Monday, October 3, 2011

The road so Far: my story up to today

Hello Lovely People,

     It's been soe days now that I've been wanting to give a start to this log; the prolem being that every time I though of writing something here, I found myself thinking on which was the best way of doing it: should I transcribe the letter I've sent my family (the birth family and the extended one); should I ignore all that passed  and start writing from today; should I make a summary of everything I lived in this trip until now... What? And I made my decision for the last option. So I am going to put the best of me in telling you about this 4 months and the 10 stops I've made in my path, and I ask please to get ready because even though I will try to summarize as much as possible, this is going to be moderately extensive. It's not about leaving things outside the story just fr a few lazy people that don't want to read the whole thing, right? But don't be scared by the appearance; because there are pictures interwoven y that makes this seem longer than it really is.

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     It all startd taking form in Ushuaia, with the simple idea of going around Europe, taking advantage that I was once again without a job but with a severance payment. The idea quickly turned into giving a tour to the planet, always moving east. Starting in France, finishing in New Zealand. Visit many places, keeping a no rush idea. And in the course of the years I take to make this trip, I have two clear objectives: (1) search for new jobs, experiences and knowledges about Hostels around the world; (2) knowing new places, new cultures and new people.

     I arrived to Paris at the end of May and I installed myself for two weeks at Moni's, my cousin/aunt, and her husband Gerard. I also visited my uncles, cousins and nephews on my aun Micheline's side. In my free times (all of them) I walked and look around all the little corners of Paris to wich I was able to get to. And I have the only important task of opening a bank account, which ended up being more complicated than expected.
     In my stay in the city, I took advantage of the opporunity to get together with mi friend Chloe, who invited me to spend the afternoon at the birthday of her friend Anne Gaëlle; and which ended up being a spectacular night; drinking and laughing at the side of San Martin channel, like any other Parisien.

     First destination. After a lot of talking about what could be my next destination, I set sails towards La Rochelle. It is a city of some 100 thousands inhabitants with a lot of history and a lot of natural beauty, where I go my feet wet with salted water for the first time in the trip. And I was also baptized in the carpooling kind if travel as well as in the staying at strangers home with Couch Surfing: two things with which I hope to meet travellers, as well as saving on cost, killing two birds with one rock. Thanks to this I met to excelent persons who hosted me in their homes: an appartment the first three nights, and a sailboat the las two.

     With the first destination outside of Paris, it started in La Rochelle also the job hunting. Great necessity to me because of my need of entering in the social security of a european country, and ensuring that way a medical insurance to when the hime came of the expiration of my turist insurance with which I started the travel.
     So it happens, there is only one hostel in town (Youth Hostel or Auberge de Jeunesse in french) so almost all my time ending up being distributed between walking and visiting, so I ended up giving several tours around the city, and I spent one day biciclying around the Ile de Ré.

      Not everything can last forever, and I had to say goodbye to my new friends and keep on traveling to my next destination: Arcachon. Place at which the repeted lack of hostels (only one in the surroundings, that only opens in July and Augoust) also ment vacationing and not working.
     I am not going to complain a lot since the town is beautiful, and I was hosted by two spectacular human beings, that were also hosting at the same time anothe traveller using CS (Couch Surfing, from now on) and with who we went around the beaches and the great dune nearby; sharing an excelent weekend.

      When it was my turn to continue, I took a train to Biarritz, renowned surfing city. I wasn't able to find someone to host me with CS, but luckily the guys from Arcachon knew a girl who, after running it by her mother with who she was living with, was able to host me for 2 nights, and so only the next 2 nights I spent in the hostel.

     There are actually 3 cities that have no marked limits, something resembling Buenos Aires city, and the surrounding neighbourhoods, called: Bayonne, Anglet, Biarritz.So I actually ended up sleeping in this girl's house in Bayonne, and in the aubergue in Anglet. Of Biarritz I didn't see more than one afternoon in the beach, while I was waiting for the recptionist to open the doors of a hostel where I wanted to leave my CV. The great advantage of this tri-city is that there was one hostel in each city, plus one outside of the Federation (becasue in France almost all hostel is part of the Youth Hostel Federation), and one of those hostel is the one in which I slept two nights. I left my CV in all of them, and I almost had an job offer for the one I had chosen to sleep in. I finished my stay with a beach party with barbecue included, which left me with and excelent memory of that city and its surfers.
     The next stop in my journeywas Toulouse, a place I was really looking forward to arriving so I could mu cousin and his wife again, Fabrice and Nora, but even more important to see my two nieces: Amandine and Bernger. Beautiful both of them, and I not just saying that becuase I am the uncle. I took a break of several days, strolling alone or with the family around the city, and also enjoying some resting time in their home recharging batteries with the two princesses.
     In Toulouse I didn't look for a job, since the offer from Anglet was still on the table and I was expecting a positive definition on the subject. And to keep me busy during the waiting time I decided to go to Marseille where I had already talked wit Emily about meeting her, who was only having a few more days of work before her vacations. That gave me the perfect amount of time to get to know a little of the second biggest city in France and later coming back by car with her to the zone of Toulouse, since she was later going to her parent's town in the middle of the French Pyriness.

     Just before leaving Toulouse, in the moment I was getting in the subway to get closer to the place where I would meet with the car that would take me to Marseille, I was called from the hostel in Anglet. They whee telling me that they couldn't yet make a decision, one week later than the day they were supposed to call me to give me the proper job offer, so they recommended me to keep on going on my journey and that they would call me if anything came up.
     The visit to Marseille was brief, but gave me enough time to visit it all, take many photographs, see the local hostels and leaving my CV, and even going half a day for a visit to the nearby islands.
     On my return from the mediterranean port, and before going to Cazainous, we stopped a couple of nights in Toulouse. Emilie wanted to visit a friends she hadn't seen in a long time, and I took advantage of the time to attend Berenger's Baptism. She doesn't look very happy with the whole deal in the photo... but I am gpoing to think it has to do with the water being poured on het head, and not a sing of what her religious believes may be.

