Thursday, November 17, 2011

Andalucía, ¡Olé!: Cádiz

All right, guys. I'm cracking down and I'm DOIN' this blogging thing...after I spent 20 min watching the Marcel the Shell videos on repeat, because they are the best things to ever happen to the internet...well, maybe second to Feminist Ryan Gosling...

En fin...on Sunday afternoon we took the train south to Cádiz. Our seats were all way far apart from each other, but thankfully I was seated at one of the snazzy tables with no one next to me, so I could stretch out. The guy sitting across from me looked a little bit like Wayne Coyne and was reading the issue of GQ with Jon Hamm on the cover. I almost asked if I could borrow it, but then I fell asleep. Story of my life.

We arrived in Cádiz to even warmer weather than we had enjoyed in Sevilla. Our hostel was really close to the train station, and was actually a sister hostel to the one we'd stayed at for the last two nights, so check-in was quick. After locking our stuff up and getting a map, we headed out to see the ocean (!!!) and  watch what's hailed as "the best sunset in Spain" at La Playa de la Caleta (translation: Cove Beach).

The houses along the oceanfront are painted pretty colors
Unreallllll. The rounded cupolas are la Catedral Nueva
So excited to be back by the ocean. California gurl 4 lyfe
The gold cupola is also from la Catedral Nueva
My bun is twinsies with the cupola
¡Hola gatito!
Just chillin'.
It was a loooong walk to La Playa de la Caleta, but there were a ton of feral kitties and of course, the beautiful Atlantic Ocean to gaze upon! Once we got to the beach, we trekked down a long stone walkway that leads to a fort maybe 400 meters into the ocean (it was high tide). There were fishermen fishing with these crazy long poles, and massive waves constantly crashing over the extremely low walls of the walkway.

Finally there!
Fishermen fishin' for fishes.
Crazy waves!
Oh hey!
I probably told them to pose like this..
...but this one was candid!
Kels took over my camera for a bit
The tag said "black music 4 ever"
It had been way too long since I'd seen a beach sunset
Kels modeled for me a bit.
It was only 7 by the time we finished watching the sunset, but we were absolutely starving, so we set off to find some food. Unfortunately, it was a Sunday in a teeeeeny town, and we couldn't find anything that was open. The restaurant the girl at the hostel front desk had recommended to us (and given us bad directions to) was closed as well, which should have been the first red flags that she is an idiot...but more on that later. We ended up having to take a break and get some drinks and tapas before continuing our journey for real was a low point in my life...but we saw some pretty things in our busqueda (search)!

Pretty lights for no reason at all
Dem palm trees.
Only dead fish follow the river's current
By the time we found and finished dinner, we were too exhausted to go out again. I was literally falling asleep at the table. That might have had something to do with copious amounts of red wine and goat cheese, though... anyway, we pathetically conked out early and didn't get a chance to see La Punta, the place where all the young people and students of Cádiz botellón (pre-game) before going out to bars and discotecas. But honestly, I'll take sleep over a club any day...I'm really a failure at being a young adult.

Since I've apparently turned into a morning person, I bounced right out of bed at 8 am and went up to the roof of the hostel to do a little yoga and enjoy the quiet. 

I loved all the ocean-air weathered paint
And now I can say I have watched the sun go down and go up in the oldest city in Europe!
We had a bus to catch at 14:40 (look at me, using 24 hour time like a real European!) so we did a quick walk around Old Town (and a trek to the grocery store for baguettes, brie, apples, and mandarin oranges) before going to THE BEACH for some sun-soakin'. ON HALLOWEEN! Even though I've lived less than a mile from the beach for almost my entire life, I don't think I've ever been to the beach on Halloween, much less gotten a tan. Yet another reason why Europe is da sheeeeet.

The front of La Catedral Nueva. We couldn't find La Catedral Vieja...
And I found this church, with the world's scariest altarpiece.
Do you wanta Fanta?
La Playa Victoria
Some kind-of Thriller hands in honor of Halloween!
I'm doin' caaaartwheels
Like, seriously?
More of than Andalusian yellow
So much anarchist graffiti.
On the way back to the hostel, we stopped to buy ice cream to eat on the roof until we had to head to the bus station. I scarfed down half a pint of lemon sorbet while lying in a hammock (!!!). It was one of those unreal moments where I just kept saying to myself, "You are lying on a hammock on a rooftop in southern Spain on Halloween and you are a little sunburned and in two days you have to go back to class, but this is a once-in-a-freakin'-lifetime experience that you will blog the hell out of once you get back to make everyone jealous...and also to preserve this SUPER RAD memory for posterity."

