Part 9: Pilgrimage to the land of Torres + Return to Dublin + Singapore

Day 24 (Friday Night) – Barcelona

Finally, after a short right (2 hours?) of flight on Vueling (A hip airline with the prettiest stewardess), I finally set foot on the land of Torres. Heh Heh Heh. Of course it is Fernando Torres, the brilliant soccer player whom I first set my eyes on back in 2006 on the TV screen.

Barcelona Airport was really pretty despite the news report saying that the cleaners had gone on strike 2-3 days prior to our arrival. I remember my friend said a comment like, the floor is so clean that I just want to lie down and roll on it D: hahaha.

As usual, we didn’t have to clear customs which means that I didn’t get the Barcelona chop on my passport =( Despite travelling to 6 countries, I only have the stamps of Dublin, Amsterdam and Madrid. So little evidencing of memories!

The only thing I planned in Spain was the directions to the hostel. We took the Aerobus from the airport. Paid 5.30 euros and in about 30 mins, we reached the heart of Barcelona: Placa Catalunya.

Our hostel was 7 blocks down (maybe a 20 mins walk?) and the road gave me a feeling like Orchard Road where there are branded shops and cafes, restaurants along the way. Initially we wanted to take the metro (2 stations), but walking is much more convenient. REMEMBER, always get 4-wheels luggage to make your life easier =)

Stayed at this place called Duo by Somnio Hostel. If I didn’t remember wrongly, It was about 30 euros per night for a 4-bed (female) dorm without attached toilet. Hostel was part of an apartment which was REALLY BIG despite the small door to enter. There were only 3 toilets to be shared by approximately 20 beds? Some toilets were like flooded but the trick is to just bathe before everyone else!

Anyway, the place we were staying looked rather deserted at night and we didn’t see any convenience shop or supermarket nearby so we kind of had to just settle for the night without snacks. In our room, we met a girl from China (2 years younger) and she was actually alone!! She kind of like studied in an international school back in China, went to USA for her university and since it was summer holidays, she decided to drop by Europe to visit her friends and travel. She bought the Eurail pass so she had unlimited train trips! I don’t know how the conversation developed but turns out to be we had a common interest: Soccer =D and she told me her story on how she saw Barcelona’s Goalie when she was visiting the stadium and he actually stopped his car and my friend was fiddling her bag for her camera and when she found it he drove away already. !!! LIFE D: Anyway, the best part is that there’s wifi => Sleepless night holding on to your phone. HA.

Day 25 (Saturday) – Sunny Barcelona 

Started off our day by meeting my friend’s friend, fellow Singaporean, and then roaming around the area to find places to visit. Why was there no plan? I was kind of extremely tired with all the planning done prior to the trip and I just decide that I couldn’t be bothered to plan Spain anymore and i’ll just roam the streets till i meet Torres. alright jk.

Basilica of Santa Maria, Catalan Gothic

 

And so, you will start to see the differences in Spain’s architecture. Anyway, each country/church/chapel has its own unique features. It’s just, different. This is the gothic style.

Gothic style. How well designed the chandeliers were. Somehow there’s this familiarity of the cross which reminds me of the Celtic Cross back in Scotland. hmm.

When we were leaving, there was some ceremony going on at the church but we didn’t know what it is. It felt like some Hindu ceremony where they have to carry the “God” into the “Temple”? hmmm.

 

We were all feeling very puzzled. Initially I thought it was a wedding or something.. it’s kind of weird because we saw flamenco dancers too and they were in their 50s or something. I’m puzzled. Can someone tell me what it is?

Well, we also stumbled upon this bridge which has been featured in a lot of postcards. My friend was asking about it but we had no idea how to find it, but I guess fate brought us there =p

Zooming into the details of this Gothic Corridor

 

Everyone who walk pass this bridge will just stop and take photo.. but no one knows the history behind this bridge. Sometimes I wished I had a tour guide =p

First meal in Barcelona was sadly Italian because it was a food which we know will never go wrong in taste and price.. It’s so cute that they help us cut the pizza into bite-size. =)

After lunch, we went to meet another friend at some metro station.

