Here is my journal from my trip to Spain in the summer of 2005. These are taken from my email journal entries, with all the original typos, reproduced here. And since it is a journal/diary, I decided it would not be appropriate to edit at all, even though I was a hyper-stressed out looney for most of the trip.

(Hover over the photos for captions.)

hi everyone!

itīs been a week, but itīs the first time iīve had access to affordable internet connectivity since iīve been here. up to this point, iīve been in Ļgreat britain.” our place in malaga is owned by a scottish company so tons of british people have time shares. essentially, there are hardly any spanish people at all, instead substituted by horribly burnt english people. anyway, iīm using this more as a journal for myself, so you can feel free to skim this long email.

day 1, july 1, 2005
so we had driven down to SD the night before, arriving just before midnight. we spent the night at my parents, then got up 5:30 a.m. to head to nickīs parentsī place. our flight was supposed to be for around 8:30 a.m. this is where the first trouble began. we got six seats in a row, which meant only one window seat. now, i have back problems, but apparently so does nickīs mom. the first leg of the flight was for four hours in a dinky plane to atlanta. that went alright. we landed late in atlanta because the airport was congested and we had to circle for half an hour. when we finally did land, we were supposed to have a one and a half hour layover. however, once we boarded the flight, we ended up sitting on the runway for another hour and a half because there was a line of planes waiting to take off. now the trouble with the seats really began. nickīs mom wouldnīt give up the window because she said she couldnīt sleep, even though sheīd already had the window for the first leg. i argued that i wouldnīt be able to sleep anyway, but if i didnīt get comfortable for the next eight hours, i would probably throw my back out. so after getting really pissed off and making nick work things out for me, we decided weīd split the window time--6 hours each total. anyway, so i watched some of Ļmillion dollar babyĻ and then decided to try to sleep. after trying about 10 different positions, i gave up and started reading Ļthe da vinci code.Ļ oh yeah, and nickīs mom totally did fall asleep anyway without a window seat.

day 2, july 2, 2005
so we finally arrive in madrid at around 11:00 a.m. (nine hours ahead of pst). then we got our rental cars. i got a renault megane which is actually pretty cool. it wasnīt dinky and small at all. it only had 4400 km on it so it was pretty new. it had ac and a cd player and ran on diesel. it had pretty good pickup too. view from our front patioanyway, we then went to the mall to get sim cards for our cell phones. this took about an hour as nick really has trouble getting answers to questions and generally being efficient. needless to say, i was ready to kill him by the time it was all over. then, we finally set off for malaga. now, nickīs dad said this would only take about five hours. but oh no, it was closer to seven. so after not getting a bit of sleep in over 15 hours or so, i was supposed to drive stick on foreign highways for seven hours. initially i was leading and nickīs parentsī car was going to follow, but their car apparently couldnīt go as fast so i was constantly having to slow down to let them catch up. front of our unitconsidering i was completely miserable and tired, and nick was about to crash at any minute, i was not very amused. finally we made a pit stop and we decided to part ways. at this point, i was seriously about ready to buy a ticket home and call it quits. i was pretty fucking miserable. anyway, we called the hotel to get directions and went on our way. we finally arrived at the time share at around 6:30 p.m. that day. the place was actually really nice. we totally lucked out in that our unit was the best in the complex. it was the end unit, closest to the beach, like less than 100 feet away from the water. it was also on the ground floor and the same size as the two units above us combined. anyway, fortunately, the guy at the desk let us check in early without the rest of our party. i crashed on the couch. finally, his parents showed up and we went across the street to the super market to buy some stuff for sandwiches. we hadnīt really eaten anything since the meal on the flight. we had to cross this narrow walkway/bridge over the autovia (highway) which was kinda scary cuz it was really high and the railing was really low. on the way back, i was so out of it i dropped a jar of strawberry jam out of the grocery bag i was carrying. (i did later go back to pick up the glass and jam, but some remnants are still there.) anyway, after eating ham sandwiches (their hamīs weird tasting), we crashed at around 9:30 p.m. we traveled for something like 24 hours straight, and i hadnīt taken a shower since the thursday before we left. according to nickīs dad, Ļthatīs the best part.Ļ my ass.

day 3, july 3, 2005
we woke up fairly early our first morning. we could hear the ocean waves of the mediterranean from our unit, so that was really nice every morning. we were getting ready to shower, and i stepped one foot in, onto the nonslip mat they put in there for us, and i nearly ate shit. muslim arches at the alcazaba of malagai have a huge bruise on the inside of my left knee to show for it. so we knew it was slippery. so we got rid of the supposed nonslip mat. then nick gets in and turns around or something and completely loses his footing. he ended up falling backwards out of the shower, holding on to the shower curtains. needless to say, he pulled the curtains off the hooks and ended up hitting his head on the toilet behind him. nick trapped at the castillo de gibralfaronow i really almost started laughing cuz it really was pretty hilarious, but i was afraid heīd hurt himself. it turns out his head really has no nerves and the toilet wasnīt a problem. actually, the only thing he hurt was the back of his calf on one side. we couldnīt really put the curtain back up properly so we showered in like a tent. we had nocilla (like nutella but nick likes it better) and crackers for breakfast, and i had another ham sandwich. we decided to drive out to downtown malaga. we let nickīs brother and girlfriend come along. now, i think nickīs brotherīs single purpose for traveling is to buy nike shoes. from atop the castillo de gibralfaronow what made him think southern spain would have cool nike shoes is beyond me, but whatever. so first thing, we stopped at this outlet mall with a (surprise) nike outlet. anyway the mall totally sucked so we went on to malaga shortly. driving in the city was a big mistake. remind me to NEVER rent a car for traveling. just take subways and buses man. it ainīt worth it. i was about to have a heart attack driving around. anyway, we parked by some government buildings and went on foot. first we went to a place that sold ĻdonerĻ meat cuz nick was hungry. now his brother had just earlier that day microwaved up some packaged Ļauthentic doner gyrosĻ which were totally disgusting and stunk up the whole unit. fortunately, nickīs were actually really good. however, he was the only one who got food, so the three of us sat around watching nick eat the slowest iīve ever seen him eat. after that, we went to the alcazaba, which is a muslim citadel. this turned out to be really cool, and was the first really enjoyable experience of the trip. after that, we went to the castillo de gibralfaro, which is an old castle. this was pretty cool, especially considering we had to walk up a really steep road to get there, only to realize afterwards that we couldīve driven. oh well, it was good exercise and i got a slight burn from it. we drove home and had some pasta and stirfry nickīs mom made for us.

