Saturday, July 10, 2010

And I Know My Spanish Is So So...But Lets Try To Keep That On The Low Low


Since I last posted I have had the most crazy, fun filled, boozy and exhausting week of my whole entire adventure. I will begin with Madrid because thats where the craziness started!

I had decided to fly between Barcelona to Madrid as I could get a fairly cheap ticket and it would be much faster and easier meaning I got more time there rather then just a few hours at night. Turns out it was probably the worst way to go. My flight got delayed four hours so I spent my time wandering around Barcelona airport trying to kill time. Luckily for me Barcelona airport is really nice and full of shops and food outlets meaning at least I had something to look at while I roamed around. I was very proud of myself and resisted buying anything unhealthy for lunch or wasting money on clothes - even though Zara had a 50% off sale. One thing to note is that when you are by yourself in a strange country don´t go into a duty free airport and smell the perfumes unless you want to become homesick - Chanel No 5, Chloe and Marc Jacobs are beautiful scents but definately reminded me of my friends and family back home.

Anyways after my flight finally took off and I arrived in Madrid I had to catch three different metro lines to my hostel which wouldn´t have usually been an issue but since Spain were playing in the world cup and I arrived in the middle of the gay pride festival the metro´s were packed. You know how people pack onto trains in Japan? It was like that but I was carrying 20 kilos of stuff on back and having to navigate a spot on the trian. Several times I just didnt get on because there was no room. Eventually I got to the hostel and was sad to find a letter from my friend saying that she had waited all day for me to arrive but had to leave. Meaning that my flight which was supposed to be ´easier´ ended up being a pain in the bum. Hopefully I can make my way back to Madrid eventually to meet up with my friend because it is the first time since I have known her we are both on the same side of the world.

I unloaded into my room and intended to spend the night doing my washing and more or less being a loner until I ran into a girl I met in Barcelona. She was heading out with a few people from Busabout to grab some food and watch the football so I decided to tag along. We walked down the street to find a little hole in the wall cafe/bar to get some traditional Spanish food. I wasn't too keen on the Paella because it is full of seafood so I decided to order something else off the menu. The menu was completely in Spanish which none of us spoke and the waitress spoke very little English. There was something that was tortilla (sounds normal), esalada (i figured that was salad) and jamon (which I was told was ham). I thought that I seemed to like all of those things so I would give it ago. Turns out it was a ham and cheese omelette with salad and little curry puff things on the side. It was delicious. Especially the salad as it had been awhile since I had anything crunchy or healthy. This was all washed down with Sangria and local beer.

After that we headed around the corner to another little pub that had a big crowd in it already cheering on the soccer. The atmosphere around Spain during the world cup is crazy especially when their team is playing. It was so much fun to be a part of the crowd especially when they scored and eventually wont the game. We joined in the celebrations in the street and went for a wander around what looked like the city centre. It was packed! It was like a new years eve or something. The streets were full of people drinking on the street and cheering. We heard some music so we wandered up the road and found a massive dance party in the middle of the square. It was part of the Gay Pride Parade which had happened while the football was on. They had a DJ playing some really good songs so we jumped in there and had a dance. Next to us were people dressed up as playboy bunnies, guys in their underwear and cross dressers and on the other side were big groups of men dressed up in Spanish colours celebrating the world cup. It was crazy fun and definitely a sight to see. It was getting late and we all had to catch an 8am bus the next morning so we decided to head home early. It wasn´t until the next morning when I was talking to one of my room mates that got home at 3am that Kylie Minouge had played a set that night and we had missed seeing her by about an hour! While I'm not really A massive fan I have to say I was a bit disappointed.

The next morning I was sad to leave Madrid as I only had the one night there and it seemed like the kind of place I would really like to explore but at the same time I was looking forward to heading to San Sebastian and the Running of the Bulls. Once I arrived in San Sebastian I checked into a little hostel in the old town. It was really cute little place and I was lucky enough to score a double bed to myself. The hostel rooms all had their own little balcony which was nice to look down into the street. The only problem was they had one bathroom for the whole level which meant that about 20 people were sharing one shower and one toilet. yuck.

That night our tour guide from Busabout was taking us on a Pinchos tour. Pinchos is pretty much the same as tapas but because I am in the Bask region of Spain it is called something different. We met outside the hostel and headed around into a really nice bar. The way it works is really similar to something like Sushi Train. You up several little plates, eat your tapas then pay at the end according to how many plates you have. Other places have different coloured toothpicks on them and what you pay depends on the cost of each toothpick. Other places are like a buffet where you pick them up in a line then pay at the end according to the amount you have on there. It was a really fun night out with a pretty big group of people from Busabout. I got to try some really yummy food like friend calamari, Spanish omelettes and mini salami and ham sandwiches. We drank local wine and tasted more sangria. There were a few girls from Brisbane on there and we had a good night just drinking and chatting. After the little tour was over we headed to another little bar and partied on there having a bit of a dance around and lots more sangria. We ran into a whole bunch of other Aussies at it seems we had all flocked to this place before heading down to Pamplona for the running of the bulls. Sometimes its fun to meet other Aussies on the road but at this point of the night when they were all running a muck around this cute little town I would have to say I was kind of embarrassed to be lumped in with them. I know that we all know how to party but it was just a different kind of partying to what the Spanish locals were doing. Oh well, I cant be too judgemental considering I was one of them!

