Thursday, May 10, 2007

Hola Amigos! Espanol e'fantastica.

Had an "Amazing Race" moment last Friday as I had to make a mad dash to the airport to board my plane to Spain. My plane booked for 5:05pm and I finish work at 3:30pm. Hmmm, difficult to achieve, yes. Impossible? Never! With some help from lovely Lynn in our school office I managed to get a cabbie with a lead foot to take me from school to Heathrow in just under 35 minutes. Not bad considering it was an hour trip! I made the flight with 5 minutes to spare but the District Tube line failed Rebecca and she only just scraped on board at the last minute. Last weekend was a long weekend for the Bank holiday. I love the fact that everyone gets to have the Bank Holidays off too. Kind of makes up for the fact that I had to work on ANZAC Day.

Karen has choofed off to Japan to yell at Asushi in person and Adriaan took off to Paris after finally getting a visa. Being South African, Adriaan has to get visa's for the European countries. Am very grateful that I am Australian and we have open entry into the European Union and the States. So with KD and Adriaan headed off to other parts of the world, who was I to not follow suit, and went to Spain.

We had a stop over at Frankfurt and I would have to say that it has to be the most useless airport on the face of the planet. Customs have to clear you inside their own quarantine area. Got an extra stamp for the passport but it wasn't worth the hassle. As I had finished my book on the first leg of my journey I needed a new one and went looking for the English language section of the newsagent. I picked up a book and randomly opened a page where the first thing I read was a quote by William Rushton "German is the most extravagantly ugly language. It sounds like someone using a sick bag on a 747". Got a giggle from me, especially after listening to the customs guards yelling at each other. Turns out the book was "The Funniest Things You Never Said" by Rosemarie Jareski and was filled with quotes and sayings etc. 10 Euros later and it was coming on our journey with us. Proved quite useful too. But more on that later...

Getting off the plane in Spain was awesome. Instantly I loved it. The air was sweeter, thicker and definitely warmer than London. Reminded me a bit of Australia but not of Sydney. Not sure where in Oz though.

I'll admit it. I tend to travel via McDonalds'. I love going in and seeing what is the same and what is different. Did you know that you can't get pancakes for breakfast in New York? But you can get an egg and bacon McBagel. Tastes as good as it sounds. Yick. You can get pancakes in Spain though. Yes, I'm lovin' it!

On Saturday Rebecca and I took a bus tour of the city, one of those hop-on, hop-off numbers. Here's a word of warning. Normal rules of logic do not apply to weird, angry Spanish ladies. Like the one who decided that I had stolen her seat (she had got off the bus and decided to get back on). Well, did I hear about it! Man, I think that you probably could have heard her in Australia if you hadn't all been asleep. She then went and got the guide who tried her best to translate for me but in the end just shrugged and asked me if I would mind moving to keep the peace.

One of the stops that we got off at was at the Marina. Here there were some street markets, which is always a winner with me. We also ambled up through the main street of Barcelona where the stalls and Tapas bars meet together like the horizon meeting the sky. It is an eclectic mix of tourist glare and old fashioned Spanish culture. In between the modern buildings an aged, brightly coloured building will poke through. Down small alley ways you get a glimpse of the fountain in the middle of secret piazzas.

The sun has a healing quality to it. I was very pleased to stick my toothpaste white legs out in it as much as possible over the weekend. I was also the only person wearing a hat and sunscreen though. Some habits die hard. I felt like I could rest in Spain. When I think about it, I haven't really stopped for ages. Sure, I've been here, there and everywhere, but I haven't had a chance to stop moving and just relax and breathe. Spain offers that opportunity.

On Sunday I took a boat ride up past the beaches of Barcelona. Afterwards I went for a wander past the Museum of History. I swear there seems to be a recurring pattern here but an old dude walked straight past me and everyone else on the boardwalk wearing nothing but some painted on Speedos. That's right, starkers! Was not a pretty sight. Not sure if he or the guy in New York freaked me out more. At least the Spanish guy was a little bit more artistic with his nudity.

In search of a good meal and something other that Tapas, I stumbled across an Irish pub. After ordering a drink and asking about their food the bartender gives me a Spanish menu and asks "How's your Spanish?" to which I replied "Dude, I'm an Australian in an Irish Bar in Spain. How do you think it is?" Needless to say he ordered for me. Whilst sitting there in the pub listening to the slow, droll sounds of the snooker championship commentary in the background I had this flashback to being a kid on a hot summer's day between Chrissy and New Years and listening to the sounds of the TV as the cricket is played. It was really relaxing and for a moment I dreamed of opening a bar on the coast of some hot weather country and spending days hanging out in the sun with a cold beverage and listening to the cricket (yes, that is as strange as it sounds since I hate cricket) and feeling warm and happy. The hat head and sticky sunscreen sensation go hand in hand with that feeling too.

On Sunday night Rebecca and I went for a walk through the main street again where we stumbled across a hen's night/weekend. The ladies were all dressed up as fairies. But in the midst of it all was the most marvellous and magnificent fairy of all - the Aussie fairy. her wings were adorned with XXXX signs, Uluru pictures, corks, lolly crocodiles and much more. It was such a weird thing to see but strangely did not seem out of place in Spain. Also saw a guy dressed up as plunger man. I instantly thought of Vic as she is our resident plumbing fix-it chick. She unblocks sinks in a single plunge!

The end of our adventure is actually where the real adventure begins. When attempting to buy tickets for the Metro or trains I ended up speaking Italian. Who knew I knew as much as I did huh? Sylvana Toia from St Martin's should be very proud. Only trouble is that on our way to the airport to come home we got the right tickets, went to the right platform only to get on the wrong train. We ended up in Tarragona! You can see from the map that we were way off of where we were supposed to be. At this point we could only try and laugh and pull out the quotes book from Frankfurt. The one that really appealed to us was by Jonathon Winters - "If God had intended for us to fly, he would have made it easier to get to the airport". Very appropriate whilst we stood trying to figure out how we were going to get back to Barcelona let alone London. 4 hours behind schedule and 53 pounds lighter for the charge of changing our ticket we finally made it home again.

You learn so much from the people that you travel with. From Vic I learnt how to jump queues and from Karen I learnt how to duck Molotov cocktails. With Rebecca I learn how to get an airline to change your already missed flight tickets to another flight with a minimal charge. Claiming there was a fire alarm going off at our hotel and we couldn't get back in the get our bags was a fabulous move! Well done.

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