day 4, july 4, 2005
we all drove to ronda to see some cave paintings. for breakfast, I had a strawberry yogurt drink. these are apparently quite popular in spain. it was good, and full fat! we arrived in the town fairly late, like around 2:00 p.m. and we wanted to make the cave paintings showing at 4:00 p.m. we walked around the city pretty fast, but it was quite quaint. since we didnīt see much of it, we decided weīd come back after the cave. the cave paintings were pretty awesome. they were discovered by a spanish guy hunting for bat shit in 1905 on his familyīs farm land. so theyīve been showing the paintings since then i guess. most of the paintings are approximately 25,000 to 27,000 years old. the tour guide, named jose, i think was part of the family who owned it and smoked way too many cigarettes, and he hated the spanish prime minister. he was very nice though and appeared to be quite knowledgeable. it was cool, and best of all, it was literally cool in the cave. itīs been approximately 90-100 degrees out here in southern spain since we arrived, and really high humidity. no need for a jacket ever. oh yeah, and nick ate shit in the cave. he totally fell flat on his ass, which initially concerned me cuz I thought maybe he also hurt his tailbone. but he only bruised his palm and elbow, so now i can laugh about it. after this, we went back to the town of ronda. i actually almost got in a car accident too. the roads are closer to alleyways and are super narrow. so iīm at a stop sign or something and there is a car parked to my left (one-way street). all of a sudden, i hear the sound of a motorbike coming up behind me. i look over to my left to see if there is enough room between me and the parked car. thereīs like less than a feet between us. next thing i know, i see the motorcyclist run smack into the parked car. i donīt think he was hurt cuz i heard him cussing afterwards. but iīm just soooo glad he chose to hit the parked car instead of me. that would have become very complicated being that we had a rental car. anyway, we ate at this quaint restaurant called cafe armiņan 52. we had spanish tortillas which are made of potatoes and eggs. we also had a specialty from the city which had tons of vegetables in a tomato sauce and olive oil, served lukewarm, like a salad. we also had a potato salad where the potatoes were marinated and tart with onions and olive oil. it was all really tasty and even vegetarian. but it was definitely not very light. all the while, nickīs brother and girlfriend ate at mcdonaldīs and looked for shoes.

day 5, july 5, 2005
we had fanta for breakfast. we drove to granada to visit the alhambra, another muslim palace. the whole palace was covered in these really intricate carvingsthis is one of spainīs greatest tourist attractions. funny how many of spainīs greatest attractions are muslim buildings, even though i donīt get the feeling the muslims are particularly liked around here. courtyard of the alhambrabut i guess if it makes money, people make exceptions. anyway, this place is truly a palace. itīs gigantic and damn impressive. the architecture and carvings are incredible. i had no idea they were such gifted builders. anyways, I took photos so i hope those come out. i canīt really describe it adequately. oh yes, and nick got shat upon by a bird. it was lovely. heīs fallen two days in a row and been shat upon on the third. anyway, since we got there super late, we didnīt see the rest of the city. after we got back, we ate at a cafe near our hotel called miel y nata. and because it was near our hotel, there was like not a single spaniard there. the menus came in english and i heard mostly english and french spoken around me. the spanish waitress said she didnīt even feel like a spaniard anymore after working there. And lots of shants and leather sandals (ick). we went swimming in the hotel pool afterwards.

day 6, july 6, 2005
we had eggs and potatoes and toast for breakfast. endless archwaysnick and i decided to head out on our own to cordoba to see la mezquita, another muslim mosque. pretty cool huh?the drive started out well as we got to see a white cow crossing. on one of those walkways over the highway, we saw like 20 solid white cows crossing. it was damn cool. however, by the time we got to the city, my mood had drastically changed. cordoba is made up of narrow alley streets which are all one-way. i seriously nearly killed like five separate people while we were lost for an hour trying to find parking. anyway, we finally found it. the mosque has unfortunately been turned into a catholic cathedral in parts, but I purposely didnīt photograph any of the christian elements :) this was nickīs favorite place of all. it was also right next to a jewish quarter which was pretty neat. it was like a marketplace in the alleys, but apparently people still actually lived there too. la mezquita had very intricate ceiling workwe stayed in la mezquita for a long time because it was cool inside and nick was like a kid in a candy store, just walking around and looking around forever. on our way home, we stopped at a hotel with a restaurant called alfar hotel. i had been quite dehydrated and kinda sick, so i ended up in the bathroom for like 15 minutes. we ended up ordering sandwiches. but what nick neglected to tell me was that spanish sandwiches consist of dry meat and dry bread. thatīs it! no sauce, no vegetables, no cheese! i was outraged. but oh well. at least we had fanta. afterwards, we got to swim all alone in the hotel pool which was really nice. some maintenance guy was repairing pool tiles so he said we could stay as long as we wanted. at one point, he was polishing this one tile and then totally dropped it, and it broke in like five pieces. pretty funny. ah yes, and apparently, we had to hand wash all our laundry so lucky me got to do that.

day 7, july 7, 2005
we got up at like 6:30 a.m. to drive to tarifa to take a boat over to tangier, morocco. we signed up for a tour so weīd be safer and harassed less. the boat ride was cool and nickīs brother even saw a dolphin. damn him! i wanted to see one. when we arrived we got to take a bus tour of the place, and the tour guide would go from spanish to english and vice versa within sentences it seemed. pretty cool. then we got to see the kasbah (rock the kasbah!) and medina (old city surrounded by walls). we ate at a moroccan restaurant where we were served soup, kebabs, a curry chicken dish, a baklava-like dessert, and mint tea. it was all very yummy. and fanta of course. we got to learn a bit about moroccan rugs and herbs too, and i bought cheap saffron and nutmeg for my mom. unfortunately, we didnīt get any time to actually wander around the marketplace to buy stuff. they sold these sweater/jackets similar to mexican ponchos, but with an asian twist. they were really cool and i really wanted one. but we were afraid to wander away from the group. also, we didnīt want to be assaulted by peddlers and merchants. in the end, i only got to buy the spices, whereas nickīs brother actually bought a pair of nike shoes from a street peddler! this guy had been following him around for the whole trip apparently, constantly bringing him different styles in black plastic bags. but as he said himself, Ļthose guys are legit dude.Ļ i also got to ride a camel for a few seconds. both nick and i got on, and apparently nickīs weight was slightly shifted to the side, and we both almost ate shit. as soon as the camel stood up, like five guys came running to us to grab our legs to try to balance us. finally, they gave up and, i believe much to the camelīs delight, forced us off. it was cool while it lasted though. also, since the camels first straighten their hind legs and since nick was behind me, for a few lovely seconds, i got to feel all his weight coming down on me. after we got back to the hotel, we went for a swim in the pool and i got to step into the mediterranean, just so i could say i had. i stepped into the mediterranean. there, i said it. we showered and then ate at the hotel restaurant. i had beef stroganoff and nick had carbonara, very spanish i know. anyway, we ate on their outdoor patio, and it was trippy to say the least. there was an english guy with a guitar and sequenced backing tracks taking requests. now everyone around us i swear was british. all of sudden, he starts talking about this big hit called Ļthe road to amarillo.Ļ an english girl had requested it. apparently every british person knew this song, even old people were like clapping, and the british kids were line dancing! this was a country western song. it was a trip. he also did ricky martinīs Ļla vida loca.Ļ need i say more?

