My day and a half in Madrid

The start of my day and a half in Madrid was a 6-7 hour bus journey, from Torrevieja to Madrid. I had bought a bus ticket which left from Alicante, as I somehow missed the fact that there was actually a few buses which went directly from Torrevieja to Madrid.  Not that it made much difference, the cost and travel time was almost the same, but it would have been a bit quicker and more convenient. Anyway, starting the day early, I got the bus into Torrevieja bus station, changed bus to Alicante, and then changed again in Alicante for the bus to Madrid. The whole thing went very smooth, although it was slightly scary to not understand anything and most people not speaking much, if any, English. This was my first time traveling  completely alone in a country where I didn’t speak the language, and it was easier than I had expected. I actually managed to get on all the right buses and not get lost.

The royal palace…looks pretty cool

My friend Marina met me at the bus stop in Madrid, and after a quick trip to drop off my bag and get some food at her place, we were off to Madrid. For the next 5 hours we wandered around in Madrid, seeing the royal palace, a cathedral, a number of statues, a park or two and a number of streets with really nice buildings. The night was of course finished in a tapas bar so I could try Spanish food. Which turned out to be ok, some parts I liked, but others not so much. Spanish food is apparently not my favourite kind of food, but it was interesting to try it. This evening was during the Euro 2012 football championship, the night Spain won 4-0 against the Netherlands, and while football isn’t something I care much about, it was still pretty cool to see bars crowded by people in football outfits and being able to count the goals from the loud cheers. The atmosphere, the city, the people and the food…it was a great introduction to Madrid.

Some of them were brave enough to eat from my hand

We got back and slept in pretty late, but eventually got up and out for more sightseeing in Madrid around noon. Only problem was that my shoes had started falling apart the day before, and given me several blisters in the process. Great starting point for a day of walking. At least there was a pharmacy nearby where I could buy some horribly expensive, but very,  very effective plasters. I also ended up buying two new pair of shoes that day, the first because I was getting desperate, and the second because it was more comfortable and prettier. Unfortunately the shoe hunt took time away from doing more interesting things. We still saw a lot though, such as a lot more cool statues and buildings, a huge park where we had lunch and fed some really cute sparrows and even an Egyptian temple. Finally getting back to her place at 9 or so, we didn’t have much time to get ready to go out and meet some of her friends. But we managed to eat, shower and get dressed quickly enough to get there (almost) on time.

I’m fabulou..I mean, look at that pretty palace and cathedral from this angle

We then went to get several free drinks, which apparently is easy in Madrid if you’re a girl and you’re out early enough, as promoters for clubs and bars will often offer a free drink if you come to that club/bar. Which they’ll usually offer more often to pretty girls, which again makes it easy to take advantage of it when you are such a young, pretty girl . Later we joined up with Marina’s boyfriend and another friend, sat and talked for a while before going to dance. We danced for hours, and my legs were so, so painful afterwards, but it was so much fun! The club music in Spain is more varied than here and in Britain, it wasn’t just the same songs they play everywhere, but also Spanish music, which was a lot more fun to dance to than the usual  crap music. We eventually got to bed at 6, completely exhausted, and having to get up at 10 for me to catch my bus back.

View from the road…want some salt?

On the positive side I managed to sleep parts of the journey. The rest of the time I watched Alice in Wonderland, without sound and with Spanish subtitles, which is a strange experience when you don’t understand anything, you don’t know the story that well and you’re really tired and slightly hungover. And such ended my day and a half in Madrid. It was completely worth it though, even with the long travel time, and I only wish I had more time to see the city. I’m definitely coming back when I get the chance.

Have you ever been to Madrid? What did you think ?

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Going to Spain!

About a week before I left Scotland, I got a message from a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time and when she told me she had just moved to the south of Spain and that I was welcome to come visit her, it didn’t take me long to look for and find a reasonably cheap flight. Which happened to be in the middle of June, meaning I left Norway again, just a week after coming home, after being gone for 10 months. Cause, like, who wants to be in Norway? (Ok, so I kinda really like Norway, I just like to be other places as well.

The view from my friend’s flat

So I left for Spain, and as the flight was cheap, it also arrived late, which meant it was too late to get the bus the hour or so from Alicante airport to Torrevieja, where my friend lives. She and her mom were awesome enough to come meet me at the airport, even if they didn’t have to, and we were planning to get a taxi back, costing 60-70 euros or so. Luckily I happened to sit beside a Norwegian couple on the plane, who were going in the same direction and had a rental car, who were really nice and offered to drive us most of the way. We got a taxi for the last little bit, as it was very out of the way where the couple were going, but still, it ended up only costing us 20 euros. Win I say!  Acts of random kindness are awesome 🙂

I was there for 10 wonderful days, most of the time spent on the beach right outside my friend’s flat or in the market and restaurants in Torrevieja, as well as reading books (all three of us loves reading), having great dinners and talking about everything and nothing. We also went to Tabarca, this tiny island off the coast of Alicante, which was very pretty.  Just annoying that there were 5 or 6 classes of school children there at the same time, who almost seemed to follow us around and were SO noisy. One of my good friends from the year in Scotland is Spanish and lives in Madrid, so naturally I had to take the 6-7 hour long bus trip there to see her, even though it was less than 2 weeks since we both left Scotland. And so I did, and it was definitely worth it!

