Dream trip Day 92 Plane, bus, hello Edinburgh, hello UK…

Travel day yet again! Couting all the flights, this would make lucky 7:

DFW to London

Bordeaux to Lisbon

Porto to Madrid

Barcelona to Brussels

Brussels to Barcelona

Barcelona to Budapest

I flew easyJet, Ryanair whatever was cheapest, really. I knew having a backpack and a satchel, both qualified for carry on. So no surprise fees as long as you remember to eat  and fill up your water bottle before boarding.

I mainly used skyscanner.com a site that shows you the daily flight costs for any route out of any airport by month. I had the luxury of waiting for the cheapest week or day for a flight to my destination.

I’d also check flights on hipmunk.com where you can select flights based on agony, or a combination of transfers,  flight time, layovers etc.

Edinburgh came up really cheap from Warsaw. I think the flight was really just had a layover in Edinburgh en route to London.

I’d also taken into account hostel check out time this trip so I wouldn’t walk around aimlessly for a couple hours.

I had time to pack up and hit up the corner coffee shop one last time. Free wi-fi, too. Had to update my family so they’d know where I was, so I dropped them an email with pics.

This was my last chance for moderately priced food as well so I picked up a sandwich and apple for the trip.

I opened my Uber app and had a car take me to the airport. It was accessible via public transportation. 2 buses and at least an hour, mainly waiting on the transfer bus to the airport.

Only 20 min via car so why not go out in style?

The Warsaw airport was a bit confusing, it had a lot of gates, over 50, but for some reason the block to my flight wasn’t along the main walking route.

My routine is to walk as far as I can throughout the terminal before boarding, in an effort to tire myself out a bit as well as explore airports.

It was down to about 15 min before my board time before I realized I may not find my gate in time.

One more pass and there it was, down a hall and some steps, to the basement, were 10 other terminals for smaller flights, I guess. Not sure why they did it different, but I was happy to see it was going to be a pretty empty flight.

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I selected an empty row and was rewarded by a guy who sat along the aisle, no one in the middle. Score!

No close inspections on my entry date. Nor when I landed in Scotland. I correctly stated I was ultimately en route to Dublin, but I had to see Scotland, since it was along the way and all.

The passport girl smiled, “You’ll luv it here. Welcome to Scotland!” She stamped my passport and waved me through.  I was the UK’s problem now.

Luckily I still had some £ in my bag so I was able to afford the bus from airport to my hostel.

It was raining here too! Confounded rain, always following me!

I understood people here! English and with great accents, too.

Our bus turned and stopped, people got in, people go off. No matter if I remembered the name of my stop, I compulsively checked my map app to once again verify. Like, 10x while the bus was rolling.

My stop was doubly easier as it was also the final stop so I don’t know why I was so concerned about missing it.

Bonus: my hostel was maybe 2 blocks from the bus stop, something I didn’t plan for but due to sprinkling rain, I was quite happy about.

It was cold, actually cold here, even with my long sleeve shirt and raincoat on. I was going to have to do some shopping.

I was warmly greeted by the hostel receptionist who had dreads wrapped up like a crown on her head.

No one in my room but I do see bags. I’d see them later.

My hostel was next to a pub so I decided that was best option to end the evening. I am not sure why travel, flying makes you so tired, but it does.

A couple pints, light conversation with a few people asking for another pub. At least I understood them though I couldn’t help.

Hearing different languages does mess with your mind a bit. It takes some time to adjust but then you start picking out a word or phrases soon.

It’s strange, I don’t know any languages well, but hearing a couple words, context, tenor of the conversation I was able to figure out the gist of what people were talking about in each country.

Conversation is the same wherever you go: weather, girl problems, funny story, what’s up with our government?

I finished my pint just as the rain began the fall harder. Night rain is the best rain and best way to fall asleep.

 

Beer: Edinburgh Gold

Song: Mogwai   Travel is Dangerous

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Dream trip day 79   Train to Kraków, catching up with friends, Polish food

No issues checking out, just drop your key in a box, doors lock behind you.

Hardly anyone walking around the streets early in the morning, quite a change from the crowds I’d usually seen gathered.

Soon I was at the Praha hlavní nádraží (man do I enjoy all the accent marks on these letters!)

Rail, bus stations are always active and usually crowded no matter the time of day.

I located my train to Ostrava, a small city close to the Polish border and where I was to hop a bus to take me the rest of the way to Kraków.

Ah sweet relief as I fell into my window seat and watched the city disappear into countryside.

I was soon asleep.

Woke up to very beautiful, green countryside that soon gave way to the city.

We stopped and I had maybe 15-20min to find my bus, a process that is always tense, but especially so when all the signs are in Czech.

Whoever decided to add images to signs will forever be my hero.

Fortunately this was a small depot and I quickly found the bus area.

I stood at where I thought my bus would arrive based on the sign only to see the Krakow bus pass by and stop further down the street.

