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World on a Shoestring A beginnger's guide to traveling around the world...as written by beginners...

Bring the Spain

SPAIN | Monday, 14 January 2008 | Views [1878]

Au revoir, Cannes, we’re headed across the border for the final month of our trip and to celebrate Genny’s 25th year en estilo!

Our train out of Cannes looks like it took a wrong turn in 1973, stopped at a polyester factory, and ended up on our platform. But blind with the prospect of birthday splurging (any excuse to go over budget), we boarded with a little salsa in our step, bound for Barcelona. We were pleased to find that first class tickets come with decent seats AND some in-flight entertainment: a visit to the restaurant car produced Oreo’s, milk, and a new friend, right out of Texas. I had just met my first conspiracy theorist. So convinced was my new amigo that 9/11 was a conspiracy concocted by the American government with nothing, in fact, to do with Al Qaeda or any of its corollaries and was nothing more than a play to fatten the wallets of the oil tycoons, that he would gladly share his preposterous hypothesis with any nearby pasajero. Should no passengers be within earshot, the restaurant-car's barkeep became the default audience, regardless of his ability to speak English (he couldn’t). And so fervent was our conspiracy farmer from Texas that as the train pulled into the station at 12:30 am and his audience dispersed, he continued to sew his seeds, handing out DVDS instead of business cards and encouraging us to keep an open mind…and trust no one. For those of you interested in his rants…er, I mean theories, visit www.fearorlove.com.

So here we are, almost 1 am in Barcelona, all the tourism offices in the station are closed, and we have only vague wisps of leads on local campgrounds. Fortunately, Barcelona is nice enough to keep staff on hand at the train station at all hours of the night to direct people in just such a situation to their far begot destinations. Familiarity breeds comfort, so from our sparse list we pick a campground called Villanova and at 1 am set out with our Spanglish instructions. Our train arrives 45 minutes later to a station illuminated by the dwindling taillights of the night’s last public bus, leaving taxis as our only option. With the rumble of our taxi’s exhaust growing fainter in the distance, the security guards politely inform us that there’s no room left at the campsite and that we can not come in, who cares that it’s 3 in the morning. Thank God Genny paid attention in Spanish class all those years ago; she manages to convince security that there’s no way there ISN’T a swatch of land 3 meters by 2 meters somewhere on their compound where we could just put our tent until 8 the next morning when we can catch a bus back to the city! We pitch tent, catch 5 hours of z’s then head to the main office the next morning to settle our tab. They enthusiastically charge us 40 euro for the few hours and small piece of land we used.

Screw that. We got out of there, found a place that was a 25 minute bus ride from center city, right on the beach, and cost 40 Euros for five nights instead of five hours. But it’s not the convenient proximity to the city that makes Estrella Del Mar (our campsite) most appealing. What is most appealing about this site is that it’s a long term campsite. So every morning we wake with the sun and head to their café to enjoy our cappuccinos where all the local old men smoke cigars, play dominos, and vigorously imbibe their morning liqueurs and beers with the enthusiasm of drunken college students. Seriously, we went to Penn State, and I've seen seasoned frat boys that don't posses the dedication to start this early, or the stamina to go for as long as these AARP members went.

With base camp established we headed into Barcelona (pronounced "Bar-THE-Lona due to the egotistical whims of a narcisistic king with a speech impediment) to celebrate Genny’s 25th cumpleaños!

It started with a romantic stroll down Las Ramblas, and ended with a delicious 7 course meal. But what kind of birthday would this be without presents? A bad one. And what kind of man would I be if I didn’t get the best for my baby? A bad one. So shop we did, and presents she got. In the shops of Barcelona, we finally found the bag Genny’s been dreaming of! And after touring his almost Dr. Seussian house, in the most unlikely place, the gift shop of the Gaudi Museum, we found the ring she’d been pining after for some time. Fully accessorized, we sat down to a huge meal and made our best attempts at rupturing the lining of our stomachs with Spanish omelets and paella and returned to the campsite engorged.

