A Travellerspoint blog

Day 14 with Leo: The Final Hours

Could it have been any more stressful?

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Was our longest day yet for different reasons.
Firstly, it was one of the farthest distances we were driving in able to drop off Leo and get to our hostel in Barcelona. At first everything was going smoothly but the weather worsened and with the fog thickening it was too late to notice some policemen hiding along the road. Like everyone else in Spain we were driving faster than the speed limit but unfortunately Leo sticks out like a sore thumb. Chelsea was driving Leo at the time and the police officer spoke minimal english. After 2hrs sitting along the road and the police checking her ID's (confusing as she worked in Ireland, had a Canadian license and is from Australia) she was charged with speeding but also invalid driver ID (she didn't have her EU license and had been living there so long her Canadian one expired without her realizing...oops!). Apparently the total bill came to 700Euros! But non of us had that cash and we would be stranded in no-mans land, so the officer claimed that if she paid half in cash right away we would be able to drive on. We found out later that this area was known for crooked cops looking for an easy bonus, but we had little choice in paying up...we just wished he hadn't taken up so much of our time as now we had the problem of re-arranging our drop-off time.
We eventually borrowed someones phone and called to explain we would be late. Phew, no late fees. However our last days adventure was not over as we passed through Barcelona's web of highways which we seemed to continuously make the wrong turns. The torturous roads didn't seem to end and we had to call again and finally met the Wicked coordinator at his house. He was a young Aussie man who after hearing how much grief our last day was drove us directly to our hostel! We were so relieved at this final ray of sunshine in our crazy day and quickly ate some tapas before heading to bed. Despite the chaos and the headaches we were all happy to have explored and experienced so much of Spain and Portugal. However next time we will definitely spend more time relaxing, eating and drinking GOOD wine!

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Posted by Kev n' Ariel 19:43 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Day 11/12/13 with Leo: Basque Country

Food, Art, Beaches and Travel Bums.

sunny 15 °C

Day 11 with Leo:

Was time to move on and said goodbye (again) to Anni and wished her luck on her travel journey.
As we transited back to Leo we started to feel very nervous, worrying that he may not still be there...street signs in a foreign country did not make us feel very confident it had not been towed or vandalized. As we turned the last corner with our hearts beating fast we were greeted with those big green eyes, all windows intact! Huzzah!
Time to get going North! We successfully got out of the city and by dinner time we were in Basque country in the beach side city of Santander. We walked along the beach towards the shops and spent the evening trying multiple different bars with delicious beer and tapas! The most fresh and tasty morsels of seafood we had eaten yet. Our favourite dish was pickled octopus with pickles! We eventually had to make our way back to Leo and find a spot to sleep. Driving along the coastline we found a sleepy town that edged on the ocean and had sandy public space behind the houses. Minutes from the surf it was an awesome spot and we enjoyed a few drinks below the stars.

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Day 12 with Leo:

We were keen to get up and enjoy the sunrise so we brought all of our breakfast supplies to the beach and set the go pros. It was a lovely morning and there was even a local beagle who was befriending the locals walking along the beach...he also took a quick tinkle on Kev's gopro...good thing it had a waterproof case on!
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Once more packed up, we made our way along the coastline. We passed rugged fishing towns and the road wound us towards the next coastal city of Bilbao. We got dropped off to explore the amazing Guggenheim Museum while the girls went to explore the nearest beach.
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After a few hours of culture we had to find ourselves another spot to sleep. We kept hitting dead ends while looking for campsites until we kept driving deeper into the valley. Ahead was a camp ground! However the fence was chained and no one seemed to be inside...bah! But next to the fence was a little green field where wood was chopped with just enough space for a van and 4 squatters. We set up and had our cards out when a car did come by...someone must be house-sitting the property and didn't notice or didn't care there was a huge orange monster just outside.
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Day 13 with Leo:

It was time to hit the last city in Basque country before going back inland. We got to San Sebastian by lunch time but we kept it short and cheap by parking next to the beach and bringing our own lunches. We threw our frisbee around and played with the local dogs who were running along the surf and a few kids were even going for a swim! We weren't that keen to explore and spend more money so we packed up with intentions of relaxing along a lake that was on our way to our final destination of Barcelona. We had debated driving all the way to visit the tiny country of Andorra but it was too time costly and not worth the hype according to some sources. It got sunnier as we drove East and the landscape was rocky. As we reached the lake of Yesa, the towns looked older and more rugged. Halfway we spotted the beautiful old ruins of a town or monastery perched above the lake. We were keen to explore but the road was sadly blocked. We were keeping our eyes peeled now for a spot to camp right along the water and just when we thought we were at the end a dirt road veered off straight down to a perfect camp spot! We were a little nervous about Leo driving down the very uneven road so we all hopped out and guided Kev and Leo down. We set up for a relaxing afternoon with celebratory drinks for last night with Leo and a very successful and silly adventure. We were even able to construct a fire pit out of leftover metal and wood nearby. It was loverly and we will definitely have to come back and relax more into the serene beaches and take a nibble of EVERYTHING.
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Posted by Kev n' Ariel 19:16 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Day 9/10 with Leo: Madrid

