BrandonoBrien.com

Brandon O'Brien

Travel and Adventure Journal

I wanted a place to journal all my travels and adventures around the world. I always enjoy going back and reflecting on my past travels and getting to relive them through my words and photos.

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A lazy Saturday in Seville

A lazy Saturday in Seville

Saturday, November 30, 2013 @ 7:50 PM in 2013 Europe

Day 157

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.

Teaser photos:

Cool light display
Cool light display
La Seta
La Seta

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Tags: daily journal, spain, seville

Posted from: Spain

A walking tour through Seville

A walking tour through Seville

Friday, November 29, 2013 @ 5:56 PM in 2013 Europe

Day 156

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.

Teaser photos:

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Tags: daily journal, spain, seville

Posted from: Spain

Happy Thanksgiving from Spain!

Friday, November 29, 2013 @ 1:17 AM in 2013 Europe

Day 155

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.

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Tags: daily journal, spain, seville

Posted from: Spain

Plaza de Espana, beer and a giant mushroom

Plaza de Espana, beer and a giant mushroom

Wednesday, November 27, 2013 @ 8:53 PM in 2013 Europe

Day 154

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.

Teaser photos:

Plaza de Espana
Plaza de Espana
Plaza de Espana
Plaza de Espana
Metropol Parasol
Metropol Parasol
Seville from the Metropol Parasol
Seville from the Metropol Parasol

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Tags: daily journal, spain, seville

Posted from: Spain

Sunny in Seville

Sunny in Seville

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 @ 11:05 PM in 2013 Europe

Day 153

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.

Teaser photos:

Seville Cathedral outside the hostel
Seville Cathedral outside the hostel
Riding the train in style
Riding the train in style
Nativity scene vendors outside the cathedral
Nativity scene vendors outside the cathedral
Seville bull ring
Seville bull ring

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Tags: daily journal, spain, seville

Posted from: Spain

Valencia from above

Valencia from above

Monday, November 25, 2013 @ 7:37 PM in 2013 Europe

Day 152

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.

Teaser photos:

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Tags: daily journal, spain, valencia

Posted from: Spain

Churros y Chocolate in Valencia

Sunday, November 24, 2013 @ 9:43 PM in 2013 Europe

Day 151

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.

Teaser photos:

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Tags: daily journal, spain, valencia

Posted from: Spain

Visiting the beach on a cold and windy day

Visiting the beach on a cold and windy day

Saturday, November 23, 2013 @ 9:00 PM in 2013 Europe

Day 150

The weather is finally too cold to really enjoy time out by the beach but I wanted to go see it anyway. After breakfast, lunch and answering some emails I set off to the beach. It was about a 3.5 mile walk from the hostel to the beach but the walk was pretty nice with some good pedestrian friendly streets.

I got down to the beach and it was blowing sand around quite a bit and it was only about 60 degrees outside. You can tell the beach would be a great place to relax if the weather was nice though. The beach was huge! Unlike some beaches where there's hardly any sand before the water, this beach has tons and tons of sand.

On the way back I stopped by the Mercadona market and bought some skirt steak to use in more fajitas tonight. I still had some leftover peppers and onion from last night so I cooked it all up with the meat and it all tasted really good. It made me really miss the southwest and the plethora of good Mexican spices we have access to.

The hostel has been overrun this weekend with study abroad kids in college so it's making me feel a little older than normal being surrounded by kids 19-20 years old who are constantly talking about what courses they're taking. I think most of them will probably leave tomorrow afternoon though to get back to whatever city they're studying in.

Teaser photos:

Really popular frozen yogurt, Llaollao
Really popular frozen yogurt, Llaollao

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Tags: daily journal, spain, valencia

Posted from: Spain

A working day

Friday, November 22, 2013 @ 10:06 PM in 2013 Europe

Day 149

Not much to report today. I dedicated most of today to catching up on some work. I knocked out a few updates to ClearCheckbook and got a new development environment set up for the CCB Android app.

I did run out to go to the grocery store and the mercado central again. I was in the mood for some fajitas so I bought some peppers and an onion and some tortillas. I still had some chicken left over from last night so I used that as well as some asada spices I bought at the grocery. When I was cooking them up for dinner a guy from Mexico let me use some of his chipotle sauce which added some much needed heat to the fajitas.

I didn't go up the big tower today but I still plan on doing that before I leave. It's getting cold enough outside where you can't really just sit in a park or public area and relax. It's a bit of a shame because Valencia has some really nice plazas which would be great for hanging out if it was warmer. I feel like the motivation and energy I had at the beginning of the trip to go out and explore every day has definitely subsided a bit, although that's not really bad either since I feel like I'm getting to know each city I'm at now a lot more than I had other places.

Everyone I've talked to has been saying how cold Madrid has been. I'm dreading going up there in the middle of December. I feel like I'm going to freeze since I don't really have much as far as cold weather gear goes. I guess I'll have to double up my light jacket and rain jacket to act as a make-shift winter coat.

Tags: daily journal, spain, valencia

Posted from: Spain

Walking to the Arts and Science buildings

Walking to the Arts and Science buildings

Thursday, November 21, 2013 @ 9:47 PM in 2013 Europe

Day 148

After breakfast I went back to the Mercado Central and bought some apples, oranges, chicken, asparagus and a potato for lunch/dinner. I came back, ate some of the delicious oranges and an apple and then had a sandwich and some leftover paella from last lunch yesterday.

I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do and didn't really have anything in mind. Since it was a nice day out I decided I'd walk down to the Arts and Sciences area along the Jardines del Turia which is a giant park that surrounds the city in what used to be a river that was dammed and diverted. The parkway is full of runners, bicyclists, walkers, people enjoying picnics and other activities.

The arts and sciences area is really neat looking with all of the buildings having some crazy architecture with reflecting ponds everywhere. It feels like you're walking through a futuristic city the way it's all laid out. I got down there and took some photos then turned around and came back to the hostel.

Back at the hostel I just talked with other travelers and read until I started getting hungry for dinner. For dinner I made some chicken, patatas bravas and asparagus with garlic. There was some curry powder at the hostel so I used that with the chicken and everything turned out really good. After dinner I had a couple beers that I also bought at the market.

This hostel is really good as far as long term travelers who like to sit around and talk about their trip so far so I spend a lot of time down in the lobby talking with them and sharing experiences and places visited. Of most of the people here, I've been traveling the longest which is pretty cool. It seems like most people are also wrapping up their trip in December to be back home for the holidays.

I think tomorrow I'll go up one of the towers here to get some good views of the city. Apparently they're really nice just before sunset.

Teaser photos:

The arts building
The arts building
Torres de Serranos
Torres de Serranos
Science center
Science center
Cool trees
Cool trees

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Tags: daily journal, spain, valencia

Posted from: Spain

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