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Janie’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 27 Jul 2005

Location: Spain

Mapwell, sarah and I finally managed to get our shit together and book our tour. only three months of planning and we were still trying to work out how to pay 3 days before the tour departed. we had a great time tho. on a topdeck camping tour that wove its way through france and spain and back up again over a two week period.

the tour started off pretty slow and quite dreary actually. first three days were cold and wet - and most people came with only summer stuff and were fairly miserable - the highlight of these first few days was the night we managed to winge ourselves in to an upgrade to a cabin so we wouldn't have to pitch our tents in the pouring rain. but the weather improved soon after and we had glorious warm sunny days and have all returned 3 shades darker than when we set off.

the first notable destination was Mont Saint Michel. an abbey on a granite island in the middle of mud flats which becomes isolated when the tide comes in. words cannot do this place justice - pictures, photos, postcards (and a visit) are a necessity.

next was Biarritz, the playground of the rich and famous on the Atlantic Coast of France. This place was spectacular. unfortunately it was just before arriving hear that we heard the news of the london bombings. Despite the gorgeous surroundings our priority was getting in contact with family to let know we were ok. but still managed to push this out of our minds for
the last hour of our stop so we could begin to soak up the atmosphere here.

that afternoon we crossed the border in to spain and rolled into the historic city of san sebastian. A big night out on the town followed - and I got my first taste of Sangria. loved it that night but it proved to be a really variable beverage which got progressively worse each time a tried some - to the point that my
last glass of the stuff smelt like moldy socks and I couldn't bring myself to drink it - despite the fact that we had a bottomless glass.

the next day was a free day - to explore the city. we did a bit of window shopping and a stroll through the old section of town before Tapas Bar hopping for lunch. Sarah and I also took a stroll along Concha Beach - which whilst beautiful, really made us appreciate the beaches back home. This beach was littered with rubbish all along the waterline and you could see rubbish (masses of it) in the waves as they climbed toward their peak. There were teams of men along the beach cleaning up and a small boat with men equipped with nets scooping the rubbish from the water. As you've probably guesses, sarah and I decided not to swim.

After dinner, sarah, me, and some of themates we made along the way walked up mount Urgull with its large statue of Christ and incredible sweeping views. the view was breathe taking. (I will try to post photos soon)

After San Sebastian we moved onto the craziness that is the San Fermin Festival (otherwise known as the running of the bulls) in Pamplona. After setting up our campsite we headed in to town for a walking tour of town so that we would be more orientated for the next mornings run. the town was a sea of red and white. There were parties everywhere. At random places in the streets
revellers gathered and danced and partied and chanted together. we had not acquired our red and whites and so felt more like tourists that ever.

That afternoon we had free time to buy our outfits and so when we returned to town after dinner that evening we were set. we hung out in town, joining the crazy street parades, dancing in the streets, until after the nightly firewaorks. these were mad (in harmony with the chaotic atmosphere of the whole town). but
spectacular - possibly the best I have ever seen.

Next morning we awoke real early in order to get into town early enough to find ourselves a good vantage point for the running of the bulls. despite our orientation tour the day before, Sarah and I got very lost and only manage to find the arena with just enough time to get tickets and get inside as the first runners are coming through the gates (the nitwits - the bulls hadn't even been realeased yet). After the run the main bulls are encouraged into the pens and smaller bulls are released into the arena to run
around with the runners brave enough to stick around (and not hightail it over the barrier). I personally thought this part was really cruel. the participants would torment the bulls, i guess feeling more manly the closer they came to being gawed. the funny thing was i actually found mysefl cheering each time the
bull got its own back as the runners were being really cruel. even funnier - the bull is sacred to the spanish. the spanyads in the arena will only ever touch the bulls with rolled up news papers. the tourists often don't get this. so they hit the bull, or worse, grab the bull by the horns. when this happens the spanyads turn on the tourists with their newspapers an d start wacking. whilst I watched one tourist grabbed both horns and held on for quite some time. next thing you know he's being attacked by a mob
of spaniads. hitting and kicking, even after he was down. totally forgetting about the crazed bull running around only meters away. the crowd cheered. it was all a bit perverted.

Next was on to Barcelona. My favourite city in the world [ so far :) ]. we saw the sagrada familia and many other gaudi buildings (Park Guell, La Pedrera). bizarre but very very cool architecture. if that guy wasn't dead, I'd marry him.

Our last night in Barcelona a bunch of us from the tour headed down the beach (right on our doorstep) and swum, and frisbee-d in the Met, while the sun set over yonder. it would have been 9.30pm and it was still light.

after barclona we had a couple a really long drive days, eventually arriveing in paris 4 days ago. we only really got one free day here which was not nearly enough. we did get to the eiffel tour (although didn;t have time to join the lengthy queues to go up the top, visited the louvre (saw the mona lisa up close!) - the
louvre is one giant building (Sarah's moving in), the arc de triomphe, notre dame, San Chapelle (brialliant church with walls almost entirely of stained glass windows. this building was built to house Jesus' Crown of Thorns. unfortunately no pictures or postcards could capture this one.

After a gourmet picnic under the eiffel tower and a cruise on the Seine River, the exciting part of our tour came to an end and we had a lengthy commute back to london. Where I find myself now - well and truly caught the travel bug and am presently contemplating putting off the work thing at least a few weeks more. a plan to tour Italy independently is a hatching.

well - there it is - my first european adventure.

hope all is well with all