Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Getting wrapped up in things

Well as you may have noticed I have not blogged in a while, I fell of the wagon when I arrived in Athens and I spent several days in a city that really should be 2 days at the max. I have to say I am much more inclined to blog on days that I have spent a bunch of time exploring a city, I guess I have more stories that I want to write down after days like that.
In the interest of sanity I am going to cut down what I write here so I do not end up with another 3 page blog entry.
I spent the first day exploring the ruins around the city, my Hostel (Athens Backpackers) is a five minute walk from the Acropolis and most of the ruins centred around there. I started the day at the Acropolis and moved onto several nearby temples. This took about half the day and provided great photos of Athens although my camera was not really good enough to do the view justice. In the afternoon I visited the Acropolis Museum where most of the artefacts from the Acropolis are housed. Not surprisingly they had tons of sculptures in varying levels of completeness as well a lots of carved walls and roof pieces that were the remains of several temples that existed on top of the Acropolis.
The second day was spent at the other varying museums of Athens the most notable being the Architecture Museum, the museum was within walking distance of the Hostel as well and contained some really amazing pieces. Mostly what you would expect from the place though, pretty extensive collection of statues. Very good, easily a must see if you visit Athens.

So I spent he next two days in Athens, the first day being planned and the second being me trying to plan what to do in Greece since my original plan fell though as did my second plan. I had wanted to visit the islands but was warned against it and the ferries to Crete which I wanted to visit were at prohibitive times (I would arrive at like 3 am) so I had to scrap that plan.
Anyway I finaly got a plan together that looked to work, I would spend two days in Delphi and two day in Olympia then return to Athens on the 31st for my flight to Paris.

Anyway I spent yesterday going from Athens to Delphi where I checked into my new Hostel, The place is fantastic and so is my room....which it should be I had to get a Private Single for 40 Euros. My usual accommodation is a shared room with up to 11 other people and they cost around 16-24 Euros a night. The costs for Olympia are going to be about the same so I am dropping a bit more cash then I would like to in these cities.I spent today seeing the famous site of Delphi which was somewhat of a let down. The hazards of off season traveling struck when about half the site was closed for some sort of renovation or something. What I saw of the site was fantastic though,once omiting detail for the sake of space, I have been really impressed by what the ancient people could build, between Greece and Italy it has been crazy to see all these old structures and how amazing they look even in there dilapidated state.

Tomorrow I make the move to Olympia and then spend the next day there before heading back to Athens to be ready for my flight. Also keep an eye on the Flick account since I am putting up new photos soon.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wraping Up Italy

Well I have made my way safely to Greece and found my new Hostel in Athens almost completely hassle free thanks to the great instructions they had on there web site. The Hostel is superbly located a 2 minute walk from The Acropolis and in a small, more residential block. More on the Hostel later, for now lets talk abut Italy, I did not blog for the last 2 days so to remedy that here I go. The first day I missed was my trip to Pompeii. I had held out not visiting the site in the hopes that the weather which had bee cloudy with a little rain would improve, boy did I make the right decision, the weather cleared up beautifully, sunny and much warmer for my trip to Pompeii. Unfortunatly, the Gods of technology were not smiling upon me as bright as the sun since along the way to Pompeii my cameras batteries died, while not completely unforeseen I had yet to purchase new batteries so I was stuck camera less for my trip to Pompeii, so no photoos for the trip. The visit was interesting though, the ruins are very impressive even without a guide to tell you what they all are in detail. This is as good a place to go off into my tangent as any so why the hell am I charged for tours and audio guides. I mean cmon, I just paid like 10 Euros to get in to see the ruins and now you want me to pay another 4 or 5 to explain what they all are, shouldn't that be covered in my entry price. This problem is most notable at places like ruins where without a guide they can be completely incomprehensible, I flatly refuse to pay for the audio guides since I feel that they are a complete rip off and taking advantage of tourists.
Anywho, were back on topic, Pompeii was an amazing place to visit, its one of those sites that you hear about so often and see all this stuff about and then it was like, hey I'm here, this is the real thing. The detail to which the plaster duplicates could be made was amazing, they even had roots of plants they had done.
After the day at Pompeii I headed back to the Hostel to meet back up with my Hostel mates, we decided that since the Pizza we had was such a good deal and delicious that we would go back with 2 new people who wanted to go so we could also show them the way since the place is kinda off the beaten track. We had another great dinner and I went back to the Hostel and crashed.
The next day I did not blog was a very calm day, I woke up late and the plan was to head out to Rome so I would be there for my plane the next morning to Athens. It turned out that the one of the girls who was in my room at the Hostel was also headed to Rome so we decided to go together both for the company and since I knew at least to a small degree my way around the city. We got into Rome at around 3pm and headed to our Hostel a few blocks away from the Train Station, it was a different Hostel then the one I stayed in when I spent my time in Rome but it was very nice. We went shopping at a grocery store which are very few in Rome, that city seems to have the fewest and hardest to find grocery stores of any place I have been. We ended up with a variety of vegetables and we made a stir fry in the kitchen that the Hostel had for guests to use. I went to bed early, like 10 pm so I would be able to make my 8:30 train to the airport, I missed the train but was able to the 9:00 train and made it to the airport and around 9:20, with plenty of time to check my bag and get to gate. The flight was fantastic, I would like to give major props to Aegian Airlines, the flight was schduled to be a short 2 hour thing and they served a meal that was included in the cost, full meal with drinks, I was shocked and the flight went very quickly. Athens airport was also a fantastic experiance, I made my way easily to the train station and got the train into town. Just as a side not my opinion here may be jaded since I had great instructions from the Hostels web site. The place was nice and easy to find and is very good looking with nice bathrooms and all the rooms have a nice little outdoor patio thing, the place is great and the weather here is good too, its nice and warm which is a nice change from the colder temps that I had for most of my past days. I am hoping the weather will stay fair for my time in Greece. Well that is all that gas happened to me, I have plans to visit the main buildings of Athens one day, then the museums another and probably Delphi another day.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Why Linux is the Best

