Sunday, July 16, 2006

Watch us Run!

Our investigate teams found this video that shows the running from start to finish the day that Nithin and Mike ran with the bulls. If you look closely and in slow motion, you might be able to see us!

Click the photo below to see the video.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Pictures

Party in Bordeaux after France beat Brazil
Brandle in his running Garb
Brandle and Nithin as wine connoisseurs
Mike acting like a tourist in Bordeaux

brandle saying goodbye to Bilbo (our resting safehaven)
Pyrenees mountains shot just over france border

Aaron and Mr Ryan in their Running Garb








Mike and Nithin in their running garb

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Granada to the Running of the Bulls

Wow over the last 2 weeks since we left Granada have been really intense. As of today we have slept in a car or in a park 7 out of something like 13 days. Needless to say we have gotten pretty tired because of this and also very stinky. It´s actually kind of crazy, just to get away from it all and relax a couple of days we have taken trips to Bilbo, Spain and stayed at a Formula 1 (accorr hotel) that is really cheap. We went there once right after a couple nights stay in a car in San Sebastian (where we partied like crazy for the 4th of July) and then once after the Running of the Bulls (Pamplona, Spain). I can defiantly say the last few weeks have been full of excitement and crazy stories.

Even before all of this craziness, not that long before we left for Granada we were in Morocco, which in itself was one crazy experience. As I posted before the people were interesting to deal with but overall the experience was great. One thing that I failed to mention in my previous post about Morocco was how upon exit from the country, all of us but Nithin had our asses kicked by the food and lets just say we had a lot of toilet time. One of the funnier things about this is that immediately when we got back to Granada we had a bunch of Couch surfers stay with us. The first one, Kat, came on the night of our arrival. She was an instant hit with us and she even went with us to the Fiesta de Agua that Nithin posted about previously. The next day we had 2 crazy kids from Quebec come stay with us (also very cool) and then a day later when Kat left, we had 2 girls from California come. So at one point we had the 5 of us and 4 couch surfers in our apartment. This wouldn´t normally be a huge problem (we had a decent size apartment) however, we only had 1 bathroom. Thus, with the existing condition of our stomach problems from Morocco and 9 people living off of one toilet it seemed like the facilities were constantly in use. The funniest part about the whole thing is that for a couple of days it seemed like Aaron, Mr Ryan, Brandle or myself were making nasty smelliness round the clock. I think this freaked out the California girls because after their first day at our place they left early and used their entire second day to plan their escape. Luckily the Quebec kids were much more understanding and cool and they dealt with our problems for 4 or five days.

Anyway, this pretty much takes us up until our departure from Granada where we rented 2 cars from Eurocar, who at the time we thought was a great car rental company. We held them so highly that they were one of the few unofficial sponsors of our trip. One reason for this was because previously when Nithin and Ryan rented from them they were never charged the under 25 driving fee (which they said they wouldn´t charge us but they did anyway). So things started off kind of upsetting with Eurocar this time which only became worse (read Mr. Ryan´s post).

As Mr. Ryan said we drove through the Pyrenees mountains which was incredible. The views were awesome and I was the one driving.... Oh, here is an interesting side note. The only experienced stick drivers coming into this trip were Aaron and Mr. Ryan. Brandle and Myself have done it before, but I would say were started a long way from being experts and Nithin was at the time just a beginner. As of today, I´d say each and every one of us can drive a stick and do it pretty damn well. Nithin drove the least out of all of us but when he did, it was a damn fine job.

Anyway, our stay in Andorra was only for a few hours (I bought a new digital camera = PICTURES) as Mr. Ryan said and then crossed over to the France border. A funny thing about this was that before we went to Andorra (a tax free country), Aaron was told that at the French border the security is very tight because they want you to pay taxes on all of the things that you purchase and bring back to France. This got us all a bit worried. Our concerns grew even higher, when we arrived into Andorra from the Spain side and there was a long check point where border patrol was searching cars. This was especially alarming because the border patrol in Spain everywhere else I´ve entered (Granada, Algeciras(back from Morocco)) was just like absolutely a joke. Because of this, before we left Andorra I threw away the box to my camera, a lot of the manuals (most of which were not in English) and I hid all of the warranty info and receipts and all that kind of stuff. This however was completely for nothing because when we got to the France border there was not even a border patrol. There was hardly even a sign that said welcome to France.

