Tuesday, December 3, 2013 @ 11:14 pm from Spain
I didn't have any plans again today when I woke up. I had breakfast then worked for a while before lunch. I ran out to the supermarket to get some more food for the next few days here in Seville then came back and had lunch.
I felt like I needed to get out of the hostel so I walked through the Parque de Maria Luisa which is a huge park near the Plaza de Espana. There are plants from all over the world here as well as fountains and buildings that were built for the 1929 expo. The park was really nice even in the winter so I can only imagine how nice it would be when it's warmer out.
A group of people from the hostel were planning on doing the afternoon walking tour so I decided to go with them. This tour covered the old Jewish quarter and more history of the city. The guide was really knowledgeable and really seemed to enjoy what he was doing. I'm going to have to head into the Jewish Quarter again later in the week and get lost. The streets are extremely small and twist and turn all over the place. It's a great area to walk around and get lost in.
The hostel made a really good African dish called Bobotie. It's a minced meat and egg dish served with veggies and rice. I had that and talked with some other travelers for a while. The hostel is kinda slow this week which is nice. Some people just showed up late and checked into my room so hopefully they're not too loud. The other people in the room are all really quiet which is good.
Fuente de las Ranas in Maria Luisa park in Seville
Cool contrast in trees at the Maria Luisa park
Monday, December 2, 2013 @ 08:26 pm from Spain
I got up this morning, ate, made a sandwich and then headed to the bus station to catch my 10am bus to Ronda, Spain. Ronda is most known for its Puente Nuevo (new bridge) built in the late 1700's which spans a 100m+ gorge splitting the old city from the new city.
The bus ride was really nice and I got to see some nice small villages and some great views along the way. Ronda is near a big mountain range and the views of the mountains were also amazing. When I got to the city I walked toward the city center then saw some really nice overlooks that looked out at the mountain range on the edge of a giant cliff face.
There was an information desk nearby so I went in and got a map of the city and set out for the bridge. There were all kinds of Gran Turismo (the video game) 15th Anniversary spots all over town. They had some fancy cars and video game booths where people could play the latest version of the game. It was then that I noticed that the front part of the bridge had these incredibly massive Gran Turismo banners hanging down it. The banners completely destroyed what would have been some great photos.
I hiked down to get a better vantage point and enjoyed lunch there. There are some really nice waterfalls under the bridge. If I had more time and it was a little warmer I would have liked to do some hiking around there as well. It looked like there were several trails in the area and some of them would have had some great views of the bridge as well.
From there, I hiked back up and went through the old city and walked over and saw the two older bridges. There were some gardens on the other side of the river so I walked through those and found a really nice viewpoint of the back side of the bridge, which fortunately wasn't spammed with banners.
I walked around a little bit more then found a quiet spot to read with a view of the bridge then about a half hour later a group of 30 school kids came up and started making all kinds of noise. I ended up leaving after a few minutes and found another nice spot overlooking all the mountains to read.
It started to cool down a bit so I started searching for a place where I could get a beer. I found one little bar that had several people in it and got a beer for 1 euro. I hung out in there for a while then walked around some more and found a McDonalds where I went in and used their wifi for a bit. Outside the McDonalds was another bar that had 1 euro beer so I had another one there before heading back to the bus station.
After being outside all day and walking around, plus the beers, I was pretty tired on the ride home. It was dark so I couldn't really see any of the nice scenery but we made it back to Seville pretty quick. I hurried back to the hostel and signed up for dinner. Apparently they're making some kind of paprika chicken which sounds pretty good.
Puente Nuevo in Ronda Spain
Puente Nuevo with obnoxious Gran Turismo banners
Sunday, December 1, 2013 @ 07:07 pm from Spain
Not really much to report today. It was just a lazy Sunday here in Seville. I went to check out a big open air art market in the morning but I got there a little too early and they were still setting up. There was some nice work from local artists but of course it was all pretty expensive.
I read by the river for a while before heading back to the hostel for lunch. After lunch I read here at the hostel and then went out for a mid-day snack and beer at 100 Montaditos. I got a few tiny sandwiches and a beer then came back here.
I'm excited to head out to Ronda tomorrow. All of the photos make it look like a really cool place. It'll also be good to get out of Seville for the day. I've been here long enough where I'm starting to run out of things to do. It's not like when I was in some of the UK cities for long periods of time and could go on warm morning runs and then relax on the beach. It's just a little too chilly here to relax outside for too long.
Saturday, November 30, 2013 @ 07:50 pm from Spain
I didn't really have anything planned for today. I did a little work in the morning then went out and did some grocery shopping since all of the shops will be closed tomorrow. Back at the hostel I ate lunch and then started researching some day trips for next week.
