Tuesday, July 21, 2009

valencia

greetings and salutations!

as i´m sure most (or at least, some) of you know, we are currently in valencia, spain. right now we´re killing time- only 9 1/2 hours until our bus to granada leaves! our plan for those hours include: going to the supermercado and getting some food, taking that food to the park and having a picnic, window shopping (we have neither the money nor the room in our bags to do any actual shopping), going to the museum of arts and sciences, and sitting at the bus station reading and journalling and generally waiting around.

our last couple days in barcelona were pretty solid days... we woke up early one morning, planning to hit the beach, and wouldn´tcha know it, the sky was black and it was spitting. so naturally, we went back to bed and tried again later. it was a little clearer and definitely not raining, so we leapt onto the metro down to la mer and found ourselves a nice little spot on the beach. the sky was partly cloudy, but the water was warm enough to be in, so naturally, we were. we spent a couple hours lying in the partial sun, and i made friends with an old french man.. not really. he asked me to put sunscreen on his back.. what could i do? how do you say no to that? so i did it. then i ran away quickly back into the water. we got another doner kebap for dinner- becuase you really really cant beat them, i mean, the amount of deliciousness vs. the cost.. you can´t go wrong.

one night we walked for just under an hour to the fountain show at the bottom of montjuïc- the ´mountain´ in barcelona, home to the jewish cemetery. it was pretty cool- its like the bellagio fountains (only not quite as mind blowing. i mean i don´t think anything will ever blow me away like the bellagio fountains did), with music and lights and this really cool cloud effect.

our bus to valencia left at 10am and took 4 hours. leaving barcelona was kind of sad- its got so many memories of friends and family and fun (the three big Fs). but arriving in valencia was nice and refreshing. it was easily 5-10 degrees cooler, there´s a nice breeze and its a lot quieter.
we´ve been staying at the red nest hostel in a 4 bed room. its a pretty nice place, i would stay there again. our room wasn´t huge, but we really didn´t need it to be. the whole building is painted fun bright colours (its not a taupe wonderland by any means).

since the days are all blurring together i´m going to have to stop doing day-by-day recounts and give you a general recap. i do hope you´ll forgive me.

and so let us discuss valencia... we spent a day at the beach- actually just half a day, it was HOT. there is zero place to hide from the sun, and in the middle of the day that´s all i want to do. but we got in some solid swimming time, and some beach lounging time, and i managed to only get burnt on my right leg, and not seriously, so all in all, i´m quite proud of myself.
we spent a fair bit of time in the park that winds through the middle of the city. when you see it, its pretty obvious that it used to be a river- bridges cross over it, its set down below street level, it just looks rivery. however, back in the day, the river flooded, drowning valencia under 2m of agua. since the people here are not amphibious (i was a little disappointed to discover this too..), they decided that a flooded city= not cool. so they movedthe river and now the ex-river is a park. and its cool. every bridge you cross under brings on a new theme to the park- artwork or playgroudns or fountains. its fun.
last night we had paella. becuase its from valencia. and my word, was it ever good. it arrived in a giant frying pan- easily half the size of the table, and we devoured it in 3 minutes flat. and scraped the bottom to get every last grain of deliciousness. so good.
quoi d´autre? we´ve been eating at pans and company a fair bit.. its kind of like quiznos meets mcdonalds- but its got good, relatively cheap sandwiches.
i´m looking forward to the city of arts and sciences, its the largest museum in spain, and is divided into 4 parts- océanografic (orrr something like that), hemisferic, artsy and hands-on sciencey. i´m not sure which one we´re going to- my vote is either the ocean or the hands-on. i´ll let you know how it turns out.

ok, last time i ran out of internet time (you pay by the 1/2 hour or the hour) and didn´t get to tell you about my lessons...

