Tuesday, 14 April 2015

A week in Spain!

I got home about 2 hours ago. On Sunday, April 5th, Toni and I got on the train to Malmö. This year my mum turned 50 and she didn't want all the attention. So instead she took my dad, my sister, me and Toni on a trip to Spain to get away from all the fuss. It has been great, except for the bad luck we had with the weather. Murcia, the place we went to, generally has about 25 degrees and sunshine at this time of year (that's Sweden in three months' time). We arrived to a week of 15 degrees, clouds, wind, and rain (that's us in a few weeks-a month).

Monday, April 6th: We got up at 3am in the morning. At 4am we packed ourselves into a taxi and went over the bridge to the airport outside Copenhagen. At around 6.30am our plane took off for Spain and we arrived without any fuss less than 3 hours later at Alicante airport. From there it was about 1 hour by taxi to Murcia. Apparantly they don't have big taxis in Spain so we had to take two cars. For some reason I was deemed the most proficient in Spanish out of my, my sister and Toni so I had to be the one to sit next to the driver. (I took one semester of university level Spanish at 50% in evening time). We had some communication problems. We soon figured that I, in no way, knew enough Spanish to hold a conversation. The driver knew no English and his French was really bad. So there we were. He tried to say things with words that he knew were similar in French and English and I tried to say what little I remembered. In the end our entire conversation covered the fact that we were from Sweden and that we had been in Spain once before (apparantly the Canary Islands don't count as Spain). We arrived at the hotel around 11am, and managed to check in a couple of hours early because my dad knew the receptionist. He has been to Murcia about 12 times by now :P So we got to our rooms and then we had a couple hours' rest. Well deserved, but apparantly not enough because after we arrived to the hotel my memory of what we did with the rest of the day has vanished. But I believe that this was the day I found amazingly beautiful notebooks in a shop called Ale-Hop for €5 each. I bought two. One of those books would easily cost over €10 in Sweden.
This is probably also the day our meal times were completely jet lagged. In Sweden we usually have lunch between 11am and 1pm. In Spain they tend to have lunch from 2pm. In Sweden we usually have dinner between 5pm and 7pm. In Spain it's apparantly early to want to eat at 9pm! We held off until 7.30-8pm, but then we managed to find a restaurant that was open. We asked if it was ok and since they said yes we went in and ordered paella. I love paella. In the end of the 90's when we were at the Canary Islands once a year I remember eating it every single evening. We were done eating and going back to the hotel by 9pm. I fell into bed almost immediately.

Tuesday, April 7th: We had breakfast at the hotel around 8am. Bocadillos, green tea and orange juice. Then we took a small rest until about 11am before going out to see the town. This day there was a spring festival going on and so there was a lot of festivities all over town. The festival was typical to the region of Murcia and wasn't happening anywhere else, which is cool.  The first thing of note we saw was this group of people playing drums:
video
Then we went to the plaza by the cathedral to have coffee and found them carrying this big doll/statue/thing up the stage placed in front of the cathedral. I got up to take pictures when they started to carry it inside the cathedral.
For the rest of the day we walked around town. Had tapas for lunch and as far as I remember more tapas for dinner. Then we went to wait for the parade. It was supposed to start at 5pm according to the paper. We were placed somewhere halfway through. It was so cold to stand around and wait in the wind and occasional rain. A full hour later we saw the parade in the distance coming closer. It was really cool to begin with and I was really excited. I used up my last five frames on my Polaroid camera. But it turned dull. It just went on and on. Seemingly without an end. A whole hour later the parade still wasn't ending, but by then it was pretty much just horses and mules, and the novelty of mules wore off quickly, so we decided to leave it there and return to the hotel to get warm. Here are some pictures and a short video from the parade:
video

Wednesday, April 8th: Today we were awoken by a whole marching band orchestra tuning their instruments outside our room window.
My dad had a business meeting in the morning this day so the rest of us had to entertain ourselves while he was away. We went to El Corte Inglés where my sister found a new spring jacket and Toni found some new spring shoes. I tried on an awesome skirt, but apparantly Spanish women are very tiny -.-' Anyway, around lunch time my dad caught up with us outside El Corte Inglés and after dumping our stuff at the hotel we went to check out the covered market. I find those really cool, with lots of meats and fish publicly displayed. I'm fascinated by the whole octopuses and the whole by flayed rabbits. I'm weird like that, I guess. Then we went outside to explore some more - like the old Murcia city wall and the Botanical Garden. Inside the Botanical Garden we found some machines for exercising that we had a lot of fun with. We also had lunch there.
1) Old city wall, 2) Botanical Garden 3) & 4) Exercise machines
In the evening we met up with my dad's friend and his wife and had dinner with them at the restaurant just next to the hotel. It was another tapas evening, but the friend ordered everything he knew was special to the region of Murcia and made sure we got to taste all the specialties. The star of the evening was most definitely leche frita - "fried milk".

