Phew! So I’m back in San Sebastian after about 2 weeks of constant traveling around Spain and off to Germany with my good friends from the states, Marty and Ann, and I’m now enjoying my relaxation time back in my own apartment. Sure, I’m thoroughly enjoying being INCREDIBLY lazy at home here (especially since I don’t have classes anymore), but the trip was REALLY GREAT!!
So, Marty and Ann arrived in Barcelona, Spain on Monday, September 15 . . . but I didn’t join them until Wednesday, September 17. I took an overnight “sleeper” train from San Sebastin to Barcelona—which was already the start of the adventure! I have taken overnight trains in Germany in the past and was a nice experience.. but THIS train—INTERESTING. I had asked for a bed on the train… and yep, thats about ALL you get! You basically enter the train to a hallway of a bunch of doors, walk through to your designated door/room and all you see in this TINY TINY room are 6 beds, three on each side stacked. I had a middle bed, which actually was a good thing. You can’t sit up, there’s not much storage room, and yep—all you can do is (try to) sleep!
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17: BARCELONA
Walked around the town a bit with Marty and Ann and saw a few touristy things that I haven’t actually seen before. I’ve been to Barcelona 3 times prior to this (and another time there to catch a flight), so that’s why I met up with them two days after they arrived… I just have had “enough” of the tourist scene in Barcelona, so I didn’t need much time in the city–in my mind. In addition, I actually still had to finish up some work, so I spent a few hours in our hotel/B&B on my laptop, doing . . . yep, work. Fun, haha! That night, we met up with my friend, Txema, who is the Spanish guy who hooked me up with the apartment in San Sebastian, and who has been my “informational guru” to Spain in general! We had planned to make it a party night, but we were tired and unfortunately I still have more work to do so we had to return to the room. By the way, if you go to Barcelona, I HIGHLY recommend “The Fashion House”– it’s the great little Bed and Breakfast we stayed at.
Click here to see pics from Barcelona.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 18: PALMA, MALLORCA
TIP: If you visit the Spanish Island of Mallorca, RENT A CAR! Not only is it SUPER cheap (25 euro a day including insurance), but we saw SO MUCH MORE of the Island and had SO many more experiences than if we hadn’t rented. Thank GOD Marty could drive stick shift and wanted to navigate those tiny streets, because I couldn’t have done it!
Anyway, so leaving Barcelona that morning, we hopped on a quick 45-minute flight that morning to the tropical Spanish Island of Mallorca/Majorca. What a beautiful Island! We arrived to our cute, tropical hostel and started with what else?–but a tropical drink! We explored the main city, Palma, a bit but didn’t find it incredibly interesting. Click here to see pictures from Palma de Mallorca.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 19: PALMA TO SOLLER (MALLORCA ISLAND)
We drove our little rental car to a nearby city for some SCUBA! Sheesh, but what a disaster trying to find streets on this Island–we should have gotten a navigation system!! Marty and Ann are certified for diving, so they were able to go out on the big boat for an awesome Scuba diving adventure out in the ocean somewhere. Me . . . well I took the “Discover Scuba” class instead, but found it INCREDIBLY fascinating! Besides the fact that scuba-diving is a bit pricey, why haven’t I done this sooner? The feeling to be weightlessly gliding under water with schools of fish swimming all around you, it’s absolutely incredible!
Afterwards, we decided to ditch our loud, strange, no-hot-water hostel in Palma (Hostal Corona) and spontaneously venture off to this city, Soller, that we heard so many wonderful things about. And it was WELL worth the trip! The drive around the city to try to find a hotel was probably the biggest adventure of all! I have NEVER seen such TINY, narrow, interesting streets in my life! I thought the tiny, windy streets of the Hollywood Hills were small… well you aint seen nothin yet! This town, though, was sooooo cute! Cobblestone roads, stone houses with green shutters, a local trolley that goes through many parts of the town, farmers and fishermen’s markets, and beautiful surrounding ranches with olive, lime, lemon, and orange trees! This city was a favorite among the three of us.
Click here to see pictures from Soller.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 20: SOLLER, CAP DE FORMENTOR (MALLORCA ISLAND)
After spending some time exploring Soller a bit more, we took a very beautiful (mountainous) trip along the northern coast of Mallorca all the way to the Cap de Formentor. It was a windy-road trip that took several hours, but Seriously . . . this was DEFINITELY worth the trip. The mixture between ocean and mountains and cliffs—and at the end, a beautiful lighthouse—was hands down one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in awhile.