Moving on the Fete de Vine, it was a sweet experience. As Mr. Ryan said we had a great time. We drank a bunch of wine, saw a great French city and met a lot of ex centric french kids who had a great time speaking with Americans. One of the highlights of the trip was when we watched the France vs. Brazil football match from the Festival. France wasn´t supposed to win, but once they did the festival became insane. Football fans are crazy to party with, and whoever said that Europeans don´t drink to get drunk doesn´t know what they are talking about. Tons of kids were going crazy after the game and there was even a huge techno dance party right after that was very cool. I´ll post some of these pictures at the end here. I´ll have to go more into the Festival at a later time because I really want to talk about Pamplona and I´m running out of time here at the cyber cafe.

Anyway, from here we went to San Sebastain and found ourselves sleeping in a car for another couple of nights. This wasnt´the original plan, but since we couldn´t find any affordable hotels, hotals, or hostels this was the obvious choice. We were here for the 3rd, 4th and we left on the 5th of July for Bilbo (our resting safe haven). On the forth of July, we decided to do the best we could as Americans to be American by eating American food and getting trashed. This worked almost flawlessly, we got some hamburgers at a restaurant (not nearly as good as the states though) and we partied hard in the bars after watching the Italy, Germany football match. It was a good night.

From here we went to Bilbo as I´ve said to rest for a day (didn´t even see the city). However, on top of a reward for getting ourselves all showered and fresh we decided (except Nithin) that it was time for some good old fashion Pizza Hut pizza. I have to tell you that it was one of the best pizzas that I´ve ever experienced. The next morning we left Bilbo and went to unbelievably crazy city of Pamplona.

I don´t know the history behind the running of the bulls, but i know that it´s been going on for over a hundred years and that it´s absolutely crazy. Upon arrival I was pretty dead set on running. I figured, hey how can you go to pamplona during this fiesta and not run. It would almost be a crime. Plus, people have been doing this for so long and nobody has died for like 10 years or so.

Once we got there we quickly saw that this festival was not just about running with bulls, but probably more about getting absolutely trashed for days. I´ve never seen so many drunk people having a great time. The streets were packed with people holding liters of beer, sangria or champagne. Once we checked our bags and dropped off our Euro cars we quickly joined the ranks. It was only a few hours of drinking until we were just another group of people in a huge crowd. I´ll i can say is that from the month or so I´ve spent in Spain, this was defiantly the craziest party I´ve ever seen. Plus, any party that you´ve been to, seen or read about in America doesn´t even come close to the craziness of this thing. The party lasts all night, till 6 AM when the music finally stops. Some people pass out at this time, but the majority position themselves to either run with the bulls or to watch people get trampled by the bulls.

I found myself asking tons of locals (a lot of the younger kids spoke broken English) if they have run with the bulls, or what they think about it. No matter who we talked to everyone who was from Spain, especially Pamplona said that running with the bulls was the stupidest thing that they have ever heard of and most of them said that they had friends who have been hurt while running. This kind of got us all thinking that maybe this wasn´t as safe as we originally expected but I still didn´t have any plans on not running at the time. We figured that a lot of the kids probably say this just so stupid tourists don't run and mess things up for the locals or expert runners.

So after I´d had enough partying for the night we decided to go to sleep for awhile. Our plan the entire time for accommodation in Pamplona was to sleep in the park and at the time I went to sleep, it still seemed like a great idea. This was all good and everything until it became absolutely freezing out, to the point that it was very difficult to sleep and all I was wearing was a tee shirt and shorts. I would have gotten my jacked out of my checked bag but the bag was checked under Aaron's name and I had no clue where he was to be found. Anyway, after a night of horrible sleep that was mixed with me walking down to the party a few times just to warm up next to the crazy drunk people and their body heat, it was finally around 7 AM and time to watch the running of the bulls. Unfortunately, getting up an hour early to see such a event didn´t get us anywhere and we barley saw what was happening. I was saw a small crack between a bunch of people and every once in awhile I´d see a brown-black blog run by a group of people dressed in white. Anyway, it didn´t look all that bad but later on in the day we heard about the injuries. Few people got hurt decently bad and one guy got paralyzed. After hearing this my views on the running took a slight turn but still I kept telling myself this is something that I had to do.

