Tasty Tapas

Sept 8: I woke up in some serious pain this morning, so I staggered down the street to McDonald's (seriously where else do people eat after going out? It's the only logical choice) to rehash the night with some friends from the night before. I met up with Mr. Zimbabwe (I really wanted to call him Cady (Lindsay Lohan's character in Mean Girls, who also grew up in Africa) but I don't think he would find it as funny as I did so I refrained) in the afternoon, and we wandered over to Plaza De Espana and the cathedral (the biggest Gothic Cathedral in the world), although it was so hot we weren't too enthusiastic about anything. The Plaza was really beautiful--it reminded me a lot of the palace in Vienna, except red. One thing I will never get sick of is all the palm trees. Canada, get with the program! You have everything else, heat included. Rule No. 76: No excuses! Play like a champion! I also made my way over to the train station to book my trip to Alicante for the next day.

One problem (among many) with a Eurail pass: - You need reservations for a lot of the trains, which requires you to plan further ahead than you'd maybe like. - Reservations cost extra (on top of the 393 Euros I paid for the pass) - You can't book them online, as there's no aggregated system for the different rail lines Eurail is valid for. Result: Spanglish disaster.

Anyone who says the French are snobbiest when it comes to people not speaking their language have clearly never been to Spain. Coincidentally, I never realized how little Spanish I knew until I arrived. The problem is that unlike every other country I've been to so far, Spanish people don't speak English, and refuse to make things easy for you. There is no slow, simple sentences reserved for foreigners. If you don't speak like they do, tough luck. Now try to imagine explaining the parameters of the Eurail pass you'd like to buy, and that was my afternoon. I start with the customary "Ola! Como estas?" So far so good. I smile apologetically and continue with "No habla Espanol." The ticket cashier stares at me and replies, straight-faced, "No habla Ingles." Okay then. This should be fun. I wanted to book a train to Alicante, which required a change at a certain station. I feel like a senior citizen when I'm booking these tickets, because I'll hear the entire sentence, yet comprehend every seventh word, so it's like putting madlibs together: Train ____ _____ _____ ______ Alicante _____ _____ ____ __ ________ change _____ _____ _____ No ____ _____ _____ Reserva.

Okay. Let me get this straight. You can book me a train to Alicante, but I have to change and you can't reserve me a seat? Good to see my Eurail pass is just teeming with value--I've already spent at least 50 Euros on reservations, on top of the 393 I already paid for the pass. So ridiculous.

That evening, Zimbabwe and I decide to meet up and try some local tapas--our hostel was doing a tapas tour, but after our experience with Raphael we decided we'd try to find better value for our money elsewhere. We settled on a little place called La Mata, which was empty but looked nice inside, and boy am I glad we did.

Easily the best meal I've had my entire trip--I'm so mad I didn't bring my camera with me! For anyone who doesn't know (hopefully none of you), tapas is like little plates of food in really interesting combinations of flavours, designed for sharing. It's really cheap, and really good. It's like building your own tasting menu (which normally costs a fortune).We tried: - Chicken tulips - Mussel tempura - Salmon tartare - Iberian pork shoulder with orange chocolate sauce - Grilled prawns with taboulet (couscous) - Grilled fois gras medallion with caramel sauce - Gin and tonic sorbet - Spanish wine Guess how much that all cost us? A whopping 35 euros. Each of those plates was so expertly put together that it would have easily cost 30 PER PLATE at home in a city like Toronto. The flavor profiles were just incredible. I was so impressed. If that's what the food is like in Spain, I'm never leaving.

After that, I headed back to the hostel to pack because my train left at 7:15 the next morning. Not that my attempt at an early night mattered one bit, as I was staying in a room with 6 other French girls who had no respect for the other six people who were also there. (It seems logical that if the lights are off and it's after midnight, you try to be quiet when entering your room. Mais NON!--lights were flicked on, drunken shouting ensued, as if the rest of us weren't even there. Mind-boggling. I wanted to throw a bottle at their head but I didn't. No pending assault charges, unless the cops can read my mind.) It's been a good time in Seville, but I can't wait to see what Alicante is like!

I'm really glad I went down to Seville, because I'm going to get a taste of three very different Spanish cities. Seville is typical Andalucia; Alicante is a coastal university town, and Barcelona is Barcelona.

So today, I get to Ciudad Real, the city I have to change trains in, and check at the information desk. Through my Spanglish I discover the clerk in Seville did not book me a reservation all the way through, but only to Ciudad Real. Real helpful, buddy. Good thing I checked, or I would've been ticketless on this train--the last thing I need is to be forcibly removed and dumped in a city in the middle of nowhere. Crisis avoided, though, and am on my way to Alicante.