day 8, july 8, 2005
we decided to take this day to totally relax. for lunch, we had mushroom and ham omelettes. spanish ham tastes better when itīs heated. we took nickīs brother and girlfriend to the closest mall, miramar, since theyīd been harassing his parents all week. i finally bought some shorts there since dumbass me had forgotten to pack my only pair of shorts. i lucked out since when i first drove to SD my mom gave me a pair of sweat pants to bring. if i hadnīt brought them, i wouldīve only had one pair of bottoms for the whole trip! that wouldīve sucked. ah yes, and i discovered that while my pants were drying outside (cuz we dídnīt have a dryer either), a bird shat on it! at around 5:00 p.m. we had some chicken fingers nickīs mom made for us. then, at around 9:00 p.m., we ordered paella from the hotel restaurant and sat around for the rest of the night. could we have eaten more food in less time?

day 9, july 9, 2005
we got up at 8:00 a.m., ate some eggs and toast, and took off for sevilla. we had called the night before so we had already reserved a hotel room at la montoreņa. sevilla was not nearly as confusing to drive in as cordoba, thank god. we ate at a cafe called el mezquita. i had a regional soup like gazpacho with ham and hardboiled eggs which was really good. reminded me of titoīs tacos salsa (seriously). nick had cordon bleu. we were both very satisfied. then we went back to the hotel room and slept for a couple hours. i guess we were both pretty tired. and now iīm here, and i think iīm finally caught up. later, weīre gonna get some tapas and see the night life.

so, so far this trip has had some major ups and downs, but now on our second leg of the trip, sans parents, i hope it gets better. still all this driving in cities has probably cost me several years and iīm pretty sure i will now die sooner. after this, weīre going to extremadura and then on to salamanca and toledo. i will try to get back on a computer before i get back. see you all soon!


so update time...

despite the length of my prior email, there actually were a few things i forgot to mention. first, along with the shants and leather sandals, there also appears to be a white pants epidemic. now, i realize that white pants can work sometimes, but i have never seen so many of them, on both men and women, and often with matching white shirts as well! this epidemic could also be characterized as the Ļcolored underwear epidemic.Ļ i just hope that this phenomenon never makes it to the states, and if it does, i hope that it also will be quickly quashed like the shants movement of 99-00.

also, i must mention the paving here. they do not seem to believe in smooth concrete flooring. everywhere i go, there are huge jagged uneven rocks to walk on. now, i tend to think iīm in pretty good shape, but man do my legs, feet, and ankles ache. if you are recovering and told Ļnot to walk on uneven ground,Ļ stay away at all costs!

now for something positive iīve noticed. tiles! they have lovely tile flooring here. even in really dinky hotels, they have really nice stone tiles. these arenīt like the ones ugly white ones you find in the states with like half an inch of grout in between either. theyīre like marble or some stone and lay right next to each other, creating a nice smooth flat surface ideal for karate :) although I must admit iīve hardly practiced at all, but nick tells me it works quite well. okay, now on to the continuation of my journal:

day 9, july 9, 2005 (continuation, still in sevilla)
so our accomodations here were definitely on the cheap. we were on the third floor, with the nearest bathroom being on the second. but at least we got air conditioning. our room barely fit the really uncomfortable bed and a huge wooden wardrobe, and the room was not even close to being square. yet, as i mentioned before, they had beautiful tile. i swear they must of spent like half the building costs on the tile, or tile is really cheap in spain. also, the stairs were marble but totally steep, narrow, and crooked, so walking around in my towel with wet feet was definitely an adventure. we decided after this that weīre not that poor and really need to get better accomodations. i think we took a nap here after lunch and then headed out to get tapas. we went to bodega santa cruz and ordered pincho moruno (moorish kebabs), pringa (small sandwich with mystery meat,quite good though), and a spanish tortilla. we then decided to look for flamenco. i must mention that i did see my very first spanish starbucks in this town. also, while in search of flamenco, we saw a man with a scrotum growing out of the back of his head. it was a loose flabby sac hanging out of the opening in the back of his baseball cap. we were walking behind him for a while, but since it was dark, i didnīt notice it until we were fairly close. nick was hoping i wouldnīt notice it at all and was trying to get me to pass him. the guy even was playing with the thing, like rubbing all around it. it was the most freakish thing iīd ever seen. i made nick stop and wait so he would get a major head start on wherever he was going. uck, mutations, parasites... so nick decided he didnīt want to use a map while on foot, so we ended up taking a very roundabout way to the flamenco/bar area. and walking all over cobblestones wasnīt pleasant for like several hours. anyway, in the end, we must have picked a bad day of the week (saturday) or season because it was really quiet. we ended up sitting on this terrace and having drinks by the river. then we stopped by this one bar, rejoneo, where there was this impromptu flamenco session. there was this one guy playing guitar and singing and this lady who sang occasionally and provided clapping accompanient. it actually ended up being really cool. i often find that when listening to male singers, it is best not to know what they look like. this guy, for example, had a pretty nice voice, which always makes me think or hope that heīll also be good looking. but like i said, itīs often better not to see. anyway, so it took like another hour to walk back to our apartment. i think we finally got to bed at like 2 a.m., which is nothing by spanish standards, but then again, we started heading home at like 1 a.m.

day 10, july 10, 2005
for breakfast, we ate at horno san bernardo. we got spanish tortillas, albondigas, a potato, egg, and tuna salad, and this dish very similar to indian sag paneer with spinach and garbanzos. when the server brought it all to us, he was like Ļis all of this for you?Ļ the real alcazar de sevilla really did have some freakishly green wateryes, weīre pigs, even early in the morning. anyway, it was all very good. nick in front of the giralda of the gothic cathedral of sevillawe then decided to do some seeing and went into the real alcazar de sevilla. it was pretty cool, but i guess nothing can really compare to the alhambra and la mezquita at this point. we then walked around the largest gothic cathedral in the world and the giralda (awesome muslim minaret/tower). there was a huge line in 95 degree weather, in the sun, to get in the cathedral so we decided to bypass it. we then left the city to go to merida in extremadura. this town takes its siesta seriously. we arrived at around 3 p.m. and it was totally dead. we got to drive by trajanīs arch on our way to the hotel. we stayed at the hotel cervantes, where we actually got our own bathroom and nice accomodations. the bed was even nicer and the towels felt like they actually used fabric softener. they have the nicest plaza iīve ever seen here. itīs got a huge water fountain in the middle, and cars are not allowed access in it at all. there are kiosks at each corner serving refreshments and granizadas (frozen fruit drinks, slushies). we had dinner at via flavia, where we shared an extremaduran specialty, solomillo iberico al ajillo (iberian pork cooked in white wine garlic sauce). then we just sat around in the plaza and had drinks. there was this one kid wearing blue moomoo running around with white sandals. i certainly hope this was a girl, but i get the feeling it was a poor unfortunate boy. he was entertaining to watch to say the least. there were times when it appeared he was trying to rub his crotch against the ground while standing up. and when he wasnīt doing that, he was trying to pick at his underside with his hand, which the moomoo prevented him from doing with any success.

