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Archive for May, 2005

May 31st, 2005: 7:45 pm

Continental Europe — more accordions than you’ll see in the rest of your life!!!

Greetings from Toledo, Spain

When we got to Barcelona, we realized that we lost our cache of postcards from Greece and Italy!  Somehow they got left behind at some past hostel.  But it turned out that in the drawer of our hostel in Barcelona there was a postcard for Toledo, Spain.  So that sort of balances things out :S

Hostel errors in your favour

  • At a hostel in Australia, we paid a $10 key deposit, and were then refunded a $15 key deposit when we left.
  • At a different hostel in Australia, the staffer punched in the wrong number into the VISA machine, thereby charging us $20 less for the total hostel charge.  We didn’t notice at first, but hey we’ll take it!
May 24th, 2005: 7:10 pm

We saw Star Wars Episode III in Dublin today — it was Dubbed into Irish,
and wee little Yoda jumped up onto the scene and said "Top of the marnin to

Ok just kidding it didnt happen like that. But it was a good movie
featuring shinier 3PO and Yoda characters!!!

May 23rd, 2005: 8:19 pm

It is Friday evening, and Mardid is preparing for the weekend. After a 7
hour ride from Barcelona, our bus is pulling into an underground station.
With two other Canadians also fully suited up with big backpacks, we all get
into an elevator meant for two people to descend even further underground to
the Metro station. The elevator makes a courtesy ride up to ground level
first, before taking us to level -3. With negative free space in the
elevator, nobody else got on.

Without a reservation, our choices of hostals were already full. We checked
into a more expensive one, and then proceed to look for a cheaper one to
stay for the next two nights.

At Plaza Mayor, watching a group of school-kids play around, a Chinese
couple approaches us to sell massages by placing their sales sheet in our
hand and giving us a sample shoulder massage. We are then ushered in the
direction of their chairs, and after a few declines, more forcefully brought
to their chairs. We then left to look elsewhere in the Centre for a while.

It is Saturday morning. The dismembered and poor are making their way to
the common streets to beg for money, either with signs or horrid moaning.

At the Parque del Buen Retiro, there are puppet shows being put on for
children, and people renting rowboats to paddle around a large pond in front
of a monument.

Over at the Museo de Jamon, business is brisk, and there is a constant
stream of people coming in for some ham-related eats before heading off.

In a cheap internet cafe, an obnoxious patron is annoying the rest of the
room by listening to loud Arabic music. He is also looking at pornography.

On the sidewalks, people are selling perfumes, (imitation) sunglasses,
scarves, (copied) CDs/DVDs, and whatnot else, with their product on blankets
for display. In the blink of an eye, they pull their rip cords, converting
their spreads into a carry sack. A flurry of fifteen men run across the
street (in front of a bus even), and disappear behind the corner. In the
opposite direction, policemen appear. Down the next street, they have
already set up, and continue this pattern in a startled deer-like fashion.

It is Sunday. We do a little hand-washing of clothes, and set them on the
balcony to dry.

Over at the Sunday El Rastro Market, a handful of streets have converted
into tent-mania. Crowds squeeze through the packed thorough-ways to see all
of the miscellaneous clothing, antiques, accessories, (legitimate) CDs/DVDs,
birds, and etceteras being hawked.

The Police have informed our Hostal manager that clothes are not to be hung
on the balcony. He kindly moves our then dried clothing.

In the background of a siesta nap, a constant yet noninvasive stream of
people walking by can be heard. An old lady sits beside a hand-crank music
box, flooding the street with whimsical music in exchange for a little coin.
She sits and cranks the box for three hours.


afterwards we were still there one more night, but I didnt write that up in
advance. There was a spontaneous Flamenco dance on the street (with the hat
for donations of course), and Monday mornign there was an expensive airport
breakfast. yay.

May 18th, 2005: 7:22 pm

A day of rain drove us indoors to one of the many museums in Barcelona
(along with several other tourists). It also was a day for the
"opportunists" to come out and sell umbrellas. Must be a brisk business
because everyone you see has one. We took in the Picasso museum and got to
see the full history of Picasso’s art styles, including the famous cubism
stylings. Its amazing to see how he could take an image, and re-render it
several times and each in an amazingly different style.

The weather clearing means that everyone takes to the streets again. The
main strip in Barcelona is called La Rambla, which is a lengthy promenade of
street vendors (hawking flowers, birds and other assorted animals,
newspapers, lottery tickets, and the usual souvenir fare), and street
performers (which are typically of the ‘human statue’ variety, only more
interesting than just spray pained silver or gold). It is a fun place to
just walk around.

Barcelona is loaded with the greatest amount of interesting buildings that I
have seen, and I would dare say that this city is an Architect’s paradise.
One of the historically famous artists in this sense was Antoni Gaudí, who
has left a legacy of ‘Modernist’ buildings and attractions scattered
throughout the city. Excelling in merging style and function, these
creations from the early 1900’s still have a modern and intriguing
presentation today! We walked around in the Güell Park, which was
commissioned in 1900 as a garden city, and then saw two of his apartment
complexes (Casa Batlló and Casa Mila). There is just no explaining his
creations, which are full of colour and curves. You would simply have to
see it (or in the least some photos) to create your own sense of

May 16th, 2005: 8:06 pm

Theres new photos!  Rejoice!  And email me in appreciation…

So we saw the Coloseum in Rome and it was very big and very impressive.  Neat to see.  You can walk around and see so many archaeological sites, all of them interesting.  We went by a few places of interest, but I have been sick with allergies or something just making me miserable, so we figured it was best we move on.  So, Barcelona Spain here we are!

May 16th, 2005: 7:31 pm

… its dirty and things are broken. Its disgusting. The toilets are
missing their seats and there’s no toilet paper. You have to pay to use a
public toilet (although I think this is common across Europe, and at least
these bathrooms are clean-er).

… people go wherever they want. If you are walking and want to be in the
space one step ahead of you, they want to be there now too, and will push
you out of the way to get there. If they are not doing this, they are the
slow ones that stop right in front of you and block your way. Americans get
called pushy. I know this is now a myth — they are the ones that push
back. Italians are pushy.

… I have allergies to everything and I think its killing me. I am
physically miserable and unable to enjoy being here at all.

… the buildings look nice all together. There are several historical
sites also that can be walked to. But buy a city map before you go.

… Italians are supposedly romantic. The only ‘romance’ I saw was guys
desperately trying to make out with the girl their arm was around. It was
pathetic and reeked of immaturity/adolescence.

… the busses and metro are very jerky when accelerating and decelerating.
Good luck holding your balance.