Monday, April 16, 2007

Logbook: South Spain Sprint

Southspainsprint1As the ferry docked in Cadiz at about seven Saturday evening, those of us who didn’t have cars were directed to gather on one of the car decks where a shuttle van was waiting to take us ashore. The briefest look at the number of people compared to the size of the van made it clear that many, many van loads would be required to get us all ashore. As usual, there was a crush to be first in line and I just wasn’t in the mood to fight my way through. Instead, I saw a guy who seemed to know what he was doing walking down the ramp with his bags so I followed him. As we walked off the loading ramp, we were accosted by a dock worker who basically asked us what the hell we thought we were doing: Pedestrians are not allowed on the pier. I played dumb and the guy who I thought knew what he was doing made a bit of a fuss. As it turns out, he was either a genius or just lucky because within moments a different van arrived to take just the two of us to the passenger terminal, well ahead of even the first van load from the ferry. Muy bien!

After a very cursory look at my gear, the security guard let me pass and I emerged onto the streets of Cadiz. I walked to a cab stand across the street and asked to be taken to the hotel that Vini had arranged for me from Tenerife. The direct distance to my hotel turned out to be just a few blocks -- I could have walked it -- but the drive was quite a bit longer due to the winding route the cab had to take among the narrow, traffic restricted alley-like streets. As I paid the fare, I was very aware that not having a map -- not knowing I could have walked to the hotel -- was clear evidence that I had “outrun my intel”: I have been moving so far, so fast, with so little time and internet connection to do proper “next step” research and planning that I was completely “blind” and wasting energy and resources as a result. (Note to self: It’s time to park yourself somewhere for a while and get sorted out.)

Southspainsprint2After a simple check in at a perfectly acceptable, nicely located hotel, I dumped my gear, grabbed my book and walked to the nearby town square where I had an excellent salad for dinner. It was still pretty early by local standards when I got back to my room, but I was tired and hit the rack for a solid eight hours of sleep. At about seven on Sunday morning, I found coffee at a little joint in the square and enjoyed two cups of pretty good “cafe con leche” in the company of a number of locals who had theirs with an astonishing array of alcohol chasers. You know I love my Scotch whiskey, but I just couldn’t get myself to “do as the locals do” and have it with my coffee at seven o’clock in the morning! I spent the day walking around and enjoying the old town of Cadiz, a pretty charming mix of old world and new. I at least glanced at most of the popular sights -- cathedrals, Roman ruins, palaces, etc. -- and had snacks along the way at a variety of typical places.

While Cadiz is one of the nicer places I have been in Spain -- and I think it could be a nice place to spend some time if you were in a “Spanish mood” -- I was still feeling ready to leave Hispanic culture behind me. So, I returned to my hotel by way of the train station -- verifying that it was within easy walking distance -- and called it a day. Yesterday morning I checked out then parked myself in a local internet joint for most of the day to confirm my immediate arrangements going forward, catch up on some personal business, Skype some folks and do a very little bit of advanced planning. At about six o’clock I walked to the train station, got on board my overnight train to Barcelona and settled in for the night. With my “not so great” experience of Spanish trains some years ago -- (Hey Ferit, can you say “Bocadillo”!) -- I had extremely modest expectations for this trip. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised that the ride was reasonably smooth, fast and quiet. I even got enough sleep to be able to function when I arrived here in Barcelona and pretty quickly found the right ticket window to get my tickets onward.

With a two hour layover on my hands, I stashed my gear in a locker and went outside for a quick walk about. I barely got to the corner before my “bad mojo meter” pegged the pin, reminding me of my previous negative feelings about -- and experiences in -- Barcelona. Some places in the world just don’t feel right. So, I walked right back into the train station and parked myself in a McDonald’s -- yes, I admit it, a McDonald’s -- where I am having some breakfast and a little quiet time. In a few minutes, I will board my train to the border and on to Montpellier, France. Thus, I have executed my “South Spain Sprint” and have no regrets about it. I am now also at the end of my “Atlantic Crossing” and ready to explore an entirely different part of the world. By the end of the day, I will have traded “no habla Espanol” for “no parlez Francais” on The Voyage of Macgellan!

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