Thursday, April 9th: Toni and I wanted to sleep in today so we skipped hotel breakfast and went to buy drinking yoghurt and crackers from the supermercado close by. For this day and the next we had rented a car and today we went up the mountains to Archena, to visit Balneario de Archena. It's a huge spa place, but since we didn't manage a booking we didn't get to take part in the massages and saunas, but rather were stuck in the swimming pools. But they were really cool. There were two of them, both partly outdoors and partly indoors. The larger one had jacuzzis and relaxing spots in it, but my favourite part was where they had added fake streams in the pool so you could practically just float/glide along a decided route. I float/glided a lot that day.
On our way back home we decided to stay in a village called Molina de something something to have lunch. We found this cute little place owned by an old man. He was very delighted to have tourists in his restaurant and every time we said we liked something he wanted us to try something else, so we had to tell him to stop serving us food xD But his tortilla de patata was amazing. He also served the best calamares I had ever tasted.

This morning I also discovered that two gateways close to our hotels had been painted as Van Gogh paintings. The first one I saw was only because it reminded me of my absolute favourite 11th Doctor episode: Vincent and the Doctor. I obviously had to take pictures.
In the evening when we tried to find a place to eat we discovered that it was very difficult to cross the street. Another parade was happening. And that's where the marching band orchestra came in. A Russian and a Czech marching band were both staying at the same hotel as us.

Friday, April 10th: Today we took the car to Cartagena. First we went to Museo de Naval, which I found very exciting. I love naval history, old sailing ships and stuff! Although, very little was in English I learned some new things about submarines! And I also discovered an old-fashioned diving suit that looked ridiculously like a Big Daddy from BioShock.
 Big Daddy old-fashioned diving suit + Big Daddy art
Beginning of submarine timeline + awesome model of sailing ship
Next we went to the old Roman Theatre. Also in Cartagena. This was really cool! I had never seen any Roman structure IRL before so this was something I was really looking forward to. I find it amazing that so much of it is still standing well over 2000 years later. I managed to find a loose stone in the wall surrounding it and brought it with me home.
 The most inclusive picture I took of the Roman Theatre + brochure & rock
We then had lunch at an Italian restaurant (I have never appreciated pasta so much after several days of tapas), got back inside the car and moved on to La Manga - also known as the only place in Spain where they have commercials in Russian and Danish. La Manga was a bit creepy due to there not being many people there. But it's probably due to the fact that a lot of the houses there are owned by other Europeans who might not live there full-time. The lagoon was really nice, though and we found lots of pretty seashells. Also took some shots of the Mediterranean since it was just on the other side of the road. La Manga is built on a slim sleeve of land that stretches between said lagoon and said sea.
 The lagoon + the Mediterranean
We then got back and tried to find some place to have dinner. Which proved difficult due to yet another parade. (Yes, we were pretty sick of parades when we got home)

Saturday, April 11th: I really don't remember much from this day except that we celebrated my mum's birthday in the evening. I think we just went about Murcia. I remember having tapas for lunch and I got to taste pulpo for the first time. I also managed to catch a few things from the carts in a parade from which they threw tiny toys (mainly whistles which the kids terrorised the city with).
In the evening we went to the same restaurant next to the hotel where my dad's friend took us. Dad had told them on beforehand that it was my mum's birthday. So we had a nice shrimp/avocado/salmon salad/cocktail thing for entrées. It felt like the most Swedish dish we'd had in almost a week. Then we each had meat for main course. Mum and Dad had pork, my sister and I had lamb, and Toni had beef. A whole farm on the table! Here's my mum looking pretty in the prank glasses my dad bought her :P

Sunday, April 12th: Today we did some last day shopping. I found an awesome skull shaped bottle of vodka at a gourmet shop that I absolutely had to buy. At that same place I also found strawberry daifuku which I was ridiculously happy about.
 Strawberry daifuku + the final harvest of alcohol from this trip: my fancy skull bottle in the middle.
After our shopping we went to the cathedral to have a look inside. It was extremely majestic, and very different from what churches I've known. Mainly because Spain is Catholic and Sweden is Protestant. I had never seen a confessional IRL before for example. A service started while we were there and I was so hoping for swaying incense and choir boys. But no. We stayed to watch for a while, though, but it was not so different from what I had seen in Sweden without the incense and all that fluff :P It's too bad that photography wasn't allowed inside the cathedral because it was amazing. Here are some pictures from the Internet:
In the evening we repacked our bags and fretted about over-weight luggage on the plane. Then we went to bed early because we had to get up before 7am the next day. I also started to feel sickly this evening.

