A Travellerspoint blog

La Rochelle and Tours

with pics...

sunny 21 °C

Written on July 21 …

Well, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I only have enough (barely enough), to be in the towns I visit, aka, not do any sort of activity or visit or tour that require any form of payment (I’ve put a 5E limit, but realistically, nothing is less than 10E, and even that’s rare). I feel much better now that that’s settled (kinda like when I decided I wouldn’t eat Kristen’s sweets anymore - it’s liberating) as I don’t feel like I should wonder if an activity is worth it or not, if I should do it or not, if I’ll regret it if I don’t do it…. Now it’s so very simple, if it’s more than 5E, it’s not happening. As such, I’m somewhat only scouting for my next visit (where I’ll make sure to have a budget of 100E/day, as opposed to my current 40).

So anyway, here are a few pics from Bordeaux. I’m not taking very many pictures, as people are not very remarquable (just like us really, at least on picture) and, well, a building is a building… and once again, you can easily go to Qc city if you want to get the feel (travelling has really made me realize that we have it all in Can, except for India, most of I’ve seen/done so far I could have seen/done, with light variations, somewhere in Canada!).

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"Si j'avais les ailes d'un ange, je partirais pour... Québec!" (French-QC song)

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It's nice to see the contrast of the new tram in front of the old cathedral.

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This was a fairly common sight, the old street names used to be carved in a brick of the house at the corder of that road. Here we have the original name "Rue Royale", which was renamed "Rue de la Liberté" during the revolution (Freedom fries anyone?? hehehe), and is now something else.

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This is just a building, called Place des Douanes (Bordeaux used to be the most important port of the region, and this place is right in front of the water) where the buildings still have the same function as hundreads of years ago!!! I visited Bordeaux on a walking tour (before ,y resolution to not tqke more tours), and I must admit that it was very interesting to hear about the history and purpose of certain landmarks. For example, the guide talked about the architects that designed that part of town, a fqther and subsequently his son, why the buildings qre in the shqpe they are, etc. I forget most detqils, but it was very interesting.

Anyway, I then visited the city of La Rochelle, which was very pretty, but mostly (read: entirely) living off tourism, which means that everything is overpriced and geared toward families and couples. This brings me to my second resolution for when I come back, it’ll definitely be with someone, preferably a “my man”, as Europe really feels like a place to visit with someone. I’ve met quite a few other lone travellers, but I know I would be having a better time right now if I was with someone I’m close to. Anyway, no biggie, as this is only a “scouting trip”, right? . Back to La Rochelle, here are a few pics.

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La Rochelle is known for it's fort and port, and has always been known to be a bit of a rebel town, electing a mayor while everyone was still under the monarchy, being protestant when all of France is catholic, and stuff like that. It was also the capital of France (or was it Bordeaux...?) for a while, until it was moved to Paris.

Anyway, undeniably, the best time was to watch, over and over again, parents getting angry with their kids (who indeed literally bounced off the walls)… travelling with young kids… hmmm maybe not such a good idea! Hehehe I don’t know if the French have too high expectations, or if their kids were really that bad (I’ve seen quite a few who actually were!!) but it didn’t seem fun for them. All I could hear as I was walking around was “don’t do this, come back, do that, that’s IT, it’s the last time I tell you!, no you’re not getting this or that or that or that! Hehehe good times! Hehehe

Last pic of La Rochelle, simply because I hadn't seen a nice sunset in a while:
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I still had the bad cold in La Rochelle and felt very bad about coughing and tossing and turning (being in a room with 5 other people), so I barely slept both nights. However, I must mention that I was in a room with French girls (for the first time), actually I should say women (late 20’s and mid 30’s), which was sooo much better than being with the younger people of before (I’m not much in the party mood, can’t afford it) and these women actually wore normal clothes (as opposed to the “skankyness" of the younger crowd).

