Location: San Sebastian, Spain
Hola a todos!
Nearly 2 months down the track and we are still living in San Sebastian! Having a great time and making the most of the few weeks we have left here!
Since I last wrote, there has been a lot going on. Of course there was the Bob Dylan concert on the beach, which was fun, but ol' Bobs getting a bit too past it I think. Still, at least we can now say we've seen him! All in all it was a good atmosphere and we were among heaps of friends and had a great time. The Jazz festival was a whole week of jazz on 6 different stages, which was really cool. Its so great living in a place where as soon as you walk out of your house there is something exciting going on!
Right now is Semana Grande (The Big Week), which is undoubtedly the busiest we've seen the city's already bustling streets. Concerts and parades on day and night, and massive street parties, and not to mention the biggest and best fireworks displays I've seen every night. Pretty kewl... Creo si! Oh and one of the funniest things is seeing a parade of people dressed up with those jumbo smiley heads running after kids and whacking them with inflated cow stomachs... weird. yes. funny. totally.
On the job front, well we've tried a lot of things, from shifting antiques and trophies, to selling hot chips and bocadillos on the streets, to giving out pub flyers, and selling tickets for an events company. But shortly after my last entry I landed a job with the Spanish school I was previously attending, it was pure luck and right place right time kind of thing, but it has been perfect for supporting our lifestyle here, and continuing my Spanish learning, as everything is communicated in español! My job is pretty easy, I am the maintanance guy for about 20 student apartments around town, and as well I do a bunch of office work. Heh, I think this is the only job I'll ever have which I have to skateboard all around town! Its pretty sweet, and I only really work 3 days a week... Its going to be tough going back to a 40 hour/week job!! As for Kels, she has had a few jobs as mentioned above, but for the last month she is working on becoming a professional sunbather and beach-goer... It's a hard life but someone has to do it!
Surfing has been coming along slowly... I finally sold both aforementioned boards and bought a 7'3" which has been great. Its funny here, the beach is sooo crowded that it borders on pretty dangerous to surf (so many boards flying everywhere), on a weekend there will usually be about 400 surfers (at best estimate), and even when the surf is pond-like and its bad weather there are still about 60 surfers out there! It's a tiny beach as well! It's going to be a nice change coming back home where you can go places where you are the ONLY person out! Anyway, I'm not sure if I'll make it into the world surf champs this year but... who knows, if they have a class for people who can stand up on really really little waves and then fall off in a really unco-ordinated fashion, then I'm in!
And as for my Spanish, well thats been going well, and I'm definately at the level I had hoped for at the start of this adventure. I'm still really rubbish but can get by and have a semi decent conversation so thats all good... My sign language has improved somewhat as well!
So thats about it really, in less than 2 weeks I'll be back in good ol' NZ reading over this and thinking what a great time I had here! :) Still, I'm looking forward to coming home and catching up with friends and family, seeing how much Lynnmall has changed, and shopping at the Warehouse.
Hasta luego chicos!
Location: San Sebastian, Spain
Well! Its been exactly a month since we arrived in SS (Donostia), and boy has time flown!
Turned up very early one morning after a 10 hour bus trip from La Coruña, and navigated our way with some Aussie girls we had met to a hostel called Olga's Place, which was essentially an illegal hostel where the owners lived in one room and had filled the other 4 into bunkrooms... Not a bad idea to get about 400 in cash per day for doing pretty much nothing! We had pretty much the same idea, i.e. to rent an apartment and rent the excess rooms to backpackers over the summer. This turned out to be impossible as good flats are hard to find, and they are all reeeeally expensive. Damn, might have to work for a living!
The first week was a mixture of sightseeing and deciding what we were going to do with ourselves now that we are here. My prime objectives were and still are pretty straightforward:
1. Learn to surf
2. Learn Spanish
3. Make it back to NZ in one piece for Xmas
Apart from that I'm pretty much easy about what I do with this summer. We enrolled in a private school for Spanish for a few weeks and found an apartment in the middle of the old town with a couple of Spanish people. The first few weeks here were a bit of a blur. School by day, absorbing lots of good info, then completely erasing it by night in the bars! Met heaps of really cool people, the 3 Alexes, Rob, Gurly and the swedes, Phil the other token kiwi, Pat and Lee... This town just seems to attract really cool people! My grasp of Spanish is increasing ever so slowly, and now I'm taking some free (almost) courses to bolster it.
