it.  The rains started pouring out of the sky as the walk to the tippy top ended.  I received amazing views of Sevilla from all angles, even with all the clouds and rain.  At 4:45, the bell tolled a few times as a warning, making me lose four years of my life from sheer shock.

I had had enough of the cathedral by now and departed, to find somewhere cooler, out of the rain.  It wouldn’t relent, but it wasn’t a deluge that would send me into miserable spirits.  The air cooled off a bit: after 28 degrees C, cooler weather was a welcome thing.  I traveled to a tiny café close to the hostel where I indulged in chocolate con churros, trying to avoid inhaling the overpowering cigarette smoke that kept gravitating towards me.  It’s everywhere.

Soon, a nap commenced.  It felt great to just lie there and listen to the faint pattering of rain and just close the mind.  This weather would please me eternally:  the light shower mixed with the occasional faint thunderclap.

Not too much later, I headed down to wait for the paella dinner the hostel boasted in the lobby, and to my surprise met up with Lloyd from the previous hostel in Granada.  This was cool.  We hung out and ate our paella, sipping on randy welcome-to-the-hostel beer and feeling nauseous that we had to stomach it.  After dinner, we headed out to find a pleasant bar, but only wound up circling the central area of the city – buildings with blacked-out windows and empty museums smirked at us as we passed.  We soon were going to admit defeat, but I directed ourselves to the east of the cathedral.  I pulled Lloyd along, and we stood in this side bar that looked like they might serve us tapas.  But they didn’t.

Lloyd had a beer, and I took a Coke as Sevilla played a football match against Almeria.  We viewed the first half there, then left for the hostel, thinking that the place would have the game on there.  I assumed they would have a TV; I was wrong.  No TV.  No second half.  Unhappily, Lloyd and I went over to the bar again for another drink.  I chose a White Russian instead of another piss beer.  After three games of backgammon (which he knew how to play!), all of which I won, we both called it a night, both our partying hormones spent from the rowdiness that was Granada.

20.10.08

Like clockwork, I woke up on time, knowing I had to head to the station early enough to nab my ticket.  Everything was going smoothly, only a little sweat on my brow from pulling my baggage along the street.  I made it to the station with an hour to spare… and the Eurolines queue was closed.  So how was I to purchase a bus ticket for a bus leaving in an hour if there was no open booth?

I asked the information booth lady when it would open; she told me that it would be manned at around 9:30.  I then asked what about the 10:00 bus to Lisbon.  The woman looked at me strangely, eventually telling me that the only buses to Lisbon left at 3 PM and midnight.  I had a little word exchange with her, telling her that I had been given an affirmation by the Eurolines clerk the day before that there truly was a bus out of Sevilla at 10.  Misinformed, irritated, I left the info desk and sulked around before I headed to the cafeteria for breakfast.

Again, my ability to sink away and become part of the upholstery was evident here, as I was practically ignored for a good 5-8 minutes while others got their service promptly.  I even shouted out to get someone’s attention; the woman next to me replid with a “Tranquilo!”, and – in response – I wanted to bop her in the face.  I finally got my orange juice and left the cafeteria only to be bombarded with smokers in the no-smoking waiting area.  I got so livid about this that I told someone off for it in Spanish; at least they obliged.

I waltzed into the ASLA line as the Eurolines fuckers were still shut down and shuttered at 11 AM.  With my ticket to Lisbon finally in hand, I wanted to purchase a locker for cheap to stow my stuff away while waiting for four unendurable hours for that bus.  I couldn’t get change for my €5 note because the wench behind the newspapers was adamant that they couldn’t provide change for me.  I had to return to that lame-faced cafeteria to get my change.  I was out on the streets of Sevilla not long after that, searching for an Internet café.  There was an info checkpoint not too far away.  The guy at the front gave me information about many locales, but all of them charging an outlandish fee for an hour of Internet and most likely continuous pop-ups.  To quench my rage – and it was rage at this point – I had a very unhealthy (but highly gratifying) lunch at Burger King.  There, I wrote a lot about my stay in Granada and the much better experiences I had while there.