We headed back down across the Island back to Palma to return our rental car and catch an evening flight to Granada. We were SO satisfied and pleased with the amount of amazing cities, views, and experiences we fit in just by renting a car! And Marty was such a good sport with being the driver, driving a stick-shift car, and being subjected to occasional “back seat driver” comments from Ann and I 😉
Click here to see pictures from our drive to the Cap de Formentor.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 21: GRANADA, SPAIN
If you ask anybody why you should go to Granada or what you should do when you are in Granada, there really is only ONE answer: Go to the Alhambra! And boy, is it one amazing place! The Alhambra is a Moorish citadel and palace at the top of a mountain that has the country’s most famous Islamic architecture. We first spent a great deal of time in some amazing and odd-looking gardens which included 1+ story bushes, many varieties of flowers, a lot of running water, and incredible views of the city below. Upon entering different sections of the building, we came upon more and more fascinating rooms, old ruins, and incredible attention to detail in every aspect of walls, ceilings, and floors.
That night, the three of us set out to find a good place for dinner. We stumbled upon this cute square with tons of restaurants offering 12 Euro “Menu del Dia” –Menu of the day. Which is something I LOVE, and is a common thing you’ll see all over Spain. Basically it’s a flat fee and you can choose a first course, second course, and dessert, and wine and bread are included also! Anyway… so we sit down to dinner to discover there are some STRANGE jungle-sounding birds in the trees surrounding us. I mean LOUD LOUD birds, like what the heck?? We start laughing because these birds can’t possibly be real? Upon asking, we find out that apparently there are tons of pigeons and other annoying birds that perch in the nearby trees, and the neighbors came up with this solution to PLAY A FAKE, ANNOYING JUNGLE BIRD SOUND INSTEAD! Like LOUD speakers in the surrounding trees! How stupid! So here we are… sipping wine, enjoying fine cuisine in the candle light at night… with ANNOYING, SQAWKING, JUNGLE BIRDS chiming in the background! Haha!! Odd indeed . . .
Click here to see pictures from Grananda.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 22: GRANADA TO JEREZ
We spent a good part of the day exploring Granada a bit more, but discovered even though the city is very beautiful, there’s not much more to see after you’ve seen the Alhambra! We rented a car to take us for the next few days, hopped in, and drove about 4/5 hours to Jerez de la Fontera — a cute city that is known all over the world for their vineyards and Sherry production. It was quite a drive and was raining (plus our lovely Spain map was actually labeled WRONG and so we got lost for a short time), so once we arrived we checked in our hotel, had some dinner, and then were off to sleepy-land!
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23: JEREZ DE LA FRONTERA
Explored the city a bit and booked a tour/tasting of one of the most famous Sherry production companies in the world, Gonzalez Byass, home of “Tio Pepe,” a popular sherry. It was interesting to hear about the history of sherry and the company, and it ended with sherry tasting and some snacks. I wasn’t a big fan of the sherry (I’m not in general–it’s just too strong/alcoholic for me!), but it was a fun experience.
At this point in the trip, we had been traveling about a week and were tired of all the run-around of traveling and decided to take the rest of the day easy . . . so we went to a cafe and shared a bottle of wine.. which was quickly followed by a much-needed siesta (nap)! That night, we headed out to a Flamenco show that we heard was supposed to be a less-known show that mostly locals go to. And boy it was true! Only a few tables in the place, and we felt kind of stupid taking pictures, so we only snapped a few in secrecy. Meanwhile, I was COMPLETELY captivated by the Flamenco dancers and the music… the feeling, the sound, the emotion, the energy, it was really great! There were only 6 people on stage, most of them clapping their hands quickly, stomping their feet, guitar playing, one man singing/chanting in a strange way, and the girls would take turns dancing. It was definitely a different experience and I thoroughly enjoyed it…I would recommend this place to everybody!!
Oh yea… and might i mention we had another bottle of wine at the show, followed by another bottle of wine at another outdoor cafe. Red wine is a BIG thing in Spain, and most of our trip we found it normal to order a bottle at lunch and/or dinner. And fortunately, for under 10 euro a bottle, it’s not a huge expense!
Click here to see pictures from Jerez.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 24: CADIZ TO SEVILLA
We drove about an hour to Cadiz, this AMAZING and very different-looking Spanish city. A lot of the
architecture, especially along the coastline, looks very African/Morroccan in nature, mainly because of the location of Cadiz… right on the southern coastline of Spain, very close to Africa! We only spent a few hours in this city, but it was well worth the trip (at least for me!) to see such a unique city. Click here to see pictures of Cadiz.
