Thursday, May 13, 2010

Future plans

So, the time has come. After nearly 8 months of living in Autol I will have to say farewell in exactly 2 weeks. It's really just hitting me that for the next month or so I will be travelling, non-stop, through 7 different countries before my return to the States. While I have spent the last couple of months trying to get all my ducks in a row, I finally have a concrete (well, maybe wet concrete) plan. Here it is:

-I finish work on the 26th of May. On the 28th my friend Alex and I will be in Barcelona to attend the Primavera Sound Music Festival. I am looking forward to seeing Beach House, Panda Bear, Yeasayer, Major Lazer, Owen Pallet and the Pixies.

-The 30th of May I will head to Barcelona, where I may meet up with maggie Placer, who will be there with friends. I will definitely rendevous with my friend Patricia Duggan, who I met in Granada in December, and we will embark on a 2-week adventure together.

-On the 1st of June we will go to Lisbon for a couple days before returning to Madrid. Although I have been there before, I absolutely love this city.

-On the 4th we will fly to Marrakech, Morocco, and backpack our way to the north of the country, passing through Fes and Tetuoan until we reach the coast where we can catch a ferry back to Spain. I have never been to Morocco, but I must say I am more anxious about this trip than I typically am. I have heard many things about Morocco, some good and some bad, but either way I can't wait to be thrown into such a different culture and soak it up the sites, smells and tastes (well, maybe not so much the smells).

-Upon my return I will have about a week to kill before meeting Clayton. I will most likely go to Granada to chill with Caroline Davis, who will be studying there, and to Salamanca to catch up with Sarah Molbert before she returns to the States.

-On the 18th of June I will fly to Munich, Germany, where I will meet Clayton on the 20th. However, we will not spend much time in Munich-maybe one day-because we have many places to go and people to see.

-First we will head to Salzburg, Austria. I hear nothing but good things about this place, including that it is like a fairytale city. I can't wait to wander the streets, chocolate and beer in hand, and hear Mozart being played in the distance (he is from Salzburg). *Bonus* Nick Shirley, who has been living and teaching English in Austria, may come meet us which, would be awesome. We have been in contact throughout the year but haven't seen each other in years and joining him on his home turf would be quite exciting.

-From there we will head across the country to Vienna which is, if not my favorite, one of my favorite cities in all of Europe. Clay and I will also have a free place to stay-at the flat of this girl named Romy whom I met last time I was there-which will be nice. Plus she can give us a tour of the city and tell us where to eat, go out, etc.

-Next on the list is Budapest, Hungary. I am quite possibly the most excited about this city. I do not know much about it but I can't wait to find out what lies in the heart of traditional Hungarian culture which, from what I hear, still manifests itself in one of the oldest cities in Europe: Budapest. We will spend 3 days here.

-On June 28th we will catch a flight to Amsterdam, where we will spend 2 days. No explination is really necessary when it comes to this city, but I definitely want to rent bikes and bike around the countryside and, uh, drink their coffee.

-After the longest 2 days of our lives we will fly to Galway, Ireland. We have decided to start on the western side of the country in order to visit the Cliffs of Moher (sounds like something out of Lord of the Rings, doesn't it?) before busing across Ireland to Dublin, where we will spend a couple days before jumping the pond on the 6th of July.

While some-maybe most-of this is subject to change, I feel pretty good about our itenerary and cannot wait to backpack with my little's gonna be epic.

Nan and Papaw in Spain?!

It was cold. It was wet. It was an atypical affair.

This time last week I found myself in Barcelona, a European summertime hotspot and personally one of my favorite Spanish cities. I had been there a few times in the past; soaking up the welcoming sun, strolling the pedestrian streets filled with performers and artists alike, dragging idly along the miles and miles of inviting beaches decorated with the beautiful people from all over Europe, barhopping with fellow travelers until places started serving breakfast, etc. You know, the typical things one does in a dynamic place such as Barcelona.

This time it was a bit different. This time the sun was perpetually hidden behind blankets of purple and grey clouds, the beaches were as deserted as they probably are on the Gulf Coast, the artists were more concerned with protecting their paintings from the rain rather than creating new ones, and the closest thing I saw to a street performer were the dozens of Moroccan immigrants selling overpriced umbrellas to desperate vacationers. No, this was not the same Barcelona as depicted on post cards and television commercials.

However none of this mattered to me; the external factors took a distant backseat to the real reason I took off work to go to Barcelona on this particular week. The primary purpose of this trip was to rendezvous with my grandparents, Nan and Papaw, for a 2-day stint before they caught a Mediterranean cruise on Wednesday. It was super exciting for me-having the opportunity to meet up with one’s grandparents on the other side of the pond isn’t something that everyone can or will experience-and I was determined to make our 48 hours together special. Besides, they, along with the couple they were with, had never been to Spain.

While the rainy weather deterred us from venturing to the beaches, it did not stop us from hitting several of the cities attractions. We walked down La Rambla-the largest pedestrian street in Barcelona, visited the Sagrada Familia-the still-being-constructed masterpiece of Antoni Gaudi, probably my favorite architect, and even to park Guёll (which Gaudi designed and where he lived).

Also, I was able to avoid the usual diet of Kebobs and street food that I typically have to settle for on a traveler’s budget, and take advantage of the fine dining in a city known for its culinary prowess. I really wanted to introduce to my grandparents and their friends the wonderful food culture that Spain has to offer, which I felt I was able to accomplish on our last night together. It was 5 elderly couples and me, and they basically decided to leave it up to yours truly to find a place to eat. I opted to take them to a tapas bar, where we ate everything from cod fish, bbq’d shrimp, olives, fish salad, calamari, stuffed potatoes and, of course, Spain’s world-famous cured ham. Icing on the cake: we washed it all down with a couple of bottles of red imported from my region. I feel like it was an appropriate ending to a successful and special experience. I hope that Nan and Papaw have a fun and safe cruise. Love you guys.