Buses overseas usually don’t have their destinations lit up on top, but rather they hang a sign on the lower right corner of the windshield with the destination city.

Sometimes the bus made you stow backpacks and this was such an occasion. This is one of many reasons why you need a small bag or satchel on trips.

You can carry needed items like say a water bottle as well souvenirs, snacks, etc.

Not many people heading to Krakow this day so most everyone got seats to themselves.

Gorgeous views as we exited the city and soon we entered Poland!

After awhile we entered the city at a huge rail, bus depot that after walking awhile, I realized the depot was connected to a mall.

That is such a great idea, get off your bus or train to find food, clothes, most anything a person could need after or before a trip.

I ducked into a burrito joint, I know, why there right, but I didn’t see a kielbasas r us or a pierogis haus, nothing that was decidedly Polish.

Happy to report that the burrito I had was very fresh and tasty. I only wished this and other places that try to interpret Mexican food would ease up on the beans.

I ordered a chicken burrito, not a bean burrito with chicken, you know. Had to stop the lady from spooning yet another scoop of what appeared to be ranch style beans.

At least know that if you use beans, they need to be wet, in a liquid vs the pile of dry beans that was my option here.

I walked the mall afterwards and they are very similar to the US malls I’d grown up going to, sometimes willingly, most of the time clothes shopping or worse, for portrait pics.

Clothing stores pumped out modern dance music here, as did shoe stores. No arcade, but they probably don’t have any in the US anymore either.

On one end of the mall was a theater, cinema so that was a universal thing.

About the only thing that really stood out was the amount of coffee kiosks. For sure, there was no reason to wait in line for a coffee, just walk a bit further.

I stopped at one and was amazed at how many employees worked in such a small, not busy kiosk. Every girl did 1 job: take your money, make the coffee, or serve it to you. Plus another girl showed up to pick up the trash and was probably around to help if it got busy.

Made me think about the hectic US places where there was a long line and 1 person doing all the jobs.

Once outside the mall, I entered an enormous courtyard. At the far end was a salt mine tour.

For sure if you want to see an abandoned salt mine, Krakow has you covered. I saw many ads for this one as well as larger mines outside of town.

I located the main road to my friend’s apartment which lead under a bridge then opened into a wonderful park road.

It’s always a good thing to sit on a bench covered by trees to watch car traffic, walkers or in this case, a small girl trying to catch a squirrel.

She was not successful in her endeavor. Her mom chain-smoked on a nearby bench while loudly talking on her cell in Polish.

I followed the wonderful tree-lined road as long as I could before I had to cross the street.

I knew one of my days here would be spent walking the whole garden road, wherever it lead.

There were castles and fortresses on both sides of me on this part of the walk. More exploration options.

It was hot in Krakow, I was sweating. Make fun of me if you want, but I wore hiking pants that unzipped at the knee so I paused on a bench to removed my leggings.

My un-stylish pant option served me very well on this leg of the trip. It was August after all, it was supposed to be hot.

After passing over the tram lines, I was on a business lined street full of coffee shops, convenience stores and food options.

Soon I was at my friend’s apartment where I was buzzed in, took the lift to the 3rd floor and saw my friend.

Earlier in the year one of my former corporate work friend had messaged me about her new life in Poland. Come for a visit if you can she wrote. Haha little did she know 6 months after that invite I would be there.

She was traveling this week, but I knew her husband and he was cool.

We chatted and I filled him in on my trip. I was in a corporate supplied and furnished apartment.

It was super modern place, sleek, exposed pipes, dark hardwood floor. On one wall was old black and white photos artfully arranged into a unique, somehow still in a square pattern.

These photos were totally random shots of fashion models or movie stars. Seemed odd in a family residence, but they couldn’t change it.

They had another room for their son they let me sleep in, and I was super grateful for a bed, especially a bedroom with a door for privacy.

I had arrived around their daily call time so I was able to talk to my friend who was very excited I was there. She was in the US at the moment.

I soon learned they were going to meet up Paris in a few days. To my shock, she said I should just stay there in the apartment for the week. I could house sit.

The husband nodded approvingly, better to have someone here. They were so generous, I was flabbergasted and humbled.

Talk soon turned to food and off we went to a local spot the family frequented.

While tempted to order pierogi, I was assured those indeed were everywhere, including fresh ones sitting in the fridge in the apartment.

I opted for my first taste of white borscht, a soup that is very Polish as it also included kielbasa sausage. Most borscht was beet red outside of Poland.

My entree was pork served with potatoes or latke. A hearty gravy was poured over the dish along with cream. It was very good and rich.

Throughout the course of our dinner I discovered my friend’s family was of Polish decent, his grandparents immigrated to escape the Nazi’s and settled in Ohio.

He had grown up with many of the dishes he ate here regularly and even spoke Polish when he was little, but had forgotten it. He remembered enough to get by, but couldn’t hold a full conversation like he had growing up.