After my binge, I thought it might be OK to head back to the bus station.  It was nearing 1 PM, so that bit wouldn’t be too excruciating.  Here the atmosphere couldn’t have been more dead, monochromatic, zapped of energy.  I sat and sat and waited for the Lisbon bus.

Not too much later I was off and rolling through the much greener Portuguese countryside.  We stopped in Faro midway.  Here I had this smoked ham sandwich that tasted like feet and left strands of fat between my teeth.  I was beginning to fret about the state of my pearly whites, and I’m still not looking forward to that dentist’s visit back in Ohio.  While on the ride to Lisbon, elderly tourists sat pretty near me (some from the US and others from Spain).  They were very chatty and wound up talking about the US economy and the Portuguese/Spanish relationship.  I kept my nose in my book throughout most of the journey, looking up to check out the Indiana Jones movie from time to time.

Lisbon approached in the darkness of 8 PM.  We took a long causeway devoid of lights – pulling a blanket of unease over the lot of us until we saw the shimmering lights of the evening city – and eventually got to this very modern and trippy bus terminal in the northeastern section of Lisbon.  I easily took the Metro to Baixa-Chiado…  with the hostel barely a minute from the station!  Talk about convience… I checked in and was invited to dinner at 9 PM; I gladly accepted as it was in ten minutes’ time.

I quickly dropped off my bags in the bedroom and dashed back downstairs for the dinner, made by this Portuguese guy who was born in Mozambique.  The food was phenomenal – a fish and potato casserole that had an au gratin base.  Shepherd’s salad.  A hot gazphacho-esque soup (that tasted 100% better than its cooler Spanish version).  That with a healthy amount of wine and a pastry dipped with chocolate sauce and adjacent to an already-soft, already-melting mango sorbet made it a delicious welcome to the hostel and city.

I didn’t stay up too late, but I had some remarkable dinner-time conversations with two Swiss newlyweds (in their late 50s), a Chicagoan freshly moved to Lisbon for studies, and a guy called Arhnold from the Faroe Islands.  Quite the eclectic bunch.

Bed time.  Not until 1:00 in the morning, though.  The kitchen’s balcony was situated on the same end of the hostel as my room, in an alley boasting acoustics rivaling that of the Sydney Opera House.  Drunken hostelers kept frequenting the balcony for a smoke or a laugh or a shout to the heavens.

Sigur Rós serenaded me to sleep.

journal #11: granada.

16.10.08

Most of this day involved me trying to get to Granada, not realizing that most buses here in Spain are spitting replications of the ones in Turkey I had been on.  They stopped all the time, and sometimes it would be an hour onto the road only to have a pointless pit-stop for bathroom or food.  It got extremely annoying.

I read quite a bit during that time and also struck up a conversation with the passenger next to me, another German who was studying in Valencia, and we talked for quite a while to pass the time.  It was interesting to note how many Germans were actually visiting and living in Spain.  This is definitely something more people should do: a Master’s somewhere in England, or even in another country that speaks Spanish (or an American school somewhere).

Christian was visiting his girlfriend for her birthday, and he kept worrying about his cake’s condition overhead throughout the trip.  I guess it turned out decently though.

The bus ride took ages, and finally it got into Granada at around 7:30 in the evening.  The hostel’s directions were vague yet again, and I turned the wrong direction at the outset.  I meandered down side streets, passed the big cathedral, then up cobblestoned steps in the Moroccan quarter of the city and eventually made it to the proper hostel, sweaty and exhausted, with all my 18 kilos of luggage and a bitter taste in my mouth.

The receptionist was very nice and set me at ease, and I soon was in my room, deoderized, changed, ready for the rest of the night.  Just in time for a tapas tour at 9:30.

The weirdest things about the start of this tour had to be that I recognized so many people from past locales – some who turned out to be not only staying at the last hostel I was at in Valencia, they were in same room as I on the first night!   Alistair, Simon, and Lloyd were the three Aussie guys’ names; Lauren was the girl’s name (Simon’s girlfriend).  Donna and Jessica (Canada and Australia) were some people from Arago in Barcelona!

