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Sunday, 3 June 2012

Welcome to Granada

Hey everyone!

So we made it to Granada - we're in our hostel and chilling out. After the relative cool of yesterday, the temperature's gone up by a few million degrees again, so it's been quite hard to bear at times.

I'm writing from another rooftop!!!!! And the wifi is strong enough up here too! We've got a great view of the cathedral and it's much cooler up here than it is in the room.

Today hasn't been a normal day at all - unfortunately we haven't done anywhere near as much visiting of places as we're used to. This is mainly down to our stupidity (explanation coming up), but there are a few other reasons too which are actually valid.

Today has been very productive in terms of the whole trip though. We've managed to tie up a few loose ends and we're now a bit more certain about things than we were.

And quite a few funny things have happened today too, so it hasn't gone without incident at all.

Ah, the breeze has just come back; this bodes well. I am now ready to tell you about today's events.


Even when we woke up this morning, WE STILL DIDN'T KNOW EXACTLY WHAT TIME OUR TRAIN WAS LEAVING. Very stupid, we know.

We set the alarm for 8.30am, on the basis that our train was leaving vaguely around 11am. So when we woke up after oversleeping until 9.30am, we were a little bit concerned.

We panicked initially, until I told Sam to look at the tickets.

The train was leaving at 11.50am.

Panic over.

We showered and packed up the last of our shit, and I think we left the hostel at about 10.15am.

When we arrived in Sevilla a couple of days ago, it took us something like 1 hour 15 minutes to get to the hostel because again our lack of planning and stupidity meant that we didn't have a clue which way to go, and we ended up taking pretty much the longest route possible. So we budgeted about the same amount of time to get to the station today because we thought it was quite far away.

This difference this time, however, was that we had wifi at the hostel, so Sam could use his iPod to find directions.

And the journey took us.... 15 MINUTES.

What the fuck?! How could we get it THAT wrong the first time round!!

Here are the two routes we took (roughly) so you can compare...

The red line was today's journey, the blue line was the journey before.

Note how the blue line trails off randomly up one of the roads... that was where we started going up the road and then realised it wasn't leading to anywhere significant. And also notice how as soon as we left the station we were going in pretty much the complete wrong direction.

The blue route also involved stopping in an infinite number of cafés asking for wifi, so as you can see we were very efficient with our time that day...

So what did this all mean today? Well firstly, we were fucking EARLY. We got to the station more than an hour earlier than we needed to. We had breakfast, but even when we finished it we were still lingering around for about 40 minutes until our platform was announced.

When it was announced, we headed to the platform, but were really surprised that there were no security or ticket checks. On all the trains that we've got so far, our stuff's had to have been x-rayed and all of our tickets have been scrutinised so much that it seemed like they thought we were terrorists. But on this train there was nothing!
Our train left at 11.50, and was due to arrive in Granada at 14:52. We soon realised why there was a lack of security - it was a commuter train, according to an announcement. This meant it also stopped at all the shitty little stops, but t wasn't a big deal. Our tickets got checked by a train guard early on in the journey too, so in a way it was pretty similar to how it is in the UK.

We were on one side of a four-seater, and at the start of the journey, we were opposite two French people. In fact I swear our whole carriage was made up of tourists, which was funny considering it was meant to be a commuter train.

But anyway, these French tourists left at one of the stations before Granada, and two new people who came on the train at this station took their place.

Now... you know those people who keep looking at you, and it's really awkward because you're looking away but you know that they're looking... and every time you move even a centimetre you see their eyes flicker a little... and you feel like you can't even do the slightest thing because it would just make everything more uncomfortable?

These two people personified this.

It was so shit.

I wanted to take photos of the landscape and things I saw from the train window, but whenever I asked Sam to use his iPhone, this absolute cock opposite me would train his eyes on me like a hawk, and when I took a photo he would be watching me as I was focusing on the phone. He couldn't have made me feel more embarrassed.

And also, when I turned to look out of the windows on the opposite side of the train because I saw something interesting, the woman next to that cretin would stare at me for about 10 seconds before then looking at what I was seeing out of the window. What the fuck? How obvious do you want to make it?! If I was more confident I would have just glared back at her until she turned away. Or I could have just chucked a fucking brick into her face.

It also didn't help that the train was shaking like a little bitch (as Sam says), so whenever there was a slight jerk the guy opposite me would use that fraction of a second to LOOK INTO MY FUCKING SOUL.

It was such a relief to get off the train. I told Sam what I was thinking and he said exactly the same thing; they did it to him too. Who does that????

Apart from that bullshit, it was a pretty good train journey. Sam used the time to sort out his photos and do some sketching, and I listened to music most of the way. The landscape was very nice towards the end of the journey when we entered the mountains. Here are a couple of photos that we took:

We decided that when we got off the train, the first thing we were gonna do was booking the tickets for Barcelona, the next place we're visiting. I'd looked at the available trains on the internet the other day, and I saw that the only direct option between the two cities would be an overnight train, leaving Granada at 10-ish and arriving in Barcelona at 9-ish the following morning.

