Wednesday, November 18, 2009

New Orleans: Let's go for a ride, Sergeant Zulu?

What makes a trip affordable, you ask? Let's see:

1. skimp on the total nights by creating one heck of an exhaustive itinerary
2. fly in early (as in: the butt-crack of dawn),
3. fly late on your last day,
4. and finally, train yourself not to need so much food
(to put it simply, I only listed four of the most important).

I basically got...mmm...three out of the four listed above. Looking down at my stretchy pants - which I apparently no longer wear for sheer pleasure but for necessity - I'd venture you might guess that I didn't quite accomplish the last point on that list. Honestly, I was going to Louisiana - no way was I going to skimp on all the good food!

To begin, our flight was at 6:05 a.m. from SFO with a layover in Austin before finally landing in New Orleans. Chris and I, probably had had about a little over 3 hours of sleep before waking up at 3:45 am and coercing his Dad with promises of getting him "something good, we promise!", to drive us to the airport.

I'll skip the details on the flight because we mostly did a whole of snoring and drooling, with a little bit of forehead-pressed-against-window as we watched the cities below us. After an exhaustive flight we crossed our fingers and hoped that the hotel would please, please, pretty please let us check in early so we could catch some sleep before haunting - err, I mean - touring the French Quarter. Luckily, they didn't seemed the least bit irritated with our early arrival - and to my delight, I got to hear an authentic Cajun drawl from the receptionist, sweet! - and immediately crashed for a couple hours.

It took me a little while longer to sleep because honestly, the room felt like it was haunted and just a little bit eeky. Lots of heebie-jeebie feelings...With tall windows topped by a semi-circle window above, thick, heavy drapes and an old worldly feeling that gave me goosebumps on my neck, leaving me far from feeling comfortable. But I was in New Orleans! With buildings that were hundreds of years old - voted for being one of the most haunted cities in the U.S.! Wait...why the hell did I want to come here again? All this excitement coming from someone who had nightmares for weeks after watching Paranormal Activity...hmm...

After our much needed nap, Chris and I ventured out to explore the French Quarter, the oldest and most famous neighborhood in New Orleans. You know, where Mardi Gras is often celebrated along the famous street of Bourbon. Don't forget, Decatur, Royal St., and Chartres St. We explored the shops, filled with Voodoo charms and knick-knacks, colorful markets full of masks, boas, and all sorts of dried up alligator body parts souvenirs.

We stopped at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville on Decatur. To which I asked, "Who's Jimmy Buffet?" shrugging and then ordering up a mango hurricane when I found out it was happy hour. Woohoo! You'd be sad to know that we didn't order up anything on the menu that screamed New Orleans! - instead, having french fries (me!), tacos (Chris), jalapeno macaroni and cheese (definitely Chris).

Happy hour concluded and we made our way back to Jackson Square to pick up a buggy - or rather - be picked up for a buggy ride around the neighborhood. Our driver's name was Sergeant (errr - something close to Sergeant) with a middle name of Zulu. Huh...Sergeant Zulu? Or maybe the horse's name was Zulu. Anyway, he was a total hoot; taking us around, telling us some scary stories, giving us suggestions on which restaurants to visit, where not to visit at night, and all sorts of wonderful tidbits only a local can give to you.

Sergeant Zulu concluded our ride with a stop at Cafe du Monde, New Orleans original French Market coffee stand where we hoovered some very nicely fried Beignets (pronounced: Ben-yays - French donuts with an insane amount of powdered sugar) and hot chocolate. Aw man, I could kill for some right now.

Most of the evening was pretty least until we got to Bourbon St. Oh boy...

Bourbon Street is full of...well...all kinds of folks. Folks mostly looking for some crazy fun. Music rang loud in every corner, from live bands in the restaurants or out on the street, to club d.j.'s., street peddlers dressed in costumes, neon lights everywhere and loud partiers...kinda like Vegas.

I didn't realize how much like Vegas until we walked through the heart of Bourbon St. Where at one point a man in front me says, "I'm not going to a strip club where the strippers weigh more than me." Huh? Strippers? Where??