I LEARNED THIS:
1. pet stores smell the same everywhere
2. orange juice stains white clothes
3. i like buying stamps in spain, they´ve got fun machines with buttons to pushç
4. laundry is a luxury
5. my bank card only lets me take out 50€ at a time. and charges me 2€ for it. not cool.

and now a quick housekeeping note...
i´ve got my phone so that only wifi internet is turned on, phone signal is not. so if you need to reach me do it by email- brooke.hanna@gmail.com. i´m guaranteed to get it.


with affection,
brooke c. hanna

Thursday, July 16, 2009

barcelona!

good evening to you all!

i am in barcelona, and having a grand old time. but before we get too carried away here, lets finish up with madrid.

our last day in madrid, we packed up our stuff and checked out, leaving our bags at the hostel until we could come back for them later on- so we didn´t have to haul them around all day with us. we walked over to la reiña sofia museum and spent a good 4 or so hours there. there´s some pretty incredible artwork there, most notably, picasso´s Guernica. it´s HUGE. like it takes up the whole wall. and in the rooms leading up to it, there are all his sketches and practice guernica´s, so you can really see how much work went into it. the final painting took 1 month to complete and most art critics say it is representative of spain under franco- the bull (Spain) is mangled and there´s a mother holding her dead child, but there is hope for new growth in the dove and the flower. (i did some background reading...). guernica was living at the MOMA in NYC but was returned to spain once peace and democracy returned (as per picasso´s request).
my favourite exhibit was a series of 11 or 12 small b&w photos taken by a man in the Atlas groupd- a group working to document the wars in lebanon- of his trip to rome and paris. they were all self-takes and he just looked so excited to be there.

after the museum, we found a thai restaurant nearby and thouroughly enjoyed our pad thai before heading across the street to the botanical gardens, where we wandered and sat in the shade (the heat is totally bearable if you´re in the shade- in the sun you fry).

we headed over to el corte inglés- a big chain department store like the bay at home, only bigger-. and wandered the store because it was air conditioned. then we grabbed some dinner and our bags and headed up to the bus station, where we read for an hour and hopped on the bus to barcelona.

and now.. barcelona.
day one was exhausting. we got off the bus at 8am- its an 8 hour bus ride from madrid, and taking the overnight bus means you don´t have to pay for a place to stay for that night. we waited in line to get the schedule to valencia- our next destination, all the while being yelled at in italian by an unhappy customer who didn´t want us to use this bus line because his bus was late and he has a dog and he missed his connection and blah blah blah. then we got on to the metro and went all the way up almost to camp nou (where FC Barcelona plays) and got to what we thought was our hostel...only to discover that the map i had looked at was to another hostel owned by the same people.. so we took another bunch of metros (one going the wrong way, one station that we needed was closed....it went like that). we finally got to the right stop and took the longer route to the hostel- weaving back and forth up and down streets.. but we did make it eventually. and it was a really great place. the rooms were apartment style- meagan and i shared a 2 bed room and aj was sharing a 2-bed room 3 floors above us. i think there were 4 bedrooms in our place and a shared living room, 2 bathrooms and a full kitchen and laundry. we cleaned ourselves up and had a little siesta, then met up with aj and headed down to the water. because obviously the first thing we had to see was where our boat lived. it looks exactly the same- imagine that- except that our home, the MV Oceanic II, wasn´t there waiting for us. and that was kind of sad. it would be like going back to a place and expecting your very favourite place or person to be there, and its not.
after some sitting and soaking up the mediterranean breeze, we wandered up las ramblas- THE biggest tourist street i´ve ever seen, full of street performers and souvenirs and restaurants and tourists. we grabbed the most delicious orange juice i´ve ever had at the fruit market then went back up to our hostel where we had another siesta.
that night we met up with aj and a couple of his roommates from brazil and ireland and hung out. we ended up going to the black sheep- the bar we went to on our last night in town with TSS- and meagan and i spent the whole night waiting to see our boat friends and remembering them.

we didn´t getmuch sleep that night- we didn´t get home until 3ish am then i made soime cheese bread in the oven and we woke up at 9 the next morning because we were moving to a different hostel and had to check out.

