Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category

Un-holiday

I think it was when the elevator arrived on the Emirates floor that I knew I wouldn’t be going. There was a man in a suit and a name tag surrounded by people, he was talking to an Indian fellow who was complaining that his family got free accommodation in Dubai so why did he have to pay here?

There was a family nearby sitting on the floor, mum was leaning on dads shoulder, little brother and little sister were asleep in their parents laps drooping like dolls. A teenager complained to to her father that the battery to her iPod had just like gone flat and that this was lame and could they please just go back to the hotel because they were playing Sex in the City soon on tv and she’d only seen that episode ‘like-once’.


( ↑ This dude had the very worst job in the world that day)

I approached a man that had a funny lopsided sad smile and asked where the back of the queue, he pointed at a little machine and told me I could get a number.

The counter was up to 62, I got 183. I sat down on the floor next to a woman reading a guide book.

After about 40 minutes I tried talking to the man in the suit with the name tag who was still surrounded by people. He took one look at my itinerary and smiled a grimace at me.

“I don’t think your connection from Dubai to Paris will fly. There is a possiblity that we won’t even be allowed to put you on the flight TO Dubai. ”

Heart, meet my shoes.

“Can I get a different flight?”
“No”

“I’m going to have to wait in this queue for a refund?”
“Yes.”

I went to take my spot back on the floor when the lady who had been sitting next to me with the guide book handed me her number.

“I don’t need to wait” she said. Her accent was French.

“Are you sure?”

She handed the peice of paper to me, it was 103. I thanked her profusely and she turned and headed for the elevator. I just want to say in case that lovely lady by chance reads this. Thank you again.

At this stage it was up to 72 or similar. Phil and I whiled away the time playing monopoly on my iPhone. And I occasionally would call out the number on the screen, fufilling an vauge urge to help this tired mass of people around me.

When my number was called I jumped up like I had won bingo.

The lady at the counter’s name was Margret. She had a gold nametag and had already dealt with many bingo winners today and clearly the excitement had worn off. She squinted at my itinerary.

“I can send this to the Melbourne office, they will give you a refund” she then stamped and stuck and wrote stuff all over my itnarary. Told me thankyou and motioned for me to leave.

My bingo prize didn’t seem as exciting as when my number was called – what kind of idiot gets excited about NOT going to Europe.

That night in the hotel in Singapore just after I had gotten into bed I felt sad, then annoyed then I totally paniced. What if my flight flew? What if the Emirates man was wrong? I had been waiting for this for 5 months. What if I had just given away my only chance to see Paris? What if the volcano never goes away and the only way to travel in the future is on curise liners stuffed with old folk?

Im pretty sure that volcano-stunted-holidays are very much a first world issue and that really I should have been ok with being in Singapore in the first place. But I wasn’t ok with it, so I had a bit of a moment. I know there are starving kids out there and some Americans dont know where it is on a map but I really really wanted to go to Europe. And I wasn’t going to Europe. And that sucked, so I cried.

Barcelona

The train from Valencia to Barcelona had a hostess. She handed out headphones and sweets. I was more than a little bit ratty when we got there, nothing to do with the train hostess though. The overnight train from Granada to Valencia had resulted in my brain leaving me for someone younger, prettier and more awake. So I arrived in Barcelona with a little black storm cloud over my head.

Intrepid make the city orientation tour mandatory so after dumping my pack and surveying my hotel room (a triple with views of a classic Spanish construction site complete with grunty apes posing as construction workers) I grudgingly continued being a social animal.

We were wandering down one of the many little alley ways that make up Bari Gothic when I realised that I was smiling. First there was bar with finger food skewered with assorted sticks of different length, that denoting their price. The food was good too, I love tiny food, and it was all so fresh and interesting.

Then the shopping district that featured store after store that seemed specifically stocked as to send me completely broke. These were punctuated with boutique chocolate, lolly, tea and ice cream stores at a frequency found only in an obese 12 year old’s dreams.

Next, just past las Ramblas was the fruit market, furnished with fruit so colourful Im sure I’ve since gone blind. No colour will ever be as bright to me again. And next to the fruit; juice, candied nuts and little pink faced children(and I) staring at the potential banquet in awe.

Fruit Stall

I was more than happy to walk miles in that city. So we trekked up Las Ramblas, past Casa Batlló and La Pedrera to the Sagrada Familia. And while the apartments and the cathedral were beautiful, awe inspiring, everything the tourists describe them as. I didn’t get really excited until I saw his drawings in the museum, which released that wonderful burst of creativity you get from being inspired.