That's when I saw them. Beautiful - so as not to be mean - women, wearing...well...not much, standing outside the doors of gentleman's clubs. I had to admit that there were quite a few women nearly naked that probably shouldn't be so scantily dressed, considering - ahem - all the jiggling I saw...and I'm not talking about their chests. The clubs themselves displayed some of the most graphic nude pictures along the outside walls that made me do a whole lotta double takes - gaping as I asked, "Wow, they're umm...allowed to post those outside?"

Beads were everywhere as people wished to party like it was Mardi Gras...even though it wasn't (eye roll). Men and women walked openly with large fluted daiquiris and beer - lots and lots of beer, talking loudly and drunkenly, some dressed just downright weird. From Gothic garbs and black lipstick, trench coat and fish hat wearing desert nomads, to cowboys in hats and boots; you name it, we probably saw it.

Sure was a fun first night in NoLa!

Tell me that doesn't look haunted to you?

Neat mask, huh?

This one was nice!

Gators everywhere!

Decatur's pretty spooky at night.

Margaritaville! Happy Hour~!

Sergeant Zulu...who I get the feeling is lying about his real identity.

Carriage ride around the French Market

Move! I gotta take a pic of the horse!

Cafe du Monde

Beignets and good ol' hot chocolate

Down and around Jackson Square

Just in front of St. Charles Cathedral - totally, not scary at all......

Careful! I got me some voodoo dolls...don't want to get on my bad side..Mwahaha

What's a hand grenade, you ask...wait and see my friend...wait and see...

More to come! :) Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

New Orleans & A Drugged out Toot Toot

Hi Everyone!
I know it's been some time since I've posted a blog and I thought with the trip to New Orleans happening tomorrow that I would give you an update on my writing.

As a motivational tool (and many thanks to Cela for this one) I've signed up for NaNoWriMo - which is National Novel Writing Month. For the month of November, which is 30 days, the goal is to write 50,000 words and/or finish your novel. Prior to starting, I had about 18,000 words already written but after a week of Nano, I quickly added another 10,000. Reazling then, that - Holy crap, this works! - I quickly hauled ass and drugged up my muse, aptly named Toot Toot, to help me to win Nano. Yes, it's an actual contest and having reached 42,000 words yesterday, I can't tell you how amazing it feels to have gotten this far. To complete my novel, it would probably take another 40,000 but I'm trying not to view it by numbers, rather, letting the story unfold and decide the proper length for itself.

A lot of people have asked me, "how are you writing your story?", "does it just pop out of your butt and you're basically winging it?, "what kind of techniques, other than praying every night and drugging up your muse do you do?", "what do you do when your muse slaps you in face and leaves you for being such a slave driver...what then?".

Well, there are a few. I bribe my muse with McDonald's and a reprieve from the writing by playing Micky D's Monopoly - Toot Toot hopes that maybe I'll just win a million dollars and never have to harass or abuse her again. Trust me, I pray for this too. In terms of techniques, I do just enough planning and writing a flexible outline to get the main scenes plotted out and to have a clear beginning, middle, and end. For the rest, I let it unfold as I sit staring at my laptop.

This is what I love the most about writing. Some days I get lucky sitting for 6 to 8 hours in front of my laptop and poop out 6,000 words a day and some days I get about 1,000 to 2,000 combined with a whole lot of tears and shouting, "Toot Toot, you make for a sucky muse sometimes! Why can't you be reliable huh? Micky D's cost money that we haven't made yet, you know." But that's the fun and joy of writing. It surprises even me and I can't tell you how much I love it - going back, rereading and laughing at my characters, excited to see where they turn up next.

My current novel falls under the genre of Chick Literature. There's so much humor in life and especially life as a woman, combined with offbeat family members, loyal and loving friends, the sometimes difficulty we face in the romance section, and the crap the fates likes to throw at us just to bring a little spice into our lives. Although, this is obviously not a new kind of story, my goal is to make people fall in love with the main character and to watch her grow, to laugh and to cry (because they're laughing even harder) and to root for her.

For those of you who know me, I'm not particularly funny in real life (har har) because I'm actually pretty shy and awkward sometimes. It's why I love to write because I get to express a side of myself that not many people get to see everyday.

