Sunday, July 02, 2006

Spanish headaches

I'm pretty sure not even my faithful friend and roommate The Courtenator is periodically checking my blog anymore! After over a month of procrastinating, I've forced myself to sit down and pound out the last bit of my journey. And maybe that's because the last part of my journey was quite the emotional debriefing and I've been avoiding recounting those memories....sigh, but I'll try...

Mom and I had plans to leave Malaga a day or so after arriving, in hopes of heading first towards Granada and then up the Mediterranean coast to the island of Mallorca, and finally finishing off the trip in Barcelona. We were going to attempt to do this in one week. I was nuts for thinking this itinerary was feasable!!! This wasn't like Morocco where you could pay a taxi driver in dirhams to take you cross-country! But we made a hearty attempt!

After saying some rather sad 'goodbyes' to everyone in Malaga, mom and I caught a bus to Granada where our main purpose (like the 6000 others who flock to this student centre for the same reason) was to visit the world famous Alhambra--last bastion of Moorish reign in Andalucia and one of the finest examples of Islamic architecture in the world.

We arrived late in the evening, and were relieved to have made reservations at one of the many hostals near to the palace. The city was stuffed with tourists packing it in for the night, with hopes of rising early to visit one of Europe's top destinations, and there were literally no room in the inns! Only then did I begin to realise how major this attraction was! Our kitschy, avante garde-style room was small and old, but we were glad to have one. Our hostess down below, however, was a different matter. Crochety and rude, she got frustrated with even our most polite inquiries and was really of no help at all when it came to providing info regarding visits to the Alhambra. Mom and I both griped about the lack of customer service, but chalked up her scowls and sourpuss attitude to years of being in a business she didn't enjoy.

We awoke before light even had a chance to hit the still snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains in the distance, and found we were not alone on the streets of Granada. Half-sleeping tourists were also making their way down to the early shuttle buses that would courier thousands more to the top of the hill and back throughout the day. Rather than wait with the growing crowds, a few of us decided to snag one of the first taxis of the morning. Mom and I hopped in with a couple from England with whom we spent the next three hours in line!

Three hours in line for what you wonder!? I myself could not believe that we weren't even the first when we arrived at the Alhambra's gates before the sun had risen! Over 200 others had either camped out or husseled it there at the butt crack of dawn! To see a palace!!! As my eyes finally rid themselves of sleep and my stomach awoke with a growl, I began hoping that A) We'd be able to get tickets as only a certain amount were actually sold at the gates, due to the fact that thousands had already been presold and that B)...well guess what, it's been about another month since I first started this draft and I completely forget what B) was! Oh well....the shorter the sweeter I guess. Hmm...I think I passed that point long ago!

But never mind, we did make it in to the Alhambra and after months spent drooling over the complexities of Moroccan architecture, it was a pretty spectacular finale. The Lion Courtyard in the famed Palacio Nazaries and the Pool Partal outside (tried to post a pic here, but it wouldn't work!) pretty much took my breath away...I had hoped the renowned vistas from the ramparts would do it for me, but the haze and blazing sunlight ruined the views. Seeing this specific pool, however, really was a huge moment for me though. I've been an architecture nut since I was a little kid...drawing out my dream homes, pouring over architecture magazines, thinking long and hard over lego structural designs. I've been completely obsessed with Mediterranean architecture for just about as long, but in high school my art teacher sent me to the library to research the Alhambra. She wrote down the name for me and I scurried on down to the library to find out what this 'Alhambra' was. What I found after rifling through the architecture books was a photograph of this Pool Partal and it's stuck with me ever since. "Jaime," Ms. Delangen exhorted, "you need to visit the Alhambra. That was over eight years before. I really should have sent her a postcard from there, but I know she'll be just as pleased to see the photos in person. While in this specific part of the palace, I bumped into a small group of Canadian girls and one American guy who were doing some traveling in Spain. It's always nice to find fellow Hosers abroad...makes you feel like at least someone can relate to your experiences! Anyway, later on I heard someone yell "Hey Vancouver!" I whipped around and found one of the girls shouting at me and coming my way. I think it was the only time I ever liked hearing the sound of someone acknowledging me as a Vancouverite...which I'm not...only temporarily. Turns out this girl (sick, I forget her's written down somewhere though) was hoping I'd send her a few photos from the Alhambra after they'd finished their trip. Happy to oblige another Canadian, she took down my contact info and then handed me one of the Edmonton pins she'd been passing around. And that was that.

Mom and I ripped down to the hostal only to find that our hostess was right ticked off that we were a bit late in returning to pick up our bags, so we got out of there as fast as we could. Next stop was the taxi stand and a trip to the bus station where we were hoping to barely make the next bus to somewhere up the coast. We weren't totally sure of our next destination, but thought if we could get to Alicante, maybe we could stay overnight at the Capernwray there.