After bumming around Cadiz, we headed off to Sevilla. We stayed in a hostel this time, and were at first almost in SHOCK over how small and un-luxourious the room was! I mean, it IS a hostel afterall, but it sure was a BARE MINIMUM hostel! I think we had just been used to staying in hotels for our trip so far, so this hostel was a bit of a shock at first… but it was a good price, and everything else in the city that was “decent priced” was booked or far out of the city. Anyway, that night we grabbed a great dinner at a somewhat-fancy restaurant… but were confused because there were NO PEOPLE except us! What the heck? The eating area was all outside, and there was a drinking area and a place where people could eat tapas (and there were a few people there), but in the dining area it was JUST us! Hmmmm. Kind of awkward, but we enjoyed the meal and great service anyway. Afterwards, walked around the city a bit and snapped some pics, and got back to the hostel to crash out for the night.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 25: SEVILLA
Spent the whole day in Sevilla. Marty and Ann were disappointed to find out that there were no bullfights on Thursday… especially since our travel book said there was!! I have seen a bullfight before a couple years back, so I wasn’t as concerned, but I was disappointed for them, too, because I felt that it was something they really had to see while in Spain! SIGH. We set out walking around the city and exploring the beautiful cathedrals and the Alcazar there. After we had already seen the impressive Alhambra back when we were in Granada, it was pretty hard to be impressed by any of the buildings we saw in Sevilla…. which was kind of sad! A lot of the buildings looked almost copy-cat of those in Granada. Oh well… it was a beautiful city anyway, and we enjoyed the time we had.
That night we went to see another Flamenco show. We decided we didn’t want to pay a TON of money for a show, and actually found a FREE one! Haha… well I guess you get what you pay for!—this show was a disgrace to Flamenco. The place was like an over-crowded college party, and it took us LITERALLY about 20 minutes to finally decide, yes–the Flamenco dancer WAS a woman, not a man! At first we were like, ummm… why is there an overweight man with slicked back hair dancing on stage in an ugly Flamenco dress? And we debated awhile if this show was FOR REAL, and if that could possibly be a woman dancing on stage! Haha! We stayed for a very short while, and all expressed our relief that we saw that really great show in Jerez… because this show was completely an embarassment and disappointment to Flamenco!!
Click here to see pictures from Sevilla.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 26: FLY TO GERMANY . . . BIEBERACH
We hopped on a flight in the morning from Sevilla to Munich, Germany, to meet up with our good German friend, Robby. Robby actually grew up in a small town an hour or two outside Munich called Bieberach. When we arrived in Munich, we found that the train to Bieberach not only was VERY expensive (much more than Robby told us it would be) but the trip would take a few hours. Once again, we found ourselves renting yet another car!—For three people it was actually a bit cheaper, and gave us more flexibility for traveling. However, on the drive out, Robby gave us horrible directions and our map was pretty crappy, and the trip ended up taking FAR too long, and this little city of Bieberach was impossible to find!! But once we got there, we were greeted by a big group of smiling faces at an authentic German restaurant! Our good friends Oli and Rebecca—who had just moved to Germany recently–were there, along with Robby’s mom and boyfriend. The meal we had there was AMAZING to say the least! I had only experienced “German food” mostly in the US, which only consisted of brats, sauerkraut, shnitzel, and sausages.. but realized this really is NOT the true authentic German food. I thoroughly enjoyed the food (AND the terrific German beer!), and it was really great to see some familiar faces and company. Afterwards, we went to Robby’s grandparents’ house–where we were staying for the night— and they were extremely sweet and welcoming to us… welcomed us with shots of different minted alcohols and lots of German speaking 🙂
The 6 of us “kids” went into town for a few drinks and then took a train to a city nearby to meet up with some of Robby’s local friends at a club that was having any 80s party. WHAT A NIGHT!! We all had SUCH A BLAST dancing like crazy that night, even though we thought it was quite odd to be in GERMANY dancing to 80s music that we’ve grown up with in the US. I think this is the most I’ve danced in a really long time, so we Really all had a great time, and were laughing a lot at the guys and their “dance moves” on the dance floor. Good times!!
Click here to see pictures from Bieberach.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 27: AUGSBERG, GERMANY
The original reason for coming to Germany in the first place, was so that we could go to Munich to Oktoberfest with Robby and his friends. Robby ended up not being able to go, and in the end…. we had to book a hotel pretty last minute, which is NOT an easy thing to do when you are talking about one of the biggest “world events/parties” – Oktoberfest! We ended up finding a good deal at a hotel in this city outside of Munich called Augsberg, so after we left Robby and his family in the morning, we drove up to Augsberg in
search of our hotel. I say “IN SEARCH” because it was nearly impossible to find! Once again, we were stuck with a shitty map and INSANE street names that would change every few blocks. Germany REALLY needs to get more organized with street names and directions!! We had definitely wished we had gotten a navagation system, because it would have definitely helped us in our travels in Germany. Anyway, it took us so much time trying to find out hotel, we decided that we should just save Oktoberfest partying for the next day, and for now just enjoy the city of Augusberg.