Before I continue to get carried away, I just wanted to say thanks for reading! I'm headed to New Orleans tomorrow and I can't even begin to tell you all the things I have planned because I'd just be babbling. S'okay because I'm famous for babbling but not so good for a blog where the last thing I want is for people to start thinking about what to eat for lunch or whether they should clean up their dog's poop outside...yeah...I hope to make my blog worth reading and enjoying, not making you consider that now would be a great time to pick up your dogs poop.

So, I'll write back when I can and post some pictures of NoLa and after a bit of editing, perhaps post some pieces from the novel.

Au Revoir!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Lathrop: Adios but not for long...

Sorry for having been so M.I.A.. As you can guess, I'm home now safely tucked away under the heavy comforters of my bed - really, it's where I'm at this very moment. Laying in bed still unable to peel the smile off my face because I'm just so elated to be home. The 2 day journey home was enough to make me never want to step into an airport again.

After flying to Zurich to spend a couple hours admiring the beauty of the city, which I plan on returning again some day because WOW it took my breath away, I flew to Boston on an 8+ hour flight where I would spend the night at the airport (on the carpet in some dark corner like a homeless person - minus the warmth of a cardboard box shelter - why do they make it so cold in the airports!?) I woke up at 4am to check-in only to wait to board the plane at 6am. The remaining 6+ hour flight was the most gruelling. Feeling so close to home, yet to so impossibly far as the clock seemed to enjoy torturing me with the slow passing of time.

I vomitted once - on the flight from Zurich to Boston. At least I made it to the bathroom after jumping over the lap of some stranger who's legs were so long he had to sit sideways and into the aisle because there wasn't enough leg room. I don't know why the turbulance was so bad but the nausea was horrible. I must say however, that Swiss Airlines and Lufthansa have amazing service and FOOD! United, Delta, and American Airlines have nothing on the German airlines. But then again, it was their food that I vomited. Perhaps United (the airline I had from Boston to SFO) had it right not to give us food so there was less likelihood of passengers puking up perfectly good food. The night at Boston was spent mostly tossing and turning on the hard ground of the carpet. It was freezing, although I wore extra layers that I fished out from my luggage, making it almost impossible to sleep at all. The thought of home being so close made it all bearable if not ignorable because I knew a warm bed awaited me - I just needed to hang in there and not vomit anymore.

The month abroad flew by quickly although, I couldn't have imagined how I would've felt, had I stuck with my original plan to be away for 3 months. My travels brought with it so much more knowledge than I could've hoped for and a confidence that I couldn't have replicated had I done any of it differently. I don't believe I'll ever travel alone again for there were just too many moments I wished to have shared with a companion but I must say to you that you most certainly should experience something like this yourself.

If it weren't for my job at SAP, I probably wouldn't have met some of the most amazing people who literally packed up their bags and started their life anew in a foreign country, or who've spent a better part of their youth traveling. It's what got me dreaming of similar adventures of my own and suddenly realizing that they were possible. I've got a few more things lined up but I'll be sticking to the U.S.A. for the remainder of this year with a trip to New Orleans in November and Orlando in December. I plan on doing a full fledged road trip next year just as the Autumn season in the East begins so I can see the most historic towns lined with Fall's colorful hues. We'll see how things pan out as so many other life plans are coming together for me.

Starting this Wednesday, I'll be working on my 2nd book (the 1st book to remain one chapter and some serious editing away before being completed - but will be put on the backburner for now). I'll be working it like a job 10 - 7. Don't panic, I swear I'll be up early - it's so that I can hit the gym and wake up those necessary creative brain cells.

For now, I'll be dreaming of the adventures ahead of me, whether by travel or life as it unfolds.

Thank you so much for reading! Most of all, thank you for being the companion that I desperately needed while I was alone. You helped keep the homesick tears at bay and for allowing me to write almost every day. I'll be letting you know when I start up the blog again to update you on some scheduled travels or updates on the novel.

Thanks again! I'll miss you! :)

Purple and Orange - Festive right?

There's La Estacian de Trene - Train Station in Valencia behind me

Oh man, do I love Spain's pastries and treats.

Valencia was amazing. Although, I must admit, I spent most of my time there window shopping.

Valencia's Super Mercado (Market). It was amazing!

The view outside Zurich's airport. I will definitely come back to visit. Zurich is gorgeous!