After watching the running it was time to sleep for real. The sun was out and it was finally warm enough to get some shut eye. We did this for a few hours and once we woke up we checked out the city and eventually started to party again. We met some cool couch surfers (there was a meeting point set up in one of the parks) and one of them had run the first day. Upon hearing this Brandle, Mr. Ryan, Brandle´s friend Hatcher and myself determined that we were going to run the tomorrow. Because of this we didn´t party too hard and went to sleep relatively early so that we wouldn´t be hung over or tired for the race. Out of all of us I could tell that Brandle was the most concerned about the next days events but I was trying not to think of it.

During the night as we slept something common for pamplona but unfortunate happened to two of us. Mr. Ryan and Brandle´s friend Hatcher got pick pocketed while they slept. In all I think 70 euro was taken. Pick pockets were rampant in pamplona and the second to last night we where there 2 of the couch surfers got their stuff stolen during a fireworks show. Their losses were much worse than ours. I´m sure someone else will talk about the theft, my stuff wasn´t stolen (although I saw a lot of the thieves) so this doesn´t concern me so much.

Anyway, after we figured out our losses we got up and went down to the main square to meet Aaron, Nithin and the couch surfers who partied hard the night before and slept in another park. The idea was that we were going to give them all of our belongings (my cell phone, watch, jacket) and they were going to try to take pictures of our running. The problem was that nobody showed up. So while we waited for them, I decided to go to the bakery and pick up a couple of baguettes for us to split and brandle, hatcher and Mr ryan waited for the others to show. Once it seemed like this was not going to happen is when our plans started to fall apart. I was in line for the food and Brandle came to me to say that he was going to run to the park, find aaron and nithin and give him our stuff so that we can run. He said that he was going to meet me back in the square asap along with the other guys. So i waited in line 10 or so minutes to get the food and then went back to the square to meet back up with the guys. However, it turns out that I didn´t see anyone anywhere. Mr. Ryan had gone inside a building, Brandle was still gone, and I didn´t see Hatcher at all. It turns out he was there sitting on some steps but since I had just met him the night before I guess I didn´t recognize him. Anyway, because I felt that they had left me for the race I started to look around and try to find them myself. I failed at this and eventually waited for them at the square because after the race we were supposed to meet up there. When we finally met back up they had run, I had not and they were totally psyched about what had just happened. All three of them seemed like the most pumped up versions of themselves that´d i´d ever seen (especially brandle) and from their stories the experience was absolutely crazy. I´m sure they will post about their experience here asap. Anyway, after hearing their stories of ¨near death¨ I was jealous but kind of thinking maybe it was a good thing that I didn´t run. From time to time I feel like things happen for a reason and I was thinking that maybe had i run something bad would have happened to me so it was fate or something. Either way, all i knew was that I was fine and I hadn´t run. This feeling stuck with me for the rest of the day.

After hearing their stories I kept thinking to myself that I need to run this race. I had to prove to myself that I can do exciting crazy things even if there is an element of danger. I kept thinking that one of the points to this trip is to break out of comfort zone and do new things. Of course this particular thing is kind of crazy but I knew that once it was over I would have one hell of a story to tell and I could say that I had run with the bulls. I wasn´t worried about death because people haven´t died from running in about 10 years. However, i had recently found out that on the first day a 31 year old American man from New York was paralyzed from the waist down. That obviously scared me but I also thought that he was probably one of the crazy stupid people who try to touch the bulls or he was drunk. My main concern was that I didn´t want to have to leave the trip with some injury that sidelined me for a few weeks or even a month.

One issue that was staring me in the face was that we had a bus out of Pamplona at 9:30 in the morning the next day. This wasn´t a big issue because if i did run without injury I would be able to get back to the meeting square around 845 or 9 and we would be able to make the bus if someone had previously gotten our bags unchecked from the baggage claim. With this thinking, this became a non issue and I decided that I was running the next day. Later on in the night we were talking to the other couch surfers and we found out that one of them was celebrating his 21st birthday the next day and that although originally he didn´t plan on running, he decided that it would be the birthday that he would never forget. After hearing this, Aaron, Nithin also joined the ranks and the plan was on July the 9th 2006 we were running with the bulls.

Just a small side note, Pamplona has some of the greatest fireworks that I´ve ever seen. I didn´t take pictures because my camera was checked with the rest of my stuff, but their fireworks blow anything i´ve seen in the states way out of the water. They have this competition among teams from all over the world who put on a show each night. It´s incredible, better than any OP show and even better than the show i saw in New York City on the 4th a few years back. During the show on the 8th is when the other couch surfers got their stuff stolen.