So my laptop was Bricked and I spent a good amount of time trying to fix it. I am happy to announce that the laptop has been fixed through my tireless efforts and with a good dash of help from the Ubuntu Support pages and natural ease of Ubuntu. So my efforts were centred around creating a Ubuntu Live CD which allows you to run Ubuntu from the CD without actually installing it on your machine. Its general uses are to let users try out Ubuntu without making a commitment immediately and also to help you fix your computer. I was hoping to get Ubuntu running again so I could at least use the web and basic functions then from there I could try to fix the computer and if that failed I could install Ubuntu again on the free space in my Hard Drive and then wait until I got home to recover my old files. Turns out Ubuntu is very smart. I got the disk running and made it to the Desktop, I noticed a link to my hard drive and used to to find that I could access my old documents. After this I restarted the computer to find that my problem was solved. As far as I can tell the computer had lost its way when it tried to access my Hard Drive and it did not know where to look, when I accessed the documents when I loaded up through the CD it reconstructed the computers path to the Hard Drive thus allowing me to boot up normally.
So enough tech talk, I actually did things today. The big draw for today was visiting the Archaeological Museum which contained most of the best pieces from Pompeii, things like frescos, it really whetted my appetite for seeing Pompeii tomorrow but I think that if I had to choose now I would go to Pompeii since it would give you a better idea about some of the things in the Museum. After the Museum I also visited the Castle nearby, not as interesting as I wished, it was a castle and the view was good. After exploring the attractions I went back to the Hostel and thats when I fixed the laptop. While finishing up the laptop I met with the new Hostel mate who had just come from Athens and we decided with 2 other people to go to dinner at Sorbillo, one of the top pizza places in the city. I had a really simple Pizza the Margherita, it was just tomato sauce, mozzarella and Basil, its was amazing and the pizza was huge, it was maybe 7 inch diameter and the pizza only costed 3.3 Euro. The thing was amazing, the pizza was super flavorful and very filling, I actually finished the whole thing and it did not need anything more. I would say it was easily the best pizza I have EVER had. Tomorrow the weather should hold fair and I plan on going out to Pompeii so I should have photos and a blog for that tomorrow.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Hazards of Computers

So as you know I brought my computer with me on the trip(wel duh ive been blogging and using the internet). So th hostel I am at has unlimited internet and after taking advanage of it last night to update all my podcasts adn chat wih my mom I put the computer into Hiberntion, when I got up this morning I turned the laptp on to find myself face to face with th Linux (opn source OS i use) eqievalant of the blu screen of death. Now for Linux this looks less like a blue screen and more like a wall of text, imagine your computer got stuck on all he stuff tha appears when it first stated up, all the letters and numbers that you have absolutly no idea what hey mean. So to begin with I did not panic, Ubuntu is very good about having built in help functions that will vluate and fix the problems for you, I started i up and much to my chagrin it gave me the same error. Now I strted to panic, I didn't realize until just then how much I use my laptop, it charges my Ipod which is a sourc of entertainmnt and helps to kep me calm when I think things are going wrong, I store my photos on it, use it to update my blog an get podcasts, stay up to date with news. The single biggest thing that occurd to me was that I have a spreadsheet have been using to kep trac of my money and that is a vry important thing that I was losing. The Hostel has free computers with internet so I immdiatly hopped onto the Ubuntu support forums )one of the best resources for fixing and broken computer runnig Ubuntu). I locateed the problem pretty quick and found that it was that the OS no longer found the hard drive and you could fix it but you needed a Ubuntu install CD, of which I have none, after poking around I found you could do it with a USB drive and went to the nearest electronics store. Now if you know me you may know I LOVE video games, and what do you expect to find at an electronics store...video games, I had to walk through a large selection of everything I ws missing including games that I had missed the realease of and all I could do was drool knowing it was not possible t bu them for a multitude of reasons. I got eh USB drive and I am trying to put on the installer but for now my laptop is Bricked.
Since i'm still in the process of tryng to fix this I wil update the blog whn things change, if they do...fingers crossed.