I was shocked when the check came in under 20$. That’s with 2 soups, entrees and beers for 2 people! Dang that’s affordable.

We stepped outside to light rain and I inquired about a neon sign I saw on a couple of apartments.

Turns out those were the massage parlors, aka prostitution rooms. Guys could pay for the company of women. It was not highly recommended for me to check them out.

We popped into a small convenience store and picked up some beer which we enjoyed on their balcony.

The balcony overlooked a courtyard with a couple of churches on either side.

My friend had an early morning at work so he soon retired, but not before inviting me to taco Tuesday with his co-workers the next evening.

I sipped a beer, watching the rain fall from the balcony before I retired for the evening.

Song: Władysław Szpilman   Little Overture

Beer:  Tyskie Gronie

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Dream trip day 69 goodbye Vienna, bus to Prague

I woke and collected my things, still only a backpack of all my possessions.

From previous travel days, I knew it was best to eat a big meal before hopping on a long bus ride.

There was a local chain bakery a few doors down that I knew was good as I’d had a croissant and coffee from another location in town.

This time I selected a substantial cinnamon roll like pastry and coffee. So good!

It always takes awhile to point at an item on a shelf and for the server to automatically select not what you are pointing at several times, each new wrong selection eliciting a curious eyebrow raise.

There was a grocery store on my walk back so I bought some fruits and nuts to snack on during the long bus trip.

Sometimes the buses stopped for breaks, sometimes they didn’t, I guessed the length of drive time was a factor for when buses stopped so it was best to be prepared.

Having time to plot my days I realized I had a lot of time until my bus left, but not very much time before I had to check out of my hostel.

I needed to shower, too, so I was going to have to chance it and shower after checkout to kill some time.

On the way to checkout at the hostel, I stashed a fresh shirt, undergarments and towel into a shower area and hoped no one would take them.

Checkout was simple and they let me stow my bags for a couple hours in a locked back room.

I sat outside for a few moments, scanning around at the nature as well as the reception area.

Finally, as I knew it would happen, the receptionist had some odd job to do away from the desk.

Seizing my chance, I strolled up the back stairs and hit the shower.

I’m not certain if anyone really cared about my shower, I had paid for several nights so they had made euros off me.

I was also technically not staying there at that moment when the water hit me. I figured it was all a wash, certainly much worse things went on than a guy using some water.

My only burden was now I had to travel with damp clothes, a fair punishment.

Per my map app, I was well over an hour walk to the bus depot. Appropriately I called for an Uber.

A very nice man picked me up and we talked about the city.

‘I love Vienna. It is so pretty. Often I find myself staring at a building while at a light or returning to a certain street to look at the architecture.’ He said with a huge grin. ‘Where are you from, the States?’ He asked as he turned around while we where stopped at a light.

I told him about Dallas and Texas. He was curious and I saw something in him I rarely encountered, but was searching for: he loved where he lived.

I’d determined that Dallas was just a place people worked, not a destination.

Few dream about moving to Dallas from outside the state or country, I reckon.

In some way this trip was about seeing how others lived, why do people live where they do? Is there a place for me out there, somewhere?

I waved goodbye to my newest short term friend and looked around the depot for TVs.

There is a bit of consistency at train, bus depots as far as scheduling info goes in that there were TV’s or a display with all the arrivals, departures it was just the location of these info portals was different.

I had over a half hour til departure so my info wasn’t displayed yet.

Typically only arrivals in the next 15 minutes were displayed, then more info was added if a bus was delayed, which happens a lot.

Thankfully my bus wasn’t delayed this time plus it wasn’t packed.

Only a couple trips I had a neighbor and the seats were close so you bumped shoulders, which is tough for several hours.

I slid into my seat, unpacked my iPad, headphones and water. I also had my camera phone ready as we usually passed by cool photo spots when driving out of town.

Surprisingly to me, most cities had a camp site just outside town. So that’s where the real budget travelers stayed.

I saw so many people with enormous packs, like big enough to fit a human in sized packs, strapped to all genders. Made me wonder how they were able to carry them for very long.

I’d also read about a website that connected people who were ok with camping in their backyard or gardens in town.

When traveling as long as I was, I’d become jaded about all the beauty outside my window. Rolling green hills, bucolic towns, old cathedrals, all blurred into one.

For sure rural Europe is far more pretty than rural US. They had style over here in whatever they built.

I guess I’m being a bit judgmental as when I think rural US I think of west Texas, or Oklahoma so long stretches of no trees, towns or hills.

Occasionally you’d see a collapsing farmhouse or windmill.

We pulled into the bus depot, train station in Prague or Praha as it was displayed.

Out front of the depot was a small park full of homeless people in varying degrees of sobriety or fully asleep.

In the other places I hadn’t encountered many homeless, but for sure I saw less than I did in Dallas. Per city I mean, had less or I saw less homeless than in Dallas.