so yesterday we got to our new place- where we´´re staying now. its a 6 bed room with a giant bathroom. we couldnt check in until 1 so we wandered the gothic quarter and then made our way home and showered then headed out to harry potter- because meagan is obssessed. haha we saw the english version at a theatre just off the beach and honestly, the movie wasn´t as bad as i was expecting. post- movie, we grabbed some delish doner kebap and sat looking over the beach and ate dinner. last night we went to bed early, woke uop for breakfast then slept until 2 today. oopps. we walked up to gaudi´s park guell and looked around, walked back down here to las ramblas.
and now my internet is almost out of time.
i love you-

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Madrid, the second.

BUENAS DIAS.
Guess what? I´m still in Madrid.
Now that we´ve got that out of the way, let me tell you all about me. And what I´ve been doing- that´s obviously why you´re here, right?
Okay, so we left off just before groceries. We got some bread and nutella. Very extravagant, I know. We then went home, dressed for dinner, and headed up the street to the plaza, literally 5 doors down, and had some sangria, some bread (Meagan and AJ had some calamari, and I´ve never been a fan of deep-fried rubber bands...) then headed for a stroll. We ended up at the other end of our street - after taking the roundabout way- and got another patio spot and had some sangria and some paella- deeeelish. Then ´twas home to bed. At like 2am.
The very next day we awoke to SCREECHING children. No, not really, they were actually SCREECHING birds. Still, most unpleasant. But we managed to kind of ish go back to sleep. When we did wake up for real we headed back towards the palace to hit up the gardens and the park. We found the garens no problem. We did not actually make it to the park. We pretty much went right by without even noticing. Oops. We did stumble onto a temple though. An Egyptian temple. Foreshadowing? I think so! It´s real name is the Debod temple. It is very very old. Let me tell you what I learnt...
The temple was built originally 15 km south of Aswan[1] in southern Egypt very close to the first cataract of the Nile and to the great religious center dedicated to the goddess Isis, in Philae. In the early 2nd century BC, Adikhalamani (Tabriqo), the Kushite king of Meroë, started its construction by building a small single room chapel dedicated to the god Amun.[1] It was built and decorated on a similar design to the later Meroitic chapel on which the Temple of Dakka is based.[1] Later, during the reigns of Ptolemy VI, Ptolemy VIII and Ptolemy XII of the Ptolemaic dynasty, it was extended on all four sides to form a small temple, 12 X 15 m, which was dedicated to Isis of Philae. The Roman emperors Augustus and Tiberius completed its decorations.[2]

Not true. Well, technically, true, but that´s not what I actually learnt from being there. I learnt that it was given to the Spanish for helping out the Egyptians when they got themselves into a pickle. And that doorways are very tricky things for old temples because they not only let in the priests (which is what you want in a temple) but they also let in the WEATHER! and when your temple is built of sandstone, weather is very bad.

So the temple was looovely. And the stroll we took post-temple was nice, annnnd I´m trying to remember what came next. Clearly it made a big impression on me. WELL it was something like go to the store, buy a journal- because I intentionally left mine at home in a vain attempt at trying to become someone who doesn´t feel the need to record EVERYTHING. Didn´t work. We alsop bought 1.95 € wine. Went home, had nutella sandwiches and wine, and then went out awandering for some sangria.

TODAY goes like this.. wake up and greet the day, go to the bus station to get tickets for BARCELONA-we leave tomorrow night, wander, determine we´re not actually wandering towards anything and everything is closed porque its Sunday, and that´s the Lord´s day dontcha know? So we walked backwards to the metro. Another lie, we just turned around and walked forwards to the metro, and metroified all the way to el parque. It was all très belle, musicians and duckings and boats on water (I know, go figure eh) and roses and fountains and people and stuff. Quite nice, quite nice. We bought cold drinks, sat in the shade, then moved to the grass, sat in the sun, and then the shade again and then it was lunch time (eating, one of my favourite times of day). Alas, we had to leave the park behind and seek out a meal. Which was delicious. We had croissants with ham and cheese and they were toasted and wonderful. AND NOW here I am.. still on the internet. Ands its 530 and I havent siestaed yet. OH thats what we did yesterday. UM ok, I am going now.

