Monday, May 4, 2015

a flamenco fiesta

I've traveled all across Europe on a budget, and even when I travel now, I'm still highly budget minded. With every restaurant outing, museum, train ticket or whatever, I'm constantly thinking, "Do we need that? Is there another way? Is this particular experience worth forgoing a future one?" But now that I have a bit of expendable income, I feel it's good to pamper myself now and then, because really, every experience you get while traveling is a unique, one-of-a-kind one thing; one where you'll likely never be in the same position to do that activity again. Regarding Barcelona - it's a great city, but I'm probably never going to visit again without an explicit reason; I've seen it now, and now there's so much more remaining in the world. I'm of course, quite understanding the fact that I will never see the entire world, just as I will never be able to experience the entirety of any city that I visit. American domestic beer is fine if that's all you've got, and our poor bodies on this Earth are but Coors factories of utilization. We pump out a lot, but rarely do we have those gems of a microbrew, but those gems are the moments to hold on to, to let glitter and catch the sun, to split the light in a thousand fragments and bask in their beauty.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

on the house of bones

Outside the Casa Batllo and Casa Amatller
As impressed as we were with the Sagrada de Familia and as impressed as we were with Parc Guell, we decided that it would be best to visit the Casa Batllo. The last we were in Barcelona, before our trip onward to Morocco, we were standing outside the house with our friend, having seen the outsides of all the Art Nouveau houses on the Block of Discord. We had wanted to go inside one of them, but most of them you're only allowed in one or two rooms and it seemed somewhat of a waste. The only one with a full tour of the original construction - I say original, even though Batllo was a renovation by Gaudi and not his construction - was Casa Batllo and that cost an absurd 15 euro just for a walkaround. Since we had seen Sagrada, all of us were content with our Gaudi gambit and decided to move on to the next touristic site. Barcelona has no shortage of overpriced touristic sites, after all, and the outside is an impressive enough view. Many compare the building to a dragon, with the colorful scales of his spine forming the roof and large shaft chimney coming out with a cross at the top, said to resemble St. George's spear, thrust downward into the dragon's back.

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Monday, April 20, 2015

how barcelona wasn't so interesting

Back in Barcelona. After Morocco, the Gothic Quarters weren't that interesting. Narrow they were, but in their straightness and levelness, they seemed rather quaint - and in the off-season - so quiet and empty and forlorn. All of my Minotaur comparisons that I had used for Morocco seemed more adequate to the tall, graffiti strewn walls of inner-Barcelona, with all the garage doors closed, shops waiting for periods of better traffic. Or maybe they were only open for two hours of the day - it was impossible to tell as Spaniards do like their siestas. And by siestas, I mean, their long periods of not working. The Spanish clock seems to start at 11 am, lunch at 2, resume work at 6 and off at 8 pm. Then they sleep, have dinner at 11 pm and are out until 6 or 7 in the morning. It's amazing that they even have time for anything with such a rigorous schedule. 

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Monday, March 30, 2015

the worse the smell, the closer you are

The Rcif square and gate to the medina

I'm still not overly sure on the dining options in Fez. At night, the medina is quite intimidating - the narrow walls of the streets magnify the mystery and horror - and the shrill screaming of random crazy people certainly add some kind of element that can't necessarily be described as comforting. This, of course, makes the offers of the various restaurants and hotels for a night custodian quite comforting, since if you're out too late, you can always just have the cafe or restaurant you're in give a call to your hotel. Though our Riad had this service, and we used him New Years night, he didn't really seem eager for tips, so one didn't have to worry about that - he just dropped us off and quickly disappeared. We did make sure to tip him at the end of our trip, as the same guy was all sorts of helpful in arranging things during our stay. 

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Monday, March 23, 2015

an authentic tourist experience

Fez from our Riad rooftop
We spent our New Year's in Fez. For the backpack traveler in me, I would have preferred to have found a place on couchsurfing and celebrated it with a local or an expat local, someone who at least would have had more knowledge of where to go than we did. But the newly wed in me wanted the privacy that a hotel could afford, and wanted to spend more time with my new wife rather than getting to know other strangers on some superficial level. This is primarily why we opted for staying at hotels on this trip, over couchsurfing or Airbnb - getting both privacy and convenience - and why we chose to go ahead and do the Riad's plans for New Year's.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

the riads of Fez

View of Fez from our riad
Fez was a bit more intimidating a city than Chefchouen or Tangier, and after the little bus ride of horrors, it was much more tiresome to confront. We wanted to just get to the hotel as fast as we could, preferably without the penguin-waddling, angry British girl that ruined our vomatarium bus-ride of fun. The bus seemed to circle around the white-walled medina of Fez an innumerable amount of times - or at least that's what it seemed like with the walls making endless eddies inwards and outwards, unidentifiable for lack of features and gates. This was something new and incredible. On the medinas we had visited previously, the city was on both sides of the wall, having long since out-grown their artificial barriers. But with Fez, the city was well contained, partly  because of the creeks and cliffs that surrounded the old town and partly because the “new town” was quite in a separate geographical place.

Monday, March 9, 2015

the blue pearl

Another street view
The bus took a windy road through the Riff Mountains to Chefchouen. The mountains there weren't huge, but there was a beauty hanging from their sheer brown cliffs. We entered the suburbs of town, looking out the windows in some dismay. There is no majestic entry to the city, as the road first hits several outlying villages. The houses are nice - they weren't slums that we passed through - but neither were they the idea of the beautiful, isolated touristic setting that we had originally imagined. At first, we thought the small towns near Chefchouen were supposed to be the place itself; let down, thinking, "I thought it was supposed to be all blue." But then, around one bend, we finally saw the city. The blue part, the part of town that gave it the name "The Blue Pearl", is bedded between two mountains, making it seem as though it's isolated from civilization, though in actuality it's surrounded by small, growing and modern towns. The modern town of Chefchouen - where the bus dropped us - seemed to be a construction project, and a new tourism booth was set up right on the main road. We had asked the guy there about the bus on the following day and he let us know that that was the first day the tourism booth had been opened, so he was quite excited to give us advice. The advice is that the CMT bus tickets are sold right up the street towards the medina, and to buy them in advance, because they sell out quickly, as per my last post.

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