day 11, july 11, 2005
so after a nice night of sleep and a nice warm shower in merida, we went to explore the roman ruins, of which this city has a ton. with only his trusty fanta bottle, nick charges into battle at the anfiteatro of meridait was once the roman capital of the iberian peninsula. first we went to the teatro romano and anfiteatro romano. we even managed to get a photo of nick in the middle of the anfiteatro all alone. and once again he vanquishes allwe then had lunch at restaurante naya. we decided to have some more extremadura specials. nick had caldereta extremeņa which was a rich lamb stew. i had lamb chops. and we got flan for dessert! we then went to find the circo romano, which is the largest surviving hippodrome. it was indeed big, and i couldnīt help but feel it was a waste a space. it was fenced off and completely deserted. it seemed like the city just couldnīt decide what to do with it but didnīt want to destroy it. from the outside, i really couldnīt get any photos. nick doing karate at the acueducto de lazaro in meridaright across the street, we saw the acueducto de lazaro, the first aqueduct iīve ever seen in person i think. pretty impressive. we then drove to the puente romano which is a really long ass bridge. it actually parallels a modern bridge for cars, but this bridge is only for pedestrians and is still fully functional. then we drove to the acueducto de los milagros, which is the home to many nesting storks at this time of year. nick even found a huge stork feather. i just hope it makes it back in one piece. from there, we drove to caceras, a larger town in extremadura. it took us forever to find the damn city center in this town. apparently, the plaza mejor is seriously hidden from the main streets, and you pretty much have to walk to it. the acueducto de los milagros of meridastill, there is some vehicle access because the plaza is not closed off the traffic. we stayed at the hotel alfonso ix, where we also got our own bathrooms and lovely tile floors. we got there fairly late at around 6 p.m., but it was still hot as all hell. the city center is composed of the ciudad monumental which is basically a huge ancient walled city. now, most of the buildings are owned by the government with a few absentee private owners. there were also some restaurants and bars in there. puente romano of meridathe whole area was really chill and quiet with little narrow cobblestone (of course) roads leading into large plazas with high buildings. we had read that this area was cool to see both in daylight and at night, when it is illuminated, so we decided to break for dinner and come back later. we ate at meson los portales. storks on rooftops at the ciudad monumental in caceresi had gazpacho for starters, and we both got more pinchos morunos (moorish kebabs). after this, we went back to the hotel to wait for it to get dark. i guess since we had traveled west, and there had been no time change, it was getting darker like an hour later than before. i donīt think the sun went down until past 10 p.m.! anyway, this was when i started feeling sick. at around 11 p.m. we went back out to see the ciudad monumental. our penis-shaped key for hotel alfonso ix, or was it hotel alvarez?we met a friendly german shepherd who really wanted my strawberry granizada, but i didnīt give him any cuz iīm mean. we walked around for about an hour or so then headed home and went to bed. something i ate apparently really didnīt agree with me, or the heaviness of all the food finally caught up, because i had to get out of bed like three times in the middle of the night. i just kept thinkíng thank god this didnīt happen in sevilla when i wouldīve had to run down the crooked steps to the bathroom. anyway, apparently after i stopped my bathroom runs, nick started his. i guess we both got a bit sick.

day 12, july 12, 2005
our quaint hotel in trujillocool plumbingweīve been getting up pretty late lately, and this morning was no exception. we didnīt check out until like noon. we then drove to trujillo which was a really short drive. we checked into hotel orellana which is the cutest hotel weīve stayed at yet. itīs like a little country cottage with tiles and stonework and those doors within doors for window shutters. they have some pretty wild looking plumbing too. i took some photos. we ate lunch at cafeteria nuria where we ordered albondigas, migas (fried bread crumbs with chorizo), and another regional specialty moraga (grilled pork on a bed of lettuce with oil and vinegar dressing). after that, i took a huge nap in the hotel room while nick went to talk to the hotel receptionist. nick has developed this habit of harassing our hotel receptionists by interrogating them about all things spanish. anyway, and now iīm all caught up. tomorrow weīll probably go to salamanca, and after that toledo. weīre both pretty tired now so i donīt think weīll be doing as much sightseeing anymore. weīre just doing some Ļhardcore chilling.Ļ


iīm now in the lobby of our hotel in salamanca, and internet access is only 1 euro an hour so iīve decided to update again. also, yesterday, i was rushed because i was in a really tiny and smoky internet café where one of the smokers couldnīt have been more than 10 years old. and since i rushed, i made tons of typos (which i see now) and didnīt do much more than recite a laundry list of meals. bikers going camping in extremadura (courtesy of nick)also, since we left extremadura, iīve realized how much i really liked that region. itīs funny because we both thought weīd love sevilla and were only planning to pass through extremadura. instead, extremadura has been the best part of the trip. thereīs just something kinda eery but beautiful about the region. when driving through, you really feel like youīre alone, and thereīs nothing but flat plains and oak trees everywhere. you can see miles in every direction without seeing a single house. only occasionally, youīll see an old house and some old stone walls and some toros and bacas (cows). my favorite town so far is merida. it really did have the coolest central plaza. i only wish i had seen more plazas beforehand so i wouldīve appreciated it more when i was there. i almost want to go back. also, another funny thing. we first saw this guy who looks japanese-american in merida on sunday afternoon. he was strolling around by himself. then, the next day, monday, we drove to caceras, where we saw him out on the plaza eating dinner by himself. he was speaking some really strange language into a cell phone. then yesterday, we went to trujillo (which is a really small town, population 9100) so we didnīt see him. but guess who we saw first thing in the plaza upon arriving in salamanca? you guessed it. that same guy. nick says he kinda laughed when he saw us. iīve decided we must make contact. what are the chances that weīd be on the same traveling route for three days? anyway, it just cracks me up. so on to my update now...

day 12, july 12, 2005 (continuation, still in trujillo)
apparently while i was in the internet cafe writing my last update, it started raining! like itīs 90 degrees outside and it starts raining. we were told by the cafe worker that this was not common. more photos of our hotel in trujilloanyway, it slowed just enough so we could go back to our hotel room. and we were planning on doing some site seeing after my update. anyway, so we got back to our hotel room, chilled for a while, ate some nocilla and cookies (which turned out to be our dinner), and then tried to go out again. chilling in our own medieval cottagethis time, we had to turn back because nickīs stomach decided to act up again. so after an hour or so, we finally set out, only this time i didnīt bring my camera because i was just over it and figured weīd have to turn back again anyways. well we actually managed to stay out that time and actually did a bunch of walking in the old quarters. we even walked all the way up to the alcazaba in town, where you get a great hill top view of the whole town plus the surrounding extremaduran landscape. now, i really wished i had brought my camera after all. it was like 8 p.m. i think, and the sun was still not even close to setting, but at least the weather was a bit cooler. it was really beautiful up there, but alas, no pictures. i briefly contemplated doing the hike again the next morning, but i knew once i felt the heat of the morning, iīd give up real quick.

