Sunday, August 30, 2009

In Loving Memory of Tequilla Shirt

Once again, I've missed a week. But with good reason. I took a mid-week vacation to Spain!

Getting back to the chronological order of things, I need to go back to two weeks ago. Mike and I decided it would be a good idea to make a giant beer bong in the apartment. A permanent one running from the loft (my room) to the main level. So we went to Jumbo and got supplies on Wednesday night and set it up. Naturally, Thursday night was a night of christening the Hulk (named due to the green watering jug we used for a funnel and the fact that it has wicked power). Needless to say, Friday at work was just terrible. Friday night was pretty chill, going over to Liam's for some epic guitar hero.

On the weekend, Bruce planned out a nice hike along a big gorge in French Switzerland. So that's where we went on Saturday morning. The hike was supposed to be 23km or so, but when we got about an hour into the hike, the trail became closed and we had to take a detour. In the end, we walked an estimated 30km. It was pushing my happy limit...

We were supposed to camp that night in Neuchatel but we got to the train station too late to make the campground before final check-in time, so we went back to Baden.

Sunday, I can't remember if anything happened, so it's safe to assume that nothing happened. Maybe a movie...

During last week, the crazy began. Monday was a super productive day at work, mainly because I have to get a whole bunch done for Tuesday morning and I didn't expect Friday to be very good. As usual I suppose... Monday night, Chris and I got our stuff ready, said goodbye to Riley (who was headed back home to Toronto), and went off to the train station to meet up with Phil and go to the EuroAirport. Before we get into details here, there is one very important ideal we were living by on this trip: Be Hobos. We had no places planned for sleeping and were fully prepared to sink to new lows. Now, back to the story. Our flight didn't leave until Tuesday, but it was so early that we couldn't use public transport to get to the airport in time. So we G7'ed it there for free the night prior and slept on some benches.

<--- Said benches (sleeping location I)

For anyone out there wondering if the EuroAirport is a good place to sleep, the answer is no unless you have earplugs. Especially right now with Schwein Grippe and all... Announcements about safe baggage and Swine Flu were on every 20 minutes (each, and offset). Hence there was an annoying announcement every 10 minutes. Hence the earplug recommendation.

We awoke tired as hell, but ready for a ridiculous trip. We had to be ready, because it was going to be ridiculous whether we were ready for it or not.

We got on the airplane for Alicante and Chris and I passed out almost immediately. In fact, Chris slept through takeoff. Easyjet seats are pretty comfortable (sleeping location II).

When we arrived in Alicante, we weren't sure where to go but we knew we wouldn't be taking a train to Valencia for a 7 hours so we went toward a giant castle on a mountain. on our way, we found a beautiful beach with sand that had the consistency of flour (soooooo nice but gets absolutely everywhere). The water was nice and cool in the warm Spanish air. It was still the morning, and the heat was just beginning.

We made our way to the castle on the mountain, finding a tunnel into the rock that looked like it potentially had stairs to the top. It didn't. It had an elevator to the top, but it wasn't free. So we walked out and followed the street around the mountain. Eventually we made it up to the top. But before we did, we passed a funny old guy. When most people stare, they will look away and act like they were doing otherwise when they are caught. This guy didn't. We was staring at me so much, I turned around and looked him right in the eye. And he just kept on staring! I don't think he was very appreciative of my haircut. And he wanted me to know it...

<--- Me, looking like a retard in stupid green EuroShorts.

In my defense, I bought those shorts so they would last for 3 hours and would then be tossed into a dumpster. You'll see what I mean soon.

The castle was pretty cool and had a great view of the beach, port, and the city.

Once we became bored with the castle and being under direct sunlight, we headed down the mountain toward the train station to buy our tickets. On the way, Chris pointed out a large building on our right that was under restoration outside. We checked it out and the sign outside said library. We felt like going in, so we did. As it turns out, the "library" was actually a huge flea market where you could buy an obscene amount of meat, fish, and produce. We hadn't eaten lunch, so we decided to buy some plums and nectarines. We had to buy by the 1/2kg, so I wound up with a half kilo of yellow plums and it only costed me 0.40Eu. Why the hell can't Switzerland be that cheap?

After getting to the train station and buying tickets to Alicante, we had some 3 hours to waste before the train was departing. We were also tired and didn't want to spend a whole bunch of time in the hot mid-day sun. There was only one solution. SIESTA!

<--- Park between two streets (sleeping location III)

We slept on the grass, across the path from two actual hobos. We learn fast! When we woke up, two other travellers were also doing the same. Not only do we learn fast, we are also trend setters!

