Spain is amazing! I am having so much fun. I'm actually feeling a little lame at the moment because half of the tour group is going out partying tonight but I am staying at the hotel to get some much needed sleep... We're saving ourselves for the clubs in Ibiza... and I am getting this stupid Contiki Cough... it is a pretty nasty cough and so far I only have an itch so I am going to buy some antibiotics to prepare for the worst.. you can buy them over the counter here and I figure I may get a few packets in case of getting sick in Canada, I won't have to worry about seeing a doctor. Yep, I am now a pharmacist...
As for Spain itself, I am loving it. This country is amazing. The history, the culture, the clubs... it seems as they don't do anything half-arsed. The Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona is amazing and was designed by a famous architect called Gaudi. He was really into gothic architecture and started building this beautiful cathedral but ended up running out of money and not being able to fund it.. he then died getting hit by a car because he stepped onto the road to admire the cathedral and work on this building stopped for years before it was decided to that the building should be finished. It is set to be finished in 2010 and each year a different architect is asked to give his opinions on the designs of the building to keep with the original idea of Gaudi's work. It's amazing because Gaudi actually didn't plan the cathedral before he started building it which makes it hard for the Spanish to keep building it because there are no plans. I was disappointed though because the inside is definitely not as dramatic and as beautiful as the outside. It will look even more amazing when it is finished.
We saw the 1992 Olympic Stadium and briefly poked our head through the gate to take a photo but couldn't really see much. I couldn't find the Olympic rings either.. disappointing. That's the thing with Contiki - they take you to loads of places and let you stop off for photo opportunities but they don't always take you inside or let you wander around for a while. If you want to see it in more detail you have to go back later.
There was so much to do in Barcelona and I was only there for two days. I went down to the beach and marina which were not as nice as others that I've been to but I am a sucker for harbours and the beach so I thought it was still okay. I asked a lady to take a photo of me and afterwards she told me to check to see if it was an okay photo and I took my hand off my bag to look at the photo... she gasped and said that I must always keep my hand on my bag because the day before she had been pick-pocketed. Spain, especially Barcelona and Madrid, are renowned for pickpocketers who target tourists. I spoke to quite a few people who had told me their own stories about them or their friends being pick-pocketed and our tour guide has been stressing the point a lot as we've been touring.
After a long drive, and a quick stop off at Zaragoza where we saw the basilica, we made it to Madrid but were pretty exhausted because the night before we went out to some random bar in Barcelona. We wandered around slowly but it was a Monday and apparently there is not much open in Madrid on a Monday which was frustrating. We went on a tour of the Royal Palace which LOOKED amazing but the tour was SO boring because I couldn't hear the guide and I was feeling pretty tired thanks to the night before. So I just looked around at the pretty building and counted down until the tour was finally over. We went to the station where the M11 bombings were in 2004 and saw the memorial. It was really pretty, lots of greenery. Basically, the day was spent wandering around Madrid, snapping photos, until we got so tired that we headed back to the hotel and relaxed until dinner. We went to this place called Los Galayos which was in this square in Madrid and had some of the yummiest tapas ever. There were five different kinds of tapas - olives, fried calamari rings, roasted capsicum, fried onions and a potato and egg Spanish omelette. We then had the most amazing salmon but by this stage we were all full because the tapas were filling.. and we still had desert to go which was kind of like a matchstick like you can get back home, you know, the custard and cream thing with pastry.. normally has chocolate on top but this one didn't. By this stage I was ready to pop so I only had a little taste.
Our plan was to go to a salsa bar after dinner which was fine but I wasn't feeling very well so I only went for half an hour before heading back to the hotel and didn't even try salsa... I ended up vomiting up half my dinner but luckily whatever it was had passed by the time I woke up in the morning. I've been very lucky to not get sick on this trip. We made our way down to Toledo where we went to a sword making demonstration to which I once again did not listen to so I have no idea how swords are made. I got a couple of swords out and did some role playing with one of the girls on my tour... that was fun... we pretended to chop each others necks off...
Then we went into town and enjoyed a guided tour of the city. It was a very pretty place and definitely looked like a real part of Spain. Very quaint, narrow streets with lots of balconies with flower baskets hanging off them. More cathedrals and then we went to McDonalds and got ice-cream before jumping back on the bus and headed to Cordoba.
The next morning in Cordoba we headed to the Pagan Church which is now a mosque and was once tried to be turned into a cathedral... it was really cool because inside this mosque you could see elements of Pagan design as well as part of the cathedral and some structure of a church. There were Christian sculptures around the room yet right next to it there were Pagan designs and features of a mosque. I can't entirely remember why the people of Cordoba had changed it around so much from so many different religions. Then we went to the Alcazar which had the most amazing gardens. There were small pools filled with water and had fish inside with little water fountains spurting water back into the pools. There were blooming flowers everywhere and they smelt so nice. If there weren't so many people there it would have been a beautiful place to sit down with a good book and relax. We then found a place to eat lunch where I got the most revolting sandwich. I randomly chose something which was written in Spanish thinking I couldn't go too wrong with a sandwich.. yeah, I ended up with.. well, I still don't actually know. I took one bite, spat it back out and prodded with this alien stuff on my bread... I think it was either cured or raw meat but whatever it was it was not nice. Never again will I do the random selection in a foreign country. Yuk.