We wound up meeting some more people, a dude from Manchester (Roger) who didn’t attend the tapas tour (having done it two nights previous), but informed us that he would be around for a few more days before checking out the rest of Europe on his motorbike; and then Enny from Adelaide, Australia.  The guiders were these really cool lesbians (one American, the other Spanish) who took us around the town to some superb bars.

What I found intriguing about the bars in Granada was how practically all of them were openly mixed clientele (gay and straight). In Cleveland you have the specialty bars that some people go to, where you’ll find mostly homosexuals trying to dance, hook up, find a significant other in the crowd without fear of accidentally getting a miscue or something like that.  Here, it’s a conglomeration: different couples, singles, and all of them easy-going and not uptight as a lot of the homophobic clientele in America are. There were ads on the walls for events at different places. Our tour guide for the tapas tour we were having that night responded to our inquiries about the whole non-labeled locales. She said that that’s how the culture is here: you go out, and it doesn’t matter what orientation you are, you will most likely be welcomed wherever you go and there won’t really be any strange reactions or standoffish-ness.

This just shows how more relaxed the culture truly is here; most places here don’t have the exclusivity like London or other big cities in America. There are separations. There are actual gay venues. It’s different here.

In the first bar (Bar Rojo: with ravaging brick red walls, simple decor and very subdued lighting), the flamboyant tender slopped down our first beers. We paid for them, and in return for our payment, we also got our first round of tapas. At most places, the alcohol is all you pay for – and you receive an appetizer to wash it down. Number one: diced tomatoes, garlic, and peppers over fresh ciabatta. There were also some herbs on top, but my palette isn’t that advanced enough to distinguish particulars.  I think it was basil. On the side were some potent green olives stuffed with anchovies. Lloyd, one of my fellow hostelers does not eat seafood… and we had no clue about the anchovies until #2 because the garlic makes the anchovy tasteless. I personally found the olives spectacular, and ate all of Lloyd’s he didn’t finish. Number 2: a sort of spiced meatball with potato and tuna stuffed inside.

The second bar was a bit swankier than the last alley-central place we had just come from. The beer came in wine glasses and the tapas increased in quality. The first one was a dip that had zucchini and artichokes inside it; it was used to spread across mini slices of bread. The following appetizer was not as impressive as its predecessor: it reminded me of potato salad that was way too heavy on the garlic. It was still palatable. Some people stayed for #3, which from a distance looked like it had guacamole on top. Most of us hung outside the bar and wandered around the out-of-the-way square that sported pylons that rose and sank into the ground, but only if you had the remote to control them; it was for the small parking area on the one side of the square near a hotel.

We made it to a third tapas bar; this one was quite smoky and packed, with most of the people departing after this one. Some frightening Jane Fonda B-Movie was playing on the overhead TV as we had a giant plate of what I assumed had been an entree full of shrimp and olives.

Finally, the two guides, this middle-aged American gent, Enny and I were all that were left of the tour. We stumbled to an Irish pub where I had a ridiculously expensive Guinness and drank it way too fast. It was a nice conclusion to my trek across the vibrant and eclectic dives of Granada, where I met so many different people each with their own stories to tell.

The walk back was befuddling; I went off on my own to the hostel and wound up lost after 3 minutes of walking. The tour guide had this medical condition where she can become dangerously lethargic to the point of going unconscious unless she rubs ice cubes up and down her arms. The map she drew was sketchy and illegible. The Spanish guide decided to help out, and she drunkenly pulled me out of the pub and shunted me in the correct direction. Well, after a while, I made it back to the Moroccan Quarter of Granada and into the hostel with no mishaps.

I rate this night a 9 out of 10. The point is docked off because of wandering around the streets of Granada at 3 in the morning.

17.10.08

My plans to go on the walking tour were squashed as I checked the clock and it read 10 AM.  Apparently, there are people who constantly feel as if the room is solely theirs and therefore see fit to make an earthly amount of noise, especially when using plastic bags… or something with a similar texture.

I tried to shrug it off, but it just grates from time to time.  The ensuing morning included me eating burnt toast and some honey tea that helped soothe the srore throat that had been peskily made its home for a while now.

