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Saturday, May 18, 2013

CLOSING THOUGHTS ON GRENADA AND SPAIN

GRANADA

Here in Granada, got a pretty good hostel going - very comfortable and only six beds in the room. Unless it is a weekend, it's 10 EUR a night. Not bad. And I got very lucky and had another tourist direct me to a place where you can get an insane meal sized tapas for the cost of a drink (2 EUR).

Whoever told me 'Spain is cheap' has an odd version of what 'cheap' is. It's about the same cost as Berlin.

Tapas is generally between 1.50 and 2.50 euros.

Granada is 'pretty handicapped accessible' for those of you stuck in wheelchairs and stuff.

If you have bad allergies, you will die horribly here during cottonwood season.

For the biggest tapas in Granada - possibly the world - go to El Tabernaclo.  Nice.  One is pretty much a meal.  And it's only 2.5 EUR (small drink) or 4 EUR (large drink).  The size of the tapas has nothing at all to do with the size of drink you buy.



ALAMBRA

Within Granada, the 'cherry on top' is called 'Alambra'.  It is literally on top.  Up a big, fucking hill.  After several panting rest breaks we made the top.  At this point, I discovered a nice gentle road was behind it that I could have gotten a taxi up.  Irritating.  The irritating thing about this place is that only a certain number of visitors are allowed in per day.  My buddy Conner had gone very early and gotten the full ride ticket (roughly 13 EUR).  I showed up much later and got a ticket for about 8 EUR.  Little did I know that it allowed access to everything except one special place.  According to Conner, the special place was only worth it if you were really into the rest of the architecture.  As it was, I got burned out seeing stuff with an 8 EUR ticket.  My advice would be to pay for the big ticket if you can get it and to not stress it if you can't.  The place itself was an old garden for some monarch.  The actual garden was destroyed years ago and this one is fairly new - but they did a nice job with it so it's nice to see.

Within Alambra, you can see unlicensed guides plying their trade.  Real guides have special badges they wear around their necks.  If you get an unlicensed guide, they can't talk during many parts or they get busted.  They explain to gullible tourists that there is 'some problem'.

Naturally, Alambra is a 'tourist circus'...  Asian tourists come in packs of fifty plus.  No idea why, probably a cultural thing.

The days of the backward walking, loud talking tour guide are over.  These days, the tour guide wears a mic and everyone else one (sometimes two) headphones.

The whole concept of a tour guide has always baffled me.  I'd love to quiz people on the tour to see what percentage of information they actually retain.  If they got hit with a cattle prod for retaining under 10%, there would be a whole lot of stunned people.  Never had a tour guide myself, if there is interest wiki will tell me.  Haven't bothered to wiki though.  My strategy of 'bug the natives" seems to work well.  Disclaimer:  Someone like Pete H can take the tour once and recite it back.  I know.

For the really rich people there is 'Hotel America' right up next to Alambra.  Overheard that it is 400 EUR a night.  Wow.

As far as the town and all, it was a bit tame for me.



SPAIN

Spanish people like to keep their own schedule - even if they are working in the tourist parts of Spain.  Illogical and counter productive.

Drinking in Spain - not cheap.  Recommend a different country if you are wanting to get blotto...



MOVING ON

While I was in Spain, I met a guy named Conner.
He's a clever eighteen year old who is interesting in learning the art of long term travel.  It's his first time out of the USA.  While I don't really consider myself an expert, I do think I've developed some skills I'm happy to pass on.  We teamed up and have made our way to the more exotic Morocco.  Spain was way to blase for me.

Bit of danger should do him some good.

Hopefully, my visa will still be active when it is time to go back to Germany to fly out.  If it isn't, I'm fucked.  Stay tuned!



OTHER WEIRD STUFF

I got directions from a blind man.  Not kidding.  Sadly, Conner and Elenor were snickering in the background which threw it a bit.  I wasn't trying to be a dick, mind you.  Yes, I am a dick but I'm not normally one to mess with the blind but he got between me and the guy I was going to ask directions from.



PHILOSOPHY

Was talking to a girl who is living in Spain. She lives here in order to learn Spanish. I asked why, she didn't know.

Call me old fashioned but my first thought was 'Are you hoping to marry someone with a useful job?'

It's always amazing when I talk to people who are studying something because 'they like it' and have no plans on how it can become a useful career. And it often can't. Or doesn't. No plans, just taking what looks good at the moment.

True that I'm traveling that way but it's not really a good direction to go for a career...



TRAVELER'S TIPS

For those interested:  When I'm in Europe, this is how I now go about figuring out where I want to go and stay.