So the update is that I tried to make a USB install of Ubuntu and that failed so tomorrow I have to go and buy a disk so I can do a Ubuntu LiveCD adn that should at least give me back the internet and basic computer functions, from there I may have to just leave the other files alone unti I get home or try to find a work around.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Internet: How I have missed thee

Okay to be fair to the title I have had internet but it has been limited to 30 minutes a day so here is another big blog to encompass the past few missing days.
The first day I met with the people from my new Hostel, they are pretty cool people, actually they are all from Australia and two of them are from the same town. The group that came from the same town is two girls (Rebecca and Brigget) and a guy(Jack), Jack and Brigget are engaged, they just got engaged and Jack flew out from Australia as a surprise( they are around 21). The other people are a also engaged and they are also from Australia and they are have been engaged for around 6 months (they are around 26). This first day was really the evening that I arrived in Rome, I went for a walk with my new Hostel mates, we walked down to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum but didn't enter either since the price was expensive and it was the end of the day. The forum had actually closed so we wandered through the streets until we found a small restaurant where we had a drink. I had a Nectarine Juice it was very thick and tasted wonderful. After the drinks e headed back to the Hostel for dinner since the served a free pizza dinner every night at 8:30. After the pizza I went back to my bed and fell asleep since I was tired. Its been weird walking everywhere since I have not wanted to spend money on trains and buses unless I need to and most of the cities have had things close enough that you can walk to the attractions (the exception has been Rom, walking to the Vatican from where I was staying would have been murder). The few times I have taken the buses and metro its usually been cheap(1 or 2 Euros) but if I did that to get everywhere it would add up. As a result my legs have been constantly tired since about a week into the trip, the 30 lb backpack doesn't help either.
So I got up the next morning and ate breakfast with my new set friends before we split off and went our ways for the day, they had decided to visit the Vatican while I decided that I would solo all the big sites in downtown Rome( Pantheon, Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Roman Forum). I arrived at the Pantheon after wandering around the area for about an hour looking for the building, I eventually found a sign and then followed the line on tourists to the building. The Pantheon was free top enter the building itself was cool but I found that most of my interest went not into the main building but into the walls and decorations that adorned them. After the Pantheon I headed to the lines at the Roman forum and waited to get my ticket, the whole price was 12.5 Euro and includes the Roman Forum, Colosseum and Palatine Hill. It's a good deal if you make it to them all which you should. I walked through the Forum first which was not as impressive as one might hope, without the 4 Euro guide its just some interesting rocks with some VERY cool structures as well. Palatine Hill was much more interesting to me, it has been converted into a garden now, but in Roman times it was the most prestigious place for your home to be. The word Palace actually stems from there. The gardens were very pretty and it was easy to tell how the place was the best real estate, you would be right next to the Forum and you had an amazing view of the city, especially without all the high rise buildings that are there now. After the gardens I headed over and entered the Colosseum, it was very cool but it is so run down, you can just imagine how amazing it would have been when it was first built, it has a bunch of holes where there used to be statues and adornments and they ripped all that out to re use the building materials. The place is Huge though and even falling apart you can almost see the spectacle of 50,000 people watching gladiator fight at the center of the Colosseum. After the museums I headed back to the Hostel for the free pizza (hey free dinner, its a great money saver) and then crashed into bed again.
The next morning I decided to go with the rest of my roommates since they were once again going to the Vatican, they had tried to get in the day before but the place had been swamped since the Pope was in town, apparently they saw him do a service and then drive off in the pope mobile. We all went back and to the Vatican and we saw the Vatican, not much to say really it had lots of paintings and it was amazingly designed, I also managed to snap a photo of the Sistine Chapel even though your not supposed too. After the Chapel I went for a wonderful walk with three of my Hostel Mates (Rebecca, Brigget and Jack plus Briggets friend from Rome), anyway long story short we ended up having a meal at a nicer restaurant, I had a bowl of Spaghetti Alla Carbonnara which my dad made (and still makes) often for dinner. I wanted to be able to make a comparison. So dad, you do a pretty good job, the noodles were much more aldanate( under cooked) then I expected and the sauce was much richer then I am used to, it was a smaller bowl of pasta and t really filled me up, it tasted fantastic so it was worth the spendy pricetag. My share of the meal came out to be 18 Euros which is a huge price for me to pay for one meal, much higher then normal but you gotta treat yourself every once in a while right?
Anyway that day also went fast and then I went to bed again.
Today I moved cities and to sum things up quickly I grabbed a train, got off at the wrong stop, got back on again after waiting an hour and a half for the next train. When got to Naples I checked into the Hostel and had no problems. The crime here though is crazy, when you first exit the train station all along the street are people selling things and I reckon that 30% are easily noticeable as stolen goods as as high as 50% are actually stolen, I held onto my bag very tight, I even used the stomach strap though it was not needed.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Barcelona and Italy