day 13, july 13, 2005
we got up bright and early (10:30 a.m.) as usual. nick wanted to check with trujilloīs tourist office to see if they had any info on the flora and fauna of extremadura, since this was going to be our last day in the region. they sent us off to some bookshops, where unfortunately they were all sold out of books of this type. i was surprised. i guess there are other nuts like nick who are into this shit. anyway, we finally left trujillo just past noon. we hadnīt eaten breakfast so we ate carrīs english cheese melt crackers with fanta in the car. normally, i would say these cheese melts were kinda heavy, but compared to what we had been eating lately, it was damn light. we even decided to hit a mcdonaldīs as soon as we arrived in salamanca. i donīt know if i mentioned this, but i havenīt eaten vegetables in i donīt know how long. itīs really hard to get entrees that have vegetables. after our first dinner in ronda, which was all vegetarian, i thought this would be no problem, but apparently that dinner was an anomaly. almost all dishes here are eggs, potatoes, or meat, and mostly meat really. on our drive, we drove through monfrague which is apparently a very popular camping site. itīs a national park which is home to tons of endangered birds. itīs also still in extremadura so there were areas with huge boulders surrounded by oaks and vast wilderness, and also a very green river running through. if we ever come back to spain, weīll have to plan to come during a cooler season and actually do some hiking in this area. anyway, we were sad to leave. so we arrived in salamanca without getting lost or anything. we found paid underground parking and actually got a hotel room right across the street, which was very convenient. weīre staying at the hotel r. condal. itīs probably the nicest hotel weīve stayed in so far, although i think our favorite is still the last one in trujillo because it was like staying in a medieval cottage. weīre actually doing pretty well with hotels so far; we havenīt spent more than 50 euros a night. they also serve free continental breakfasts here with churros! also, the bed here is the softest iīve felt in spain so far, so iīm looking forward to sleeping tonight. anyway, our hotel is also right by the plaza mayor, which is actually pretty damn nice too, almost as cool as the one in merida. itīs surrounded by buildings to form a perfect square. also, no cars are allowed like the one in merida. the only problem is that they are currently doing some special event in the middle so thereīs construction. however, i imagine it would normally be quite impressive since it is very large. we found a mcdonaldīs nearby, and we even went in, but i just could not bring myself to spend $8 on a filet-o-fish. we ended up having lunch at cafe los arcos. i ordered a mushroom pasta dish which was actually pretty decent, and light. nick got some sausages (more like hotdogs) with fried pork loin and fries, not light. i really donīt know what nick was thinking. his explanation was that he Ļdidnīt want eggs.Ļ whatever. also, i got to watch the last few minutes of the tour de france on the restaurant tv. iīm so sad. lance armstrong didnīt win. after lunch we went to champion which is a supermarket chain and bought some, you guessed it, fanta, crackers, and soy milk! i never thought iīd want soy milk so badly, but i guess after all the fatty foods iīve been having lately soy milk just sounded so nutritious. after the supermarket, nick found the apartment where he stayed when he was in salamanca about six years ago doing a study-abroad program. also, i think i should mention that it seems the spanish are a minority in this town. at the restaurant, the three servers working were peruvian, bolivian, and columbian. everywhere we turn, we hear american english spoken. at the supermarket, we even saw some kid wearing a Ļhurry curryĻ t-shirt! nick says heīs hearing way more english now than he did just six years ago. itīs craziness. and we even heard some kid complaining how he didnīt like alicante as much as salamanca cuz alicante is too touristy! hmmm... anyway, when we got back to the hotel, i drank like half my soy milk and it was super yummy. i even did some karate stance practice in front of the mirror. however, i quit abruptly because i find iīm pretty fatigued these days. iīm actually having trouble keeping a good posture when i stand. i think all the heat and grease is getting to me. before this trip is over, you might actually find me at a mcdonaldīs after all. anyway, nickīs out looking for books in spanish. i generally find american bookstores boring, so there was no way i was going to follow him around spanish bookstores, especially because iīd already humored him and gone to two this morning. well that brings me up to date again. tonight, instead of dinner, we may just eat desserts. this town has tons of bakeries and sweet shops. tomorrow weīll do some touristy stuff, and then on friday weīre off to toledo. thatīs our last stop before flying back. i canīt wait to sleep in my own bed again and shower in my own bathroom. i may update again tomorrow just because itīs so cheap and smoke-free in this hotel lobby :)


first for corrections. the restaurant in salamanca where we had lunch yesterday is called Ļel arcoĻ not Ļlos arcos.Ļ secondly, as ken has kindly pointed out, cows is spelled ĻvacasĻ not Ļbacas.Ļ see what happens when nick isnīt here to proofread for me? anyway.

i felt that i did not write enough about our trip to tangier. i keep meaning to but i also keep forgetting. it was only a day trip but the tour guides sure packed a bunch of stuff into it. first off, itīs definitely the poorest place weīve seen so far. it kinda reminded me of mexico, where it just seemed like most people were just trying to survive, and probably just barely making it--very hand to mouth. for example, our assistant tour guide, whoīs actually gainfully employed, had shoes that were totally falling apart. i didnīt even notice at first, but the soles were completely detached from the rest of the shoes in the front. also, everyone was begging for tips, although our guides specifically told us we should absolutely bargain and NOT tip. in addition, although the tour guide was quick to point out the diversity of the city, we also couldnīt help but notice that the diversity was very segregated. we also got a glimpse of whatīs itīs like to be a minor celebrity. at the beginning of our bus ride through the city, we got off to ride camels. what i didnīt realize was that we were all being photographed. a couple hours later, and after weīd had lunch, all of a sudden all these guys came out with a million photos of all the tourists, looking through the crowds to sell people the photos theyīd taken of them. i guess these people knew exactly where the tour guides stopped and when, so they were able to essentially shoot us the entire morning, then develop all the photos while we ate lunch, and then meet us again in the market place to sell them. i canīt even imagine how many people had to be involved and how many photos they would have to sell to just break even. also, I wanted to mention how it totally felt like the guides were herding us around like sheep. we had the head guide in the front, and the assistant guide would stay in the back and do regular head counts. we werenīt really allowed to wander off, and i donīt think a second went by when both guides didnīt know exactly where each of us was, and there were about 40 in our party. as we were leaving the restaurant, the assistant guide noticed we were missing exactly one person who was stuck in the bathroom, and what was really weird was that the head guide knew exactly who it was and who this person had come with. pretty good memory, but i guess it comes with the territory. the guides were also cool because they handled all the monetary transactions to make sure we didnīt get screwed. then again, i think they probably also got a cut of everything we bought. definitely an interesting experience.

