The Spanish European Trip

This is the question I am asking myself at the moment. Am I the kind of traveler that zips from place to place or the kind that spends a good long while in a place and truly comes to know it. It’s a more complex question than it might seem at first. Here is my situation and my thoughts on everything at the moment.

After 24 hours in Spain, I feel like this is almost exactly what I am looking for in a place to call home. there is coffee everywhere, my poke (Hawaiian fish) lust is easily satisfied by cheap delicious ceviche, and last night when I got on the wrong train, a guy in a hat almost just like mine gave a long passionate speech and then picked up his guitar and started playing to everyone in the car. I watched parents smile, couples snuggle closer to one another, and smiles emerge on everyone’s faces. This is a culture that values art, music, and love. I feel like I am exactly where I want to be…but….

I also realize that at the moment I have some money and this isn’t necessarily going to be the case in the future. I have friends I want to visit in France, Germany, and Holland and I want to see these places before I lose the option through not having sufficient funds to go.

In addition, I want to go to Portugal before I choose to rent a little casa along the Mediterranean. Last night I met a fellow American exile who is taking a TEFL course in Valencia and he told me that finding work in Spain teaching English is easy and doesn’t really require a TEFL or much knowledge of Spanish. None the less, I am completing my TEFL course and cramming as much Spanish as I can while still taking long walks and exploring this incredible place.

So here is what I am thinking of doing. Enjoy Barcelona for a few days more, then head to Paris for a day or two, from there go to Holland to visit and from there to Germany, from Germany head back to Southern France to see my buddy Logan and then back to Spain. Perhaps then head to Madrid and then on to Portugal and from Portugal down to Southern Spain and into Morocco before heading back into Southern Spain to see if I can find a casa and a teaching job (unless I find a more perfect place in the meantime…which could happen)

And as a backup plan, I’ve been offered jobs in Syria and Korea teaching English. The job in Syria is a tad bit sketchy and pays mostly room, board, and arabic lessons….Korea there are several options. So, this is what is going through my head and it is all subject to change, but I’m curious what all of you think about all of this…it sounds crazy, I know, but this is my life in the rabbit hole.

garage door in Barcelona
(Originally posted 19 January 2009)

I forgot to write about my dreadful experience with Spanish Customs. It went like this, on the plane I filled out a entry/exit card. I had packed carefully to make sure I wouldn’t have any problems getting through customs. When I arrived, I handed the card to the customs agent and he crumbled it into a ball and threw it in the trashcan. Then he stamped my passport. There was no bag searching, no barrier, and nothing beyond a sign that said something like “If you have things you shouldn’t you can put them here”.

So of course I am kidding about it being terrible. It’s harder to go from Hawaii to the Mainland than it is to enter Spain. One more reason to love this country. Here are a few more. I spent the morning and early afternoon walking in Barcelona and this is just some of what I saw…(there are more pictures but still not all I saw here)

(originally posted 19 January 2009)

In Barcelona, one need only look down to find amazing art.

I was pretty bummed to have to book into a hostel my first days in Barcelona but it turns out to have been beneficial in a few ways. First of all, it gave me a chance to wander around and get lost on my own; second, I made friends with a couple of great people, Andrew and Kata; and finally, it gave me a chance to sort of breath and not worry about anyone but myself, which I think is really essential sometimes. One of the great lessons I’ve learned is that it is essential when traveling for any length of time to once in a while find space that is your own, to have a personal home, if only for a day or two here and there.

The hostel I stayed in Hostel One Sants was like a palace. Marble floors, a lovely smoking deck on the top floor, couches in multiple places, free internet, free wifi, a great staff (several of whom are quite beautiful) and a great location away from the party center of La Rambla. This hostel was quiet and a good place to simply relax. I didn’t realize how much I needed that after my Amtrek and the flight into Barcelona.

