So I am a little behind in my blogging. I think my last legitimate blog was from Dublin two weeks ago. Oh well, better late then never.
So I will start with my last couple of days in Dublin (remember I stayed there for a few extra days then I planned because of the wrong flight situation). I had a rather relaxing last couple of days there as I just wondered around the areas of Dublin that were not on the tourist maps. Being an engineer, I thoroughly enjoyed all of the modern all-glass buildings that were being constructed by the mouth of the Liffey. After seeing that, I thought to myself that I could totally live there. However, I did not get to experience all of the stormy overcast weather that Dublin is known to have for the majority of the year. I guess the sun shines bright for me whereever I go.... well, at least til London.
So after the few extra days, a more expensive plane ticket, and less money in my pocket, I did finally make it London flying my own airline, Ryanair. I wish my name was on a more respectable airline. They actually charged me 20 euros (~$27) because I did not print out my boarding pass at home. I maybe understand 5 euros ( I mean it did take the lady a whole 5 seconds to print me out one) but 20 euros!!! That's ridiculous. Oh well.
London is a extremely beautiful and well-kept city. I visited all of main tourist sites- Buckingham Palace, Parliament, London bridge, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery on my first day there. Like all my days in Europe so far, I did quite a bit of walking. I unfortunately was not able to see the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. One of the police officers told me that they do not enough soldiers to do it everyday so they do it every other day until the summer months when there are more tourists. That brings me to my next point- England does a lot to preserve their tourist attractions. I am convinced that all the guards in the red jacket and the big puffy black hat thingy serve no other purpose then to bring tourists in and keep them happy. Although I do enjoy seeing all of these touristy things, I really hate how much some of these places have become such tourist traps. No matter how important something is, I am not going to spend half a day waiting in line for a ten minute veiw of, let´s say, the Westminster Abbey church. I found out a faster and cheaper way of seeing the inside of a big old church was by just going to the actual church service. That's right, St. Paul's catherdal was where I spent 45 minutes of my Easter Sunday morning . For a church that could fit about 2000 people, I was surprised at how few actually came ( maybe more came to the 11 o'clock service then the 8 o´clock service).
I always felt like I was being watched in London- they have cameras everywhere!! It was extremely rare to walk down the block and not see a single security camera. And I don't know if it was just the time I was there or if it is all the time, but London's threat of a terrorist attack seemed really high. On my last day, I walked through a train station that had to have at least 50 police officers and several bomb/drug sniffing dogs searching one of the trains. I suppose if it was really bad, they would have evacuated the station. I did not stick around to find out.
After London, I took a ferry ride to a city called Calais on the French coast. Calais is about as exciting as Lodi. From there I took a super fast train that goes over 200 mph to Paris- the city of love ( and really small, overpriced hostels). I know I will be love the day I will be willing to stand in a 3 or 4 hour line that zig zagged through out the base of the Eiffel Tower so that I can spend about 10 minutes halfway up the tower with about 50 other people. I wonder how many relationships end in that line each year. There at least have to be a few.
Paris was quite different from my experiences in Ireland and England. For one, I could not understand a thing anyone said. That makes things interesting. The city it self is definitely not as clean as Dublin or London. To tell you the truth, a lot of the city smells like urine, especially the subway.
There is a lot of history in Paris and fortunately I found a really good free walking tour. I learned so many cool facts about Paris through our guide, Phillip. For example, I learned central Paris does not allow any skyscrapers (any building over about 6 stories). They have one 30-something story building somewhat close to the Eiffel Tower that sticks out like a sore thumb. The Parisian government wanted to tear the building down after immense pressure from the public. Unfortunately, the building is full of asbestos and would take 3 years and a half mile radius evacuation zone to tear down. You can read a lot of the facts like that one on the descriptions of the Paris pictures I already posted. If anyone goes to Europe in the future, I highly recommend the free Sandmans New Europe walking tours they have in several European cities. I really regret not doing the tour in Dublin and London. And the best part about it is that is completely free. The guides only work of tips if you want to tip.
After Paris, I started to get a little worn out from all the sight seeing I was doing so I decided to take a little vacation in San Sebastian, Spain. Best decision I have ever made! That place was awesome. If it was about 10 degrees warmer, it would have been even better, if that was possible. San Sebastian is a beach town surrounded by small mountains. I think there is a permament population of about 150,000 but it swells during the summer months. Aside from the cold showers, the hostel I stayed at will be the mark that I judge all hostels against. I have never met a more friendly owner. Pablo brought me and the five other guys that were staying there bottles of the hometown cider and drank it with us. And the best part about this hostel was that it was the cheapest hostel I have stayed at so far. I did a lot of hiking,, drinking, and tapa tasting with the 5 other guys in the hostel. Unlike California, where al the nightlife ends at two, Spain's nightlife does not really start going until 2 am goes on to 5,6, or 7 in the morning. It is insane. The Spanish are known for enjoying life. A common phrase there is "mañana"- as in "I will do it tomorrow". I wish America was more like Spain.
I am now in Madrid and trying to get over a little sickness. I have a mild sore throat, a stuffy nose , and a case of stomach acid reflex. I bet my dormmates love me. Good thing my dad packed a mini pharmacy for me. I hope to be back to full strenght tomorrow.
I attended a bull fight yesterday at Madrid´s big bullfighting arena Las Ventas. It was off season so the stadium was only half full. I was quite disturbed by the bull fight. It was so aweful how they basically torture the bulls until they die. I was really hoping that one of the bulls would gore the matador to give him a little taste of the pain that he was inflicting.
I'm off to Lisbon, Portugal tonight and then I am going to swoop back around through southern Spain (and maybe hit up the tip of Morocco if transportation to there is not too hard). Until next time...