Monday, August 20, 2007

Spagna, Italia, e NO Ghana

For some reason lately I haven't been in much of a blogging mood. I think truthfully, it has to do with the fact that there is not a lot going on--travel wise...personally, that is another story.

Paolo and I left Asilah for Tangier on August 8, and then went to Barcelona on the 9th. Our last day in Asilah we took a horse ride (the horse pulled us on a flat wooden cart) to a beach called Paradise Beach. It took about a hour to get to, and by the time we arrived we could barely walk because our butts hurt so badly, but it was definitely an experience and that is what its all about, right? The beach was beautiful--huge, with cliffs and caves and waves to play in. We took the horse back to town, and during our stay at the beach apparently the horse ate something that did not agree with it's stomach. This was very unfortunate for me because I was sitting directly behind it all the way back. Every few minutes I would get a major toxic blast straight to my face. I couldn't move because the cart was full of people. I was green and ready to pass out, Paolo on the other hand thought this was hysterical...

We took a taxi to Tangier (only cost us 20 euro) and got extremely lost trying to find out hotel (the taxi dropped us off outside the medina, because some of it is only foot traffic). Finally an un-official "guide" led us there, after about an hour of different (wrong) directions from all kinds of people. The guide tried to demand 10 euro for his services, we gave him 2, and the hotel manager shooed him away. The hotel in Tangier was hands down the nicest hotel I have stayed in on this trip. It was located in the medina (the old part of the city) and was decorated with beautiful authentic Moroccan motif. I'll post pictures soon, so you can see this place. It was wonderful. We met a nice Canadian couple and had mint tea with them on the rooftop that night. From one side of the roof you could look over the port to Spain, and from the other side you could see the entire medina which was lit up beautifully at night. We did not eat dinner there but we heard the food was great, and the man that ran the place was super nice. If you ever find yourself in Tangier for any reason, I highly recommend Hotel Dar Jameel.

We had to get up at 3am for our flight to Barcelona. We arrived to our hotel at about 11am and slept for a few hours. It was nice because the place had a kitchen, so we could cook, keep water/drinks cold, have snacks, etc. It saved us some money to not have to eat out ever night. And, Paolo discovered an American delicacy that he is now addicted to--grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. He thought I was quite the chef and wants me to teach his mom and sister how to make this fancy foreign dish...

This part of the trip included a TON of touristy things. I think Paolo and I walked 100 miles while we were in Barcelona. And I think Paolo ate 100 lbs of Paella and drank 100 gallons of Sangria...the city probably went on a Paella shortage after we left. The first night we went to a nice (kinda expensive) restaurant and walked around Placa de Cataluna and La Rambla. The next day we decided to start with a bus tour. I recommend doing this in most large European cities. You get an idea of how the city is laid out, and you go by a lot of the important sites. You can decide from the bus where you would like to spend time. And with most of them, you can get of at any stop, walk around, take a tour, whatever, and another bus will be there for you to hop on when you are done and you can finish your bus tour. That day we took a tour of FC Barcelona's enormous soccer stadium and museum. It was really cool, it was about the size of OSU's football stadium and equally as impressive. We walked through the locker rooms, the press seats, and down on to the field. I handled it better than I thought I would, but it did stir up some tough emotions. But, I think putting myself in situations like that and learning to detach the past from things I experience now is good for me. (For those of you who haven't figured it out, Leslie played soccer professionally so that is why being in a soccer stadium was strange...same with going to the soccer match in Stockholm...). Paolo loved it. Italy and Spain have arguably the best soccer leagues in the world, so naturally he is a huge soccer fan. We were hoping there was going to be an exhibition game of some sort while we were there (The European season has not yet started) but no such luck. Had we been there this week, Barcelona is playing Inter Milan--which would have been a great game. After that, we walked down by the port, and through La Ramblas, stopping to watch some of the best breakdancers I've ever seen. It was a group of about 10 guys, all from different countries. 4 or 5 of them introduced themselves and the other dancers, and none of them spoke in their native languages to do so. It was really impressive. And they weren't just from Europe--there were 2 Americans, a Russian guy and an African guy. Very cool. We at dinner on La Ramblas that night and it was pretty bad. Over priced and not good food. Disappointing. The next few days are all jumbled in my head, but they consist of lots of walking, lots of Paella, a tram ride over the port, a couple of tours, lots of Gaudi and a Flamenco show.