While there I started looking at couch surfing info in Barcelona and found the profile of Chevales, the ambassador to Barcelona. They (because Chevales is a couple, Julian and Elena) had organized a huge number of activities in celebration of a bunch of couch surfers coming into Barcelona from Rome and dubbed the weekend events “The Roman Invasion”. I dropped Chevales a quick email thanking them for providing so much information on their city and expressed my regret at not having found them before arriving. I had also just gotten a simcard for spain (12 Euros) so I included my phone number and said if there were any cool happenings, it would be great to find out about them.

Not more than an hour after that Julian called and told me that he and his wife had space for me to couch surf with them and that the next day I should check out of the Hostel and move to their apartment. With the Roman Invasion, most couches in Barcelona had filled up and not only would they host me for three days, but also they had found me another host for the last three days of the Roman Invasion!

In terms of making the world a better place, this is one of the things that I think Couchsurfing.com enables that is just mind-blowing. I mean, here I am, a stranger in a strange and wonderful land and suddenly, I am invited, welcomed, and shown things that I would never have experienced without CS.com.

Julian and I met up at Cafe Zurich, a well known meeting place on La Rambla and then we took the train back to his flat. Arriving in his neighborhood, he took me to his local bar and we feasted on olives, sardines, bread and tomato, sausages, and a delicious dish called ‘bombs’ as Julian described it, ‘a bomb of flavor’. It was made up of meat, potatoes, and then covered with an incredible salsa brava. Julian told me as we started to eat, “This is the great contribution of Catalan culture to the world, our food.” I have to agree.

This treasure of a place, which I will keep as a closely guarded secret since I’m not a huge fan of lonely planet style destruction of hidden gems, makes every bit of their food from scratch. Fantastico!

We were joined by Julian’s wife Elena after a little while and in minutes I was no longer in the company of strangers, but instead spending time with close and valued friends. These guys are really an extraordinary couple that travels the world, opens their hearts and home to other travelers, and really go the distance to share the treasures of their beautiful city with those who are willing to see them.

I will admit that the 300 beers Julian and I drank that night were a bit excessive, but there is certainly no denying the value of enjoying food and drink in excess on occasion with friends. I’ve always liked the phrase “All things in moderation, including a little excess”.

The next day, Julian had arranged for me to meet up and hang out with another couch surfer. Laura from Kansas City, Missouri. After waking up and getting my head back on straight, I set out to enjoy the day. I left the flat and headed to Place Espanya where there was a huge fashion expo going on titled “The United Nations of Bread and Butter”.

While I did enjoy all of the beautiful people, I wasn’t actually there for the fashion show, instead, I was interested in clearing my head with some fresh air and doing some walking through Parc de Montjuic. I did a bit of a hike and explored the stadium, found some wonderful views, and then I found the greatest garden in the world. It’s a botanical garden filled with sculpture, ropes courses, and interactive musical sculpture that is designed to be played on.

At this point Laura called and we met up in the Placa Espanya and then went back to the musical park. We walked and talked and took the tramway up the mountain to the beautiful castle on the top.





Laura is kindred spirit on a journey to find love, joy, meaning, and a place in this world without falling prey to the money chase and wage slavery. Not at all what you would expect from Kansas City, but then, I’m obviously giving away my own bias there. So we wandered and snapped pictures everywhere, played on the musical sculpture, and then it was time to go meet Julian at the Cathedral of Barcelona.

This is not intentional art. It’s an old building that is probably going to be torn down. And yet, can there be much more beautiful than finding this on a random wander through narrow streets?

He took us to another hidden gem of a bar where we ate a tapas of bread and goat cheese. He also toured us around in the neighborhood he grew up in. We went to a shop where the woman makes marionettes by hand and has been doing so for as long as anyone remembers. She is probably one of the last puppet makers in Europe who does things in the old style way.

Next, Julian took us to Quatre Gatos, a bar famous for bread and Chocolate where Miro, Picasso, Dali, Gaudi, and Hemingway all used to hang out. This place had original paintings by Picasso hanging on the walls for decades and the menu and street signs also were done by the great artist.

