Monthly Archives: October 2013

a week and a bit later

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So I have been home for over a week and have been enjoying some time adjusting back to Australian time without having to be at work at the same time.

I have my bond back from the Madrid apartment with some compensation for having to buy more telephone credit. I did quite well out of that as the money went into  my account in AUD , so I didn’t lose on converting it. I left a balanced review for the apartment. I am also getting the 10 GBP British Airways took off me to select my seat only to end up being squeezed in to a tiny spot. I know some of you will think I am silly for chasing it up but why should a mega corporation have my 10GBP for something they did not provide to me.

pic stolen off the internet

pic stolen off the internet

I learnt my lesson the hard way about staying hydrated on a plane. My eyes are still weeping from being so dried out. Next time I will drink a lot more water, take a  face mister and some eye drops.

Travelling solo was not anywhere near as scary as I had thought. Don’t be scared to do it. Life is too short.

Travelling is great and I will be doing more next year. Maybe a smaller trip , I think I might go to New Zealand and do a bit of a road trip and also go on a overnight cruise up the Doubtful Sound. Travelling is great but we have lots to like in Australia, our food is damn good and I think we are good people. If you haven’t read Bill Bryson’s “down under” I strongly recommend you do. It explains what a great place we live in. I had laugh out loud moments that lasted longer than just a HAHA. ALthough I do wish our internet was as fast as it is in Europe.

I was on a tram and passed Bourke Street mall where their were people in red uniforms just hanging around waiting to answer any questions from tourists. What I would have given to see that sort of thing in Madrid. No wonder they didn’t win the Olympic bid.

I’d like to thank everyone who did things to help my trip like make generous donations of money and books. Also to all the people who lent me things like luggage,luggage locks, torches , an oyster card and city guides . You are all awesome. As are all the people who encouraged me to write my blog.

Next week it is back to work and no more double pay. Hope I wake up on time.

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Last day in Madrid

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I woke up uncharacteristically early , before 8 am :O and thought I would do all the laundry so that it would be dry for the next guests, not something I had to do but I wanted to.  I went out for breakfast and text the owner of the apartment at around 9.45am to make sure he remembered that I was checking out at 6pm. He didn’t answer but the day before , judging by all the noise, all night, was a major 24 hours of partying in Madrid. The owner was youngish and maybe he had been out partying all night. Who knows, anyway, being the expert on sleeping in I gave him a few more hours. Then I rang him and there was a recorded message of a telephone company lady saying something in Spanish. I had to take my phone to the the take away sangria man, he had been one of the only people in Madrid to be even remotely friendly. ( other than the apartment owner). I asked him to interpret what the lady was saying and he said that it meant I had no credit for calls on my phone. So off I went to go and find a Orange store to buy some credit. Once I had gone through the dramas that that involved I took the phone back to the take away sangria man to see what the message I was getting now said. Now,  I was told, the owners phone was switched off. While I am talking about the take away sangria guy , I asked him why Madrid people are so rude. ( even saw a guy with the word “rude” written on his hoodie ). He said that they aren’t rude ’cause being rude is part of an individual’s personality type and that actually they were all very closed and not open to anything. I said but you are very friendly and he said “that is ’cause I am from Portugal” So to cut a longer story of angst short the owner had mistaken what day I was leaving and didn’t show up. So after talking to a lovely and reassuring waytostay staff member I left the keys on the table and left half an hour later than I had timed for and without my 200 euro damage deposit. That unfortunate event was by far the fault of the owner and no reflection on waytostay.

how close my apartment was to Plaza Mayor.

how close my apartment was to Plaza Mayor (on a quiet night)

Before I left the area, I took my left over shampoo, conditioner and soap and gave it all to one very grubby beggar that hung out at the market. I thought he was going to hug me, thankfully he didn’t. In the area I was staying they have security devices on the shampoo and conditioner in the supermarket so I thought it must be something of a desired object by those that steal or have little money.

I got all my luggage to the metro but then found out that I would have to change trains two times to get the right train. I was not in the best of moods so I got a taxi instead. As, once again, I was approaching a customs person visibly anxious I got a bit of a going over by the customs girl. She even put her hands down my pants. I suppose she might of thought my rolls 😉 were drugs and not fat. (So at least I can say someone put their hands down my pants while I was overseas).

