Tuesday, April 21, 2009

¡Olé España! Part 1 (Biarritz, Bus, Fuengirola, Cadiz)

Well, it has been quite some time! I have just finished a whirlwind trip of España with Cassie - one of my best friends from Kelso. She is great and has visited me in every city I have lived in since high school. We have about 1 or 2 reunions a year, wherever we are and just have a blast. This time she came to Spain (later in the summer I will visit her in Reno) and we toured Spain like it has never been toured before! We had a robust schedule and only 15 days in which to do it.

Cassie arrived on Friday the 3rd and as I was sick and she was jet-lagged we stayed in and rested most of the night. Saturday was a rainy day in San Sebastian, so not much sight-seeing happened, but we still managed to shop! Figuring we were going to run into warmer weather in the rest of the country we bought some cute summer dresses and just relaxed the day away. I did manage to get her out on the town that night and we partied, San Sebastian style, with all of my friends!

Since it was Cassie's first time to Europe, I figured that since we are so close, we might as well do a lunch trip to France! We jumped on a train Sunday morning and had a nice lunch in Biarritz, a fancy little coastal town. While it was windy and cloudy, we still enjoyed ourselves. Although I have visited France a few times before, my French has not improved, no suprise! We had probably the worst lunch with a very rude waiter, but figured ohhhh well, its France! We walked along the coast and out onto rocks that jut out into the ocean, checked out some shops and mostly just strolled around. We actually saw some Basque dancing in front of the casino, which is always entertaining. Since it was Sunday a lot of things were closed, but I was happy we made it to France. It still amazes me sometimes that another country is just a hop across the river.

After our little French excursion we headed back to my place to pack for our tour of Spain! That evening we were catching a 15-hour (amazzzzzzzzzingly long bus ride, I know) to the south of Spain to kick it off. My Danish friend, Peni, came along with us, as her family friends have a house in a town in the south that they said we could use! The bus was the longest bus ride of my entire life. Peni and I took a bus to Lisbon before and it was almost as long, but this one just seemed to drag. We managed to have fun though...singing, playing games and being giggly girls. At one point, a man told us to stop talking, we just laughed and said we will see. It was a tiring but actually pretty fun bus ride. No eye infections this time, so that was a plus!

We arrived in Fuengirola, a small touristy town in the south of Spain on the Mediterranean Sea. Peni's family had printed out a map and everything for us, so we found the apartment quite easily. It was above a Sex Shop, which we happened to think was the weirdest but funny thing ever. The best part is that all over town there were signs about how to get to the shop, so if we ever just got lost, we just followed signs to the Sex Shop. Classy. While we were pretty excited to have a place to stay, we were super disappointed to find out the family hadn't turned on the electricity or water. This makes staying somewhere quite a challenge, as you can imagine. When we needed to go to the bathroom we had to leave and go to McDonald's or to a bar or something...not so desirable, so we spent most of the sunny day outside exploring the city and sitting on the beach. We also treated Cassie to her first paella, a very famous Spanish dish. It's basically just rice, meat and veggies, but the Spainards put a special twist on it that makes it delicious. After some sweet sangria we called it an early night (sleeping on a bus just doesn't cut it) and all 3 cuddled into one bed since you recall there was no heat ha. Fun first travel day!

We had planned to use the house as a home base and take day trips but since the bus schedules didn't look like they were going to accomodate that and our house didn't have electricity or water, we decided to suck it up and buy some cheap hotels in the three cities we wanted to visit in the south - Cadiz, Seville and Granada. Tuesday morning we caught an early bus, yes more buses, to Cadiz. Cadiz is a city on the Atlantic and was actually a place Cassie considered studying during college. She ended up picking Rio de Janiero in Brazil, but she wanted to check out Cadiz to see what she missed.

We got there in the morning and found our hotel...RIGHT on the beach! Honestly, you walked out of our hotel and ta-da there was the beach. Although it was windy, we weren't going to let that stop us and immediatley put on our swimsuits and ran to the water. Turns out it was a little too windy for us and we felt the water and rushed to put back on our clothes ha. But atleast we can saw we did it. After freezing on the beach we headed into town to check out the city. Turns out Cadiz is quite small and we managed to see the whole city in the one day. The city is one of the oldest inhabitated city on the Iberian Pennisula and possibly all of Europe. We walked along the coast and out to an old castle which gave us a great view of the city. The Castillo de San Sebastian (castle of saint sebastian) used to be one of the 3 lookout points for protecting the city. This particular one was built in 1706. Cadiz, in the original Phoenician language means 'walled stronghold' which seems to be true since the little pennisula is protected by a lot of these fortresses.

We explored the city more and actually ran into a Semana Santa (holy week) procession. It was the first one that I had seen, and really the reason I had wanted to come to the South of Spain for Easter. I will explain all about the processions when I talk about the city of Seville, because they are famous for thiers, but we were pretty excited to see one in Cadiz. We had a rather relaxing day, checking out the Cathedral of Cadiz, built in 1635, the monuments to the Spanish Constitution of 1812 and check into little shops and try some wine and tapas. The most odd part of the trip was when we had dinner and were sitting at our table. Three guys sat down next to us and said, 'oh you speak English, where are you from?'. We kindly said 'The States. What about you?'. Thier answers were: Pakistan, Lebanon and another country...needless to say, we finished up our dinner real quick and left!

Happy with a hotel that had running water and electricity, as opposed to the house we were going to stay in, we called it a night and headed back to the hotel. Very romantically, Cassie and I watched the sunset and as we were watching the sun drop into the horizon a nice old man approached us and said in Spanish - can I tell you something? Of course we say he could and he then explained that when you see the sun set in Cadiz, it is the farthest West point in Europe and when it reaches the horizon that means it is at the Canary Islands and then past that point its over the America. It sounded so fanastic and lovely until I started to think about it and Portugal and the UK are definitley more West than Spain so either I completely didn't understand his Spanish (which is possible because southern spanish is the most lispy Spanish I have ever heard) or he was just an old crazy man! Regardless, nice thought.

We headed to bed early, preparing for our next day trip - SEVILLA (Seville) - which was the city I most wanted to see in the south...so check for it next blog.


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