Back to ESPANIA!

sunny 17 °C

Day 9 with Leo:

We were rudely awoken by the local dogs and roosters and we finally dragged ourselves out into the mist.. A mere 2 hours from the Spanish border, we were excited to arrive in the country's capitol, Madrid. We weren't quite prepared for the chaotic maze of tunnels, highways and ambiguous street signs that would surround and encompass the city.
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After a slightly stressful time navigating and well deserved Mcdonalds break (they also served beer at this mcdonalds which some of us indulged in) we managed to find a free parking spot near the metro station. After navigating ourselves to the heart of the city we settled into our hotel. After we grabbed some drinks and frozen pizzas we prepared for a night out on the town. We hit a number of bars, the highlight of which was a turkish bar that included 2 drinks and shisha in the moderately priced cover charge. We eventually ran out of steam and walked back in the chilly night amongst the busy night time drinkers.

Day 10 with Leo:

Was a bright sunny day to explore the city! Outside of the hotel we walked through the huge weekend market filled with local crafts, old trinkets and replica Asian imports. We walked towards the Royal Palace and Church that was surrounded by tourists, locals and parks.
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We separated from the group to check out the Museo Reina Sophia for a few hours. The massive art gallery was FREE on the day we arrived which was a bonus as we enjoyed the massive collection. Most impressively was their modern art section including Picasso's “La guernica”. A huge painting inspired from the horrific aerial bombing of the pedestrian Spanish town during their Civil War. A really amazing and moving piece. We recommend checking it out if you ever get the chance.
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Hungry from walking around we found our friends and stopped at a bar where we ordered tapas (accidently a squid sandwhich...weird!) and a few more drinks.
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Kevin had made contact with an old school friend who now lived in the city and had invited us to the Tobacco Factory. Long retired of its original purpose it now housed a few local and lent itself to rallies, fundraisers and mostly musicians and graffitti artists! The lower levels were tunnels of art and rooms bursting with practicing bands to full performances. Pretty cool place. Later, Kevin, Chelsea and Anni still had energy to check out another venue which included an amazing live band.
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Posted by Kev n' Ariel 19:03 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Day 8 with Leo: Drinking in Duoro

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We woke up to a small crew of construction men moving rocks near us..they were not fazed by our presence. We drove back to where we had noted a lake on the way in. The fog was quite beautiful over the water and we enjoyed our upteenth tuna sandwhich. It was time to find some Port! We drove deeper and deeper into the valleys and the fog persisted until we popped out on the other side. We were so high up! We finally started to see signs for wineries and we drove down a few roads with no luck. The Duoro Valley winded us closer to our desire and we finally drove down the right road to find a homely Portuguese Vineyard. They squeezed us in for a tour upon arrival and we got to start with the wine tasting. 1 white (light and sweet) 2 reds (first boring, second better) and 2 Ports (a rose and tawny). Then we got walking around to hear the local ancestry of the grounds. We were very tempted to come back to participate in the grape stomping which happens around the fall. The cellars were filled with massive barrels with the 4 different types of Port. We all purchased a small bottle for a reasonable price. We stole the wifi while we decided what would happen next and decided to get halfway to Madrid. This got us to the Portugal/Spanish border and while looking for small towns and dead end roads we navigated ourselves into a seemingly abandoned field with no houses around. We were doing fine, dinner on the way when loud shouting was directed at us in the dark...WE WERE CAUGHT! Ariel was able to appease the local farmers who barely spoke any english but with some french and expressing we were Canadian and would be leaving first thing the next morning, bought us their approval for the night.
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Posted by Kev n' Ariel 00:01 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Day 7 with Leo: Porto

A full day in the city, we ditched the girls and made it in the drizzle to the free walking tour. Highlights were the competing churches (Religion ruled over the King for a long time), Port history with the British, bearded dolphins, and the legend of the lucky chicken who saved an innocent man condemned to die(you see it all over Portugal in all shapes and colours). Ended up down by the river and after we got some tips as to where to eat later, we headed back up the hill towards the famous bookstore. An inspiration for J.K Rowling's Harry Potter, the bookstore is considered one of the most beautiful in the world due to its double sweeping staircase, wooden carvings and stained glass windows . We scoured the shelves for a good travel book but to no avail...not the largest english selection. We found the sandwich place, a famous local delicacy of many meats and cheese, toped with a spicy tomato sauce and inhaled it while we waited for Anni to meet up with us. We had contacted her to visit while she had been staying in the city after Faro trying to find another workaway job but with no luck she was keen to join us for a few days while we made our way to Madrid. Stuffed in Leo we finally made it on the highway again and headed towards a national park for more free camping. After winding through foggy valley roads for a few hours, we found the park which was more of a summer holiday community and all we could find in the mist was an empty lot inbetween the road...was an adventure avoiding the streams of rain and huddling in the tent with snacks.
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Posted by Kev n' Ariel 01:12 Comments (0)

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