So today I moved from Madrid to Barcelona and the shift could have goon smoother, I started out early hoping to make the 10:30 direct from Madrid to Barcelona and was disappointed to find that train was full and the only other one was at 12:30. Ouch I had to wait for another 2 hours at the train station and the kicker was that they only had first class seats left for the 12:30, and since the 12:30 was the last train from that location, I would have had to go and find the other train station to depart from or I would have to wait till tomorrow and lose one of my two full days in Barcelona. I went with the extra money, a decision that I am kinda mad at but I did it and I cant take it back. The extra service you get for your money really is not worth it, more leg room, a movie and radio, and a meal, its was interesting to see what the first class is but it is definitely not worth the cost of the ticket. I'm gong to post a photo of the olive oil that came with the meal since it was a hilarious little oil bottle and looked really cute. Anyway I made it to Barcelona and I was immediately confused as I left the building. I ran into two guys who asked if I spoke English and then asked me for directions, I told them I didn't really know and went to go find my way about 5 minutes later the same guys approached me and gave me a sob story about how one of them had lost his passport and they were only like 6 Euros short and if I gave them some money, I stopped him right there saying I could not give away money. I might have come off kind of mean since I just spit it out but especially in retrospect it seems like a con. If you lost your passport you go report it to a consulate you don't try and get money so one of you can go home and get copies of the other guys passport. Also I'm a poor traveler, even if I was fooled by the story I don't have extra money to give away. Back to me navigating the rails, I was super confused by the maps of the rail system and I told myself as I entered the station, “this is gonna be just like Germany” where if you will recall I boarded a train in the wrong direction....well I was right, having misread the map I took a train away from my hostel and when the line ended and I found a map I realized that I had to take the same line the opposite direction to get to my stop. I re boarded the train and I made it to the Hostel no problems from there. The Hostel itself is nice, its in a slightly low end area (lots of graffiti everywhere) but the place itself is very nice. It has a full bar, TV area, Wi-Fi as well as computers for guests to use, nice big rooms and even a Gym for guests. The location is pretty good too, its very near a busy street lined with restaurants and about 10 minutes walk from the cities central street. It certainly feels like a good place to explore Barcelona from and its near to the airport as well. So Barcelona and then onto Italy.
So this blog was written in two parts, this first part came when I had just gotten to the Hostel, the second one I am writing on Sunday morning so I ca complete the story of what happened. So after I logged off the Hostel room totally filled up, we had a group of 3 Greek guys enter as well as another guy from California and the 3 girls who had been in the room before I showed up. The Greeks were doing a small tour of Spain and weirdly enough the 3 girls were from UW (university of Washington, it was great when I told them I was thinking about going to WSU, the schools are rivals) and were doing a study abroad program, two of them are spending a year and one is spending a half year, they had come up from Cadis (where there school was) since they had a longer break from school and wanted to explore Barcelona. We had a great time as a group in the room and at around 1:30 we decided to go to this local bar we were told about( the Greeks unfortunately stayed behind), we spent around 2 hours there and met a friend of the girls who was also in there study abroad program and his buddy. We decided to change bars and find some food along the way to the next bar. We had been told that the next bar was a really chill place that was a hidden treasure but when we got there it was PACKED, we spent all of 15 minutes inside before deciding to go back to the Hostel. We walked back to the Hostel and found some food before deciding that at around 5 or 5:30 we should go to bed, we just got up around 11 so we missed the breakfast at the Hostel but the night was super enjoyable. This Hostel is definitely the best I have stayed at both thanks to a good facilities and for sure the best roommates I have had my whole trip
We woke up in the morning around 11 and started to get ready for the day, we had all planed to go hiking in a mountain range nearby, we had to take an 1.5 hour train to get the the location but it was definitely worth it. We actually missed the initial train we wanted at 12:30 and had to wait for the 1:30 train so we went and grabbed a bite at a small restaurant nearby, the food was really good and it was a good choice since we had gotten up to late to get breakfast at the Hostel. Once were there we had to take a smaller train up to the entrance, there was a monastery as well as the usual visitor attractions and we all took a little elevator like thing up to the top of the mountains (they were around 3000 feet above sea level). They had a variety of hikes to good viewpoints from half and hour to 2.5 hours long, we had arrived at like 1:30 and we needed to be back at the elevator thing around 5 and we did not want to miss the last lift since we would have to walk down if we did. The hike itself was very fun with a ton of great views and I was not very long, I was also surprised to see that many of the rock walls had rings in them for attaching a rope if you were rock climbing meaning that rock climbing was not only allowed but to some degree encouraged. After the hike (where I got a ton of pictures) we went back down the the lower level and spent some time exploring the monastery, it had a very cool entrance chamber and they had the usual place where you can light candles, however there were so many candles that when you walked into the candle room you could feel the heat hit you. After exploring the monastery we decided we should head back so we went to find the small tram to take us back to out train stop, we found that there was a HUGE line of people waiting to get onto the tram. We debated how long the line would take and settled on finding some food since it had been like 6 hours since we had eaten our lunch and we had had nothing since then. We walked along the street and looked at a small cafe but it appeared to be out of food so we had to continue on, we also passed a group of stalls that had been set up and we walked through them getting free samples of cheese at every stall, we eventually hit the restaurant and found that it had closed like 10 minutes ago, so we decided we would go back to the initial cafe and get some ice cream to tide us over until we made it back to the Hostel. By the time we had our ice cream the line for the train had decreased unbelievably, we grabbed a spot and ended up waiting probably 15 minutes before getting onto onto the train. The first train ride was short, just down the mountain to the nearby town, but the train was packed, when we got to the lower train station there was a ton of people there too and when the train arrived we could not manage to get seats. This meant we had to stand for the 1.5 hour trip back to Barcelona and since we could not take that after hours of hiking we all sat down around 10 minutes into the ride. After getting back into Barcelona we made our way back to the Hostel and scrounged up some dinner and al take showers (this was around 9:30-10). After that we went for a walk down the streets mainly to grab some simosas at a nearby store and then we continued to walk around for another 45 minutes or so and ended up back at the Hostel where we chilled until around 2 when everyone went to sleep. Unfortunately the girls had to leave to head back to school so they shipped out around 4 in the morning to catch there flight at around 7ands I leave tomorrow morning myself but the experience of Spain was really good. I think that having good roommates really helps to improve the experience, I definitely did not have this much fun when it was just a room full of people who sat there and said nothing.
My second day in Barcelona was spent at two places, the first was the Maritime Museum,a much older style museum with history of Barcelona as a port city and as a Spanish port overall, the museum highlighted the older ships, things like Royal Spanish ships from the 16th century as opposed to the maritime museum in Rotterdam which was more of a modern museum highlighting the development of the port into a modern day port. After the museum I wander all the down Las Rambles which is the biggest street in Barcelona, it had an amazing variety of things, street performers, gift shops, restaurants, flower shops, pet stores(like little stalls selling birds and fish, up to full chickens). It was pretty wild and the street was bustling with tourists. The street was really nice and a great adventure, after that I just went back and had to repack my bag to get ready for the flight to Italy.