Ceiling of the Sagrada Familia

Gaudi Drawing

On then to the Fundacio Joan Miro, Park Güell, Museu Picasso de Barcelona then back to Las Ramblas, always back to Las Ramblas. It didn’t matter where I went that day, I always ended up back there. It was like the city’s spine.

9 June - Skwerl

It was an amazing place; all fun, interesting, odd and alive. I drank from the Fountain of Canaletas so I’m going back one day. I’m even glad for the dark little cloud I arrived with because the sudden juxtaposition made it all seem so bright.

On my last day it rained, I caught a train to the airport and stared out windows until my flight boarded.

In Transit: Barcelona – Amsterdam – Changi

Flight out of Barcelona

Getting off the plane was a bit rough too, my poor little body is protesting loudly. My feet were swollen to the point where my shoes ceased to fit and I had to take them off and go lay down. And I’m extremely unsteady on my feet and all hot and cold, like motion sickness without the nausea, which actually makes sense because I took anti nausea medication at the start of the flight.

I’ve just treated myself to a proper coffee (I may have neglected to mention that coffee in Spain is awful and/or odd) and a Mrs. Fields chock chip cookie of doom which has cheered me up almost completely. I also spent 15 min in my favorite Changi bathroom washing and preening.

Some other technical glitches I’m currently experiencing are:

  1. I have 3 types of currency in my wallet right now; Euro, Singaporean Dollars and Australian dollars. And in my present state I can;t tell the difference between them.
  2. The flight freaked the skin on my face out and made me all spotty. Looking in the mirror gave me a fright.
  3. Changi is HOT.
  4. The Koi ponds here are distracting, Can I get a pet Koi fish?
  5. Didn’t buy Absinthe in Amsterdam and now wish I did, silly me

All this aside, I’m glad its all uncomfortable like on the way back, and not on the way there. Else conquering Madrid would have been a complete pain. I realise I haven’t done a write up on Barcelona yet either, its a beautiful wonderful city and I want to do it justice and sit down and write about it properly (I’m standing right now, using the internet and sitting down are mutually exclusive and Changi airport apparently).

Over Amsterdam

A few days ago I uploaded Photos of my adventures;
http://flickr.com/photos/tessfrench/sets/72157605412224239/

Home in 11 hours and counting.

Ronda & Granada

Ronda’s exactly how I expected Spain to be. Its a tiny town built in the old way1 that used to house the Moorish king. The highlight of the trip so far is the four star hotel we stayed at there. An English country manor style situated on top of a huge cliff and overlooking a valley full of vineyards and olive orchards. Most of the city had stunning views of waterfalls, donkeys in poppy fields, farms and mountains. We spent the day sampling the local food which has been by far the best we’ve had, and drinking sangria and beer. Ronda was very satisfying.

Wildflowers in Ronda

Granada is apparently a university city, and houses the Alhambra which I’m visiting tomorrow. Walked up there today to get my ticket and am excited, is the first large amount of lush greenery I’ve seen my whole time. Its a crazy little place with ultra steep streets and at the top of some of the hills you can see snow on the mountains – I took photos. The city is friendly and easy to navigate, is full of trinket stores that I must resist purchasing junk from and is looking positive in terms of food. All of this is good as this is the only city we spend 3 days in.

Alhambra sunshade

My skin has finally acquired some colour as the sun has finally come out, the downside of this being that I think (despite numerous applications of suncream) that my nose is burnt. Its hard to eat healthy here as the Spanish diet seems to consist of doughnuts and cured and/or preserved meat, so despite all the walking I’m doing I think there will be a little bit of extra flab when I get back. But despite that I seem to have fared the best out of all my traveling companions who’s ailments range from not appreciating the food to the flu.

There isn’t much going out or partying – our adventures extending as far as drinks with lunch or dinner. This would be probably because of two things; one – the mean age of the group would be about 40 and two – many of the cities we are visiting for more than 1 night seem just that little bit scary at night.

I’m excited right now because this little internet cafe sells my brand of deodorant which I didn’t think was at all available in Spain, so I’m about to go shopping. And yes you read right, this internet cafe is also a supermarket. So I’m off to get that then go to dinner. Its tapas tonight.

Alhambra gardens

1 To clarify I have divided town planning in Spain into two, the old way and the new way. The old way is how most people imagine Spain, three or more stories of terrace like houses in rows along narrow cobble stone streets. This is quickly being replaced (and knocked down) by the new way, which is rows and rows and rows of what we would call housing commission flats. And despide their ugliness to me I think the Spanish rather like them because they are numerous and everywhere.