Soooooooooooo long since posts, once again.
Anyway, I left you at me in Barcelona waiting to meet mum in Madrid. The Barcelona main train station is like an airport, had to go through all sort of security and everything!!! Got on the train, no glitches, arrived in Madrid and found Hotel Francisco II and may I say, it was a VERY nice hotel. Basically in the centre of Madrid right near plaza de sol and it had heaps of charm, little wooden windows that opened onto the cobbled street below and it was just generally lovely. Settled down to wait the 10 hours before mum arrived. Had a few (yes a few, it was clean and I didn’t have to wear flip flops) showers, watched some Spanish mtv, got some food and bummed away the afternoon. Mum was meant to be arriving at 9ish (if memory serves), so obviously I would wait up for her. No such luck, flight delayed 2 + hours and I definitely went to sleep. I have to say a highlight of this trip would be hearing a knock on the door and ‘ally!’ and then creeping (not sure why I did this, but I did) up to the door, throwing it open, giving mum the BIGGEST hug and seeing the doorman laugh and grandma just look slightly (but happily) bewildered. Left with mum and gma to find some food. Now my experience of Spain is that they don’t eat till the late hours of the evening and granted it was 11, but EVERYWHERE was closed. I thought we would be set, but it was actually really difficult! Mum and gma ended up getting some pizza and then we all got smoothies from a bar later (yes, food places closed, smoothie places not). Set off the next day to enjoy Madrid and took gma on an EPIC walk, literally 3-4 hours in very hot weather (epic for her, anyway). I don’t think grandma has done so much exercise since she was much, much younger. We did stop along the way to get fishy olives (not the intention for them to be fishy, I did not like) and a well-deserved diet coke, but she did really really well, and I saw parts of Madrid I hadn’t seen previously. Can’t remember what we got for actual meals in Madrid but I do remember we went to the food market right next to the main plaza and I had sushi (not bad actually!) and then we had my favourite European food, of which I do not know the name, a greasy, cheesy flaky pastry roll that was DIVINE, and a little bread thing with sundried tomatoes and cheese on it too. We tried to find them again in Spain, but were sadly, unsuccessful.
Day 3: went to collect the car from atocha railway station, taxi driver dropped us off a fair walk away and needless to say we got lost finding the car hire place. Good start. Driving out and trying to find a way out of Madrid was a night mare. To be honest my strategy was just get out of Madrid onto any road, work out where we were and then find a route to where we were going to. Didn’t quite work out that smoothly, as in we went for ages on a road, with no sign telling us what it was, and no turn off. Finally worked out our way to Salamanca and we were off. Pretty nothing countryside, but I have to say a high point was, when we turned off for refreshment, grandma choosing to have a beer at 11 in the morning, and I’m not ashamed to say this became a theme of the trip. Go grandma haha. Arrived in Salamanca, found our hotel which was very good, once again, not quite in the centre but it did mean we got a good night’s sleep! Headed down to town and just sat and had an ice-cream and had a look around town.
Not sure of the order of things we did in Salamanca but this is the general gist. Had a look at the cathedral where we went into the old bit and the new bit and mum and I climbed to the top of the tower. It was pretty good, as far as churches go, very, very, big. Had a look at the university and snuck into the exit, meaning we didn’t have to pay. Go us ha. It was very very nice. For me, Salamanca rivalled Granada for a place I’d like to come back to, so it was pretty beautiful. We sat in lots of main streets, drank sangria, wine (well gma and mum did) and i had coke and orange juice (what a party animal) and we found this resurant just outside the main square that did the incredible goats cheese salads, and gazpachos. And pretty good mains, with unlimited wine and coffee or dessert at the end. It was a very nice place. We went there twice . On the last night when we decided to be adventurous and it wasn’t so busy, we went to a restaurant in the main square that, sadly, was pretty average. On one of the days the med kids from the uni were celebrating the day of their patron saint (or something like that) and were all dressed up and partying, there was quite a festive atmosphere that day. Especially, when, by 3 most of them were staggering around drunk. But yes, I loved loved loved Salamanca and would seriously consider coming back there to study.
THEN we went to Toledo. The drive there was fantastic. It was so pretty, in fact we stopped off at this rock place that looked over onto the lake with the Spanish hills as a back drop. It was breathtaking. (words can’t really describe it, it was really unique). And we stopped off in a small Spanish town for lunch, where, through sign language and my very limited knowledge of Spanish (most of which I have since forgotten) we ordered a platter of chorizo, cheese, ham, olives and bread with coke for me and mum and a beer for grandma. Yum!
We found our hotel in Toledo. It happened to be at the very very bottom of a very very steep hill. Perfect for grandmas. Not. AND there was hardly anywhere to park and driving through those narrow streets is more heart stopping than any view when you’re driving a rental car and a scratch could cost A LOT of money… Unfortunately we couldn’t cancel our accommodation and find somewhere else so we ended up taking a taxi in and out of the main town (which ended up being, basically on the top of a hill. I don’t think there were any flat surfaces, except where there were restaurants, and sometimes not even then) anyway, so Toledo is not a grandma friendly place. Nevertheless we made the most of it, took an open top bus around the outskirts of town (to steep and narrow for the buses to actually go INTO town) had some amazing garlic fish (possibly swordfish, I know we had this in Alicante) and very nice paella. And grandma suggested we have a pina colada, so we did haha.
