Current Anxiety Rating: 2 ... Trip Anxiety Average: 4.5
First off, sorry for the long hiatus! I am still alive and well. Don't worry! As for the reason for my long absence: I went on a trip last weekend to Bilbao and Barcelona and didn't get back until midnight the night before my first day of school. Thus, lacking sleep and sanity, I judged it best to wait until this weekend to regale you all with the tales of my trip. While I was gone, I kept travel journal which I present for you now as semi-coherent account of my trip! I hope you enjoy it! (Also it is sort of long, so bear with me!)
11:30PM--September 26th: Malaga
I am currently in the Malaga airport, waiting to go through security...which we can't do until 4 am. Yes. Four and a half hours from now. Don't worry though. I slept for 20 minutes on the bus ride here, so obviously I am going to be fine. Upon arrival, we were informed, to our surprise, that we wouldn't be let though security until three hours prior to our flight. So here we sit. We have taken refuge at Starbucks, the only restaurant in the airport that doesn't close, an American embassy of sorts. Even so, I am under no illusions that I will get a good nights sleep. This is probably not the best news in the world since the day before I left, I was walloped by the beginnings of a cold, which is definitely still alive and well. Sinus pressure, stuffy noise, headache, sore throat. This is what we in the business call "The whole nine yards." (What is the business to which I am referring you ask? I don't know. I got about five good hours of sleep last night and my brain is pulsating like a Spanish discoteca, so I am kind of just blathering what ever pops into it)
3:30AM--September 27th: Malaga
Woooo...So I have gotten a total of about an hour and a half worth of sleep on five Starbucks chairs (See below) that comprised by bed. More comfortable than the floor, but I don't think the Holiday Inn will be adopting it anytime soon. I am hoping that I will be able to sleep a bit more when we get through security. In other news, it is raining in doors. The skylights in the airport are currently functioning as an impromptu water feature and the airport staff seems less perturbed than one would imagine, but that could be because it is almost 4AM and they are all half asleep. Also, the kindly gentleman at the Starbucks gave me some free hot water, so I am now in the process of making some tea to soothe my throat. Hopefully it will cool in time for me to drink some before we go through security!
(That's Leah and I sleeping in the Malaga airport. I'm the one on the right)
1:55PM--September 27th: Bilbao
I am currently laying in a bed! You read that right! An actual bed. I am probably minutes from kicking consciousness to the curb for a few hours, but lemme catch you up on what happened between my last entry and now.
We made it though security with only minor delays and immediately made our way to another American sanctuary of peace: Burger King. (Interestingly, Burger King seems to be bigger than McDonalds abroad. Who would've thunk it?) You may laugh but at 4:15ish in the morning, running on an hour and a half of sleep, the empty booths of Burger King were a beautiful sight indeed. All three of us laid out end to end on a long wall booth and I was dead to the world for another hour and fifteen minutes or so. I can only imagine what we all looked like. A half an hour after waking up and one over priced salad later, we finally received our gate information, and twenty or so minutes after that we had all piled into the plane like sardines. I hadn't really felt any jitters of anxiety until we got on the plane and were waiting to take off, but luckily, my sleepiness got the best of me before I could spiral too far. I immediately fell asleep for the duration of the flight, or at least until our captain announced that we were almost to Bilbao. And by almost, he meant twenty or so minutes away but potatoe, pot-A-toe. After the mad rush to disembark, we made our way to the exit and managed to find the correct bus to take us into town. Upon entering the city, the bus breezed right past the Guggenheim which looked all wonderful and mysterious, rising out of the early morning mist. It was a very cool moment, let me tell you.
Shortly after that, we disembarked from the bus and found that locating the hostel from there was a bit more challenging. We meandered around a bit but find it we did. We didn't linger long there, though. Also, as it turned out, in our dorm for 10, we are evidently the only ones booked for the weekend. So you know what that means!? You get a bunk bed! YOU get a bunk bed! EVERYBODY gets a BUNK BED! To think, yesterday, I had no beds and now I have two!