I snapped this picture because of the scrawled dick on what appears to be quite an old piece of art next to a closed shop. Only later did I find out that the shop was actually Julians family shop when he was a child. I find this type of coincidence to be one of the great joys in life.

We went to yet another bar for incredible Tapas and were joined by Elena for a while. Then Julian and Elena went to say goodbye to a friend who was leaving while Laura and I proceeded up to the top floor of a mall to get cappuccino and enjoy the view of La Placa Catalonya from above. The giant star in the center of a circle below framed an amazing dance as lovers, friends, and strangers all engaged in an impromptu cotillion (Catalan?) of multiple comings and goings.

I took this picture simply because there was something I liked about the lights. Later Julian saw the picture and told me that these particular iron lamps had been created by Gaudi.

We then intended to go back to Quatros Gatos for chocolate, but by the time we found our way there, it was nearly time to meet up with Julian and Elena and so we put it off for another time.

As always, you can find all my photos on my flickr page.

Originally published 22January2009



I looked  for a place to get my shoes shined, or for the shine boxes, but so far, I’ve yet to see any shoe shine service in Barcelona. I think perhaps Spaniards are more practical and shine their own shoes, or refuse to wear shoes that cannot be used for football. We will see though. Yesterday, instead of finding a shoe shine I found a locotoria, after a sort of wild quest through back alleys and dark streets. It turns out that the cell phone I got is cheap, but is usually only sold in immigrant shops and the locotoria, which is essentially, a discount calling center. Remember those? When I asked one man where there was a locotoria, he tried to send me to a porn shop, but it turns out that he misunderstood. Maybe I looked like I needed porn.

After this I rushed to the Cathedral of Barcelona to meet up with three of the Romans from the Roman invasion who had just arrived and then back to Cafe Zurich to meet with Laura. From there we walked up to Casa Batllo and Dino, Mauro, and I went in for the tour. The tour was interesting, but perhaps looking at a book would reveal the same interior features while seeing the outside is possible from outside. It was an expensive tour, and this perhaps makes me appreciate it less as a result of higher expectations.

The present Casa Batllo, is the result of a total refurbishment of an old previous conventional house built in 1877. Gaudi­ was commissioned by the owner Josep Batlló i Casanovas to totally renew the old building. On that base, Gaudi­ projected this astonishing house, one of the most fancy and “special” of Barcelona.


While we toured, Laura and Valerio went to meet some U.S. sailor she had met on couchsurfing whose ship was ‘secretly’ in town. The guy said he was on the ship but not in the military, but when we met later, there was no doubt he was…or had been.


Coming out of the tour, there was just time to meet up again and head to Cafe Zurich again to meet up with Julian and Juan and then to go to the bus station to get the Roman’s bags where we met up with Anna and then back to Julian’s to drop off the bags, then out to a sausage house that was completely packed at 11 pm and then to a match of ‘miniature football’ between Julian’s colleagues, then to the bus station again to get Daniella and Maria, then to drop off Maria at another couch surf host and then back here. Exhausting. I’m amazed at how much work the couch surfing community does. I’m glad to get the chance to see an invasion like this and everything that goes on with it, but I think it might be too much work. We will see though, the weekend will certainly be exhausting.

And of course if you want to see the rest of my photos go to here.

Originally published 23 January 2009.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of feasting at a Barcelona, Calcoltadda – this is what it is like!

 

I’m at the Barcelona north bus station waiting for a bus to Valencia, Spain. I could easily spend muchlonger here, but it is time to move on. I’m typing on one of these terminal machines, so pardon my brevity and mistypes. Barcelona has been wonderful and I leave here with new friends from Spain, Italy, the USA, France, and more. I will update when I find a better computer, but suffice to say that my stay here has been fantastico.