The big day arrived and I ended up sleeping in late, I had not been able to fall asleep so I ended up falling asleep way to late and my roommate had to wake me up at around 8, about an hour after I had planned on getting up, I was going t grab a train to the Airport and arrive around hours early so that I would have a hard time missing the plane. After I was woken up I went into a panic mode, shoved everything I still had out into my bag and ran downstairs to check out, I got checked out and started planning. I realized right off the bat that the train was out of the equation, its takes around an hour by train to get to the airport so I had to make a tough choice. I ended up paying 20 Euros take a cab to the airport but it was either 20 Euros for the cab or go buy another plane ticket. I think I choose the cheaper alternative. I got to the airport and it only took around 20 minutes so I made it to the airport with what seemed like enough time to get through the security and check in. Getting my bag checked was easy and barely took 10 minutes, security was also a breeze and took probably the same, I found my way through the airport super easy and made it to the gate maybe an hour before the plane was supposed to leave, I was kinda pissed since I still had all that time and I worried myself through the airport and I still had to wait for the plane. NOT COOL. The plane ride to Italy was good, nice and short and, we got in 20 minutes early. I grabbed a train from the airport direct to down town Rome, the airport was probably the best place I have been so far, it must be all the tourists that come into it but it was easy to navigate and buy tickets. The city was a little harder, I made it out of the station easily enough but I could not find the Hostel I was looking for in the clutter of all the Hotels around the train station, I had to find an Internet cafe and Google the location. I got the directions and found the place, apparently its one of a group of famous Hostels, the place is more like a Hotel, it has free Internet, free breakfast, free pizza at dinner, and the place has a TV room and REALLY nice bathrooms. It is great, compared to some of the places have stayed this is fantastic. I have 3 days including today planned in Rome, then going to Naples/Pompeii, a single day in Pisa and then 2 days in Venice. I am really looking forward to the my time in Italy, its one of the places I have really been looking forward to. I also met my new roommates, I really like them, we went out and explored Rome with one of the girls (there are 3 girls and 2 boys excluding myself) being our tour guide since she has been to Rome around 6 times. It was really great, we didn't enter any of the places but we saw the Colosseum and parts of the Roman Forum, after the walk we all headed back to Hostel for the free pizza they provide as a dinner. All in all, good day.
Really sorry to delay this more but the new place has a time limit on your Internet (30 min) so I probably wont get chance to upload all the photos.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Not a Blog Post

