Sunday, 2 October 2011

Llegada a Logroño

So, by some miracle, I have made it to Logroño without major incident.  But whoever says that the beauty of travel is in the journey has obviously never tried to sleep in London Stansted, nor spent five and a half hours in Bilbao Abando train station.

As per the advice of the aforementioned ´Sleeping In Airports´ website, I arrived in London in the early evening and managed to blag three chairs to lie across during my 12 hour stay.  From what I´d read, Stansted is like a ´refugee camp´ overnight, so I was trying to guard them against the expected influx of people at around 10pm.  In the end, though, all I saw were young couples who were obviously trying to save money, but really ought to have gone to a hotel.  Lying on the hardest, most uncomfortable chairs I have ever had the misfortune to encounter in my life and waking up the sound of people kissing at 4.30am is not an experience I wish to repeat.

Anyway, after what seemed like an eternity, it was time for my flight to Bilbao.  I slept for the whole of the journey, but as I was getting off the plane, a guy appeared beside me and started blabbering something at me in Spanish.  After hearing my poor attempt at a response, he switched to English and told me that the was home for the weekend and works in the Savoy Hotel.  ´That´s cool,´ I said, ´but have you any idea how to get to the train station from here?´ Sadly, he didn´t, but he went away to ask someone for me.  When he came back, he declared triumphantly:  ´There is a bus!´ Then he shook my hand, wished me good luck, blew me a kiss and walked off.

It was all very well knowing that there was a bus to the train station, but my new friend hadn´t exactly enlightened me on where I was supposed to get it or when it would come.  As I was tired and everyone else seemed to be getting a taxi, I decided to follow suit.  But just after I got in, I realised that the meter was charging 3 cents per second.  As I don´t know Bilbao, I started to panic slightly that the train station was absolutely miles away and that it was going to cost a fortune to get there.  And yes, it did end up costing me more for 15 minutes in a taxi than for two and a half hours on the train.  The only good thing I can take from the extortionately priced cab ride was that I understood a (very simple) joke on the radio and that made me feel momentarily reassured about moving here.

After hanging around Bilbao for ages, sitting in a bar on my lonesome with a huge suitcase, I took the train to Logroño and was picked up by one of my couchsurfing hosts.  Thankfully, they are nothing like my hairdresser envisaged - they are the loveliest people ever!  They have been so welcoming, taking me into town to show me around and eat pinchos (I´ve discovered a place that does sangria granizada, which may be my new favourite drink!) and helping me with everything I need to know about the city.  Today, they invited me to their country house for a family dinner and I had a great time eating paella, riding on the back of a tractor (!) and practising my Spanish with various relatives, one of whom was called Tia Maria!

And what of Logroño itself?  Well, it was recently voted the best place to live in Spain ( and I can see why.  Everything looks so clean and new and there are loads of little tapas bars, pretty fountains, monuments and beautiful views of the hills.  Also, everyone is incredibly relaxed here and all the people I´ve met so far have been really friendly.  On my first day here, for example, I got off the bus home faaaar too early and ended up a bit lost (it didn´t help that I thought I lived on Burgos Street rather than Burgos Avenue - the street doesn´t actually exist!)  So I stopped a woman for directions (anyone who knows me will know that I HATE doing this, but I´ve had to overcome my fear of it pretty quickly here) and after we figured out that I must live on the avenue instead of the street, she told me she could come with me to show me where it was.  When I told her that it was OK and that I´d be able to find it, she said:  ´Well, I live here.  If you have any problems, just come back and ring my doorbell.´  Bless her.

Yesterday, I was at the bus stop when a Muslim woman saw the henna on my hand and asked me where I got it.  I was pleased I could actually explain to her that I was in Nepal and that´s where it came from, but she didn´t know where that was and I had to settle for telling her it´s near India.  Then I told her I was from Scotland, but she didn´t know where that was either.  I ended up saying that it´s near London.  We had a bit more chat before the bus came and then she said to me, in English, ´nice to meet you!´ and waved to me as the bus pulled out.  It was then that I decided that I really like this place.

Already I can feel that despite the geographical proximity of the South of France, the culture here is very different.  When I tried to strike up conversation with a (sober) stranger in Toulouse, they would look at me as if I´d grown a second head, but here everyone is a lot more open.  I´m really glad about that, because one of the things I miss the most about Scotland when I´m away is how friendly everyone is.  That and Irn Bru.


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