Friday, October 31, 2008

the rain in spain ...

As we left London early on Sunday morning I had a spring in my step.

It was raining, which meant a strong possibility of an exciting ferry crossing from Plymouth to Santander. This particular route has something of a reputation for bumpy crossings - not everyone's cup of tea I know, but a trip I'd been hoping to take for some time.

In the end the storm in a teacup didn't materialise and we had quite a smooth journey, arriving in Santander the following lunchtime. Sadly with the rain still in tow, but I guess that's what you get for holidaying in Europe in late October.

From Santander we decided to pass on the shorter and cheaper bus journey to Bilbao in favour of the local FEVE train. The train was no speeding bullet, taking almost 3 hours to complete the 100km journey, but it did give us chance to admire the spectacular mountain pine clad mountain valleys of Northern Spain.

Not the most efficient means of transportation, but definitely to be recommended - if not for the scenery then for the spectalcularly bushy beards of the station masters in each village en-route.

In Bilbao the rain continued relentlessly for the duration of our two days, but even so we couldn't help liking the place. Not only was a glass of Rioja only EU1.50, but it was served up with the uniquely Basque version of Tapas - Pintxos - from such treats as deep fried Morcilla (black pudding) balls coated in chopped nuts, to the slightly healthier goats cheese, jamon iberico and apricot jam (and yes, that is all one dish).

Of course what really brings tourists to Bilbao is the Frank Gehry designed Guggenheim museum - the titanium cladding made the fish-inspired structure shimmer in midst of that morning's thunderstorm. We left rather more impressed by the building than the art within it, but what a building it is.

I suppose we could complain about our luck with the weather, but then who wants to see a fish out of water anyway?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

tv moments ...

Almost 6 months down the line since we got back and so many people have asked with concerned looks "how does it feel not travelling?".

It's a fair question. After taking the adventure of a lifetime just how do you adjust to the humdrum of every day life? I think I have found the solution.

Just keep travelling.

We have assumed a strange double-life where on increasingly dark Monday mornings we set out for the 200 mile commute and start of the working week in London. I doubt whether this is something we would be doing now if it wasn't for our year out - so the legacy of the trip lives on.

I had to check my diary to work out the most number of nights I have spent in one place since getting back.


Definitely still travelling.

One thing that's definitely changed since we got back is how we watch television. More than ever I now realise just how uniquely negative the UK media can be. We just don't get as much out of watching travel programmes these days, with a few notable exceptions they seem to be more about selling sanitised package holidays than real travel.

A couple of months ago we chanced upon a repeat of The Long Way Round to find Ewan and Charlie wandering around a Ger camp we stayed at in Mongolia, then last week in his new series By Any Means, Charlie Boorman was staying at the same hotel as us in Yangshuo, China.

The world is definitely a small place. I'm half expecting to run into the pair of them on our next trip.

Speaking of which, just how do we follow up the "big trip" without it turning into an anticlimax?

It's not that we've turned into environmental extremists (although I'm sure Mel would given half a chance), but these days flying just doesn't seem like the attractive option it once did.

3 hour check-ins, being herded around like cattle, treated with disdain by overworked airport staff, and surely I can't alone in thinking the increasingly lengthy list of items you need to remove for scanning is more about perception than genuine security?

We've decided to stick close to the ground for our next few trips.

Our first mission a few weeks ago to Paris on Eurostar was a resounding success - a 10 minute stroll from our new pad in London and little more than 2 hours later we arrived in the centre of Paris.

If we had decided to fly I think we would still have been waiting in the lounge in Heathrow.

So on the return journey we started thinking bigger. Just how far could we get on the 2 week holiday we'd promised ourselves before the Christmas? 24 hours later and a quick session on the legendary Man in Seat 61 and we had set our next target.


Or more specifically, the Medina's of Marrakech. Leaving in 2 weeks time.

I'm not going to reveal our route just yet, but for those of you whose interest in our travels isn't been completely exhausted I'll be posting installments on our progress right here.

Back to the box and one of the best things we've seen since returning came from an unlikely source. Better even than the highly recommened Amazon with Bruce Parry (quickly discounted as a realistic option for our 2 week trip) was an old episode of Top Gear.

You can see below just what had us glued to the screen ...

Conclusive proof if ever it were needed that the 1500cc 1987 Toyota Liteace is indeed King of Campervans ...