We spent the first few days in Cadiar, a small town in the Alpujarras (just south of the Sierra Nevada) staying in an apartment with my family.
Beautiful scenery and winding mountain roads which Dgym tackled admirably (although at times scarily) in the little Seat we rented. I find it very frustrating to travel through such beautiful landscape by car - despite the gradients, I still wanted to be on my bike!
We visited beaches, ate ice cream, played on playgrounds and visited Trevelez, the highest village in Spain. We taught my siblings to play Set, San Juan and Lost Cities. (Incidentally, I am currently kicking ass at Set, much to the frustration of all the newbies we play with. Dgym's also doing pretty well, but I usually kick his ass too)
The food, however, was disappointing. I could spend ages bitching about the lack of taste and variety on the restaurant menus we saw in southern Spain. Mountain ham, mountain cheese, more mountain ham. There was hope when I found baby goat on one of the menus but sadly they didn't have it available. But we did have some nice home-cooked meals at the apartment, huddled around the dinner table wrapped up in coats and hats since my mum insisted that we sit out on the terrace to eat.
We all left the apartment after a few days and returned to Granada airport, from where my family would fly home, and Dgym and I would continue our travels. We were due to catch the sleeper train to Barcelona that night, so had an afternoon and evening to kill in Granada.
Granada's full of pretty buildings and little old ladies who ambush you and try to make you pay 10 euros for a palm reading and a stick of rosemary. We'd got up early that morning and Dgym was tired and he "hates cities", so I wandered off on my own for a while to go crappy souvenir shopping. I ended up losing myself in Granada's own version of Camden market, which consists of numerous narrow identical alleyways full of identical goods, all interlinked by identical shops.
Trying to find a decent dinner was bloody disastrous. All we saw was the same damn mountain ham menu everywhere we went. We visited an internet cafe to look up a restaurant that served up something different, and came up with a Middle Eastern restaurant and a Mexican. After walking all over town to check out these options, the former turned out not to be open until 8:30 due to Ramadan (too late for us) and the latter didn't appear to exist at all.
Running out of time for our train, we headed back towards the station and ate at the first place we saw. Dgym had the world's saltiest spaghetti bolognese, I had a "vegetarian" salad which contained none of the stuff in the picture but a big lump of tuna (I'm not veggie but if I was, I'd be cross about that) We then stopped at a supermarket to pick up some goodies, and went for our train.
It gets better than this, I promise.
The sleeper train was pretty cool, in part because we were glad to be leaving Granada. We went to sleep very quickly - the motion of the train initially made me feel a bit giddy but it didn't bother me too much. I did wake up once or twice during the night to the muffled sound of station announcements but in a way that was kind of cool - it's part of the experience - you wake up, you don't know what time it is, you're in a foreign country but you don't really know where.
When we woke up in the morning, it was just getting light and we were travelling along the coast - at some points we were just a couple of metres from the sea.
Tried to work out whether there was any significance in the fact that the emergency escape instructions were written in Spanish, Italian and English but the instructions to please not poo in the chamber pot were in Spanish, Italian, French and German.
We stayed for four nights at Hotel Augusta just outside the city. Poor location choice as we ended up having to get taxis to the nearest Renfe station at €10 a time. Nice hotel - lovely (although expensive) food, which made a change (although will somebody please teach these Spanish people about side dishes and balancing meals and actually filling peoples' stomachs).
Barcelona was cool. Even Dgym, the city-hater, loved it. Barcelona has a fucking chocolate museum and you can't not love that. We didn't actually go there but I love that it has one. It also has xocoa which is every bit as tasty as it looks.
Anyway - Barcelona's got lots of lovely parks and cool playgrounds. The food was pretty good there, as it's been internationally influenced. We even accidentally ended up in an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet. (We went to this place to get normal conveyor sushi, they sat us down without a menu and just left us to it - we were confused for a while, but eventually figured it out when they started taking our plates away without counting. And shortly after we'd arrived, lots of people started queueing. So I think we got lucky there!)
We hired bikes one day - city bikes with squishy seats, chain guards and big sweeping handlebars. And on a nice open expanse of cycle path, we both managed to ride hands free for the first time. It was a great moment. I guess the style of bike made it easier, also as it was an open space, there was less need to be near the brakes constantly.
Our final destination was Venice. To get there, we would take the ferry from Barcelona to Genoa, then travel across Italy by train. We realised a couple of days beforehand that it'd be a pretty tight journey - the ferry got in at 3:30pm then we'd have 4-5 hours of train travel.
Our cabin on the ferry was lovely, at the front of the boat, with sea view and everything. :) We played Lost Cities all evening. In the morning I took a wander around the boat, got some coffee and checked out the little progress screens (which I find pretty exciting) - we were passing Cannes when I woke up. The food was pretty nice on the boat (which was Italian) - for lunch I had some nice little ravioli thingies, with a plate of tasty squiggly sea creature. (either squid or octopus, mmm).
Leaving the ferry and getting onto the train was an impressive feat. We got straight off the boat to find taxis waiting. We leapt into one of them and asked for "la stazione" (we'd looked that up and learned it the previous day :) Genoa looked lovely, it's unfortunate that we didn't get time to stop there. We got to the station with about five minutes to decipher a foreign train system, buy tickets, find the train, figure out how to validate the ticket, and board. All credit to the Italian train system, we succeeded. It was even the right train, and we managed to end up in Venice.
Italy fucking rocks. We got out of the train station and our little fourteen-room hotel was signposted for us. It was about half nine and we were hungry and tired so we dumped our stuff and asked about food. We were directed to a lovely little restaurant round the corner where Dgym had some kind of pizza, I had an enormous calzone and we shared a side dish of spinach. It was lovely and we got absolutely stuffed. The best thing was that everything had so much flavour. The tomatoes were tomatoey, the spinach was spinachy and the olives were almost too strongly-flavoured.
Italy just made me feel good - woke up in a fantastic mood the next day, and we took the bus into town. Venice is full of expensive designer shops, tacky souvenir shops and stalls, restaurants, gondoliers, and of course, bridges and canals. Go to the edge of the island and everything's all misty - especially eerie when the bell towers start tolling.
Oh, and the ice cream rules.
So. Italy kicks Spain's ass in many ways. The food's so much nicer, the train system's easier to understand, the language is sexier... although Spain has better playgrounds.
Less said, the better. Got the train back from Gatwick. The information systems misinformed us, our train terminated prematurely, the guys on the ticket gates were rude and unhelpful... and the weather was fucking miserable. I hate coming back from holiday...
|< Day 1 | BBC White season: 'Rivers of Blood' >|