After clumping my laundry into the overpriced container, I headed for a walk around Granada.  I soon made it near the Alhambra and had a small lunch of tea and corn-and-rice salad listening to a guitarist strumming near a fountain in the square.  Some tosser decided to clean his puppy’s rear in the fountain after shitting — which brought about some agonizing yelps from the canine.  With this quick stop finished, I headed again parallel to the fortress and soon made my way up the hill to reach the landmark.

Of course, the ticket to the most important parts had been sold out for the day, so all I did was the garden section.  I could live without seeing the fortress; I had been there before.  After looking around for the better part of one to two hours, I went looking for a nice backgammon board at the gift shop to buy.  The cheapest one fetched a price of €70!  i didn’t get it.

I returned back to the hostel for a quick breather.  Then, I went out to find a nice patch for my sister’s travelling knapsack, which took a good deal of time perusing through multiple souvenir shops until one place had what I was looking for.  I also bought a decent Granada T-shirt, which even though it was M looked way too big on me when I tried it on.  What’s happening to me?  Am I shrinking?  I also got out to see the entirety of the big cathedral in the city; one of the more frightening moments had to be when I was gazing at the line of teas and spices that were being sold on one end of the cathedral.  One of the vendors began coughing and it was quite expectorant-laden from the sound of it; near him was a cardboard box, and he spit whatever had risen from his lungs into that.  Whatever it was, I could see it as it dribbled down his chin; it was red and almost brownish in color as it sagged and plopped into the box.  I felt sick watching it.

Soon as it was 4:00, I decided to have a pre-dinner snack.  At this bar near the tiered, cobblestoned street, I had tortille Espanola. The portion was huge, but I ate it all ravenously, savoring the potatoes and cheese stuffed inside.  It held its Spanish vibes even though it was very close to the Moroccan quarter – like most tapas bars, it had the quinticessential feel of relaxation and conviviality.

Evening brought a reunion of most of the people from the night before and some new faces, namely some bloke (Micah?) from Nottingham, England and three Finnish girls.  I also found the terrace on the uppermost floor, which had a decent view of the old city.  I decided to take Roger’s route and buy a litre bottle of sangria to sip on while waiting for our paella dinner at the hostel.  The sangria started off smashing, but with a 1/3 left, I grew weary of it and longed for a beer, but I knew mixing would be lethal from past experiences.  Soon, our paella dinner arrived, cooked by one of the staff.  It was with mariscos, or seafood – which pelased all but Lloyd, who opted to run to the döner stand for a kebap.

Eventually, we all headed out as a group of have some nargile at a stand hear the hostel.  We chose this one place that looked decent across from the particular café the night receptionist recommended but was closed.  The atmosphere was authentically Moroccan – as most hookah bars might be like – but the nargile was shite.  This might be me being a snob, but it just did not feel smooth with each pull.  Apple and strawberry were the flavors and I was not impressed at all with either; I dealt with it right well enough.

Our troubles were far from over though.  We had to purchase a drink as well, so I got green tea.  They brought it over, I took a sip, and I almost gagged.  It tasted like very strong spearmint, a far, FAR cry from the green teas I’ve ever tried.  I informed one of the staff, and he affirmed that it was green tea despite my corrections that it’s like mint.  He even had the cajones to go to the pail of tea leaves and show me that they were indeed verde!  Yeah, mint tea is green in color, but it’s not GREEN TEA, douchebag.

This place turned into a bust for me.  We went back for a quick sip of the bubbly at the hostel.  Then – we headed to a club referred to us by – yet again – the receptionist on duty.  We showed up at the doors and almost had an outlandish entrance fee splattered on us by the bouncers, but we get in with a tiny discount nonetheless.

We walked in to find the club absolutely empty.  All of us were dumbfounded at this little situation.  We ordered a free beer with our entrance fee and stood around.  Four of us went over to play foosball, which was near a corner.  The coat check windows was also near this table, and a woman stood there glaring ominously (at me especially it seemed) for the better part of twenty minutes.  Creepy!  I snagged a photo.