I waved no as I passed by to the many calls for money or cigarettes that I presumed they were asking me for in Czech.

The route to my hostel took me through an open air mall that had a side entrance to a main walkway that soon connected to the downtown square.

I had selected my hostel as it was located in the old town, near the main square that had most of the attractions.

It was also the most affordable room per person ratio as I’d slept in a room with upwards of 10+ people, but rarely interacted with my suite mates. It came down to just more people snoring or stumbling in late.

The best place to meet people was in the common area or kitchen and this place had a great kitchen area with 3 tables.

I stayed on a floor that had 3 rooms with each room containing 6 beds.

Each of the hostels 3 floors had 3-4 shower/restrooms, a kitchen and lounge areas with couches.

The smokers lounge overlooked an Italian restaurant.

A large wooden gate with a small sign pointing you to the hostel which was on the far side of the building so you had to walk through the restaurant to check in.

My floor was accessed via iron gate just before the hostess station which was occupied by a friendly lady who would ask ‘Food or hostel?’ And direct you accordingly.

It was confusing and most guests walked by many times or tentatively wander the restaurant convinced they were in the wrong place.

My bed was in the back room so I walked through a 3 bed room, then a door to another 3 bed room.

Fortunately there was only 3 others staying so 2 people in each room.

I said hello and waved at my new roommate who smiled and shook my hand.

Where are you from? Is always the 1st question you ask anyone at a hostel.

‘Italy!’ He replied. ‘You French, English ?’ He asked me.

Wow must be the hat. I don’t know but most of the time I was rarely pegged as American or from the States.

We chatted a bit while I stashed my bag in the locker provided.

The only one that didn’t have a lock on it had a large dent, someone was using 2 lockers for their stuff.

I never heard of anything being stolen whilst at a hostel on this trip, but I read reviews where that happened.

I presumed it was locals invited in by trusting guests who specifically targeted these places because most people travel with iPhones, iPads or other easily sold electronics, not to mention stacks of cash.

I always had cash on me or in my bag for this reason. If anything was stolen from either place I was not totally broke.

My roommate was a soccer player teaching for an exchange program between the countries.

He spent a few months teaching in Prague, then played in games on the way back home with a semi pro Italian club that sponsored his stay.

He told me to be sure to go to the square at night as that’s where lots of people congregate.

A brief internet search I discovered it was a short walk to the Vltava River and I recalled how great it was watching the sunsets from a bridge in Budapest.

Along the way to the river, I located a noodle joint for dinner.

Pretty cool concept and affordable too. Build your own box using different proteins, vegetables and sauces.

To my surprise duck breast was on the menu here and most places I’d go in Prague.

Duck n noodles with spicy sauce for dinner it was. Beer only cost 2$ too so had a Thai beer.

Total cost was under 10$ for the whole meal. Quite a relief from the high Vienna prices.

On the way to the river, I encountered a small store well stocked with all sorts of Czech beers so I picked one up.

I cracked it open once I was at the bridge and had a good view of the river.

After a few moments I realized why this section wasn’t occupied as someone had thrown up nearby, maybe into the trash can or street. No visible liquids or solids around but what a smell!

I walked away from the stench and over the river on the bridge where I saw an immense castle in the distance.

 

I finished my beer as the sun went down, pausing to help a couple get a sweet pic of the river and sun in the background.

I always help someone take a great pic as I’d seen some very poor framing in many people I passed, stealing a glance into their screen.

Typically I took more than one shot with the goal of having one candid and one posed shot per session.

My favorite were always the candid shots because it showed people laughing, preening or embracing in very real ways.

Following the river a few blocks in the direction of my hostel but taking a different route, my map indicated a small brewery.

These joints were all over Prague and they only made enough to beer to serve in the restaurant, never bottled or canned.

It was a small spot, slightly elegant I dare say. Most definitely more restaurant than brewery, with wooden stools and tables covered by red velvet cloths.

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I spied an empty 2 seat table and sat down.

A bald waiter arrived and said, “Dobry den’,  hello in Czech.

I returned his hello and asked for pivo, beer.

He showed me their beer menu, only 4 beers, all listed in Czech with lots of accent marks over some letters.

‘Uh English?’ I tentatively asked.

He smiled and pointed to a beer then stating only its style: ‘lager, dark, red, eh monk pivo. Ah don’t know how to say style name. Is very ah high taste.’

I understood, it was an Abbey ale most likely with high ABV so that’s where I started.

It was great, dark beer served in a goblet glass.

Looking around I spied the vats in the back, not many and very small which made sense as they didn’t need too much beer. Maybe a few kegs a month.

I noted most people were eating and drinking wine.

Haha wow I sure stuck out drinking beer alone. It came with my goal of trying to taste the most local beer possible.

I attempted conversation with the waiter and bartender about what to see in the city.

They had a brief exchange in Czech then revealed they both lived outside the city.