Anyway, back to the race. We once again went to sleep in decently early on the 8th so that on the 9th we would be prepared for the run of our lives.

In the morning everything was set. Aaron actually got separated from the group this time but ended up running anyway. I don´t have time to go into that right now so hopefully he will later.

Anyway, once we walked onto the course we made our way up as far as the police would allow which is just in front of the death corner. (check brandles blog in the future for more info). We had to wait here for a good 30-40 minutes until about 7:50 (10 minutes before the running). Just from talking to all of the people around us I could tell there were a lot of Americans in the crowd, most of which had no idea what they were in for. I had actually done some research on the race so I knew which side of the street was ¨safer¨ and where not to be. Although what i read gave me slight knowledge of what was going to happen I still had no idea what really to expect. When running with live bulls that weigh at about a ton it´s hard to predict and plan accordingly. Anyway, as time grew closer I could feel my heart beating faster and faster.

Finally, once the guards let up the barrier the streets became less packed and people spread out. A lot of people who didn´t know what was going on even started to run with furry. They must have thought that the race had begun when in fact it was still at least 10 minutes before the first shot (opening of bulls door) was even to happen. We decided to position ourselves on straight away of the race, similar to the same place that Brandle, Mr. Ryan, and Hatcher said that they started the day before. As we waited here you could see people praying, stretching and doing all kinds of other preparations that needed to be done before such an event. It was probably one of the most nerve racking moments of my life. As I said before, I had no idea what to expect... other than the fact that 6 huge bulls and about 6 smaller bulls are about to run by me with no regard for my well being.

I´m running out of time at the computer right now. thus i will finish this post here either tonight or tomorrow... suspense is killer isn´t it?

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Take a Nissan if you want to be driven crazy

Ahhh road trips are a beautiful thing. Last week the 5 trippers rented two cars to embark on an epic journey from Granada, Spain, north to Bordeaux, France then south the San Sabastian and end in Pamplona.

We started off making very good time, we were a few hours ahead of scheduel driving through Valencia, stopping briefly for some Paella by the beach and walk along the coast for a few hours. The next morning we drove to a magical place tucked away in the Pyranees called Andorra. Andorra is a country tucked between Spain and France, which is probably unknown to many people due to the fact that it is one of the smallest countries in the world. The country basically consists of one freeway that is lined with electronic stores and a beautiful mountainous backdrop. All of these electronic stores seemed to have migrated to Andorra for many reasons. I hear electronics love the cool, dry climate, the nice people, and the fact that the Andorra government charges 0% tax on all electronics in the country. So after a lofty 6 hour visit to the country, we continued our journey to France now equiped with a new voice recorder, camera, memory card, 10 pack of CDs, 25 DVDs. Ironically, the one tripper who needed all new electronics and thus was the most excited about our trip to Andorra (Aaron) left the country only having bought a book and a fast food extra value meal (with a beer as the drink).

So, pretty nice road trip so far, right? Its hard to imagine that very soon we would be cursing at French soil and kicking small piles of French dirt. But I digress...

After wasting some time driving in the mountains and hiking the French Pyranees, we finally made our way to Bordeaux. The drive was incredible, we wanted to avoid toll roads so we drove on the smaller rural roads which was amazing. About 70km outside of Bordeaux was started seeing rows and rows of grape vines. Our mouths were salavating, knowing that in a few hours we would be enjoying the previous generations of these grapes, at the Bordeaux fete du vin. Of course the festival was awesome (documentary coming soon) we met some incredibly generious and outgoing french people, tasted some amazing wine, and also went to the most amazing, modern wine bar I have ever seen (which was also quite cheap).

