Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Hanami flashbacks

The sakura are currently blooming in Sweden and all my friends are posting pictures of it on their blogs and Facebook walls, and all that does to me is giving me flashbacks.

Flashbacks to the hanami we went to in Ueno (twice):

Flashbacks to the hanami we went to in Meguro:

Flashbacks to the hanami we went to at the Imperial Palace:

So mostly, all those pictures of sakura are making me nostalgic.

Press subtitles for actual English subs :)

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!