We were going to visit Montjuic – some hill which is rather big and you can get a good view of Barcelona!

Although there was a cable car, no one wanted to pay and ride it with me =( It is 173m (higher than bukit timah hill) and there’s some museum there too. At night, there is a musical fountain show but we didn’t want to wait for it. Look at the nice backdrop of montains/hills in the background. Sweet.
  

The arts museum (free entry on the first Sunday of the month I think)

How does it feel like to be a (naked) Statue?

Random sights in the hill. Well this is some stadium for some world event in 1929.

Montjuic Communications Tower, completed in 1992. 136m, located in Olympic Park and it represents an athlete holding the Olympic Flame. It was built to transmit television coverage of the 1992 Summer Olympics Games held in Barcelona!


Since we barely had a map, we walked and walked and walked and ended up at the cemetery. Then we walk and walk and walk and saw a fortress!
  

View from the top: does this remind u of PSA? haha.


The catalunya flag.

Look at how pretty it is!

The cable car I wanted to sit.

On our way down the hill: Sardana statue

I love sunrise/sunset shots. I know I’ve said it a lot of times.. but It’s still pretty.


Finally, I see Torres in Spain; on a billboard.


This place is famous because we saw a tour group stopping outside and take photos. Its famous because Picasso used to hang out here =p

Oh wells, while we were choosing our dinner place (2 guys, 2 girls) we ended up at KFC =/ travelling in a group is all about give and take. la la la. you see that garlic chilli? our ration was one packet per person. my last batch for my whole trip =(

Day 26 (Sunday) – Good Morning Barcelona 

Gaudi and his architecture

 

Casa Batlo

Then, while we were making our way to the famous Sagrada Familia, we saw this “market” along the road. Maybe because it was a Sunday and they were having some flea event.

Bought some potato thingy =p

And do you know how small is the world? My friend spotted one of the teachers in her school but she was too shy to say hi. LOLLLLLLLLLL!

Bubble-Busking outside Sagrada.

The church which is forever in construction

While queuing to get our tickets, I bought this fan for 1 or 2 euros. Due to the cloth material, it was useless in its literal meaning as a fan. It was such a disappointing and stupid buy. LOL.

Inside the Sagrada premisis,

  

It was definitely worth the 12.50 euros we paid. We had the audio guide too which is something that you should get because it really explains to you how to tour the area and what are the details which you wouldn’t have otherwise noticed.

After this, we proceeded to Park Guell, a place where Gaudi lived in for twenty+ years and it was also the place he was knocked down by a car/train? i can’t remember but because of that, he requested that no public transport can be build in that area.

This is a fairy-tale like place, beautifully decorated with mosaic finishing (floor and sculptures) and the great emphasis in details is something so familiar to me =p

Apparently this place appeared in Meteor Garden 2 before.. the Taiwan version.. HAHAHA.

Ceiling Mosaic.

The famous mosaic lizard!

We went back to La Rambla, walked down to the port area, then visited Picasso Museum (free for the first sunday of the month. FYI: We queued for more than an hour =s

then went to the beach (which was empty as it was like 7-8pm and slightly drizzling).

The famous W Hotel. I don’t know why this place reminded me of Pohang in Korea. It was so different but the empty beach gives me that feel.

Amazing Sand Sculpture.

Had dinner in a Spanish restaurant (finally).

Sangria: which means blood. It is actually red wine with lemon and orange.

Tapas:

Looks like the dish that we always get in fish&co

Can’t remember what happened next but that was it, our last night in Barcelona. I really like Barcelona despite all the warnings of thefts and items missing and blah blah blah. This place is really no joke. our room mate told us that all her friends phones were stolen!! After my friend heard it, she left her handphone in the hostel and did not bring it out. For me, I did my extra precaution where my phone has a lanyard and the lanyard is attached to somewhere in my back pack. Meaning that it is impossible to snatch it away, unless you are armed with a penknife or scissors. Beyond that, My bag is “locked” with carabenas (the one you use for climbing), which takes me at least 30 seconds each time to open my bag.. So with all this precautions, I don’t think I will be an easy target.