WHICH… might I add.. ended up being SUCH an amazing, beautiful little city. And once we did a little sight-seeing, shopping, and dinner… the three of us agreed that we were completely pleased that we stumbled upon this little city and had the chance to explore it a bit. Really… it was SO cute, and so beautiful, we actually wished we had a little more time to spend there. Since the weather was quite a bit colder there than in Spain, especially since the winter is coming, we all ended up investing in some “winter wear” . . . Ann & Marty bought some nice coats, and I bought a hat, scarf, and gloves (also in preparation for Finland), which ended up being exactly what we needed!
Click here to see pictures from Augsberg.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 28: MUNICH, GERMANY – OKTOBERFEST!!
Finally the last day of our trip had arrived… and the most fun, too!! Oktoberfest!!! This was my second time at Oktoberfest in Munich, but it was Marty & Ann’s first, which made it even more fun for me! I was SO EXCITED that I actually had an authentic German dirdl (dress) to wear to the festival, and I wore it with German pride!!
Last time I came to Oktoberfest, I was with Robby and a group of his friends… which was a great experience to be with a bunch of Germans, in a big group, and do all the german drinking cheers all day long. However, I found that with just the three of us this year, we had JUST AS MUCH FUN, and probably more fun this time and it was much easier to jump from beer tent to beer tent, beer garden to beer garden, because we only needed to find space for three of us. Each new place we sat down, we met more interesting people from all over the world, and shared stories and chants and just had a good time overall. We were sailing through the day with liters of Germany beer, and tons of different foods…chicken, pork, pretzels, shnitzel.. you name it!
At the end of the night, we grabbed some pizza on the way out of the festival grounds, laughing and singing and reminissing about how great our day was. We really had a spectacular day, a great experience, and were pretty happy as we entered the train station and began the process of buying our tickets back to Augsberg to our hotel…. and then all of a sudden—-BAM, the night spiraled downwards… WHERE WAS MY PURSE???? I was carrying a backpack for the day and was keeping my purse inside of it, but wait—where did it go? UGH!! We ended up having to walk WAY back to the Oktoberfest grounds, spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to find the lost and found (which was closed) and then the police station (who barely helped us AT ALL) with absolutely NO answers. I realized I had lost the purse RIGHT at the end of the night… must have been when I took it out of the backpack to buy pizza… and there weren’t many people left on the grounds, so I was CONVINCED it had to be there still!! Booo!! Teary-eyed, I just told Marty and Ann we should get back to our hotel and I will have to call the Lost and Found the next day since everything was closing down for the night. I tried to stay positive, thinking the purse only had my cheap-o cellphone, drivers license and one credit card, and it could have been worse (there could have been more credit cards in my purse, or lots of cash, or my digital camera!).
And just as I was starting to think positively, we arrived at the train station (about 2am now) to find out that with all my “purse-commotion” we HAD MISSED THE LAST TRAIN TO AUGSBERG FOR THE NIGHT!! ahhh!!! In the end, we had to take a 90-EURO taxi all the way back to our hotel, and at this point I was crying pretty hard… 90 euros, and I felt I had totally sabotaged the night with my irresponsibility of losing my purse. What a crappy end to a really great day! SIGH.
Fortunately, weeks later after a TON of unsuccessful contact with the Oktoberfest grounds and the Munich police department, MY PURSE WAS RECOVERED!!!–and I had it mailed to me and got back all of my belongings! Lucky me!!
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 29: FLIGHT BACK TO SAN SEBASTIAN, SPAIN
Horrible, hung-over morning, and we had to take two trains to take a flight and a bus back to San Sebastian to my apartment. After the long day of traveling, it was extremely relieving to come back to my “home” and Ann & Marty were So happy to finally have the chance to see my place, and to stay in ONE PLACE for a number of days. We had arrived on that Monday, and they were staying until Friday in San Sebastian. It was definitely a good end to our long journey from city to city to city (which becomes EXTREMELY exhausting after time) and I really enjoyed showing them the place I had called “home” for 6 months at that point.
I was sad to see Marty & Ann leave that Friday morning, but I was happy we had such an amazing and fun trip together. Plus, I was excited for my couple months ahead…. only two weeks left in San Sebastian, and I would be off to Finland to live for two months with Martti!! Whoo hooo!!!