One of the distinguishing features of this place was that, along the wall, there were holders for beer bottles and cocktail glasses.  It could proved to be very handy but also problematic when drunkenness becomes all-powerful and people forget which drink was theirs.

The people slowly filtered in at first.  Soon, 1:00 turned into 2, 3, then the floor was gobsmacked, packed full.  And at 4, it was a claustrophobe’s nightmare.  The dancing was still fun.  The DJ had some cool tunes going, especially stuff by The Killers and The Arctic Monkeys.  A back-to-back moment of brilliance came when “Somebody Told Me” played, with “Fa Fa Fa” by Datarock followed without a hiccup in the music.  “This Fire” by Franz Ferdinand also provided for a fun moment not too long after that.

Lloyd decided to horn in on one of the Finns, of course choosing the fever-laden one, which I and others found hilarious and inexplicable.  Perhaps he was desperate.  When you’re horny, I guess you go for anyone.

At 4:30, a few of us thought it best to break from the gigantic mass of writhing bodies and head out.  It was Simon, Lauren, Enny, and me who left.  Micah and Alli remained in a stupor of epic proportions; Lloyd was going for the jugular of the Finn-with-a-Fever.  The other Finns had left or would leave eventually.  The walk home was blurry and shouts of songs were in the air.  I had a long sleep of five hours.

18.10.08

The next morning I vowed to do the walking tour at 11.  I got up at 10 to get my laundry from downstairs.  The tiny thing that nibbled at me was the drawstring of my swimtrunks, the red ones:  it was missing and I was unable to find it anywhere.  (I tried on these shorts in Sevilla and they at least fit enough for me to sleep in them.)

The Finns hogged the bathroom and shower upon my return upstairs, so I went down again and had breakfast while they were applying make-up and other deleterious items.  I soon went back up to the room around 10:45; they were walking out of the room telling me I had enough time to make it for the meeting-spot.  Shower, shave, try to find clothes in the dark, then walk all the way to the Placa Nueva in 15 minutes.  Right.  So no walking tour for me.  Funnily enough, the tour was cancelled because the guide was away and therefore couldn’t give the tour!  No loss.

What I did do was check to make sure that all my things were set for the Sevilla and the Lisbon hostels, that I had my directions written down.  I also informed all the Londoners that I’d be there in a week.  I also emailed Dave for his address and when exactly I’d be in.  Needless to say, this took a fair bit of time, as I replied to a few other emails as well.  The receptionist on duty had the nerve to tell me (and also Donna and Jess who were busy trying to change a flight so it wouldn’t be gall-splatteringly expensive) that “there were others waiting to use the computer and that we should be respectful of them.”  I, of course, told her that my stuff was indeed important; I wanted to make sure I had a place to sleep this upcoming week, so it was definitely important.  I wasn’t tooling on Facebook or obsessively perusing over stories about the election; I was really using the Internet for things that needed to be done.

I headed off soon enough: no one took my computer instantly after I logged off (surprise, surprise!).  I took the bus to the bull-fighting arena, which cost €5 to get in!  I had seen the inside of the Sevilla one in 2001, so it wasn’t essential for me.  I had hoped there might have been a bullfight though.

I stopped for a coffee and a bacon sandwich on the way back and detoured past a park (Jordi de Triomph – or something similar sounding) and sat to watch some street performers play percussion instruments for a short while.  Then, they decided to do some rhythmic dancing that involved feet stomping and clapping hands.  It was a refreshing alternative to harpists by cathedrals and people playing the acoustic guitar everywhere.

After that, I wanted to trek along one of the walls of the city, which was located to the ‘west’? of the hostel.  The steps were steep and long, and also cobblestoned.  If I lived in Granada, I would try vehemently to get a place in this area.  Sure I wouldn’t dare drive, and a bike could be a complicated investment… not to mention having to lug my belongings up to my place with no sort of ascensor or lift.  I just feel it would be where I’d most love to be here!

