Saturday, October 22, 2011

Delhi. The good, the bad, the unexpected.

An alter at the ISKCON temple

India has been calling my name for quite a few years now. It's inexplicable how or when I first heard it but I knew I somehow, someday I needed to come here. When bill and I first started to discuss the issue I had visions of bearded gurus chanting mystically, meditating in an ancient ashram and reaching enlightenment while riding an elephant. There were so many things about myself I wanted to find answers to, so many things I wanted to see, hear, taste, do, and just experience. When we talked about it more we decided to volunteer in Delhi before moving on with the rest of our trip. The plan was to take the train to southern India, stopping in Jaipur, Udaipur, Mumbai and Goa before hitting Kerala for a guided tour through the back waters.

These were all ideas that were thrown around before we left Brooklyn. While we were in Rome, Mumbai was bombed. We crossed it off our destination list. While we were in Berlin we planned out the second and third legs of our trip and it was looking like we would need two months to do India instead of one. The train schedules were somewhat confusing. To go from Udaipur to Kerala we would have to go all the way back to Delhi if we didn't want to go through Mumbai. We were on the fence with Goa, meaning I wanted to go and bill didn't. We also wanted to leave for Buenos Aires by November 1st so we could keep on schedule for our south America adventures. We are not the couple who will end up traveling endlessly, going wherever the day takes us. Believe me, I would have loved to spend more time in certain places (ahem, Ibiza) but I also want to get home by the end of Dec so I can hopefully get a job and make back all the money I spent on this trip, get health insurance, start contributing towards my IRA again. You know, all those responsible, rational, icky adult things that I find too many travelers don't seem to care about. We decided to stay in Delhi for 3 weeks to volunteer while taking weekend trips to Jaipur and Agra. Then we would train it down to Kerala, then train it to Bangalore before flying home. Then we decided to ax Bangalore because there was a much cheaper flight out of Delhi. We would fly back to Delhi then fly to BA. Then Delhi got bombed and we had already paid for the volunteering so we couldn't not go there, so we should have just stuck to the original plan with Mumbai cause apparently "they bombin eeerrrrbody in India this summer" Too soon? Not funny? whatever. Then, just last week, we decided that a 46 hour train ride to Kerala was too much even if we were in first class so we bought a flight that was the same price as the train. We would spend the 2 extra days in Delhi. So, we will have spent 24 days in Delhi and 8 days in Kerala by the time this month is over. Follow all that? Oh, and we never made it to Jaipur.

The Lotus Temple. Please excuse the lens smug! That will have to get photoshopped out later.

Our first week in Delhi was interesting. We did a lot of sightseeing, got some Hindi lessons, saw a Bollywood movie, and went to the Taj Mahal in Agra. We also saw a lot of Delhi. There's lots of traffic, smog, trash, rubble, public urination, people like you and me and destitute people. Destitute is not the same as homeless. Homeless people in New York City are living a life of luxury compared to the people on the streets here. I didn't have any shock seeing this, I've seen it before when I traveled to southeast Asia for work. I also somehow manage remain very detached emotionally from these kinds of things. I think Bill is a little bothered by it. Especially when we are on our way to the now infamous M Block market and we have to walk past a completely open and enormous raw sewage drain. Imagine the worst smell you ever smelled and multiply it by a million. Rotting, fermenting, festering sewage flowing through the city in a drain the size of a small canal. And there are people working down in it, doing what I have no idea.

The Kamal Nayan Society school.

Our second week we started our volunteer assignment and we saw the real Delhi. The raw Delhi. Our program director took us to our assignment the first day to show us around. The Kamal Nayan Society is a non-formal education school on the edge of the slum in the Okhla Phase 2 Industrial Area. That means it's a chalkboard on the wall in an alley between factories with an asbestos roof held up by two poles. There are no books, no materials and sometimes no chalk. The office is a little shack with a couple chairs and a table. There are 20 to 60 kids a day that come in two shifts- boys in the morning and girls in the afternoon. They are anywhere from 2 to 17. They all wear the same clothes everyday, a lot don't have shoes, one little toddler didn't even have pants or underwear. Yep, a shirt and a little toddler penis greeted me one day. These kids aren't homeless though. They have parents, who often come by the school, most go to government school in either the morning or afternoon, and they have homes in the slum where there is no running water. The water pipe for the slum was right next to the school so every afternoon the parents were there filling large buckets of water and unfortunately the older girls in my class would leave early to help their families carry the water back to their shacks. Basically, these kids were poor, not destitute.That's poor in India. Poor kids in the US have shoes and pants, food stamps, welfare, running water, rights and laws that protect them Thank God.

Bill with our morning students, and one of the full time teachers. Sono (mentioned below) is on the right in the striped shirt.

I panicked the first day. I'm not a teacher, not even close. I almost never interact with small children and if you put me in a classroom in the US with 30 crazy kids I would have walked out. Now I had 30 crazy kids who were screaming in Hindi, in a dirt alleyway covered in trash in a slum. Bill and I finished our first day and I had a serious talk with him about just quitting. This whole program was a hot mess. I was not going to ever be able to teach these kids anything, I was anxious about having to come up with things to teach them everyday. In case you haven't noticed, I'm not exactly William Shakespeare over here so how could i teach English? And math, forget it. I failed algebra and trig in high school. I haven't done a division problem on actual paper in like, 15 years. But we already paid for this and if there's one thing I will never do is throw away money because I'm scared of something. I did regret our choice of spending so much time in Delhi. I felt like I was never going to see the glamourous, mystical India I had in my head before we came here.

So began our 2 weeks of teaching. I took the smaller kids, bill took the older kids. The boys in the morning always wanted to do math so we started out simple so I could see where they were at then we moved onto harder stuff. Cross multiplying, equations, exponents and yes, dividing. When I wasn't right the other full time teacher would jump in. She didn't speak any English but she could usually tell what I was trying to say and would translate to hindi. In between yelling "LADO MAT!" (no fighting) we actually got some stuff accomplished.

