Saturday, May 16, 2009

Part 2

So we got into a taxi and said we wanted to go to CTM Nador (bus station). After a lot of discussion in French, Spanish and Moroccan, we were on our way. English is not a language used much here - no need really as all the neighbours are Spanish and the old language is French. Out comes my trusty phrase book...

We then ended up in a taxi again going to Mililla which is Spanish and needing to get our passports stamped again as we crossed the border into 'Spain'.

What a difference - cheaper, friendlier and calmer. We found a hotel and went out to get some food at last. Unfortunately, in true Spanish style, the restaurant that sounded nicest wasn't open until 8.30 and as it was 7.20 we couldn't wait. We had a pizza in a little place that was full of locals - very good sign.

And back to the hotel for a welcome shower and sleep.

This morning, we went upstairs to the breakfast room and in my very few words of Spanish managed to get dos cafe negro - 2 black coffees - and some toast.

Now we need to repack our bags and get out to explore this little place before heading for Nador again for a bus to Fes (and the welcome tourist trail that will hopefully make our lives a little easier...)

Friday, May 15, 2009

The longest day... Pt 1

What a day, yesterday we decided to go to Montserrat - about an hour out of Barcelona. But the pressing issue was what to do regarding our onward travel plans.

Off to the train station to book a ticket to Almeria or Algecaris so we could then take a ferry across to Morocco. The train to Algecaris was leaving at 10pm so 'perfect' we thought and then went to book it. Alas, there were no seats, not even a sleeper berth. So with no onward journey plans and no idea what to do next, we jumped on the train to Montserrat and forgot about Morocco for the time being.

Montserrat is a lovely monastry set high in a mountain with great views of the valleys below - on a nice clear day that is. Unfortunately it was raining and very cloudy so we had virtually no view at times and none at others. But it did make for some interesting photo opportunities (none of which I have viewed yet).

So back to Barcelona and on to the bus station to see what was on offer. A bus to Almeria leaving in 2 hours that would travel overnight and arrive 12 hours later. Perfect! So into a taxi to go and collect our bags from the hotel, then back again in time to buy tickets and board our bus.

While waiting for our bus we went to pick up a few food items to snack on - having not had any solid food since breakfast. And back at the station we were sorting it out when a man came by to ask a question about heck knows what - while another man proceded to pick up mum's wallet and start to walk away. Luckily mum spotted him and called him a not very nice name and grabbed it back - disaster averted, thankfully.

The journey was long and tedious - not helped by the smelly man in the seat next to mine. Every couple of hours the bus stopped and the smokers got out to smoke and then everyone got back in and off we went again.

09.10 this morning we pulled into Almeria and headed for the port to see what was available there to get up to Morocco.

By 10am we were aboard a boat ready to sail to Nador. Unfortunately this left no time to buy anything more to eat and the boat was not selling anything. We had just enough as it turned out - eating the last things as we docked.

Nador, it turns out, is a depressed town unused to foreigners - especially 2 lone women. We were 2 of 7 people who had non-local passports coming off the boat. The other 5 were all men and all looked like they probably belonged here, but who knows (they definitely knew the language).

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The big bus in Barcelona and a croc of a handbag

Today we took the Barcelona Bus Turistic all around town.

We intended taking the red route first, but got on the blue one near our hotel instead. First stop for us was MontJuic where we wandered around the MNAC (way too long to type out in full) art museum. Then up to the site of the 1992 Olympics. It felt a bit surreal to think that this was the place of huge hustle-bustle a few (17!!??) years ago. I wasn't inspired to use my camera here though until I found a lovely grass seed head and felt obligated to take it's photo with as many backgrounds as I could find...

Back down to the MNAC and a few more photos and we headed back for the bus. With beautiful views over the city, a warm sun and a man playing guitar, I think I could have sat there for a while.

We took the cable car up and then down the mount to see the view. Not particularly mind blowing, but pleasant all the same. The cable car running down to the harbour front was out of action due to strong wind (hadn't noticed the wind myself...).

To cut a long (boring) story short, we stayed on the bus until the point that we could do a swap to the red one. This was more interesting as it took in quite a few of Gaudi's buildings - what a clever and unique man he must have been!

Along the way we went past a shop called Croco-Park so after having completed a full circuit we stayed on board and headed around again to check it out. Turned out to be a very boring shop with lots of very shiney, glittery leather handbags more suited to... well, someone else...

So with that out of the way we found a Tapas restaurant and ate what we could - that wasn't cooked with the use of gas as the gas was out of order ( did they pay the bill??) in the kitchen. We picked up a cake each on the way home and finally limped into the hotel about 9.30'ish - both exhausted.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The adventure is in motion

Mum and I are finally off on our adventure. We've both been looking forward to a break from work and the mundane slog of normal life. The main destination for our journey is Morocco, but we decided to get there by land and sea rather then fly - we have a month to spare!

Yesterday we left London on the Eurostar a couple of hours earlier then our needed timing (to catch our onward train) in order to have the joy of sitting in a Parisian patisserie supping good coffee and feasting on fantastic French pastries for a couple of hours.

Alas, it was not to be.

We wandered around the grounds of the Natural History Museum thoroughly enjoying the poppy gardens, the Petit Panda (seen throught a thin veil of bamboo) and the Biturong sitting on the roof of it's little house. OK... so I have no idea what a Biturong is, and the man I asked had no English word for me, but it was very cute and it's little face looked just like a seal. If anyone should wish to enlighten me, I appreciate it - time online is limited.

After a bit we decided that we could resist the temptation no longer and headed back to the streets to find afore mentioned patisserie. There was not one to be seen.

A snap decision was made as we knew that the next train was a long journey and vegetarian/fishatarian food likely to be limited, we had to eat and we chose what turned out to be my vote for the worst restaurant in the whole of Paris - and possibley France. Salad with dead lettuce, boiled potatoes, and an old car's waste oil made into salad dressing, and salmon (probably caught circa 1969), cooked until unrecognisable and then placed beside a pile of (very) boiled rice. Both meals bland and completely uninspiring. We knew though, that the train could not disappoint anymore!

Back to the station, thinking that we would find a cafe selling something, that even if not the desired perfect Parisian pastry, would still put British food to shame - not this time.

C'est la vie!

The train arrived and we found our little cabin and made ourselves comfy. The train did not disappoint in it's delivery of cr@p food - thank goodness we had bought our NZ made butter from London to have on our toast though!!

The journey was 12hours and ultimately, painless. There were several stops most of which I was awake for but one of which I seem to have missed was the border control from France into Spain.

The train guard had taken our passports upon boarding so we didn't need to be present as some unpleasant hour of the morning - nice man.

We arrived in Barcelona at 8.30am - 12 hours from departing Paris.

PS. Just tried to spell check and all words except about 7 came up highlighted - my computer seems to think I should be writing Spanish. Apologies for any bad spelling...

Milk chocolate fields forever!

Eurostar to Paris and on the way, suddenly realised it was dark outisde - inside the chunnel already! Way too fast for me.

Popped out the other side and glorious fields of luminous rape seed flowers, fresh spring grass and delightful milk chocolate fields combed to perfection. Glad I couldn't get out to lick the ground and spoil the fantasy!

Wish I'd been able to get a photo - but the train so damned fast and windows so damned dirty, not worth the effort. I'll stick with the visual memory of this beautiful view...