A Travellerspoint blog

Pijamas

Because that's all I feel like I've been wearing recently...

semi-overcast 5 °C

This last week was both maravillosa and horrible at the same time, mostly because I was sick at the beginning of it and thought I was going to die. Then after that, we went to the aquarium in Gijón and it was super pretty, but la ola de frío that's attacking Europe caught up with me and I'm sick all over again. It's awful. But I -did- get some good pictures while there.

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Then this week... well, same shit, different day, more or less. It was a hectic week filled with presentations, papers, projects and highlighted by this upcoming week's problems, too. Exam Monday, test Thursday, trip to Barcelona all weekend to screw me over on any projects I get assigned this-coming week! Yaaaay. Booo.

But aside from complaining about my well-deserved amount of schoolwork for how many classes I'm taking, my host mom was gone this past week. D: I experienced major separation anxiety and it made the week seem much longer than it was. But her daughter-in-law, Margarita, came and cooked for me and Manolo since he doesn't know how to cook very well, and it was nice all the while. I can't believe it's only been a week, more or less. It feels like I just got here all over again! It'll be good to see Carmen. I plan on going out and buying her some flowers to welcome her home.

When I went for prácticas on Friday, I got paired up with a new teacher without my knowledge, and the teacher and the class had expected me to have a 55 minute lecture plan prepared... undoubtedly the longest, most socially-awkward hour of my life. But next week, I'll be prepared! I can talk about pretty much anything I want, which'll make it an interesting experience. The funny part about this is is on my history final last semester, I was asked: If you were to present a 50 minute lecture on something we've learned this semester, what would you base it on, what would you support it with, and how would you do it? Well, this isn't history, but I hadn't really given an exuberant amount of thought toward anything like that until then, and it wasn't until Friday that I realized how hard it actually is. Props to all awesome teachers, it's hard work!

Then, I got a ride home from a professor on the way back, which let me see this...

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AWESOME mountain in the distance with snow. If there's anything I like that the cold snap brought, it was that it let me see snow for myself the other day. It was amazing. Snow here, and you'd not believe it, it's actually really different than what we have in the US! It's more compact and less noticeably wet, more like a little, teeny tiny compacted snowball that falls on you. I thought it was amazing, everyone else basically yelled at me to stop encouraging the snow to fall. >_> Fun fact that my family told me; when it gets super-super cold here, it doesn't usually snow because it gets so dry and no real weather passes through. It has to be like, -right- at freezing, so usually when it snows, it just snows and makes the ground wet, but doesn't accumulate. D: Nonetheless, I was psyched.

After I got back, I had an appointment with a peluquera, and I dyed my hair purple. Well, I did it in mechas, because they thought I was insane and wouldn't dye my whole head. It was a scary experience, kind of, because I've never done anything like that before and they whacked off a few inches of hair, too.

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I then went to my appointment at the centro de terápia and had an amazing therapeutic massage and my back realigned. It was a lot easier to communicate with them than with the hairdressers because they used a lot less slang and a lot more formal words. :P Lucky for me, in the area of medicine and such, a lot of words go cross-language because of the latin roots. But he was pretty firm nonetheless: I need to get healthier, eat healthier, carry less weight, or by the time I'm 30 I'm going to be in one super-miserable state, probably with a ruptured/herniated disc down at the bottom of my back where I usually have the majority of my pain at. Bleh. So I was good all up until I heard that.

But then I went out and had dinner with mis compañeros de clase at Pizzeria la Competencia and forgot all about that. From there we went to Klint's place and hung out in the warm embrace of his space heater. Then today was a day filled with studying, where all of the cafés I went to were freezing cold because this entire city is stone. x_x; And the general concept of heating is more or less an afterthought. Rachel, you'd love it here. They're big fans of the "if you're cold, just put more clothes on!" philosophy.

Next week we have our trip to Barcelona, so I'll have probably a ton of pictures and hopefully some interesting stories to post then. Week after that, I'm spending my weekend in Valladolid and going to visit my friend Alba who went to my high school as an exchange student. :] I'm looking forward to spending time with her again and letting her show me -her- world, just like I once helped her through mine.