Madrid airport is very big, you get on a driverless train to get to the terminal and once there, there is very little to do with your time, so I read. Who would have thought it possible but the organisational skills of getting everyone on the plane was worse than Singapore. I had to keep moving to the end of queues. This was at 10.30 pm and the only food I had , other than a small breakfast was the fruit in the sangria . I got onboard , settled in , had a few wines and slept for an hour.

During the day , Sarah ( the friend I stayed with in London) and I realised through social media status updates that we were on the same plane from Dubai to Melbourne. An amazing coincidence! So when she went to check in she got my seat changed so that we could sit together. We found each other in Dubai airport and had lunch sans alcohol, due to me be being not all that well from the turbulence mixed with alcohol.

Dubai airport, reportedly, has 56 million people a year transit through it and both times I have been there I have seen someone I know. It was really nice sitting with someone I knew on the plane. A relief after a day I would prefer hadn’t happened. I drank as many as gin and tonics as I could get. There was a very funny and cheeky steward that amused us with flirty banana innuendo. ( I had put down a menu requirement that I had the fruit platters, I will be doing that again, not for the banana innuendo but as it is nice and light and healthy).

Part of "getting our monies worth"

Part of “getting our monies worth”

The turn around time in Singapore was 20 mins so there was no dilly dallying there.

I got an email from my nephew as soon as the plan landed saying welcome home- that made me go naw. ❤

Before and during my trip I have copped a few ribbings about ending up being on the t.v show “Border Patrol” probably ’cause I have been known to react vocally to something I am not happy about. So I was amused to find out that they were filming that day. I got through without ending up on a future episode. What did surprise me though, is that you can nominate not to go on it. Why then do people that do end up on it and in trouble nominate to not do it? The mind boggles!

I realise that travelling involves unfortunate events and until the apartment check the worst thing that had happened was the beggar that had told me to go and die. So really I was pretty damn lucky through the whole trip. Way to stay have been super proactive about getting my deposit back so that is really comforting. I come back having spent no credit and still with a couple days pay still in my bank account.  I am so happy, triumphant in fact , that I didn’t spend any credit.

I still have stuff I want to write about to complete this trips blogging and I am going to travel more and will blog more. Hey, I always have something to bang on about.

Toledo is very beige

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Yesterday I made a trip out to Toledo. (I keep getting Boz Scaggs Lido song in my head) It is only 30 mins away by RENFE train. Buying the ticket was a bit of an ordeal, the automated machines didn’t accept my credit card and didn’t accept cash, so I had to take a number and join the flock of other people who couldn’t use the  machines, and there were quite a few.

On the train I sat behind someone that could have done with a sudafed and a bottle of charcoal tablets. Hopefully I got out of there without catching whatever it is he had.

Toledo is a very old city known for it’s co-existence of Jews, Muslims and Christians.They also have a big history of making bladed weapons. I got the hop on hop off bus but as I didn’t understand the driver my ticket  only allowed to me to hop on and hop off once. It did take me for a drive over to the other side of the river to look at the city from that perspective. There was a man up there reading a book, I can see why. It was a beautiful vista.

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I went to the Ejercito museum which is a museum of army stuff. I am not into anything army but it was interesting nonetheless. The soldiers of the days gone by deserve a medal just for running around in incredibly heavy and hot ( as in warm variety of hot not the oh la la type) looking uniforms.

these pants/pantaloons were very big.

these pants/pantaloons were very big.

this is how you got chosen to be in the army not a very fun sort of lottery

this is how you got chosen to be in the army not a very fun sort of lottery

the smell of this reminded me of dad's workshop

the smell of this reminded me of dad’s workshop

oops accidental flash

oops accidental flash

I wasn't allowed to use a flash

I wasn’t allowed to use a flash

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There was a craft market on the roof, nothing really took my fancy or would fit in my suitcase. I went for a bit of a walk and found the Museum de santa cruz, I  didn’t stay there long as there is only so many effigies of christ tacked onto a cross that I can look at. Then I thought I would go and find other museums I walked down a hill and back up that hill and up another road and down and up another and realised I had walked a loop and was back where I started. That was a little frustrating. The people of Toledo must have thighs of steel.