Step 1:  List all of the major tourist towns in my notebook.  These can be found on wikitravel.  I've found that in general the non-tourist towns a) are dull - not much to see in many of them b) actually cost more than the tourist towns simply because they don't have the infrastructure.  Where you can find several hostels in a city or major tourist town you can only find business class hotels in small out of the way places.  In short, they end up costing more and there is less to see.  Yes, the food and such is much cheaper but where you stay will always be a large percentage of your daily expense.

Step 2:  Go onto hostelbookers (or hostelworld, etc) and check out prices for the weekends.  Some hostels like to play underhanded games with the prices - raising them on the weekends, when there is only one room left, etc.  So I look for the 'worst case scenario'.   List the price range on the list of cities page.

Step 3:  Disregard any town that is out of my price range (unless it has something I REALLY want to see - haven't seen that yet but I'm allowing for it) and consider the remaining towns.

Step 4:  Read up on the towns or better yet, google them then select images.  That gives you a pretty good glimpse of the kinds of stuff you will probably see in that town or at least what other people thought was worth taking a picture of.  For example, I  was pondering going to Cordoba.  About a third or more of the pictures seemed to be stripped arches.  To me, this means it is the main thing people found interesting there - enough that a crap ton of people have taken pictures of it.  Do I care about 'stripped arches'?  Not enough to justify $20 per night just to sleep in a frigging dorm.

Step 5:  Figure out logical routes between the places you've priced.  If they are too far apart, figure out if there is anything in between and re-run the steps for some of those things to see if you can break up a long travel time.  In general, I don't suggest more than six hours on a bus or train - less if you are frail constitution or very old - like Tim Van Theemsche who has both.

There may be better ways to do this, but I haven't discovered them yet.  Wanted to put this up in hopes that it is of use to someone.



PLAYING JASON BOURNE

Right now, I've got seven different currencies on me.  Doubt I'll be able to get them exchanged for any reasonable price and who knows - I might be able to go back to some of those countries eventually.



WEIRD TERMS

Other travelers have used these terms:

"Logan style"
"Loganism"

This is funny as it's not the first time I've heard them from travelers without any prompting.



PRELIMINARY RESEARCH OF CENTRAL AMERICA

Disclaimers:  This is by no means a conclusive list nor is it necessarily correct.  I went through hostelbookers.com and drew my information from that.  Not until I get to the country can I find out what the 'real deal' is.  Also, you must remember that the listings there are only by the computer literate people.  Since I want internet all the time, that's generally what I go for.

Formatting:  I've listed the country name followed by the name of the cities.  The number after the cities is the price in USD.  If I could not find anything close to my price range, I put an X.  That doesn't mean there isn't anything, just that it's not listed on hostelbookers.com.  Everything is a dorm room unless otherwise noted.  For the cost of a room, it generally seems to be a bit over twice that of a dorm.  Apparently, people are expected to travel in groups of two.

Note, if you feel I've missed something major and can find for sure the current price on the internet, let me know.  Or if I missed a major city of interesting stuff.  Note that I don't claim to yet know anything about central or south America.


Mexico

Mexico City, 10-13
Acapulco, X
Cancun, X
Guadalajara, 9-13
Monterrey, 10-12
San Luis Portosi, X
Taxco, X
Tijuana, X


Belize

Nothing


Guatemala

Antigua, 5-9
Coban, 15
Guatemala City, 11-15
Lake Atitlan, 5-7
Livingston, 6-7
Panajachel, 8-12
Peten, X
Quetzaltenango, 10, not much there.
Tikal, X


El Salvator

Juayua, X
La Libertad, 9
Playa Sandiego, X
San Salvador, 8
Santa Ana, X


Honduras

Copan Ruinas, 5 dorm, 11 single
Roatan Island, 11, only 1 hostel
San Pedro Sula, X


Nicaragua

Esteli, X
Granada, 10, not many places
Jalapa, X
Jinotega, X
Leon, 6-12
Managua, 11, only one place
San Jorge, X
San Juan Del Sur, $15, not many places


Costa Rica

San Jose, 5-11
Cartago, X
Dominical, 11
Alajuela, 12-13
Heredia, 7-18
Liberia, X
Puerto Limon, X
Puntarenas, X
Quesada, X


Panama

Bocas Del Toro
Boquete, 9-11
David City, only one at 10
Los Santos, X
Panama City, 11-13



CLOSER TO WHERE I CURRENTLY AM (but am not going...)


Portugal

Lisbon, 12-13
Avairo, 21
Braga, 21
Coimbra, 17-20
Evora, 20-22
Funchal, X
Guimaraes, 18-22
Porto, 11-13
Viana do Castelo, 6 (only one place!)



COSTS

For about 5 EUR you can get 3 tapas, enough for a meal in most places.  The beer is served in tiny glasses - they say so it doesn't get warm.  The beer here is nothing special.

Large glass of 'summer wine', 4 EUR.  Very nice - try that for sure.

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PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia - Michigan - Illinois - Colorado | England: Slough - Lancaster

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