I left La Rochelle on the Ze-Bus (I LOVE that name, it’s actually how the French sound when they try to say “the”hehehe), which dropped me in a town called Tours, where, oh how wonderful, I have a single room!!!!! For 18E/day (aka pretty much same price as the other Auberges), this Auberge de Jeunesse only has single rooms (actually becomes a student residence during school time)! I’m staying here 4 nights and couldn’t be more ecstatic about my accommodations!!! Furthermore, they don't kick us out during the day (all the other places so far would block access to the dorms from i.e 10-4 or 11-5 for cleaning -which was kind of annoying, specially for sick me). Now I can, sleep in, go back for a nap anytime, toss and turn, blow my nose as loud as I want (I’m still quite sick), cough, go to the bathroom (shared, but whatever) as often as I want, all without bothering anyone at all. This type of room is pretty much what I’ll have for the coming year in Residence at U of Montreal, so I’m happy to see that it’s totally satisfying!
So anyway, I’m starting to feel better already (or maybe it’s just the medication I got at the pharmacy…) and I think I’ll be fully back up and running by the time Ze-Bus picks me up on Tuesday. We will then go see some castles, before getting dropped off in Paris, where I’ll probably be staying with the boyfriend of a friend of a friend (sounds sketchy, but is not! Hehehe). That should allow me to save a bit of $$ (aka not go over budget for once!), while meeting some French people (they are sooo funny to hear when they speak, they sound exactly like in the movies, with their “oh la la” or “c’est la galère” hehehe. After 4-5 days in Paris, I still have 7-8 days where I have to decide where to go…. I plan on finalizing my itinerary on Monday at the latest, buy all my tickets and reserve all my hostels, and just enjoy the rest of the trip.
Tours is known for being a student town (big U here), as well as the main centre for the Loire region. It's nice to be in a "real" town (not only touristic), and just walk around and stuff. I heard that they have a 7E card which grants access to all the museums, as well as a walking tour of the old town... it exceeds my 5E limit, but by so little, and for seemingly such a good value! I'll let you know what I decide.

Well, that's that for that.
Cheers!

P.S. It's freaking cold here!!!! It'd kind of ok in the sun in the afternoon, but there's always a cool breeze and it gets freaking cold as soon as the sun disappears! It's apparently once of their zorst summer in years, and I agree, it does't feel like summer!!

Posted by Mistrale 06:38 Archived in France Comments (0)

Bordeaux

Vive la France!!!

sunny 30 °C

Written on July 17....

First of all, I thought that the keyboards in Spain were messed up, but the French one take the cake!! There is pretty much not a single key in the same place as "our keyboards", which means that I type like a grand-ma who's just been put in front of a keyboard for the first time!!!, with the exception that my fingers automatically go for the "old" key location on pretty much every keystroke! arrgghh!! You thought there were a lot of typos in my blogs before!!! (well at least it forces me to read them before posting them... I guess! but what a pain!!!) Furthermore, they've configured the PC here (at the hostel) so that we basically can't do anything with it other than Internet and Word... aka hid the Start button so we can't play in the control panel...

Anyway, other than that I'm very happy to be in France and I'm totally enjoying being able to understand anything anyone says at anytime! It feels so free and easy!!! Well, free in the sense of "not trapped", not in the sense of inexpensive, because free it is not!!! Gees!!!! I didn't take surfing lessons in San Sebastian because they were 50E/day, so imagine my face when I heard that a day of going around wineries and wine tasting was 85 (!!!!) E !!!! I could have gone on a 1/2day for 30E, but by the time I had wrapped my head around the idea, the tour was full... oh well, I guess I'll gust have to go in the Okanagan (or whenever I come back to France, which is bound to happen anyway); So instead I took a walking tour of the Old Bordeaux, which was quite nice and instructive. I got a few decent pics to post some other time (the PC here is -not surprisingly- locked in a wooden box).