Here's me smiling just as I'm about to board. It's probably because I haven't puked yet.

Here's me, post-puke before I had to leave the cafe to find my nice little piece of carpet heaven to do the impossible - sleep.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Valencia: Ok I'm Ashamed, Among Other Things

Ok, I'm ashamed.

Ashamed for being awfully lazy and not having posted a blog in the past few days. I'm so sorry! I completely missed updating you in Cordoba which was the city prior to arriving here in Valencia.

I adored Cordoba. It was a quaint historical Roman town with an old part of the city containing the Mezquita, narrow streets, and small shops around every corner, where I stayed in a Hostel room that I was pretty sure was haunted.

Below are some pictures. The Mezquita alone, was well worth the visit. Hands down, it was the grandest church I've ever entered. This former Mosque was converted into a 16th century church (long story, what a pity that such a beautiful mosque had been converted). Cordoba had once been the center of Western Islam and a landmark of the medievil world.

Within the center of the Mosque, sits the pews and elaborate Christian/Catholic symbols of faith

Did I mention how wealthy this town once was? The Mezquita was filled with gold and silver relics

The Mezquita is huge! The arches above me only show one layer in this picture, but they are actually double arches.

I wish my Mom could've seen it. I know she would've loved it!

Here's me near the Alcazar (Palace)

I'm currently in Valencia in a particularly nice hostel. Except of course for the co-ed bathrooms - trust me, I was quite shocked when there I was washing my hands and a dude walks behind me to go pee. I remember gasping and running out to check to see if I went into the wrong bathroom. I must be the only female on this floor because I haven't seen any other girls go into bathrooms, only horrified guys who after having seen me at the sink get that deer-in-headlights look on their face and quickly leave to check the sign on the door. But that's the problem! There are NO signs on the door - only a picture of a boy and girl holding hands - like any normal bathroom symbol except it's confusing. It's the only co-ed bathroom I've ever been in. I recall a specific moment when this guy almost tripped as he jerked back to look for a sign on the door. I said, "It's ok, I'm confused to." To which I realized was a terrible thing to say...So I reddenned embarassingly and followed up with, "I mean...not like that."

Anyway, after a 6+ train hour ride, I arrived yesterday afternoon past 5pm to find that the tourist information booth was already closed for the day. I gawked at the closed office, stunned and just a little panicked.

Because I didn't have a map...

All I had were vague directions to the hostel from the train station, directions like; straight ouf the train stay on your left side until you reach a fountain; keep this fountain on your right side; you will reach a 4 fork street - take the left fork (which one? aren't there technically 2?); you will then see a castle-like building up ahead - you will need to pass this building etc...

I was exhausted and refused to spend 4€ on an impossibly hard to read map being sold at the souvenir shop. I bit my lip and trudged forward in the heat to search for my hostel, walking quickly to avoid the uncomfortable stares from the passerby's and the invulnerable feeling I have yet to shake when walking around with my luggage - it's like a neon sign that reads, "I'm a Tourist! I'm not familiar with my surroundings and I am not trying to walk and read a map that's upside down..."

I managed to find the hostel without too much confusion - took the wrong street a coulple times, but if there's anything I can at least do, it's backtracking.

I spent the rest of the evening uploading albums by city/location on Facebook, showing some signs to my parents that I'm still alive somewhere. I miss them. I miss my Mom and her cooking, my fat cat, walking my dog, my bro's and dad (all in that order)...Just Kidding! :D I can't wait to see you all soon!

While I spent the evening creating albums a large group of girls and 3 guys walked into the lobby seating themselves around me. They began talking loudly, only slightly tipsy, and I tried not to cringe everytime they told a disgusting raunchy joke or said something completely racially inappropriate - guess H.R. doesn't leave you...even when you leave it.

There was an 18 year old caucasian female from Chicago (I can't help but be politically correct - so sue me) who said things like "ugly-hot" and brought up stories like the time when a guy said to her, "I'll buy you a drink if you show me a boob." The responses from the crowd that followed were, "Only one boob? " "Did you do it?" and "I like the word boob." I laughed to myself a lot that night.

Especially when the same girl said, "I tried to steal figs the other day."

A German girls shouts, "You know the German word for fig is f*ck?"