By the way, my bro had his phone pickpocket-ed 3 years ago when he was in Spain. But his friend saw that guy sneaking into my bro’s pocket and chase after him. My brother managed to get back his phone eventually and.. it was a unsmart $0 nokia phone. This type also want to steal o.0

Day 27 (Monday) – Renfe Train to Madrid

The booking of tickets for Renfe is really annoying. They only allow you to book for tickets 90 days in advance (if i didn’t remember wrongly), and every time they release the tickets, there will only be a %tage of discounted tickets. This means that on the day of release, at 12 midnight Spanish time, you need to “snatch” for your tickets online. The price difference is quite a lot!! We had a friend who decided to join us at a later date, and the train ticket was so expensive that it was cheaper if he took the plane. Another guy took a 7-8 hours bus from Barcelona to Madrid. Our train ride was only 2 hours 45 mins!

We had to take the metro (i think it was 3 to 5 stations away from Diagonal). Renfe train was decent~ Of course, not as good as the eurostar train.

So upon reaching Madrid (WHICH WAS DAMN HOT), we took a train to Sol (their main area, the place with the bear kissing the apple tree), and took a 10 mins walk to our Hostel which was really good!! We kind of booked it last minute because I booked the wrong accommodation (Same name but different cities in Spain =/)

Anyways, we stayed at Plaza de San Miguel which was RIGHT BESIDE St Miguel market and a super market! The location was really THE BEST! We had a room with 3 individual beds and shared toilets ( 3 toilets to be shared by about 5-6 rooms) and we only paid 27 euros each for 2 nights! YES i was so shocked at the price. totally unbelievable! Yes I do have full praises for this lovely place but, THERE ISN’T ANY AIRCON!!

 

Madrid’s Jumping Bear
Bronze Statue of bear jumping up at an arbutus (wild strawberry) tree.
The bear is female and it represents the fertility of the land around Madrid, while the tree represents the aristocracy, who traditionally owned everything above ground level.

Some church near the palace:

Another very elaborate bronze door

Royal Palace of Spain:

It was a lovely day as I spotted a giant billboard of dear Torres at the heart of Madrid – Sol

If I didn’t recall wrongly, this was the post office.

Elmo & Cookie Monster busking for money. Seriously I don’t understand the jersey..

Well, we had lunch at the San Miguel Market directly at the doorstep of our hostel. I had an oyster and a beef burger. Surprisingly, the oyster was so fresh despite Madrid being landlocked. HA..

  

The very nice yogurt!

We spent the day roaming around whatever attractions we saw and of course shopping at the lovely brands like Zara, Pull&Bear, and various other Spanish brands. The prices are really the cheapest across all other european countries!!

For dinner, we didn’t want to eat pizza so we ended up at a 10 euros buffet somewhere around Sol.

Day 28 (Tuesday) – Madrid

Visited the famous Prado Museum (which is free for students under the age of 26) You have to queue up at the ticketing counter to get a $0 ticket (unlike Louvre which you just flash your ID at the entrance)

This museum features artists like Goya, Baroque. And according to wiki, they said that in Jan 2012, the museum announced that they discovered and almost fully recovered a copy of the Mona Lisa which was produced by a pupil of Leonardo da Vinci, possibly painted alongside of the master.

Alright, I TRIED to ask the curators but none of them could understand my question nor know the existence of painting. I said Mona Lisa and one curator replied Paris, France, Louvre. Then I said, no no no, copy copy. January, This year, Inside here. “LOST IN TRANSLATION” I never found the painting and we didn’t explore the whole museum either.

(and omg, i just did a google and the painting is indeed on loan to Louvre for an exhibition in June) *face palm*

To be honest, I think all of us wasn’t interested in the museum at all because we had been to so many museums and everything starts to look somewhat similar since we didn’t loan any audio guide. It was tiring and we left barely after 2 hours! We went to some botanic garden (1.50 euros) which was a major disappointment because it was simply too hot and all the plants just look as dead as I was.