The Calcotota

(Originally posted 1/25/09)

I admit it. I’m fucking beat, exhausted, run out of steam. I’ve slept about three solid hours over the past three days, but I’m not complaining. It’s been fantastic. Everyone I’ve been meeting and talking with, hanging out with, and getting to know. The Roman Invasion was a bunch of couch surfers from Rome who decided to all come to Barcelona at the same time.

The Barcelona CSers set up a full schedule of events. I was fortunate to have a place to stay with my friends Julian and Elena, who were among the primary organizers. So, as a result of all this, and since I have been learning Spanish as I go, I now speak a truly atrocious mixture of bad Spanish, broken English, bad French, and all with a sort of funny Italian accent I picked up from the Romans. I call it Vagonese, I’m fluent in it, but there are only a few who understand it.

Friday night there was a house party at Alessio and Delia’s house. From the pile of shoes at the door, we decided that “Shoes Happen”




Friday night there were severe windstorms that destroyed parts of Barcelona and killed several people. As a result of the storm, Parc Guell was closed and so I will have to see that, the magic fountain, and the mercury fountain on another visit to BCN.

Saturday we had planned on Go Karts, Volleyball on the Playa, and a football (soccer) match, but due to the winds, we stuck with only the Go Karts. I came in last, but enjoyed every moment of it.


After the carts we went to a sort of traditional Catalan feast called a Calcotada. It was amazing. (See previous post for another video of the party!)


After this, I moved to Ruben’s couch because there were more couch surfers coming in and then we went to a huge bar to drink and then on to a massive Disco right on the edge of the Mediterranean.

I made it back to Ruben’s at around 10 am, showered, grabbed my bags, and then caught the bus to Valencia, about a four hour ride, it’s where I am now. Wow. I feel like I just came away from a 10-day party bus rental.

As always, you can check out all my photos here.

(Originally posted 25 January 2009)

It was nice of the saints to pose with me for this picture in the Cathedral, don’t you think?

Here I am in Valencia, Spain and while it is a beautiful city, I have to say that it doesn’t have that incredible something I felt in Barcelona. Of course, I leave many friends behind in Barcelona and here I am just another guy staying at a hostel, in this case the Red Nest, which is quite a nice hostel with free wi-fi, reasonable laundry, and lots of couches and common space.  For your visit, here is a complete list of hotels in Valencia with thousands of reviews and multi site price comparison.

At first glance, Valencia feels more manufactured, manicured, and created for tourists than the raw excitement I felt in BCN, but there is more to this city than meets the eye. There is a difference in the graffiti, the architecture, and the people that I can’t quite been able to place my finger on.  It surely has many wonders that I am missing.

Today I managed to get lost several times walking through the center of the city. I also visited the cathedral and climbed the steps to the tower for stunning views.




One thing in the Cathedral was the Holy Grail! I didn’t know it existed…so much for the stupid fucking Davinchi Code…

Originally posted 26JAN2009.

I am now in Grenada and will update on Alicante and my day here in Grenada soon, but finally, after waiting for an internet connection that would allow me to upload it, here are the couch questions with my hosts in Barcelona: Julian and Elena and Ruben.

Alicante is a beautiful town along the Spanish Mediterranean coast.  It’s no wonder that Popeye calls it home – actually, I’m not sure of that at all, but judging by the number of businesses called Popeye – it must be his home port.

Next time I go to Alicante, I stay at the Popeye Pension

I was astounded to walk down the street in Alicante when I was about to leave town. Readers of my previous blog may remember that several months ago I jokingly proposed that we start a new religion dedicated to Popeye, Yogi, and Felix. Well, perhaps in Alicante, they have already seen the wisdom of this:

Made a new friend on the bus from Valencia, Julio, a juggler from Mexico who has vagobonded everywhere it seems. We got sandwiches upon arriving in Alicante and then I played harmonica while he juggled on the beach. We found a place to stay for 15 Euros each Pension Milano.