now on to the update.

day 13, july 13, 2005 (continuation, still in salamanca)
so i went back up to our hotel room after my last update and noticed that we have a great view of the plaza de santa eulalia and old town area. weīre on the sixth floor (highest floor of the building) and weīre facing right towards the plaza major with all the old cool buildings including the cathedral. after nick came back from the bookstore, we decided to go out walking around the plaza. well this went alright until a group of three teenaged punks decided to physically mock me to my face. well the sad thing about this is that i didnīt even realize what was happening until it was over and they were walking away. i guess i just couldnīt believe this could be happening to me, in europe of all places, and like a few feet from my face. view from our hotel window in salamancait didnīt actually even click until nick commented on it, at which point i got really pissed. i was pissed that this happened at all, at the fact that i didnīt react because it didnīt even register, but mostly because nick didnīt say anything. even if i had realized, itīs not like i could yell at them in a language they could understand anyways. also, this isnīt the first time this has happened to me in a spanish-speaking country as nick simply stood by and watched. in fact this happened two years ago when we were in a pretty affluent neighborhood of mexico city during an arts and crafts bazaar. i was really upset then too, but i excused nick as i had to admit getting in a fight in mexico was probably not a good idea. the police arenīt necessarily reliable and may view us as americans causing a scene. but here in salamanca, i didnīt really think weīd have a problem. also, after the mexico incident, i felt that i had made it abundantly clear that i was very disappointed by his inaction. anyway, this is all very disappointing and upsetting because, call me naive, but i really like to believe this shit doesnīt go on very often. in fact, it only really went on in elementary school, but kids are always mean and will pick on anything if they think itīll hurt you. but since then, nothing had really happened, that is until two years ago. and just a few months ago, at the circuit city in santa monica of all places, i was randomly assaulted by some white guy going off about how i should be ashamed because we asians were infiltrating the uc system and stealing jobs or something. funny because i donīt really think of myself as asian. i guess i donīt really think of myself as anything. and once again, i was too surprised to react. why i seem to be a target for racist bigots all of a sudden is beyond me, but itīs happened three times in the last two years now, and i hope it doesnīt continue. if nothing else, i donīt want to get to the point where iīm constantly paranoid that people are being racist when they really arenīt. i like my naivete (or denial) in this respect. anyway, we went back to the hotel, but not without getting lost first. on the whole walk back i was just waiting to bump into those kids again. what i probably wouldīve done to them would have been frowned upon by my senseis iīm sure, so itīs probably good that i didnīt see them. i was so upset i decided to stay in for the rest of the night. unfortunately, we hadnīt had any dinner so i was starving, but i was also too mad to talk to nick, so i ended up reading upton sinclairīs Ļthe jungleĻ and finishing my soy milk. by the time i was talking to nick, it was too late to get food, so i decided iīd better go to sleep immediately. i get very difficult when iīm hungry. ĻYeah, no SHIT.Ļ -Nick

day 14, july 14, 2005
our hotel provides a continental breakfast for free so we decided to actually get up earlier to partake in this; we got up at 9:30 a.m. we got churros con chocolate which is a very typical spanish breakfast. these churros are like the mexican ones but without the coated sugar. instead, you dip them in this thick hot chocolate drink and eat it that way. it was really good. we also got orange juice. i was in a better mood this morning so we decided to go out and do touristy stuff. we saw the new cathedral, which i thought kinda sucked cuz it didnīt even have cool stained glass. what cathedral doesnīt have cool stained glass? not a cool one in my book. iīve also decided that once youīve seen one cathedral, youīve really seen them all, so i decided not to bring my camera. we also saw this casa de las conchas (house of shells) and the university of salamanca where thereīs a hidden frog on this really intricate relief on the face of the main building. i had essentially found it but didnīt realize it. i guess my eyesight sucks cuz i saw the lump on the skull thatīs supposed to be the frog, but i would never in a million years guess that was THE frog. it looked more like a tumor, but what a tumor was doing on a skull was beyond me. anyway, after that we went through like every gift shop looking for hats and mugs. we got a cool bull magnet and keychain for nick. after going through all of them, we stopped and had lunch at pans & company which was like a gift from heaven. this place sells sandwiches WITH SAUCE and salads! we each got chicken sandwiches. i also got a salad with lettuce, corn, julienned carrots, and imitation crab meat with caesar dressing. this was definitely up there on the list of weird concoctions, but i think just eating vegetables was so exciting for me that i really quite enjoyed it. we decided we would have to come back again. so after lunch, we went back to the hotel since it was siesta time and a lot of shops had closed. i took the siesta time literally and actually slept for about two hours. then, i decided that i liked this hat that we had seen in one of the first stores we hit, so we headed out again. unfortunately, we couldnīt remember where this was. therefore, we ended up hitting every single store again and wandering around for like another hour or two before we finally found it. at this point, i had to buy it. we then went to the plaza where i had a huge ice cream cone and nick had a lemon granizada (slushie). the ice cream is different here. it has oil in it so it holds its form better and is more like a mousse. then we went back to the hotel room for a bit. at around 9:00 p.m. or so, we decided it was time for dinner. we ate at pan & company again since we probably will have to eat heavy spanish food again once weīre in toledo tomorrow. or weīll have to survive on cookies and fanta we bought from the supermarket. this time i just had a big chicken salad. last night, while i was starving to death and pissed at nick, i was totally longing for a burger from the counter or san francisco saloon. also, i was thinking how simple and perfect a caesar salad with grilled chicken would be. well, i didnīt get a caesar salad exactly, but it was close enough. this time, we got hard boiled eggs, green olives, julienned carrots, corn, and grilled chicken. their caesar dressing is more tart and less garlicky than what iīm used to, and i think i got a little carried away and actually put too much on. still, it was lovely and almost what i wanted. well now iīm caught up. nick is currently interrogating the receptionist of the hotel while i type this. iīm gonna have to make him come back so he can proofread for me. heīs been harassing this poor lady for like an hour now. tomorrow morning iīm gonna get more of those churros con chocolate i think. also, i think i need some tea to cleanse my system (or at least pretend to). then nickīs gotta go to the bookstore across the street and buy like a million books. then off to toledo. i hear they have cool crafts there so hopefully weīll be able to get some cool souvenirs. this may be my last update from spain. hopefully my next one will be from my own apartment. other than the episode last night, the last leg of the trip has actually been really nice. i just hope nothing else bad happens before i get home.