However, despite my relief at being in a country where I can fully communicate, I must admit that I'm very tired...it may be from the massive cold that kept me in bed all day yesterday (or maybe I got the cold because I'm tired...), but I think it's still the "having to plan transportation & accommodation in a foreign city, pack my stuff and go every other day" syndrome... It doesn't help that I didn't have a guide book yet (until today) and that the one I ended-up with it not that great at all... I found out that there is a reason why Lonely Planet is so widely used, it's because it's BY FAR, the most comprehensive and useful and user friendly guide out there!!! Coming a far second is the Michelin guide, but it barely compares... Unfortunately, I couldn't find a single edition of LP France, in English or French, anywhere. It seems the French prefer to sell guides for every single region separately (not exactly useful!!!), so I ended-up with a Reader Digest guide; with decent maps and a stupid little tourist blurb on every region/city (no "how to get there" or "hostel/hotel listings" though!!!), so I feel a bit left alone on the "find a place to stay" front. Luckily, the Auberge de Jeunesse are everywhere here, and apparently invariably the cheapest option; so I just find the one in my next destination, call and book (knock on wood, been lucky so far with bed availability). However, in these places, I always end-up in the dorms, which I also think I have to get used to. I find sharing sleeping quarters with 4 to 6 people a bit draining, but I'll get used to it I guess (double unfortunately, in the Auberge de Jeunesse, they separate girls and guys dorms, so I don't even get eye candy...That must be why my batteries are so low! hehehe

Nevertheless, the French people are very nice, very friendly and welcoming. Today I got a hair cut (at the only "no name, not fancy and therefore not expensive" place I found. It was a small salon, and my hairdresser had been there 17 yrs! She knew all her clients by name, their history, the whole thing! So cool!!!
Well, that's that for that, heading off to La Rochelle tomorrow and from then I've booked a "kind of tour", with ze-bus; where they drive around a loop, through certain cities, and we get to get off wherever we want and stay for however long we want in each city, and just hop on the next bus (generally a couple of days later). Furthermore, they reserve places in the local Auberge de Jeunesse for us, which I hope will alleviate my "fed-up'ness" over the next 4-8 days!!
Cheers!!!!

Posted by Mistrale 11:25 Archived in France Comments (0)

Last thoughts on San Sebastian

with pics...

sunny 32 °C

Written on July 15...

Well, I must admit that I can´t wait to go. My train is at 4:40 tonight, and I feel like I should have left yesterday..oh well! Everything is closed today (Sunday) and restaurants actually charge 30-50%more than on week-days!!! Already that one has to pay 10-30%extra to sit on the patio, but add another 1/3-1/2 and it's just completely out of this world!!! I will want to come back to Spain, but only when I have shite loads of disposable income!!! I´m afraid I´ll share the same feeling for the rest of my trip...

So anyway, I´ve tried the famous tapas..and they’re good..but once again, I’m price stuck. Essentially, each bar puts out these finger food (mostly slices of baguette with some pate and or some stuffed peppers and or some proschutto, ham and/or other meat), you choose the ones you want (cost between 1.5E to 3.5E ea), have a beer or some drink and eat standing up somewhere in the bar…I had 3 things and 1 beer and it cost me almost 10E (!!!) If I didn´t care about $$, I´d love the concept (the food is actually quite good and it´s fun to try different things!).
Here are a couple of pics of the displays.
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Other than that, I must admit that I feel like I´m in neverending Old Quebec! I now very much understand what Europeans meant when they would tell me how similar it is (back when I worked in the Old Qc)…except for the fact that everyone only speaks Spanish! Hehehe, I can´t wait to get to France!!!!
Here are a few pics…
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That statue at the very left is a statue of Jesus...
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San Sebastian is also known to be one of the best beaches in Europe…I though of going until I actually walked there and saw people were crammed like sardines!! I need a good 4-5feet space around me at the beach to be fully comfortable..I think I would have been lucky to have a couple of inches on that beach! Hehehe

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Oh well! No biggie..I had my load of beaching in Thailand. Furthermore, I must admit that I feel quite inadequate here..on the clothing and fashion sense (it doesn’t help that my bathing suit got washed with something red and now had uneven red dye all over the bottom part!!)… Everyone is dressed very well, and with more or less good taste, but always very sexy…I really don´t have the right wardrobe for here, cruelly miss my hair dryer (for the first time so far in this trip!), some perfume, and wish I knew how to properly apply eye make-up!. Oh well, I hope that it´ll be different in France, but I doubt it. Hehehe, I expected it, but not to that extent!

Oh well….that´s that for me for now! I must decide if I want to spend 10E on more tapas (and still be hungry, or 17E for some paella (which I was told is not the best in San Sebastian, better in some other region of Spain, or buy yet another supermarket pizza to heat up at the hostel...)