I walked around the winding roads, surrounded by white-washed buildings and terraces along cliffsides, views of the entire cathedral from above, the major streets cutting veins through the city, the endless string of vivid graffiti; the open atmosphere, no one for meters, and then a turn and a busy café full of people.  It all struck me there; I love Granada.  It might be my favorite spot in Spain.  Even Europe.  something in the above sentences just brought it home to me; it seeped inside deep, far down, it enveloped me, and it gave me peace.  And I smiled.  And i walked.

I turned a quick right by one of those cafés – to see the steep cobblstones of the main street that would eventually lead to Oasis.  It was impressively close to what I had recently experienced.  I thought it was simply too cool for words.

The rest of the afternoon was wrought with me try to do this, write.  First it was going to the terrace for some time; a Canadaian was there reading Ayn Rand and some Aussie was waiting for a shower to open in his room.  Some Italian guy headed out of the room next to the terrace and began talking to us about visiting other countries not only for the cities themselves, but also to villages where you get a more real slice, a better picture of the place, feel the culture, get a fuller experience.  It unfortunately began to rain, so I leapt down to the TV room and continued writing in this journal.  I relaxed on the beanbags for ten minutes or so, with my eyes closed when a few Aussies came in to watch the telly.  The station remained fixed on “Flags of Our Fathers” and I became transfixed onto the screen.

I knew I had to leave or I wouldn’t get this journal updated, so I marched up to the terrace again.  It had stopped raining.  The Italian guy was playing his guitar and I was inclined to scratch some impromptu poetry as the rain started up again.  When I felt the poem finished, I headed back to my room out of the rain.  Some British dude I didn’t know was there, so I planted myself on my bed to eke out a few more paragraphs… which grew to be somewhat productive.  And then the three Finns came in, loud and overly talkative.  The British dude (Juan according to himself, although his name was really John) decided to introduce himself to them and ask 34 questions to keep at least one of them talking: the other two wished to stop.

Two of the three went to get libations at the store after a few, the Brit thankfully left, and I was left with some quiet.  I wrote down one more paragraph, closed my eyes for 20, then skipped back down resigned to defeat.

Everyone was back, more or less coherent enough.  We hung out for a good portion of the early evening.  The table-tennis ball kept getting lost in the vines along the wall, and the cleaning lady on duty showed the less hospitable side of the hostel; earlier that afternoon, I had run up to  my room to deposit my things… and I had to use the loo.  I ran over the broom handle blocking the door.  The place was dry and clean, so I thought – well, job’s done, I can pee.

Before I could shut the door, the cleaning lady shouted at me to wait, is it still wet???  I assured her that it was okay.  She grumpily said I could use the toilet and stomped off.  A good day to you, too!  She also got a bit shirty when Lloyd and I tried to get the water off the ping-pong table.  We had to fold the table up first to drain the excess water through the crack in the center, but we put it back to its normal setup for play.  Apparently, that’s not allowed.

Dinner was edging close.  Some of us ventured out to the supermercado to nab some beer, and in Micah’s and my case, food.  Bread, cheese, salami, and potato chips.  My health level is going down the tubes.  I will need more salad soon.  I was already feeling the booze by the time dinner-and-a-40 finished playing.  The majority felt like a mini-amateur tapas tour tonight – so Enny, Micah, Alistair, Laura, Simon and another Aussie girl whose name I’ve forgotten went to the first place, a packed and stifling locale where both servers couldn’t understand my use of the word “ONE” and kept on giving me dos cervezas, and then got all snippy when I told him I really wanted one.

After two tapas, I began to feel too flushed and needed some air, so I sat in the alley for a bit.  I think my departure here was better than Alistair’s.  He went back to the hostel to piss because he couldn’t find the lav by the bar.  Right.

Lauren and I talked for a bit outside about allergies.  She had one of penicillin … which is in very low concentrations in red wine, and it gets exacerbated in sangria – which she had a smidgen of that evening.  Her face was slightly flushed out there, which is apparently what happens.  She talked about a friend of her’s allergic to milk (almost to the point of death) and her uncle who had an extreme aversion to watermelons.  He can’t even go near or see them; when Lauren bought some to take home, they had to bury the rinds deep in the backyard so her uncle wouldn’t come across them.  It made my aversion to bananas seem harmless.

