No, They'd Rather NOT Speak Spanish
Took the bullet train from Madrid to Barcelona, 386 miles in 3 hours. Now that is speedy! Super smooth too. Stayed at an airbnb very close to the Barcelona Football Club stadium, and since they were in the Champions League finals against Juventus (they eventually won), it was a pretty exciting place to stay. Highlights: catching up with a Norwegian friend of mine from the Univ Michigan PhD program who happened to be attending a conference in Barcelona that week, seeing all the Gothic and Gaudi inspired architecture, wandering La Ramblas, and having dinner outside every night. I did a LOT of walking in Barcelona. Also went to the Erotic Art Museum. Ha! Fun fact: did you know that Spanish is not the first language there? It’s Catala, which is a cross between Spanish and French.
Took the 5 hour bus ride ($30) instead of the 4 hour train ride ($80) from Granada to Madrid, and had a good time – the busses her are just dandy! Stayed with a fantastic family right near the Minsterios Nuevos area, and I used the Metro EXTENSIVELY. Highlights were seeing the Prado museum with all the official masterpieces, wandering around the Plaza del Sol, touring the Palace, and seeing the precise room and desk where the Spanish king abdicated his throne last year, and…a bull fight. Yep, I went to a bull fight. Cause, why not? I love the pageantry and even liked the fight, until they decided to kill the bull. Then it was just…not fun. I watched 3 of those things and then left. I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy the ending, but I wanted to see if I could see what Ernest Hemingway saw as so noble about it. I did not. (I have a longish draft of the bull fight experience, but I haven’t finished it yet).
Decided to wimp out and fly from Casablanca to Malaga, Spain, with Royal Air Marac, rather than go back through Tangiers. Once in Malaga, I caught a 2 hour bus on to Granada. Loved the location of my hostel/hotel/airbnb/boardinghouse/whatever. Right down in the old town. Highlight was seeing Alhambra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, at dusk, (and getting tickets eventhough online it said they were sold out for 6 weeks), and taking an Olive Oil tour, complete with olive oil tasting and tour of groves and old school factories. Did you know that Spain makes 40% of the world’s olive oil, far outpacing Italy and Greece, each with about 20%? I thought not! I really liked Granada. Perfect contrast to Morocco.
Okay, that’s it for Alhambra. I have LOADS more pictures but if I’m going to get all these things posted, I must move on! Next the Olive Oil Tour!
Cross the Straights of Gibraltar
I was on my way to Rabat, Morocco to start my assignment with International Volunteers HQ but the is no direct route from Albufeira to Rabat. For some reason, the market doesn’t exist. The next best way to do make it happen is to take a bus to Seville, spend the night, and then continue the journey the next day. So it was a very brief visit to Seville, but I had a very nice outdoor meal, and it was nice to see signs and speak a language that I kinda know.
In the morning I took that 3 hour bus from Seville to Tarifa, on the straights of Gibraltar. Then I had to hike 15 minutes “thattaway”, which was kind of dicey since my mobile phone didn’t have any working GPS, on account of the international Lebera SIM card I bought in London didn’t do roaming well. Anyway, I found the ferry, boarded, and enjoyed the ride over. On board, they have one Moroccan clerk processing the passports of all several hundred passengers. I was looking at the end of the line, and decided that I did not want to spend my voyage in that line, so I went out on deck and enjoyed myself. When we docked, I went to the line, and sure enough there were only 3 people left. So I got in line, got my passport packed and then headed out in to…..Morocco. Immediately was fleeced by the only taxi driver I could find quickly who would drive me to the back up train station on account of the main station being renovated for the next 12 years. Missed my 1:30 train to Rabat, borrowed a phone from the ticket clerk and called Samad, my connection in Rabat, and told him I’d be on the next train. Eventually I made it. My first inkling of what the next 3 weeks would be like.
I’m sorry I didn’t have much time to take good pictures…I was moving a lot.