More from Bordeaux, which I chose to visit solely on the fact that they make wine there! :-)
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P.S: The weather is gorgeous, and it's currently 32celcius, but it still feels a tad chilly to me..the wind is omnipresent and quite cool...

Posted by Mistrale 04:46 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Madrid, San Sebastian and Pamplona

No ablos Español!!! hehehe, but can read a little!

sunny 24 °C

Written on July 13...

There´s one last picture of India that I would like to post (for now). I took it on my last day, and it is of 2 men working in a ... I don’t know if it a telephone or electricity pole (or maybe both)! Hehehe
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Ah, Beautiful San Sebastian! First of all, a quick recap of the last day in Madrid...I went to see a flamenco ballet of the opera Carmen (I just happened to stumble on the theatre while walking around, as the ticket booth was opening! Cool!. I had only send two brief flamenco performances so far in my life and I loved it both time, so it was a definite treat to see a full 1:30h show!! I’m still not exactly sure of the story however; some woman (Carmen) is disliked by her peers (I think she’s higher social class of something –assumption from her better clothes), falls in love with a low level army guy, not correct love, so he goes to jail...she frees him, they’re together, she dances with another guy (toreador), falls for him, dumps the other guy, dances some more, then falls dead...hehehe... the flamenco was great, enhanced by the live signer (with that ‘genuine flamenco signer voice’) and guitar player. I also specially liked when an older woman made a random dance. While the other dancers clearly had more classical ‘ballet’ training, she was the real flamenco deal, with the energy, the stance, the strength! She was at least 50yrs old, but had absolutely wonderful legs...her performance was so strong, simply wonderful! Flamenco is clearly a seduction dance, and I must admit that I loved the men more than the women...they are so strong and proud and powerful...I wonder which (if any) animal this dance is inspired from...somewhere between the bull and the roster! Hehehe Overall soo happy with the experience (even better from the fact that the tickets were half price, 15 instead of 30E! –Wednesday special! Cool!!!)
Anyway, I also visited a bit of Madrid, namely the Palace (only used for some formal functions now),
the fabulously peaceful Palace garden,
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This bunny kept running aorund me, which I though was cute initially, but sort of creeped me out after a while (he litterally would just run in circles around me...weird!)
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the Cathedral ‘de la Almudena’
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and the Museo del Prado. The museum experience was a bit of a disappointment however, as despite it being filled with ‘big names’, I just don’t really connect/click with painted art (specially when the little explanation boards are all in Spanish and when at least 90% of the paintings are of religious nature (to be expected from European art of the ...several past centuries) and/or the Monarchy/well-to-do. I really enjoyed the few sculptures however, although the urge to touch was sometimes overwhelming (in my opinion sculptures were made to be touched, made by tactile people, yet I fully understand the impossibility of allowing the public to touch unique and priceless pieces of art!).

I also found the perfect restaurant (only seen in Madrid so far)! Called FrescCo, it´s an 'all you can eat' buffet for 8.5E! I had 3 MASSIVE salads (which I missed so much while in India!) and some roasted chicken and some pizza and some dessert (hehehe I was hungry! Food is quite expensive here, so I had mostly stuck to bread and peanut butter thus far!-yes yes, I had been carrying a tub of peanut butter since Thailand, for ‘if Indian food was bad and/or I could not really afford European food'! Hehehe, seems crazy, but it turned out to be a great idea! Hehehe for me at least!). On the topic of food, I must admit my disappointment at the food here, as 1:it´s crazy expensive (generally at least 12E for a meal, not bad if you’re paid in Euro, but for the little CAD$, it sucks ass!), 2: EVERYTHING has meat (or almost) of some sort...combining that with menus in Spanish, I haven’t eaten much in restaurants, opting for..well, not eating very much, and buying food at the grocery store and eating at the hostel. This ‘omnipresent’ meat (and fear of cost) has also kept me away from the renowned Tapas...I think I’ll blow all caution out the door tomorrow, and have some as I don’t think I can reasonably come to Spain and not have Tapas (and Sangria and paella as a matter of fact).

