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31.12.97 - New Years Eve - MadridWe were dead tired after our epic, 15hour train trip overnight from Lisbon. It took us forever to find a place to stay in after our initial attempts to find a hostel were aborted after it was discovered they were all shut over the Christmas/New Year period (stupid huh?). We only figured this out after walking for hours to get to the hostels which were right across city from just about everything.
We were directed towards a Pension (guesthouse) where we were told there would be a room available for us. When we got there, however, we found that a group of four Americans who could speak fluent Spanish to the non-English-speaking hostess. There was only room enough for one of our two groups and it was clear that they had a tactical advantage over us in the negotiating stakes. By this stage we were so tired and pissed off we were barely able to speak for ourselves any more, fortunately one of the girls with the Americans took pity on us and let us have the room.
We checked in, had much-needed showers, and headed out to wander around Madrid for a while. We soon discovered that all the museums were shut (including the Prado which we would have liked to have seen) - oh well.. We headed back to the pension and tried to sleep for a bit but, despite being very tired, I could not sleep -- dammit.
Headed out for an early (very early by Spanish standards) dinner around 8pm and had some baguettes with BLT on them which were quite nice. We then tried to find a pub to sit in until midnight, which turned out to be a major underestimation of the opening times of Spanish Pubs. We wandered around in frustration for hours looking for an open pub but everything looked very shut down. Eventually we headed back to the Pension about 10pm feeling a bit dejected - we had heard Madrid was a party town but we couldn't even find a place to buy a drink!
Some time later we headed out again and eventually found an open Irish Pub near Del Sol (City Centre?) but even that sucked! We had thought all Irish Pubs were fun places to be but this one was so depressing -- we just wanted to leave!
Eventually we walked out into the square at Del Sol which had been slowly filling all night and bought a $5 bottle of champagne. Towards midnight the square really livened up, it was packed and everyone was totally pissed. Midnight came and everyone went nuts for about an hour before starting to wander away. The champagne was pretty weak, we had three bottles between us yet none of us felt even in the slightest bit drunk.
The square deteriorated into bottle throwing and naked old guys wandering around in the fountain -- we decided to head out. We eventually ended up in the bar region to the North of Del Sol and found that all the pubs that had been closed previously were now open -- they seem to have an opening time of around midnight. The bars were very small and cliquey looking and we were so tired after two days with no sleep we didn't have the energy to break into these cosy little groups. We ended up going back to the pension around 2am. Way soft.
01.01.98 - New Years DayWe had to check out of our pension by 10am so we were out of there by then, needing a lot more sleep, and dumped our bags at the train station. We then headed out to walk around the city before our night-time train out of the city -- we walked everywhere!
We walked from Goyou in the West, down through Parque de Retiro across to La Latina in the East and across to see the Royal Palace (which we didn't even know about until we stumbled across it. We then caught an air car through the Casa de Campo (Prostitute City, River of Used Condoms) and up further North until we headed back into Plaza De Espana which is right near the pension where we had been staying.
We continued on to Del Sol and to the square where the markets are supposedly held (though we never saw no markets!). We found thousands of people in the square but NOTHING was happening there - unless you count the "Nativity Scene" for which there was a big queue to see. We don't have Nativity Scenes in Australia in general, and the sight of all these people actually queuing to see one was just plain weird to us.
Back to Plaza de Espana for dinner and off to the train station for our 10pm train to Barcelona.
02.01.98 - BarcelonaFrom the train station we headed straight for the Kabul Hostel in Barcelona which we selected for its reputation as a party hostel. Had plenty of sleep on the train (not surprising considering my previous lack of sleep) though I still seem to have a cold. Barcelona seems like a pretty cool city from what we had seen up to this point.
After checking into the hostel we wandered out into the city to look around. The first thing we stumbled upon was the Picasso Museum near our hostel and we wandered around that for a while -- quite a nice art museum.
We continued on, wandering the streets down to the water where we checked out the harbour, which is obviously quite a busy port but still very attractive. We also caught the Metro to see the Gaude Cathedral which is a very, um, different building -- still under construction after hundreds of years. Gaude is apparently a very famous figure amongst architecture students, but I had never heard of the guy -- uncultured engineer that I am.
03.01.98 - SightseeingWe got quite a good night's sleep last night, interrupted only by people stumbling in at 4am and throwing up on the floor before crawling into bed -- yes, they do know how to party in Spain. We checked out of the hostel in a rush and headed off to the South/West side of Barcelona to visit some of the castles and museums there as well as the Olympics site.
We did a lot of walking (yet again) and saw the National Gallery (not actually going in), the castle and war museum. We checked out the Olympic site also, all of which wasn't all that exciting in the end, got some great photos of the scenery though!
Spent the rest of the day eating (we spent a lot of time in Spain eating - great food and quite cheap) and making our way to the train station. We caught the 7:30pm train after successfully avoiding all the weirdos at the station and met a Canadian girl on the train who's name I cannot remember - she latched onto us very quickly though, and insisted on hugging us and taking our photos when we said goodbye. A little odd considering we only knew her a few hours...
Finished "Cosmos" by Carl Sagan which I had bought after finishing reading "Contact" by the same Author - I've become a big Carl Sagan fan. Might read some more of his books if I have the chance - or maybe I'll just read Cosmos again, maybe I'll understand it all on a second pass.