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Spain august/september 2014

GoOpti from Ljubljana to Venice. Flight from Venice to Rome and from Rome to Barcelona followed by a road trip through cities from Barcelona to Gibraltar and then north to Madrid. After that a flight from Madrid to Rome and then to Venice. Finally GoOpti ride back to Ljubljana.

This time we decided we wanted to stay in Europe for a change. Considering that Maja has been learning Spanish for the past two years and she needed to practice we picked Spain for our next road trip.
The plan was as follows: We depart from ljubljana to the airport in Venice. We fly (through Rome) to Barcelona and because it has been quite a while since we had any vacation we decided to rest for a bit in Lloret de Mar. After we get our 'strenght' back we go back to Barcelona where our road trip begins and continues on the south coast all the way to Gibraltar and then up through Baeza and Consuegra (Don Quihote from la Mancha) and Toledo to Madrid.


Lloret de Mar:
It was a Wednesday afternoon after I got home from work when my buddie Matej calls to hang out in one of our favourite places to have a beer or two. Since it was my last day before my holiday I figured why not. I had two beers when it started pouring rain. We really had no choice but to order another round of beers :) Suddenly I realized that the hour is getting late and I still wanted to get a few hours of sleep before our (me and Maya's) transport arrives at 2:30 am to pick us up. Luckily I packed before going out for a beer :) I got home at around midnight and I think it goes without saying that after about an hour of sleep I had me a little bit of a hangover :) I still managed to check my documents and money that we needed for our trip. The trip to Barcelona actually went fine, and when we arrived there I was almost completely fine and hangover free :) So, we land in Barcelona and we still have about 40 minutes before our prebooked bus (a stupid idea) goes to Lloret de Mar. But we still had to go to the baggage claim. My bag arives the second in line - pure luck. Excellent, I think to myself, we'll catch that bus after all. But ... Maya's bag was missing. I ran to talk to the bus driver so he would wait a bit longer, but after waiting additional 5 minutes he had to go. It was no use anyway, because Alitalia (the company with which we flew) managed to loose Maya's bag. She got a report about the lost bag and gave them an address where we were staying for 3 days in Lloret de Mar. The bag arrived the next day, but she still had to buy new bading suite, towel and some other necessities. Anyway, we finally arrived to Lloret de Mar where we enjoyed our first three days of our vacation. After that we took a bus back to Barcelona. Oh, one more thing, we e-mailed Alitalia all of the receipts that were a direct consequence of the lost bag along with the report but none of their servers worked - I always got a reply from their Mailer daemon that the service is down ...


Barcelona:

So we arrive to Barcelona, pick up our luggage from the bus and start searching for our hotel. I knew the direction and according to Google Maps, the bus stop was only about a mile away. Piece of cake :) We approached our hotel to about 300 m when the streets started to get smaller and smaller. Some of them weren't even on the map and some of them were named incorrectly. I advised Maya to get a cup of coffe at the nearby caffee and watch the luggage while I search for the hotel. Without any luggage I managed to find the hotel quite fast. I returned to the caffee and had a beer :) When we were all set up at the hotel we wanted to visit the Picasso museum which was free on that day, but when we found the museum we also found a 300 m line of people waiting to get in, so we rescheduled our visit to the next day. We walked through most of Barcelona (the old part of town) all the way from the coast and up to the Parc Guell and the Gaudi museum, Sagrada Familia, Pablo Picasso museum, Joan Miro museum, to Parc de Montjuic and so on ... Of course we had some time off to get a good meal and a drink - you can't miss that on vacation. We also saw a concert of the Barcelonian gypsies (or so they called themselves) that danced Rumba - interesting. The last day we spent in Barcelona was the 3rd of September - also know as my birthday - yep the big 31 :). We rented a pre booked car on that day. We got an Opel Corsa, which we drove 200km away to Peñiscola.


Peñiscola

So we arrive to Peñiscolo, which we immediately liked. Just near the coast of the city a large castele stood sorrunded by a wall. Our hotel was located inside of the castle wall. The hotel owner/manager was not very talkative, so we didn't even ask her if there was the possibility of having breakfast at the hotel. We assumed that she was afraid we might start talking in English :) Since it was my birthday, I invited Maya on a dinner date. The food was mediocre, but the wine was superb. We spent the nex day swimming and resting on the beach. A day later we explored the castle, which was built by Knights Templar between 1294 and 1308. Pope Benedict XIII. used to live in the castle in the 15th century. Also the movie El Cid was filmed here, starring Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren. After exploring the castle we intended to have a bite to eat and then 'migrate' to Alicante - a 330 km drive away. And then it happened ... Out of pure evil, Maya gave the unsuspecting concrete floor, a swift and powerful kick. Unfortunately she lost the battle and injured her toe. Still, to this day, I admire her courage :) We thought that we would have to go to the hospital, but it turned out that the toe was not broken. So ... onwards to Alicante where we only spent one night. About a month later I received a nice surprise from Spain, stating that I drove too fast from Peñiscola to Alicante. I received a picture of our rental car and a 100€ fine. 50€ if I paid within 20 days. I drove 127km/h istead of 100km/h - I obviously overlooked the sign. My first speeding ticket in 13 years since I got my license. Well that will teach me to be more careful, and a nice memory too :) From Alicante, we drove to Granada, which is known (beside the sights) for free tapas when ordering alcoholic beverages (well some other cities have that too, but my fried mentioned Granada when he was talking about free tapas :)). It goes without saying that I was really looking forward in testing the myth :)


Granada:

After a few hours drive, we arrived to Granada, where we first searched for our accomodation. The GPS device brought us to the ministry of internal affairs, and there was nothing in the vacinity, but apartment buildings. Interesting. It had to be about 35°C outside or more, so there weren't many people around. Still, I saw an older gentleman and tried to talk to him using my poor Spanish. I asked him about the location of a hostel where we booked a room. I didn't understand him quite well, but he was pointing in the direction from where we arrived, so I walked there, and Maya waited at the car. After 15 minutes of fruitless searching I gave up and walked back to our car. We drove around and found a bar of some kind and we figured, we better get something to drink, since it was so hot. I naturally ordered a beer, and wouldn't you know it ... the myth is real :) I ordered a small beer, but beside the drink was also a plate with some meat and gravy, some bread and some chips. Maya ordered a cup of coffe, so no food for her :) (That will teach her to order non-alcoholic drinks when on vacation :) ) And the check for evrything - a mere 3€. Also, the waiter pointed us to the right direction towards our hostel and told us that the street numbers were a bit out of order here. Our hostel was in fact a dorm, which was rented out during the summer, so we got a whole apartment for only 30€/night. When we settled, we went out again and drove to Alhambra which lies near the Sierra Nevada mountain chain. Interesting there is also a mountain chain with the same name in the United States of America - in the state of Nevada. The next day we drove to the south-most point of Spain (and also the Europe) - Tarifa. (Our hotel was in Algeciras - a few km away)


Algeciras/Tarifa/Gibraltar:

We stayed in Algeciras for three nights to have some R&R :). We visited Gibraltar, where I finally had the chance to drink some english style beer (London Pride on tap - not my favourite, but still a lot better than drinking lager all the time. Hm ... I really don't drink as much as it seems :) ). They sure are interesting, the Gibraltarians ... when we were driving out of Algeciras and towards Baeza we listened to radio Gibraltar, where they obviously had some sort of a national holiday or similar. The speaker - some Gibraltar politican - said that they are a absolutely free and independent nation, but also under the rule of the United Kingdome :) He also mentioned that the queen of England is always welcome. In Gibraltar we visited the museum and the tunnels they used during the war, we paid our respects to the monkeys who live there and enjoyed in the views of Marocco and Spain. Fun fact: There was a period of 16 years when the borders between Spain and Gibraltar were closed. Beside visiting Gibraltar, we went to the beach to Tarifa and had a nice dinner there. Again, because of my poor Spanish I, ordered a fried fish instead of a grilled one. Maya also ordered a better meal than me :) After Algeciras we drove away from the sea towards the center of Spain.


Baeza:

Baeza is a small town which we had some trouble finding, because our GPS device refused to take us there. Basically, it didn't recognize the hotel where we were headed. Again, I had to use my poor Spanish to get the information which we needed. I was getting better and better :) Baeza was only a pit stop for food and sleep ... but as always the town surprised us with its beautiful scenery - fields of olive trees, and the smell of olive oil through all of Baeza. The dinner we had at the restaurant/hotel in Baeza was top notch. Spanish 'gazpacho' for appetizer resembles a cold tomato soup and it was delicious. Maya usualy doesn't eat tomato, especially not if served cold, but she enjoyed her gazpacho :) - phenomenal. She also started to eat olives when we were in Spain (I must say I like them better than Greek or Italian, especially the ones with anchovies.) I do not remember what we had for our main course, but I do know it was excellent. The whole dinner cost us 13€ per person which included a three course meal and a bottle of red house wine. The next day we drove to the center of Baeza where we walked around (more churches), had a cup of coffee and bought some olive made products. We continued our road trip to Consuegra - the home Of Don Quihote of la Mancha.


Consuegra:

We spent two nights in Consuegra, which is a bit too much since the city is almost dead. The only interesting thing was the trail of Don Quihote, which I also ran the next day, and the windmills. We spend one day in Toledo, which is far more interesting. We tried their marzipan there and walked around town. Like I said, there was not uch more to see in Consuegra. We continued our trip to Madrid, which was our final stop before flying back home.


Madrid:

The first thing we had to do in Madrid was return our rental car, which was not an easy task. After one our of chasing our tail in Madrid, we finally saw a very small sign near the train station where we could return the car. I mentioned that to the guy from Atesa, but he only replied that he knew it was small. Well he just didn't gave a sh.. Oh well ... We took a cab to the hotel, since it was quite far away. But we still spent some time searching for the hotel, because it wasn't really noticable. We soon found out why the room we booked was so cheap (30€/night in Madrid). Take a look at the first picture from the Madrid gallery where I am brushing my teeth :) That's it. Barely any room for luggage. There was a hole in the room that could be used to look in the room next door - but the hole served as a part of a lock. A steel bar was pushed through the hole so the room next door could be locked :) But when the ocupants of the room left the hotel, someone could always look in our room from the hallway and vice versa. Also, people smoked in the hallway, so a lot of the smoke came in our room. I stuffed some toilet paper in the hole while we were sleeping to try and filter some of the air :) We visited Maya's aunt in Madrid and she showed us around a bit. But she also invited us to her place for dinner and cooked us some Turkish coffee. They only have expresso and such in Spain, so Turkish coffee was a nice surprise :). We visited a museum - Reina Sofia and also went to the ZOO, but basically we walked around a lot. We didn't see very much in Madrid, but we were a bit tired after out 3 week jurney through Spain, so we relaxed a lot in Madrid. Still, it was a time well spent. We flew from Madrid to Rome (Fiumicino) and from Rome to Venice, where GoOpti picked us up and drove to the wonderful Ljubljana - the most beautiful city in the world - my home. Like always, we enjoyed ourelves to extremes, but there is no place like home. And I was also looking forward to autumn trips to our magnificent Slovenian mountains.