I found a nice little tapas place and sat and read my kindle, the man at the cafe was very nice. I haven’t found the people of Madrid to be all that friendly. Servers slap food down in front of you, people in the street are rude with no provocation . The longest conversation I have had in a week ( other than to ring my mum) is with the lovely guy that sells take away sangria.

I was tired from all the walking up and down hills so I headed for the station, even though my train wasn’t coming for an hour. The little Spanish girl serving was up there as the most multi skilled person I have ever watched. She was amazing , she totally owned the room. I drank them dry of vino blanco after one glass. She can’t be the person ordering the wine ’cause if she was there would have been a lot.

I got on the train and sat behind some very chattery Americans who were complaining about how much the people talked in the seats in front of them on the hop on hop off bus.  There was a man with them that had helped me at the Madrid railway station he winked at me in a knowing way of how ironic they were being. I momentarily wished I had latched onto them so that I could have a conversation longer than a sentence.

I was so tired from all the walking so when I got home I got a takeaway mojito or two and went and was a bit of a couch potato. Speaking of mojitos though, they do not measure spirits in Spain they just turn the bottle upside down and pour and pour and pour , you get a lot more bang for your euro if you drink spirits. 😀

It was really nice to get out of Madrid for the day. I should have spent more days here getting out of Madrid for the day.

Today is a national holiday in Madrid it has been described as 

“This can not be defined as a Madrid fiesta in the party sense. Celebrating the birth of the Spanish unified nation this day is marked by military parades along the Paseo de la castellana. Great if soldiers in uniform is your thing but otherwise a little trying!”. 

I woke up late yet again so I didn’t see any marching but there are people everywhere, so many people that I just want to hang out in my apartment  and google “why are the men in Madrid so short?” ( not that that is a bad thing) and” why do Madrid people add tuna to so many dishes?” that IS a bad thing.  maybe there is a correlation between my two pondered thoughts??

I got to see a Panda

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As my flatmate once said “if there was an Olympic sleeping team you would be the captain”. So yes I slept in again today. Got myself to the appropriate metro station and took the 20 odd minute trip out to the Madrid Zoo. It is very well sign posted from the station to the zoo along the kilometre walk. One reason why I chose to come to Madrid is because they have pandas at the zoo. Yes, they have them at the Adelaide zoo but while I was in Spain I might as well see a panda. Maybe I will go and see the ones in Adelaide as well and take my niece and nephew.

I was going to take Percy but I was a little worried about bag snatchers .  He can’t go from being the kept panda of leisure to a gypsy panda waylaying los turistas, so he had to miss out on seeing his relatives.  The female panda gave birth to a male cub in August so she and her cub were in a room away from the public. There was a camera on her though and she spent the hours that I was there curled up in a ball, I assume with her cub curled up in the middle. The male panda Bing Xing ( which means Star of ice, I hope not the illegal kind) spent the whole time eating. eating eating eating eating.

here Bing Xing eating

here Bing Xing is eating

here Bing Xing is eating

here Bing Xing is eating

here Bing Xing is eating

here Bing Xing is eating

here Bing Xing is eating

here Bing Xing is eating

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here Bing Xing is eating

this is the mother panda in a ball. cuddling her cub

this is the mother panda in a ball. cuddling her cub

here Bing Xing is eating

here Bing Xing is eating

Bing Xing can eat like I can drink

Bing Xing can eat like I can drink

There must have been something in the water cause there were lots of animals with “babies”. I spotted some wallabies giving it a bit of a go. I tried to take a photo for you but it was blurry.