Anyway! I took the train over to San Sebastian and it left right on the dot, at 10am sharp! How cool! And it even arrived on time!!!! Wow! I had some time to ponder on my lack of passion about Spain thus far, and it came to me, as I was reading a WONDERFUL book. It’s called ‘Lost in Transmission´ (I forget the name of the author right now), but it’s about this Australian journalist who becomes the foreign correspondent of his news channel for South east Asia (he’s based in New Delhi, but also covers Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, etc). I don’t know if I enjoy this book so much because I’ve been there and recognize the quirks of Indian people (as he explains countless anecdotes of when he tries to settle in his new job, as well as just live and work in this region), but I definitely think that he does a great job at explaining the Indian people –I strongly recommend it! Anyway, in the book he goes back to Australia for a few weeks and can’t help but find the place flat and boring...I realized that my problem was that I hadn’t left India in my head and in my heart (knowing is half the battle) an that this book was sort of keeping me in the mind frame...so I finished it asap and am now happy to report that I’m glad to be here and that I think Europe is great! Hehehe For example, I was walking on the street in Madrid and a man was walking toward me, while opening a package of some food or something. He dropped a portion of the wrapping on the sidewalk, actually stopped and bent down to pick it up (!!!!!!!!) I hadn’t sent hat in over 5 months!!!!!! Wow!!!!! Furthermore, people as so polite here! Cars stop to let pedestrian cross the street (!!!!!!) and people line up to get in busses and trains (!!!!! I actually have to be careful and consciously get in line, as the habit of cutting everyone has become somewhat of a reflex!!hehehe). At first I was a bit shocked at seeing girls wear very skimpy clothes, and had a hard time going back to ‘showing some skin’, but I´m getting there !!!hehehe The mood is very different here, as my fellow travellers are here to party and relax (as opposed to discover culture or anything like that), which means that they travel differently and carry different things (aka I heard a blow dryer for the first time since I started travelling! I couldn’t believe that the girl was travelling with her blow-dryer, but here in Europe, it actually makes sense. People dress well, fashionably, and I’m in constant internal struggle to not buy clothes or shoes –wonderful wonderful shoes here!!!)

Anyway, upòn my arrival in San Sebastian, I met 3 American girls and 2 guys from Mtl at the hostel and we all planned to go to Pamplona that night (last night), for the San Fermin festival (run of the bull). Pamplona is approx 1 hour away from San Sebastian, but is WAY out of range $$ wise, so many people stay in San Sebastian. The last bus leaves at 9pm, and the bull run is a 8am, so the trip involves spending the night up partying (twist my arm!!!hehehe). I bought some booze at the grocery store (for a flabbergasting 3E for a 40ounce of Rum!!!!! Booze is WAY cheap here (I just bought a 1.5L of Sangria –in an effort to taste it before I leave, 2 nights from now, and it cost me 0.99E!!!! hehehe Awesome!!!) in the markets, but crazy crazy expensive in the bars (which means that I won’t go out! Not worth it!).
Anyway, the festival ends tonight, but there was fireworks and an ‘almost all night’ music show last night! It was a LOT of fun!!! Staying up ended-up being very very easy and a great time! It was also great to be at a pop show, with all those old and young Spanish people, everyone –or almost- dressed in white, with some red (neck scarf, shoes, belt, etc), dancing and signing!
While many people were saying thet the actual run was not all that it´s hyped up to be and that we were better off in the stadium (where they have smaller bulls run around and hit anything they see) for that portion of the show), of the 6 of us, 4 decided to go straight in, while a guy and I decided to also see the actual run (after all, it’s what I was here for, I didn´t even know there was a stadium show until that night!). We got great seats (on the fence) and waited for a couple of hours, seeing the preparative, ambulances, lots and lots of paramedics, police, street cleaners, etc prepare for the event.
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The run itself was indeed quite anticlimactic (it literally lasted 5 seconds and there were only 5 bulls –I was expecting a full heard), but the adrenaline and enthusiasm was great! I didn´t get any good pics infortunately, but the guy got a video which he´ll send me.
We then proceeded to the arena, where the following pics were taken...( there´s a great video where the bull nabs 3 people in a row!!)
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This portion of the show lasted almost 1 hour and several small bulls were released one after the other. One even jumped past the first gate (where some of the poeple sometimes get refuge from the ring)! heheeh what a commotion that was!!! hehehe Poor animal though. While no actual harm was done to them, it must have been a stressful and nasty experience for each one of them...

