random updates throughout england, spain, france
Jul 18, 2009
|June 10th, 2009
HIGHLIGHTS OF LONDON (June 10-17)
Arriving in London after 48hrs of layovers in African airports, we arrived on a tube strike day. Thank goodness for Kristin received us there and lead us disoriented travelers back to her home.
Grocery shopping! Crispy veggies, yougurt, cheese and hearty loaf of brown bread! Things we missed in W. Africa.
Roof top bus tour – we loved being cheezy tourists seeing all of the London sites.
Kristin treated us to our a delicious drink of Pimms.
Cambridge – had a picnic with Kristin and her boyfriend Cris with the beautiful old buildings as our backdrop. People were punting along the water...looked like we were in a movie.
Robin had a great shopping experience with Kristin at the Top Shop.
Drinks at the only Canadian bar in London. Met Darren and some of his friends at the pub. Shelley was working that night and Darren had just finished exams.
Good food, good friends. We were able to meet up with Dan Macleod, his girlfriend Amanda, Darren and Shelley for a fun few days.
WICKED! We were treated to a musical and LOVED IT! Would highly reccomend a musical in London.
Kristin lived right by the river Thames so we ran along the river a few mornings.
After 4 months of travelling West Africa we were very thankful for a home base with Kristin and her flatmate Jess in London! Fantastic girls!
June 17 to July 5
We were able to find a cheap flight from London to Malaga (South Spain). South Spain is beautiful. Malaga was our first stop where we met up with our first couchsurfer (Victor the Metalhead) who introduced us to some amazing Spanish tapas and the great nightlife scene in Malaga at his friend's pubs. We even joined him and his colleagues for an all night party/BBQ on the beach to celebrate the shortest night of the year (June 21st). Took a day trip to Grenada where we visited the Alhambra (an ancient city). The food there was great too as for every drink that was ordered, came a tapas. Good eatin'! OH and there was some amazing graffiti there (this was also true in Barcelona).
After spending over a week in Malaga we took a bus to Cadiz, Spain. Our friend Robert O'neill works at a hostel there so we thought we would meet up with him. We expected to only spend a night or two and ended up spending 5. We slept on the rooftop terrace of Rob's apartment. Kind of cool falling asleep under the stars with a lit up cathedral towering over us. Rob and his hostel friends were great. We spent a few days on the beach, did some exploring of the historic city of Cadiz, took a bus to a neighboring town where we camped out on the beach with everyone. It was a hard place to leave.
After almost a week with Rob, Jerome and I contacted another couchsurfer. We crossed the Cadiz port over to Rota by ferry and met up with Niko who was working for the US Navy in Spain. He was also hosting a Spanish girl and a French guy who we enjoyed a few days with as Niko was working 12 hour shifts. We just happened to be with Niko on July 4th so we went with him to an Independence Day party! So weird being in Spain but feeling like we were in America.
Such a quick overview of our time in Southern Spain but we had a great few weeks with good people there!
July 11th, 2009
It's been a while since Robin and I have written anything in this journal. It seems that as soon as we arrived in Europe, we got bombarded with activities and distractions to keep us from writing about our experiences. It really makes us realize how simple our lives in Africa were and just how much time we had to reflect on things. To be honest, I think we both really miss aspects of the African way of life.
So we are now in Palamos, Spain. This city is located on the north-east coast in the Catalunya(Catalonia) area of Spain. We have added 3 other members to our traveling circus. A few days ago Robin and I took a flight from Jerez de la Playa (in Southern Spain) and flew to Barcelona where we met up with Robin's sister Kendra and her two friends Amanda and Rachel. After a few days in Barcelona, we decided to rent a car and to move around a bit. We thought that it would be a lot cheaper than to have to pay for bus or train tickets and also would offer us much more freedom. It has been well worth it! And Giro (the name we gave our car) our red ford focus was very good to us! On our first day, we traveled to Cadaques where we found a pretty quiet hostel (in comparison to the busy Kabul hostel of Barcelona!) and had a well deserved night of peaceful rest. We lounged on the beach and walked around the really picturesque town of Cadaques. Oh and we had some delicious mussels! On our second day, we drove to a very secluded beach (Les Creus) in a natural park to the norh of Cadaques. The coastal landscape was formed by jagged and rocky peninsulas that jutted out into the Meditarenean. The beaches were very rocky and formed numerous small coves with awesome crystal clear water! We could see fish and plantlife below us as we swam and received a few cuts on our legs from climbing out of the water from clams and other crustaceans on the rocks. What a cool spot that was, unfortunately the weather wasn't overly hot. We still had a little picnic on the rocks complete with baguettes, cheese, meat, fruit and yogurt. This type of meal has been mine and Robin's staple for the past few weeks. We usually go to the supermarket and buy food and then usually find a bench in a park to eat on. The cheese is making me regain a lot of the weight I had lost in Africa!
After these beaches in Cap de Creus, we drove to a place called Figueres. This city is well know due to the fact that it was the home of famous artist Dali. We weren't sure what to do at this point as the weather forecast for the next few days wasn't overly promising. We visited the tourism information center to see if we could get any ideas as to where to go from here. We pondered the possibilities of either going into the Pyrenees mountains (on the France/Spain border) or to stick to the area and check into some wine tours. By the time we had weighed out all of our options, it was getting pretty late to travel so we decided to spend the night in Figueres. We found a nice hostel (or pension as they are sometimes called here) room for 4 with internet and settled in. There are 5 of us in the group but saying that there are only 4 of us when checking into hostels saved us a bit of money and grief. We have discovered that if you push two single beds together 3 people can sleep quite comfortable across them. So luckily, we were able to fire off some emails and to look into where else we could potentially go. This included a couchsurfing search for people to meet up in the neighbouring cities.
