Thursday, May 26, 2011

I survived my first week alone!

Rushing through security
On Friday (May 14th?), Dad and Jeanne left Malaga. They had decided to drop the rental car off at the train station instead of the airport since they would be taking a train back to Madrid. We spent about 2 hours that morning driving all over Malaga to find the train station and once we found it, we couldn’t find where to drop the car off! It was about 10:50 and their train left at 11:05. We were in some parking garage beneath the train station, but not where we were supposed to drop the car off. Jeanne went up to the station to find out where to take the car and they told her that we could just leave it down there and I would have to turn in the key and get the inspection done while they ran to catch their train. We quickly said our goodbyes and I watched them run through security and down to the train platform just in time to catch their train.

After everything with the rental car was taken care of, I walked around the train station (which was also a mall) and did a little summer shopping. Then I walked back to my hostel and took a much needed nap. The next day, the weather was gorgeous (little did I know that this would only be one of the few days that it would be sunny) so I went to the beach with another woman who was staying in my room. She is a yoga teacher from Australia and flew to Italy 3 weeks ago to visit her boyfriend of 5 years... only to find out that he had an affair with another woman and wanted to break up. Since she was planning on spending 7 months with her boyfriend in Italy, she decided to visit Spain and a few other countries in Europe instead of going all the way back to Australia so soon. We shared of a few stories with each other and she left for Granada a couple days later. 

Until Wednesday, I spent most of my time just hanging out on the beach, getting used to this whole ´being by myself´thing which I wasn´t a huge fan of. On Wednesday, I walked an hour to the city to buy my bus ticket to Madrid, found a place to buy stamps so I could send all of my post cards, and walked an hour back to my hostel. Later that night (this is where things got better), I met another girl, Tatiyanna, who had studied abroad this semester in Madrid this past semester and was travelling alone like I was. She and I shared stories and compared our semesters in Spain and she gave me a lot of good tips on where to go for when I go to Madrid. Then we went outside to hang out with a woman from Copenhagen, a man from Russia who spoke no English, and a woman from England who was singing and playing guitar. Her voice reminded me so much of Ingrid Michaelson’s (one of my all time favorite singers) so we sat there and listened to her until she stopped singing. 

SO much food!
Then Tatyanna and I met another couple who was eating the dinner that the hostel provided for just 6 euro. We decided to sit down and have this dinner as well, which was so huge that I think I only ate a third of everything! The girl, Annika, had just studied abroad in Norway this semester and her boyfriend, Zach, had just flown from the States to come visit her and they are going to travel Europe together this summer. We had all been talking for a couple of hours when another man, Marek, just arrived to the hostel and he joined us for dinner as well. Marek had actually planned on going to South America with a friend, but his friend bailed last minute so he decided to travel Europe alone instead. We all sat outside talking for while and then decided that it would be fun to take a day trip together the next day. Marek really wanted to go to Gibraltar; however, Zach and Annika were too tired from traveling, Tatiyanna had to leave the next day, and I had already been there with my dad. But I told him if he wanted some company, I’d go along since I had nothing else to do. 

Marek, Tatiyanna, me, Annika, & Zach

So the next day, Marek and I decided to take the 11:00 bus to La Linea, which is right next to the Gibraltar border. We left the hostel a little later than expected; we took a bus to the transfer point where we were supposed to take another bus to the station, but we decided to take a taxi since we were pressed for time. We arrived at the bus station at exactly 11:00 (which was too late.) So I asked the ticket person if there was another bus going to La Linea soon and she said there was one at 11:30 and then one a few hours later. We bought the 11:30 tickets and took the 3 hour bus ride to Gibraltar!

Me and my new friend!
When we got to Gibraltar, we rode the cable car up to the top of the rock, and when we got to the top we couldn’t see anything since we were in the clouds (which was a little disappointing, but also kind of cool.) We walked around a little bit and then saw the "van guided tours" come by and one of the guides was allowing the monkeys to climb on top of tourists´shoulders and take pictures. When Marek and I saw this, we both looked at each other and you could tell we were both thinking the same thing. So we, too, got our turn with the monkeys on our shoulders and Marek even had a monkey hanging from his arm, swinging back and forth! It was the highlight of our day! And no, Dad... they did not bite our faces.

Gibraltar in the clouds

Hanging out on the beach!
Then we walked around the big rock for a while, turning whichever direction looked more adventurous. We did a lot of unexpected hiking, found some very neat trails, hidden caves, and even a jungle-type-looking-area. We hiked up and down for quite a bit and then finally made our way down the mountain which took a good two hours. When we got to the bottom of the rock, we were exhausted and hungry so we stopped for some fish and chips, and then took our 3 hour bus ride back to Malaga, arriving at our hostel that night around 10:30. We met back up with Zach and Annika that night, borrowed the hostel’s guitar and walked over to the beach to play guitar and sing some songs. Annika actually wants to be a professional singer so it was a lot of fun listening to sing! (I later found out that she made it to top 11 of Canadian Idol!)

The next morning, Zach and Annika left for Sevilla and Marek and I grabbed some lunch down the street before he left for Granada. Then I went downtown to find a quieter place with WiFi because I had an interview via Skype with Iowa State University for a summer job. I found a McDonald’s which was very loud and crowded, but luckily there was an outdoor seating area just outside of the McDonald’s where I could still receive good internet connection. I ended up getting the job (yay!) and then took the bus back to my hostel. 

That night was rather interesting… I came back to my room to find 5 or 6 drunken Irishmen wearing jerseys and skirts (with their legs shaved, by the way.) They said they were a women’s netball team from Ireland. I had never heard of netball before and when I asked what it was, they were in shock. They asked where I was from and I usually respond with, “the States” and sometimes that’s good enough but sometimes I just get stared at blankly as if I need to say which state I’m from. (This was one of those times.) I said I was from Iowa and one of the drunken Irishmen said very loudly, “YOU OWE WHAT?!” After nobody laughed, he said, “ha ha don’t you get it? I…O…WA …man, sometimes I just crack myself up.” It was fun talking to them for a while until they decided that they wanted to go skinny dipping. When I declined their offer of coming along, I got the response, “YOUR LOSS!” I found that a little hard to believe...

The last two days were sunny so I took advantage of that and spent the majority of those two days out on the beach. It was wonderful! It was pretty entertaining watching some middle school and high school boys doing flips off of their little trampoline. 

Later that night, I walked to the bus station and read for three hours while waiting for my bus to come. I took a 7 hour overnight bus to Madrid, arriving in Madrid on Monday. I´ve been in Madrid since then and will blog about my week here (I´ve got some great stories!) later this weekend before MY FAMILY COMES ON MONDAY! Yeah, you could say I´m a little excited. :)

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