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Posted by Locksharp 09:03 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Busy busy

And to make matters worse, the last few novels I've written for here all ended up being eaten by my lovely new laptop that has a pretty temperamental existence. Anyway. Let me sum it up for you:

Seeing Places Not Even The Locals Have Seen:
I was graced with the offhanded chance of seeing the city from the eyes of a local: one of the other student's host mom. She inadvertently kidnapped us by ending up taking an entire unwitting small group of us first on some errands with her, and then to go in search of a pizzeria. In the process, we students were hopelessly lost because the long-time local knew her way around the streets that are -never- straight, and took me through absolutely Adjustment-Bureau-esque changes of scenery to different places I'd been to before, but never quite understood the method through which I'd gone. We found said pizzeria to be closed and instead walked around the area, getting small history pieces as we went along, as well as tips on where to go. We stopped in at a sidrería that let us in even though they were still technically on siesta and we had a bottle of sidra between all of us, and became acquainted with the proper way of drinking it. Get an 1/8th, drink a 1/16th, then -pour the rest of it out on the ground.- But more specifically, pour it out over the part of the glass you drank over, and throw it toward the bar so it drains out in the stone gutter that's implemented into the floor. Pretty cool, huh? After having just enough for the each of us to warm our bones and brave the colding night, we went back out again and ended up by the back of the Cathedral. We were talking and walking past the monestary where the nuns stay cloistered away at, listening to how they never come out and no one ever goes in except on certain nights when they open the doors of the cloistered part of the church, and the nuns sing...

Well, wouldn't you know? We walked a little ways further, and up the long staircase toward the church, the door was there but opened. It wasn't well lit, so if you didn't look, you wouldn't have even known. The woman we were with, Carmen, gasped and went as we walked up, "My daughter was born in this city, and she's never seen this before..." and we were hurriedly rushed inside. The sound of the monjas' voices was beautiful and clear, and even though we couldn't see them, the small room we were in was still breathtaking, too. We sat for a minute and listened to the psalm they were singing before the five of us quietly excused ourselves and kept walking. Another door down was a different part of the cathedral where they display religious... displays, I guess, set up seasonal dedications, and also hold some services. The air in there was super musty as there wasn't a window in the house, and was once again really moving and quiet-making. I was amazed by how after we left that Carmen was able to quickly jump back into things. I really liked her. She was witty, friendly, had a quick tongue, and knew how to properly utilize a wink: all the trademarks of a wonderful guide. :]

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She took us down that same long road that the back of the cathedral was on, which was a surprising source of the arts. The psychology buildings for the University of Oviedo, the Museum of Archaeology, la Cocina Económica (where you can get food twice a day for .50, or for free if you're willing to do some dishes), and the Philharmonic Center (and school, I believe!). Further beyond there was this -pretty- old bar with stained glass windows, and a theology school for those wanting to become priests, complete with religious library. And we didn't even make it down to the end of the way! When I told Carmen she knew of all the best places, she just winked at me and went, "The best is yet to come." Unfortunately, we haven't been able to hang like that again, and probably won't. It was just one of those spontaneous and amazing trips.

A Less Spontaenous, but Equally Amazing Adventure:
Nuestro viaje a Covadonga, Cangas de Onís, and Ribadesella (DA BEACH :D)

History lesson: Covadonga is where the Reconquista of Spain began. When the moors came to invade, it's said an army of about 1000 was held off by about 50 Covadonga residents because the moors were unused to fighting in mountain territory. Throwing rocks and who knows what else, a guy named Pelayo and everyone else eventually fought them off and the moors got tired of it and went home. Through this victory, the Reconquista began! Crazy, isn't it?

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Covadonga is also home to a special fountain with seven spouts. It's said if you drink from all seven of them within the same breath, you will be married within the next year. NOW, I don't know about that... >_> But I -did- drink from one. Just for luck. :] Probably not as well known as the chapel, the church, the waterfountains, or the waterfalls... but the sleeping lions guarding the road up to the town, (aptly dubbed by myself and my new Japanese friends Los Leones Durmiendos de Covadonga. Oh, yeah. We're originaly, all right.) called to me, so I have to show you them.