Her eyes widen, "I went around and tried to steal some f*cks!" People laugh and I roll my eyes.

The German girl gives her words to hunt their meaning for such as, ax-cel-hag-gen and ol-lip-hien.

They made her repeat the last word over and over again as they tried to correct her pronounciation - parts where it required some strategic hawking and grunting. Chicago girl giggles, "I like German, I should learn it - seems like I got the enthusiasm that's for sure." They all laugh.

It was the older gentleman that creeped me out the most. The girls around us were likely no older than 25 while he on the other hand seemed to be nearing his 40's. He kept trying to interrupt me asking, "Are we too loud for you?", "You're awfully quiet for a California girl" (another one of his irritating habit of placing people in categories). It was late, I was beyond annoyed with Facebook and I was in no mood for stupid conversation. I gave him my best tight lipped response without so much looking at him as I kept my gaze on my laptop. He seemed to get the hint.

They ended up leaving to go bar hopping, politely asking me to come along, although I probably wouldn't have asked me, "How about you California girl? Wanna come show us how wild the Cali girls party?" even if Mr. Creepy wasn't going.

Today I spent a better part of the day exercising...

My credit card...

Just kidding. I really tried not to. I just window shopped...and occassionally, I let Mr. VISA do his thing - didn't want him to feel left out.

I just finished doing something I haven't done in probably 4 years.

I painted my nails.

Apparently, it's a good way to show your festive side and seeing as I was happy to be due home in a couple days, and home will be festively deco'd out in FALL, I thought I'd be a girl for once and partake in a very useless and girly endeavor. It felt so foreign, as I sat there with the tube between my knees, my hand shaking as I tried to keep the paint ON my nails and not on my jeans, sheets, or my face (don't ask). And success!

Except of course I forgot that you can't do anything as they dry. I remembered then, exactly why I never painted my nails, other than because I was utterly lazy and I enjoy my tomboyishness, it's because I don't know how to do nothing for however ungodly long it takes for painted nails to dry. After 5 minutes I gave in and opened a book.

I now have several lines crossing along my painted nails, and even some where it's been scraped off...Yikes! But it's ok. It was a worthy sacrifice.

Thanks for reading! :)

Look what I bought my last night in Seville when I was so bummed from having caught a pretty nasty cold.

It made me feel soooo much better. Who cares if I was so sick that I couldn't even taste the chocolate! Pfff...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sevilla: A Week Left and I Finally Got My Story

It´s currently 1:00 am in Sevilla, Spain and I´m up for one reason - well, to be totally honest, it´s because of a couple of reasons but one in particular - I got my story...

Laying down on my bed restlessly reviewing the past 3+ weeks of my travels alone, I realized one thing, I had no motivation to write what I had intended to begin writing the moment I returned home.

I thought that I´d had it all mapped out. My characters were well described and thought out. Their nuances, habits, and quirks outlined and vibrantly clear, the plot itself with the underlying goal and motives were decided and all in all it would´ve turned out to be a decent story that made sense.

Except that my heart didn´t feel it. If there´s one thing that I know about writing, one thing that creates a story beyond all other stories that captures and captivates people is that it is written from the heart.

Although, I would´ve forced all the heart I could´ve put into this original storyline, I felt wary and knew the challenge that faced me to write something that I felt only a small spark of interest in and unfortunately, I felt more doubt than I did spark. I tried to ignore the trouble that I felt at this revelation.

Which leads me to my current situation...tossing and turning on my bed, still nursing a cold, far, far away from home with one week left before I returned.

I felt nervous and anxious. I was worried for the work ahead of me trying to force life into a story that I wasn´t sure of.

But as I laid there, thinking of so many other things; the past months of my life, the short stories I´d written, the comments people have been hit me...and the story that I´d once thought I shouldn´t write or couldn´t write, came flaring back to life. Except this time, there were so many additional aspects and inputs that I wanted to include.

So here I am. Past 1:00 am wishing I were home so that I could begin sketching the outline of the story. I´ve begun to, in my black notebook, but only enough to remind myself of the specific details that I absolutely did not want to forget.

I can safely say that this trip has given me the story that I was hoping to get. Even if the story isn´t really from my travels - except I´m sure certain characters and personalities will come through in the individuals that make an appearance in the book - this trip has given me not only a momentus motivation but the real story that I want to write. A story that I know I can write.