‘We just work, no go out here,’ he said with a laugh. ‘We don’t know much, but this place.’

I selected a red ale and was informed they were soon to close so this was my final beer.

A couple staggered in and to my shock they were served wine, despite their obvious drunkenness and near closing time.

They finished their wines before I could settle my tab and off they were into the night.

It was a very cool walk on stone streets to my hostel, passing by very gothic buildings on either side, occasionally passing an open pub or restaurant.

I heard a low roar and was soon walking through the city centre.

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Long tables full of people eating and drinking surrounded the path.

Soon the walkway opened up into a large square.

An imposing gothic cathedral lay directly in front of me, the famous medieval astronomical clock to my left but due to an enormous crowd it was very hard to walk through without bumping into someone.

I paused after navigating the crowd to get a glimpse at the clock.

Seemed like a just a clock, a couple statues surrounding it, I didn’t see the big deal at the time.

After looking at the gothic cathedral I heard a large commotion and gasps from the crowd I learned what the big deal was: the statues were moving!

It wasn’t just a clock it was a dang show, every hour on the hour these statues would perform as they had done for centuries only now people took pics and videos of the show instead of just watching.

It was now late, after midnight and I had a long travel day.

I had been given 4 keys to access my room in the hostel. Each key was colored and numbered sequentially.

It took time, but I got the huge wooden door unlocked, then struggled with the iron gate lock, then the door to my floor lock and finally, the old mortice key to unlock my room which was most upsetting to me as in my struggles I awoke my roommates who let me in and locked the door behind me.

Beer: Klášterní special sv. Jiljí no 1
Song: Ocean Colour Scene  the Riverboat Song

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Dream trip day 48 Goodbye Andorra, back to Barcelona

I was greeted to the faint sounds of cat paws at my door so I played with kitty for a bit to start my day. I do like playful cats that bat at anything you dangle in front of them and this kitty seemed to never tire.

I decided on Bfest at the little French bakery, the one with the pretty waitress.

Sure enough she was there smiling away whilst she made coffee. But since she made the coffee I had to talk to an older lady with a morning scowl on her face.

It took pointing at several items before she selected the sugar coated croissant I wanted. I knew I said croissant correctly so I do not know why she indicated at a scone like item, then a kolache like pastry before she started pointing at croissants.

This occurred at several places and the servers seemed very out out by it even though I know I ordered correctly, they seemed to create this narrative that I was being difficult, but I felt they where deliberately misunderstanding.

Just because we don’t speak the same language doesn’t mean we cannot communicate or figure out what each other needs.

I watched as the fair lady made my coffee and smiled at me when the waitress picked it up.

‘Laut?’ She asked me. I said Si, and nodded. The waitress then poured in about 1 second worth of milk and delivered it to me.

I’m used to having control of milk pouring but I was soon to learn that was a luxury in Europe. No self pour, milk is a premium.

I watched the busy cafe fill up and empty with ladies having tea, couples talking over coffee and a large family with kids, coffee for all.

Occasionally I snuck a glance at my favorite lady, she was smiling. She wouldn’t be a 10 in anyone’s book, I don’t feel, but sometimes you see someone that has that magnetism, that look of familiarity, that rare combo of features that flip your switch, that’s what she had.

I got another coffee, I didn’t have anywhere to go for another couple hours so why not.

As I was leaving I glanced back at the lady I fancied and noted she was still smiling.

I walked around the block a couple times, took the long way back to the apt.

I was only a 5 min walk to the bus station and had a bit over an hour before my bus was scheduled to leave so I played with the cat for a bit.

I usually am not a cat fan, I get ignored by people all the time so getting a pet who pretty much ignores you until you want to be left alone isn’t my dream pet but I liked playful cats.

I gave this cat one last cheek rub and was out the door.

I’d learned the stressful way that the bus I was on took physical tickets vs scanning an app. They even counted via number card that you received with your ticket.

Again with the confusion by ticket lady, I stated I had a ticket to Barcelona and was ready to give her my confirmation # so she quoted me a price.

I showed her my phone and read the confirmation numbers. Finally she understood and duly printed off a ticket.

I moved over to the side with the river once the bus took off as there were maybe 10 people riding vs totally full bus on the way in.

Andorra is gorgeous, nestled near a river flowing between two mountains.

It is very spread out chain of small towns, it seemed, as we drove by a long cluster of houses, apartments, then green space, soon followed more buildings. This stretched for miles before it became large farmhouse, some even had a small brick structures sort of like churches on them that was now derelict it seemed. I presumed a big farm family or two gathered to worship or hold small gatherings, parties.

Driving into Barcelona is an interesting experience vs flying. Seeing the city creep up with manufacturing plants and warehouses and then suddenly you’re sitting in traffic in a neighborhood.

We note the source of the traffic as we soon pass by a wreck on the opposite side of the road which was very fortunate for many reasons.