We went back to the hostel to round up the others who hadn’t joined us for the first bar.  A small group had been playing cards by the computer; and we scooped them up and went right back out, although it took a tiny bit longer because of people not being ready and also because it was a very large group now, not to mention having to deal with the annoying “Juan.”

The walk dragged and it took a while for people to catch up with the ringleaders: Simon and me.  This was also due to the fact that a donkey had been tied to a lamppost, so that distracted quite a few of the drunker ones.

Our destination:  tapas bar #2 from the first tour on my first night.  I think it would have been better to melt into the bar counter with the amount of time I was ignored when I desired a blasted drink.  I finally got a beer, but I had to tell that I didn’t get my appetizer along with it.  I had two tapas there and expected the inevitable galumph back to the hostel, but it was off to bar #3 from our first night tour.

Tapas had already been cut off for the night, so it was just us hanging out for a bit with a few more beers.  I knew I was going to regret staying any longer especially with the talks I had been hearing about a possible club in the offing after this.  So I made my goodbyes and left for the hostel and into my bed.

I’m glad I’ve never experienced some drunk tosser pissing on me in the middle of the night; apparently this one guy did it twice to this one girl at a hostel somewhere else.  He was in bed and it leaked from the top bunk onto the bottom one where the girl was.  Twice.  If I remember any other stories from this night, I must remember to add it here.

journal #10: valencia.

14.10.08

This morning proved to be, thankfully, painless.  I tried to get everything ready and I soon was on my way to the bus station for the trip to Valencia.  In my rush to leave the hostel, however, I forgot my cheese and cucumbers.  This I did not catch until I was on the bus already, a bus that would only have seven or so people riding with me, on a reasonably short route to the south.  I had way too many mixed nuts; that accompanied with the water was my only sustenance until I arrived at Hôme, the name of the hostel, so I could put down an apple while checking the hostel’s Internet.

I have to admit this hostel didn’t have the charm of Arago; plus, the price to use Internet was outlandish.  One Euro was worth 30 dinky minutes of computer time.  The computers, like most others I used, used IE as their main portal, not Firefox (which I think is exponentially better).  But this journal is more on what I did, not my complaints about the computers at hostels.

I took a shower and wandered around part of the old city that afternoon, snagging a few photos in the process.  Instead of stopping for a snack, I opted to have a walk around north of Turia, where the Germans I met in Barcelona lived.

This walk was way too long and a touch toilsome, but I arrived on their street without any difficulty.  While at the doorstep about to ring the bell, I ran into two of them (literally) on their bikes.  I was invited inside and met the rest of their housemates.  A few of them wanted to go out and eat at a café nearby, so I accompanied them.  One of the Germans was named Stuart (the guy I had first met in Barcelona); the other two people ready to head out were Nils and Elena.

We took the Metro to Colón and wandered around the old city again to try and find a decent place.  Of course the café we came across wasn’t the best.  The selection was sub-par and they didn’t have any of the coffees I had asked for.  So I copied Nils’s choices and hung out with them, Stu calculating his expenditures for the month, which I thought was resilient – for I rarely did this unless balancing a check book that I hadn’t seen for almost a year!

The ham and cheese came out, over-toasted and the coffee I began to drink wasn’t hot and not as tasty as some of the selections on the menu that were not truly buyable.  At least I was able to hang out with people I knew.

The four of us sauntered back to the apartment and ate hamburgers one of the other flatmates had grilled, so there was something decent to eat.  The girls wanted to watch Sex & the City.  Instead of doing that, Stu and I decided to go to a bar, and an interesting one showed up with a pirate theme to it.  I ordered a beer, Stuart a cola, and we just talked shit for most of the night – mainly about this girl he might be seeing but is probably thinking against it as she is 17 and he is 24.

The Metro had finished for the night, so I had the pleasure of walking the entire way back again.  For some reason, I felt a bit exposed and vulnerable out there alone in the dead of night in a city I didn’t really know much about.  I think this feeling heightened as I traversed expansive parks to my right, the darkness heavy and supreme in relation to the blinking and blinding lights of the main thoroughfares.  Off I went to bed, unable to predict my condition for the next day.