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Then we went to Cangas de Onís, where we didn't have as much time as we should have, and that is a sad thing. Aside from the AWESOME bridge/river it had...

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... and the church with many bells that we didn't have the time to see, and the fact that Pelayo was buried there, it had an absolutely delicious little hotel-café that I found and enjoyed café y pinchos at. 2 euros for the largest spanish tortilla you've ever seen, some bread, lovely coffee with a heart-shape in the foam, and some random tapas they kept passing around?... Yes, I think that is worth it. :D

I would tell you about Ribadesella, too, but it makes my heart ache just thinking about that beautiful beach town. I want to live there. It was extremely quiet and kind of rainy, (and on top of that, the middle of winter...) so nobody was really around, but I loved the sights and the smell it had. We walked up this HUUUGE hill that overlooked the sea. It was cool. We decided to do a little re-enacting.

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... You know. No big deal.

Posted by Locksharp 10:44 Comments (0)

Un día de exploración!

:: puts on Sherlock Holmes hat/Dora backpack ::

overcast 12 °C
View MIAMIinUNIOVI on Locksharp's travel map.

I thought I had learned my lesson yesterday, but it seems I didn't... Spanish people like to eat. A lot. Whereas I'm used to eating a bunch of one thing only for a meal, Spanish people like to eat medium portions of a bunch, a bunch of things. This morning we had a puree of some vegetables, but I didn't like that any and only ate just a little on some bread and shuddered at that because it tasted so strong and Carmen finally was like, "It's okay, you don't have to eat it if you don't like it." and then I had some pork in some kind of reddish sauce that was all right. She keeps saying carne but it seems more than anything that they eat a lot of pork here instead of carne automatically being beef of some variety.

Talking with Manolo after breakfast let me find out just where the leftovers in those bags I mentioned in my last entry go... to las gallenas in el pueblo muy cerca de aquí! Manolo goes each morning to feed our leftovers to some chickens in a nearby pueblo, only 6 or so kilometros. When Carmen and I left for the day, we went and discovered la Universidad-- which only happens to be like two blocks away at most! Score!-- and the park that surrounds it. From that moment and for the rest of the day I discovered just how much Spanish people must like dogs... or at least the people in Oviedo... because they're all over the place. People take them with them in public, to the parks, on the streets, through the crosswalks, and get this-- most of the time they're not even on leashes. How cool is that? The next dog we get, Jess, we're letting a Spanish person train them. I tried to restrain my American self from instinctively going "PUPPY!" then asking to pet them and then graciously loving all over each for a few minutes like they deserve, but I only succeeded in the latter.

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From the university, we walked a few blocks away from the major roads and saw the iglesia that Carmen goes to every now and then. She's catholic, but she said she doesn't go very often. It was old and beautiful, and there was another, larger park behind that! They have them all over the place it seems. We made our way back past the house, past the fountain I mentioned yesterday (which I snagged a picture of, hell yes.) Carmen stopped me when I went to take a picture of the fountain and instead directed my attention to the mountain that you could see while looking down the street past the fountain. I sincerely regret that I don't remember its name, but it's large and beautiful and she said that there's a large statue of Christ up there that people come from all over in groups to see. (It was a little teeny tiny white speck in the far, far distance but I saw it.) I wonder if the giant black bull we saw on a mountain on the way to Oviedo is similarly visited?

Luego, fuimos al centro comercial! Shopping malls in Spain are just the same as in the US, except for the changing rooms. They don't have doors in the stalls, just curtains you draw across and change behind. There was all sorts of stores-- and not to mention prices-- and I guess today, this weekend, this entire month is one of the best times of the year to shop because of los Reyes. We get the after-Christmas prices... all month, or at least that's how I understood it. It's at least for the next week. They call them "rebajas" and some stores had places up to 70% off. For how expensive España, and Europa in general, is, that was badass. I bought two -nice- shirts for pretty much 20 euros, which was awesome no matter how you spin it. Also, I discovered how American stores are poorly translated but still used in Spain... Victoria's Secret = Woman's Secret, and Party City = Party Fiesta, for example.