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It is a massive zoo, some of the enclosures seemed a little unfair.

this brown bear was looking at us like we were the ones in the zoo, which I suppose we were ;)

this brown bear was looking at us like we were the ones in the zoo, which I suppose we were 😉

this bear made me feel a little sad

this bear made me feel a little sad

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spell check people spell check

sacred- secret which one do they mean?

after I took this photo a woman came and was yelling at me in Spanish . I said in Spanish that I do not speak Spanish and she continued to yell-either I walked into her shot or this bird should not be photographed. she was very passionate about whatever it was that I had done to upset her. I said what I thought was I am sorry but it turns out I asked her, I learned later, I had asked her for the bill.

after I took this photo a woman came and started yelling at me in Spanish . I said in Spanish that I do not speak Spanish and she continued to yell-either I walked into her shot or this bird should not be photographed. she was very passionate about whatever it was that I had done to upset her. I said what I thought was “I am sorry” but it turns out , I learned later, I had asked her for the bill.

getting to the Australian section felt like as long as it takes to fly there. and I had to say g'day to my peeps.

getting to the Australian section felt like as long as it takes to fly there.- I had to say g’day to my peeps.

you can't tell but this happy orangutan was hanging out with her little orangutans

you can’t tell but this happy orangutan was hanging out with her little orangutans

this little elephant was still not the best at walking it was very cute to watch.

this little elephant was still not the best at walking .it was very cute to watch.

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It was a nice day. I went “home” via the market to get a take away Mojito. Take away Mojitos should be available in Caulfield North. My cousin Malcolm had recommended a tapas place so I went looking for it, got lost, found a place I thought looked welcoming, kept walking checked google maps realised I was very close to the place he had recommended went back , low and behold it was the place I thought  looked welcoming. It was welcoming and the food didn’t cause any stomach upsets. Thanks Malcolm 😀

October 9th in Madrid

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I slept in yet again, got up and went over the road to the market . It is more of a tapas food court than a market. There is a stall there that sell little sausages in little rolls with chopped up little bits of tomato, green pepper and onion. I get the one with a chilli on it and add mustard – delicious( I ate the chilli before taking the photo )

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Then I walked down to the Thyseen-Bornemisza museum they had a temporary surrealism exhibition on as well their permanent exhibition. The “surrealism and the dream” was very good . They did a very good job of showing the relationship of the surrealist art style and a dream.  The main permanent exhibition was amazing it seemed to have a bit of a happy theme in a lot of the paintings.This may not be evident in the series of crooked pictures to follow but i felt it.  😉

a no cubist painting by Picasso

a Joseph Cornell box. I am a bit of a Cornell fan so that was fun to see.

a Joseph Cornell box. I am a bit of a Cornell fan so that was fun to see.

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a Kandinsky

a Kandinsky

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Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock

it was hung straight .

it was hung straight .

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I don't mind tossing a couple of coins to dudes that put some effort in to get money from the tourists

I don’t mind tossing a couple of coins to dudes that put some effort in to get money from the tourists

this book would be hard pressed to create a g and t as good as my Dad made. He made the perfect gin and tonic.

this book would be hard pressed to create a g and t as good as my Dad made. He made the perfect gin and tonic.

I used the 2nd day of my hop on hop off bus, it isn’t as well organised as previous hop on hop off buses and it doesn’t offer discounts to museums. It was good to suss out the lay out of the land though. I came back to my hood and went to the market over the road from my apartment and had some of the best oysters I have ever eaten, and I have eaten a few. I thought I should go out and about and see what it is like after dark , so I went for a bit of a walk, it didn’t last long though ’cause it didn’t feel all that safe. It is a pity that there are so many beggars and people that look like they are up to no good. I do not even feel safe carrying my credit card with me. There is a heavy police presence though so that is good and for every police officer there is about a dozen taxis that is good if you need a taxi.

Madrid

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I got the RENFE train from Barcelona to Madrid. The countryside in Spain makes for good gazing. There were mountains and views of the Mediterranean, small villages, areas that looked like desert,old derelict castles . It made me happy that I had not chosen to fly. I did fall asleep for half an hour but the weight of my big head put my hand to sleep so I woke up. Some loud Spanish girls with bags of chips and cans of soft drink got on at one stop. Luckily all the work involved in eating all the chips put them to sleep then it was quiet again. I got to my apartment and met Miguel who showed me around. It is advertised as 2nd floor but it more like the 4th , maybe it is the 2nd floor from the top. It is really nicely decked out with reconstructed art by a friend of his. It is a little noisy but I knew it was going to be like that. The linen and towels from the last “tenant” was still drying in the lounge room . That was a little annoying, not much I can do about it though. He is letting me stay until the evening my flight goes so swings and roundabouts. Today I did a little walking around and got the hop on hop off bus to figure out what I want to do over the next few days. This time next week I will be back in Australia :(. The time has gone very quickly.