As we stood waiting at the taxi stand it seemed we couldn't have flagged down an empty cab if were waving wads of Euros in the air. We didn't have wads anyway so that wouldn't have worked...our cash was rapidly depleting and we'd already called on dad to give us a boost before! Finally a girl tried to help us when a taxi pulled over and another Spanish couple started climbing in. She ran over and tried to score it for us but to no avail. Next thing we know, phew, another taxi is pulling up. I pick up my bags and at the same time just about drop a load of bricks--the girl who tried to help us was getting into the cab! I started to raise my voice but she must have responded with the Spanish version of "You snooze, you lose". Thanks lady, but with 100 lbs. on my back I was hardly snoozing...I just couldn't run that fast! At that point, I'd had it up to HERE with the Spaniards who just continued to rub me the wrong way more and more. I found a great many of them to be rude, inconsiderate, unaccomodating, and obnoxious. That is most definitely a general statement, as I also happen to know a number of really great Spaniards who went more than out of their way for me...the two ladies at Mascom, my local three aisle grocery store who helped me buy bacon and ham every week spring to mind immediately! But as far as those I didn't have relationships with, I was appalled by the lack of friendliness and want to make a point of being even MORE helpful to foreigners traveling in my country or community.

We eventually claimed a cab for ourselves and got to the bus station. There we proceeded to adopt a new dilemna--which bus to catch and how to do that when the bus we decided on didn't have a ticket counter open until 10 minutes before the bus was scheduled to depart. We decided to try and go to Alicante so I stayed with the luggage while Mom tried to snag us two tickets at the crowded ticket counter. Mom called over when she realised that she'd accidentally purchased two tickets that were for a bus that wouldn't get us to Alicante until after midnight. Not good. No way were we gonna wander around some Spanish city at night with all our luggage and no place to stay. I was about to panic, but cried out to God, and then "what before my eyes should appear, but the Canadian group with all of their gear!" "Edmonton!!!!" I shouted, and the Pin Girl whirled around. We both laughed as I rushed over to her. I asked where they were going but it was nowhere near where we wanted to head and then I quickly explained our predicament. It turned out the American dude traveling with them spoke excellent Spanish so he went to help my mom out. We decided that our best course of action was to abort the entire coastal trip, head BACK to Malaga, regroup, and fly out from there. Spanish-speaker helped my mom to exchange our tickets for a bus that would take us to Malaga in 5 minutes. All four of them helped us carry our luggage to the bus and quickly load. Other than the jumping onto an almost moving train in Rabat, this was as close a call as I'd had in a while. There were three seats left. Two between two strange guys at the back of the bus (there are always strange men sitting at the rear of the bus in any country...I rode the red-eye greyhound overnight to Vernon from Vancouver one Thanksgiving and slept near the back thinking it'd be quieter....hooooo boy...I was SCARED to sleep!)...and one on the other side of the one guy. Why that one dude couldn't move over and sit next to the window I had no idea, but I had no words or breath with which to express my displeasure. So mom and I sat crammed between the two, sweating and panting as though we'd just made the biggest heist getaway in our careers.

Malaga was a sweet sight after two and a half days of chaos. I called the MMC apartment and asked Kirsten if I could crash with her and Rosie. 8A never looked so inviting as it did that night! The next day I said hello's again to some very confused staff, and then made some plans to stay in a nice AMERICAN-run Spanish inn, just a short ways up the coast. Mom and I then headed up to La Herradura (literally, the Horseshoe) which is a small resort town with not much to offer (which includes a rather stony beach and less than impressive seafood restaurants). So why did we go...honestly, the hotel, La Tartana was a dream.

The owners (two Americans and a German I believe) went out of their way to make sure that we were MORE than well taken care of. The food was unbelievable, the service outstanding, the garden terrace with sea views beautiful, and the furnishings cozy if simple. If you're looking for a place to stay outside of Malaga that is well priced and where the staff go beyond your expectations, check out La Tartana's website at: Quiet and relaxed was just what we both needed and I slowly began to return to health (my cold had now been plaguing me for about a month due to the constant stress and lack of sleep). The day before we left we went shopping in Almunecar where we were delighted by the winding streets and unique shops...definitely a place I'd like to snoop around again if I had the chance.

Back in Malaga, mom and I had the chance to repack and prep for heading to England. One more night out and mom treated Kirsten, Beth, and I to dinner at Posada Antonio's (Antonio Banderras' restaurant). We had a blast and I was really disappointed to be leaving the girls. I'm sure my presence was filled quickly, however, when another Canadian Jamie took over my desk and position as Beth's chattering neighbour, the day after I left! I am now very jealous that the three of them are having tons of fun without me and wish I could return just to hang out! Kirsten had arrive just before I left too, and Beth and I had only really begun our friendship.

And speaking of friends, it was my last goodbye to Rosie, whom I dearly loved and miss a lot...which means I really need to email her. Rosie was one of the best roommates I ever had and I SO enjoyed her company!!! So it was off to the airport after final goodbyes and more luggage than I ever dreamed of taking home. One last glance towards the Media Centre and that was it. My internship and time in Spain was officially done. I hate goodbyes, but there are more of those to come so we'll leave those for next time. I hope that won't be once school is starting and I'm wrapping up my blog for the LAST TIME!

And I'm houseboating that is. I don't know when I'll catch up on my week in Devon, England, but it was a blast and I can't wait to share my adventures there. For now, I'll have to be content creating new entire extended family from Manitoba are all arriving tomorrow to go houseboating on the Shushwap for 4 days. 24 Dycks on a boat. I'm positive there will be noise complaints all the way across the lake!!! FUN STUFF!!! It'll be like My Big Fat Greek Wedding on a boat, but without the wedding and just as much food!