Wednesday, 23 September 2009

France - Marseille

I arrived in Marseille about 7pm, late enough that it had just gotten dark, but not too late. I had a bit of a look around, mainly because I didn't know exactly where my hostel was, although I found it with the help of a local restaurant owner. After dropping my gear off and making my bed, I sorted out some dinner (McDonald's probably) and shortly after retired to bed.

The next day I had to shift rooms, but other that that I got up, went and had some breakfast (which I know for certain was McDonald's - technically eating McD's in another country is a cultural experience, therefore the calories are cancelled out) which was slightly different to the UK or NZ. Next stop was the chemist, or apothecary as I think they call it, to get some more paracetamol, where I was served by a cute attendant, who combined with her sexy French accent made me forgive the bombing of the Rainbow warrior, and kicking us out of two World cups. I then walked down to the harbour, passing the stairs at the Gare de Marseille Saint-Charles - ie the Train station that I arrived at, on the bus, the night before.On reaching the harbour, I found the bus in order to get up the hill to the Notre-Dame de la Garde - the church. It was a rather impressive church/cathedral, especially as at that point in time I hadn't been to many European churches. I then decided it to walk down the hill, and check out some of what I could see from the top. This worked well for a while, but eventually I got a little lost, and rather hungry, when combined with my cold made it a bit tiring, so I eventually made my way back to the hostel. The next day I woke up, and was well under the weather with my cold, so decided the prudent thing to do was to move to a cheaper, although less convenient hostel, and try and beat the cold off. I had woken up and gone back to sleep several times, so I ended up checking out about half and hour late, fearing the wrath of the French, I apologised and said it was because I was sick, and the guy at reception was really good about it, including telling me how to get to my next hostel.

I basically rested the next couple of days, just reading my books, and going for short walks to enjoy the sunshine and European beach life. I was getting a little paranoid that I had picked up swine flu, but due to my knowledge gained on the Hotline, I knew it couldn't be because I didn't have a temperature, although that was sometimes hard to judge with the heat.
On the third day at the new hostel, I decided I was well enough to go and check out the Frioul islands, which includes the Ch√Ęteau d'If - a prison fortress made famous by the novel 'The Count of Monte Cristo'
This was quite a nice trip. In retrospect I would have left a little earlier to go there, just because there was so much walking to be done and exploring. If I was going back there again though, I would hope that I was able to swim, which I didn't get to do, due to being full of a cold.

The following day I got up and left the hostel reasonably early, hoping to make my way to Nice somehow. I got to the train station, where I had arrived, and investigated getting to Nice, which was reasonably cheap. I found my train, and in transit called a hostel mentioned in the Lonely Planet.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Espana - Barcelona

After a night on the bus, tired and feeling the effects of a cold, I reached Barcelona, and then had to work out how to get to my hostel from the bus station, which I managed, without being mugged or pick-pocketed. The hostel unfortunately was a rather busy one, so it was a slow process to get my sheets (the top one I had to pay for, I wouldn't have bothered, but because I had the makings of a cold decided I better). I then proceeded to have a sleep. Later on, I had a walk around the local environs, checking out some of the weird architecture, before returning to the hostel for a well earned sleep.
The Bull Ring.

The next day I got up and hung out with some Americans for a little bit, as we were all deciding where we were going to sight-see. We decided to go our separate ways, I had got a map, and circled all the sights I thought looked interesting, and then looked at how I could visit them in a logical order using the metro system. This worked reasonably well, although there was a case where I travelled to the next sight, to discover I could have walked from the last one faster. I was rather proud that I managed to see all I wanted to see in Barcelona in little more than an afternoon.
Arc de Triumf - I actually came here several times as it was very near the bus station that I arrived at, and left from.
Not exactly sure what this one was called, but on Facebook two Australian friends have made lewd comments about what it looks like.
Temple of the Sagrada Familia by Gaudi - different, but I wouldn't exactly say its pretty.
The following day, after getting up, I did some final sightseeing, checking out Colombus' column (he he) and the Arc de Triumf again, before boarding the bus to France - just after lunch, as I was over night bus travelling. Fortunately this was a comparatively short trip. I kept on wondering if we were in France yet or not, but that question was finally answered when we passed through what would have been in the past the customs point, marked simply with a EU flag and the Tricolour flag, and the word France (which strangely was in English)

Espana - Alicante

After being in Valencia for a week, and finally managing to tick off the sights, I decided to head down to Alicante, somewhere I hadn't heard of previously to going to Spain, however several of the girls I had chatted to in Valencia (strangely enough, all girls) had mentioned they were checking out Alicante, so I consulted my Lonely Planet, and decided also that it was worth a visit.
So I jumped on a bus, where this photo was taken - The Bull silhouette on the hill is a common sight in Spain.

The bus trip only took about an hour and a half maximum. At the bus station I casually asked the 3 Aussie girls whom I had been eavesdropping on for the majority of the journey (they were Aussies, they don't exactly talk quietly) if they happened to be staying in the same hostel as me, which they were, so we decided it was probably worth us sharing a taxi there, rather than risking the bus, with all our luggage in tow.