The girls were different. First of all, they were cuter and sweeter. They always wanted english. We started with nouns, I would write a sentence and circle the nouns. They wrote the same sentence in Hindi on the board and circled the nouns. We did the same with verbs and adjectives. We did geography, and to my astonishment, when I pulled out a world map not one kid knew where India was. That was an entire days lesson and by the end every single one can tell you where India is on the map! I showed them all the places bill and I had traveled. I showed them pics on my camera of Paris and Morocco. We talked about modes of transportation, you can take a bus or train to Pakistan but you have to take a boat or plane to South America. A big hit was yoga. Out of desperation for something to do one day I started teaching them some poses and they begged to do it every day after. A bigger hit was bill and I clumsily doing a waltz for them. Dancing With The Stars won't be calling us anytime soon but they loved it. They did the waltz, and I made them show me some Hindi dances. They loved to color so I brought in packs of crayons and coloring books. It sounds juvenile but when your a 10 year old kid and the closest thing you have to a toy is a styrofoam container that was trash, new crayons are awesome. Bill spent an entire afternoon teaching a girl how to write an S correctly, but when she finally got it he was elated. I have a profound new respect for teachers. Especially when we realized it's the little victories that count. I could go on and on about all the things we did but you get the idea. Some days were great, and some days sucked really bad.


And then there was Sono, aka Crooked Hands Jimmy. Already famous a la bills previous post, and he was my absolute favorite. It started when he serenaded me with a Hindi song and it was solidified when he made me an origami frog that hops. A kid missing half his arms and has backwards hands and only 1 thumb painstakingly spent a half hour folding a tiny origami frog for me. I've received lots of pictures and cards from the kids that I have to throw away, I mean, I can't lug that stuff with me all over the earth. But the frog I will keep till the day I die.

I was doing my laundry in a bucket in the bathroom the other night and, as I was scrubbing my filthy pants caked in dirt after just one day at school, I started thinking about my initial thoughts on India. We will have to return one day to do a proper Rajasthan tour. I've also always wanted to see Varanasi, and watch the bodies burn on the Ganges in their final grasp at enlightenment. I want to go to the Bodhi tree and see if I feel more like Buddha sitting under it. There will be time to do all this, assuming I'm not dead, in the future. Right now I think I was meant to be here in Delhi. A teeny transformation has been happening all along, I didn't have to wait until I got to India. It started back at home. If you really want to cleanse, get rid of everything you have. I sold a lot of my stuff, what I didn't sell I gave away or threw away. Every single object forced me to ask a question about myself. I got married! I pushed my limits in yoga. I have lived out of a carry on size suitcase for 4 months now. I'm forced to communicate my feelings to bill in a better manner than screaming uncontrollably. My patience isn't endless yet, but it goes a lot farther than it used to. I've mostly gotten over a huge germaphobia problem. I've eaten things when I didn't know what they were. I've realized that I have to just give up trying to control circumstances and let the universe do it's thing because I am a small, tiny spec on the planet. I've come to the shocking conclusion (so far) that people are overwhelmingly good, honest and nice no matter where you are. I had originally planned on having a spiritual epiphany in a remote ashram somewhere in the country, but I think I came a little closer to God in the slums of Delhi. I haven't taken the elephant ride yet though, so I'll have to report back on that later :)


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Initial thoughts on Delhi (I'm a jerk edition)

We've experienced a lot while here in Delhi and have been keeping notes to help with our blog posts, but as I was reviewing my notes I found it difficult to find a thread to tie the experiences together. Often, our posts are chronological recaps intertwined with related insight (read: crass humor), and a flowing theme. As I went through my notes this time, I didn't feel a theme was coming through in our experiences, but I did notice a tone. It's kind of a nasty one too. Maybe it's from the coffee detox, but my initial thoughts on India were written with the voice of a cranky pants. Rather than rewrite my notes to reflect a more nuanced and in depth description of our experiences, I'm letting the freak flag fly in the name art, humor, and curmudgeons the world over (read: too lazy to edit). Here now, are my INITIAL thoughts on India (I'm a jerk addition)...

Slum dog Millionaire
A staffer was aghast when we told him Americans think all of india is like slum dog millionaire. After a week here I'd say the movie was dead on. Notwithstanding that our host family (who are upper middle class with a nice house in a nice neighborhood) watch WWTBAM every. single. night... Every ounce of the city feels like a landfill. Even the entire road to Agra is covered in rubbish. Picture the now legendary streets of Napoli with their mountains of trash... Now, take away the trash bags, spread the trash around, mix it up with some rubble, repeat for over 80 miles, and then cover it all in feces (human, cow, whatever). The never ending pile of trash is only interrupted briefly by charred remains of trash that had been burnt earlier in the morning. The worst was, we passed through the birth place of Krishna (he's a BFD here) and there was no letting up. People keep saying that India will surpass China as the worlds largest economy by 2020, and I laugh a little on the inside. That the poverty here is so overwhelming and the attitude towards it is predominantly one of acceptance instead of outrage is comical. Our program director even admitted the problems of this country could easily be fixed if the politicians had the courage to stand up for what is right rather than fear of losing an election. Sound Familiar?

The Taj Mahal is imperfect. 
I'm not saying that it isn't beautiful and deserving of its status. Its a magnificent building that stands as a testament to enduring love and unrivaled craftsmanship throughout the ages. However, according to Muslim tradition, you're not allowed to build anything perfect so as not to strive for godliness. Therefor, you must intentionally include an imperfection. In the case of the Taj Majal, it is the inclusion of the second tomb. The first tomb is of Shah Jahan's wife which is perfectly centered in the structure, Shah Jahan's tomb is to her left. It turns out he wasn't exactly role model material. The Taj Majal was built on the backs of slave labor, by a foreign ruling power, who spent more money on his own throne than he did on his wife's tomb. I'm not kidding you, go look it up on Wikipedia. Plus, Shah Jahan supposedly designed it himself. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmk. If it weren't for the white marble, all the Mogul tombs in I've seen pretty much look the same: Persian influence, five domes, "webbed" windows, etc.  It's said that the architect's intention was the placement of the second tomb as the imperfection, but I choose to live in a world where the architect had a sense of humor and the content of the tomb is the imperfection :)

The Gandhi Smriti
Everyone in the world who is capable of doing so should visit this site. It was here that Gandhi spent the last 144 days of his life and it is a very moving experience.  I remember seeing the Gandhi movie as a kid and believe to this day it planted the desire to see india in me. The  grounds contain a path illuminating the struggle for Indian independence and his role in it. Additionally, the house itself hosts both an interactive installation upstairs, and hallway after hallway downstairs of walls lined with every ounce of truth the man ever spoke. This leads you to the room in which he lived in with nothing more than a few personal effects, a bed and his spinning wheel. All still exactly how he had left them.  

