A Travellerspoint blog

The Spanish Bus

Toledo & Alicante

Something I can't quite wrap my head around is the Spanish bus system. Julie and I found ourselves on this mode of transportation for long trips twice in one week. This story pertains particularly to our trip from Madrid to Alicante though so I will start with an interlude about our time in Toledo.

Toledo is a wonderful medieval city that is perched atop a very large hill. After a day there, anyone has worked off and deserves a hefty menu del dia (menu of the day) to themselves. After what seemed like hours of walking in the maze of a city we found a nice spot where we ate the most I had eaten in my trip thus far- full pasta dish with bread, tinto de verano (my favorite drink ever: sangria + fanta), chicken entree and rattatouilee. 11€, what a deal! We hiked up the tallest tower for a spectacular view and went into a torture museum to get a very knee weakening display of deadly or humiliating devices.  I still wonder how that ever went down. People of the past sure had some aggression issues-I can't believe people today think video games are too violent!! I think this proves human beings are just disgusting and will always incorporate mutilation as a spectator sport. Yumm! 

Toledo was a great day trip and definitely worth getting out of hot hot Madrid. It was time to board our bus and get to Alicante where once again I could strap on a bikini and run as fast as possible to the sea. 

The bus.

Let me tell you. Coming from the Van Galder (UW Madison insider knowledge), which has a polite plane like formal introduction of the bus driver, rules, and bathroom location, and going to the hot, crowded, loud busses of Spain was a surprise. The "please keep your phone calls short and quiet to respect other passengers" announcement apparently didn't every make it to Spain. 9am is clearly the best time to call your best friend/grandma/boyfriend while sitting right behind sleeping passengers to then chat for 2 hours louder than a Schaller household dinner party (I have an extended family of over 100 people-it gets loud.) About 3 1/2 hours into the 5 hour trip (with no stops) people were starting to get hungry. This is where the real fun began. It had just been quiet for the first time in 3 hours and I had naiively attributed that to the bus settling down. Really, the passengers were just so hungry, they needed sustenance for round 2. As I'd say 3/4 of the passengers were tearing into their packed lunches (Julie and I included) I noticed a little stir of artifacts passengers. Then an all out civil war broke out on the bus. Right next to my aisle seat. 

From what my and Julie's combined Spanish abilities concluded, the old couple next to me was extremely mad that everyone was eating on the bus and they were loudly saying (while standing) "You are all uneducated people! Only dummies like you would eat in a car! How dare you!?" being called a dummy must be an offense punishable by death in Spain because now other people were standing, with food in hand, and screaming. This went on, screaming, gesturing, pushing, standing, (don't forget this is all literally in the aisle 3 inches from my face) for about 30 minutes. Then it abruptly all stopped. I still am unaware which side was the victor. Everyone had by that time finished eating so I guess we all won. Glad to report that there were no injuries during the civil war battle on the Madrid-Alicante bus.

Posted by lschaller 08:29 Comments (0)

Magic Bar Crawl: Madrid

Met up with my lovely Parisian friend, Julie, soon after I hopped off the plane from BCN. We would be spending the next week together in Madrid, Toledo, and Alicante. I quickly realized I would not love this city as much as Barcelona. It was just as hot (but probably hotter) and there are no beaches or water to wade in.

We were both starving so we asked a local boy for directions to a good place--something authentic--and were soon to learn a new lesson from Spain. Thankfully, our combined spanish efforts translated well enough to order 2 montaditos. 1 each. Now, for those of you who, like us, dont know what a montadito is, it is not exactly what is pictured on the menu. What we saw was a sub sandwich, with French bread. So when it cost only 1.20€ we thought we hit the jackpot. Not exactly. It made sense why the cashier looked at us like we were crazy when we ordered, because apparently, montaditos are teeny tiny sandwiches. A person could eat 3 easily... And it would take around 8 to equal a footlong at subway.

There were other dining differences I found while in Madrid. (Sidenote: after reflection I realize these all existed in BCN as well, but BCN was like a really good looking boyfriend...takes a long time to see the flaws. Madrid is like the less beautiful neighbor boy who wants you to love him so much that you see all the flaws) My favorite, or really least favorite difference, was found out first in the Museuo de Jamon, or Museum of Ham. Let me just say, Spain, you have the worst napkins ever. They are the equivalent of tissue paper that you use to wrap a gift. There is no absorbency, it is slippery and it is really thin and small. Now go eat messy tapas and try to clean up...you WILL use 1,000 napkins. The other major dining difference was the annoying water charge. If you go to any restaurant or even Kebab store it will cost you at least 1€ for half a glass of water. Don't even try to ask for tap, they won't give it to you. Either buy or die (of dehydration).

But this leads nicely to another drinking experience. Quite the opposite of the water phenomenon, and the title of this post: what Julie and I like to call the Magic Bar Crawl. Being a girl has always had it's perks, but when it comes to drinking in Madrid, I have never felt so blessed. After our usually 10pm dinner which ended around midnight, we strolled the streets with Sylvain, our tour guide and host. On this walk to find the best mojitos and sangria on Madrid, I learned a new favorite word (ok, well I already knew it, but it became my favorite) GRATTIS. Every 10 meters we would be stopped by some promoter and handed a card and along with that card, mojitos or chupitos GRATTIS for the girls. We would go in the empty bar, take our 2 drinks (split it 3 ways, since Sylvain was not usually offered the same deal), finish them at whichever speed the stench of the bar permitted our noses to stay, leave, walk 5 meters and do the same thing. That first night alone we went to maybe 7 bars. Then we realized we all really liked one packed bar so we returned to spend the rest of the night. If only America had these promotions.