The next day, we woke up, made some quick breakfast sandwiches in our room and checked our emails to see if we had gotten responses. Sure enough, the good people from couchsurfing had replied and we made arangements to meet up with someone in Palamos. That day, we were to drive to Palamos, hang out on the beach (weather permitting- and it was!) and then meet up with our couchsurfing buddy who would hopefully shed some light on things to do in Palamos. We arrived in Palamos at around 2 PM, found the beach and plunked ourselves there for a few hours. The sand was fairly coarse but very clean and nice and the water was a very clear turqoise. After a few hours in the water and sun, Robin and I decided to go and find us a place to sleep for the night. We took the car and drove around until we found the tourist information center. There we got a brocure listing a number of lodging options. Robin and I had decided that the couchsurfing thing wasn't going to work out here in Palamos as we wanted to stick with Kendra and her friends, plus we didn't find anyone who was available to host us all. So anyways, we treked around (by car and by foot) to numerous places but found few places that suited our budget or that were available to us. After searching hostels and hotels, we decided to check out campgrounds. Finally we found something that worked perfect. It was a fully furnished 5 man tent complete with fridge and stove. We went back to get Kendra and her friends only to find that they had migrated from the beach to the beachside bar. We had been gone for quite some time so we were glad they had found some nice wine to keep themselves occupied and refreshed! We told them of our find and we all agreed to rent the tent for a few nights. We left the beach, drove to the supermarket to get some food and then off to our campground. We had a quick bite at the campground, then Robin and I went to meet up with our couchsurfing buddy. We met Alexan just outside of a small pub called El Castellet in downtown Palamos. We met him and his 2 friends and chatted up for a little while about his life and his experiences with couchsurfing. As it was, Alexan was a resident of Palamos where he lived with his mother, had travelled to Norway for 1.5 years where he learned to speak Norwegian, had a Anthropology degree and was working on a community bridging project in Palamos. Alexan invited us to a Catalan music festival in the neighbouring town of Sant Antoni. So Robin and I went to get the other girls at the campground and met back with Alexan and his friends. We chatted a bit more and then headed off to the festival. We had a chance to see some really cool drumming act which seems to be pretty unique to these Spaniards and other spanish countries. I forget the name of it but it was really cool. In the end, we stayed out until around 4 AM and had a blast dancing around and talking to people. We also got an invitation to try real Catalan foods and drink by a girl who runs a restaurant with her family. We exchanged contact information and were to visit their restaurant the next day. The story behind the restaurant was that the girl's father had been a barber for his entire life and didn't want to be a barber any more. So instead, he started a restaurant with his 2 girls and his son in his barber shop.
After our few nights in Palamos we dropped off Amanda at the airport as her european journey had come to an end and Kendra, Rachael, Robin and I returned to Barcelona where we spent 2 more nights hanging out and seeing some sights.
We realize that we've left out some pretty large portions of our trip in this journal. I guess we've been pre-occupied with things like planning and with various activities that Spain has thrown at us. We'll have to meet up with you guys in person to fill in those gaps!
July 18th, 2009
Robin and I are now in the French Alps! We found a ride on the internet that took us from Barcelona to Montpellier, France on the afternoon of July 14th. Fellow travellers had warned us that sometimes finding a ride on the internet can mean that you drive across the country in a dump of a car...but...as it turned out, our ride was from a French real-estate broker and his girlfriend who just so happened to drive a Porsche Cayenne. Our first stop was in Montpellier where Robin and I spent the night in a hotel. Our chauffeur had pitched to us that the next day they would be driving to the Alps where his parents lived and that we were welcome to come along. We figured that we might not get an opportunity to go to the Alps and be showed around so we decided that we'd follow them there.
The ride to the Alps was a quick one. Our driver Fred re-assured us that he knew the roads better than anyone and so he drove on, passing everyone in sight (cutting them off too- I'm sure). To say the least, he drove like a maniac on those narrow, windy moutain roads but we made the journey in under 3 hours.
When we arrived in Les Deux Alpes, Fred toured us around a bit in his town. He grew up there ski racing and his parents still own a hotel there. It was good to get recomendations of things to do and places to eat at.
There's lots to do here at this time of year. The town is hosting a big downhill mountain biking competition this weekend called The Mountain of Hell. People can even downhill ski at this time of year on the upper glacier... can't imagine how much that would cost. Yesterday, we took a free chairlift down to a little village and hiked back up to Les Deux Alpes. The weather turned ugly pretty quickly and before we knew it, we were in a hail storm. We tried to wait it our under some trees but it never really let up so we kept on marching and totally got soaked!
Our accomodations here are pretty awesome. We found an agency that rents out people's apartments here for a really decent price. The place is pretty small but it's got everything we need. We've already been here 3 nights and think we might do a few more. Not sure where to head from here.... something will come up... it always does!
Take care you guys! Miss you lots and hope you're all doing really well!