Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Teaming up for La Tomatina and a tattoo with Ally!

(This is a long time coming... but here we go. Better late than never)

We didn't even have two weeks together; 4 nights in Barcelona, 3 in Valencia and 3 in Madrid. But it was AMAZING!! So much fun, and so many activities (right Ally!?).

Barcelona... I loved Barcelona. It just has a great vibe to it. And Gaudi's architecture everywhere is really impressive! I also liked how signs and tv/radio were more often in Catalan than Spanish, only the really touristy things had English too.
Ally was practically a local having been there not long before on her top deck tour, so I got to sit back and enjoy the ride (even more than I had been..? Haha). She did most of the decision making. It was a surprisingly nice change! I basically had a tour guide. Saying that we spent most of our time wandering the streets and exploring, often paying more attention to each other than our surroundings -we had a lot to catch up on!! However we did get to a great walking tour the first day. We learnt heaps of interesting stuff about the culture and history in Barcelona, and the growing Catalonian independence movement; the guy was really engaging and I learnt a lot - love those tours! Plus it got even better when it ended at a sangria place. (Not difficult seeing as most everywhere is a sangria place at the tourist end of town in Barcelona). Another day we spent a sunny (aka very very hot!) afternoon in Gaudi's park and came across the coolest street performing band ever! (They're called microguagua - maybe they're on YouTube?). There were 6 of them.. with guitars, drums, a saxophone, a trombone... and a lot of dreadlocks! Very entertaining! Another time we visited Sagrada Familia which is huge cathedral designed by Gaudi that has been under construction for over one hundred years and probably will be for a hundred to come! It's like nothing I've ever seen before. We stood in a line so long I can't believe we even considered staying to wait, and on top of that it poured on us most of the time we were waiting. Then it cost a bomb to get in and the top was shut due to the weather. But it was worth it. There's a Christmas tree with big red bows and a big golden star on top carved into one of the outside facades, and the inside is immense and curved parabolically... it makes you feel like Alice in wonderland down the rabbit hole. I have to go back when it is finished, if it's done in my lifetime!
So that was our history and culture quota.
We did a cooking class too, not sure how cultural it was though... Haha it involved a lot of Sangria and tapas, then a paella cooking demonstration. I can't remember how to make it anymore... But we had a great night!
The rest of the time we spent hanging out, cooking up delicious food with red wine, drinking sangria and walking miles and miles to and from the beach and clubs. One afternoon we went to go to the beach but didn't make it, there were far too many incredible shops on the way! Such a shame I'm a penniless student... Such a tough life. Jokes! I'm the luckiest girl in the world!
Another fun fact about Barcelona is that there are beer fairies. They pop up when you least expect it (and often when you most fancy a beer) saying "cerveza??" with an expectant little smile. Only a euro. Pretty sweet deal really. Especially when you've just walked out of a club by the beach that charges 10euros for the same thing but give it to you in a glass and won't let you out on the sand.

By this point I'd decided that travelling in twos is pretty awesome, and I should have been a little more pro-active and/or persistent and done more of it in Europe. You see less culture though, and are less inclined to make the effort to meet new people. But European backpacking is different to Latin American backpacking. Everyone has a more clear agenda, it costs more money so if you're going to fork out you want to do what you want to do, and there's such a multitude of different options for itineraries that no one is doing to same thing. In Central America all you need to know is whether someone is going north or South and you'll know their next destination. So what I'm trying to say is that European backpacking is more suited to a well planned trip with one or two mates, and Latin American backpacking is better suited to buying a one-way ticket for yourself and buggering off with whatever measly savings you have. It's a different thing. Both great though.

Next we went to Valencia!! and this is why we met up in the first place, we just had to throw tomatoes at each other at la Tomatina! la Tomatina is in Bunol, a tiny little village just 30km from Valencia. So Valencia was packed with Aussies, and other nationalities, but mostly Aussies. It was fun. Valencia itself was pretty nice, just a pretty little Spanish City. We wandered the streets of the old town and found the markets. But la Tomatina... Now that was crazy.
We started the day nice and early, as you do. Our bus left at 8:30am to go to Bunol but we had to get into town and pick up our entry wrist bands beforehand. Epic fail by the organisers - it was the first year they'd had tickets -  basically no one knew where to get what or when they were supposed to, if they were supposed to. And the queue was insane once we'd finally managed to figure out what to do by talking to other bewildered tourists. We got there in the end. Later than expected but with enough time. Then it rained on us, a lot... freak rain for the time of year too (August 28). Very weird. So walking into the centre of the quaint little town was kind of like being in a giant cold shower with a crowd of people dressed in red and white. We did have some sangria to raise our spirits which was lucky, I have to admit I was nearing the screw-it-I'm-getting-a-bus-home-now level of cold. My lips were blue. My fingers where blue. I was cold. Glad I didn't though!! When the official throwing actually started, and the trucks of tomatoes rolled on through I forgot all about being cold. Plus was warm in the mosh pit of people and flying tomato lumps. After 10minutes there was a squishy layer on the  street, and after 30 we were wading in tomato purée. People were lying down and swimming in it!! Hahaha I regret not wearing the recommended goggles. Next time. Poor Ally couldn't handle the smell of thousands of squashed tomatoes (it was compared to vomit by many different people) and had to avoid the very centre of the fight. It meant that she managed to wash the tomato out of her hair first time around though which is a plus! I didn't mind. My white clothes were completely pink and I had mushed tomato everywhere. It was AWESOME! so pointless and ridiculous but absolutely hilarious too!! Good stuff.
By the time we had been hosed off by locals in the street and the bus made it back we were in dire need of a shower and some dry clothes. We hadn't planned ahead especially well... So ended up sitting on the bus in just our bikinis all the way back. Wet clothes = heat loss = way too cold. Pretty hilarious. We got some odd looks.
Due to overly pre-booked accommodation etc etc we ended up in a fancy hotel that night (only paid for one and booked early so it was still cheap!) ...and this big hotel had a SAUNA! So I got to defrost nicely and siesta in style before we hit Valencia for tapas and dancing ;)

Then we went to Madrid, and got tattoos!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ...and didn't see that much of Madrid to be honest, I'll have to go back! We wandered around exploring and window shopping, and just soaking up the atmosphere a lot. And we took an entire day to work ourselves up to getting tattoos. Don't worry I've been toying withy he idea for years. It was the perfect time, and I love it! I got a small hummingbird on the left side of my torso, at the bra line. It's amazing!! and it will always remind me of my travels, and the way I see the world because of this year. It's about living in the moment and the beauty and magic of being alive :)
Needless to say that night we celebrated pretty hard, which is another reason why we didn't see that much of Madrid. Moving wasn't a great idea the next day! Hahaha incredible night though! We were at a party hostel with a bunch of really great people, and their pub crawl was too good value to be missed ;)

...and that was it! I flew off to Mumbai and Ally went to Paris. What a whirlwind two weeks! Only one month to go before home. Crazy.