Julio got the ‘speak the language upgrade’ with balconey and double room while I was in a closet where the sink didn’t work. Not too bad though, but no internet was a bit of a drag. But it turns out I’ve been spending too much so to get a solo room for the night to figure out my finances, do some writing, and plan out things a little bit was very good.

Here is a complete list of hotels in Alicante with price comparisons from multiple sites and thousands of user reviews. I feel at the moment, like I might be missing something fantastic around any corner here in this tiny town of Alicante (approx. 30K).

Alicante is beautiful. The beach is fantastic and the area where Julio and I found rooms was full of great little bars and cafes where I swear women outnumbered men by at least 3 to 1.

Perhaps there is flamenco being danced around the corner, maybe there is a concert being performed by a lone flugal horn player next to a cathedral accompanied only by the tape recorder and amp next to him, or maybe there is a whole orchestra setting up in a square somewhere and old people gathering around to dance a dance known only to this area.

In any event, there is always something happening in Spain.

I like this place and would like to explore it further but the weather has gotten cold and a beach town is always better when you can enjoy the weather. So I move on to Granada soon.

Meeting Julio was great because this is a guy that is living the way I endeavor to live, and I would say doing so more successfully than I. Somehow, I had forgotten about the spiritual element to travel, the seeking that one has to nurture in order to get the most out of each place.

From Granada, my ever shifting plan has me heading towards Morocco with a stop in Gibralter. I had considered then making my way through Senegal and towards Mali and then across the top of Africa into Egypt and this may still happen, but at the moment, I feel that my course might be better served by going to Morocco and then back to Spain, then to Portugal, on to France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, then Switzerland, briefly back to France, and then to Italy. From Italy to Greece and from Greece to Turkey.


As I gazed in awe at castles perched on barren hills and white stucco farmhouses crouching on the sides of ragged rock formations, I couldn’t help also noticing the man who was seated across the bus from me as he carefully ripped his large map into small sections – that was Julio.

Here is a picture of my friend Julio juggling on the playa while I played harmonica (okay, I paused to snap a picture)

I have the feeling that there is an incredible underground music scene in Alicante, but I will have to wait until my next trip to discover it. Frankly, I froze in the little room I had and woke up ready to be anywhere but in that room another night. I climbed up the back steps to the massive castle that overlooks this wonderous little city though.

At this point, I need to evaluate my situation. I’ve been spending too much. Barcelona was worth the massive amounts I spent if only to make so many new friends and experience so much in a weeks time, but I was shocked to see I spent more there in a week than I did in New York. Part of this is due to the lousy exchange I got on 450 before leaving the U.S., but mostly it is because I have been living far too excessively.

I am attempting to simplify things. Instead of spending 6-10 Euros on a meal, I just bought bread, sausage, pineapple juice, apples and cheese for about 2.50 euros, and this will feed me for the entire day.


I decided to throw away my guidebook yesterday. It was big and filled with information I can find online and really seemed to be not very helpful.

It’s such an odd thing. It doesn’t feel odd at all to arrive in a strange city where I barely speak the language and start wandering around dark streets, more it feels like it is supposed to feel strange, but it doesn’t and that feels strange.

The sidewalk in Alicante is like playing Q-bert

I love all the graffiti in Spain. Here are a few examples from Alicante:

And finally one more self portrait video:

And one more for good measure….

Originally published 29 January 2009


The Rhythm in Spain is very different. I am getting used to it, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is different. It seems to me that Spaniards wake up around noon, eat a light breakfast of bread and ham, and then set about their day. A second meal is eaten around 4 pm, and dinner is at about 9 or 10 pm. Around midnight the bars begin to fill and then somewhere between 4 and 8, one goes home and goes to bed. This is of course, not everyone, but then there is more. If one has business to attend to or errands to run, one must plan to do them either in the morning before noon or in the evening after about 4 pm because la siesta happens from around noon to four and many of the shops simply pull down the sliding metal doors and are closed during the afternoon. I like all of this. The rhythm is different but it must be learned and honestly, it feels more like remembering it than learning it.