Lessons learned ( learned? learnt? whatever.)
1. um. um. birds in the morning SUCK
2. today we went by a thermometre that read 40 degrees. drinking water is important to life.
3. that´s it.

BUHBYE!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Madrid I

Hola amigos!
I made it to Madrid. It really isn´t what I was expecting at all...but that´s because I was expecting something not as cool. Don´t really know why.. So things have turned out quite nicely, I think.
Let me tell you all about my adventure getting here...Becuase I know you´re DYING to know..
SO I left home Wednesday and flew Air Berlin from Vancouver to Dusseldorf, Germany. It´s about a 9 hour flight. And it was empty. I had a window seat, and there was no one next to me, so I got to sprawl out and sleep, which was lovely. We landed in the Dorf at 11am local time, and my big bag was checked all the way through to Madrid, which meant I was free to wander without it. I hopped on the train to the central station in Dusseldorf and spent three hours wandering around and drinking tea with my book. It´s a nice little city- or at least the area I was in.
Then it was back to the flugehaven- I know I spelt that wrong.. where I had another couple hours to kill. I was so tired I just found a seat, put my ipod on and stared at nothing. Total zombie.
The flight to Madrid was full. It took just over 2 hours and the guy next to me was snorting and coughing the whole way- just lovely. We were just making our descent into the city, like just about to land and then we started going up. And so they made an annoucement in German and then a very fast announcement in Spanish. And then a couple minutes later, one in English.. apparently there was a crosswind that wsa just rippin´across the runway, so we had to abort the mission and try again. Which we did, and it was just fine.
Meagan and AJ were waiting for me outside of baggage and we leapt (not really...) onto the metro into the centre of the city and found our hostel. We were sharing a room with 3 other people, all really nice. The three of us went for a little walk, grabbed some cold water and called it a night.
And it was a Loud night. Our hostel was on a quasi-big road, and this is Spain, where life really starts after it gets dark.. so it was loud, almost all night, so I didn´t ge the greatest sleep. But thats ok.
This morning we packed up all our stuff and went to a different hostel (last night´s was full for tonight, we nly booked it for the 1 night..). Our current place is just the 3 of us with our own bathroom, which is tres nice. I mean the place itself isn´t anything fancy, but its nice having our own bathroom.
Once we were all cleaned up, we set out walking to the palace- about a 20 min walk. It was 10am and 30 degrees. But its not super sticky so as long as yo´re in the shade, its not that bad. We spent some time checking out the palace, then went across the street to THE Juan Valdez coffee shop (well, its a chain, but it was one of THE Juan Valdez coffee shops), rumoured to have THE best coffee. And we all got smoothies. Go figure eh?
We took a very roundabout and scenic way home, intentionally, and saw the Plaza Mayor and lots of really pretty sidestreets. Madrid is kind of like a more colourful, happier Paris. Same kind of euro-vibe.
When in Spain... we were all in need of a siesta. So we took a 4hour nap- I´m still exhausted and could probably sleep through the night right now (its 750pm), quite easily. But I won´t. Not right now anyways.
That brings us to now. Après ça we´re off to find some groceries for breakfast and then some paella and some sangria. And then bed. I can´t wait.

Things I learned:
1. Mr. Bean is funny in all cultures. Germans laugh at his lame funny habits just as hard as I do.
2. Dusseldorf smells like handcream. Its quite pleasant- kind of soothing really.
3. Despite the fact that German and English are in the same family, I don´t understand it at all. I know please and thank you and wunderbar. And airport. C´est tout. I´m doing just marginally better with español, but that´s because I speak French. They´re good friends.

I think that´s all the lessons I´ve got for you at this time.
Paz é amor. ...Portuguese is also like French and Spanish..