The even had a greenhouse which I could not enter because it was too hot D=

Maybe they think that this sculpture can help to cool us down >_<

Random sights along the way as we made our way to some other food market. (Finally, I had the chance to follow instead of leading the way.. )

Metropolis (along Gran Via) 
Designed by French architects.
Crowned with bronze figure of Winged Victory.

Finally we reached some market. By the way, their market is totally different from our wet markets..

I think I paid 3.80 euros for this.

and $6.30 euros for this 2 flowers which price is determined by the weight..

Then we walk and shop and walk and shop until its time for..  the most cruel legal form of animal abuse – Bull fighting in Madrid.

Saw 6 bulls got murdered brutally; with one being stabbed at the forehead because the first stab didn’t kill. And this scene goes on almost everyday for 8 months.

Felt disgusted by the act of killing while the majority of the audience cheered for every action or every stab or irritation which angered the bull. Saw horses getting attacked and the bull-fighter falling and slipping yet the crowd only cheered louder.I hope that this would be eventually banned in the near future. Like it did in Barcelona.May the innocent bulls rest in peace.

Although it was a Tuesday, there were a lot of people.. and we bought the cheapest ticket ($4.90 euros) which was like all the way on top. We did not make any reservations online though, but we still managed to get the ticket!

 

We were totally speechless at the end of the matches, 3 teams, 2 bull for each team = 6 bulls dead.

The bull fighter were mobbed just like celebrities when they exit the stadium. Usually, if it was a good fight, he would be lifted up and carried out of the stadium! 

We had dinner back at the St Miguel Market!

Day 29 (Wednesday) – Last day in Spain & Madrid

Friend bid farewell early in the morning as he made his way to Venice to continue his Europe journey while and my other friend had to loiter in Madrid till our flight back to Dublin in the evening. Since today was a girls-only day, it was ULTIMATE SHOPPING DAY!

We started off with a wholesome brunch at Macs,

and we continued to shopping at Zara, Bersha, Springfield, Mango, Pull&Bear, H&M, etc etc.

In one day, I spent 127.79 euros and I bought 1 zara blazer, 1 zara cardigan, 2 shirts for my brother, 1 top from besha & 2 dresses from H&M. (this was still lesser than my YSL wallet =s)

After the speedy shopping, we went back to St Miguel (for the 3rd time in 3 days), for lunch/dinner and I also decided to buy 2 box of macaroons from macdonalds back to SG.

Anyway, this was what happened to my macaroons 2 days later when I reached SG. the other box was kinder surprise. *massive phail*

Took the metro to another station and then another bus to the airport for 5 euros. Every single airport transportation is so reasonably priced after my 18 pounds train ride to Gatwick airport in London. Heh.

***** FLIGHT BACK TO DUBLIN ON AER LINGUS *****

Day 30 (Thursday) – Dublin 

OH GAWD ITS FREEZING BACK IN DUBLIN.

Reached Dublin at like 10 plus 11 and we had trouble finding the left luggage and there was no one at customer service and I had to call some number and only to realise that the left luggage place was closing in 10 mins and we had to make a mad dash to left luggage to store our luggage. The guy was screaming at us to hurry up because he might miss his last bus home.

Then we had to take the air coach to my friend’s friend’s apartment to collect her ultra big luggage and bathe. Feeling very paiseh, we didn’t take up the option of staying overnight at their house, but took the bus back (we waited for more than 30 mins, maybe almost an hour?) to the airport.

Found some food court place to sit down and stone and I grabbed a muffin and sit and stone and sit and stone and sit and stone till i don’t know what time and we started queuing up for the counter. We were the first in line, assuming that they will be more lenient on our CONFIRM EXCEED WEIGHT LIMIT luggage. To our horror, she wanted to charge us 50 euros for each kg exceeded and she said calmly, “it will be 250 euros”. Then, we tried to say the usual excuse like we were students on exchange and blah blah blah but she did not waver. So, we had to move to a corner and pathetically unpack things out of the luggage and into the hand carry. Apparently, my friend said she threw out some items but I didn’t want to throw any of my thing.. and when I finally placed my luggage (2 pieces – 1 mine, 1 my friend) on top of the weighing scale at the check in counter, it was.. BINGO FOR ME.