In terms of learning, my immersion language crash course is progressing. I can communicate basic things in Spanish now and recognize perhaps 25% of what I hear, maybe less than that. But it is a process and I should remember that it has only been about two weeks and before that, I knew little to no Spanish at all. It is frustrating to want to have a conversation and meet up with words that cannot be overcome.

This sign is in English for some reason and amuses me “Physically Impossible Entry”.

Yesterday I walked along the river on Paseo del Padre Manjion, a tight cobbled street that ultimately led me to the picturesque Barrio Abadia.

Here I found an empty churchyard and sat in the sun reading the book I bought at Alhambra. Tales of the Alhambra by Washington Irving was written in 1829 when Irving lived in Alhambra. The language describing Granada is as beautiful and true today as it was then nearly 200 years ago.

The chambers of Washington Irving at Alhambra

To the traveller imbued with a feeling for the historical and poetical, the Alhambra of Granada is as much an object of veneration as is the Kaaba or sacred house of Mecca to all true Muslim pilgrims.How many legends and traditions, true and fabulous, how many songs and romances, Spanish and Arabian, of love and war and chivalry are associated with this romantic pile!

From here I walked to the Mirador de San Nicholas where I found more stunning views of Alhambra which were strong enough to affect me alone, but matched with Irvings romantic descriptions of Bandits and Moors, was all the more powerful. At Mirador de San Nicholas there were many people, most of them Spanish hippies and Rastas selling jewelry, hanging out with their dogs, or just enjoying a sunny day with friends. It was a very nice vibe. I am constantly amazed by the number of piercings and dreadlocks here in Granada.

At this point my friend and host Susana called and told me that she and her roommate Neves, were going to be taking a hiking trip to the Sierra Nevada with their friend Fernando and that I was welcome to come along. Since I had been sitting in the sun gazing longingly at these same mountains at Mirador de San Nicholas, the answer was easy.

We met at the big Arch built to celebrate the eviction of the moors from Spain on Callet Elvira (pronounced Albeerah) and loaded up into Fernando’s car. The drive from Granada to the country was interesting. I realize that I am spending a lot of time in urban environments, which I enjoy, but the chance to get into the majestic nature of Spain was fantastic.




There were beautiful waterfalls, narrow arroyos, and even herds of mountain deer that did death defying acts of movement on the rocky cliffs. Fernando had climbing gear, but we started sort of late in the day, so it was simply a very nice hike. Here is a video of some of the deer:

In terms of being my city of dreams, Granada might even be better than Barcelona. A few examples:

1) In Granada when you buy a drink you get free tapas

2) Granada seems to have no old people

3) Granada is filled with dreadlocks and piercings without the hippier than thou vibe

4) Grenada has beautiful graffiti

I just came in at 4:35 in the morning from a night of carousing with new Spanish friends. I have to write this now or I may not get a chance. We caroused wine bars, flamenco bars, and tapas bars. Then, we started to sit on the street drinking beer. Granada is less sophisticated than Barcelona but also perhaps more free. I am staying with three girls studying art and they are very active in supporting the Palestinians. Mi amiga Susana es uno personne who worked to make human figures from saran wrap and place them in public squares to highlight the atrocities in Gaza.And, here is Alhambra. they say that if you have lived and not seen alhambra you have not lived.Granada is where Spain and Arab culture are married for all eternity. Now I show it to you.

 

(it’s just a small taste for the rest go to here)I discovered the best kababs in Spain today at Bocarillo de Baraka. Mmmm…

Last night, I stayed in the Pension Olympia. It was a bit like going home. It worked out well I had my best paid lodging yet. Private room, balconey, sink with hot water, extra blankets, heater, and well…it’s just right for me. 20 Euros, cheap by US standards, and I am totally happy with it. I bought a bottle of wine and ate a baguette and cheese while drinking a not too terrible Tempranillo called puerta de alcala.