The grounds are also where he was assassinated by some fongool who reassures us that the world is going to hell in a hand basket. It'd  be easy to mention Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King, or even John Lennon amongst others, but none of them lived in Delhi and I'd prefer to stay focussed. The universe blesses us with treasures and we as a species invariably wipe our ass with it and leave it on the side of the road to burn. Well, that's how they do it in Delhi, in the west we'd wipe our ass with it, flush it down the toilet and claim moral superiority based on our excrement disposal habits. I sometimes wonder what monkeys must think of us (especially cause there all over the place here)... I'm completely convinced if you could translate monkey, their word for human would equate to "insane", "bat shit crazy" or "hairless assclowns". It makes perfect sense that they throw poo at us, It's probably out of outrage.

The food
I thought I could eat Indian food all the time... Until I did. After a week straight of some of the most delicious food I've ever eaten, it was time for a break. Busting out the "stick with what you know" directive, we headed to Pizza Hut. Surprisingly, it was pretty good. I don't usually endorse chain restaurants or fast food, but if I didn't live in Brooklyn, I would consider their pizza top notch. Now, it's hard to say if this is the Indian food binge talking, but it was better than any non gourmet pizza we'd had since we've been on this trip... I say "non gourmet" because our friend Davide also happens to be a pizza chef and his pies are bangin. All that, and they served beer. It was only king fisher, a low alcohol Indian beer the German girls referred to as "piss beer", but it's so good when it hits your lips. We hadn't had a beer in almost two weeks as we only drank wine in Paris and Tangier. We're not supposed to drink or at least not come home drunk while with our home stay, but we already have day dreams of going there bright and early, drinking king fishers all day over cheesy bread pizza and jerk chicken skewers, then sobering up over cheese cake and scrabble at the local coffee shop. That's how our last Sunday evening went, but next time we want to make it a marathon session. Especially cause they play late nineties pop rock and slow jams on the radio. The highlight was watching Claire realize that the 19 year old German girl we were eating lunch with was only a child when these songs came out. It's a scenario we've been through together ourselves with 80s music, so watching her cringe for a change was epic. (Editors note, we had gone back to Pizza Hut twice more in the span of seven days since first writing this.)

Volunteering day one
the volunteering turned out to be exactly what we were afraid of. It's basically baby sitting. This is the exact experience we had with New  York Cares back home, but for some reason we thought it would be different here. You think we would have learned our lesson... The irony is, we had been learning a lot about the similarities between Delhi and NYC, we just never put two and two together.

Volunteering day two
We arrive about 20 minutes late as it took longer than expected to get there.  What we didn't expect, is that none of the adult staff had arrived yet either. Benefit of the doubt, they probably take the bus. We specifically know the head of the Kamal Nayan society lives 45km away and is handicapped. He looks young, but is skinny and walks like an old man; hunched over, small steps and seemingly non fully functional legs. My initial thought was maybe MS, but without a speech impediment I can't tell. Nor do I have any desire to ask. What I do want to ask, is where he gets his clothes from. We're talking Saturday night fever snazzy. Big, and I mean BIG wing tipped collars, shiny pants, and conservative James brown hair replete with neatly trimmed sideburns. He's a pair of Elvis glasses away from being awesome. Don't get me wrong, a crippled man who grew up in the slums of Delhi who now spends his life dedicated to other slum children is awesome in it's own right, but his sense of style is the kind of awesome that makes you believe he could be a character in a Tarantino film.

Speaking of the handicapped, we also have a new fan at the "school". When a little 14 year old  kid serenades your wife with hindi folk songs, it's something special. When said kid was born with no forearms, backwards hands, a missing thumb, a hunch back, an extra ear pinna and only one incisor, it's super special. He's one of my students, and remarkably one of the more well behaved, inquisitive, attentive, and eager to learn. Claire originally wanted to nick name him crooked hands a la the Sopranos  but immediatley acknowledged how much of a bad idea that would be. We've  settled on calling him Jimmy until we can learn how to pronounce names in Hindi better. Did I mention he doesn't have any shoes and wears the same clothes everyday. Think about him next time you think your life is tough, then go complain to someone else, I don't want to hear it.

The  people here are really nice
Like the way Californians are nice for no reason. If someone says hello to you, it's not because they want something from you (a natural NYC reactionary thought), but it's because they are simply saying hello. Even the touts are friendly. They don't give you a dirty look or curse you under their breath when you ignore them or say no. They simply say "maybe next time" or worse, "have a nice day". I really hope it's the thousands of years of Dharmic living that's has made people here so friendly because I'd hate to think it's from something in the water (see initial perceptions above).

I know what you're thinking
That it sounds like I'm having a horrible time here. On the contrary, we're having a great time here. In fact, we're having a better time here than we did in Berlin. Not to say that Berlin is worse than a city drowning in landfill, it's a little more complicated than that. Without going in depth, we're chalking it up to being here with a purpose. When we went to Berlin, we had no plans, no itinerary, and it rained all the time. Now that we're in Delhi, we have our volunteering, our tour of Kerala, and four straight weeks of 95 and sunny. The rest is apples to oranges.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Eiffel Tower Day!

During our short stay in Paris the subject of India loomed large over our heads. The subject was ignored for the most part until we woke up on our third and final day in Paris. The conversation went like this:
"holy shit, we are going to India tomorrow"
"we need to eat a lot today"
I don't know why we were under the impression we would starve in India but we thought it best to shove as much food in our faces beforehand just in case. I also was feeling like I needed to eat something besides bread and cheese for a change. Bill found an American diner, run by actual americans, called BIA. That's short for Breakfast In America. We went, we saw, we ate enormous plates of eggs and sausage and drank gigantic mugs of American coffee. It was heaven.

After our big breakfast we needed a nice long walk, which was exactly what we got. We walked along the south bank of the river through countless neighborhoods, peeking in houses, imagining life if we moved there. Every wrought iron balcony, all the pretty girls on bikes with baguettes in their baskets, every breeze rustling the trees lining the tiny French streets, all produced little gasps of romance from my lips. Not to mention that Paris is full of really really ridiculously good looking people! Fashion week was approaching and models were out in abundance hustling with their portfolios to and from castings. I did not get to stalk Karl the day before as planned so I resolved to do so that afternoon, right after I got my bag bill had promised to buy me :)

But first we needed to conquer the Eiffel tower. As we approached the lawns in front of the tower we saw, and I'm not exaggerating one bit, 11 weddings getting photographed. I started laughing when I thought of the poor brides who must have thought "honey! Let's get our photos done in front the Eiffel tower! It will be so romantic!" and you show up and 10 other bitches are there ruining your day. I was ecstatic about just being there. It was a gorgeous day with clear blue skies and it was hot, I had shorts on at the end of sept! We opted to walk up the first two landings because the line looked horrendous and I wanted to work off all the cheese I ate the last few days. We stopped at the first landing, sprawled out on a bench and bill took a nap. I gazed over the Paris skyline trying not to think too deeply or philosophically about the moment, I just wanted to be present and enjoy.