earlier today, in a demonstration of great control, nick elbowed me in the face. the bastard. (and every time i tell him not to practice karate in gift shops, he tells me not to worry. the arrogant bastard.)

also, i was wrong about lance armstrong not winning the tour de france. apparently it runs until the 24th, and what i saw was the end of a particular part of the tour. as of today, heīs still got the overall lead, but the departure of a teammate today may jeopardize his chances. go lance! austin pride all the way! (just kidding)


last update! i would've done this sooner, but not only did we come home to an apartment with no electricity in the bedroom (where my computer is set up) last night, we also discovered that the blackout seems to have permanently messed up our cable internet modem. the cable company can't come out to fix it until tomorrow night, so i got so desperate that i'm actually using one of those free aol cds you get in the mail right now.

day 14, july 14, 2005

after i left you guys last, i believe we just went back out to the plaza right outside our apartment and sat like old people for a while. we just walked around a bit. for some reason, nick wanted to go up the elevator at his old apartment (from his last visit six years ago). unfortunately, the building was locked up, so we took two final turns through the plaza mayor (where we saw really loud stupid drunk american teenagers) and called it a night.

day 15, july 15, 2005
we got up early! 9:00 a.m. we had churros con chocolate again for breakfast and chamomile tea. then we went out to go up the elevator at nick's old place (because he still did insist upon it). it was really old and nasty and super yellow. and apparently he says it was way uglier before. then i let nick go to the bookstore (always risky). he was supposed to only take like 10-15 minutes so i left him the cash and went up to the hotel room to finish up packing. an hour later, nick finally comes back to a much pissier ellie. so much for leaving town early. we finally got out just before noon and drove towards toledo. we got into toledo with no problems at all, at around 3:00 p.m. we found a three-star hotel this time called hotel imperial toledo. there weren't many differences i could find between this three-star one versus the other two-star ones, other than cost. this one had actual air conditioner vents versus wall units, was slightly larger, and their elevators didn't have extra doors you had to close behind you to operate them. by the way, their elevators suck (in spain generally). stuffing my face with cookies on our cool balcony in toledoif someone's in it, even if they're going in the direction you want, you cannot stop it. you have to wait for that other occupant to complete their travel before you can even call the elevator. i would watch the "ocupado" button like a hawk and pounce on the request button as soon as it would go off, in case other people on other floors were also waiting. anyway, nick's parents were also in town so we decided to meet at the cathedral at 5:00 p.m. toledo has lots of sword shops because i guess they were really famous for making metal weapons back in the medieval day. since i had bought pretty much no souvenirs so far, i really wanted to at least get some weapons (because i'm violent). however, nick was also really hungry and we were both really tired. toledo also happened to be at roughly 100 stifling degrees that day. so we started wandering towards the cathedral looking into shops along the way and keeping an eye out for food. i had eaten a ton of cookies when we first got to the hotel so i wasn't as hungry. nick ended up getting some chorizo and tomato bocadillo (sandwich) that was pretty alright. the tomatoes were green, 'nuf said. at first i was impressed because it looked like there was some sauce on it, but then nick informed me it was the grease from the chorizo, ew. so with the heat and the fact we were tired, by the time 5:00 p.m. came around, we were both in pretty bad moods, and i felt bad because we were finally meeting back up with the family and i was acting like an ingrate. i didn't even want to go to the stupid cathedral, as i was generally tired of cathedrals, and they were charging a buttload to enter. in the end we went in, and i spent most of my time sitting down on the cool stone tiles. i had also wanted to see the alcazar since our hotel was right by it and it looked really cool from the outside. unfortunately, it's closed for renovation until 2007. oh yeah, and toledo's plaza mayor is a joke; it's like a street that gets ever so slightly wider. it's like an afterthought. anyway, we walked to this other larger plaza, plaza de zocodover, which is a little more deserving of the name "plaza," and i ended up eating a ton by myself at the cafe bar toledo because by then i was starving. we also found this shop that sold really old looking medieval weapons so we bought a mace and hatchet. packing these was interesting. the guy at the store packed them into a box, and before we even left the store, one corner of the box had been torn through by the mace. they ended up taping bubble wrap over the corner with brown tape, so the box looked like it had a really tan tumor. (later, during our layover in atlanta where we had to pick up our checked-in items to recheck them, i noticed that the hatchet had moved and punched another hole through the box in a different location. we asked for tape, but the baggage handlers didn't have any. fortunately, the box did make it to san diego with both weapons, despite the holes.) i also got some gifts for my parents. oh, and we got some more lemon granizados. we parted ways at around 8:30 p.m. i think. we went back to our place, and i finished packing. i called it a night at like 9:30 p.m., but nick harassed the hotel receptionist for another hour. (commentary by nick: I must object to the term "harassment". The guy had absolutely nothing to do and no one to talk to for a solid five hours; most people that come into that hotel don't even give him the time of day. If he's lucky, they'll bless him with an "hola" or "buenas". I was careful to make sure that I wasn't bothering him, and he even invited me and Ellie to go chill with him and his brothers the next night. So there.) okay, one last thing about the hotel. they showed us a room which overlooked the street and had a nice view. nick had requested an interior room so it would be quieter. however, the receptionist convinced us that the area was not noisy and the view was worth it. my ass! there were cars honking and people like cheering outside all night long, and at like 6:00 a.m. it sounded like there was a flood upstairs or someone had seriously clogged their toilet and was flushing over and over again. then, magically, at 7:00 a.m., when we were supposed to get up, it became silent.

day 16, july 16, 2005
so after maybe like four or five hours of sleep, we drove out to the madrid airport. we had no trouble getting out of toledo or even into madrid. only, once we got to madrid, the three-lane highway all of a sudden dumped us into the middle of the city without any prior warning. no signs, no nothing, just BAM--middle of madrid. this was not good at all. anyway, we did finally manage to get someone to tell us how to get to the airport, which is no mean feat as there are almost no places one can pull over and park anywhere in spain it seems. anyway, we were supposed to fill up our tank, but in the end we were so happy just to finally get there that we just settled for the fine. then, of course, our airline would just happen to be at the farthest end from where we entered, and at the farthest gate at the terminal. we met up with nick's parents no problem. we found a sandwich place in the airport called robot (what the hell?) where we bought some turkey with tomato and lettuce sandwiches with MAYO! it even tasted american. we spent the rest of our euros here getting drinks and granizadas. the plane rides were fine. i watched robots, hitch, and miss congeniality 2, and read more of "the jungle." we were picked up by nick's dad's secretary. then we stopped by my parents to drop off gifts and stuff. i had already decided on the plane that i REALLY wanted to make it home that night. initially, we were thinking we'd spend the night at my parents, but after the horrible experience at our supposed three-star accomodations, all i wanted was to sleep in my own bed and shower in my own bathroom. we made a mad dash for home, where i was dozing off the whole time, and nick was fighting for his life not to fall asleep at the wheel. we made it home at 11:30 p.m. to discover the electrical problem. literally as soon as nick put down the luggage, he was in bed and asleep. i stayed up just long enough to charge our phones.

