April 28, 2012
Spring Break 2012: Barcelona and Gran Canaria

Well here we are, time for the Spring Break post. This is a sad post to write because that means that so much time has already passed here and that my time remaining is running short! Regardless, Spring Break was amazing! I had such a wonderful time, even if I did get quite sick towards the end.

So we planned our spring break to just be a saturday to saturday trip, save some money and spend more time in Prague. So we left saturday morning for Barcelona, we were only staying two nights, and therefore had essentially a day and a half to see the city’s sights. After dropping our stuff off at the hostel we asked the receptionist for a tapas recommendation and she sent us up the road to a delicious and cheap place. We all ordered a pitcher of sangria and tapas, and papas. I opted for the delicious and traditional croquetas. Always a good choice anywhere in Spain. We then just made our way to La Rambla, and explored all it had to offer, as well as wondering around the Barri Gotic. We of course made it to El Mercat de La Boqueria, which was my absolute favorite thing about Barcelona. There is just something so delightful and joyous about being in a room full of fresh food and happy and probably hungry people. The colors are so vibrant and the food is so fantastically put on display. Hands down my favorite thing. Especially the fresh squeezed juice that  you can find. Delicious. For dinner we made our way to a small Spanish/Catalan restaurant one of our maps had listed on it by the ocean. This place was fantastic. The waitress spoke hardly any english, and when we arrived, (which was late by American standards, but early for Barcelona standards) there was just one young family finishing up a meal, and a group of twenty-somethings sipping on wine and tapas in the corner. I ordered what I can only describe as enchilada like in appearance and composition, not flavor. Some sort of meat stuffed thing covered in delicious melted cheese. It was great! It started to rain while we were eating, so we ended up walking 40 minutes back to the hostel in the pouring rain, but luckily I had my raincoat so I enjoyed the moment. We then just spent the night in the common room of the hostel, making friends from italy, and germany and wherever else you can imagine.

This hostel was really fantastic, because it did a great job of arranging things to do around the city. We took the opportunity to do a free Gaudi walking tour, that picks us up right at our hostel. It was fantastic. It was a small group, 8, of us that traveled all over the city seeing the most famous Gaudi buildings and hearing the history from a very nice Polish girl that lives in Barcelona. We saw all of the beautiful houses, but opted out of revisiting them to wait in line and pay a ridiculous amount of money to go inside. I wasn’t too upset about this because I just know that I will make my way back to Barcelona in the future, and hopefully with more money to spend! The tour was fantastic, very informative and fun! We ended at the beautiful La Sagrada Familia, heard the interesting history and stories of the different facades and bid farewell to our very hungover polish tour guide with a nice tip. We then grabbed some lunch before heading to the Parc Guell. The park was one of the most spectacular things! We made it there right at the beginning of a thunderstorm. So from the hight of the park we got to see the storm roll in and begin over Barcelona, it was breathtaking. It was so fantastic to see all of this beautiful Gaudi architecture that I had learned about in school, and sit on the mosaic benches of have seen so many pictures of! So awesome. My sunday evening in Barcelona then ended with a fun poker game in the hostel and another pitcher of sangria and round of tapas! 

Early Monday morning took us on my first and hopefully last Ryanair flight to Gran Canaria. We were all quite nervous about Ryanairs strict baggage policy. But lucky for US the people were very casual about it on our way there and didn’t check a thing. After a 3 hour flight completely lacking legroom, we landed at the Las Palmas Airport in Gran Canaria. Now I must just say, that when I planned this spring break we ended up going on, I really just knew that I absolutely had to see Barcelona, and that I wanted to have a few days break from touring and traveling, and actually relax (Because I have been so stressed this whole time I have been in Europe). So I found a $100 USD round trip flight from Barcelona to Las Palmas, and we all booked it without any research, just hoping that it would be warm so we could lay out, get some color and a vitamin D. I had nothing to do with any of the booking of the hostels or anything, so upon our arrival to the Las Palmas, I had zero idea of where we were going. But we eventually found our way on the correct busses to the southern edge of the island. Our destination was Puerto de Mogan. After 2 busses and about an hour on the bus we made it to the Puerto de Mogan bus stop. From there we followed the directions that the hostel had on their website. Which were something like this: “From bus stop look for super market. Walk down the street from the super market to the beach. Once at the beach turn right, and cross the wooden foot bridge. Walk down the street until you see the post office. At the post office turn right and go up the stairs until you reach the hostel.” Simple enough. we made it. And boy were we surprised in the best way ever. The hostel was tucked up with a bunch of other buildings on the hillside, 2 minutes from the beach. The Volver hostel was single handedly the coolest and best hostel I have and probably will ever stay in. Walking up and walking in to the hostel there is this amazing island vibe. Like there is nothing super important or pressing, so relaxed. We didn’t even pay for our rooms until after we already stayed one night. So great. There was a common room/ kitchen that had the most breathtaking views of beach. Absolutely stunning. The hostel was owned by an older German woman, and she allowed a couple of various people free stays, in exchange for there work for her. Pretty cool business model. For example one of the care takers was a 50+ year old british guy who just did chores around the hostel in exchange for a bed on the hostel terrace. And this terrace is the most fantastic part of the hostel. Another beautifully eclectically decorated space, with tables and chaires, whit a wonderful little room of couches tucked in a corner, all with picturesque views of Playa de Mogan. The 4 of us stayed in a 6 person room, and our roommates were a german guy Zenon (not kidding) and some older italian guy. But ultimately the hostel was a place you wanted to spend time. It was as relaxing as any spot on the beach.

