Seville, Spain

Seville, Spain
September 16th 2010

Arrived in Seville around 5 am after taking the 8-hour overnight bus from Lisbon. Public transportation isn’t awake then so after waiting for 30 minutes for a bus that would never come until much later, I got a girl at the bus stop to split a taxi with me, as we were heading in the same direction. The part I feel guilty about was that I had told her that the bus station she wanted to get to was toward the east. Upon consulting my map in my guidebook later in the day, I saw that the bus station she needed was in the west. Ooops, hope she had more sense than to listen to me.

Spent the morning exploring a couple of tourist destinations; the Cathedral, self-explanatory, and Alcanzar, a former residence of the royalty of Spain. The Cathedral was like most other old churches around Europe although much bigger and more lavish. No wonder we had to pay an expensive entry fee, I’m sure all the tourists were paying off the debt for all that glitter inside. Alcanzar was downright cool. It was so massive with so much Moorish influence in the designs, well worth whatever money I paid to get in.

The buildings in Seville were really cool-looking as they were colorful and had a very Spanish feel to it. Before I ever set foot in Spain, this was how I imagined Spain looked like.

Walked along one of the main drags in the touristy area and found the main post office. Went in to find out how much it would cost to ship my LP Europe guidebook back to the USA. It costs €33! The book cost €20 and has so much wear on it that it was probably only worth €5. I figured I’d just give it away to one of my hostel-mates.

Not much else to say about Seville. Did not go see any flamenco performances or bull-fights.

Seville, Spain Pics

Madrid, Spain

Madrid, Spain
September 11th, 12th, 13th 2010

Didn’t visit any churches or museums in Madrid. Basically used the time to relax, enjoy some spectator sports, and resupply on anything I need.

Took a tour of Santiago Barnabeu stadium (Real Madrid’s ground). Got to sit in the players’ seats. Of course, it wasn’t as exhilarating as visiting Old Trafford. Went to a game the following day and that was quite an experience. My first professional soccer game. Got to see the Galacticos, some of the best players in the world. Real Madrid beat Osasuna 1-0 and it wasn’t the most exciting match.

Went to see a bullfight with Jos, Jayben, and Nick (and some of their hostel-mates), some friends I met in my hostel in Barcelona, although they were staying at a different hostel in Madrid. Funny thing was that after Barcelona, I didn’t expect to see them in Madrid but I was walking back from buying my Real Madrid ticket and I heard some familiar voices behind me and I turned around and it was them, coming back from buying their tickets as well. Small world.

Here’s the progression of a bullfight. A couple of matadors come out (apprentices, not the main matador) along with some lancers (guys on horses with spears). Then they let the bull out. The apprentice matadors start toying with the bull by waving their pink capes and when the bull charges them, they hide behind some wooden structures. Then they taunt the bull into charging at the lancer. The lancer will then spear the bull around the neck area, causing massive bleeding and weakening the neck muscles. This causes the bull to fight with its head lowered, which will help the main matador kill it later. Anyway, after the spearing, some apprentices will stab the bull in the neck area with some markers. This is done when the bull charges at them and they will stab it and somehow avoid being gored. The main matador comes out and fights the bull. Then when the bull shows no more fight, the matador takes out his sword, gets the bull to charge at them, and they stab it very deep in a particular spot which will kill the bull almost instantaneously. The problem is that sometimes, a matador will have problems stabbing it in the right spot, causing only a shallow stab. They will try the finishing move again and again until the crowd boos them. And after the bull is tortured by this lack of skill, the matador finally gets it right and ends the bull’s life. If the bull isn’t instantaneously dead, someone will come up and stab the bull in the head with a knife and severe some tendons around the head. I couldn’t quite see what they did exactly. But overall, bullfighting is supposed to be artistic and exact. When you have matadors and lancers missing their mark, the crowd does not like it. And for those who call the sport animal cruelty, there are those who argue that bulls bred for bullfights usually live a wonderful life for about 4 years before they are then sacrificed for sport. It was a noble way for the bull to die. Also, before the 1940s, the horses used by lancers didn’t even have protective armor. The bulls end up goring and killing the horses when being speared. More horses died compared to bulls. Anyway, you can read more about bullfighting here.