We were ok with this though, because before the trip we wanted to do overnight trains as much as we could to save the money we would spend on accommodation, but we hadn't been able to do it previously because they seem to be very scarce in Spain. I think they are mostly used for international journeys.

The only issue was whether there would be any seats left on this overnight train, seeing as we were reserving our seats so close to the date.

So we went up to the ticket offices and I said my usual sentence, and the grumpy old man at the desk found the overnight train as the only option. I said that it was fine, so thankfully there WERE seats left. It only cost 13,50 euros to reserve the seats for both of us too, so that was really good.

The type of train we're getting is a Train Hotel which has four beds in each carriage and has showers/basins, plug sockets, air conditioning, a restaurant carriage... the whole lot! It'll probably be better than some of the hostels we have stayed in/will be staying in!

However, after sorting this out, we had to play around with the plans we'd made for the whole trip. We have a file on my netbook which is a rough itinerary of where we're going to be on what date, and whether we'd be getting early or late trains to different places, so this needed updating.

I got out the netbook at the station (as you do) and we realised that with our current itinerary, we would only be spending about one and a half days in Barcelona in total due to the booking we'd just made. This was nowhere near enough time. Considering that we've spent about two days in Córdoba, Sevilla and San Sebastian, and given the amount of stuff there is to do in Barcelona, we had to change things around to give us more time.

The one date on the itinerary that isn't flexible is 20th June, when we are booked on the Glacier Express. So changing anything after this date (when we're in Austria) wouldn't have done anything because it's not like we can get the Glacier Express a day later. So we had to change something in Italy or Switzerland. In the end, with a bit of magic, we decided to spend one night less in Venice (although pretty much the same daytime, therefore not lowering our time for experiencing the place), and having an extra day in Barcelona. It fitted perfectly.

While we were on the itinerary, we also made some small changes later on in the trip, but they are not really significant and are just designed to give us more flexibility so that we can make sure we're back home before our InterRail ticket runs out. Otherwise we might get stranded in FRANCE... shit!!!!

While my netbook was on, we also looked at a map that I saved (we actually put the effort in this time) which showed the route from Granada train station to our hostel. We memorised the road names, and Sam also had a map of it on his iPhone, so we thought we'd be ok.

We walked up one road, took a left and carried on up this road. It all made sense according to the map, so we kept going.

It was only when we reached the dead end which was the train tracks (...wait how did that happen? We just left the station?!?!?!?!) that we realised that completely fucked up.

So we walked back along the road we'd just walked up, doing our now familiar routine of looking for cafés with wifi so that we could actually find out where the fuck we were.

However, we found a bus stop which had a map of the area on it, and we realised that we should have turned right instead of left at the beginning. Great.

So NOW we thought we knew where we were going. We carried on up this road, and then I saw a road name that I recognised, so that was convincing. We made a turn and ended up going through the Granada University Campus for some reason (in hindsight this is where we probably should have realised that we'd made a mistake AGAIN), and then we ended up in some grotty residential area.

Just to put this more in context, it was probably like 32 degrees and we were carrying our massive heavy rucksacks. We were walking quite fast to get to the hostel ASAP, but by this point we were melting and the conditions were completely unbearable.

We found a big shopping mall, which had been good for us in the past for wifi, but it was no good, and in the end we decided that we needed a rest, so we sat down outside it in the shade. Sam was getting all moody and many which he often does in these situations, so this was probably a good idea.

We rested for about 20 minutes, and then we decided that the best move would be to head back in the direction of the road that I recognised, and on the way look for more possible wifi spots. A little way up the first road we walked up, we saw a shop selling cold drinks, and as we didn't have any water left we bought a 2-litre bottle of it there.

While we were there, I thought I'd use my iPod to search for wifi on the off-chance that there would be an unprotected network available.

And there was!

I connected to it and my iPod showed me where I was on the map. I typed in the road where our hostel is and it turned out that we actually weren't that far away.

Sam got it up on his iPhone as he can use the built in GPS as a compass, so we set off on the route we'd worked out, knowing at least that we were going in the right direction.

And eventually we found our road - Calle Duquesa! The next task was to actually find the hostel, but the road isn't too long so it wasn't hard to find in the end.

We got there. YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS. It only took us like an hour and a half longer than it should have done!

We checked in with the receptionist. She spoke English, but she asked if either or us spoke Spanish, so when she was telling us all the information about the hostel (the breakfast arrangements, the different rooms, the terrace that I'm on now) she told me in Spanish, which I was happy with because it gave a me a chance to practice. Normally just think that you're stupid and speak to you in English, so that was a nice change.

And then something really good happened.