15.10.08

I woke up on this day reasonably early, anticipating a very tranquil jaunt to the beach and nothing much else.  Not a lot of noise took over the hostel room.  I got ready with my swimming things on and began the journey to the coast, stopping first at a coffeehouse for some green tea, as my throat was becoming sore the evening before.  And I didn’t want it to get much worse.

More wandering around the old city, through the markets (indoor this time, but still potently fresh and tempting), by a patisseria to get a water and a croissant.  Then it’s the beach.  The walk from the Metro was interesting; a lot of the beachfront homes were very old, decrepit, rundown – as if abandoned for decades, shutters down and chipped paint and stone on the ground alongside the buildings.  Occasionally, the smell of piss would waft in the air and it would send an unpleasant heave in my stomach.

I finally made it there.  The beach was expansive, bulldozers landscaping the beach, sand being leveled.  A few parts were somewhat dirty, but I soon found my way over to an open section of sand and sprawled out right by the sea.  What I found interesting was the larger number of topless women on the beach; there aren’t as many in the US (nix maybe Miami & private nudist establishments).  Not that I minded, but it definitely struck me.  It’s really noticeable.  I read a bit of WBC and drank much of my water, plus eventually eating another green apple.  A tiny nap followed in the sun, and then I swam for a short while in the swallow but much cooler sea.

Some 50-year-old bloke was wandered around in a G-string talking to all the young single women on the sand which I found a bit aggravating.  He talked quite loudly and continued to saunter past me, so I tried keeping my eyes closed as he slopped around the vicinity.  At around 2:30, I called it a ‘day’ and went to find a place to eat paella before returning back to Hôme for a shower.  Nothing was open near the beach, at least anything that might be considered cheap by me, so I tok the Metro back to Colón and walked into a place to have one of the menú del día selections.

I ordered a beer, my first course paella Valenciana; the second, a type of fried fish, most likely from the Mediterranean (but i couldn’t remember what the actual name was).  My stomach filled up pretty quickly after the paella, and I was wondering how I would manage finishing up course #2, so I could get to #3.  As the fish was being brought out, I dashed to the bathroom and used the toilet, hoping that would calm things down for me.  Soon, however, I grew feverish at the table and my stomach did somersaults.  After my second bathroom visit and only a 1/3 of my fish eaten, beer half-empty, I requested to pay for the bill and got out of there fast.

My mind was reeling and I couldn’t even stand up straight.  I was flushed, face no question red, drenched, disoriented.  All the while back to the hostel my stomach lurched and nausea poured over me like a waterfall.  I knew I would vomit before I got back, which was my main focus: find Hôme without throwing up completely sober in broad daylight.  Of course, I got lost on the way back and cursed my life for a little bit.  No form of suffering should be allowed like this – I know labor pains and kidney stones suck ass and would probably be worse, but after this I could take most other not-nice things!

Finally, after wondering if anyone on the street would ask if I was OK, I made it.  I was close to retching twice, but failed.  I showered instead and almost fainted in the process.  After this shower, I noticed that my skin was going blotchy around my chest and neck; I wondered if it was the heat that caused this discomfort and not toxic paella.  I collapsed onto the bed at around 4:30 and didn’t awaken until 7:30.

—–

I headed out feeling a bit better but not 100%.  I ran into the Germans and hung out with them at the apartment for most of the evening, subjecting myself to their giddiness and erratic water wars throughout the house, smattered with fast German and a store-bought cheesecake.

I watched the majority of the Germany-Wales football match on Russian TV with Nils and Stu.  At the half, I tried to find some restaurant that sold fruit smoothies, but the search was in vain.  I brought some juice at a corner store and had to make do with a few decent bottles of fruit drink concentrate.

I didn’t do much else that night; I took the last train back to the hostel and had an early night because of my pre-existing condition.  It was a rough stay in Valencia; I wish I could give a glowing commentary of my time here.  but I honestly cannot.