A Travellerspoint blog

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

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