So this isnt really a real post, I just wanted to tell everyone who is reading that there will be a small wait for the next few blogs, I have a mega blog*so far its looking to be around 2,5 pages maybe more) for all the days I have missed already written but the wireless here does not agree with my lapyop and wont let me connect so I will be posting the blogs when I arrive in Rome (hopefully) basically dont expect anything from me here until the 13th, so until then, bye bye

Friday, October 9, 2009


So today was definitely the museum day for Madrid, I checked out probably the two biggest in the city. I started at the Museuo Del Prado, it housed a ton of paintings (over 3000 the brochure said) and was fairly interesting, I say fairly because there are only so many paintings that one man wants to see. Anyway the paintings were fairly old, lots of paintings of old royal families and the likes. There were also paintings of scenery and some of animals, lots of dead animals heaped over tables. They were very interesting but I was struck by something while I was in the museum. The back of the brochure had all the paintings in the museum that were considered masterpieces and I noticed this about halfway through and I realized that without that piece of paper telling me they were masterpieces I would never have know. So then what makes them so amazing if they dont stand out to me, I just saw a painting, maybe a little better then most but I didn't see them and go "ohh thats a masterpiece". Just a thought.
After making my way through the Prado I went to the nearby Museo Reina Sopia, it was much more modern art and I though that I would really enjoy it but the art did not really resonate with me. I spent around an hour wandering through the museum before heading to the small garden they had in the middle and relaxing for another 15 minutes. I found that most of the art seemed very boring and I went through very quickly and did not care to much, there was the occasional piece that would catch my attention but for me at least it was not worth the cost.
The overall day was okay for me, I grabbed a snack before I went to walk around the town a little, its very nice, the streets look cool and there are a LOT of tapas places everywhere. Also during the day theree were fighter jets that flew over the city, I am fairly sure that they flew over the city like 4 times, it was cool.
So ends my time in another city im moving on to Barcelona tomorrow and then I spend saturday, sunday, and Monday there.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Madrids Royal Palace

SO my big draw for today was the Royal Palace of Madrid, the palace contains the main rooms for the old royal family, a reconstruction of the medicine house, and an armoury. I first visited the medicine house, it had been destroyed during a fire and had to e rebuilt. It contained all of the instruments and materials for creating medicine, it had reconstructions of all the glasses and pottery with labels for all of the medicinal supplies that it would have contained. The rooms displayed to some degree the changes of the medicine through the years. The rooms also contained all the tools used for the medicine. That was a pretty small part of the whole Palace area but interesting that it was contained within the walls of the Royal Palace, guess the kind gets the best healthcare. Next I hit up the main Palace, it was the residence of the old Royal family and as you might think it was crazy. The main entrance was this huge with the family crest right in front of you as you walked up the stairs and above on the ceiling was a huge painting. I got to see all the main roms, bedrooms, dining room, the parlour like area. They all had huge chandeliers that got more complex the closer you got to the living room. They also had a room filled with silver that the royal family had used or in that same style. The best room for me was the Porcelain room, its walls and ceiling were made completely of porcelain with intricate designs in porcelain done to cover the cracks where pieces met. The whole room was so amazing and felt really fragile.
After the main palace I went to the armoury, it was a mix of swords, lances, maces and various pieces of armour, mostly plate mail with some ornamental pieces. They also had early guns, they were mostly large pieces of wood with the firing mechanisms attached to the wood. The stuff was cool but not the bst ive seen and the whole collection was pretty small, speaking of small so was the price tag it was 3.5 Euros, very cheap. I think they may have given me the student discount which I do not qualify for, for those of you wondering why not you need an international student card to get those discounts and for that you must prove you are a full time student, which I no longer am.
So after the cheap royal palace I made my way over to the nearby church, literally right next to the palace and paid 6 Euros to see the churches museum, mostly old churcy stuff, lots of garments and ceremonial staffs with LOTS of gems in them and they were mostly made from silver. The church also offered a great view of the city from the top of its tower, I took some photos but two of the four sides lacked viewing posts and all the sides had a nice plexiglass divider so you could not get closer then 5 feet from the edge. This made getting the photos rather hard but I did try.
Unfortunately for you reading the blog both the inside of the royal palace and the chuch museum would not allow photos so I am afraid I cannot show you the very wonderful things I saw, safe to say though if you are in Madrid, the royal palace especially is a must see.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Traveling to Madrid