The next day, another beautiful one in Spain’s faultless climate, we joined the throngs of Spanish sun worshippers at the beach. Unlike our fellow idolaters, however, we were a bit too modest to allow the sun to shine on the dark sides of our moon…but that didn’t stop the Spaniards from bearing all, nor did it stop from me from parading around in my boxer briefs for lack of a bathing suit; I’m sure no one noticed, though, as my bathing attire was the least risqué that day; the pervert who invented the male thong needs to be ejecutado. A day of sun and a night of fun, we journeyed back into the city to catch the night time festivities put on by the innumerable Las Ramblas buskers and street artists. Many an hour can be lost watching a caricature artist exaggerate the features that people are most self-conscious about…hey, as long as it’s not me, I’m up for the laugh.

We finally left Barcelona and headed to what would end up being our home for some weeks, Seville. Now that we were seasoned professionals, finding the campsite was a breeze; ask for directions and comply. Again, Genny, thanks for paying attention in Spanish class. We set up shop headed into town where we wandered the streets, had some beers and enjoyed the city. Spain boasts some of the nicest weather we’ve encountered, and southern Spain is no slouch when it comes to heating the planet. Our campsite, Camping Villsom’s, pool seems to be the sun’s target, and we the bull’s eye. Our slow days in Seville were spent soaking up the rays (and Sangria), and our saucy nights were spent visiting Flamenco shows in town. Though there are many options, I like my Flamenco shows like I like my sex: with as few people in the show and in the audience as possible. So unlike the huge shows with 60 person casts performed in huge auditoriums, we opted for the cast of four and an audience of 50, with cocktails and munchies. I believe we made the right decision. The show was exciting, sexy, and beautiful, and we were so close to the stage we inadvertently sat in the sweat splash zone!

Our third day in Seville presented us with a decision to make: we could head south and into Africa, or west into Portugal. After some deliberation, we decided its more likely we’ll come back to visit Portugal, but this may be the only reasonable chance we’ll have to visit Morocco so we set out for the land of fez’s and all the gin joints in all the world. We returned from Morocco 10 pounds lighter, and spent our remaining time back at Camping Villsom chilling out, maxin’, relaxin’ all cool, sipping cappuccino outside by the pool…and recovering from a plague of food poisoning that laid waste to my insides… more on those gastro-intestinal fireworks later.

Our lazy days at Camping Villsom were comprised mostly of jogging, grocery shopping at the super grocery store around the corner, and watching the sun wander through the heavens. We ran out of books some days prior, so we wrote in our journals and talked to each other. And I’m not complaining…I reckon there will never be another time in our lives where the most important thing we have to do in a day is make sure we get to the pool at our campsite in Spain early enough that we get the good lounge chairs…oh woe is us. One thing, though: after several weeks of passing my boxer briefs off as swim trunks, the lifeguard at Villsom finally got wise and told me I couldn’t wear them at the pool…drat’s, foiled again.

So we wrapped our time in Seville and headed to Madrid where they have a passion for siesta like Queen Latifa has a passion for anything deep fried. Word of advice: don’t try getting anything done between the hours of what may feel like dawn to dusk, but more reasonably like 2-6 in the afternoon when everything, and I mean everything, shuts down. But, again, far-be-it from me to complain that we can’t find anything to do in Madrid while we travel the world. So for most of the day, the streets of Madrid were ours and we wandered them as such, partaking in their famous chocolate churros and joining the hordes of tourists taking pictures of their famous statue based on Madrid’s coat of arms, a bear standing against a tree, which ends up being a tourist standing against a bear standing against a tree.

Our final month of travel behind us, we’re taking our last strides toward home. From Madrid, we’re off to Dublin. So we bid a sad hasta luego to Spain and hop on a plane to Ireland where the beer flows like wine and a bottle of water costs more than a bottle of beer.

Tags: On the Road

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