(Reminds me of the time when I was in europe, when my luggage hit 50 pounds on the dot)

Came with 2 pieces of bag, leaving with 2 pieces of bag and an empty wallet. I backpack felt like it was going to explode any moment. Probably almost 10kg and my hand carry was like ultra heavy, maybe 12kg. I must be kind of amazing somehow.

Disclaimer: a lot of the weight is contributed from my friend who was on exchange for 5 months.. I.. didn’t buy that many things =/ (compared to Korea & USA)

Grabbed lunch at BK after check-in and tax refund is a bitch.

Problem is: USUALLY, tax refund counters are before departure gates so that you can show the custom officers the items that you have bought, so they can check them and stamp the stamp and you can then check in the luggage with the items. SO, we went around asking everyone, anyone from the counter staff to the security guards to any random personnel we see in the airport but they were either not sure of what we were asking or they told us that the tax refund counter was AFTER DEPARTURE GATES.

So.. we kind of didnt have ANY CHOICE but to enter the departure gate, praying that the officers won’t request to check our items. and when we FINALLY FOUND the tax-refund counter. The officer told me that THEY DO NOT HAVE THE STAMP TO STAMP ON THE RECEIPT AND THAT I SHOULD JUST PUT THE ENVELOPE INTO THE BOX AND THERE WILL BE SOMEONE STAMPING IT. so.. this IS TOTALLY WEIRD. IT IS STATED ON THE INSTRUCTIONS THAT NO STAMP = NO REFUND and how can the supposed people stamp on our receipts without even checking our items? THE WHOLE PROCEDURE DID NOT MAKE ANY SENSE AT ALL and we had NO CHOICE but to just drop the receipt and the envelope into the box WITHOUT THE CUSTOM STAMP.

Dear me went back to SG and waited & waited & waited for the refund which never seem to come. Talked to everyone about it and they said don’t be stupid. no stamp = no refund and they said that your refund is as good as gone.

So I did a google and there are a lot of bad reviews about the tax refund procedure in dublin airport (I WAS NOT ALONE) and I was about to give up on my wait for the refund.

THEN, I found the premier tax website and decided to drop them an inquiry regarding the update of my tax refund (early August, 2 months since I return). After I type the long and complicating story, there was some STUPID ERROR and My inquiry couldn’t be sent out.

Feeling pissed and upset and on the verge of really giving up, I realise that they have a facebook page and I’M GOING TO FEEL LUCKY AND FB MESSAGE THEIR FB PAGE. and indeed, I WAS REALLY LUCKY and someone actually replied me and asked for my email address while she address this problem to the relevant party. So 1-2 days later, someone emailed me and asked for the details of my purchase and I gave it to her and then few days later, I got a reply saying that my tax refund will be shown on my next credit card bill (August). FINALLY. (after 10 weeks of wait, I got back my tax refund -> i just checked my ibanking, and the money had just been refunded to my debit card) So.. now.. i’m waiting to see if my friend will get her refund since she did not make any complain. If she doesn’t get any, probably the European countries want to keep all the money for themselves to save their economy. Tax refunds can go up to 12% (depending on where you make your purchases), and if you are buying brands, it can go up to a lot of $$. I’m glad I got my refund back, though at a pathetic rate of 1.49. I changed my currency at 1.63 3 months ago.

ANYWAYS, we successfully boarded the plane (Dublin to Dubai) and then parted our ways as we had different flights from Dubai to Singapore.

I made sure I was awake to feast on all the meals on board =p

Many hours later and wasting 8 hours due to jet-lag, I was finally back in REALLY SUNNY SINGAPORE =)

We were so afraid that we might get “caught” at customs for the bags we brought in, even though it wasn’t a lot but still (afraid) that we were panicking all over but maybe we look and are young, we didn’t had any issues with anything. *PHEW*

(Right now is 2:20am on 12th August 2012 (2 months and 4 days since I returned) and I’m finally done with my travel journal for my 30 days Graduation Trip to Europe)

*I will be doing a reflections post for Part 10*

kidarisaeyo =)

Other posts you may be interested in:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *