This is a continuation of my lost emails that I sent while living in France in 2007 as a student. You can read more about it here. This email was sent right after I got back from fall break.
I just got back from my Vacances de Toussaint (basically my fall break because I dont know what that holiday is about). Here is how it went:
On Friday October 26th, we left at 10 in the morning to catch our noon train at Gare St Jean. Our train arrived in Narbonne, France for a connection to Barcelona. In Narbonne, of course, it was pouring down rain but we ran across the street to a little restaurant to have a late, late lunch. There was a little white dog guarding the restaurant and he barked at everyone who came in and wouldn’t get near them. I felt privileged that he even came close enough to me to sniff my water bottle and purse that was on the floor. After a while he was fine – he fell asleep and started snoring. We had chicken with (of course!) fries and then made it back to the train station. Our train ride to Barcelona was fine except for the 30 minute delay at a station checking passports but Nezia and I entertained ourselves by taking silly pictures of each other. We got to our hostel (Pension Medoza) and it was fine. Julia (my friend from high school) met us there and we went to a tapas bar a few doors down. The tapas were well priced (only 1-2 euros each) and very good.
On Saturday, I found a wonderful market outside our hostel. It was huge and crowded but fun to walk around. That day we basically walked around Barcelona snapping pictures of everything around us. Barcelona is complete with palm trees, beautiful buildings, and a wonderful harbor.
After a sandwich in the park, Julia and I went to the Sagrada Familia while Nezia went shopping. The Sagrada Familia is a church planned by Gaudi that has been under construction since 1882. Later that night Julia and I (Nezia wasn’t feeling well) found a place called Happy Bar and Grill that actually sold paella for under 10 euros. We split vegetable paella, a huge platter of grilled vegetables and sangria. After that we went to a jazz lounge but once we found out there was a 15 euro cover charge, we found another lounge and had a glass of sangria and watched the Europeans dance.
On Sunday, Julia and I went to Gaudi park which is full of mosaics by Gaudi. We went to the Gaudi museum and climbed to the top of the mountain to see the beautiful view of Barcelona. Later that day we all went to the Picasso Museum and of course Julia and I visited the gift shop. For dinner we decided to go back to the tapas bar. We tried some new stuff and Catalan cream for desert.
Monday we left early for a train to Madrid. We could not have gotten a better view of the mountains. It was absolutely beautiful. It was as stunning as the Alps but it was beautiful in a more rustic colorful way. After climbing 4 flights of stairs, we were pleasantly surprised by our hostel (Hostel Lauria). It was so nice and it was cheaper than our other hostel. I highly recommend it to anyone traveling to Madrid. After that we walked around the city and went on a search for Chinese food that Nezia and I were craving. We walked for over an hour cursing the city for not having Chinese food. I mean what kind of city doesn’t have Chinese food?! We finally found one and had a good dinner. (We later found out that if we had turned the other way from our hostel, we would have found 10 of them but it didn’t help us earlier.)
Tuesday, we were going to go to the Prado but we kept getting stopped by all the shops along our street. So basically that day we went shopping. I mean we shopped so much every time I bought something I panicked, not because of how much I was spending (the stuff in Madrid was very well priced and I had been saving my money) but a) how I was going to get it to all fit in my carry-on and b) if my credit card company was going to deny my card because of irregular activity. Outside of H&M we were met by a mob/protest protesting something and being very loud. Then I really wanted Mexican food so we went to this Mexican restaurant and it was ok. It was not like the Mexican food at Monterrey’s (cheap, greatest restaurant down by school.)
Wednesday, we walked to the Prado promising we would not walk in any more stores. We found a huge line but them realized it was huge because it was free that day. (Luckily we hadn’t gone the day before.) After that I wasn’t feeling well so I went back to the hostel to nap. I got my appetite back after that and really wanted pasta. I found this place called Nebraska Café and had a surprisingly very good pasta Bolognese. I also became fascinated by their orange juice machines.
Thursday night, I took my first Ryanair flight from Madrid to Oslo. Of course, I was surrounded by a huge group of loud obnoxious guys. When we got to the airport we expected to be greeted by Nezia’s cousin’s husband, Norbert, because he said he would get there at 7 pm and our flight got in at 9. He was nowhere to be seen. We didn’t have his phone number so we asked the Ryanair lady and she searched for us. This was after she told us that even though our tickets said Oslo airport this was not the main Oslo airport. That one was 1 ½ hours away meaning Norbert was probably at that one. So we went to the pay phone which wouldn’t work so I asked the Hertz rent a car guy to help us and he just let us use his phone. Norbert didn’t pick up on his cell or at home so we decided to just sit and wait. 15 minutes later, the Hertz guy calls us over with Norbert on the phone. Norbert said to take the next bus from the airport to the bus station in Oslo (since he did not have a car). When we got to the bus station in Oslo we found out that they didn’t actually live in Oslo but in a little town 1 ½ away and the bus to go there had already left and there wouldn’t be another until morning. Of course the most practical solution seemed to get a hotel for the night. Well, we walked around in freezing Norway air until 2 in the morning (I was actually laughing about it until around 1) and we could not find any hotel or hostel that had vacancies. Apparently, it was a very busy time for them. So we gave up and decided to sleep in the bus station and wait for the 9 20 bus. Well the bus station was basically like sleeping outside because there were so many huge automatic doors that kept opening the heat wouldn't stay inside. I was shaking – for 7 hours! I tried to lie down on two chairs but the security guard made me sit up. I probably slept a total of 40 minutes but I couldn’t sleep on the bus to their town. The tour we got of Norway was so beautiful. When we got to their house, Euphrasie (Nezia’s cousin) had remade all the food that was supposed to be for dinner the night before. So we ate A LOT. Then her daughters came home from school (they only have half days on Fridays). Her oldest Salone is 10 and can speak 5 languages – Kirundi, Swahili, Malawit, English and Norwegian. Dalone is 4 and speaks Norsk (Norwegian) fluently, a little bit of English and can understand Swahili and Kirundi. Dalone wanted to have a sleepover that night with me so we did.
Saturday, we played a little with the girls and ate a huge late lunch. Then we went to walk around town around 4 and even though it was still light out for another good hour and half, my pictures turned out as though I was taking them in the dark.
Sunday, I was forced to take pictures of Norway from the bus taking us to the airport because I had taking none of the country. We took an SAS flight and, of course, I was surrounded by a group of loud, drunk Norwegians. We went to our wonderful hostel in Madrid and then hunted down a place for Indian food (we picked the wrong place.)
On Monday, we went to the train station and I had fresh squeezed orange juice with one of those orange juice machines. Then we took a train at 10 and I didn’t get back to my hostel until around 9. I enjoyed hearing French on the tram ride home.
I liked Madrid best. Barcelona was very pretty but very expensive compared to Madrid and the atmosphere was better in Madrid. I want to visit more Scandinavian countries because they are so beautiful. Maybe I will climb a mountain or two.
What I have learned
1. There is almost always someone who can speak a little English (especially in Norway where they speak a lot of English)
2. Hand motions/charades work well in any language
Just to let you all know. I am leaving for Nice on Thursday night and will not be back until Monday morning so if I don’t return your emails that is why. Also, if there is still anyone else who you think you would like to be added to the emails just let me know.