The receptionist said that there was something we had to try before we went up to our room; something typically Andalucian (Andalucia is the region of Spain where Granada is). On the counter there was a jar of gazpacho, which according to the receptionist was a refreshing drink containing tomato, garlic, salt and olive oil. Neither of us had ever had it before. But we tried it and it was VERY refreshing. It was perfect after that hectic attempt to find the hostel in the stuffiness and the heat, and we thought it was great that the hostel gave us the opportunity to experience something related to the culture of the area. Most of the time the hostels are completely detached from the surrounding area - modern and bland and not in keeping with the region's style.

We went up to our room and collapsed. Welcome to Granada.

We were both tired and very hot after walking around in the heat for so long, so we decided to relax for a while, check our internet stuff and drink water. We tried the TV in our room and watched a tennis match with Spanish commentary for a bit. And then there was an advert break, although 'break' isn't really the right word, it was more like a fucking era. The adverts went on for ever! And they were all really similar to English adverts. So after being subjected to our compulsory 20 minutes of capitalism, we turned off the TV and got ready to go out.

It was almost 8 o'clock at this point. Considering our train arrived in Granada at almost 3 o'clock, that 5 hours that we'd somehow spent seemed like a huge waste of time, but then as we're getting a night train from Granada on the 4th, we get almost a whole day more than we expected to here, so we'll still have plenty of time.

The first thing we did when we went out was to go to a mini supermarket opposite the hostel to get food - since breakfast we'd only had some cookies and an apple each. We got some more apples, a couple of pears, some yoghurts and some bread (this is pretty much a typical shop for us) and Sam took them back up to our room.

We decided to have a walk down the Gran Via; the main shopping street of the town (it seems that this is what many of the main shopping streets are called in Spain). We didn't want to walk too far -Sam didn't because he had loads of blisters on his feet and was complaining like a little bitch, me because I didn't want to listen to Sam complaining.

We passed the cathedral and some other interesting-looking places; we also passed two marching bands:

There seemed to be a lot going on in Granada today, I don't know if it was all connected to the same thing. When we got onto the Gran Via there was a protest going on, with a big sign saying 'Viva el pueblo sirio' or something like that. I looked it up just now and it seems that the 'Sirian' community in Granada, an ethnic minority of some kind, has been repressed in Spain and have not had the same rights as everyone else, so that explains it.

While we were on the Gran Via, we saw a very nice looking Pasteleria (bakery). We hadn't eaten any of the food we got in the supermarket and we were still hungry, so we decided to go in.

They had the nicest looking cakes. I got a chocolate one filled with cream (I'm not fat...) and Sam got some random cake and some almond meringue. When I asked Sam why he was getting two things, he said that we could share the meringue. However I don't like meringue, and although he claims not to, I think he knew that and just wanted it for himself... FATTY ;)

We found some bike racks to lean on (LOL benches are way too classy for us) and ate the cakes. They were wrapped up like Christmas presents!

Here's my cake:

It was the messiest event of all time. By the time I was finished there was chocolate ALL OVER MY FACE and my hands were covered in cream. Sam also ate his meringue in a spazzy way and got that everywhere. If anyone was watching us, that must have made their day.

I really needed to find toilet or something so I could wash my hands, but as it was almost 9 o'clock and a lot of the shops had closed, we decided to just head back to the hostel.

Went we back a bit of a strange way... the streets we walked through were absolutely plastered with graffiti and it was like a ghost town... I'm glad it wasn't dark and I wasn't on my own, put it that way.

So after dodging a few bullets we made it back to the hostel, where we've eaten most of the food and had a nice, relaxing evening.


I'm now writing from our room - the terrace had to be closed *sad face*.

It's much cooler now; there is a breeze and I think I'll be able to sleep ok.

Sam's gone out for a bit to experience some of the night life, he still hasn't got back yet and it's 3.31am here. Slightly concerning...

I'm sure he'll be back soon. Someone told him the nightlife doesn't really start here until 2am (what the fuck?) so he's probably still enjoying himself. If he doesn't get back soon though I'll have to get to sleep and leave our room door unlocked, which I don't really want to have to do.

But anyway, I'm sorry about the lack of good content and photos on this blog post, it's just been one of those days. Plenty has happened, but we haven't really done any exploring.

Don't worry though, because tomorrow's post will be AMAZING. There should be some really good photos and we're planning to do lots, so look out for that.

Oh, Sam's just got back. He's been in a bar, and has been dancing to fucking Nicki Minaj... KILL ME NOW KILL ME NOW KILL ME NOW KILL ME NOW KILL ME NOW KILL ME NOW KILL ME NOW KILL ME NOW KILL ME NOW KILL ME NOW.

He thought it was about 2 o'clock, so he was pretty shocked when I told him it's 3.40am. That'll teach him.

That shit is so not my scene. But at least Sam had a good time.

So anyway, I better get to bed to now. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow though, it should be really interesting and we should get some great photos.

So until tomorrow, adiós!

Jack - 03/06/12 - 03:51

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