So, living in Parte Vieja is pretty cool. The highest number of bars per head in the world, so makes for an interesting night out. The streets are all mismatched and cobbled, and buildings are all old (obviously) and about 5 stories high. And there are beaches either side which are about 5 mins walk away, (although the climb up to our fifth floor apartment is a bit difficult with a surfboard!). One of which is a good surf beach but tends to get pretty crowded when the waves get up. San Sebastian is a very beautiful place, one of Spains richest (and most expensive) cities. A lovely tree lined river winds its way to the beach, and the promenades, parks, pedestrianised parts and boardwalks are really beautiful. Three beaches all up, and plenty of bars and restuarants to go to, and pintxos (tapas) to fill you up on a night or afternoon out.
As for jobs, we have changed our minds so many times ragrding this, as we both have just enough money to last out the summer without working. Currently though, we are working for a hostel company moving antiques from one hostel which has been used as a store for the winter. This week, I think we are going to be setting up this hostel and getting it ready to be opened for next week. Its really boring work, and the pay is rubbish, but hey, its in cash and it gets me up in the morning, and since I'm actually illegal to work here, its all good. Future plans are to sell hot chips in the streets at night since all the food places close at about 11pm and there are always about a thousand drunk and hungry Aussies in the search for food! Ironically we could make easy a hundred Euros for a few hours work per night, which is better than working my ass off for 6 per hour for someone else!
Objective numero uno has just been put into action in the last few days, as I have bought a few really nice surfboards rally cheaply from a friend. Ive been out in the waves for the last few days but I'm definately not good enough to be riding these boards (5'11" & 6'1") so I'm selling the shorter one and going to buy a 7'2" soon I hope! In any case, I still have been going out and trying to catch waves, if nothing else, for some exercise and to strengthen my arms for paddling. Will be forcing Kelly to surf as soon as I get a larger board!
OK, thats it for now, stay tuned for more photos and updates as they happen...
Location: Galicia, Spain
After leaving Penarronda that morning, we made the decision to head inland to check out the sights of the famous Holy city of Santiago de Compostela while the weather was grey. Passing through Lugo, we had a walk around the old part of the city inside the ancient Roman walls, which are thought to be the oldest standing walls in the world... not sure if this is true, but they looked pretty old to me!
Deciding to press on, we reached Santiago and found the campsite after a while searching and causing traffic grief with the locals... (are they beeping at me?). Tempted by walking past the first golden arches I'd seen in a while, I restrained myself and we made our way into the city centre...
Quite amazing this place, huge ornate churches with spires high in the air, elaborate baroque and renaissance buildings at every turn, meandering cobbled streets jostling with people during the mornings and afternoons, and silent as a ghost town during the 4 hour siesta every day. This place has a pretty amazing history and its pretty interesting that such a place and such wealth has sprung up here all because of a seemingly ridiculous story which goes back to the days of Jesus. I will try to explain...
One of Jesus' diciples, James was said to come all the way over from the Middle East to nearby Zaragoza and tried to convert the heathens there to Christanity. They told him to bugger off, and so he returned to his homeland where he was promptly beheaded, (as they did back then). Then his body miraculously sailed across to Spain in a stone boat where it landed in Noja, and his diciples carried is corpse to Santiago and buried him.
800 years later, a recluse hermit had a dream and followed some stars across all of Spain where he found St James' remains. How he knew this after 800 years of decay I dont know, but there you go. And so the town became a pilgrimage spot from then on, sprouting church after church and bringing in loads tourists and dineros. Pilgrims do a walk called the 'Camino de Santiago', which is minimum 100km long and is a very popular thing to do, we passed many walkers along the way. But we travelled 1000kms to get there, and didn't even get a certificate! Admittedly we came by car but y'know, times are a changin', I'm sure if the hermit had had diesel power, he would have done the same!