Alicante was our last stop in Spain. The drive was looooooong. But we got to our hotel and it was right on the beach! We didn’t have a sea view, but as mum pointed out, probably quieter that way. Not that it mattered in the end as grandma snored SO LOUDLY. At one point mum and I were both awake at 1am on our phones on Facebook, laughing and quietly despairing at the same time. I think grandma thought something was wrong at one point in the day time as I may have snapped a bit, but I couldn’t tell her, shed kept me awake. And she would have denied it anyway. We spent our afternoons on the beach (and got massages from some Asian ladies who eventually swamped us and literally after the first one finished, they all came up and asked if we wanted another. Ah, no, we just had one. In the end, it got a bit heated and they backed off, but one settled in front of us and one behind and mum compared it to the mafia attacking us. hahaha) and mum and I walked up to the train station to buy my ticket to Madrid and we had fantastic food with another very good paella on our last night and that was basically it. We did take the open top bus again to get to the castle on the top of a hill which mum and I explored and gma sat at the bottom, but it was just a very nice lazy time.
The day I was meant to be catching a train to Paris, everything went wrong. We got lost when we only had to do a right turn, then another, then a left. So I missed that train and we decided that we would just all go back to Madrid and I would catch the fast train that was expensive. After 2 hours of driving around in circles basically, mum got us on the right road (yay!) and we drove the 5 hour drive to Madrid. Thank GOD atocha was easy to find, and thank god I missed my train really, because if mum had to find it with only gma to help, not sure it would have ended well… dropped off the car and I went to buy my train ticket. This is the series of events andi really don’t want to dwell on it, as it still makes me feel stressed.
Lined up for half an hour in the wrong line for the train I wanted but COULD catch another one to Paris, buying the ticket there.
Lined up in another line for half an hour to find I couldn’t book the train I wanted because the guy was a nong, and obviously new, as he said I couldn’t possibly have purchased the tickets I did, from where I did, BUT I DID AND YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOURE DOING.
And ended up buying a ticket for a train that left in an hour and would take me 45 minutes to get to. So I had nearly zero time to say bye to mum and gma and no time to get food (which we had been planning to get from the market with the cheesy things). I was stressed and emotional to say the least!
Got on this awful train with seats that didn’t recline (I was meant to be sleeping on a lovely sleeper train at this point, the one I missed) and evidently a gazillion mosquitoes as I woke up the next day and discovered bites up and down my shoulders and all along my back, I have never ever been bitten so bad. Arrived in Paris and got to our 17 euro a night hostel with rats and a gazillion people squished into the room and dodgy people outside that followed you and made sure you didn’t go out at night (then again it was 17 euros, compared to a 30 euro place, so we can’t complain). Found Olivia and found out she had been to Versailles the day before, bit sad, as I would like to have seen it, having studied the revolution and all but that’s life, and we went out to the Louvre (got in for free, yay uk passport) and I had a crepe and chestnuts and we went to Notre dame (which was beautiful, but SO crowded we only stayed in there for like 10 minutes…) and that’s about it. And we booked Disneyland!
The next day we went couch surfing! It was an… experience. They guy was 40something, the lady 30 something. We suggested we would make dinner on one of the nights at like 5ish and at 7 they were like, so you’re cooking tonight? We were like, what??? We don’t have any ingredients! So we rushed to the shop and luckily they were still open, rushed back and cooked chicken parmas. The next night the lady, who was Indonesian, made us Indonesian food which was quite nice. We had cinnamon bananas but then also this weird sweet, mushed asparagus and something else equally as strange and then a really sweet, meat thing on top. It was interesting, in, I think, not such a good way… so glad we have done couch surfing, but might wait til I do it again. Good experience, but not great! (and to be honest I think the hosts felt the same way)
Flew back to London to meet mum once again to go to Susies (my godmothers) for a few days. Met her adopted son and her saw iz, her daughter again and just had a really good time. Went into London and visited the infamous mnm world and had an incredible lunch at tgi Fridays where mum and I, without conferring, managed to order the same things including deserts and met penny, mums other oldest friend besides Susie, again. And then it was time to say good bye. Was at the bus depot and yeah, it was sad. Got to will and Karen’s and bummed around and then on the 1st of November, went to Artic Monkeys!! I have to say, I was not so excited about going. No idea why I bought a ticket as I have really not listened to their music, BUT I had a really really good time. It was hot and sweaty and there were a lot of 15 year olds in the mosh pit creating trouble so I got out and just enjoyed the music form the side, and I have to say, gladly, that it was worth going.
On the 3rd Olivia left for Italy, and on the 5th I left for grandmas, where I drank a lot of tea, ate a lot of cake and played a lot of scrabble and then on the 7th went back to Susie’s where it was discussed that I would kind of babysit the kids when needed. So for the past 3 weeks that’s what I have been doing! (Interspersed with going up o London on the weekend to Susie’s apartment and Cleo helping out after the first week) I have loved it. I won’t lie, it is hard work, and sometimes I’m exhausted, but the little boy is absolutely gorgeous and iz is so sweet and means so well, so at the end of the day, it’s really fantastic. And spending so much time with Susie has been great too! It sucks living in another country, I’d really like to pop over for coffee or to babysit occasionally when I go home, but it’s a bit hard when you’re on the other side of the world! And I want to say a massive public thank you to Susie for letting me stay in her home and look after her kids. You are so generous and I really can’t thank you enough for everything you have done for me. I will miss you and the kids so so so much, I don’t want to think about it!
So, in a week I will be heading back to Bridgwater to say goodbye to will and Karen and Joe and Anna and saying another massive thank you to them for ferrying us around and saving us bus fares, as well as putting us up for such a long period of time (sorry our rooms got so messy, it’s incredibly hard living out of a backpack when you’re staying in one place!). you, as well, have been very generous and I’m so grateful! And then in another week after that we are flying to Thailand! As of today, 59 days till we arrive home!