I thank everyone for all the support you´ve given. I wouldn´t be here without you - my friends, my family, and especially Chris.

Thanks for reading. My journey is far from over, here in Spain (in fact I leave for Cordoba tomorrow morning). But I´m happy to have found what I was looking for...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sevilla: Broken Train & is that Antonio?

Oh boy...

My train to Sevilla broke down yesterday. We were left in the middle of some forgotten city in a small neglected train station where the heat and humidity stuck to you like a warm damp cloth and the flies gravitated annoyingly to your face like a magnet and no amount of swatting provided any relief. All creating one heck of an environment that could only lead to some very irate and frustrated passengers.

Shouts could be heard in rapid fire spanish, spewing from the conductor who looked very much like a fearful cornered animal and passengers who were red faced emphasizing their words with furious hand gestures.

I found a small unoccupied space against the wall where shade provided only a small reprieve to the direct sun-scorching heat but it was enough that people were fighting for a piece of it. I politely asked those around me if anyone spoke English to give me some details of what was happening and when the next train would be arriving but unfortunately I could find no one until Zack, a fellow traveler from New York made his way towards me, noticing my distress and gave me the run down. I was confused. The ¨broken¨train didn´t look broken as we watched it zoom off and leave us all behind. Zack tells me, ¨They say that the train will come back and they will try to fix it here. But they can´t tell us any sort of time frame¨. I thanked him and was relieved to have someone who could explain and walk me through what was going on.

Needing to stretch my legs, I walked around and and spotted a well dressed man in a business suit who turned to face me as he pulled his sunglasses down. I gawked and nearly tripped over my luggage in surprise at the uncanny resemblance he had to Antonio Sabbatto Jr. Upon closer inspection, (okay, truth be told, I was ogling) he was leaner with a sharper aristocratic nose but without a doubt could´ve played Antonio´s stunt double. Hearing him speak spanish helped to confirm as well that it was definitely NOT Antonio who was a born and bred Italian. He confronted the conductor, who hurriedly tried to avoid him while several older women fawned all over him. It was a funny sight to see and I recall laughing quietly despite the situation we were all in.

Hours into our wait in the blistering heat and still no word on the arrival of a new train. The young University boys who sat directly across from me on the train came around to my side of the wall. I remember when we all first boarded and I pulled out my book to pass the ¨short¨3 hour train ride to Sevilla when I noted something peculiar. Several attractive young University boys were around me and though I felt lucky to be surrounded by what appeared to be a team of Futbol players (thinking, Man, I should´ve dressed better today), I nearly pealed into a bout giggles when I heard them speaking.

They were loud and boisterous like all boys are but I found something very odd in their speech. At first I thought it was only the young man directly in front of me who seemed to have a terrible lisp. I remember thinking, ¨What a shame. I don´t know if any girl could ignore a lisp as terrible as that¨. But others began to chime into the discussion and I thought, ¨Wow, how can they all have a lisp that bad?¨I delved my face into my book but kept my ears perked. I noted how all the words that contained a ¨c¨, ¨s¨or ¨z¨where pronounced as ¨th¨. Words like Barcelona or Gracias were Barthelona and Grathiath.

In my curiousity, I brought this up to Zack who laughed as he explained to me that spanish was pronounced differently here. He told me how he´d learned spanish at an early age both EspaƱa and Mexican spanish that was more gutteral and how he spoke a strange mix of both. I couldn´t tell much of a difference until he´d pointed it out me.

Hours later we managed to grumpily get back on the same ¨still uncertain if it was truly ever fixed¨train and I was still a bit shocked at the unexpected heat when I stepped out onto the station in Sevilla. After a somewhat stressful experience taking the bus and getting off on the right stop, I dragged my tired self into my Hostel and was happy to find two very sweet female German twins in my dorm room bunking with me. We all had dinner together and while I watched them cook a warm meal of pasta, tomatoes and cucumbers, I cut up an apple and made a salami sandwich. They pitied my dinner but I didn´t mind, seeing as how it was an upgrade from McDonald´s. We had quite a bit of fun together in the evening. They also gave me a parting gift before they left to Barcelona. So sweet of them...