The pile up behind the wreck stretched for miles, it took several minutes driving at highway speed before I saw the end of a solid line of cars.

We pulled into the bus station, conveniently connected to the train station where I procured a ticket to El Clot station.

Quite a packed station so of course it’s impossible to navigate. Spread out a bit people, that’s all I ask. Large groups of people standing in a circle block the way through so one platform is super crowded while there is plenty of room next to it.

I’ve adopted the tap on shoulder as I pass through, taking my backpack off too so I can get through narrow spaces of people.

I get on the wrong train as a result of my haste to get away from the crowd as I see the train is heading towards the port or west but I need to head east.

A simple fix, just get out at next station and find the right train. Easy and there’s one coming in the next 5 min.

This gives me enough time to give a guy directions to downtown station and how to find a landmark.

I think he was Belgium. I’d finally become that guy who knew his way around more than 1 city. A good moment.

I knew my way round the El Clot area, a bit north west of town as I stayed at the previous hostel again, it was near the bank where my atm card was held.

This part of the top was a bit unplanned as I had about a 10 days to kill before some friends would be in town, But I couldn’t do anything until I retrieved my cash card.

It was quite fortunate to come back to Barcelona as its a major airport so I could fly most anywhere in Europe pretty cheap.

I showered and headed out for food and to catch another soccer match. Fast stir fry noodles were all over the city and most are quite affordable.

I hit up the old standby, Irish pub for an after dinner pint.

Place wasn’t too crowded but felt like it as the back bar was closed for a private party so I fit myself into a small spot near the bar for the first half.

Most places don’t have ac and mid July in a packed bar you need one or at least fans, I was sweating!

I don’t think I bothered to finish the half, I just had it with the stuffy heat and was greeted by the much needed ocean breeze as I hit the street.

I figured the craft bar spot would be better and I was right on: ac and an empty chair at the bar. Score!

I finished the game and had a couple pints before calling it an early night, had to be at the bank as early as I could.

I walked to the hostel, it was only 20 min directly down a Main Street, well lit so I felt safe.

Beer: San Miguel Fresca
Song: DNCE Cake by the Ocean

Dream trip day 46 Andorra, ATMs, Billy Idol

Alex had an early flight and I too had to be out early at the hostel. It was only at this moment that a 2 o’clock bus was a bad idea if I had to be out of my hostel at 10. What to do for 4hrs?

Should’ve taken the noon bus…

I stowed my bags and set off walking round the neighborhood.

I spied an ATM, knew I’d need some € for Andorra as I wasn’t sure if my card would work as it isn’t in the EU or UK.

I stick my card in ok but when it comes time to take it, the machine merely teases me, a hair less than I can grasp is all that it will release.

I panic and try to get a hold with my fingernails, nope.

Please take your card more quickly the screen flashes, my card is comically out of my grasp, the machine now seems to be mocking me.

Beeps stop and my card is sucked into the machine, no cash, no card. My mind races now as I’m very far away from my bank and have no set address in which to ship a new card… pop quiz hotshot, what do you do?

Literally worst case scenario: no card, no cash, hours away from paid bus ride to another country. Oh panic and anxiety, my friends have returned!

I sit down, ok I should try to get my card back first, I don’t think the ATM destroys cards, it probably dumps them in a bin to be retrieved later somehow.

The machine is attached to bank so it’s got to be theirs so they can get my card.

I enter the most secure bank I’ve ever stepped inside: press button, doors open to another set of doors and another button. Wait, til doors behind you close, then the front doors open and you walk into the bank.

I explain in Spanish my situation to teller. She points me to office with a guy talking with another woman.

We walk over and she says roughly translated ‘we’ve got another one with atm card eaten.’ So yes two people within a few minutes of each other’s cards have been taken by this machine!

‘Mañana,’ he says to me.

I explain in Spanish I’m about to hop on a bus. He looks at me, ‘English, yes? We will hold your card here, just come back anytime during bank hours, 9-2.’

Problem 1 solved I just had to come back to this bank in Barcelona.

Problem 2, get cash, a lot more places than you’d think are cash only.

I’m still a little shell shocked so I sit for awhile and let my new reality set in. No sense freaking out, that doesn’t get your card back faster, you have to wait, the situation is out of your control now.

I walk back to the hostel to get my bags which has my other atm card hidden away.

I’d planned on losing a card but I figured it would be due to a pickpocket, robbery as all the websites I read indicated Europe wasn’t safe. No mention about shitty card eating ATMs.

The difference between cards is the one eaten refunded fees which saves a lot of money accessing cash in many countries.

I decided to call it a day and just wait for my bus at the station. There were ATMs there so I’d be ok for the 2 days in Andorra.

Waiting for a bus, train, or plane is the worst thing about traveling and I still don’t have a good coping option other than listening to music and pacing. Plenty of sitting time ahead I reckon.