Blog for Wed 7
So today was my big move from England to Spain, it was......interesting.
So the day began a little later then expected, I woke up at 7:10 instead of my plan to get up at 6:30 and leave around 7. So I was given a ride by Lynn to the train station and she described how and what trains to take to get from New Malden (where her flat was) to Gatwick airport where m flight left at 10:25. The train was pretty easy and straight forward, hop on at New Malden and then ride to an intermediary point and switch trains to on that would end at Gatwick. This went fine and I made it to Gatwick with around an hour and 45 minutes (a little less then the 2 hours I wanted). So I went to check in with my printed receipt from Orbitz and when I got to the counter they said that Spain requires you to have a ticket out of the country when you enter on a Non-EU passport( might have just been non Spanish passport, cant quite remember). Point is I now had to have a means of proving that I was leaving the country and if you have been reading the blog you probably know that I don't really plan that far ahead. I was unable to get a train ticket at the airport so I was forced to go and buy a plane ticket from Barcelona to Rome, thank god I spent part of last night figuring out my path for Spain. The ticket set me back 130 Pounds which is roughly Euros and Dollars. I could not believe it, that is way more then I should have paid, I could have gotten way better deals online but I needed the ticket right then. So I get checked in and this whole affair took a half hour so now I have around an hour to get through security, and get to the get and on the plane. Security was actually a breeze, walked pretty much right through it with no hold ups and then I got to the waiting area, it was like a freaking shopping mall, stores everywhere. I checked the departure info and my plane did not yet have a gate so I had to wait for another 10 minutes before the gate shows up and then its at the other end of the place, after walking all the way I get to the gate and there is almost no line and they have already started boarding although I actually made it with a little time. After finding my seat at the back of the plane( of course its cheap, no wonder) I settled in and we waited for the plane to take off. The plane got closed up and it looked like we were going to leave but then the captain announced that the plane had to be delayed since someone had checked luggage but not arrived for the flight, they took a while getting that sorted and then told us that since that incident had occurred we had lost our spot in the departure line and had to wait more. The plane was eventually bumped up in the line so we could arrive closer to on time and we got to leave. The plane itself was probably the smallest plane I have been on and it was very empty, lost of seats open, I myself had two seats all to me and throughly enjoyed it, I spent most of the flight listening to podcasts. When we arrived in Madrid we where taken out of the plane via the tarmac (something I have always wanted to get to do) and bussed out to the entrance. We had to go through the passport check and sure enough the entry document I had to fill out stated both the entry date and plane and had a spot for departure info as well. After that I had to find my way to the underground system for Madrid which was by far the hardest rail system have yet encountered, I had to get help from the help desk asking what trains to take to get close to my hostel, the attendant was very helpful and gave me a map of the system with the trains and stops I needed highlighted. I successfully navigated the rails and made it to my hostel which is in a small side street, there were several other backpackers on their way to the hostel as well and I really feel like I am among peers. The place is really nice, it was an old Palace and is actually considered a Historic Monument by the Spanish government, it has a nice design although the rooms are somewhat packed together and the price is good. There is also a main area that has cushions to sit on, its a sort of common room and it looks fantastic I'll add some photos if I can.