At 9:20 am, 2 July 2006 the trippers began to wake up, sharing incredible stories from the night before, energized from all the fun they have been having the previous few days. They took their time, showering (which, by the way will be the last hot shower we will have available until July 9th) grabbing their last pan au chocolates and eclairs (which I think Brandle has an unhealthy obsession to) before leaving France. Around 12:30 we started to head out of Bordeaux looking for gas stations as we were leaving the city. We first stopped in a small suburb just south of Bordeaux which was a horrible idea since we almost got lost, and the city has absolutly nothing to offer except a crazy van driver who almost backed up into the Nissan (one of our two cars), until Mike laid on the horn, to which the driver of the van stopped momentarily, then continued to back up, giving the poor little Nissan a love tap. Afterwards we headed to a different gas station where Mike was changing gears until our shifter got stuck in one gear. Conviently we were located right next to an autoparts store so Nithin and I mustered up the best french we could think of and headed inside to see if they could/would help us. (around 1pm)Although I had taken many French classes at school, I must have missed the day we covered the vocabulary for ¨We were shifting our car and a gear got stuck. I think something is wrong with the transmission.¨ Among the 4 employees we were talking to, eventually they understood the situation and two of the very very kind employees came out and looked at our car. Deciding, realitvly quickly, that they could do nothing there, they helped us call the Europe car office to see if they would fix it. (Around 2pm?). Phone calls were made, first to the French office, who told us call the Spainish office from the payphone at the mall across the parking lot. We got through and were transferred again and again until someone eventually told us the tow truck was on the way. The next hour and a half consisted mostly of shooting each other with toy guns, eating ice cream and even holding a ¨Chaco Sandal Tan-Off¨ which I´m pretty sure was the first ever sandal tan-off in history.

3:30pm, we see a tow truck driving around the parking lot, we flag them over, and they start to pull on just about every moving part under our hood. After about 10 minutes they say they will tow the car and we need to call europcar to get a new car. We were having difficulties understanding them, and we never saw any offical papers or anything saying they worked with Europcar, so we were a bit reluctant to have them take our car, without having a replacement there. Half of us stayed there to try and explain that we wouldn´t let them take our car until at least we had heard from Europcar, while Nithin and I ran back inside to make yet another call to Europcar. Well, they said to let them take the car and that just now they were going to send a taxi to take us to the office. An hour passes, we call again and they say they´ll call us back when they know whats going on. No call. Almost another hour passes, and we decide to pack all five of us, and our stuff into the one car we have and we drive back to Bordeaux, mexican style! Oh yeah, and just as we were leaving they finally called us saying that NOW they were sending a taxi, and that we had a replacement car waiting at Bordeaux train station.

It took until 7:30 until we were driving away in our new Volkswagon, because, of course, the lady at the Bordeaux office had no idea we were coming, or what we were talking about.

Well what´s a trip around the world with a few problems?

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Sunday, July 02, 2006

1 Month in (pt 1)

since nobody has posted on morocco (except brandle) i figure ill post what i wrote for travel message board. I would write a new one for my blog (and still probably will), but right now we are in france and they have crazy keyboards so it would take too long. Other than this, we are in Bordeaux for fete de vine until tomorrow, yesterday marked my 1st month abroad. From here we head back to spain to for running of the bulls which continues our crazy adventures. stay tuned more to come about this and other things....

wow Morocco was pretty intense. As suggested we first went to Fes and then made our way to Marrakech. When i say intense, i mainly refer to Fes because i don´t think i could imagine a harder city to deal with. As soon as we got off the train we were bombarded by taxi drivers who wanted to take us to a hotel or whatever. I´ve always heard that when you are in Morocco there are ¨unofficial guides¨ that will try and show you the city. Once we got by them I thought that we in the clear after we got past the train station and people trying to ¨help¨us there but i was so wrong. At first it was almost impossible for us to walk in a group alone without a ¨guide¨hassling us to show us where to stay, offering drugs or telling us that it is impossible to see the city without a guide and they are the best, cheapest or coolest in the city. People coming up to you and offering help wasn´t the problem. The problem was that theses people wouldn´t leave us alone. They would follow us around until we physically had to push them away (last resort), got in a cab, or just ignored them for long enough (one guy it took about 20 minutes). Anyway, the guides seemed to let up once we got into the Medina (old city) but the there were still a few in there towards the gate that were just as annoying. All in all I probably got offered pot at least once every 30 minutes... from either these ¨guides¨or from the people in their shops.

I don´t want Morocco to sound that bad though. One of the guides flat out told us that it wasn´t very touristy at this time of year and that he was pressuring us so much because he had no other potential customers to hassle. Anyway, other than the people who wanted money from us or wanted to help us in exchange from money Fes was great. It was a blast haggling with the shop owners and the kids there were very cool and easily amused with a digital camera. Another positive of Fes was it was unbelievably cheap. We stayed in a hotel for 5 euro a night and would get 4 course meals on rooftops for like 7 euro. When we didn´t want to splurge we could get a sandwich with fries, tea and bread (very filling) for like 1.5 euro.

Overall I would say that Fes was a decent city, but the hassle of dealing with these guides almost ruined the experience for me.