Tabarca

 

The whole trip in general was great to be honest, although I almost didn’t get my flight home. Because in Spain there are a lot of black guys who illegally try to sell sunglasses and whatever crap to tourists, they wander about carrying their wares and approaching tourists (one guy tried to sell my friend what he said was Rolex sunglasses..) or display them on temporary cardboard “tables” so they can just pick it up and disappear if they see any police. If they are illegal immigrants or just don’t have a permit for selling I don’t know, but either way they were protesting in Torrevieja the days around my departure date. Which normally wouldn’t have been a problem, except that they happened to block the street in front of the bus station, where I needed to get the bus to the airport.  Fortunately I was getting an early bus, but even that one barely got past the protesters, it didn’t even drive all the way into the bus station(as he’d have to drive through the guys again when getting out of the station), the bus driver just stopped outside, hurried over and told us this was the bus to the airport. We followed him to the bus, and as the last people were getting in, things turned violent. The majority of the protesters were just behind the bus, so I and the other passengers could see through the window how some guys started using trash containers and pushed them hard into police cars and policemen who were trying to keep control. I don’t know what happened afterwards, but I assume the police got control of the situation. If the street was cleared however, is a different question, and I doubt the later bus I could have taken would have managed to get to the bus station at all.

Anyway, even with this slightly dramatic end to my trip, it was wonderful, can’t wait to go back sometime!

Have you ever been to Spain? Where did you go?

Norwegian national day celebration..in Scotland

The 17th of May is the Norwegian national day. It’s the date where we got our own constitution, in 1814, when we finally became free of Denmark, after being part of them for almost 400 years. Of course, we were then in a union with Sweden until 1905, but at least we were more free than we used to be.  We celebrate it every year, with children in primary and high school going in parades and singing national songs. Everyone dresses up, many in bunad, the national costume, and many watches the parade of the children. Afterwards there are usually games for children in most schools, and people generally eat good food, spend time with friends and family and celebrate. Of course, not everyone cares that much, or bother to join every year, particularly if you don’t have children or are in the stage between being a child and having children, but most people celebrates in some way.

Apparently there is a relatively big community of Norwegians in Scotland, or at least there were some sort of celebration in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh. The largest one was in Edinburgh, where I went and met up with two other Norwegian friends, one who studies in Newcastle and one in Surrey. It was the first time I saw either of them in a while, so it was really nice to meet up again, and to actually speak Norwegian!

Typical of Scotland it was pretty awful weather however, with heavy and constant rain, as well as maybe 7-8 °C, which is not a very nice combination. We still went to the parade though, and so did quite a few other people, surprisingly many wearing their bunad. Made me wish I had mine here, so I could have worn it. It was a tiny band  in front, playing typical 17th of May marches and songs, and a lot of Norwegian flags. I wonder what the Scots and tourists thought, when they saw a bunch of people marching, everyone dressed up, with flags, singing songs and lots of umbrellas. Must have looked kinda strange.

Quite a few people..and umbrellas.

It wasn’t a very long parade, which I’m quite ok with, as it was so. much. rain. We followed it to the end, in the Princes Street Gardens by the Norwegian stone, where there were some speech and everyone singing the national song. That was pretty cool, standing in Scotland, in heavy rain, not being used to speaking Norwegian at all, and then hearing so many people singing this song together..I really enjoyed it and it made me feel all happy and, well, Norwegian again.

The Norwegian stone in the Princes Street Gardens, the women wearing bunad. And part of my umbrella. 

After that there were a short sermon and some more things happening afterwards, but as none of us are particularly Christian and we were pretty soaked by this point, we decided to retreat to a nice pub, where we spent the next 3-4 hours eating a good dinner and talking a lot. Great way to end the day!

How is your national day celebrated? Do you care much about it?

Isle of Iona

It’s just so cool!

Isle of Iona is officially my favourite place in Scotland. It’s a small island on the west coast, which you need to take two ferries to get to, first from Oban to an island called Mull, then drive across it to get to the ferry to Iona, but it’s worth it. It probably helps that it was really sunny the day I was there, but the island is so, so beautiful anyway, and so peaceful. It’s also where Christianity started to spread to Scotland, literally the place it started, which is really interesting. Essentially an Irish guy, who later became Saint Columba, went to Scotland and was given Iona, and started spreading the word of God in Scotland. Which does seem to have been relatively successful.