I wanted to make sure I got to Ronda, a cool city on cliffs with a big bridge spanning between the city, and found a bus that gets there and back every day. I bought a ticket and will be visiting Ronda on Monday. When I tried to pay with my credit card, my card went into theft prevention mode and I had to call and get everything sorted out. Fortunately it wasn't too big of a deal. I'm also planning on visiting Granada when I'm in Cordoba. The buses have better schedules and the travel time is a little less. Everyone says that I have to go to Granada so it'll be a good way to get out and see a new city for a day.
After that, I went out and walked around for the better part of the afternoon. I've come to realize that Spain is a very social oriented place. All of the bars, cafes, squares and shops seem to be built around people going in groups and hanging out. It's a really cool way of life but it sucks a bit when you're a solo traveler without a firm grasp on the local language.
I made some pasta for dinner instead of doing the big group dinner here. There were about 30 people up for dinner last night and it's a bit too many people all trying to eat at the same time for my liking. It sounds like after the weekend the hostel is going to empty out a bit so I'll probably do some more dinners then. Another crappy thing about weekends are, once again, all of the groups of 3-5 people who show up and don't talk with anyone but their group and do their own thing. It makes it hard for solo travelers to meet people.
Friday, November 29, 2013 @ 05:56 pm from Spain
Even though I went to bed around 1:30am, I was woken up by someone packing up in the hostel room around 8:30 and couldn't fall back to sleep so I got up. I figured since I was up early enough I'd do the free walking tour that leaves from the hostel every day at 10:45am.
The tour lasted about 3 hours and took us around Seville's old town as well as some of the newer areas. It went over the history of the cathedral, the history surrounding all the new world discoveries (everything brought back from the Americas in the 16th century passed through and was taxed by Seville making it one of the richest cities in the world), as well as some of the newer buildings that were built for the 1929 expo. Tobacco was also refined here and there's the 2nd largest building in Spain here in Seville that was built for tobacco refinement. Now the building is part of the local university.
The tour guide was named Medi and was from Tangier. I talked to him about it for a little bit and even he said that a week in Tangier was too long. He left for Spain because he didn't really like living in Morocco and does the free walking tours with 3 other guys now. He was a pretty good tour guide with lots of enthusiasm about what he was talking about. He's also a splitting image of Sasha Baron Cohen's Borat character. He said he was even an extra when they filmed part of the movie The Dictator here (another Sasha Baron Cohen movie).
After the tour ended I was pretty hungry so I came back to the hostel and ate lunch and I've been here since. For dinner tonight the hostel guys are making cashew chicken so I'm excited for that. Hopefully there might be some spiciness in it but I'm not going to get my hopes up. I'm not sure what the deal is but there are so many Americans here. They all seem to be students who are studying in Madrid and go out to different cities on the weekends to see Spain and party. It's just strange to be surrounded by more Americans at this one hostel than I've run into anywhere else.
Edit: I also went out and walked around at night for the first night of all the Christmas lights being lit up. There were a ton of people out walking around and it was funny to see the orange trees full of oranges covered and lit up with Christmas lights.
Friday, November 29, 2013 @ 01:17 am from Spain
I had bought some eggs yesterday so I could make an omelette for breakfast this morning. I got everything ready and went to break the eggs but suddenly realized I had bought pre-hardboiled eggs. I had no idea such a thing existed. It was pretty depressing to realize no omelette would be made and I had to settle for a breakfast grilled cheese.
Another highlight of the day was laundry. It had been a while since I did a full load in an actual washer and dryer so I spent a little while doing that. Afterwards I went out in search of a flea market that some people were talking about but I never actually found it. I ended up just wandering through the city enjoying the small streets for a while before heading back to the hostel.
The 4 British guys who own the hostel said they'd make a Thanksgiving dinner tonight for all the guests. There's actually quite a few Americans here which is surprising so having a Thanksgiving dinner would be a nice treat. I had a late lunch of chicken fajitas again to hold me over until dinner.
I hung out at the hostel and then in the kitchen while some people started working on an apple pie. I drank some wine then started talking with some of the other travelers and hung out with wine and beers until about 10:15pm when dinner was finally served. Things run a little late here in Spain and it's taken some getting used to, lol.
Dinner consisted of chicken since turkey is pretty hard to find here. For sides we had mashed potatoes, gravy, peas/carrots, steamed broccoli and onions, stuffing and bread. It was all delicious and there was a huge turnout for the dinner tonight. I didn't eat nearly as much as I normally would at a Thanksgiving feast but for being in Europe it was as good as it gets.