Monday, April 13th: We got up early and had a last breakfast at the hotel. The same taxi dudes from the first day came by to pick us up again and drive us to Alicante airport. I nodded off on the way and slept most of the time. We bought some more things at the airport, but our gate was announced pretty quickly and we got on the plane very soon. I munched on sour Skittles the whole trip, except when I was sleeping. We got back to my parents' place in the late afternoon and immediately left again to pick up the family dog from my dog-sitting grandparents. Apprantly the dog had been very mischievous while we were gone :P Being on the road almost the entire day had made Toni and I very tired and so we went to be early.

Tuesday, April 14th: Got up, repacked, put away our beds, watched a lot of TV, went to the bus, had beloved and much-awaited sushi for dinner, re-exchanged currencies, got on train, got home, unpacked, and now here I am. I'm feeling more sickly then two days ago. My head is all foggy and my nose is all stuffed. Great :/ Just my luck to get a cold as a souvenir!

Upside is I get to spend the whole day tomorrow playing games. I got ideas for awesome new characters!

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Dragon Age: Inquisition - Jaws of Hakkon DLC

Been really careful with spoilers. Written nothing that the trailer doesn't show/mention.

I was ridiculously excited for this DLC. Especially since it arrived completely out of the blue! The day before it was released it was announced by BioWare :P Turned out I was in for an agonising wait the day after. I had planned on playing it the entire day of release. I started getting discouraged around 3pm and looked around the Internet for anything close to a release time. Found a guy on a forum saying that stuff from BioWare usually was released around 9am L.A time. He was right. At exactly 5pm my local time the DLC popped up at Origin. I bought it and started playing it.

It was obviously a filler DLC, to keep the players busy while they're working for the big thing. (I'm still hoping for something similar to Witch Hunt, but concerning Solas, and I'm hoping for something like Awakening - a whole new campaign). But it was still great. I loved all the new fluff around Scout Harding and I loved the more in-depth history concerning the last Inquisitor. Also I loved the fact that the DLC included dealing with more Avvar (both friendly and hostile) and that the Skywatcher wasn't forgotten. Despite being such a small DLC (about 8 hours playtime, me thinks) there were some difficult choices to be made, especially concerning The Exile and Harding's Friend. The new area open for exploration was incredibly diverse and beautiful. I liked it a lot. The new Astrariums were a bit of a challenge, but I managed without any help. And there were yet more shards to pick up! But this time for a more immediate reward :P

I'm not fond of areas where the whole place is against you. Like in the old temple where the entire place was so cold that the place itself was an enemy. It kept me on the edge of my seat, though, because I was so scared of dying going through that place. Even more scared than fighting the actual end boss. The actual end boss was a bit of a disappointment tbh. It wasn't that hard. The surprise attack by five lvl 30 despair demons at a certain place was more of a challenge!

I really enjoyed the fact that there were some new war table missions to go with the new DLC and it was a lot of fun to play on my first character again.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Top 10 books from my childhood (or teen years) that I would love to revisit

I came into contact with this thingie via Ell's blog and then found out the source was from here. I was in a publisher's official book club thingie when I was little called Läslusen (rough translation is Book Worm). From this book club you could buy childrens and youth books at a discount and if you bought that month's chosen book you'd get a cool gift with it. Suffice to say I read a lot. By the time I was 11-12 the books from there were mostly too easy for me to read so I moved on to adult novels, but there are some books from there that remain vividly in my memory. A few of them still remain in my book shelf and it wouldn't surprise me if a bunch of them still remain in my parents' attic.

This is supposed to be a list of ten books, but I read a lot (I mean a lot) and this will be more like a list of ten authors that I loved. I used to live in the local library until I was about 14...

Here goes!

1. Enid Blyton. These books are old. Ms. Blyton's classic. My dad had a big collection of The Famous Five and I added to it myself. From The Famous Five I moved on to the Five Find-Outers series, The Secret Series, The Adventure Series... I found an Enid Blyton book and I devoured it.
The book covers I remember. Swedish version of each of the first books in each series: 1) Five on a treasure island, 2) Five Find-Outers Mystery of the burnt cottage 3) The Secret Island 4) The Island of Adventure

2. Eva Ibbotson. I think Dial-a-Ghost was the first one I read by her. Then came The Secret of Platform 13, Monster Mission, The Great Ghost Rescue, and Which Witch?. Monster Mission was my absolute favourite and some days I'm itching to buy them (I only borrowed them from the library at the time) and re-read them.
Swedish versions of 1) Dial-a-Ghost, 2) The Secret of Platform 13, 3) Monster Mission, 4) The Great Ghost Rescue, 5) Which Witch?