On arrival at the hostel, (which probably isn't an accurate description, I think a pension is the correct word - as I didn't have to share a room with anyone) I checked in, and subsequently meet 2 more girls, sisters, originally from Malaysia, but now residents of England (one of them was actually studying in Germany). The 3 Aussies weren't so keen to trek with me up the hill to the castle, but the sisters were, so off we headed.

It was ridiculously hot, and rather hard work climbing up the hill - which wasn't to bad, but combined with the heat was hard.The view at the top however, was well worth it, and being a castle, was naturally awesome. Needless to say, on reaching the bottom, we had a well deserved swim in the ocean.
The next day I did a trip to the Isla de Tabarca - a former pirate haven - an island about 10kms off shore. It was nice, again rather hot. In retrospect I would leave earlier, in order to have more time to snorkel around. But it was rather nice regardless.
The following day I went about organising transport to Barcelona, and subsequently a hostel. I decided on an overnight bus, saving on time and a nights accommodation, which meant, I had another full day in Alicante. Unfortunately I was starting to feel the effects of the germs from puddle-soaked t-shirts at La Tomatina, combined with the heat. Again in retrospect, I would definitely spend more time in Alicante, just because of its paradise-likeness, and reasonable price tag.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Espana - Valencia

Well, I made it out of England, and finally got to the contenient after 6 long months. I flew from Gatwick Airport, which isn't too bad to get out to from where we are, a case of catching the train out there, compared to the other London airports, which I have had described to me as not particularly accurate in being described as London airports, kind of like calling Hamilton Airport "Auckland-Hamilton airport".

Anyway, I got out there, and then found my plane ended up being delayed, as there was an issue with some intercom, so instead of leaving at 5, we left at 8, which was about when we should've been in Spain. Not a huge deal, but frustrating, as it meant when I got there, instead of a 1.50 euro metro ride, it was a 20euro taxi fare, and I didnt get to go out on the first night.
Dinner the First night. Thats cruton sticks in something like potato salad

So, the first day in Spain, I woke up, and hunted out some breakfast, and looked for things to do. I ended up buying some cheese and a roll of salami, and some fruit, and eating them in a rationed, yet probably not a healthy portioned fashion.
I then went for a look in the old town, which was close to my hostel. I ended up meeting up with the tour leaders and other guests at a bar accidently, and had a drink with them. I then proceeded towards the beach, having a small look at the America's cup village.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out the rumour about Mediterranean beaches was true (I'm not going to spell it out for you).

I can't remember if I actually had a swim that first day, or if I decided against it for time and security reasons.

In the evening there was a meeting in regard to the Wine and Water festival we were heading to later on, and of course La Tomatina, the next day.

Later on, we hopped on a bus and headed to the Wine and Water festival, which was in a village about an hour away. For the first few hours it was pretty boring, as the party started in the bullring, which had sold out, and I wasn't particularly keen on supporting anyway. Then, at midnight, the people came out, and basically everyone marched behind a band, and at various intervals you could rush and get your vessel filled up with wine. It was a cool atmosphere, although rather lonely (in a twist of fate, I had ended up with my own twin room, but it meant I didn't have a 'buddy' in the same situation.) I didn't end up having much wine, not being a red wine connoisseur, I drunk 2 glasses, and threw 1 back up, I know, I measured...

This all finished at about 4am, so we headed back to the hotel, to be up and off to La Tomatina at 8am. I think the lack of sleep made La Tomatina not as fun as I thought it would be. It also was a bit more violent than I expected, with overenthusiastic locals, and I had had fantasies of being able to eat the tomatoes as well, which wasn't the case. After finding a spot, it was probably an hour before the tomato trucks came, and so there were full on t-shirt fights going on (you would get your t-shirt ripped off you, and then they tie it in a knot and throw it at someone. Because of the roughness, I didn't take my camera, and hence don't have any photos of it.

After all the throwing, headed back to the bus, enjoyed some paella, and went back to the hotel. I think I probably had a swim in the hotel pool, before sleeping for the best part of the afternoon and evening.

The next day was the day for checking out. Because of the full on nature of the day before, I hadn't planned my next move. Anyhow, I checked out, put my luggage in their storage, and went to a hostel a friend had recommended. They didn't actually have any vacancies, but made several recommendations, including one just around the corner, which I ended up at (for the rest of that week, it turned out). I just had to run back to the hotel, get my bag, and check in, before they closed for a couple of hours for siesta (which was the main reason why I didn't leave for a week, because I couldn't do so much when it all closes for 2 hours each day). Unfortunately whilst running back to the hostel, I tripped on the bit where they have left the pavement clear for the tree roots, and cracked the screen of my camera, which has meant I have been taking photos for two months without a screen.

Anyway, got there, then went walking, ended up at the beach, and had a swim, and enjoyed the warmth amongst other things.

I can't remember the specifics of the other days, but they included more swims, a free walking tour, a Tapas tour, which was fun, and worth it, checking out the market, checking out a museum, and checking out the city gate, which was like a mini castle.