On the other hand Marrakech was a fantastic city. It was obviously much more touristy but that made it much more fun as well. Occasionally we would meet people who would want to ¨help¨ us but they were easy to deal with, having just come from Fes. Really the only part of Marrakech that we explored was the Medina but that was enough. They had a huge souk and haggling here was much more fun than in Fes. Because it was touristy, the food and such was a bit more expensive than Fes but still a great deal coming from Europe.

We stayed there 3 days and just got back to Granada. I wish i could have stayed in Morocco longer and seen some of the other cities they have to offer but I just didn´t have the time. I hear great things about Agadir and i think Chechaouene.

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Saturday, June 24, 2006

Taking Risks: Fiesta De Agua

Posted by Nithin Coca

The best things about traveling are the unexpected, random adventures. So two days ago, when I spotted a sign that said ¨Fiesta de Agua,¨ I had no idea what to expect. A Water Party? On the beach?

I grabbed the phone number slip, and headed off to get some Tapas. For some time, I completely forgot about the Fiesta.

Next scene, we are relaxing at the Mirabor San Cristobal, my favorite part of the Albaicin, the old Moorish neighborhood in Granada, admiring an amazing view of the Alhambra (pictures coming soon), with my fellow trippers and Couchsurfer Kat, when we get to discussing what we are going to do that following day.

Before I knew it, we had texted Manolo, and were going to get up the following morning to catch a bus to the beach.

What is the fiesta de agua? Good question. We were on the bus, me, Brandle, Mike, Aaron, and Kat (Mr. Ryan had to drop out due to Moroccan repercussions), when the only other English speakers on board told us we would be drenched with water on the alleys of a small village in the mountains. We had
brought no extra clothes (as everyone else on the bus had), nor had we brought a towel, due to a Spanish miscommunication (damn you Ryan for being sick!)

When we got off the bus, we were handed buckets. That´s right, Buckets. Medium sized, blue, plastic buckets. We followed the throngs (12,000 people in total) through a beautiful, green, mountain path toward a picturesque small valley town, the lights glimmering over the clear night sky. This was where the fiesta was taking place?

The crowds were amazing. The streets were packed with students, families, children, grandmas, all with buckets. From the balconies, people with hoses sprayed water down on the crowds, everyone trying to catch as much water as possible in their buckets. ¨Mucho agua, mucho agua!¨chanted the completely Spanish crowd. Within minutes, we were completely soaked with frigid water, but so was everyone else. The energy of the crowds was amazing, people were being sprayed with fire hoses, buckets, even the occasional gutter splash. The streets were running with dirty, warm water, not a single soul in the city was dry, even the hosers on the balconies were not spared the pain.

I could never have guessed when I saw that sign that I would, with 12 hours, be ambushing random people with buckets of cold water, evading super-soakers, and in general having a fantastic time. This experience, one I will never forget, could have been so easily lost had I glanced the wrong direction, had the slip fallen out of my pocket, or had Manolo never texted me back. But most of all, the experience never would have happened had we decided to take a risk. You can never get anything out of traveling unless you take chances.

All I know it...the Spanish sure know how to have a great time!

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

3 Weeks In

Wow, where to start??? It has now been just over 3 weeks since I left the USA, at times it feels as though time has flown by, other times it feels like it´s been forever. Anyway, Over the last week I´ve traveled to first Madrid, taken a day trip to Toledo and finally conquered Africa for the first time in Morocco. I´ll start off with my travels in Madrid.

I found Madrid much easier to get around than Granada ever was. Part of this was because I actually had a map so I knew where everything was and part of is was because more people speak English there. Overall I did enjoy Madrid and I do think that it would be a cool place to live, but it defiantly wasn´t as cheap as Granada is and it also it was more just like another big city rather than a city with a lot of Spanish Culture. I would compare it to something like Chicago (w/o the lakes and such) where there are tons of museums and things to do, but most of the stuff is for tourists and once you get that out of the way it´s just like most of the other typical large city. Some things that were immediately noticeable were that the people were not as friendly as Granada (didn´t say hello all the time), there were a lot more beggars, and the people were defiantly not as pretty. I think that part of this could be that Madrid has a Metro system in place so people don´t have to walk as much, also it is relatively flat compared to Granada, so you get my point...