After eating I played some card games and a couple rounds of Guess Who with some of the other people here. A bunch of them are heading out to a club but aren't actually leaving the hostel for another 15 minutes (at 1:30am). I don't feel like being out until 6am so I'm going to call it a night now. Depending on when I get up I might do the walking tour in the morning.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013 @ 08:53 pm from Spain
I'm not sure what stars aligned last night but I think I had the best sleep of the entire trip. I laid down around midnight and was out cold until around 8:30am. I don't think I moved all night I was sleeping that well. Once I got up I worked on ClearCheckbook a bit and had a good 50/50 hot chocolate/coffee mix.
Before lunch I went down to the big Mercadona supermarket and bought some stuff for the next few dinners as well as a few things for lunch. I came back and made a sandwich and then went out to explore. I had read good things about Plaza de Espana and saw that it was used in one of the new Star Wars movies.
It was about a 15 minute walk away and was a very cool area. The entire building is highlighted with really colorful tile work. The plaza is a big half moon shape with large towers on either end and an artificial canal that you can rent small boats on. There's a big fountain in the center of the plaza surrounded by a nice tile mosaic. All around the plaza are sitting areas that highlight cities throughout Spain, usually with a tile painting of some historic event that took place there.
I read my book there for a while then walked back into the city center. Along the way I found another one of those 100 Montaditos. It's the same place I went to in Valencia that serves €1 beers and sandwiches every Sunday and Wednesday. I dropped in for a couple beers and some small sandwiches to hold me over until dinner. The place was packed with big groups of people ordering 10+ sandwiches at a time. It was pretty impressive watching the cooks whip out all the food so quickly.
I came back to the hostel for a bit then started talking with a group of people who were going to head to this place they were calling the giant mushroom. I wasn't sure what they were talking about but they said it was supposed to be a really cool building with a bar on top. We all went over there and paid our €3 entry fee (which also included a free drink at the top) and got to the top for some great views. There is a crazy walkway that goes all around the top of the structure which the locals refer to as the mushroom. The actual name is the Metropol Parasol.
We claimed our free drinks and chilled up there and watched the sun set over the city. The walk back to the hostel was really nice. The streets are packed with people enjoying the night. There are (currently unlit) Christmas lights lining all of the streets. It's going to be great to walk around once they're all lit up.
I came back to the hostel and made some more fajitas since I still have that pollo asado seasoning that I bought in Valencia. I was thinking about doing the hostel dinner again tonight but I didn't feel like waiting until 9 to eat. I'll probably head up there for a drink in a bit though.
Seville from the Metropol Parasol
Tuesday, November 26, 2013 @ 11:05 pm from Spain
I had to get up super early today (from what I'm used to) so I could pack up, eat and get to the train station before my train left at 8:15am. I got to the station just before they started boarding and started talking to a guy from the States who currently lives in Seville. We talked a little bit then shared a cab into the city center since the train station was pretty far removed from there.
The train ride was pretty nice. All of the cheap tickets were sold out so I had to get the "Turista Plus" ticket which meant bigger and more comfortable seats. The ride was about 4 hours and passed through a lot of scenery that reminded me a lot of New Mexico. The landscapes are almost identical. It's pretty crazy.
I checked into my hostel, La Banda Rooftop Hostel, worked for an hour or so then went out to walk around a bit. Seville is a really cool city. There are a lot of old Roman aqueducts, old churches, bull rings, old city walls, etc all within easy walking distance. I went and picked up some groceries and came back to make some veggie fajitas to hold me over for dinner.
I worked for a couple hours then went out to explore the surrounding area at dusk and took several photos of the cathedral. They have the entire area set up for some nice christmas lights but haven't turned them on yet. I think that's supposed to happen while I'm here which would be nice. There are also a lot of vendors selling everything you need to build your own nativity scene.
Every night the hostel makes a big dinner so I signed up for that tonight. We had Basque chicken (northern Spanish chicken with olives, tomatoes, chorizo, red peppers in a sauce), cilantro rice and a spinach with goat cheese. Dinner was at 9 so I needed the little hold-me-over but everything they made tasted great.
I'm pretty worn out from getting up so early and traveling all day. Tomorrow I'll get out and explore a little more but at least the weather is still cooperating. It should be in the mid 60's and sunny for the foreseeable future.
Seville Cathedral outside the hostel
Riding the train in style
Nativity scene vendors outside the cathedral
Monday, November 25, 2013 @ 07:37 pm from Spain
Today's my last full day in Valencia and I wanted to make sure I climbed the tower at the Valencia Cathedral today. After I ate breakfast I walked through the big Mercado Central again for the heck of it then went over to the Valencia Cathedral and paid my €2 and started climbing the tower.