While I am here there are couple of museums I want to go to and there are pandas at the Madrid zoo so I hope to get there and I would like to go to Toledo, it comes highly recommended.

a scary sad clown

a scary sad clown

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It is a very different city to Barcelona, I haven’t taken to it like I took to Barcelona. That doesn’t mean I won’t have a light bulb moment and see what it is people love about it. Stuff is cheap here so that’s good. There are so many beggars, I think there might even be more than in Paris.

Barcelona on a Sunday.

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Yep, you guessed it, I slept in again.

Barcelona is a sleepy old town on a Sunday. I went for a quick walk in the morning and then came back to the apartment. My sister rang on viber so that I could say happy birthday to my mum. How viber still works on other sims is a mystery to me but it is great that it does. I walked the 2 ish klms to Casa Batllo it is a house that Gaudi designed for the Batllo family. It is now owned by another Barcelonian family who invest time and their own resources into preserving it. The entry fee was not cheap but seeing as it is privately owned I didn’t mind so much. I used one of the discount dockets that I got with my hop on hop off bus ticket and it was 18.35 euro. Allegedly there are no straight lines in any of the designs but I saw a couple. The house is meant to make you feel like you are part of the sea. It was incredibly magical, living there must have been a little surreal. It was so magical that when I left it seemed like home was in a totally different direction to which I had arrived 😉 .

i got a daggy photo for mum.

i got a daggy photo for mum.

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the Batlló family

the Batlló family

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It is up there as a must see. Then I went to an art gallery around the corner showing an exhibition of work done by a local artist. All the materials had come from within his house.

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this was part of the museum not the exhibition.

this was part of the museum not the exhibition.

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More walking and then I found my self back at Mercat de Santa Caterina where I sat for a while eating yum tapas and drinking beer and sangria.

i chose very well

i chose very well

A stones throw from my apartment is the El Born cultural centre where they bring together 3 centuries of Catalan history. Is is quite incredible. So much so you wonder if it is real, but it apparently is. The site has an archaeological dig site in it.

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The centre  really shows how proud the people of Barcelona are  to be Catalonian.

People that have lived with me or near me know that I am a little bin obsessive. The Barcelona rubbish disposal system is fantastic . They have very large bins on the street all for different types of refuse . You take it down put it in and that is it . No need to drag bins out on bin night. I am very impressed. They always seem to be just emptied, my flat is so quiet I do not hear it happen.

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some pictures of the park very close to my apartment

Arc de triomf

Arc de triomf

i've found parks to be places that you go and you could be in any country. they are like a spot in a city that makes everyone feel like they are at home.

i’ve found parks to be places that you go and you could be in any country. they are like a spot in a city that makes everyone feel like they are at home.

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Touch wood I have not seen any pick pockets and only a couple of beggars. Maybe the Parisian pick pockets emailed them and said don’t mess with the crazy Australian. I still have to get through Barcelona Sants railway station though so I don’t want to jinx myself.

It is a very welcoming city, they are very wheelchair friendly, there are signs every where pointing to things of note and the metro. There are maps on the ground in some places. Yes, a couple of food vendors have been so rude that I have walked out but that is their loss and not mine. I have really liked Barcelona there are a lot more good things about it than bad. It is a pity that it has such a reputation for skulduggery.

There have been a few stormy nights and a mirror on the terrace has fallen down and broken. I have fingers crossed that i am not billed for that. I have no control over the weather 😦 ( edit: the owner has said not to worry- phew. I don’t like paying for things I didn’t break)

Tomorrow it is off to Madrid on the really really fast train. I am a little sad to be leaving Barcelona but it will still be here when I come back.

Next time I come though I might leave on a Sunday. It is so quiet that it is nearly a wasted day. ( says she who sleeps in every chance she gets)