Next up is me looking back on my time in London, I did somewhat want to visit places like Stratford Upon Avon (the birthplace of William Shakespeare), and some others cities but the cost of traveling and all the attractions that are available in the area really kept me in London, not to mention the fact that my accommodations were so nice, and now that I am on the subject.
I want to send out a HUGE thank you to Lynn who hosted me for all the time I was in London, she had a lovely little flat and was really generous and super helpful with my travel. She even went so far as to drive me to Kew when I went there, as well as feeding me really good home cooked meals (something that is really nice when you are traveling).
Back to my original topic though, I did contemplate going to Oxford since it was another large city and had a few things I was attracted to but after I looked at the costs for tickets (they are CrAzY in england) I decided that it was more cost effective to do more things in London as well as easier since London has easy access to international travel. As I said in the last post, Kew Gardens topped the list, very fun and I would suggest it to anyone who finds themselves in the area. Also the Tower of London is must and although I did not actually go up in it (due to prohibitively high prices like 12 pounds—$18??) the London Eye was very cool. I was thinking to myself as I left that its really weird to have England there in my trip since it was so different for me, I spoke the language and the culture was much closer to American culture but now I am going back out to places where I speak absolutely NONE of the language and the cultures can be vastly different. It really came to me as I saw someone reading a paper in Spanish and it occurred to me that England was really my last chance to do things like read the paper, or really watch TV. It also hit me that when I am done with Spain I will be halfway through my trip.
Anyway sorry for the monster post just so much to say, the next few legs of the trip have been planned, I have things to do for both Madrid and Barcelona planned and then its on to Rome.
Sorry No photos, I may try uploading later but the internet here kinda stinks, still keep an eye out.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My Stay In London

So I leave London tomorrow morning and since I have not blogged pretty much at all since I have been here this will cover most of my stay, please forgive any discrepancies.

I managed to visit quite a lot when I was in London, the list of places was,The London Eye, Tower Bridge, Hampton Courts, Tower of London, Globe Theatre, and Kew Gardens.
The tops of the list have to go to the things I was expecting, the Tower of London was super awsome, the Crown Jewels are on display here and looking at the jewels and thinking about there value was super fun. Some of the largest cut diamonds in the world are housed at the Tower of London so that was a treat.
Secondly, the Globe Theatre, its next to to the Tate Modern which really dwarfs it, it looks really funny but its cool to think that the reconstruction is so close to where the original stood. The plays had unfortunately ended so I was only able to take the standard tour, not see an actual play preformed. Still the theatre itself is col and pretty small especially when you think of how many people would have been cramed into it during Shakespears time.
The last is Kew Gardens, something I managed to put off until my final day in London. Don't get me wrong its not like I didn't want to go, as a matter of fact its what I was looking foreard to the most but I just kinda kept putting it off. Kew Gardens was something kinda special for me though, my family visited it both time we traveled to England and now I got to go on my own. When I first walked through the doors I almost immediatly noticed that I was having kinda crazy deja vu, I remembered the pathway to Kews most recognizable greenhouse and when I got to a certain had this crazy flashback to like an 8 year old me standing at the same spot under this giant bannanna plant and looking up into its giant leaves. It was really cool.
Alright, a little back story for those who dont know. Kew Gardens is the Royal Botanical Gardens of England, it was started over 250 years ago and holds 1 in 8 known plant species. Nowadays Kew is mostly a dedicated to preserving plant species as well as some research on plants.
For me the place was really nostalgic, I really enjoyed the walk around the gardens and I got a ton of great photos, I took around 150 shots all over the garden and they have all been uploaded to my Flickr account.
The day was not a perfect one since it was overcast the whole day and began to rain near when I left the gardens but I was used to it since Portland has much the same weather. I was also dissappointed to find that they did not have seeds of any cool plants for sale at any of the shops. On our first family trip to Kew my dad bought, Bannanna seeds and Bird of Paradise seeds. The Bannanna died and had to be replaced but the Bird of Paradise survived we have two plants and just got flowers from them for the first time. They have a seven year period where it grows before starting to flower yearly. Anyway got a little off topic but no exotic seeds this time, I had wanted to get some for my dad as a gift.
So that pretty much sums up my time in London, tomorrow I hop a plane from Gatwick airport to Madrid so my next posts will come direct from Spain.

Friday, October 2, 2009


So both today and yesterday were spent in London or at least nearby. Yesterday was spent walking around Downtown London at the suggestion of my host who was very kind and gave me several great suggestions for things to do in and Around London. I went around the Themes near Downtown London nearby Waterloo Station and the London Eye, no photos unfortunately since I forgot the camera. Looked nice and there were a lot of store and restaurants. Today was spent lounging around while I tended to my photos since the uploading takes a while and I had to remove some of the bad photos and I had to work on my money tracking since I am trying to keep track of my spending and I had 30 or so receipts that have been sitting in my wallet for a really long time. So not much to say for today but tomorrow should produce better writing as well as some good photos.

Also random but funny points, when I arrived in London at the International train station there were several business men in front of me buying train tickets and the first guy asked if he could pay with Euros (LOL) thanks to my parents I knew better and already had Pounds(the currency of England for those who dont know), also seemed like the teller kinda sighed as she said they got that all the time and were really tired of it.

Also I am VERY happy to announce that my photos are now viewable, I shelled out $25 to Yahoo to get a Flickr Pro account so I could get unlimited uploads and unlimited storage so my photos can now be seen by all.