We climbed up to the second landing, looked around, then we took the elevator to the top. My newfound fear of heights kicked in on the elevator ride because it is reeeaaalllllyyyy freaking high! I also laughed at the people buying €15 glasses of champagne at the top. Why? The glasses weren't even glass, they were plastic. Real classy guys! What was cool was there were markers around the top saying how far certain destinations were. Delhi was 6600 kilometers (4101 miles) ahead of us, New York was 5849 km (3634) behind us. It's hard for me to wrap my head around the distances we've travelled, and where we are going. We took some pics, hung out for a bit then went back to the second level, walked back to the first level and got some beers and sat in the cafe.

Our conversation turned to India again. I decided a long time ago to enter our India experience with zero expectations, which meant not thinking about it at all. The entire time we were in Europe we rarely spoke about India outside of making our travel and volunteer arrangements. We never speculated on what it might be like, we didn't discuss what we wanted to do (besides me saying over and over and over that I wanted to take an elephant ride) we really felt the whole experience needed to just happen and we had to absorb it. It's extremely dangerous to walk into any situation with preconceived notions about how you think it's going to go down. You will most likely be horrified/disappointed. When I was sitting in the upstairs of the Brooklyn conservatory on my wedding day with my parents I was downing champagne, sweating, fanning myself, I was so nervous and the magnitude of the event was really like, smacking me in the face, I uttered the phrase "this is happening" and that's been our motto for during this whole trip. This is happening. So pull up your panties and deal with it. (on a side note, I was nervous, sweating and fanning myself with happiness. I always down tons of champagne in the early morning so that was nothing out of the ordinary)

Anyways, we finally made it to the ground after spending 3 blissful hours in the Eiffel tower. Now it was shopping time! We made our way up Ave George V, stopping in Balenciaga. Oh crocodile skin tote bag! How I wanted to hold you in my arms, sing soothing lullabies to you, carry you around New York with me everywhere I went. Too bad you were €15,000. oh well, another day. I have my whole life to get rich. Wait, BILL has his whole life to get rich. Yeah I like that better. and before I hear a lot of crap from PETA, I'd like to point out that I've never met a croc who DIDN'T want to be a Balenciaga bag, have you? I peered into Yves St. Laurent, pressed my face up against the glass at Gaultier, gazed into the window at Hermes for many many minutes while explaining who Hermes is to Bill. There was no point in going into any of these stores because it was going to make me want things I couldn't have. So we went to Louis Vuitton. And stood in line behind a bazillion Asians waiting to enter the store. Why do Asians always travel in packs of at least 35? can someone explain this to me?
I like Louis Vuitton and I'm actually quite fond of Marc Jacobs. I like the stuff he does for LV much more than his namesake line. I wanted something plain and discrete. I don't have a problem with the logo bags but they aren't personally my taste, no matter who the designer is. The problem is, it's hard to find anything in the LV store that doesn't have a logo on it. I finally picked out the black leather Mirabeau bag:

It was chic, timeless and beautifully made. I was slowly transfixed by the shiny silver hardware, feeling it's weight in my hands, the way it sat in the crook of my arm, I pictured dozens of outfits I could pair it with. I pictured a shelf in my non existent closet it could sit nicely on, nestled cosy in it's velvet bag. Bill loved it and started to signal over one of the salespeople.....and then I snapped back to reality. Buying an expensive bag the day before we were flying to India to volunteer with slum kids in Delhi was kind of an asshole thing to do. The cost of that bag could feed 10 kids for an entire year. Besides, what was I going to do with this bag? It wouldn't fit in my suitcase and what's the fun of buying something so fabulous only to have it shipped home and not see it for 3 months? Bill was really trying to convince me that I should have it but I put it back and walked out of the store, taking a raincheck for when we get home.

On our way back to the hotel we stumbled upon a full blown orchestra in the metro. I've seen a lot of things in the NYC subway, but an orchestra is not one of them. I love Paris. Even the metro is romantic!!!
After we rested up we went to Chez Francis. I know that is def a tourist spot but it has, undoubtedly, the best view of the Eiffel tower. We got a prime seat and bill let me sit facing the tower during our meal. He couldn't understand why I was getting so emotional during dinner but when we switched seats he exclaimed "ooooh! I get it now! Ask me anything, quick, while I'm transfixed by the view". The food was delicious, we got oysters to start and they were ginormous. Bill had a pasta dish and I don't remember what I had because the whole scene was too enchanting to remember all these little details. on the hour the entire tower sparkles for about 5 minutes and it really is the single prettiest thing I've ever seen in my life. We had finished our dinner and walked over to the river to catch the midnight sparkle and once again, I burst into tears. I had come a looonnnng way to get to this point. Not just physically, but this moment was a whole lotta years of emotional and mental growth. It took endless amounts of hard work, dedication and love and now I was finally able to thank myself in this amazing way. We were standing on the precipice, ready to dive into India and Paris was the most perfect place to send us off from Europe into the unknown. Bill commented that though Vienna was beautiful, Paris was alive. It certainly made me feel the most alive, excited, seduced and wondrous than any other place on earth.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Paris day 2

I woke up early and immediately exclaimed "WE ARE IN PARIS, GET UP!" I think bill was excited because I was so excited so we got up, got dressed and headed out with an ambitious itinerary. First stop was the pastry shop down the street where we got a chocolate croissant and some sort of cheesy bread thing with tomatoes on it. I know that the girl in the shop must have recoiled in horror when we asked for our stuff "to go" but were New Yorkers on a busy schedule. I've eaten entire meals walking down the street and in the backs of cabs. I draw the line at eating meals on the subway though, anything more than a bagel needs to stay off the train. I have, however, been witness to a girl eating an entire fried chicken meal complete with mashed potatoes on the subway but that's a different story.
Anyway, we ate our breakfast while we walked up a zillion steps leading to the back of the Sacre Coeur church. When we circled around to the front of the church our climb was rewarded by a stunning view of the city. We made an attempt to go into the church but as soon as we realized they were having mass we decided against entering. I am dead set against tourists being in churches while mass is in session. It's rude and obnoxious. This rule of ours has prevented us from going into a lot of churches on this trip but I just can't bring myself to walk around and stare and take pictures while people are praying.

Sacre Coeur Church

We descended the stairs in the front of the church and wandered around what appeared to be the garment district of Paris. More and more the city was reminding me of New York, even the fabric shops looked the same; but somehow more charming because, duh, we were in Paris!

Feels like home :)

We stopped at a cafe before we got on the subway and learned a valuable lesson. When in Paris, don't order cafe au laits sitting at a table. They will charge you €4 per cup. Standing at the bar will only cost you €2. we rode the metro back to the Arc de Triumph and began the long walk down the Champs Élysées to the Louvre. On the way down I had full intention to stalk Karl Lagerfeld outside the Grand Palais but we somehow missed it in all our excitement, well, my excitement about shopping later on in the afternoon. Bill had nonchalantly mentioned that Paris would be the perfect place to buy me a designer bag, this really got the wheels turning in my head, but more on that later.

We took our time walking through the gardens that lead up to the Louvre. It was unusually hot that day and I was working up a sweat taking pictures of every flower, every fashionable lady and every painter with their easel on the sidewalk. We stopped to get sorbet at a little ice cream cart and I almost melted with happiness. I was eating sorbet! Outside the Louvre! IN PARIS!

The museum itself is really crammed full of every kind of art you could ever want to see. Of course we saw the Mona Lisa, it was a lot smaller than I had pictured it to be. There were also a lot of paintings that had some pretty erotic stuff going on. I thought all these catholic renaissance painters were very anti sex everything. The art tells a different story people, and it's quite dirty. Out of everything we saw, my personal favorite was the Nike of Samothrace statue. It is displayed so dramatically in the museum it's hard not to have a sense of awe when looking at it.

After spending about 2 hours in the museum we were done. There is only so much beautiful stuff a person can absorb at a time. We have done a ton of museums on this trip and the Louvre definitely ranks at the top of the list.
Fortunately the Louvre also has a Starbucks attached to it so we went in and made another video to add to our growing "Starbucks around the globe" series. While I sucked down a mocha-caramel-frappe-venti-espresso something or other, I marked the Chanel atelier on the map so I could stalk Karl at his place of business. There was also an Apple store nearby so Bill checked his email to see if his old college friend who lives in Paris had wrote back to us about meeting up later. She had and we were meeting at six. This gave us about 2 1/2 hours to kill so we headed out and towards Notre Dame.

On our way to the church we walked across one of the bridges where the lover's locks are. We thought this was something that had been going on for years and were astounded when we found a lock that had 1961 on it. We later found out this is a fairly new thing people have been doing and the lock we found meant the couple had been together since 1961. Ooooooohhhhhh. It was still tres romantique and I did get a little teary eyed thinking of all the proclamations of love happening in that spot over the years. When did I turn into such a pathetic shitty sap? Our friends dad (same friends dad from tangier) told us that "Paris will make your heart sing" and it was. It was singing a fucking opera at this point.

Bill on the bridge

Notre Dame was nice. In my opinion St. Stephan's in Vienna was more impressive. Notre Dame is reeaalllyyy dusty. There's literally a blanket of dust on everything inside. It was kinda sad and a little gross. I know the catholic church is not hurting for funds, I've seen the Vatican, so why can't they hire a cleaning lady? That's all I got out of seeing it. Dusty.

We met Francesca in one of the many tiny covered passageways that litter Paris. I forget the name of the place but it was soooo French. It was a tiny little place, with a couple table outside and maybe four inside. They specialized in organic French wines and little plates of cheeses and meats. Francesca happens to be a wine expert so she choose something very delicious and we got the mentioned mixed plate. This was the first thing we had eaten since breakfast so I was hungry. More cheese and bread! We were in Paris!

After catching up over the bottle we headed out with the intention of getting drinks at another cafe. Instead Francesca ended up taking us on a private tour of pretty much the entire city. We went from cute neighborhood to gay neighborhood to the Jewish neighborhood to the tourist neighborhood. We saw museums, parks, monuments, statues and fountains. We saw it all. It was great having someone who knows their way around to explain all the cool little things we never would have found. At 11pm we were all exhausted and decided to part ways. We went home and I watched a French soap opera on tv until I fell asleep.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Day 90: Je t'aime......

Leaving Tangier was an exercise in patience. There are two gates at the airport and it took FOREVER to check in, get our passports stamped and go through security. Why is it that every single human being in line had a major problem with their tickets/papers?! We didn't have time to eat breakfast and we were both very hungry so we ended up buying a crappy sandwich on the plane and split it. Then tried to sleep and couldn't...but a couple hours later we were in Paris! I've been dreaming my whole life of Paris. Ever since I was a little teeny tiny girl I dreamed of coming to the city of lights. The romance! The intrigue! All the beautiful women lounging around, nonchalantly smoking cigarettes and purring softly in French, making fun of American tourists... What's not to love?
We had directions from the hotel and got on the bus, to the metro, to the 18th arrondissement. When we were reading reviews of the hotel we booked online we were shocked to see that some people actually posted that they thought "the neighborhood was a little dark for my taste". Do people actually live their lives with thoughts like this? That's a whole other issue, but we really didn't think anything of it. The neighborhood was vibrantly ethnic which was a refreshing change of pace. The first comment I made when we got on the metro was I was so happy that Paris was a city that actually had different kinds of people in it. I was beginning to think I was in the twilight zone when traveling through Europe because everyone looks the same! Finally we were in a city that had some diversity.
We stayed at the hotel Ramey, it was clean, cute and the staff was very nice. We crashed for a couple hours and woke up famished. I had remembered seeing a pizza place between the metro stop and the hotel so we went back there to eat. I know, you must be thinking why would we eat pizza in Paris. Because we were beyond starving. This is always what happens, we get up early on the days we have to travel, eat almost nothing all day and then it's 6pm and I'm ready to gnaw my own fingers off so I don't pass out and we eat at the first place we see. We were greatly rewarded for this decision though. It wasn't really pizza, the dough was fluffy and we got Brie and blue cheese. I love cheese, I could eat cheese morning noon and night (which is what I did for the next 3 days) so this was a slice of heaven.

After dinner I did a little laundry in the bathroom sink and showered and got ready to go out. We were still really exhausted. I think 3 months of travel were catching up to us all at once, unfortunately, in Paris. I could tell Bill was especially beat so we decided just to go see the Arc de Triumph that night and then come home and get a good nights sleep.
We got to the Arc around 9. We had rode the metro to The Victor Hugo stop which was a little too far but I didn't care, we were in Paris! We took our time walking past numerous shops with me oohing and aahhhing along the way. The coolest thing we saw was a chocolate shop that had a life size orangoutang completely made of chocolate! It was the moment I knew I could love this city forever.