Anywho, after getting our bearings and dropping off our packs, we decided to knock out the Guggenheim. From our hostel, it took about 15 or 20 minutes to walk there but the view was amazing. The architecture of the building is truly jaw-dropping (See pictures below!). When we got there, we were a little disappointed to find out that the second floor was closed off leaving only the first and the third, but we got over that pretty darn quickly. The exhibits were super cool and the ones on the first floor were interactive. By the time we got to the art through ages section, though, I was fading fast (bear in mind we had been there for about two hours and were all running on max 3 hours of sleep). So we boogied out of there to grab some lunch and some sleep back at the hostel. On our way back, we found a grocery store that sold Bocadillos (sandwiches on baguettes) for only one euro! And my heart, stomach, and bank account all rejoiced together. So we headed back to the hostel with our loot, and that brings us back to right around now!
(Guggenheim from afar)
(View from the back patio of the Guggenheim)
(Cool reflective Guggenheim sculpture)
2:56PM--September 28th: Bilbao
Hey there. It is right around 3PM and we just got back from poking around the Casco Viejo section of Bilbao. The Casco Viejo is the oldest section of the city of Bilbao and it is located about half an hour plus walk from our hostel. It has some of the same stone and metal architecture typical of Granada but it is infinitely more colorful. Instead of just the whites and browns, there are vibrant reds and oranges and blues splashed across the buildings! Even though it was sort of an overcast day, it just seemed so bright and alive. (See photos below) There were tons of little shops selling knickknacks and tons more fruterías and panederías than in the new section of the city (fruit and bread stores respectively, so right up my alley). There were also tons of people out and about because it was a Saturday morning. We weaved about taking in the amazing architecture and snapping tons of photos along the way. I really do like Bilbao. It is so lush and green compared to Granada. Don't get me wrong, Granada has the Sierra Nevadas right there, but for me, the dry climate and the city overwhelm it and block out that outdoorsy feel. In Bilbao, there are green spaces everywhere and the mountains are ever-present around the city, like a beautiful verdant backdrop. It reminded me a lot of home and made me fond of Bilbao very quickly. Today is also my one month anniversary of being in Spain, and it is exciting to spend it exploring more of it.
(Evidence of aforementioned greenery)
I am currently sitting outside and enjoying a lovely afternoon in Bilbao, my last in fact (or at least for now). I can't believe the last two days have gone so fast! We left our hostel this morning at around 10 after some breakfast and we grabbed a few more 1 Euro bocadillos for some cheap lunches on the go. We then set out to find our bus stop. It was along the same route we took the previous day to get to the Casco Viejo, so the general area wasn't hard to find, but selecting which of the 4 or so (marked and unmarked) bus stops on the plaza would take us to the airport was a little more difficult. After some general surveying, we ducked into a cafe for a snack. We stopped at Café y Té which is basically the equivalent of a Panera Bread in the United States (or a St. Louis Bread Co., etc, what have you). Not super exciting but cheap and it meant we could use the bathrooms. Weeee! We sat an snacked and talked there for over an hour killing some time before we were finally turned back out onto the plaza to puzzle out which was our stop. It took some doing but we were finally able to find out after asking a bus driver (Imagine!). With that settled an it only being around 1PM, we decided to kill some more time sitting in the plaza. This only lasted so long before we got antsy once more and decided that we would trek back to the grocery store with the cheap bocadillos to buy some more for our lunch in Barcelona. Fast forward about 30 minutes of walking time and 10 or so minutes of buying food time, and here we are. We decided to have our lunch down by the river that runs right through the middle of Bilbao. There were some shady benches (on such we are occupying now) and even a bit of a breeze. Not exactly sure how we are going to kill the next three and a half or so hours until our bus without pain to our feet or wallets but we shall see!
7:32PM--September 29th: Bilbao
Waiting again, surprise surprise! This time to fly to Barcelona. We held out as long as we could before finally deciding that we had had enough walking around with our packs. Around 4PM or so we caught a bus to the airport. We have been putzing for...about three and half hours. About an hour ago one of the planes to Barcelona got delayed. It was an earlier flight than ours though by the same airline, so we are just a little nervous. Our flight isn't supposed to leave until 10:30 and we will arrive at 11:30PM in Barcelona, which is late enough as it is and we aren't real excited at the prospect of trying to find our way to the hostel even later. Two flights to Malaga are also delayed so we are a little apprehensive, crossing our fingers that the same doesn't happen to us too.
9:50PM--September 29th: Bilbao
Well, of course we got delayed.