All in all, Madrid was more beautiful than my initial reactions led me to believe. I found some new favorite tapas (albondigas aka spanish meatballs) and walked about 1 million miles a day to beautiful sights and thru large gardens. But, I was happy that we only stayed a few days because in 3 we had really seen and done everything and were ready to go to Toledo.

Posted by lschaller 04:42 Comments (0)

Barcelona is for Lovers

When arriving in Barcelona I quickly learned two things...1) people just don't speak any English here (probably they just would rather laugh at my futile attempts at the language) & 2) there are people in this city that try to get tourists lost. I have first hand experience.

The aerobus dropped me off in Plaza Catalunya, from there I was to walk the largest pedestrian strip called La Rambla until Plaza Real. When I found a large pedestrian street and asked the name... Of course some joker would tell me La Rambla, while it was actually almost going the entirely wrong direction. Now imagine, girl with the worlds worst sense of direction, backpack that is probably heavier than her, and a stubborn will to push on and find the hostel without taking a sitting break. That would be me. 45 minutes later (a 10 minute walk normally) I saw in the corner of my eye a Bucky luggage tag. "YO! Badger!" Yes, I'm lame, but in the heat and exhaustion it was all my tired brain could muster. A fellow Wisconsinite. A business school student like myself. Surely we can find this hostel! And another 10 minutes later, we did.

Never been as sweaty and attractive in my life.

Checked into my 22 bed dorm room. Which just about fit every stereotype of a hostel that never sleeps. It was midday and people were laying about sleeping, some talking and all with the the lights on. I swear those lights never went out the next 5 days. I met some lovely Canadians, whom I already miss dearly. They were fabulous.

Without giving a play by play for every hour every day of what I did, I will summarize with these general things. Barcelona is an amazing city. Go there. The gothic quarter is filled with the most amazing tiny narrow streets with the best hidden restaurants and bars. I could eat lunch and breakfast for 4€ a day. The sangria is dangerous-delicious and cheap, and a type of tipsy that sneaks up on you. The hours are irregular, wake up at noon, lunch, beach, tour, sangria, home at 7...then shower, sangria, eat dinner at 9. Nap until 11:30 and start partying with other hostel people until 1:45am to leave for a nightclub or bar. Dance more than you ever thought humanly possible until 7am and sometimes not coming home from the party until 10am. Wake up again at noon and that is the life of a person in Barcelona. Siesta is an important variable.

I met wonderful people. Went on the most amazing night bike tour (of course included sangria) and basically fell in love with the city.

Barcelona- I will be back!

Posted by lschaller 02:56 Comments (0)

The Plane

Chicago to Barcelona

May 18
The journey begins!

With a direct flight from Chicago to Barcelona, one would think there is little room for error. And that assumption in generally correct... If you aren't the worlds pickiest eater flying on Pakistan International Airlines. As per usual, I quickly became comfy and timed my sleep schedule correctly so that my 8 hours would have me wakin up right in the morning Barcelona time and limit all jet lag. This meant I had plenty of time to watch some tv and eat dinner before my plane induced coma. To my surprise, the apparent 95-5 ratio of Pakistani to European or American was carefully considered because without even an option I was served a much less bland version of whatever curry smelling plane garbage the flight attendants were serving the rest of the cabin. I guess being blonde has helped defend my stomach when it doesn't always defend my intelligence. This point is brought up again later...

So finally to sleep, I searched for a blanket. None were passed out yet so I made do to cover my cold arms and ears with my wide thin summer scarf. Please tell me you see where this is going. By breakfast, I was not quite awake but someone had put my tray down and placed my bland breakfast in front of the picky blonde eater I am. Except, this meal was not bland. It was the strongest, spiciest curry chicken I've ever tasted. Needless to say I went hungry until we landed. Unfortunately my makeshift blanket was apparently hiding my blonde hair and in the dark almost looked like it was fashioned similarly to the headdress of the Pakistanis on the plane.

Another interesting note on flying on a 70% full dark plane with many similarly dressed people with veils- using the bathroom is a tricky affair. Half asleep I made my way to the loo and upon my return realized that I was in no way able to remember my row number. I walked up down the plane not recognizing any differences in women's faces (veils) and on top of that each person managed to switch positions and seats on the plane. Let's just say I walked up and down enough times for the flight attendants not to be worries about my behavior but long enough that people took pictures. Finally a nice woman asked me what my problem was and directed me to the seat next to her. I guess I'll blame it on being blonde.

Landed safe and found my bags... Not aware that the journey to my hostel would prove to be just as trying.

Tme to explore Madrid. Check in later for more additions to my tale! Xx

Posted by lschaller 02:07 Comments (0)

Fortnight until Fruition

packing, prioritizing, & graduating?

sunny 60 °F

In 2 short weeks this will all be over...

at least all the stress in my head, the clutter in my room, and the exams looming in the distance. I am finally graduating! Four years, 7 degree major changes, and four Wisconsin ice-ages later. I have finally made the decision to mark the next chapter in my life with a move to the Big Apple, where I'll be working with a lovely Swiss Company. But, before I become a real adult, have real responsibilities, real taxes, real health insurance bills, and a real 401k to worry about; I'm taking the adventure of a lifetime.

Sorry to all of my jealous counterparts who didn't have the courage/money/time/(insert other lame excuse) to do the same; but that's the difference between you and I. I'm different, I'll always prioritize traveling. ;) But whether it be your jealousy, happiness for me, or mutual love of travel that brings you here, please sit back, relax and enjoy the ride of my lifetime.

It all begins in 10, 9, 8...

Posted by lschaller 14:19 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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