(Spearing a bull)

(Matador vs bull)

(Dragging the fallen bull)

(Warm up session for Madrid and Osasuna players)

BTW, I have found a snorer that beats out the Japanese guy in Goreme, Turkey. One night, I woke up after hearing the most obnoxious, vile, unworldly snore in the world. It wasn’t a regular snore either. It was a loud snore, mixed with an after-snore sound that was terrifying. Some Italian guys walked into the dorm around 2 am and were snickering at the sound of the snore. Awake, I joked with them that the guy in one of the beds really has a terrible snore. One of the Italians took a closer look and told me ‘That’s a woman!’ We burst out laughing so hard, and I had to cover my face with a pillow to muffle my laugh. The snorer barely broke rhythm even after all the noise. I found out it was some plump Spanish-speaking woman that I had met earlier in the day. I had to endure her snores for two nights. What a nightmare. Earplugs didn’t work.

Madrid, Spain Pics

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

September 7th, 8th, 9th 2010

Got to Barcelona late on the 7th, after a 5+ hour journey by train from Montpellier. Ate some nasi biryani (Malaysians reading this will know what it is) at an Indian joint across the street from the hostel. They also make pizza and serve tapas (Spanish finger foods that are served with beer) there, go figure. Indians are enterprising.

Spent the next day checking out one of the most jaw-dropping structures I’ve seen in my life, the Sagrada Familia, a Catholic church designed by Anton Gaudi. Its design is inspired by nature and was started in the late 19th century and scheduled to be completed in 2030. I would love to go back then to check it out. Instead of gargoyles, the outside of the church was adorned with statues of frogs, lizards, and various other reptiles, as well as statues designed by Josep Maria Subirachs, a famous sculptor. Subirach’s statue designs are very interesting. Please check out the link to the Sagrada Familia, so much information I cannot even begin to write about and describe. Pictures say a thousands words.

(A section of the Sagrada Familia)

(Some of Subirach’s work)

(Inside the Sagrada Familia)

I remember how awed I was visiting old churches such as the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. In 500 years time, then we’re all gone, tourists visiting Barcelona will see this church and be in awe. But I was there when they were constructing it. Please check out the rest of the pictures of the Sagrada Familia in the link at the end of this post. Gaudi designed some other structures as well but I only looked at them from the outside as the entry fees were ridiculous. It sucks that he died by being hit by a tram. A tram!

Found a bookstore that sold English books and bought The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole and Fever Pitch. Cost me ~€10 each! But good books make such good time-fillers, be it on the long bus/train/subway rides or just relaxing in the park or hostel lounge.

Ate lunch at a popular local joint called La Rita. It was high-end looking but had great prices, especially if you have the Menu del Dia (Menu of the Day) where you pick a starter, a main course, a dessert, and a drink. I tried to be classy and had red wine eventhough I knew the consequences. An hour later, I walked around Barcelona with red eyes and face and feeling quite buzzed.

The next day, I explored La Barceloneta, the area around the beach. Had seafood paella from one of the restaurants along the beachwalk. Then walked along La Rambla, one of the most famous streets in Spain. It’s just a tourist stretch filled with tourists, street performers, tourist shops, restaurants, and pickpockets. On the way back, it started to rain and instead of taking the subway, I decided to be cheap and run back. I got soaked, but saved €1.40! Ok, I am not that cheap, I just felt like running back in the rain. It’s an exhilirating feeling.

Spent the next day checking out the Barcelona Cathedral (unimpressive) and Mercat de Boqueteria, a popular local market. Had some fresh fruit and a chick pea dish. Spent the afternoon taking a tour of Camp Nou, F.C. Barcelona’s stadium.

Barcelona, Spain Pics