I really knew nothing about Antoni Gaudi until I got to Barcelona and now I cannot get enough. He is probably the most famous artist of the modernistic movement. We went into one of the houses he designed, and I felt like I was in a real live Dr. Seuss book. It was amazing. He was a brilliant architect and artist, and he has left his mark all over Barcelona. La Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, and Casa Batlló were three of his most famous works and Paolo and I took tours of all of them. Hi most famous structure, the church--La Sagrada Familia, is still not complete. It is being constructed only on money through donations and is expected to be finished around 2020. It was started in 1882.

Barcelona is located on the coast, so there is a large beach, a lot of great food (seafood) and a TON of tourists. It was almost like New York. Each restaurant has their menu in about 6 different languages. There is a great night life, a lot of Catalunyan culture (the native language in Barcelona is not Spanish, it is actually Catalunyan) good shopping and a lot of history. It is easy to travel in because everyone speaks English, and the city is relatively easy to navigate (even if you are like me and have no sense of direction). The last night we were there we went to see Tablao de Carmen, an authentic Flamenco show. I love all kinds of dance, and I remember watching flamenco in my Spanish classes, but wow. The TV does not even begin to capture the passion of these dancers. And their feet move so fast I don't know how they do not catch on fire...

Our last day in Spain we went to visit one of Paolo's cousins in Girona. A beautiful coastal town about an hour train ride from Barcelona. Erica, his cousin is married to a Spanish man that she met in London. The two of them speak Italian, Spanish, Catalunyan and English...as does their 2 year old daughter. It was really humbling to ask a toddler a question in English, have her understand me and answer me in either Spanish or Italian and have to have someone else translate it for me. I REALLY need to learn another language...

Which I think I am going to have to do. I am back in Italy, and have a feeling this will not be my last time. Ghana fell though, and I have been having a really hard time with that. I feel like I am letting myself down by not going to West Africa, because it has been something I wanted to do for years. Tiff and I had a minor problem about it too, because since she decided not to go, I am out about $900 for plane tickets. It is just not some place I feel comfortable traveling to alone--at least without a plan--which is why I attempted to go through the volunteer organization. I had been sending email after email to the place, and not getting any response. When I finally did get a response, my last day in Morocco, they told me they had lost all of my application info and asked me to resend it. Which I did, along with a note saying I HAD to know by the next day if there was a placement for me because I had to get a visa right when I got to Spain. The next day--nothing. I emailed them one last time...and nothing. Until August 13th. When they told me they did NOT have a placement for me. Thank God I did not pay for the visa or book a ticket back to Casablanca (which is where I was flying to Accra from). So I am back in Southern Italy now, with Paolo. Tiffany and I have talked about the moneysituation...because had she not changed her mind we would be in Ghana right now (it was Tiff who originally wanted to go to Ghana so badly--to study drumming...I had been looking into going to Tanzania.) And she is going to reimburse me when she has the money. Which unfortunately could be a while because she has just enrolled in a Masters program in Italy in Tibetan Buddhism ( I know, Tibetan Buddhism in Italy??) so she is a broke college student again.

This blog is beginning to get long...and there is more to write. About Paolo, my thoughts about coming home, what the next steps are, and a sad conversation I had with a Pakistani guy that was staying in my hostel in Rome a couple of nights ago.

But, now that I am here, I have more access to a computer and more time to write, so I promise I will be better. Only 2 more weeks of this adventure...

I have to make the most of it.

1 comment:

Giovanna said...

I love Barcelona almost as much as my true love, the Italian cities. It's a beautiful place with a great Gothic center and full of buildings of Gaudi. Barcelona has more to offer than just Gaudi. When you walk through this city you'll understand where he got his inspiration. It is full of other beautiful buildings. Barcelona has an unlimited number of restaurants, activities, cheap Barcelona hotels and museums. And in the evenings it is great to walk on the Ramblas, Placa Reial and at the seaside. The ambiance is wonderful!