We were told that there´s a corrida at 6pm, with a toreador and a bull is put to death, but it´s expensive, and I´m not sure I really wanted to see a bull slowly die before my eyes (I´ve seen the slaying of a mutton in Morocco years ago and that was enough for me!).
Last couple of pics;
The eternal and incontournable Don Quichotte:
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And last but not least, one must not forget that there´s poverty here as well. I´ve repeatdly seen sights similar to this one:
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So that’s that for me for now. This internet is running me way high (at 2E-hour!!!), so adios amigos!

P.S. I find it interesting and surprising to see that, in this part of Spain at least, there isn´t a 'Spanish look'. Spaniards look very different, some are very white, some darker, all colour hair..just plain simply different! One thing in common¨they don´t speak English or French!!! (arrgghh!), but I realize that I can understand more than I originally thought (specially reading), and coming here is triggering a desire to learn Spanish...oh we'll see... I'd consider a school exchange (semester abroad) here, but the Euro is a bit of a killer...

Posted by Mistrale 12:41 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Ola!

Wow what a difference!!!

sunny 25 °C

Written on July 10...

I just made it to Spain this morning, after a wonderful flight (got upgraded to business class), thanks to the guy beside me. As we were about to take off, the stewartist came to him and said he could move up (Anthony -the guy beside me- had apparently made him laugh by saying "welcome to civilization" as we walked ont he plane...hehehe whatever works! hehehe). Since we had been chatting, I asked if I could go with him, and the stewartist said yes!!! yay!! SO we ended up talking and drinking (moderatly, only 2 bottles of red wine -airplane size- each) until 5am (the plane took off at 2:10am).
First things first, important detail about the airport. My cousin Rafale had mentioned this a long time ago, but I had sort of forgotten, until I got to the entrance door to the airport, only to find a significant line-up! It turns out that they check the passports and tickets of people before letting anyone in the airport...maybe to reduce the traffick inside (it´s quite crammed in there), maybe for security against terrorism... I´m not sure. Anyway, I´m not sure if I mentioned this, but I had read in Lonely Planet that women could bypass line-ups to buy tickets at the train station simply by walking at the front of the line and taking the next available spot...so I tried my luck and just walked straight pass the line (at least 20-25 people) and just gave my passport and ticket to the army guy as soon as he had his hands free...and it worked! hehehe, no one complained at all and I saved a good 30-40 minutes waiting! hehehe, gotta love India!!! I also saved a shite load of time by having checked-in online (thank you British Airway for this wonderful option!), as the line-up for the 1 “regular” check-in counter was just out of this world. Instead I got to check-in at the very quick “First class” counter! Hehehe good times!
The plane left on time (shock of all shocks!!! I´m not used to this anymore- at all!!) and was pleasantly reminded of the joys of developped countries while waiting in London for my connexion to Madrid. Madrid is pretty darn good so far! It´s clean, smells good, is quiet (guess what we don´t hear: people honking!!! wow!), good food (a bit pricey, but it´s Europe! So to be expected!)
I do have one very major complaint however....it hit me as soon as I walked in the airport in Madrid....everyone here speaks Spanish )deh! you´ll say).... I don´t know if it´s just because I´m so tired (I only slept 3 hours last night, and not very comfortably), but I´m oh so tired of being in countries that don´t speak my language!!! This is the 6th so far... and I think it´s worst because it´s somewhat close, but still oh so different, that it´s even more frustrating (as opposed to any of the other languages which had nothing at all, written or spoken, inc ommon with anything I knew)...so I don´t think I´ll bother going to Barcelone (combined with the fact that it´s oh so far away and out of my way). I think I´ll stay in Madrid 1 more day, then off to San Sebastian/Pamplona for 3 nights, then up to France, where people finally speak the same language as me!!! (albeit with a very weird accent, but still!) I can´t wait!!!!
Gotta go,
Cheers!

Posted by Mistrale 09:14 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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