Sunday, April 6, 2008

My travels

Well, as you can see I haven't posted in a while. Part of the reason is business, part of it is a bit of laziness perhaps, but as you can imagine a lot has happened between now and March 13. The basic big event was traveling to Madrid, Spain, with a little side trip to Paris over Easter weekend. I left on a Friday and came back on a Thursday. I went by myself, but I was visiting a couple of friends from Purdue. This was the first time I had flown Ryanair, the biggest of Europe's countless budget airlines. One of the ways they cut costs is by flying out of small regional airports far away from a major city. So my flight left at 7:15 in the morning, but the airport is about 2 hours away from Uppsala. So I stayed with a friend in Stockholm on Thursday night so I could take a bus from the central terminal. Even so I still had to get up at 3 in the morning. But I made everything, including passing through security (where they took away my shampoo). Then I encountered another unique aspect of flying Ryanair, they don't assign seats. So when they announce a check in time, everyone hurries to the counter as fast as possible, because those who are first get the best seats. So I managed, and I was able to get a window seat on the very crowded aircraft. The seats were vinyl and had no reclining function. The plane seemed rather noisy on takeoff and in the air. But other than that the flight was alright.
On the plane I was considering my 11 hour layover in the airport that was in Beauvis, an hour away from Paris. I knew the airport would be small, and I knew they would have busses to Paris, so I decided to go to Paris, even though I had not thought about it previously.
So I wandered around Paris for a five days and saw the arch de triumph and the Eiffel Tower. That evening I boarded the plane to Madrid and arrived very late, at around 10:00 or so. The hostel I ended up staying in was decent, though hard to find.
I stayed in Madrid for five days. It was very interesting. I had a hard time adjusting to the differences in eating times. I had to eat at McDonalds for two dinners, for which I was roundly chastised by Jennifer. I saw a lot of fascinating places, the royal palace, which had absolutely the most sumptious rooms of any place I have ever seen. It was incredible. I took a day trip to El Escorial, and saw the Valley of the Fallen where Franco had erected a giant cross to himself. I also saw the El Prado museum and the Reina Sofia.
As far as culture I was impressed by the liveliness of Spanish society it definitely had a different feel from Sweden.
I was able to visit the two friends from Purdue and see where they studied. I was surprised by how much grafitti there was, even on the university buildings. But my friends seemed to be enjoying themselves and the experience.
So then it was back to Uppsala, very early Thursday morning.

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