They gave me their cold.

It´s not a small, containable cold either.

Oh, no.

My head pounds, my body is sore, my nose runs, I´m sneezing all the time, and I´m occassionally coughing to alleviate the awful soreness in my throat.

I felt the start of the cold last night and had taken some Tylenol, thinking a good night´s rest was all I needed. I was probably just tired from the stress the day had brought on. I woke up in the morning to find myself in complete misery.

I tried to go out for a bit this morning but only managed to escape my room for an hour and a half before I trudged back home where I could comfortably blow my nose and rest my fatigued body.

Sevilla is a city that everyone who I´ve spoken to that has visited has told me how much I would love the city, how it was charming, beautiful and romantic. Zack spoke highly of it and told me it was quite safe to visit and tour at midnight. Which I plan on doing. Here is the heart of Flamenco dances and a bullfighting arena that rivals no other in Spain.

But instead of wandering around the city...I´m stuck in my bed. I still have one full day tomorrow and the rest of this evening to take advantage of. I´ll still explore, even if I have to drag my tired body, like I do my luggage, out of my sickbed.

I´ll post some pictures in a bit when the wifi gets fixed in the hostel. It always seems to be a problem here in Spain.

But for now, thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Granada: I'll Take My Chances

I can barely muster enough energy to give thanks to one of the most gratifying tours I've taken on this entire trip thus far; one that I would be willing to return to visit in the future.

Had I known exactly how fulfilling this tour would be, perhaps I would not have taken such a risk not making reservations prior to stepping foot at the front gates to the Alhambra. Ohhh, I was told both by Rick Steves (my handy guidebook) and by the receptionist who suggested that I call the night before to book a ticket reservation to inform me if any tickets would even be available the next day. According to Steves, should I decide to purchase a ticket the day of, it was recommended that I should find myself standing at the ticket booth line at 7:30 am where they would have an extra 700 tickets out of the 7,800 (the limit of persons that they allow into the Alhambra per day) available for last minute purchase.

Well, I got out of bed at 9:00...

Took my sweet time having breakfast and finally trudged out of the hostel at 10:30 to wait for the bus that would save me from climbing up the hill which I'm sure had I decided to walk and reach the Alhambra, I probably would've convinced myself that I'd done more than my fair share of sightseeing that day and promptly walked back down to take a nap.

How smart of me for taking the bus. I found myself waiting in line with the rest of the last minute ticket purchasers for about 45 minutes, relieved to hear that they had 160 tickets left for the day. I happily chatted with an older woman traveling from Canada who spoke so avidly about her desperation to see the Alhambra and how if she could not see it today, that she MUST extend her stay for another night. I merely shrugged, thinking that if I couldn't see it today, shame on me but my plans to head off to Sevilla tomorrow were practically set it stone and nothing could delay my departure.

I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. I absolutely loved the Alhambra. Simply, it was exquisite. I spent around 3.5 hours here barely sitting down long enough to snap a few photos of myself along the way.

What is the Alhambra, you ask? It is the last and greatest Moorish palace and stronghold, highlighting the splendor of that civilazation in the 13th and 14th centuries; one of Europe's must see sights.

The Alhambra

The Gardens: The entire grounds were well kept and I found myself lost in the maze of tall hedges, square gardens with fountain centers, and flowers of all colors and species surrounding the pathways.

The Palace: Imagine the details in the photos below decorating every space of the walls, corridors, halls, doorways, and ceilings. Such beautiful detailing that it was breath-taking - artwork that must've taken ages to carve. Running water (flowing along the floors!) and fountains were everywhere, what had been a rare and valuable commodity.

Chocolate Festival and a Dried Nuts and Fruits Stand

I got a small bag of dried Pineapples, Kiwis, and Mangoes. YUM!

Wandering through the Plaza's near my hostel, I found it littered with people who were visiting the Chocolate Festival. OF COURSE, I spent quite a bit of time here. Even ordered up a dark chocolate crepe...double YUM!


Tomorrow I am off to Sevilla to spend three nights before I head off to another destination.

Thanks for reading! I can't tell you how incredibly homesick I am but it's probably best that I don't because the less I think about it, the less it hurts. Only 10 nights left before I fly back!