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Carmen ran into a friend of hers so I pretty much had free run of the place to myself. I discovered a little heladería and from there how awesome Spanish ice cream is (I got cookies and cream, like a boss. Actually, more just like me as usual.) and it was really cool. It was smooth, like soft serve, but it was still hard kind of like homemade. But it didn't waste any time in melting just like soft-serve and I nearly had a couple bad accidents with items I was picking up. There's also a cinema somehow connected to the mall that I made sure to take note of, but there's no movies right now I really want to see, except Sherlock Holmes and I'm still on the fence about that one. And now for a moment of bragging: All aside from the first store I went and inquired at, I pretty much understood and capably communicated with all of the salespersons I either bought from or asked questions of. \o/ I'm so psyched that I'm getting along that well, even in the complicated conversation about different prepaid phone options, especially since that lady was going a mile a minute. I'm still nervous for Monday and for school and the pre-semester proficiency test I have to take, but I'm slowly building up my confidence. At the very least, I won't get lost! La Casa De Las Lenguas is very close to home, and it also has a lovely sign sprawled all over the building with the LCLL logo all over it.

With friend in tow, we then went to a café close to the centro, where I met -this- fearsome fellow...

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Aside from how fierce he was, the place was really cool. While we were there, I also got a taste of Sidra, the local brew, and its method of serving. I'd have taken a picture of the server while she was pouring it out in the special bucket thing you have to do it over because it splashes everywhere, but I didn't want to be rude. Basically, you hold the bottle up as high above your head as you possibly can and the glass as low as you can inside the tall, wooden, rolling splashguard you serve it with. Then you -slowly- tip the bottle until the sidra begins pouring out and only fill the glass up about an eighth. The pouring helps with the bubbles, I think. Carmen and her friend tried to explain what it does to the drink for me, but when the initial word they used made no sense to me, they just used more that I didn't understand. :P But overall, the drink is very light, pretty easy to drink, does NOT taste at all like alcohol (which is great, except for the fact that it is still like 6% alcoholic), and kind of dry.

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From there, we went home and stopped at the grocery right next door to our apartment building and I discovered a few things...

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Pepsi (which doesn't taste too different from the American version, I'll admit) and calzones! (Which definitely aren't your average DP Dough creation.) It was jamón y queso (ham and cheese) so it wasn't that bad, but it's nothing like the pizza-ish items back at home, and I don't know if the ham looked like the kind that Carmen showed me yesterday-- the dark, thin, fatty, dried-out looking meat-- because I ate it without looking at it so I -would- eat it because Carmen bought it, the Pepsi, and the cup of coffee I'd had at the café and I didn't want to be rude. >_<; Speaking of that, I discovered that milk here is different. It lasts for almost an entire month because it's just sanitized instead of pasteurized... it's still cow's milk, though, which is crazy. Manolo and Carmen get theirs 'desnatada' which is skimmed, but the full milk has more grease they say. o_O I'll have to see that for myself.

We went out again to a -different- centro comercial to return some mis-sized clothing and stopped and picked up Carmen's nieta, Doris, on the way. She's 12 and kind of adorable except for the part where she thinks she knows -everything- and similarly is dramatic about -everything.- She has a funny sense of humor and helped me to not get lost at the centro, because it was a lot smaller than the american-ish one we'd went to earlier, but still had just as many people in it. I kept losing Carmen and freaking out. Fun fact: College-ruled notebook paper doesn't exist here the same way it does in the US. It's either looking like tiny graph paper or has two line seperators and tall seperation between each one. It was fun talking with Doris because when we found a bookstore I gabbed with her some about books. We had a short, but spirited discussion about Twilight. End of story was she likes the movies and not the books, and I liked the books mostly, but hated the movie. I silently deduced that whatever actress had dubbed Kristen Stewart in the Spanish version... she must have been much more lively than the actual actress herself.

