We’ve made it to Spain! After an extremely long day of transit at the start of the week to get us to London, we hung around in England until Saturday, then Ryanair graciously deposited us here in Seville.
We’ll be here just until Tuesday, which is when the real adventure begins: walking north a thousand kilometres with the aim of arriving in Santiago de Compostela on our tenth wedding anniversary.
Monday 5/3: The day started early, with an alarm waking us at 3:50. We dressed quickly and arrived at the bus stop in time to catch the first bus to the airport, arriving there at around 5:30am. Since we already had our boarding passes, we just had to have our documents checked then walk the gauntlet of baggage-weighers — none of whom weighed ours, thank goodness, since our bags were certainly over the allowed carry-on weight of 7kg.
The flight was delayed; we spent an extra half-hour in the airport and another half-hour in the plane before it took off. When it did, we were heading to Dubai rather than straight to London, since a mechanical problem meant that the only plane available was too small to fly direct and needed a refuelling stop. The extra time on the plane was bad enough, but no provision had been made to load extra food on board, and the meals ran out extremely quickly. They even ran out of water! If I’d known that the flight was going to be so long, I would have pre-booked a meal, but we only found out about the change the night before.
Once in London, a succession of trains took us (shivering) to Chertsey, where we were welcomed with a glass of wine, hugs, and a hot meal. It’s always good to see Gail and Kevin, but I don’t think we were the best of company that first night because we’d been awake for about 25 hours. Bed called, and we listened.
Tuesday 6/3: We spent most of the day inside, working, but wandered into Chertsey town to see what had changed in the 20 months or so since we were there last. Later, we spent the evening at home with Gail and Kevin, flicking through their wedding album and watching the video as well.
Wednesday 7/3: After a worky morning, we caught the train to Brighton, where we had lunch then met up with Dave (a friend of a friend), who lives there. He graciously played tour guide, showing us around the lanes and apologising for the weather, and we all wandered around the incredible Royal Pavilion. The building is impressive from the outside, but inside it’s breathtaking — each room decorated in a different version of opulence. The audio guide was great, it helped us understand what we were seeing without being overdone — on the whole, the pavilion was well worth the visit.
Later we walked along the beach to the marina, then headed back to Dave’s house for dinner. He cooked up a Thai feast and we enjoyed chatting with him and his fiancée Faye while their dog tried industriously to hump our legs.
Thursday 8/3: We started the day with a bit of work, then headed into London. After a light lunch, we visited the Museum of London, which we really enjoyed; there are several separate exhibits, each focusing on one era of London’s history. While we were there, there was a free guided tour of the Roman room, so we joined in — and really enjoyed it. The guide was informed and animated, and being able to listen rather than just read warded off museum fatigue.
We probably would have stayed longer, but we’d arranged to meet some ITP listeners and other travel bloggers at a a bar not far away. We had a few beers with listener Claire, Chris, Isabelle, Paul, Justin, Jayne and our mate Kyle, who showed up a bit later on. We’d planned to go out to dinner together, but ended up just eating in the bar (it was a bit of an adventure actually, involving a pager, several flights of narrow steps, and a fair bit of crowd navigation.)
Friday 9/3: The sleep-in might not have been the best idea — we planned to get a lot of work done and didn’t quite manage it. Ah well, we’re taking the microphone with us, hopefully we’ll be able to record podcasts during the walk. Craig at least managed to record an interview and I edited a couple of articles, so it wasn’t a complete write-off.
In the afternoon we headed into Chertsey to do some last-minute shopping, after which Gail took us out to Bracknell to see their new house, which isn’t quite finished. It’s awesome, though, and a lot bigger than the cute Chertsey house.
We swung home to pick up Kevin then headed out to a very nice Greek restaurant in a nearby town. The food was delicious and the company fantastic — what more could we want for out last evening in England?
Saturday 10/3: All four of us spent the morning packing and cleaning — Craig and I because we were leaving, and Gail and Kevin because some people were coming to view the house in the late morning — but they cancelled.
We had lunch together then Kevin dropped us at Gatwick Airport, where we had our documents checked, had a coffee then made our way to the gate. Despite the fact that the flight took off half an hour early, we still arrived “on time” and had to endure the trumpet fanfare that Ryanair plays to celebrate an on-time arrival. It’s not surprising that they have such a good record if they pad the flight times so much that a half-hour delay has no effect on a two-hour flight!
We had to wait about 40 minutes for the bus to the centre of Seville, from where we walked to the house of Alfonso and Ana, our Couchsurfing hosts. They are genuinely lovely people who did everything imaginable to make us feel at home (including cooking a delicious meal) and their kids Alfoncito and Anita were amazingly welcoming and, well, cute.
Sunday 11/3: We got up at a reasonable hour to find the kids were well ahead of us, but they welcomed us into their games for the rest of the morning, with a brief stop for breakfast. Anita has some fantastic interactive books with magnets and figures — I know they’re designed for four-year-olds but I enjoyed them too.
At about midday, Alfonso took the kids, Craig, and me for a walk around the neighbourhood. We visited the oldest church in Seville, saw people fishing in the river, admired all the azulejos (ceramic tilework), and visited the monument that commemorates the first circumnavigation of the globe, which started from here.
After that, the family headed off for lunch with the grandparents, and Craig and I went into town. We had a rough plan of places to visit but we basically just wandered around, enjoying walking through the narrow cobblestone streets and green gardens as much as the destinations.
The sites to see were pretty amazing, though. First up was Plaza de España, a square surrounded by a moat and backed by an intricate semicircular building that has a tower at either end. Along its length are azulejo paintings representing each region of Spain — it was truly impressive.
We had a tasty tapas lunch before heading the Metropol Parasol, a new four-level construction that includes a museum, a market, an open space, a restaurant, and an impressive undulating cover with a walkway that offers panoramic views of the city. We went up and followed the walkway around, then had a coffee before going back down.
Our slow walk back home was broken by a quick stop for a beer — ah, it’s so great to be able to get a beer for less than $2! We spent the evening hanging out with the family.
All photos © 2012 Craig Martin