We walked over to the Arc and spent a lot of time admiring it, walking through and around it. The city was all lit up, we could see straight down the Champs Élysées in both directions. As we were walking around the Arc the tip of the Eiffel tower popped up from behind some trees. I started exclaiming " ooooooo! Oooooooo! Ooooooooo!" It was the most magnificent thing I had ever seen and I immediately burst into tears. This also, in addition to the cheese eating, would happen many times in Paris. When people ask me about our time there I'm going to say that I cried and ate cheese. Best vaca ever. Bill was a little confused as to what was going on and when he tried asking me about it but I was speechless. He followed that by reminding me that I hadn't even seen the whole thing yet. It was at this point I think he knew I was going to be in the best mood of my life for the next couple of days and it was, in turn, making him really happy as well.
We wandered down the Champs E as far as the Louis Vuitton store which I let out many more ooooohhhhhs and ahhhhhhs at the goods in the window, then we got on the metro to go home. We went to bed and I dreamed of Eiffel towers and fancy leather handbags, all the things a girl could ever want in life.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Conquering Tangiers like the Portuguese

We wake up at the butt crack of dawn in Tangier, not by choice, but by a combination of a shift in time zones, the port coming to life outside our window, and the call to morning prayer. Our immediate aggravation was immediately subsided when we were treated to the sunrise itself. It had started maybe thirty minutes earlier, but there's a lapse between the horizon and the hill that dominates over the eastern view of the city. "Good morning" the sun said... "why the hell are you up so early?"

Breakfast was not even being served yet, so we spent the morning reviewing the tour guides we had contacted the night before. Of the ones who had written back, some were too expensive, some had poor reviews on trip advisor and some didn't really offer much. The idea began to bubble that we could just do this ourselves. Surely there was a free walking tour map of Tangier on the Internet? After thirty minutes of searching, surely there was not.

Plan B?

We decided that after breakfast we'd check up on our lead in Tangier and see if they could recommend a guide, and if not, we'd go with one of the guides we found online. Breakfast itself was a disappointing pre packaged version of a continental breakfast, but it didn't matter, we were too in awe of the intricately decorated dining hall where we were eating. The time traveling feeling was in full effect again... Until we realized that the television in the background was playing in German and just a little too loud. It was soooo close to being a magical experience. Like you went through the trouble of lighting candles and incense around the bedroom, with fine silk sheets on the bed and Teddy Pendergrass playing in the background, and just before you start to make sweet, sweet love to your woman, the baby starts crying. In other words, close, but no cigar.

We finish breakfast, grab our bags and head out for the day. When we arrive at the shop of our friend's dad's friend (who is probably friends with Kevin Bacon), we learn that he is away traveling. We leave him a greetings from said connection and exit the shop to ponder our next move out in the streets.

Plan C?

To get a guide would involve going back to the hotel, emailing the guide, negotiating a price, coordinating a pick up, and so on. Basically, a fucking hassle. Now what? Well, we had a list of attractions, a map and a strong desire not to spend any money on a guide. How hard could it be to explore Tangier on our own? No misdirection here, my writing is not that great and I'm not a magician. Turns out, it wouldn't be that hard at all. 

First things first. Claire had a new obsession with snail man. Our exploratory trekking conveniently was not planned out. This resulted in traversing April 9th square several times. The real name is in French but je n'ai parle pas francais. Anyways... Every time we pass through the square, claire would look for snail man in the spot we had seen him in yesterday and sigh a slight disappointment when he wasn't there. More on this later. 

The first thing we "found" was St. Andrews church. Inside we learned from the caretaker the history of the church, but more importantly, deciphered the location of the casbah from one of the Matise prints he showed us. Can you guess where we went next? That's right, to see if snail man had appeared. After which, however, we headed to the casbah. 

Once in the casbah, we killed three birds with one stone because killing only two birds is less efficient. The gate to the sea offers amazing views, but the crying baby this time took the form of a jack hammer so we had to tune it out. The Dar el Makhzen is worth skipping unless you speak French, as I didn't feel there was anything there I haven't seen in other museums. Quite frankly, we were starting to suffer from museum fatigue which would later rear itself again at the Louvre, but I digress. The third bird killed was lunch.  I was literally hoping to kill a bird (then eat it) in the form of pigeon pastilla, a local specialty my excitement for was only matched by Claire's excitement for snail man. Sadly, it wasn't on the menu, but what they did have was some of the most amazing toubouli and marinated sardines we have ever had. The place seemed a little pricey when we looked at the menu, but reckoned we were paying for the view as it had a rooftop terrace. In retrospect, the price here was also a clear indication of quality and well worth it.

After lunch we headed toward the Medina to do a little shopping. To get there we walked, quite inefficiently, back the way we came. Wether it was a fear of getting lost or a diabolical plot by Claire is irrelevant. Either way, we had an opportunity to check up on Snail man who again wasn't there. Maybe he only works on weekends? Doubts were starting to build...

Once in the medina, we were able to find the fabled winding roads that are amazingly narrow, stacked with shops selling anything and everything a tourist could want, hidden from the sun, and no inkling of street signs to be found anywhere. Clearly our route here was a diabolical plan as we meandered the medina without concern for direction or location. Adventure wasn't out there, it was right here. Every store elicited oohs and aahs from the both of us, however Only one of us knows how to use our inner voice and I'll leave it at that.

One store was a bazar unto itself. Jewelry, things, more jewelry, crap, more things, and so on. The things and the crap were pretty though and we haven't completely disassociated ourselves from the accumulation of possessions as means of fulfillment (yet). After walking around for a hot minute, the shop keeper came up to us and started talking to us in Spanish. Que? Exactly... We had just spent four days in Malaga on top of three weeks in Ibiza not to long before. Additionally, it turns out a lot of people in Tangier speak Spanish which helped our unguided adventure tremendously. We were still in Espaniol mode and had said "Hola" to the shop keeper when we entered.  He immediately thought we were Spanish and comedy ensued. 

Ultimately we overpaid for a mirror that we are now carrying around the world as it would be too expensive to mail back. My negotiating skills were no match for their centuries of haggling experience. The best I could get was a measly 8% discount. The ego bruise was later compounded when I realized I had converted to Euros instead of dollars and didn't inspect the item closer to examine it's quality. In the end, we paid about $75 for a particle board framed mirror with a wood facade. We later received a consoling anecdote from friends father that he once watched his handyman argue for an hour over one durahm on the price of a hammer. One durham is about twelve cents. Clearly we never stood a chance.