The next day I caught the bus from San Sebastian to Pamplona and from there to Estella which was the little town outside of Pamplona where the camp-site for my tour was. I checked into my Topdeck tour and got allocated my little tent that was going to be my home for the next four nights. I met some cool people on the bus down and made friends with my tent neighbours. My tent roomie was a really nice girl called Amanda who is an Aussie living in London which is cool because it means I now know someone else there. We spent the afternoon drinking and playing cards in the sun by the pool at the camp-ground. There were 250 Topdeckers and another few hundred from PP Travel all staying at the same place. I would have to say that about 450 of us were Aussies considering when I was sitting by the pool there were southern cross tattoos EVERYWHERE. That night there was a bit of a party at the bar at the camp-ground with a guy with a guitar singing and a bit of DJ set. The festivities carried on through the night but I had a fairly early one hitting the hay at around 1am.

The next morning we were woken up at about 7 so we could get ready and grab some breakfast before heading into the opening ceremony at around 9. The San Fermin festival or Running of the Bulls requires you to wear traditional red and white clothing while you are there. We were provided with white shirts but I ended up buying a red neck tie, red sash and white pants. They told you that you had to wear closed in shoes, take a plastic bag for your cameras and valuables because they will get wet with sangria, to wear old or bad sunnies because they would get ruined or stolen and basically told you to be prepared to lose everything you own.

Once we got into town the first thing we did was hit up the little market stalls to buy our white pants and sangria pouches. The next stop was buying the sangria. We found a little bottle shop that was selling cold one litre bottles of sangria for 2€ which is a bargain if you ask me. With both those things purchased and ready we headed into the square for the opening ceremony. We didn't head into the main plaza where the town hall was because it is so packed in there you cant even move your hands. We were a couple of plazas over with a whole other crowd. It wasn't long before the sangria started flying even though the festival hadn´t started. Right before 12 midday everyone stopped what they were doing and put their neck ties up above their heads. Once we heard the gun being fired we tied our necktie's around our necks and cheered and partied amongst a torrential rain of sangria. Sangria was everywhere - in my hair, in my eyes, all over my clothes right down to my undies, through my shoes, through my bag but that's just the way it goes!

After the opening ceremony I headed to the bathroom to wipe my face down - sangria stings when its in your eyes and I ran into two friends from my topdeck tour. We all then spent the arvo partying in the streets picking up sangria and food along the way. At one point we had a bit of a Topdeck, Busabout, Fanatics tour group stand off with a bunch of people. It was pretty funny because all it required was another whole bunch of sangria throwing. In the afternoon me and Amanda spent the arvo club hopping (even at 3pm) and drinking and dancing before moving on to the next club. As we walked through the streets the locals would pour buckets of water over you to cool you off and clean you up. It was good they did because it meant that you were a little bit sangria free for awhile.


Unluckily for me I lost Amanda while trying to find the next pub to walk into which mean I was on my own. I spent about an hour walking around trying to find her or someone else from Topdeck and then about and hour trying to find the bus station. If I wasn't so horrendously drunk from all the sangria this task may have been easier but since I was so drunk I walked around the bus station twice before finding it. I only found it because some nice English guy helped me. Once back on the bus I was off to the camp site where I found Amanda and knew she was alive. After a massively long shower to de-sangria I hit the hay pretty early as we had to up at the break of dawn the next day.

We were woken up at 5 am to catch the 5.30am bus into Pamplona so we could get some good spots for the first bull run. We arrived into the bus terminal and saw people who had been sleeping there all night. There were more people passed out in the park and even more sleeping off their sangria in the streets. The ground looked like Christmas because there was so many empty cups and rubbish everywhere. The place was pretty feral and it was only the first day!

I managed to lose Amanda again (I'm the worst tent buddy ever) but found a few friends and we headed to Dead Mans Corner to see the bull run. We thought we had a good position up on the barriers but the police moved us on. By then it was a bit late to find a good spot but we managed to find one on another barrier. The crowd behind the barrier started to get a bit hectic though and I was fighting for space for about an hour. It got so rowdy and pushy I started to hyperventilate as I can be pretty claustrophobic and I was surrounded by a whole bunch of people bigger then me. Luckily I was with people who noticed this and managed to get me a spot up on the barrier so I could have my head above the crowd and actually breathe. Once I was up there I managed to have a spot between someone's right arm and some other guys butt.

There were a whole bunch of guys all lined up in the bull run waiting for the signal. At one stage there was a false start and everyone just started running for their lives. After a second they realised there were no bulls so it calmed down a bit until the shot was fired off and the bulls were running for real this time. The fear in their faces was intense and the way they scrambled over each other was insane. From my view point I only managed to see two bulls because it was mostly a sea of red and white people running like crazy. After the run was over we walked the bull run to check out the damage and ran into a few people and heard all their stories about the day. Once we were back at the bus we started hearing stories about people dying, breaking their necks and getting gored. Turns out not all of them were true but one of my fellow tent neighbours got kicked in the head by a bull and had to get eight staples in the back of his head. It still makes me shudder thinking about it!

