This is the first real moment I’ve gotten to write. Evie and I had a rather epic struggle trying to book train tickets to Barcelona last minute, and we’ve ended up on separate trains. No matter, as long as they end up in the same place.
I’m really glad that we’ve played this trip by ear overall, but it’s been a little bit of a challenge at times. The main challenges have been finding out that the trains we want are all full, or that the museum we want to see is closed, or that on Sunday nothing happens in a small town and that’s the only full day we planned to be there. Occasionally we’ve wanted to do different things or had different ideas of what would be a good time to wake up or go to bed, but they’re most small. Unlike before when I just made snap decisions on my own, now we talk things through, figure out what suits both of us, and then plan the trip. The only casualty of our lack of advanced planning has been not being able to go to Portugal. At first I was really disappointed because I’ve wanted to visit Portugal for a long time. But I now know that I will be traveling more, so I’m just going to add it to my list and go later.
Just like Australia and New Zealand are strange bedfellows, so are Spain and Portugal. Not only are the languages different, so, seemingly are the cultures. No matter that they share a landmass, it is very difficult to find a train across the border, at least not one that goes there easily or quickly. You can take a bus or a plane, but again, it’s not easy, especially if you’re planning things only a few days ahead of time. Overall, I think that has turned into an advantage, because now we’re getting a better adventure en España and have time to see more cities. Although if you ask Jan, our new Dutch friend who we met in Jerez de la Frontera, we’re traveling “just like Americans,” and speeding through the country barely experiencing anything. While I do agree with him, I also think there’s a balance to strike, and I’ve enjoyed seeing what we’ve seen.
The train we’re on right now is heading to Barcelona. It’s a high-speed train, and will have us there in 2 hours and 30 minutes. It’s funny, high-speed seems to mean anything from 140 km/h to 200 km/hr. It is near impossible to tell the difference when you’re on the train, the only way to know is from the display screen telling you the time, next stop, temperature, and sometimes speed. And that all depends on how nice the train is. Okay, wow. I just checked the display and it says we’re going 300 km/hr. I had no idea. There you go. The proof is in the pudding.
We left Cadiz at 12:30 pm today and headed to the train station. We’d booked our tickets very late last night through Rail Europe, but the site failed to process them, and we didn’t receive the email confirmation with the tickets to print out in time, so we were going to the station to buy our tickets again, hoping that we wouldn’t have to dispute anything with Rail Europe and incur double costs. Fortunately, those losers sent us an automated email way too late letting us know that their system had failed and therefore not charged us, but there were a few hours there where we discussed our options should we have to dispute things with them. In the end, it worked out. As it basically always does. Except if you have your sights set on Portugal. Then, it gets postponed. Which is it’s own form of working out.
So the last time I wrote we had just left Madrid and were on our way to Granada. Wow. So much has happened. We visited Granada in spring, which is the very best time to be there, and saw the Alhambra, the massive ancient palace and garden, in what can only be described as the most perfect weather possible. Then we made our way to Sevilla, a medium sized Spanish town with an ideal combination of tiny cobblestone streets lined with shops and restaurants, large plazas, and lots of people. Then we took the train south to Jerez de la Frontera, or simply Jerez, of sherry fame (jerez is the _____ word for sherry), where we unlocked what at first seemed like a mystery of a city and turned out to be one of my most favorite places to visit so far. Flamenco guitar! Sherry, queso, and chicharrones! Estupendo! And finally we popped down to Cadiz, the tiny city on the water, shaped like an arm making a fist, famous for its lonnnng beaches, amazing fried fish, and even tinier cobblestone streets. All different. All great. All worth returning to.
First, Granada and the Alhambra. When last we spoke, Evie and I were planning to awaken at the crack of dawn to acquire tickets. We succeeded. It was a cold and long wait in line, but we managed to acquire two tickets (well, three, but we sold one, long story) to see the sights. They sold out of the tickets to the see the Nazarid Palace, but by the end of our visit there, after walking around for hours upon hours, we couldn’t have imagined seeing anything else, so it turned out to be okay. The average visit to the Alhambra is three hours. We took four. We started standing in line at 7:30 am, we finally got tickets at 10am, we walked up the hill into the old town for lunch, walked all around the Alhambra, and then went to dinner afterwards returning to our hotel a 10 pm. By the end of the day our feet were killing us. But it was worth it. Check out the pictures. They’ll explain it all better than I could with words.
I’m starting to feel motion sickness from writing while hurtling across Spain. I’ll pick this up tomorrow.
P.S. Mad Bacon is a reference to my train ticket from Madrid (MAD) to Barcelona (BCN).