3. Francine Pascal. Or rather, Sweet Valley. This obsession started early, I remember reading those already in primary school. It started with Sweet Valley Kids, as I got older I turned to Sweet Valley Twins, and as I turned into a teenager I started reading Sweet Valley Junior High. That's where my attention veered towards fantasy and I never continued on with Sweet Valley High and Sweet Valley University.
Three of the Swedish books I had. 1) Sweet Valley Kids, 2) Sweet Valley Twins, 3) Sweet Valley Junior High, which was renamed into Jessica & Elisabeth in Swedish for some reason.

4. Maj Bylock. She's a Swedish author and I fell in love with one particular series of hers. It's about a witch, not the Harry Potter kind, but the historical kind, the one talking with spirits and who knows specific things about herbs and lore. But since it's a historical series it takes place in the sort of Sweden that prosecuted witches and so she has to hide her powers and knowledge. As the series progress her son takes over as the protagonist and he faces the same problems as her. Except that he's male and witches were typically women... Anyway, I never finished this series because my local library never had the last three books :( I'm interested in starting over actually. Might do that at some point.
Parts 1-4: loosely translated as The Witch Test, The Witch's Daughter, The Witch Boy, The Witch Gold

5. Celia Rees. The Cunning Man was the book that made me fall in love with this author back when I was about 12. Then came Witch Child and Sorceress and The Bailey Game. I loved the way all her books where slightly horror, but not really so it gave me that pleasant creepy feeling. I've probably re-read The Cunning Man about 10 times and it's still in my book shelf.
Swedish covers of 1) The Cunning Man, 2) Witch Child, 3) Sorceress, 4) The Bailey Game

6. Edith Nesbit. Another classic. I can't remember if I read The House of Arden or The Wonderful Garden first, but I remember loving them both. Those two were followed by The Magic City and The Enchanted Castle. I still remember all four vividly and those four books should be in my book shelf. I need to buy them. Nesbit was one of my earliest stops as I was slowly trying to find my way through the fantasy genre. Despite reading new translations they had kept the language old-fashioned in the versions I read and I remember appreciating that even at the age of 12.
Swedish versions of 1) The House of Arden, 2) The Wonderfal Garden, 3) The Magic City, 4) The Enchanted Castle

7. Allan Frewin Jones. I remember reading anthologies of Swedish ghost stories that I borrowed from the library back when I was 9 or 10. Then I came across The Plague Pit by Allan Frewin Jones when I was about 11. We had just talked about the Black Death in school and I was intrigued to find a modern horror story about a medieval disease. I borrowed it and later bought it. Last time I read it I was in my mid-teens and it still gave me some of my most unpleasant associations a book has ever done. You know the part where you actually travel into the story... I loved that it could scare me. The Plague Pit along with The Wicker Man that I bought and read afterwards are still in my book shelf and I've re-read them both lots of times.
My versions of 1) The Plague Pit, and 2) The Wicker Man

8. Lynne Ewing. I came across this series of hers when I was about 13 - The Daughters of the Moon. I immediately fell in love with it. But after the sixth book it took so long until the seventh came around. I don't know if they stopped translating them or what, but I lost interest. Now that I'm remembering them I'm feeling slightly nostalgic and I might want to check that series out again. I can't even remember what it was about, just that I loved it and I thought the covers were cool and the girls had awesome names.
The Swedish versions I owned: 1) Goddess of the Night, 2) Into the Cold Fire, 3) Night Shade, 4) The Secret Scroll, 5) The Sacrifice, 6) The Lost One

9. Margit Sandemo. I read her most popular series, The Legend of the Ice People, when I was 14, although the series is adult literature and contained a whole lot of sex. I loved this series to bits. It's still in my parents' attic and I would love to bring it home with me at some point and just re-read all 47 books. It still happens that I think back to that series and miss some of the characters. I was so stuck in that for such a long time, I can't seem to completely let go of it :P
Volumes 1, 11 and 29: loosely translated as 1) Spellbound, 2) Blood feud, 3) Lucifer's love

10. Michael Coleman. Or rather Internet Detectives. I came across this series in the youth section of the local library and thought it looked cool with all those little chat windows inside the book. I think I only ever read four (possibly five) of the books in this series (and not in order) because those were all the library had. It never occurred to me to buy them. I'm not sure I want to today. I'm scared I'll find out it hasn't aged well (not that it's very old it's just that the Internet has evolved a lot in the past 15 years).
Swedish versions of 1) Net Bandits, 2) Escape Key, 3) Cyber Feud, 4) System Crash

And there we have it. My childhood in books. I can't remember not reading. I can't remember not being interested in books and the written word. As a bonus I'll give you this picture:
This is me. 8 months old and inspecting the book shelf in the guest room. I was doing it already in 1991! ;)