We were in Gran Canaria for 4 days. So we had 4 days to spend on the beach, or doing any other activity we wanted to. And thats what we did. One day we ventured to Playa Maspalomas, which is a popular dune beach further north on the coast from Puerto de Mogan. The beach was very cool, had a little bit of everything for everyone, including a very large nudist section (with coincidentally large people). However the weather was not in full cooperation for us to really enjoy this beach, it was so fiercely windy that a walk on the beach resulted in an all over body microdermabrasion. So we ended up sneaking our way in to a random hotel pool, and spent the day sunning and reading out of the wind. Another day, while Lexy and Tonya were out taking surf lessions, Sam and I opted to take the day for a view of the nature on the island (and also a free activity) and did a beautiful hike to a black sand beach. Since we woke up there was a slight haze in the sky, and as we learned this was called Las Calimas, which is when sand from the Sahara Desert blows in and settles/ casts a haze over the islands. I do recommend you look at a map and see where the Canary Islands are, because I am pretty excited to say that I have technically been on the African continent after my visit. But the islands are an autonomous community of Spain, so are still considered European, but geographically are a part of Africa. The hike to the black sand beach was fantastic, we saw a ton of the landscape, banana plantations, and of course the beach. The darkest sand I have ever seen. It was so cool. The hike was about 2 hours one way, so the hike took up a good chunk of our day. After the hike I took a shower in the hostel shower, which was a beautiful mosaic everything, with a natural stone floor, and then began to start felling ill. Most everyone in the hostel was having a good time bonding on the terrace, but I was good and put myself to bed early to see if I could fight off being sick. But actually the opposite happened. I got worse. I started to have a serious fever, and was so weak that getting up to go to the bathroom required some serious effort.

I then spent our last day in the Canary Islands in a hostel bed. I lied, not the whole day, I did force myself to go to the beach for about an hour when I wasn’t feeling feverish. I mean being that close and not going to the beach is asinine. I then went back to the hostel terrace to get out of the sun and read and nap on the couch. I then made my way back to bed, and didn’t really move, for by night the symptoms got worse, and the fever returned with vengeance and I was again pretty weak. We had to leave at 6:30 in the morning on friday by taxi to get back to Barcelona for one night before returning to Prague. The whole taxi ride, I was sweating uncontrollably, with wishful thinking that the fever was going to break, and it did, just in time for me to deal with the Ryanair people. Now I was in absolutely no mood to even try to deal with Ryanair. So instead of trying to pack my man-purse and its contents in to my travel backpack, I decided to just put the man-purse under my  coat, and hope that it would pass as my gut. It didn’t. The Ryanair people saw right through my scam, and barked at me in spanish to go fix it. So I did, and then went back to front of the very long line I was just kicked out of to check the size of my bag. Which fit in their little frame just fine, but the removal of the bag from this frame was not smooth enough, for a small buckle on my bag got stuck and the Ryanair worker lady was not having it. I forcefully but kindly explained (remember I am still ill)  that my bag did indeed fit, but got stuck upon its removal. She wasn’t having it, and wanted me to pay 60 Euro for my bag to fly (this is more than my roundtrip ticket was) but I would not have it, and I eventually made my way around her and down the gate to the plane.  We made it back to Barcelona 3 hours later, found our new hostel, and I put myself to bed. I spend the entire day in bed. I felt awful. I was upset about the situation, because this friday night in Barcelona was the night we reserved on our trip to experience the nightlife, which I obviously didn’t get to do. So that was a bummer, but like I said, Barcelona and I aren’t done with each other yet. I survived another night of miserable fevers, to make it back to Prague, and back to my little communist dorm room bed. 

So after another day and a half of miserable illness. I decide that it was actually time to brave it and make my way  to the Czech doctor. This is being included on my spring break post because this is all happening two days after I got back from Spain. I was in no position to be taking myself to the doctor, seems how I figured I wouldn’t drive myself to the doctor in this conditions, so I probably shouldn’t go an hour on public transportation to the doctors office on my own. So Lexy accompanied me on my adventure to eastern european healing (at a private english speaking practice). I made my way to the doctors office, and landed in an exam room that was also the doctors actual office, desk and all. I found myself being examined by an older Czech doctor wearing white socks, and white sandals with his lab coat. Obviously my concern was growing with this observation. Lexy came in the exam room office with me and we were exchanging looks the entire time. The doctor then asked what my symptoms were, and was feverishly typing them in his computer. I thought he was using WebMD, but apparently he wasn’t. He first checked my ear that was bothering me, and determined I had an inner ear infection. We then tried to figure out what was causing the fevers, weakness, lack of appetite, night sweats, dehydration and whatever else I had been feeling. He first had his nurse (whom was not wearing gloves for this) prick my finger and see what came from that little test. I then proceeded to urinate in a dixie cup and hand it to the again gloveless nurse. After a thorough exam/ deep organ massage, it was time to have my blood drawn. The nurse then put on gloves to draw blood out of my right arm. I was then sent to have my chest x-rayed. I followed my nurse, out of the doctors office, out of the practice entirely, down a hallway, through a metal door, up two flights of stairs, through a pediatricians office, down a hallway, through double doors to finally have my x-ray. Oh and I had to find my way back to the doctor from the x-ray, I made it back, but it wasn’t easy, it is easy to get lost in these communist built buildings. The x-ray determined that in addition to the ear infection I also had pneumonia! So I had to get my blood drawn again for another test, this time out of my left arm. But after all of this I was finally able to receive my trusty Czech drugs and ultimately be healed. (I am obviously feeling much better, since I am writing with such finesse) Let me just summarize this doctors trip for you. For the first time in my entire  life I had my finger pricked, urine tested, blood drawn in each arm, and chest x-rayed all in the comfort of my eastern european doctors office. Learning experience to say the least.

Right well, it appears that I have written a novel. Time to call it quits. Photos to come.

-Zach