Home is where I hang my hat

Susana says I should stay here longer than my planned two days and my rubber arm seems to agree…

(IOriginally posted 31 January 2009)

What they say about border towns is true. I know this. And yet last night, I put myself in the position of being in one again. What they say is this, in border towns you usually get robbed one way or another. And in the Spanish/Gibralter border town of La Linea Conception I was robbed. Not by banditos or contrabanditos, but by putting myself in the border town closest to a British colony. Of course in a town that probably gets its main source of income from British, the prices are sky high. Rather than 15 or 20 Euro for a pension, I have had to pay far too much and a cab driver nailed me for 4 Euros to take me around the corner, the minimum charge. The worst part is I walked within 20 feet of where I wanted to go. The hotel was 37 euros, and the two hostels were 27 and 28. I chose the one for 28, not 27 based on having wifi, but it only works in the lobby.

I was tired. I didn’t really need to be on the internet anyway, I needed to sleep. The pension is nice with air conditioning that isn’t necessary, a private bath, tv (all in Spanish) and wifi that doesn’t work in the rooms. Today I will go to Gibraltar, see the monkeys, probably get hosed for another expensive night, and then I will catch the ferry to Morocco. If I can go today and see the apes of Gibralter, I will do that.

It could definitely be worse. I just hate getting shagged by circumstances I could have easily prevented. The smart thing to do would have been to go to Algicares, get a cheap pension, then in the morning take a bus to Gibraltar. Like I said though, I was tired, so I won’t be too hard on myself. I got a Hawaiian pizza from an Indian restaurant where a kiwi dressed like a cowboy was talking with the Hindi owner who spoke English like an American. It tasted like Indian spices. Cowboys and Indians in a border town in Spain, not quite the same thing, but still, sort of fun.

The bus driver on the way here was blustery and the worst driver I’ve seen yet in Spain, with the exception of a woman I saw going the wrong way down a one way street in Barcelona. He constantly shook his fist and yelled at people as the bus lurched and stalled, probably firm in the belief that they were the ones at fault. It was a bit of a jarring ride with lots of stops and his wife whose large buttocks barely fit in her too tight denims rode in the front seat with him on a jump seat. It was sort of a sweet example of Spanish life if not for me wanting to sleep at times and being unable to.

As we went through the somewhat grim town of Malaga it looked like a bomb had gone off. Torn and twisted metal, police lines, workmen frantically clearing debris, and news crews. I think it was probably more of those killer winds that hit Barcelona, looks like Hurricane Vago struck again. I was glad not to stay in the place, though La Linea may not be much better.

(Just looked at the news…it was a Tornado!)

I’m looking to see if there are ferries from Gibraltar to Morocco and it looks like there may not be. Fuck. We’ll see though.

I admit that I am a bit terrified of Morocco, but I know it will probably be alright. Granada felt very comfortable and now I am back into a life of minor discomfort. My money is going too fast and I have to figure out a way to make it go further. I’m thinking of walking and hitchhiking in France, Morocco will probably be fairly cheap, but we will see. As to Portugal, there is an eco-farm I can probably go work on that might be a way to at least not spend any money for a while.

Incidentally, if you want a cup of coffee at 7am in La Linea you might be out of luck. It’s probably right around the corner from me though….

In any event, life is beautiful still and everything will happen one way or the other…

(Originally Published 03 Feb 2009)

The past 36 hours have been anything but boring. Yesterday, I woke up and left the Pension Carlos in La Linea and walked to Gibraltar. There I had a badly cooked American breakfast of Ham, eggs, and hash browns.

Why is it the English make everything taste so damn bad? I withdrew 30 quid from the ATM and breakfast set me back about 6.

Customs going through was minimal, but they did make me put my bags through an x ray and look to see that I had a passport, though without any sort of inspection. Gibraltar was like being in a semi-tropical England. Lots of birds of paradise. The tram up the rock of Gibraltar was 8 pound and I spent another couple to buy coffee and some sweets and a Moroccan Arabic phrasebook. From a glance, it is quite different from Modern Standard Arabic. 20 quid gone like that. (about $28) The rock is spectacular though and at the top I had an intimate experience with some of the Macaques, one of whom unzipped an empty pocket in my suitcase while I wasn’t looking and when I turned, his hand was deep in it. Blessed little thief. He hooted at me and puffed up his cheeks but I shooed him away without getting bitten.

There were about 400 bites last year from the apes of Gibraltar. The view from the top of the rock was amazing. Legend has it that Hercules separated Morocco and Spain and then inscribed on plus ultra meaning Nothing beyond here after Columbus made contact with North America the Spanish put plus ultra on their flag meaning more beyond.

In it’s history Gbraltar has been sieged at least 15 times and according to the audio guide, never taken. The citizens are an odd mixture of Spanish and English with a form of English that sounds more like Spanish to me. The British have had control of Gibraltar since 1713 when the Treaty of Ubect gave it to them from Spain for perpetuity, the Spanish would like it back but the Gibraltaranos like being part of Britain, as evidenced by themany red phone booths, double decker tourist buses, and multitude of fish and chips shops. At the top it is more than 1200 feet above sea level and one can see as one looks in all directions ships of many nations. It is the meeting point of Africa and Europe, the Atlantic and the Mediterrainean. 30,000 inhabitants crowd into a little over 6 square miles. As to the Macaques, there are so many that they have begun to cul them and they regularly cause problems for the people of the town. They are the only non-human primate in the Med and no one knows how they got there. I had always thought Gibraltar an island, but no, it is a peninsula, hence I was able to walk in and then out. True to form, Spanish customs didn’t even look up as I walked past with my bags, but then, what would I smuggle in from England? Maybe some crisps.

(Originally Published 5 Feb 2009)

Back to the La Linea bus station and a bus to Tarifa was a very reasonable 3.80 Euros. The only problem was that I have become accustomed to big metro stations and so I missed my stop. The driver wouldn’t let me out nearby but insisted I go to the next stop in the middle of nowhere. Around me were cows,windmills, and the beauty of Andalusia.

With no bus in sight I pulled out my sharpie and wrote Tarifa on a slab of marble that looked like it had once been in some Moorish fortress. Tarifa, por favor and then I began to stick out my thumb. I had heard hitch hiking is pointless in Spain and this was shown to be true. Drivers would wave or gesture in the direction I was going but only continue to drive. Finally, a bus came and for another 1.5 Euros I made it back to Tarifa.

I had looked up a guesthouse online and determined to stay there and hopefully meet some fellow travelers bound for Morocco but the detailed directions I had written down led me to the landmarks mentioned but not to the guesthouse. It was nearing 4 o’clock in the afternoon, too late to go to Morocco, I thought, but when I came near the port, I saw a ticket agency open and got a ticket leaving at 5 pm for 37 Euros. I must be crazy.

The high speed ferry was nice and took just 35 minutes to bring me to Africa. On board, a customs agent stamped my passport and then we debarked with no real formality. As I walked off in my hat, dozens of taxi drivers and touts swarmed me. I didn’t have any money so I walked in the direction I thought the atms might be in and found one. I figured out that the exchange was about $11 per 100 and got 300 Dirhams. I didn’t know what that would get me.

A persistant taxi driver followed me and then took me to the train station. I didn’t understand the amount he requested and being tired and used to the ever so honest Spaniards who seem to never even consider cheating you, I handed him 100. He handed back 50. I knew I was being gouged, but I let it be. Having no idea of Morocco and realizing that the language is totally different, I didn’t want to start with an argument.

It’s funny I’m already homesick for Spain.