After our nap, I decided I was too hungry to wait until we got to Valencia to eat supper. So I went to find the bakery we had come across earlier that day. It was closed. But as if by an act of God, Subway was across the street. And it was open. That is the first time I've eaten fast food in Europe since I got here (excluding the kebabs I have in Baden twice a week of course). It was great. And the guy behind the counter was super nice!

So bellies full, we took the train to Valencia. We passed out on the train (sleeping location IV).

After we arrived in Valencia, we found out when the last train went to Bunol and went hunting for a restaurant. It was still fairly early by Spaniard time (20:00), so we found a table fairly quickly and ordered a beer and paella. Neither was very good, but it was better than going hungry. We then went back to the train station and put all of our valuables in a locker. In the end, we were down to the cloths we were wearing, a waterproof disposable camera, and enough money to make it back to Valencia. We then took a train to Bunol, home of the annual festival La Tomatina.

Upon arrival, we immediately tried to scope out a nice flat and hidden place to sleep. That didn't really work... We found a large hill and decided it was a good place, so we climbed and climbed and climbed. At the top, we realized that it was a garbage dump, which explained why it didn't smell very nice. We ditched that idea and wandered some more. We ended up finding a park in the middle of town, with some flat concrete that would have to suffice for the purposes of sleeping (sleeping location V).

For a country known for being hot in the summer, it was damn cold overnight. The reason I come to this is because I would like to point out the thought process of an engineer. We all got cold, and we all shimmied away from the ledge toward a small "wall" (ie the vertical part of a step about half a meter tall) to minimize the affect of the breeze. To solve the problem of a pillow, Chris and Phil used their water bottles. I was just too stupid for that. Then to solve the further cold of the night, we each had our own solutions. Chris analyzed and remembered that you lose most of your head from your head. So he tied a bag around the top of his head like a toque. He also put his foot through a plastic bag to utilize it as a long sock. Phil used a larger bag and simply put both feet in and pulled the sides up as far as they would go without breaking the bag. I, on the other hand had no such bag material. So I did as small children do and put my arms inside my shirt and pulled the shirt around my legs and slept in a fetal position.

It was a very sleepless night, especially with the DJ over the hill cranking up the bass every time the party started dying (probably due to him using the same beat over and over). That being said, a van managed to pull up in the middle of the night without any of us noticing... It blows my mind how that happened.

We awoke, sore and deathly tired, but ready for a red tomatoey massacre. We hid our duct tape backpack in a rock crevice and went toward town hall. On the way, I picked up a breakfast sandwich and a refreshing beverage. I had a bacon and cheese sandwich with a beer for breakfast. If that isn't a breakfast of champions, I have no idea what is. We met up with the rest of the Canadian interns near the grease pole, which was at the moment just a long, very well sanded wooden pole sitting on the ground.

The clock struck 9:00, and the people in charge of the grease pole pulled out the buckets of soapy water and lard. They applied the greasy concoction with great vigor, and pushed the pole into its final resting place, a hole in the ground that normally has a cover on it. They pushed a whole bunch of wooden wedges down the hole to make the pole remain steady, and the Spanish Ham up a Greasy Pole event commenced. The goal of this event is for someone (generally using teamwork) to climb up the 50ft greased pole and cut a chunk off the Spanish ham attatched to the top. Shannon and Bianca were climbing before any of the other Canadians, but I wasn't far behind. I got some assistance from a burly Aussie behind me and a few guys bent over in front of me so I could walk on them. I got to the pole and didn't get far up at all, but at least I can officially say that I took part in the spectacle!

After two hours of failed attempts at reaching the ham, the alarms went off and the main event began. Stupid green EuroShorts, Tequila Shirt, crappy EuroShoes that I bought off Pat for 5CHF, and ski goggles in place, I was ready for the worst. The trucks rolled into the busy streets, with people up top chucking their acidic ammunition in all directions. Within moments of being within range, you are hit in the face with tomatoes and the whole world goes red. The thirst for blood was upon you (not really, but it sounded pretty cool like that didn't it?).

Sometimes, you were lucky enough that the truck dumped their load in front of your feet, leaving you with a lot of tomatoes to throw and an endless number of heads in both directions. I managed to end up backed against a metal door, with a tomato truck stopped directly in front of me for quite some time. I cleverly held one arm up to protect my face and used the other one to catch the tomatoes dropping down after hitting me. I also learned of the glory of being behind a solid wall. Everything that missed me sat directly below, leaving a lot of throwable objects within easy reach. I also squeezed the already broken tomatoes on to peoples heads in front of me, but you couldn't do that with the solid ones. They were too perfect for a head shot 10 feet away.

