Tangier and 'evilla' (I thought you don't pronounce the 'S'?)

Wednesday started out with me getting up and playing on Facebook before my ferry to Tanger. By then, I had forgotten about the whole wind thing (a sign that my travel anxiety was pretty much gone). Well, 10 a.m. rolled around and I headed over to the FRS terminal to meet my tour guide and wear my little 'FRS' sticker (*shudders*). After taking the five minute stroll, I arrived at the terminal only to have the person at the gate and the ticket window SUGGEST that I get a refund due to weather. I've rarely had a company refund me for a tourist related ticket (FRS said the ticket was nonrefundable previously) so you can understand my shock. The wind had been pretty strong that morning, which probably meant it was hell out in the strait.

The ferry was there, so what was the deal? The problem was I could go out on the ferry and tour, but I might not make it back because they were canceling ferries likely later in the day when the winds picked up. Now, if I had a very open itinerary or several days to spend in Morocco like one of the girls back at the hostel, this posed no problem, as the morning ferry was still there. However, I had already spent more time in Tarifa than I cared to and I was really looking forward to Sevilla, so the idea of getting stuck in Tanger for a day (or more) didn't really appeal to my schedule.

After a quick runaround back and forth between the ticket office and terminal, I got my refund (in cash amazingly) and quickly made my way back to the hostel. The host told me that winds were only going to get worse over the next several days, so that made me feel better about my call. I speed walked to the bus station (about 5-10 minutes away) and had my Sevilla ticket changed to the next bus that day, which was in about an hour. Back to the hostel (I'm getting tired again just writing about all this back-and-forth lol), I added a day to my hostel in Sevilla and canceled Tarifa (no refund this late of course), got directions for the new hostel and went to my room to pack my bags.

The Dutch guys were just heading out for kite surfing, so we said our goodbyes as I quickly packed up and left. If there's one thing I love about backpacking, even for a planner like myself, it's the ability to make a quick switch, pack up in 15 minutes and be gone to the next big's very exhilarating. Shuffling out the door, Gustavo let me know he'd be in Sevilla on the 5 p.m. Bus, so if we had a chance to meet, we'd hang out for tapas and touring. I walked casually to the bus station this time, as I had my backpack to lug. Man, thank God I downloaded a Bond movie the night before on my laptop (the one that features Gibraltar), so I had that ready to roll on the bus.

Dropping my bags and plopping into a seat at the bus stop with a Coke, I took a breather just to take in all that had changed in all of about a half hour. Frankly, I was surprised I wasn't more upset and down on not going to Tanger (I know I can get that way sometimes). I thought about it and here's what I came up with to validate my decision (which I'm forever doing):

  • I trust peoples' advice first and my guidebooks second. In this case, both said the tour I had booked for Tanger sucked.
  • Leo and countless others made the rest of Morocco (Casablanca, Marrakesh, etc...) sound so much more interesting, so I figure a trip to Morocco (or northern Africa) is warranted.
  • “You can always come back”, a great Rick Steves mantra
  • Even if I went, my anxiety about the wind would just spoil it
  • I had already missed out on having a good guide
  • After the whole ER experience, I wasn't looking for another trip-jostling event

In the end, I consider what I did smart, not just safe...I mean, I like to think I take some risks (i.e. solo travel), but in this case, there was the potential for several days of my trip lost (pretty much Sevilla gone) and a possible plane ticket in my future if the ferries were down through the weekend. Probably not the case, but still even a day would've been a bummer.

Okay, that's enough of that. Another smooth bus ride and I arrived in beautiful Sevilla at 4 p.m., enjoying the warmth and sunlight while also starving. I ended up at a restaurant where my fumbled Spanish earned me not one, but two “raciones” (larger portions) plus the wine I had intended to order. I couldn't be rude, plus I was hungry, so I just ate both lol.

My new hostel was probably the nicest hostel I've ever stayed in...that's probably why they named it a 'boutique' hostel. I mean, it has a full dining room (with a host serving crepes and waffles in the morning!), a fitness center, really nice beds and everything brand-new. Keeping along my philosophy for the trip of small, non-party hostels (more on that in a future post), I found this one a little unusual. It had way more older people and families (with kids) that I'm used to, probably due to the large number of 2 person rooms. Most of the other people were quiet or nonexistent (it is middle of off-season). Rather than switch hostels (this one was ONLY €10/night!) I decided to stick with it and get out and tour to meet people. After all, I had the extra time now.

Out I went, going on an evening “paseo” (stroll) to see what Sevilla was all about. I wandered Plaza Nueva, around the cathedral, and into the winding Santa Cruz district, which I heard had an ample supply of gift shops. No gems, I admit, but I did poke around here and there. I'm going lighter on the souvenirs this time, since getting one thing from each city usually just earns me a bunch of junk lol. No finds in Santa Cruz (damn!) but maybe back in Barcelona before I leave. I went back to Plaza Nueva to shop the many stores in the area, as it was now evening and people were out and about. I was looking for a new coat (mine's getting a bit raggity) as well as a scarf, which I so desperately needed this whole trip but never found one warm enough (frankly, I didn't look that much lol). Why look in Europe? I had luck when I needed a jacket last time in Berlin, so I figured since European clothes are pretty stylish and seem to fit me well, why not? Turns out, I didn't have luck in Sevilla, but I added that to another of my Barcelona to-do items.