We stopped and got some fried bread-looking thing sprinkled with sugar on the way back that I didn't catch the name of but liked well enough, and when we got back to the house Doris stayed for dinner and I had my first real "home-y" experience since I got here, and didn't even know it was coming until the food was done cooking... The sopa that Carmen made was pretty much Mrs. Grass' Chicken Noodle Soup except for the fact it actually had little chicken bits in it, and I can't tell you how disappointed I was that that was the one time so far she accepted the fact that I eat little, so she didn't make much of it. :P

In the morning, I've got an early start and a long day so I'm going to be hitting the sack now. I'm sure that with orientation starting tomorrow at the Cathedral and consisting of another tour around town to get familiar with where I should (and probably shouldn't) be, I think it might be just as exciting as today was. :]

Posted by Locksharp 13:20 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Aquí en Oviedo

Yay! We finally made it!

overcast 11 °C
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The internet in Madrid was even more confusing than in Chicago. Because Chicago's wasn't confusing... it was just expensive. At Madrid, it just flat out wouldn't work! I tried really hard to connect and had tons and tons of problems and my internet dropped out on poor Jess in the middle of me trying to rush and say that I thought it was costing me .18 a minute to talk to him on it, so he was probably like "omfg omfg" like I said earlier. But, addendum to that, there were internet kiosks around... insert one euro, you get nine minutes of airtime. Which was useful, except for the part I where I couldn't get half of the keys to work. It was pretty neat how they had those, but it was around that time that I noticed how grimy I was getting. Before and after I found that little place, my wandering around the terminal turned some people's heads, I think. My little cart I had had to be like sideways because it had a ghetto wheel. It was cool, though. It kept things interesting, made me stay active! Ish. It didn't stop me from being extremely jetlagged, though.

Needless to say, by the time I stumbled to my gate and ran into Janson, one of the people from Miami who I was supposed to meet up with, I was a little less than incoherent. I stood the last hour while waiting because I knew if I sat, I'd sleep. And then when I kept getting dizzy spells that nearly made me fall, I sat on the ground and leaned against my crap and lost all will to move. I couldn't communicate that well with anyone or anything, but all of us were like that at that point. Two other students were there, Stacey and Amanda, who we met who were from another University but also headed to la Universidad de Oviedo with us, just obviously not Miami. It was cool to meet them. A girl named Ariel also showed up, too, who was here last semester and decided to come back again because she liked it so much. The funny part was is that she's an English major... and she's spent/ding pretty much a year in Spain. :P We got up and onto the plane in a big group together and I got soooo lucky because my entire three-seat row was empty except for me. I got a little bit of shut-eye before the plane took off and was startled awake when the flight attendant decided to make my row where to dump her demonstration materials... and then I couldn't help it-- I had to take more pictures and videos at the beginning of the flight and stuff because this was a once-in-a-lifetime view... I couldn't miss it! The same theory was applied later to my bus ride, as well, to the detriment of my sanity.

When we got off our little flight, it was cute because all four of us girls were standing around and waiting for each other, and for Janson who was a slowpoke, and we all went and got our stuff in a small, confused gaggle. Surprise for me, though, was after I got my luggage, on the other side of the waiting area was none other than José! He shook my hand (which made me feel like a pro) and made sure me and everybody else were all good. We got on the bus and, like I said, I started to sleep but then realized I should/couldn't because there was soooo much to see. Everything was beautiful. I did end up dozing off the last 15-20 and woke up after we were in the city and going past this huge, beautiful fountain I need to take pictures of when I go out tomorrow.

We disembarked at the station and after some crazyness because they'd moved my bags away from where they should have been, but I met with Carmen and she made sure to take care of me. She's really sweet. We jumped a taxi ride back to our apartment, which is literally within walking distance, because of how heavy my luggage was and we got to talk a little on the way there. She warned me there were some people at her house because of los Reyes, but I wasn't expecting to meet her whole family. It was crazy, but a good crazy. I quickly got learned to how to greet in the Spanish way... lots of cheek-touching. I accidentally headstarted my way into that because when I went to hug Carmen when I first met her she was going for the cheek thing when I was just going for the hug and I was like, "Oh, okay." I pity the next fool who tries to hug me, though. I'm seriously, seriously hug deprived right now and I might accidentally snap a rib or two.