     Cazaunous is a very very pretty town. In the ,iddle of the mountains, which are feeled with greens in several tonalities, where you can sit down to rest without listening to noises for hours. We went there with Emilie, and her family treated me like on of the pack. And now, thanks to a morning walk, I can recorgnize two different kind of edible mushrooms. Very very good.
    In Cazaunous I had a breaking point in my trip, making the first of what I expect to be a lot of changes of plan, by deciding to go to Barcelona in stead of stayng in France. The decision had a rational part and an emotional one. Rationally speaking, there are not many hostels by the coast in France which was going to make finding a job hard. And I was also feeling a little off, and therefore getting together to a life long friend could do me good.
     But to make the traject more interesting (and cheaper) I decided to make my first european hitch-hiking experience. It was a good first experience, since even there were a lor of short stretches, I didn't have big problems in finding drivers that would give me a ride. The last one of the day recommended me to change route: I was in the road going straitgh from the international border next to Cazaunous to Lerida, and this guy recommended me to go with him to his town, Monzó, that despite the detour it was the same distance from Lerida, in a place with a bigger flow of vehicules.
     To tell you about Monzón, I can say it's a town that's in the path of the Road of Santiago, which you can see in the sea shells that mark the way, with a medieval history and a castle that is evidence of it. I invested the morning, before starting to hitch hike, in going around the town, walking by the river and taking photoz of the place. Tha Castle was closed to visitors; which was a big let down considering how much I love castles, but at least I was able to get some nice panotamics.

     Barcelona! The great city of Barcelona, with its ramblasI, its dirty beaches, the neighbourhood fests, the catalan rumba and many many hostels. With those things I filled my time.
     During the day I would make a little turism, while I walked around the city looking for hostels, trying to talk with its owners, and leaving my CV in such a way that I rest at ease that they would read it before archiving it. I wasn't very succesful. I did talk with owners and managers; I was able to leave my CV in every hostel (or almost); but only from a few I left convinced of having made the i,pression necesary so my CV would be handled over to the person in charge of hiering people. To add to the effor of the search, and thanks to Agustin's advice, I started using the Web sending letter via e-mails, to all the hostels of the spanish cities that sounded atractives of knowing. This was translated in what you may imagine wereb many hostels. In total I personally visited around 65 hostels in BCN, and sent some 60 mails to hostels in the other cities.
     But Barcelona is also to relax and enjoy the days, so for the first time I went to a nudist beach, and I hot my butt happily naked; I went once again to see the Sagrada Familia, and once again I let the opportunity of going inside slip by; I visited Parc Guell, that I hadn't seen in my past visits to the city; and I saw many places that I never imagined seeing, that I wouldn't know how to list them, but were worth it.
     It was when my visit to Barcelona was cming to an end, when I had made my mind to leave to Tarragona and continue my trip on the southern Spain, that I was called from a Hostal (which is not neccesarily a Hostel). I had written them through their web page; and left my movile phone, adn apparently they had sent me a mail that never arrived. So on Saturday afternoon Charly called me asking me to send him my CV because he was in need of help. And on Sunday morning, less than 24 hours before my planned exit to the road, I was offered a job by the only hostel that there is in Ibiza. This meant good news from every possible angle: job, island, beach, party, Ibiza. It couldn't go wrong. I played it cool asking for time to analize his offer, to later giving him an extatic "yes" before running to buy my ferry ticket.
     I arrived happily, after 10 hours of delay on departure and an added 4 hours on the way, on the afternoon of July the 19th to the city of Eivissa in the island of Ibiza (same name, different language). An so it started two month of work in Hostal Giramundo, with Charly, "el Negro3 and Pau in the hostal, and Ger, "el Tucu", Simon, Vir, Jime and Juli in the retaurant Macondo. From the very first day I decided that I was going to take advantage of the beach and the sun like I hadn't done in years. and when i say years, I mean YEARS! I don't even know how many, but they were many. And with that came a stretch on days when I would go from sun bathing; to reading; to swimming, and to start all over again. I can't complain of the days in Ibiza, I had all the time in the world and none of its responsabilities.
     Besides those cultural and leisure times, I also toom time to practice sports. I started a rutine in which almost every day I would swim some 1000 meter freestyle (meaning, whatever I could) in Figueretas beach, the closest one; I also looked for places a people to go climbing, which led me into trying for the first time psicobloc (deep water soloing), which is when one climbs by the water with no safety (you can see in the picture a faked falling and my friend still climbing). Very very good, very very recomendable.
     Obviously I would also go for strolls, and I moved in buses or hitch hiking through most of the island, searching for the prettiest coves, recommended by Pau and Juli, and I also escaped 3 days to the island of Formentera, a dreamed island where one can find excelent places to have a real food of champions (paté, salami, cheese and bread) with spectacular views of the cliffs.

     And so, with all this narrated, we reach the end of October and the end on my work arrangement. It is time for me to move and get back on the road. So I bought the plane ticket to Barcelona, where I plan to spend my birthday, to afterwards resume my trip towards the south. South of Spain first, and Morocco after it.

     I hope you enjoyed learning about my route at least a fraction of how much I enjoyed making it. From now on I suppose I will add briefer tales, more current, more often, so you can follow my movement as I am making them.

Take care, and don't forget to be happy.
See you on the road...

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