Look at my tan!
...but right after I was riding this sugar/suntan endorphin wave, disaster struck. We headed back to the station we had pulled into catch our return bus to Madrid, because that's where the girl at the hostel front desk told us to go. Once we got there, I even went to customer service to ask if we were in the right place and the agent told us we were. But when it was 2:40 and our bus still wasn't there, I went up to someone waiting at the bus area and asked him if he was going to Madrid too.

"Madrid? Oh, no, no, this is the south-bound bus station. The north-bound bus station is on the other side of town. You gotta get a taxi now! Run! Run!"

And so we ran. I furiously flagged down a cab we were off--but unfortunately, we were way too late for the bus. So late, in fact, that the bus office had closed, so we couldn't even ask for help. We could see a schedule through the window, and the next bus wouldn't be leaving until 9:40 pm, which would mean we couldn't get back to Madrid til the wee hours of the morning, and there was no guarantee there were even tickets available. We spent half an hour unsuccessfully trying to find WiFi so we could search for other options, and eventually started calling everyone in our phone books to see if someone was home in Madrid and by a computer. Finally, Aubrey's housemate picked up, and we asked him for info on the Ave, Spain's high-speed rail system. Turns out there was a train leaving in an hour and a half, but it would cost a nauseating 70€. After talking it over for a bit, we decided to just go for out, because if it turned out we wouldn't be able to get on the 9:45 bus, we would have to spend another night in Cádiz PLUS buy another bus ticket PLUS waste an incredible amount of yeah, that 70€ sounded okay. Also, the Ave goes 200 miles an hour, which is pretty freaking rad.

But it gets worse, unfortunately. Kelsey hailed another cab and we went back to the south-bound station, because apparently it still has north-bound trains. We went back to the costumer service desk and told him we wanted tickets to the 4:30 train to Madrid, debit cards bravely in hand. After a minute of clicking around the computer, he informed us that...there was only one seat available in coach, but we could pay 130€ to sit in preferente (first-class). Or, we could take a regular train to Sevilla, and catch the Ave there. That would cost a miserable 96€, or $119.

But we did it.

Aubrey buying her $119 ticket, aided by our box of digestive crackers.
We had to wait nearly an hour for the train to Sevilla, during which we tried not to cry about all the money we had just spent. (I coped by swearing a lot and playing Angry Birds on my iPod.)

And I hate to say it, but it gets even worse. Halfway to Sevilla, the train just stopped. Finally, a voice came over the loudspeaker, saying to expect delays of over thirty minutes. We had a forty-five minute layover between arriving in Sevilla and catching the Ave, so this would be cutting it close, but we kept cool. But then it turned out that the delays were because some dingus had stolen the traffic signals on the train tracks. What? Who DOES that? What do you even do with train traffic signals? I'm sure you could get some at Ikea. Or a china shop. I don't even know. But I hate that dingus a lot, because I nearly had an anxiety attack. We were sitting there on the edges of our seats, deliriously playing Veinte Preguntas (20 questions), trying to ignore the fact that if we missed the Ave, we would bankrupt ourselves and be exiled from the country and be forced to kick puppies. Or, you know, really bad things would happen.

With ten minutes until the Ave departure time, we pulled into Sevilla. I booked it off the train and sprinted up two flights of stairs while carrying my suitcase in order to find the arrivals/departures board--unfortunately by the time I got there, I was too out of breath to be able to ask for directions (#asthmaticproblems). Thankfully, Aubrey and Kelsey were more rational and found the correct track. We put our bags through the metal detector, had our tickets torn, and made it onto the train with five minutes to spare.

Unfortunately, by the time the train left it was already dark, so we couldn't see what it looks like to travel at 200 mph. We could, however, watch the cabin screening of Due Date IN ENGLISH! It was a $119 movie, but it did have Robert Downey Junior in it, who I'd say is worth at least $13. So I actually only wasted $106!

We got back to Madrid at around 10:30 pm. The metro station was full of people in Halloween costumes, which was quite comical, because Spanish young adults have a very different costume style than American young adults--that is to say, there were no sexy cats and no politically incorrect rice farmer hats, just fully-clothed clowns with dorky wigs and zombies covered in fake blood. I was entertained until I realized this was the first Halloween where I didn't celebrate at all. I didn't even eat any candy. My life is really quite tragic at times...

I crashed as soon as I got back home. The weekend was wonderful, but I was upset that it had ended on such a frustrating note. But as we decided, mierda pasa--shit happens. There was no way I'd get through four months in Europe without a travel hitch. And now I can say I've been on the Ave! And I've also now had to deal with my bank thinking my debit card had been stolen. Both really fun life experiences.

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