But anyway, back at the house I met Juan, Carmen's son, who started giving me shit pretty much from the moment I walked into the door and I was too tired to get most of it. He understood that and eased up and started going on and on about the holidays and Spanish traditions and stuff like that. I also met Manolo(?... Oh, god, I hope that's his name. That would be godawfulembarrassing.), Carmen's marido, and two other people... one was her familia política or something like that, and I'm not sure the relation of the other one, but he was most close to my age than anyone else who was there. Dinner was arroz con carne with some sausage-type thing that I didn't like, but the pork that was the meat in the rice was goooood. It reminded me of home. I didn't bother saving any room because I thought that would be it... I was so, so mistaken. After I'd stuffed myself with all of that, there was a huge circle cake thing that they eat on los Reyes that I had a small piece of and didn't really care for the center of, and then since I didn't like that they gave me a yogurt thing with fruit bits in it. I have no idea what it was, but it was pretty good. They said something about the yogurt being made out of goat's milk, but I just kind of ignored that... >_>;;

It got to the point where I almost fell asleep at the table and I wasn't able to hear or really understand anything that was going on. I would have felt horrible going "hey guys, I need to go sleep" but they saved me the trouble because the one lady was like, "Honey, you look really tired." and that gave me leave to go, "Yeah, I haven't slept in a full day now." and then Carmen rushed me off to my room and let me be and said to sleep for as long as I needed and to not worry about a thing. Instead of sleeping, I unpacked fully (holy crap, first day?) and got my blankies set out and situated, got set up on the Wifi (which, by the way, may I see, HELL YES WE HAVE WIFI IN THE HOUSE! \o////////), and -then- laid down... which turned out to be crazy because my body is all out of whack. I feel like I'm still in the air and I need to keep checking to make sure my ears pop and everything's going up and down and turbulence-y.

I got a nap, woke up, Carmen made a spanish tortilla with leftover pork from dinner and I couldn't eat like the last three bites of my piece, which went in another little bag on the counter... something tells me they're -very- big on leftovers. And leftover leftovers. We talked for a bit and I got to know her a little better and share with her some stuff about me and it was really nice. Tonight, for it being the first night, went about as smoothly as one could imagine. We tried to help each other out when there was words I was trying to say but couldn't get right and for the most part understood each other perfectly. And then I had a dramatic mess with the shower which involved accidentally showering the bathroom instead of myself because their showerhead's a little out of whack, but nobody needs to hear about that. Bottom line is, Carmen's pretty chill. She was all, "Eh, el baño está limpio." or something like that.

But I'm safe, settled in, and I've got a big day of exploring ahead of me tomorrow.

Which, by the way, will be great because it's like 60 here right now. BALLIN'.

:3

Posted by Locksharp 13:36 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Madrid-Bajaras

sunny 8 °C
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1.6.2012

3 things I've learned today:

1) The people at the Madrid airport speak more English than I do Spanish
2) I'm apparently very easily mistaken for a german person, because I've had "Nein, nein, nein!" yelled at me by Spanish TSA agents for doing stuff wrong over and over again while going through security.
3) Spanish Sprite is -not at ALL- sweet. It's very salty. Bleh. So much for that last taste of home.

So I'm here, stuck at the airport, and wishing very much I could talk to Jess. the WiFi kicked out a while ago and I'm left to my own devices. And my own devices are very, very boring. I hope sincerely he is asleep, though... According to my laptop, it's 3:51 AM there. Which makes it... 9:51 here. I have an hour pretty much before my next flight boards. I'm hoping I'll make it through the day today, because I had like... <---> this big of a nap on the plane. Hopefully I'll get through.

The food here in the airport is crazy expensive, and I'm drastically hoping that that's just an airport thing. Beyond that, I feel like I've still got my sealegs on because everything starts tumbling every now and then like my body's like, "HEY, WE HAVEN'T GONE THROUGH TURBULENCE IN A WHILE." Or I'm just that tired. Yeah. Screw this. I'm taking a nap while on the way to Oviedo.

Well, time to go wander around before I fall asleep on a stone counter on the middle of this floating glass thing which is also a source of this crazy vertigo. Sheesh.

Posted by Locksharp 13:21 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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