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Well, it all actually started Friday the 22nd of March, when my bus left Aberdeen at about 9 pm and arrived in London at 6:55 am. So I wandered about London all day, took in Big Ben, the parks, that kinda stuff, all the bridges (London bridge will not fall down anytime soon), and then met up with my travelling compatriot, one Ms. Lisa Dugdale. We hit the National Museum in Trafalger Square, and then went to a friend of Lisa's mom's to crash for the night.
The next morning, bright and early, we went to London Gatwick (located way outside of london) and flew into Paris (Charles de Gaul, way outside of Paris). We caught a RoissyBus (don't ask) into Paris proper, and began our journey by attempting to find a place to sleep. This took most of the day, and involved our wandering all over Paris in no particular direction (I have my own method of sightseeing, which I like to call the Zen art of Tourism) until we finally settled on a little hole over by the (French) Parthenon. When I say little hole, I mean it was a dump, but the rooms weren't all that bad, and it was cheap. We crashed out there and spent the next coupla days going all around Paris, seeing the sights, and in general having a good time in a city where a can of coke costs two bucks.
Then we went to the train station to go to Madrid. Adventure number one. A drug bust, or something similar, was taking place, not ten feet (literally _not_ ten feet, the guys machine gun was way too close to my head at certain points) from us. Two men, one of whom apparently had ratted on the other, were having a loud discussion with one another, then one slapped the other, and the soldiers restrained them, then some guy was dragged up, handcuffed, and roughed up a bit, then taken away, along with the soldiers. So we get on the train to go to Madrid. Adventure number two. Upon closer reading of our passes, we find they aren't valid until an official does something involving a stamp to them. So we have to get off the train before it gets going and get them stamped, by which time the train has left us. This was not all bad, as we met another American, a girl by the name of Lucy Pham, from California, who is also going to Madrid. So we all get on the next train and head out for Madrid, rolling in about 9am to a little town called Irun, which was just across the Spanish border. We have a good healthy layover here, if memory serves because we couldn't figure out the train system, and so we go into the city proper and meander about it climbing the hills and somesuch. Then back onto the train, and into Madrid.
We arrive at madrid at an ungodly hour, without a place to sleep, and finally (after being turned away by a very rude man at one of the hostels) find a pensione to stay at. The next day we hit the Prado and a coupla other museums, and the following day we shop for shoes (don't ask) and bid Lucy a fond farewell as she heads off to Portugal. The following day we book an AVE (high speed train - 150 mph+/-) to Sevilla, and arrive in plenty of time to be accosted by a stinky woman with a tree branch, who tells our fortune and takes our money (my own stupidity for reaching into my pocket and pulling out a 500 peseta coin...). Then we find a hostel, and see the sights, including a really big cathedral, a tower, and some stuff like that. We also eat at a Tex/Mex restaurant in which, through an error of translation, the waiter is convinced we never recieved food, and so brings us the same platters, again. Already being stuffed we have to convince him that we have already eaten. Also in this restaurant is the first time I've ever seen two waiters walk into a swinging door from opposite sides. You know the rest of the joke, and in fact the next waiter out the door _did_ slip in the mess, sending yet more food flying. All in all it was as silly as it sounds...
By the way - did you know you can buy beer in mcdonald's?
The next day, thinking to leave for portugal, because holy week causes all the prices to rise by 100%, we try to catch a bus, but fail. So we stay up all night watching folks in pointy hats carrying candles and platforms of Jesus and Mary by. It goes well into the night, and the next morning we depart for portugal. Portugal begins with a crappy day because my cash card wont work, but lisa lets me borrow money, and so we get to Lagos just fine. Then we get on the wrong bus (bus driver looks at our ticket, motions us on, and doesn't say a word...) and end up wandering around Portamao for three hours before we find out we're in the wrong city. So we spend the night and the next day go to Sagres.
Sagres is about 5 km from the southwesternmost point of Europe, so we hike there, and there's a little lighthouse and some Beautiful scenery along the way. In general, Sagres was the best place in my mind. Little town, warm sun, ocean, lots of open spaces.
Anyway, from there we travel to Tavira, and some woman speaking pidgin english tells us her life story, none of which we understand. From Tavira we head back to Sevilla, where again we miss the connexion and have to pull an all nighter to catch the early morning train to Madrid, and then a connexion to Barcelona. During the all nighter we see drunk tourists taking their photo with some poor streetcleaner... just a silly mess.
So - Barcelona, we see the cool street life, the big buildings, and yes, the purse theives - after Lisa thoughtfully leaves her purse in a public space for the course of an hour, when we return to find it it is gone. So she is in a bind (it was later sent to her at school, minus the cash she had in it...). Fortunately, the important stuff was in her backpack, so we catch a 24 hr. train for Roma the day after Easter. Meet a cool Pennsylvanian on the train who is working for the UN in Geneva, and arrive in Rome in mid to late evening. Get a hostal room and have real italian Pizza! The next day, the Vatican, sistene chapel, and stuff like that. Then the roman ruins, and we (along with two compadres we meet in Rome, Holly and Sharon) are off to Florence. We see the stuff in Florence (with the exclusion of David, who gets his own museum, and frankly, I don't wanna see him that badly), and then head to Venice. In venice, we see where they keep all the pigeons in Italy, and then grab a night train to Paris in time to catch the flight back to London. Then I hang out in London staying with a friend I met in Aberdeen, who is studying in London, and then come back on an overnight bus.
As an added note, five years after this trip, I was still in contact with Lucy (the girl I met in Madrid) and Holly (the girl I met in Rome). I love travel!
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