Magically we found our way back to Snail Man Square (April 9th sq). He wasn't there, but we figured out we had managed to see the Mendoubia, Teatro Cervantis, the grand socco and the petit socco over the course of the day, but just didn't realize it at the time. Sadly, it was time to give up on the snails so we went back to the hotel to deposit the days spoils and plan our evening.

After a quick regroup at the hotel, we decided to walk over to the Minzah Hotel to make dinner reservations. On the way, we gave snail man one last chance... And he was there! 14 durhams delivered the most delicious snails we had ever eaten. Eating from a street vendor in Tangier just added to the allure, but don't worry, the ciproflaxin was on stand by just in case. We polished the snails off with random pastries from a local shop. Point, pay and eat. We didn't know what they were called, but we were rewarded nonetheless. Dinner was three hours away, this may have been a mistake :(

The day ended with a traditional dinner of tajine and couscous at an elaborately decorated restaurant inside a five star hotel. Don't let that fool you though. I had the feeling we were in an overpriced tourist trap as the food was mediocre and the entertainment felt kinda meh. They band was so so and the belly dancer might as well have been wearing training wheels. In hindsight, that would have been hilarious and far more entertaining.

We had made it through a day in Tangier on our own. Plan A worked after all. Maybe it wasn't a Portuguese level conquest, but a triumph by our standards. Turns out comfort zones are more about confidence than conditions.

- Bill

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Q: What do you call people in Tangier?A: TANGIEREENS!!!

Ha ha ha ha ha! That cracks me up every time I say it!

Inside hotel continental

After a long day of waking up at 5 am and going to Gibraltar and climbing all over the rock with monkeys and multiple bus rides..... We finally got on the 5pm ferry from Tarifa to Tangier. All the ferry advertising says it takes 35 minutes but we left late and the crossing took more like an hour. They did stamp all our passports on the boat though, so that saved us time by not doing customs at the Moroccan port. Our hotel was right on the edge of the port, hotel continental. This hotel is definitely in the "former glory" category, with famous guests as Winston Churchill, Degas, Kerouac and his rowdy gang staying there back in the day. This list of heavy hitting names really lent it some mystery and intrigue, I was excited to stay in such a historic place. The area in front of the hotel in the port was crumbling to pieces so we had to walk around some little streets but found it pretty easily, shrugging off numerous offers of cabs and guides to show us the way and also people saying "if your looking for the hotel you're going the wrong way, it's this way let me show you" which is something I quickly noticed is a theme in Tangier. Bill and I pride ourselves tremendously on our capacity to completely ignore people, a skill honed after living in New York City for 10 years. I don't care what you're saying or how crazy you look, you simply do not exist to me.

View from our room

So we make it to the hotel and as we are checking in a porter is hanging around our bags and immediately snatches them up, along with our room keys, and takes them up 3 flights of stairs. He let's us choose between two rooms, explaining the benefits of each one in very broken English. We choose and I go into my change purse to give him a tip and I only have .60 in euros. I look at Bill, he only has 20s on him. I wasn't giving this guy 20€ for carrying bags so I feebly handed over the 60 cents. He was dumbfounded. I tried to explain that we didn't have durham on us and we had to go to the bank and he still just stands there. I show him my empty change purse and he still is standing there. I'm like, really? REALLY? Wtf. Finally he shrugs and gives us the stink eye as he's leaving. I'd like to point out here, that .60 in euro is like almost a dollar, and that's 8 Durham for him. So I don't think he should have been so snooty about it. In any case, we gave him 100 Durham the next day as an apology.

A door in the hotel

Morocco is 2 hours behind Spain so it was only around 5pm at this point and we decide to venture out into the city. A very good friend of ours grew up in Tangier and his father gave us the name of a friend's shop to visit. We locate it on the map and its not far from our hotel. We manage to navigate pretty easily around the medina and up into Avril 9 square where there is a large fountain and a mosque and lots of shops, cafes, a movie theater and snail man. Snail man is a street vendor that sells steamed snails in a sauce out of his cart and you get them by the bowlful and pull them out of their shells with toothpicks. I decided I would catch snail man the next day because I was actually really hungry and kind of scared, yet fascinated, by his little cart. We found the shop but it was closed. We continued walking and stumbled upon the Gran Cafe across from the French consulate. It was here that I started noticing something very strange. There were tons of women on the street, mostly all dressed in traditional tunics, but none were in any of the cafes. Every single cafe we walked by was entirely filled with men. Even small places to eat were filled with men. I was starting to panic, do women not eat in public here? Was I going to starve? Why didn't any of the info I read about morocco mention this? At this point I started to feel very uncomfortable. I'm not going to sugar coat it- I'm an American. Americans, no matter how open minded, when in a Muslim country are going to feel slightly odd. Except for Bill, he felt like he was in Queens. But bill is a man and I am not. I didn't understand (due to lack of research on my part) why I wasn't supposed to be in a cafe, and I found it pretty insulting. I guess this is just part of culture shock and there comes a point you have to just accept the customs of another place and get over it instead of fighting it. Anyway, we walked around for a little while and found a place that had a woman and man eating inside, so we went in there. There was a restaurant downstairs but we sat in the cafe part upstairs because that's where the woman was. We ordered mint teas and started to relax. I need to say that the mint tea in Tangier was the most amazing cup of tea I've ever had in my life. Refreshing, hot and sweet all at the same time. We also ordered a salad and shwarma off the little cafe menu and had that for dinner. As we were eating I noticed a ton of women going down into the basement restaurant, so I guess we chose wrong after all. The grand total of our bill was $5 and on our way home we stopped at a vendor on the street selling fresh sugar donuts that he sliced open and filled with jelly. These were .20 cents a piece and delicious. I fell asleep happy.


P.s. After some searching it seems like the men only cafe thing is something that dates back a long time. Besides cafes basically being man clubs, Tangier was a haven for spies during world war two and a lot of business was conducted in cafes, thus rendering them an unsuitable place for women to be. This is what I gathered off the Internet, which is sometimes notoriously unreliable so who knows....if anyone can tell me the real reason I'd love to hear it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Day in Gibraltar

After four very relaxing, very fish filled days in Malaga, it was time to hit the road again. We caught the last night bus at 6am to the central station and boarded the 7am for La Linea de la Concepcion. The three hour bus ride went quickly as we dozed in our of consciousness to catch brief glimpses of the reminder of the Costa del Sol. The beaches we caught looked prettier than what we had experienced in Malaga, but they seemed to be missing the chiringuitos which are now the love of my life. When we do return to Andulucia, we'll have to split our time up amongst the many beach towns that line the endless kilometers to Gibraltar (yeah, w're using the metric system now, it's kinda weird).