I was seated near a large what I presumed was a church youth group, they played I spy game loudly, pointed nearly every type of car and all were just a bit too I don’t know, vanilla? Gosh and golly look at that were uttered repeatedly is the only case I have for church group, maybe they were just super nice folks? Is that possible?

One guy in the back kept losing a small soccer ball and someone near the middle would roll it back until it really got rolling and then a sudden brake caused the ball to spin towards the front, near thedriver who had a guy get the ball and held it at the front.

The road to Andorra is very scenic, passing old stone houses, cathedrals and lakes.

Holy crap there is a huge concrete dam! Out in the middle of nowhere too, just a long river, bam, large concrete dam, then a small lake. No cities near any of these.

Slowly small farms, a couple buildings and houses appear as we close in on the city.

It’s a very strange layout as the city likely extends for miles along the highway alternating homes, businesses and shops but we do not stop.

The town narrows between two mountains and a river to one side.

Dark foreboding clouds appear on cue as we pull into the bus station.

Ah yes of course no internet signal here, have to find wifi to locate directions to my apt.

Well well well, McDonald’s my nemesis, there you are yet again what with your shitty food but free wifi. Finally you are good for something.

Raindrops keep falling on my head, they keep falling…

Literally 5 minutes away I’m at my apt and see my host waving to me from a window above the door to building. 

He knows little English, I know no Catalonian, which he says he speaks but we work out a combo English, Spanish, pointing as he shows me around his place.

Rain pelts the windows, not going anywhere for awhile.

He has a very playful, curious cat that paws and bats anything hanging on my bags. He even climbs into a drawer I opened and I watch him paw at a pamphlet one page at a time.

His cuteness has worn out when he does the most cat thing and bats at my arm as I type. It’s like seriously cats, you were just entertaining yourself but now when I look away that’s when you want my attention ? Outside he goes.

My host leaves so I lay down for a moment and think about how far I’ve traveled, all I’ve seen, how fortunate I am.

I rise after a bit reflection and head out in search of food.

Haha Andorra Doner it is, wasn’t sure about cuisine here, it’s between Spain and France. This sounded better than pizza, fast food or Starbucks, which is all I see around the apt.

I spied a corner bar on the way so I pop in for a pint after dinner.

I’m one of maybe 4 people in the bar, a couple is finishing eating what looks like sausages, another is talking and drinking coffee.

This bar closes very early, round 10, so I located a rock bar close by my apt.

There is no cell signal in Andorra, only wifi can you connect to maps or get info.

I am one of 2 people in the rock bar and of course the bartender speaks no English so point to Warsteiner, oddly a very German draft beer, and he pours.

‘American?’ He asks and give me a thumbs up. ‘Van Halen! Aerosmith! I love!’

On one side of the bar is a screen and he is projecting music videos directly from YouTube at right at comfortably loud level. It could probably be lower but it’s not so loud you cannot think.

I tell him I love those bands too. Then a Black Sabbath video comes on so I give him two thumbs up, ‘Esta bien, mucho gusto!’

The rest of the evening, I’m treated to an all too familiar, classic 80s videos I grew up watching. Twisted Sister, Ratt, Van Halen, Motley Crue and Billy Idol are all represented and somehow even though he indicated I can pick a selection, all of these come up via random playlist and I likely would have chosen them anyway.

These videos were a big part of my life in the early to mid 80s during the time I learned about Andorra and declared that I’d  go there one day.

After a few beers and many videos I wave goodbye to my new rock friend.

I fall asleep with a big smile on my face: 20+ year promised fulfilled!

Beer: Warsteiner

Song: Billy Idol Rebel Yell

Dream Trip Day 32   Porto hop on, hop off bus, feets in the ocean

I was last in the shower and discovered the drain has a hard time doing its job so the water rose to ankle level. Nice.

I tried to pick out as much hair as I could using some toothpicks I had in my overnight bag. It didn’t help but I tried. It’s always best to try to make things better than how you found them.

We noted the previous evening that just out front of the building was a coffee spot so we tried it.

Most friendly or condescending proprietor ever once we began ordering.

‘Ah English! Americans yes? Welcome, please. Where from?’

‘Texas’ we say.

‘Ah Cowboys, guns yes, horses. Americans rich, wealthy, spend money here…welcome, please’

He served our coffees and croissants. I’m still sorting out his comments, but I hope he was friendly and not a great English speaker so lost in translation.

We take the metro and locate the bus stop for hop on, hop off bus our host recommended.

The bus arrived shortly and we climbed to the top.

We drove around many streets, seeing churches, forts and most of downtown.

I note that most everyone on the bus has earbuds in, guess there is a spoken history portion we will miss out on.

You don’t really need history lesson to see how old and beautiful these buildings, cathedrals are, it’s self evident.

We hop off and walk on a long pier with a small lighthouse at the end.

The breeze is strong and cooling against the hot afternoon sun.