That afternoon back at the camp site there was a BBQ sangria party. It was probably the funnest day all tour. We snagged a table in the shade and started drinking sangria at about 1pm. The Topdeck team had made 400 litres of the stuff and there would have only been about 100 people doing it. They gave us a BBQ chicken and salad for lunch which was such nice food to chow down as it had only been baguettes and tapas for me for about a week. We spent the rest of the arvo just drinking and hanging out before hitting the pool.

After a few hours in there we got dressed and went into Pamplona to hit the bars so we could watch the Spain Vs Germany world cup game. We headed into one of the pubs we had been to on the opening day and it had a big screen at the back and were playing dance music so it kept everyone entertained. Of course there was more drinking at the bar followed by some Spanish food. One of the guys we were with thought he knew Spanish and tried to order a drink. Turns out he actually ordered some food. They were bocadillos which are pretty much baguettes but they have Spanish omelettes on them. He couldn't even eat them because he was a vegetarian so he paid 12 euros for stuff he couldn't even try! I had a bite of a couple of them but egg and sausages isn't really what you want after drinking sangria for 8 hours. After the bar we headed into the main park to watch the fireworks that are set off every night. It was a really pretty display and a perfect end to the night.

The next morning we woke up at 4.45am after about 3 hours sleep to see the next bull run and I was on struggle street. In fact I was the mayor of struggle town. I was soooooooo exceedingly hung over and exhausted that I could barely function. We got to town after a very very dodgy bus ride and headed straight to the bull ring. This was probably the best way to see the bull run as they displayed the video up on the big screen and then you saw the bull run in at the end. You saw all the people run in and they are accompanied by the big bulls that run through the streets. One of the bulls got lost so it was pretty hectic towards the end as he started going back the wrong way. Once they were in the bull ring and everyone from the run had entered the let loose six baby bulls one at a time for people to try and avoid.

This was the scariest part of my whole Pamplona experience. The bulls run out and they are frantic and there are people EVERYWHERE - either trying to provoke them or run out of the way. We saw guys getting knocked out after five minutes, one guy get completely trampled that they had to distract the bull just to get him out from underneath him, one guy got rammed so hard against the edge that the bull nearly broke the barrier. It was so terrifying but you couldn't look away!


That afternoon we had a day trip into San Sebastian where we spent the day at the beach. It was good to go there with a group because it meant I had the chance to swim while they minded my stuff. We had a sleep on the beach for a couple of hours before a quick dip (I got completely dumped by the waves that I ended up with more sand on me then when I was lying on the beach). We grabbed some tapas and a drink before heading back to the camp site on the bus. It was a really good way to end the festival and wind down after two epic days of drinking.

The next day I was up at 4am to get a bus from Estella to Pamplona, then a bus from Pamplona back to San Sebastian. I had booked into a hotel previously because there were no hostel rooms left as many people used San Sebastian as a base for their Running of the Bulls adventures. It cost me a fair bit of money but I am so glad that I booked it. It meant that I had a room to myself with air conditioning and a big double bed and a shower that was clean. After camping for four nights in a sandy tent on a blow up mattress and sharing showers with about 300 other girls it was nice to have a little luxury. I couldn't check in early so I ended up doing my laundry (for the first time in two weeks). Once I headed back to the hotel I checked in, had a shower, put on clean clothes and got into a clean bed and had a three hour siesta. It was heaven. When you are away there is nothing you appreciate more then clean clothes and a comfy bed and a bit of piece and quiet.

After my siesta I headed out and about in San Sebastian as I didn't want to waste my whole day. I headed up the top of one of the mountains there by a funicular railway. Up the top was an old school fun fair which was swarming with kids on their holidays. It was a beautiful view but as there was a fair but of clouds about my photos are pretty dodgy. PhotobucketAfter that I walked along La Concha beach all the way into town via the city centre checking out a few churches and cathedrals along the way. I hit the shops and got a dose of retail therapy before wandering back along another beach and up to the top of the opposite mountain. ( I really should look up the names of these places - sorry!) The mountain has a statue of Christ on it and some ruins up there to check out. They also have a bar and after a massive 10 k walk and a half and hour hike up the mountain I thought I definitely deserved a beer. By this stage I had been out and about for about 5 hours so I slowly made my way back to the hotel where I spent the night bumming in my room.


Even though it was my first day truly by myself away from Caroline and Busabout people it was probably one of the best ones I had. San Sebastian is an amazing place and it felt nice to relax and recover and explore at my own pace. While I wish I had someone to share those incredible views with at the same time it was good for me to learn to be with my own thoughts and appreciate things on my own. Tonight is a different story though cuz I'm heading out with some friends from Busabout and It will be nice to share Pamplona stories and talk to someone other then the hotel concierge and bus drivers.

Next stop is France where I am heading to wine country. Hopefully my massive intake of sangria hasn't spoilt my appetite for wine and I can appreciate it while I'm there. After France is London which is a whole other adventure!

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