We were in Madrid for 4 days and 3 nights and at that point I feel like I pretty much had conquered the city. The first night at the hostel (Mad) was basically a party. They have a bar there everyone gets trashed. We went out to a club after the bar closed at midnight and it was a good time. The next day, I actually took on the city on my own. This of course was possible because of my trusty map that I picked up. I walked around the whole town that day and saw a lot of cool things. They have a huge museum district and at the time I guess they had a new Picasso exhibit because his art was advertised throughout the city. Anyway, I didn´t actually make it into to the museums because the one I wanted to go into was closed on Tuesday (i think) and I never made an attempt to get back out there again. It´s ok, i´m not the biggest art fan anyway and rather would explore the city and see other things (which I did). I think the only thing that I actually paid to get into in Madrid was their Royal Palace. As you could expect it was huge and was very nice. I paid a couple extra euro to get the audio tour... big mistake. All it talked about was the art or paintings in each room and was extremely boring. Anyway, the palace was cool and I hope to have pictures up at some time... possibly at the end of this post.

Another cool thing that we did in Madrid was go to a French bar and watch the France, Swiss world cup match. Apparently Madrid has a decent French population and the kids at the bar showed their pride with all kinds of face painting and such. It was a good time but if i recall the match itself was very boring and it ended up as a tie.

The last night we were actually in Madrid we spent part of the time looking for my brother Danny. I guess he did some kind of high school 9 day study abroad in Spain program and he was going to be in Madrid the same time we were. The only problem with this was that I knew where his hotel was but I didn´t have anyway to get a hold of him. Earlier in the day I went to the hotel and talked to the reception people about how to contact him. They didn´t have very much information at all about who is in which room or even what the name of the teacher for the different American groups were. Anyway, each time i came out empty handed and had practically given up. Later on in the night (around midnight) Ii decided to take the Spanish speaking Mr. Ryan with me to try and clear things up. When we got there and talked to the people it was pretty much the same thing I heard earlier. They gave me a phone number to a guy that possibly could have been Danny´s teacher, but since it was so late, I decided it wasn´t cool to make that call without knowing who it was. We actually did see some high school girls in the lobby and I asked them if they were from KC, or at least knew the KC kids. They did and they said that they were out on the town. From there we went to a few clubs looking for them but ultimately never found them and ended up just partying in the clubs anyway. It was a pretty cool night overall. Read other peoples entries for more detail.

The next day we left our bags at our hostel and we split up into different groups. Following Kaci´s recommendation, I went to Toledo with Brandle. Toledo is a city just an hour or so south of Madrid and apparently is where the expression "Holy Toledo" comes from. We assume it has something to do with Toledo being a very Catholic center of spain at one time. Anyway, as Kaci and others have said Toledo is very beautiful. It is another walled off city in spain. At one point I do think it was the capital. Anyway, most of my facts are just speculation because I haven´t the time to do the research online and there aren´t many english books around to purchase. Our time there was short but good (4-5 hours).

My only beef with the city is that somehow my camera broke down towards the end. At first I thought it was just because I had taken a lot of photos but I´ve found that neither of my batteries will power the camera up and now it seems as though it´s just a paper weight. Damn you Toledo!!!

Anyway, after getting back to Madrid we set off for our trip to Morocco, Africa. At this point I think i´ll let other talk about Morocco and then I might add my personal opinions after.

photos (up till toledo of course)

This is a dude who was acting like a statue. I didn´t even realize when i walked by untill i saw him move slightly



this is a view of Toledo from a Church that has one of the highest points in the town.
This is a photo of the palace in Madrid.



I wish i had more people pictures, but most of these photos came when I was by myself. Others will have more of the great people pictures because like i said, my camera broke.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

quickie

Just a quick update here. Currently we are in Madrid and have been for the past 2 days. We will be here until tomorrow night. At that time we take a bus to the south of Spain and in the morning we will take a boat over to Morocco for 5 days. Then back to Granada for Aaron, Mr Ryan, and Nithin, and off to Seville for Brandle and myself. Everything in Madrid is pretty cool. They speak lost more English here so it is defiantly easier to get around. Plus it is a bigger city than Granada so there are more things to do and see. However, it's not nearly as cheap in Granada, which is most likely why the guys chose Granada over Madrid. Later today we plan on seeing a few Museums and I plan on meeting up with my brother. I think Aaron and Mr. Ryan are going for some movies because they have a sever cinema withdrawal. I'm sure people will let you know on the happenings at a later time. However, since im on the hostel free internet and there are people waiting for this computer I won't go into it. This could be one of the last posts I make until we get back from Morocco, I'm not exactly sure how good their internet is there

until next time.