We pull into the bus station, throw our bags in a locker and head for the border. Already we could tell the view was obscurred by clouds (which on a side note, was a great Pink Floyd soundtrack I had on vinyl in college). It was early so there was a chance the clouds would drift off the rock and clear up by the time we made it to the top. We make a quick stop at McDonalds for breakfast as nothing else was open. Well, the were some sandwich shops open that looked anything but enticing and this McDonalds had breakfast sandwiches, so it was a no brainer for us. Our craving craving some semblance of a "real" breakfast had been growing for months and this was as close as we'd get until to Paris, but that's another story.

It's tough learning the hard way that not everything you investigate on the internet is true, current, or both. The first instance this day was that crossing the border could be a bit of a hastle. It's possible the article we read were written by Brits and before the creation of the EU. All we had to do was wave our passports at two guards twenty meters apart. That's right, wave. We didn't have to hand them over or even open them to prove they were ours. We just held them up as we walked passed and that was it. Srsly? Wow.

The stroll through town on the way to the cable car was like taking a stroll through time. What ever ability we gained to time travel in Vienna has been following us. (Why  it didn't exist for Dirty Girl on the Ubahn is still frustrating.)  Anyway... Everything from the cobblestones, accents and pubs exhumed olde English. Quaint, but not the reason we came here so we soldiered on.

The cable car to the top lies at the edge of the town, halfway down the length of the rock. The ride takes just a few minutes and upon reaching the summit, you're greeted by fucking monkeys. Yeah, monkeys. Like, everywhere. Not the cute zoo kind, but the vicious steal your shit and scare your children kind. Sure they were fun to look it, but there were signs everywhere that basically said don't fuck with them. It was apparent that someone did, and lost, from the first monkey we saw as he was eating an entire roll of cookies. Somewhere on this rock, a small child was scarred for life. We would later stumble upon four baby monkeys playing around. Well, we thought they were playing, turns out they were fighting as an obvious alpha male stepped in to scare two of them away. They ran up the steps we needed to take into the arms of their mother. This made our journey back a little longer than necessary, but it wasn't necessary to have my face ripped off by a monkey either.

So basically, Gibralter boils down to monkeys. We bought the wrong tickets that didn't get us into the caves, and the fog obscured everything else there was to see. Oh well...

Afterwards, we caught the bus to Algeciras and bought our ferry tickets to Tangier. This was the second time the Internet failed us today, as we had been suuuuuuper excited to take the hovercraft over, but sadly they don't run anymore. I mean, who wouldn't be excited to take a freakin hovercraft... To Africa!? 

Internet - 2
Team BC - 0


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Malaga- me gusta de espeto des sardines por favor!*


*no idea if this is correct Spanish

We arrived in Malaga on Sept 21st at 10am. We had been up since 4am so we were tired and I was cranky, in desperate need of coffee. We had tried to look up how to get from the airport to our hotel which was just outside the town and basically the info we found online was "take the train from the airport into the center of the city and there's a bus". To make a long story very short: getting lost, one argument and two hours later we were checking into the hotel Domus which was 15 minutes down the road from the town. If your ever in Malaga, stay there. It was gorgeous and clean and the staff was very nice. Complete 180 from Vienna.

Thus began four wonderfully lazy but happy days. We wanted to recharge our batteries for the upcoming trip to Tangier and India and that's exactly what we did. The beaches in Malaga certainly are not the most picturesque in the world, but they did have something that made bill salivate from the first second he saw it- sardines on a stick. There were a string of restaurants that serve lunch along the stretch of beach we were staying on, and outside each one was a little shack with a row boat filled with sand. On top of the sand was a fire, and stuck in the sand over the fire were sticks with sardines on them. All bill wanted to do in Ibiza was catch a sardine and grill it over a fire in the sand. He was awestruck. And while we were eating our supermarket lunch of bread and cheese next to one of these shacks, a very salty sea captain looking man in a sailors cap came up and starting grilling and entire huge fish on one of the sticks. We decided we had to have these "espeto des sardines" and that's exactly what we did the very next day for lunch.

The town of Malaga is very boastful about being the birthplace of Picasso. You can take a walking tour of Picasso landmarks and visit the Picasso museum, neither of which bill and I did. We have visited so many museums, seen so much art, roman ruins, statues, churches, etc that we needed a break. Besides, we went to the Picasso museum in Barcelona a couple of years ago and I'm sure it was more of the same. I know, we are terrible former art students.
Malaga is a town that truly feels old world. I would not have been surprised if a Spanish conquistador came strolling out from one of the many tiny alleyways that zig zag through the town. The architecture beautiful and grand, a mix of roman (of course) remains and large stone and marble buildings dating back to the middle ages.

The foliage is lush and decadent. Enormous palm trees line every street, along with banana, lime and orange trees growing wild in every space not covered in stone. Bright green parrots live in the trees and peck at the fruit, causing the fruit to fall on the sidewalk below. I almost got knocked out eating my breakfast one morning. We caught the very tail end of the summer season so people were pleasantly scarce during our stay. As we were strolling along the beach one day, looking out over the sea and across to the port, I commented that I felt like we were in a strange paradise on the very edge of the earth. We were preparing for a trip to Tangier, which I'm not going to lie was scaring the bejeezuz out of me, and every time I looked at the horizon I felt like I was looking out at the unknown beyond. Maybe this is how sailors felt before they knew the earth was round? People in ancient times believed the rock of Gibraltar, and it's sister on the African side which formed the pillars of Hercules, were the gates to the end of the known world. We did end up visiting Gibraltar on our way to Tangier but that's a post of it's own....
We visited the castle in Malaga, ate some wild limes from the trees in the cathedral garden ( pretty sure that was def against cathedral rules) The last day we were there we rented bikes and rode around the entire town, stopping along the way to by bus tickets to La Linea de la Conception, took a picture of the Malageta sign, and strolled through the local market admiring the fresh fish, meat and vegetables. We settled on plates of chorizo and manchengo which we ate in the central garden.

If your looking for a very slow, relaxing vaca in Europe the Costa Del Sol is absolutely the way to go.