1:30AM--September 30th: Barcelona
We have finally made it to the hostel and gotten settled in. Our flight was delayed, though only by a half an hour but if you add bus transportation time to that we didn't end up getting here until almost 1AM. Naturally, as soon as I got on the flight, I passed out and slept for the duration. After the plane landed, we all disembarked and were taken by bus to the terminal. We managed to find our way with the rest of the masses to the bus pick up section-y thingy. We ambled on up there ready to be home and the bus driver told us that tickets cost 5.90 Euros. Uff-da! But at that point what could we do? They knew it, we knew it. So we paid the fee and plopped down. We got dropped off at a plaza near our hostel about 20 ish minutes later, at night, in Barcelona, and I was definitely sure I was going to get stabbed, or stolen and sold...Just kidding. Sort of. It might have been the sleepiness talking. Luckily for me, neither of those things ended up happening and the worst thing we had to endure was the cab driver's withering stare when we asked for directions. We made it to the hostel and got paid up and shuffled off to bed.
7:40PM--September 30th: Barcelona
To carry on this century (read: days) old tradition of writing in airports, I shall relay to you the enthralling tale of our adventures in Barcelona as I wait for my flight back to Granada. Despite the fact that we had less than 24 hours to check out Barcelona, Jenni and I had a really awesome time. We started our morning off with some breakfast at the hostel which they gave us free tickets to the night before (I suspect our bedraggled appearance made them feel bad for us or maybe they could sense we just paid almost 6 euro for a bus ride...). Naturally, being the penny pincher that I am, I squirreled away inappropriate amount of fruit from the buffet into my pack. No shame. We then saddled up and began making our way to the Picasso Museum! As we left the hostel, it was drizzling slightly but as we continued to walk it started to rain harder. Not necessarily a downpour though. That would be too obvious. It was more of just an insistently average amount of rain for the entirety of duration of our 40 + minute walk that slowly drives you crazy...So that was fun. And we didn't find the Museum in one go. With our map soaked just enough to be just south of helpful, we kept asking passersby to point us in the right direction. After asking about 4 different people, we finally made it. We had made the smart decision to buy our tickets online so we got to skip the enormous line forming outside the museum and go right in.
The museum was located in a really beautiful old building and set up Picasso's works chronologically, so you could see how his style gradually started to change. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take any pictures so I can't show you any of my favorites, but trust me, it was incredible to see in person. After we finished at the museum, we decided to check out a free tour we had heard about at the hostel. Finding the plaza was a bit of a mess once again because we hadn't taken the most straight forward route to the Museum and our map wasn't in the best shape, so we meandered about until we found it. I wasn't so sure about the tour at first because we had been on our feet by that point for about three hours and the tour itself lasted at least 2.75 hours, but with some encouragement, I agreed. I was definitely glad I did. Our tour guide was this bouncy British guy Billie, completely zany and enthusiastic in that way that is infectious and endearing. He was definitely a little bit crazy though. He lead our group of about 20 or so people around the city, regaling with stories of dancing Jesuses, virgins in trees, and decapitation. So there was something for everyone. We really did end up seeing a lot of the city while we were there, and despite the less than stellar begining to the day, I really enjoyed myself, thanks in large part to our tour guide.
After the tour, he pointed us in the direction of the nearest bus stop back to the airport and we headed off to grab a little snack and be on our way. We made it to the bus (which again, required 6 euro as well as the promise of our first born child in the form of payment...or at least it felt like that). And now, here we are! Relaxing in the Barcelona airport! And hoping my plane doesn't get delayed!
8:10PM--Septembr 30th: Barcelona:
Of course, we got delayed.
Note: This was the only real time that my anxiety kicked in. And it wasn't so much anxiety as in captial-F freakout but more like irritability combined with some mild anxiety because I had class the next morning. My first class of the new term. At 8:30 AM. And my host mom had dinner waiting for us. And we still would have to catch a bus into Granada and walk home. I was also just overstimulated in that way people sometimes get after vacations, after tons of new people, new places, shared spaces, and lack of alone time. In the end, we were supposed to get home around 11PM but didn't end up getting back until practically midnight. I wolfed down dinner and threw myself myself into bed.
Phew! So that was my trip in its entirety. Overall, my trip was really amazing and a huge success considering it was the first extended trip I have gone on without the help of our program. Thank you for listening to me blather on about it and I hope you come back to listen to me blather on some more next week!
Thank you to the Helen Barr Rudin Grant for making this blog and my adventures abroad possible*