After a few days staying here, we left and headed still further West and passed through Noia and through to Muros where we definately were the only tourists around! Was nice here, the weather had fined up and we had a whole beach all to ourselves (playa de San Fransico). Cooked up another feast on our disposable BBQ which was had transformed into a re-usable one (of sorts), and sat on the beach and watched the sun go down. The fishing village of Muros is also very nice, and has a quaint little port and lots of little restaurants that spill out onto the sunny pavement in front of the water. You definately get the feeling that the further West you go, the less people there are and the pace of life slows considerably.
The next morning we awoke, starting to tire a little of putting the tent up and down everyday, and resolved to make 2 more stops, Finisterre, then La Coruña.
Finisterre was thought back in Medieval times to be the western-most point in Europe, i.e. the end of the world. And the pilgrims who walk the Santiago route, usually just keep on truckin' onwards to here... I suppose they just figure, "Why stop?". Thought about giving some of them a lift, but then thought better of it, especially since when we turned up most of them had just caught the bus from Santiago... pff, cheaters! Anyway, it was a grey day and we stopped for our mandatory daily coffee (it's always so good in Spain) and had a wander around the little fishing village (theres another theme here somewhere...) We then decided, that since we hadn't technically 'walked' the Camino, we ought to walk the final little bit from the town out to the lighthouse... Afterall, how far could it be? Heh. About 5 kms, and 200 of Kelly's sighs and moans we reached the lighthouse and the end of the world; where from the looks of all the charred remains, you could either: burn your shoes and walk back barefoot, or just walk back. We did the latter.
Event of the day however, was Kelly ordering a calamari bagutte... which when it came out, was a plain baguette with 4 whole calamari (squids) in it, barely cooked. I told her she had to eat it since she ordered it, so she ate as much as she could. It was after the first bite, when green goo came out of one of them Kelly turned the same colour. No more was eaten and she has never forgiven me. ;)
Moving on, we headed for La Coruña where we pitched up in a really nice campsite just outside the city called Santa Cruz. Not far from the beach, and just 10 mins from the city by car, it was a great place just to chill out the last few days of our trip. Nearby was a Castle out on an island, which formed part of the old defence network of the harbour back in the day. I always think its pretty cool to stay near a castle, especially one near a beach where most of the girls sunbath topless! Ah, I am in danger of digressing. Anyway, La Coruña is a great city, lots to do, quite similar to Gijon in that there is a great surf beach integrated into the city. Also a huge port here, and we entertained the idea of crewing on a cruiseliner but disregarded it because it seemed like too much work! Sightsaw for most of our visits into the city, highlights included Torre del Hercules (oldest working Roman lighthouse in the world) and touring around the old streets and lapping up the sunshine. Back at the campsite we met a Scottish couple who were living it up touring around Spain, Anne and Ted. They were awesome and I hope to meet them again sometime to repay their hospitality.
Our original intent was to try to find work here, but after a few days it seemed to be too greater feat, as firstly my Spanglish hadn't reached full fluency yet, and the tourism industry here wasnt so developed as to get a job speaking only English... We made the decision to jump on a bus back to San Sebastian where we knew we could get a job much easier.
So all in all, our trip across the coast, unplanned and unexpected, showed surprises at every turn. Although no surfing had been done, I feel we got something more valuable out of it anyway. It's easy to see the big cities and sights but its another thing to be able to visit and get a glimpse of how small town Spain is and works. Away from the tourists and attractions lies an untouched and still unspoilt Spain, the people living their lives fully from the rugged land and enjoying it. Definately makes a pleasant change from the manufactured landscapes of the Mediterranian resorts.
I feel quite previliged to have been able to do this, not only have we seen something that the everyday traveller will not, but Kelly and I, despite our occasional bad times have proven that we can travel together and I hope this experience has brought us closer...