The Abbey of Iona is now restored and can be visited, as well as there are remains of a nunnery nearby the Abbey. There are some really nice carvings and decorations in the Abbey, and there are these huge stone crosses which are really cool. A lot of kings and other important people over the years are rumored to be buried there, but how much is actually true is hard to know.

From the highest point (which is not really that high) of Iona, Dun I,  you can see almost the whole island as it’s not very big, and  it’s very much worth the trip up. For example, sitting there and eating lunch with the amazing view is pretty great. There is also quite a lot of sheep on the island, and since I was there in spring, there were a lot of weeks-old lambs, and they were just adorable. I want one now.

Why, of course all the beaches in Scotland looks like this.

Being on the beach was by far the best part though.It was sunny, the sand was so white, the water was so clear and turquoise it didn’t look like Scotland at all. I went barefoot most of the time on the beach, and it was wonderful. The sand was warmed up from the sun, so it felt like summer to walk there, even though I had 3-4  layers of clothes on my upper body. Even the water wasn’t actually that cold. If I had a towel and some sort of swim wear, I would probably have gone for a (very, very) quick dip in the water. Too bad I didn’t. We spent most of the time at Dun I and afterwards at the beach, until we had to go to catch the ferry back. At that point we were all sun burnt to some degree…which is sort of cool when it’s in Scotland it happens. 

Where is your favourite place?

Rammstein!

I’m one of those people who like sort of metalish music, and a few weeks ago I got to see my favourite band of all time, namely Rammstein.  I’ve liked this band since I was 13-14 years old, and this was the second time I’ve seen them live. It was EPIC!  They were playing in several cities in England, and so I took the train to Newcastle as it was the closest option for me. I also happen to have a friend who studies there, which made it even more convenient, not to mention nice to see her again. I got an early train on purpose so I could spend the day with her, which was great.

As soon as I got on the train I saw some other people who were going to the same concert. How did I know? They were wearing Rammstein t-shirts of course, or a t-shirt of another similar band. When we were walking around in Newcastle I saw more and more (by that time I was one of them myself, having changed into one of my Rammstein t-shirts at my friend’s place) wandering the street. It’s a really cool feeling, seeing so many people dressed in a similar way for a day, just because you are all going to the same event. It feels like you’re all a part of an extended family, even if you have no clue who anyone else is. It feels like you’re not the only person who is different than “normal” people. I like it, and I like being different.

We went to Metro Arena where the gig was quite early, because really, that’s what all real fans do. Where I bought another t-shirt, because that’s what real fans do as well…and I also really like the designs. Eventually the warm-up band started, a Scandinavian (I think) band called Deathstar, which I’ve never heard about, but they were actually pretty decent. And then…they came on stage.

Rammstein is a German band and almost all their songs are in German, so I mostly have no idea what they actually sing about as I don’t speak German, but I don’t really care as I like the music anyway (and I bet it’s more interesting lyrics than, say, all mainstream music). Still, I sing along basically all the time, as I know how all the lyrics sound, even if I can’t pronounce it all or know what I’m saying.

I won’t say much about when they actually played, as it’s something you have to experience to understand, words just can’t convey how it was. Or at least I can’t, with my second-language English. What I will say though, is that they are great, and they do it so, so well.   If I could I would have followed their tour and seen them several times in a row, as they played in several other cities in England around the same time as I saw them in Newcastle, but unfortunately there is this thing called university classes and money which are sort of necessary.

This Rammstein concert and the one I was at two years ago when I saw them for the first time are the best gigs I’ve ever been to, ever.Partly because the music is fantastic and I know and really like all the lyrics which makes everything more fun and partly because they do it so well. They don’t just stand there looking bored and singing half-heartedly, they make a show of it and acts like they actually care about making it worthwhile for people to come see them.They don’t do silly, stupid things on stage just to get attention, but awesome things which fits really well with the music and just makes the whole experience better.  Such as in the picture here where they actually had this bridge coming down from the ceiling and walking across it to get to the stage instead of doing the normal boring thing of entering through the back of the stage, and also used it several other times during the gig. I mean, come on, a bridge, coming down from the celing, being just over our heads. Or like in the other picture here, during the song “Engel”, which means angel (no shit sherlock), when he’s wearing those cool wings. Maybe it’s just me being a bit of a pyromaniac, but it’s just awesome with flames used in ways like that.

It’s hard to describe in words how great it really was, especially for someone who hasn’t experienced a concert  with this kind of music, or someone who doesn’t like it to understand. It’s incredible, with the music, the show, the flames, the atmosphere, the occasional mosh pits, the people, everyone (including me) singing along whatever parts of the lyrics we could pronounce and just moving with the music…it was just fantastic, and I’m really looking forward to whenever I can get to see them again. Hopefully it won’t be too long.


What music do you like?