anyway, imagine my disappointment at waking up and realizing we still had no electricity. so much for coming back "home" where i had no internet access and a pitch black bathroom. for those of you who don't know, i'm afraid of the dark, and especially of mirrors and bathrooms in the dark. showering was not going to be fun. anyway, the electricity ended up getting fixed and i've come up with a temporary solution to the internet, so life is good now.

i wanted to mention a few more things before i close for good. first, i am really really grateful for nick's parents inviting us and taking on a huge amount of the expenses. without them, i'm sure this trip would not have been possible. it's just that i've learned traveling is stressful enough without having to follow someone else's itinerary and rules. secondly, fanta is the greatest soda in the world, and the bottle is excellent for transporting stork feathers. our super duper effective stork-feather transporterwalking around certain (most) parts of spain is like watching skin cancer in action. old english and german women going topless on the beach is most unsavory. all the hotels we stayed in used real solid wood as opposed to pressed board which is totally cool with me. i will probably never get to live in a house with marble tile and real wood. also, i wanted to mention that my renault megane car was amazing. the key was like a really thick credit card with buttons for locking and unlocking the car. then you'd just insert the card in a slot inside the car and push the start button, and voila, the car starts. to turn off the engine, just push again. also, the thing was smart. the lights would automatically come on when i would enter a dark underground parking lot, and off when i would go into the light again. but the best were the windshield wipers. they could actually sense how much water/rain was hitting the windshield. it started raining at one point so i turned them on. slowly, i noticed the wiper speed was reducing until it finally stopped. by then it had stopped raining so although it was odd it didn't really matter. so i manually turned them off. then the rain started again so i turned them on again. this time, i realized that the wiper speed would adjust to how hard it rained and would even turn itself completely off when it stopped. it was also comfortable and roomy, quiet, and definitely had pep. thumbs up from ellie! now everyone knows i love dogs, but the spanish mutts were a challenge. they're like straight out of "if they mated" hell.

now for nick's spanish listMania!

spanish superlatives:

- Fanta - naranja.
- Fanta - limon.
- Storks on roman aqueducts in small spanish towns.
- Merida. The Plaza Mayor at night is something else again, walking the streets during siesta time is a clinic on chill, and having Roman ruins scattered randomly throughout the city rocks like Slayer.
- Driving through Extremadura during siesta time.
- La Mezquita in Cordoba. Despite having been gutted and butchered by a bunch of christians with no taste, it retains a spectacular set of moorish columns that kept my jaw on the floor for close to an hour straight. I still have a bruise on my chin from the initial impact.
- Spanish hoteliers and store clerks. They seemed to genuinely enjoy talking to a hyper-curious white boy with a seemingly endless list of questions. Special props go out to Alberto and Ana in Salamanca, Javier and Emilio in Malaga (Mijas), Luis in Toledo, and our Trujillo hotelier, whose name I never got.
- The Plaza Mayor in Salamanca. Best damn Plaza Mayor I've ever seen.
- La Alhambra in Granada.
- La Ciudad Monumental in Caceres. La Plaza de San Mateo is IT.
- Migas Extremenas. Bread crumbs fried with lard married with chorizo and peppers is a recipe for success in Nick's mouth.
- Fanta. Dude, it has 8% juice for naranja, 6% juice for limon. That's just flat out bitchin', and there ain't no one alive that can argue with that.

spanish disappointments:

- Sevilla. Yeah, we saw some good flamenco, ate some good tapas, and saw the Giralda. But somehow it just didn't live up to the hype. It was hot as hell, tough to navigate, and I just didn't get any of that vaunted ambience. Plus, the city was rife with gangs of highly aggressive flies, which is the perfect complement to any outdoor lunch setting. Bummer, cuz I really wanted to like the place.
- The cathedral in Salamanca. I remembered it being cooler, but it was pretty sorry this time. Ellie was sooo over it.
- Toledo, aside from our weapons purchases. Again, I remembered it being much cooler. I suspect it had something to do with lack of sleep, hanging out with my parents, my brother and his girlfriend, and the excessive heat. I feel like we really didn't see the cool parts of the city. Maybe some other time.

spanish surprises:

- Extremadura. We didn't really think it was going to be that great. It just sort of seemed like a pit stop on the way to Salamanca from Sevilla. But man, it turned out to be the coolest part of the trip.
- The Andalusian accent. What the hell is going on there? I'm going to find out more about this. I had already heard many things about it, such as the fact that there are no "s"es in Andalucia, ado -> ao, etc. But there were many other unheralded phenomena. Some people had the classic Spanish lisp, others didn't. Some people had a weird way of pronouncing their "st" sounds, and others didn't. Some people lisped in weird places where other Spaniards definitely don't lisp. I just didn't spend enough time there to get a good picture of what is really going on.
- Reggaeton! Dooh... de dooh de Dooh... de dooh de Dooh... That's the universal Reggaeton beat, by the way. To me, it just sounds like one of many reggae beats, but I don't really know much about reggae. Seems like every other person with their car window rolled down was listening to this kind of music. I started aping the beat just about every five minutes. It really became the "Theme for Spain".
- Doner meat.

spanish annoyances:

- Mullets are all the rage now in Spain.
- Keyholes are sometimes right side up, sometimes upside down.
- Sometimes you must push doors to enter, sometimes you must pull them. Often there is no label to guide you in your endeavors, so looking like a fool is all but unavoidable.
- Stupid loud ass little motorcycles racing through narrow pedestrian-only streets. It seems that the louder your moto is, the cooler you are.
- French tourists. They suck.
- Being bathed in smoke a good 80% of the time.
- That wack-ass sound Spaniards make to get your attention. "SSSSSSS!!!!" "SSSSSSS!!!" Sounds like a snake taking it up the ass.
- Driving. There are no road signs on half of the streets, so maps are useless most of the time. The nation is plagued with two-lane roundabouts. Man do those blow. Traffic lights are positioned directly next to the line at which you have to stop, so you cannot see the light once you have properly placed yourself at the intersection. To get around this, they have cleverly put a small set of two lights halfway down the pole on the traffic light so that you can look to your right and see whether the light is red or green. What a fucking waste. How about putting the line further back, so all you need is one set of lights, instead of adding on these little mini-lights. And to think, the government charges Spaniards hundreds and hundreds of dollars for their licenses so that they can have the privilege of driving in this crap.

and so concludes my very long journal on my trip to spain. this trip was such a rollercoaster ride that even now as i sit in my comfortable apartment i still can't quite decide what to make of it. perhaps i'll have a better idea after i've slept on it a few weeks, months, or years. on the bright side, it was an excuse to go out and shoot cool locations and add to my website :)

until my next adventure in far off lands...

hasta luego,