We walked along the coast, looking for another bus stop that would take us in the other direction to Castelo do Queijo, better known as cheese fort.

Jeremy wants to walk around the fort, Si wants to escape the sun, I want to dip my feet into the ocean so we make plans to meet up after awhile.

I sit and take my shoes and socks off on a concrete wall separating the beach from walkway, then head to the water.

Sure enough, there are topless sunbathers, no tan lines, but they were facing down, no free show today.

The water is cold, but not too cold to bear.

I stand awhile in the ocean scanning around me at all the swimmers, old men in speedos and sunbathers.

I stare too long and miss a larger wave that hits me around knee level, drenching my shorts.

Heading back through the sand, a ball rolls my way. I kick it back to a kid, they love soccer here, well kicking a ball back and forth anyway.

I rinse my feet but realize that no matter what you do, sand from the beach is coming with you.

I meet back up with the fellas for a beer.

Cheese fort doesn’t have much inside, cannons and a bit of a view is Jeremy’s review.

We wait for a long while for the bus to take us back. There isn’t a set schedule, the buses arrive when they get to your stop.

We walk around river and wind up at an Irish pub and caught the next match in the Euros.

The most remarkable thing about the game and pub is the restroom was by far one of the worst smelling I’ve had the misfortune of stepping into. Looked clean too so I reckon it was pipe issue.

We wandered around a long time looking for just the right place to eat.

Jeremy is vegetarian so we tried to accommodate him as best we could. Most places you go to have salads in US but not so much in the EU.

We all commented on this fact and felt compelled to order a salad.

I selected what I though sounded good, francesinha, which is a sandwich Porto is known for creating.

Basically ham sandwich pan fried with cheese on the outside of the bread, drowned in a nice red sauce.

One of the best meals I ate on the whole trip.

We metro back to our hood and walked around the block in search of an area not seemingly occupied by police.

We made it around a few blacks, back to the park where our metro station was located before we saw a diner.

Sure enough, they were still cooking and most importantly, serving beer.

We had a few rounds, watched traffic and bikes go by.

What makes Porto nice at night is cool breeze that sometimes gives you a chill it’s so cool.

We retired to the apt, careful to go into the correct door.

I fall asleep to the sounds of snoring and cheers from a stadium I can just make out in the distance. It’s well after midnight and they are playing futbol still.

Beer: Alhambra lager
Song: After the Fall  Attention Dependent

Dream trip day 12   bus to Munich, police stop, fire brigade

Wake up and shower with over an hour til bus leaves.

Walk back the route I arrived and much different in the daylight, it’s residential and not scary other than a few locked gardens.

Get a coffee a box of noodles from train station and find the bus area.

Everything is late it seems but people began freaking out as there isn’t any place to post info, no TVs so they ask drivers who just shake their heads, wait.

A bus with no marking arrives and I see the driver throwing on a logo magnet for the bus company I need. This was it and only 40min late.

Bus isn’t close to full so pick a back seat window.

Take brief nap then stare out the window.

The landscape is so lush green like out of a movie.

Wind farms, solar panels and small villages dot the countryside.

It begins to rain and I see more signs for Munchen.

We suddenly pull over to rest area, I see police cars, vans are all around us.

Two plain clothes men board asking for IDs and passports. They look like Miami Vice trendy clothes, undercover dudes.

They take docs into a van with computers for 20 min or so and even give the driver the business, well loud talking so not sure if conversation or debate in German.

They give us our things back. No explanation, no information, no thanks.

One guy they keep patting down but not sure what they ask him. Soon they drive off, no reason or explanation in German to anyone why we were stopped.

We spill out to a huge bus only area, connected to the back of the rail line.

I walk down many streets as it sprinkles, passing by many African men drinking dark beers and joking around in front of hair cutters and food joints.

I walk by where Oktoberfest is held, now hosting a reggae fest, still big but not acres big like Oktoberfest tents.

I find my hostel and settle in, so good to drop backpack after a day.

I sit and wait to check in as a lot are checking out or milling around lobby due to rain.

Suddenly an alarm sounds, the 2 receptionists scramble comically hopping over the counter to try and turn off the alarm.

They didn’t get it turned off in time so the fire brigade were called and arrived. All for something burned in the microwave.

I see that there is a leak in our room so I get a towel and at least make the wooden floors not a slip risk, I doubt they will fix while we are here.

I go outside but soon must seek shelter, it’s hard rain and many return to hostel soaked.

Always pack a raincoat, otherwise you get to stare at the rain from your room or take a Mother Nature shower.

Rain breaks so I find a doner spot. I order in German but everyone seems to know and responds in English.

I make it back to the hostel just as it rains hard again but with thunder cracks.

Hostel bar has cheap beers for a couple hours so I get a couple drafts and call it a night.

Fall asleep to sounds of rain and snoring by my bunk mates.

Beer: Lowenbraü
Song: Rammstien Du Hast