After one hour of all out battle, the horn sounded to end the fight and become civilized people again. That's when trouble started. Walking back, I was approached by a gleeful local who decided that I shouldn't be wearing a shirt. Now by all means, he was correct. It was stupid to be wearing a shirt and it was very disgusting, but I required a shirt to get on the train back to Valencia. So I told him no. He didn't like that answer. He tried anyway but I wasn't about to allow that to happen. Needless to say, I had a tussle with a Spaniard and learnt that they have short tempers!

I met back up with the rest of the Canadians (who I had lost prior to the fight) and we went to the train station. Prior to boarding, passengers had to be deemed "clean", so I went to the provided showers and cleaned the main chunks off of my clothing. Surprisingly, my shorts survived the experience quite well. They didn't get stained at all! On to Valencia!

Valencia. We decided to meet at the beach, so Chris, Phil, and I grabbed our stuff and took a bus to the ocean while the others went to their hotel to change and clean up. Arriving at the beach (after screwing up and getting off the bus too early), I proceeded to take off the now tomatified Tequila Shirt and threw it in the garbage.

I would like to take a moment of silence for Tequila Shirt.

Luke pointed out that it defined me and that we had very good times together.

Oh Tequila Shirt, I will miss thee so. Finding your replacement will be a challenging task.

Proceeding to the waters edge, Phil and I ran in and cleaned off. No more tomato in the ears, no more tomato in the hair, no more tomato residue on the skin. It was heavenly. We then went on to the sand and I proceeded to lay directly on the beach (due to my neglecting to bring a towel). I also briefly slept (sleeping location VI).

The rest of the Canucks arrived and we moved down the beach toward them, but we didn't stay long. Soon we left and searched for a restaurant. We ended up at a relatively classy restaurant with a moronic waiter. The three of us had purchased lunch at a supermarket earlier, so we ordered drinks and Phil and I attempted to order dessert. No go. Schmuck. So we settled on a Cola. At the table, had some good conversation and all that while people ate. I was still hoping dessert would be a go after the meals, but the waiter rushed us the bill (they do that in Europe?). He had managed to forget an appetizer (which had been pointed out to him earlier), and still charged it on the bill. Schmuck. Good thing Luke called him on it.

After the meal, the main group was headed back to the hotel after an exhausting day. We didn't want to sleep on the street or the beach that night, so we opted to go to the train station and search for a hostel in the vicinity. We didn't have to search long, regardless of the city being packed from Tomatina. San Jose Hostel is a savior (sleeping location VII).

<--- Two very happy travellers.

Nights away from Baden: 3
Total cost for accommodations per individual: 20Eu


On Thursday, we awoke early to catch the cheap train to Alicante. Guess what we did on the train. We slept! (sleeping location VIII)

Arriving in Alicante, we explored Old Town and ended up at a little cafe and ordered Churros. They were awesome. I had iced coffee with it, which was also fantastic. We then went to the beach and relaxed and went swimming for around an hour before we had to catch the bus to the airport.

On the flight, we once again slept (sleeping location IX). The funny part of the flight was touching down. The wheels touched down and an amusing tune came on over the intercom. Everyone cheered. I'm assuming they were all just super happy that the Ryan Air plane didn't fall apart... Just for the record, Ryan Air plays that tune at every touchdown. I just thought it was really amusing.

Jumping ahead, we got home and I called Dave up. I figured he'd be lonely with his two roommates being gone in Spain. We watched a really funny movie called Lesbian Vampire Killers. Gotta love low budget British films.

Friday was a pretty bad day at work, but not excessively so. A group of us went to see Inglorious Bastards at the local theater. It was amazing. See it. "Each and every one of you owes me one hundred Nazi scalps. And I want my scalps."

Saturday, Mike, Chan, Arthur, and I went to Biel/Bienne for a day trip. As it turns out, there was an international festival that weekend there. I swear, there is always something cool going on wherever we go. Why can't Canada have cool festivals ALL the time?

Sunday was a lazy day which included a trip to the Schwimmbad. The first time in quite some time, and possibly one of the last times. The season is coming to an end rather quickly. In fact, summer is pretty much over... That's disappointing.

Parting words. La Tomatina is amazing, but I never want to do it again. Once is enough. In fact, I would like to never be that messy or grungy ever again. Unless its another major festival I need to check off the list.


Mandy said...

Sounds like an experience.

You continually amaze me with your willingness to sleep anywhere (concrete?!)