Back at the hostel, I met Mane (Mah-nay) who led the tour to the flamenco show. We ended up only having five people total at the show, so it turned into our own personal little show. It was a lot of fun, though I wasn't always sure where to clap or “Ole!” lol. I also met Pieterjan (he says just call him “Peter-John” to make it easier) who was from Belgium. We went out after, along with Paula, the other guide, for tapas and then some drinks. Overall, it was probably as exciting as we could make Wednesday during off-season. I got back late, of course waking up everyone in my room (I hate being that guy), even though it was only 1:30 a.m.

Thursday arrived and I must say, it was indeed a very different Thanksgiving :-) Throughout the night, I had played the noisy roommate in my hostel, banging the toilet shut (the thing was apparently really loose) and dropping my eBook off my bed while sleeping (oops). It happens. In the morning, I met my Taiwanese roomie over breakfast. I grabbed food before the guy could make me a waffle, but I figured I get one the next morning. She, along with my other roommate, were just leaving, so we only had a few quick words before we parted ways.

I made my way over to the cathedral at 11 a.m. to catch the tour that was being led by Mane. Pieterjan showed up, along two German girls, Jay (aka Jono) from Australia and Aleah from friggin' Oregon (Eugene to be exact). Together, we toured the city (Plaza de España, simply AMAZING by the way, don't know why the guidebook was down on's also planet Naboo for all you Star Wars fans), ending up in a nice park two hours later. Me, Pieterjan, Jay and Aleah walked over to a tapas place for lunch that Mane recommended (the dates were awesome!) and then we headed to the cathedral to tour around the inside.

Afterwards, the four of us agreed to meet up at 8 p.m. to do our own tapas tour and bar crawl for dinner. Instead of going directly to the hostel for a siesta, I did a quick tour of the bullring, which was pretty cool. The tour itself wasn't much (and mostly in Spanish, which I luckily could follow), but it was worth getting a picture of the inside. By now, it was beginning to rain and I was beat, so I made my way back to the hostel, made my Thanksgiving phone call to the family and then passed out for a little bit.

Before going out on our crawl, I began to reconsider staying another day in Sevilla. I really didn't have much left to do other than perhaps the Alcázar, and I already had been to Granada. Of course, I couldn't refund my Ryanair flight, but I was already not looking forward to getting up at 3-4 a.m. To be hassled by them for something I didn't pay for, plus it was only €44 (€10 of which was the actual fare). I also had two train tickets on my pass still after the ER thing, and I love trains.

So I made the switch to go to Barcelona a day early in hopes of some sun, the second such change in the last few days. I must say, I was getting pretty good and this switcheroo thing. I booked a new hotel (not hostel for my last leg) in Barcelona, got the train ticket and printed it, canceled my Sevilla hostel and got directions in Barcelona. The unfortunate side-affect was that my previous hotel in Barcelona was nonrefundable (I chose one closer to downtown than the airport, as it had better transit options), but I figure I can fight that by refusing payment.

With all that settled, I was late for our tapas tour. Luckily, Aleah and Jay had gotten a hold of me on Facebook a half hour earlier, and we had all agreed to meet for the 8:30 p.m. tapas tour put on by Mane's group. I realized that Pieterjan hadn't chimed in, and asked the other two to see if they could find them in their hostel or at our previous meeting spot by the cathedral. Unfortunately, I arrived at the tour meeting spot and Pieterjan wasn't there (so sorry man!), so Mane and I went looking for him with no luck. By then, it was 30 minutes after we were supposed to meet for our original tour. No hard feelings, I hope.

Our group consisted of me, Jay, Aleah, the German girls and a group on others from the other hostels. We toured three tapas places, getting lots of different tapas to try courtesy of Eddie, our host, along with a ton of sangria. A very nice Thanksgiving indeed. I was beginning to wonder if changing to Barcelona was a good idea, as I might not be back too early. Fortunately, I was able to cut out between the end of the tapas tour and beginning of the pub tour (I guess Eddie had a fight with another host and left us hanging, so we were all confused). The remaining group was going to try and find a disco-tech, but I decided to be lame and turn around ta 1 a.m. to get a little sleep before my morning train. I know, I should've stayed out, but I think that whole ER thing still has a me a little subdued, not to mention that I tend to only party here and there.

Asleep at 1 a.m. after meeting my Brazilian roomies brings me up to being on the train to Barcelona this morning. Aaaaaaaand...we're like an hour and a half away! More updates from Barcelona, including a little summary of likes/dislikes, etc will be coming your way in the next couple of days.

I leave you be while I try again for Casa Mila and perhaps the Museo Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, along with some last-minute shopping. I loved Barcelona, and I'm looking forward to spending a bit more time there. And of course, I come home in a few days! This has been an interesting trip, but I'm reaching the point where I'm ready to take a vacation from vacation and come home and relax for a bit.

With that, I bid you “adeu” (in the Catalan style of Barcelona).

- Mateo

P.S.  The joke in the title comes from the fact that Sevillians choose not to pronounce the 's' in words (saying "gracia" instead of "gracias" for thank you), so it's just my tip of the hat to them :-)

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