It felt like I was going around and around for quite a while and my legs were actually a bit sore when I made it to the top of the tower. The tower was started in 1381 and houses several bells. The church is also said to be home to the Holy Grail but I didn't see that.
The views from the top of the bell tower were really nice. I went up around 11 but the sun was still pretty harsh and made it hard to see out east over the city toward the sea. When I got up there there was one other couple that left after a minute but after that I was up there by myself and was able to relax and take in the views.
I came back to the hostel and started working on some new ClearCheckbook features until I was getting hungry for lunch. Instead of buying and cooking food, I went the easier route and bought some take-away paella and then went to the market and bought some tiny pizzas that would last me through both lunch and dinner.
I worked after lunch all the way until I started getting hungry for dinner. It's been nice today and there haven't really been many people in the hostel so I've been able to concentrate on work without being interrupted. I heated up my paella and little pizza and had that for dinner.
Tomorrow I have to get up pretty early to be at the train station for my 8:15am departure to Seville. It takes about a half hour to walk there and I want to make sure I leave a little extra time to get there with time to spare. That means I should probably be out the door here no later than 7:15 which is the earliest I've had to get up in a while. I'm looking forward to checking out my hostel in Seville since it's got a big rooftop terrace that's supposed to have some great views of the city.
Sunday, November 24, 2013 @ 09:43 pm from Spain
Last night I ended up talking with some people from the States who are teaching English in Madrid. We went out for some tapas and then found a frozen yogurt place. The frozen yogurt here is a lot more tart than it is back in the states but it was still good. They gave me some advice on places to visit while I'm in Madrid including one of the best places for churros and hot chocolate in all of Spain.
I forgot today was Sunday and that on Sunday pretty much everything shuts down. I didn't have anything for lunch or dinner but I heard about one supermarket that would be open so I went out in search of it. It was in the basement of a department store chain called El Corte Ingles. The place was pretty nice and had a lot of good food to choose from. I got some kind of pasta dish for lunch and then picked up some broccoli and cauliflower and potatoes to go with dinner.
After dropping it off at the hostel and answering some emails I aimlessly walked around town for a bit. There were some outdoor flea markets going on so I checked them out. I found a pair of light gloves for €1.50 so I bought them. It's been cooling down pretty quick and I didn't have a pair of gloves with me. They don't seem to be the most well made gloves in the world but they only need to last me about 3 more weeks.
Before coming back to the hostel I stopped and got some churros y chocolate. It's a big thing here in Spain and I can see why. The churros were fresh out of the fryer, dusted with sugar and cinnamon and they're served with the thickest hot chocolate you've ever had. I guess you're supposed to dip the churros in the chocolate like you would a donut in milk. It definitely adds some nice flavor to them. The leftover hot chocolate tasted really good by itself too.
Back at the hostel I watched the 50th Anniversary Doctor Who special then got dinner going. I still had some beef left over from the fajitas last night so I cooked that up with garlic and pollo asado seasoning (I know... I know... chicken seasoning on beef, but it's all I had to work with). I made some patats bravas with garlic and then cut up and cooked the broccoli and cauliflower and tossed it in with the beef at the last minute to soak up some of the flavor.
After dinner I finished a really bad mystery book that I found here at the hostel. It seems like the target audience for the book is insecure women who are testing the waters away from romance novels. If it wasn't for the fact that it was literally the only book in English here I would have stopped reading it after the first chapter.
Tomorrow is my last full day in Valencia so I'm determined to make it up to the top of the big tower to see a view of the entire city and surrounding area. It looks like it's supposed to be another good day too. I'm looking forward to moving on to Seville on Tuesday. I'll be there for 10 nights but There are a lot of cities around there that make for good day trips.
Where I've been:
All the countries I've visted on this trip (in yellow).
What's this about?
Traveling is something I've loved doing for as long as I can remember. I've been lucky enough to travel out of the US a few times but never longer than 2 weeks at a time. I decided that I should go see the world and experience all it has to offer. I booked a one-way ticket to Dublin, Ireland to depart on June 26, 2013. After I get to Europe I'll let serendipity take hold and see where I end up. No schedules and no itinerary… just go with the flow. That's as close to a plan as I'm making.
Who am I?
My name's Brandon O'Brien and I'm a travelholic. Before this journey I've been to 11 countries and put over 17,500 miles on various motorcycle trips through the USA and Canada. I'm a self-employed web developer so I'm fortunate enough to be able to work anywhere there's an internet connection. That's what truly made this experience possible.
12 days, 17 hours and 23 minutes
Until I board a plane to end my journey!