Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The Train Hotel

At the risk of missing out on a potentially bizarre epic travelling adventure, I booked myself onto a 12hr overnight train from Barcelona to Paris.

Now I'd heard that overnight trains can be a bit hit-as-miss: you share a 4-bed cabin with total snoring strangers, the train speeds along at max speeds of like 300km/h giving you a bit of a bumpy ride and an unsettled sleep, the only escape from this close-encounters of a foreign and slightly awkward kind is the bar, where, you may have to remortgage your home before ordering anything or at least just sit, take photos and talk with random Americans like I did and get drunk with them and not think about the bill so much haha.

Actually it was almost like that, although i've never had as much fun on a train at night time. It was so communal, so social....almost like a hostel on wheels.

I was sharing with 3 other guys, 2 French, 1 of which was ghetto, parisian and just oozing cool, the other slightly quieter and slightly more timid; the other an older guy from Austria who wanted to spend more time in the bar than me.
Just by walking up and down the narrow corridors of the train I met a group of 40+ American high-schoolers on tour, who loud and interesting, but still unfortunately as stereotypically obnoxious as portrayed everywhere else. They were though, bless them.
Also met one girl who I'd already met in Salou at the Cos Blanco confetti party through a friend of mine. We saw each other at the bar, had a few drinks together and sat talking how small the world is, and how aawesome the experience was, what we were up to and where we were going.

As I wrote all this I was hurtling out of a grey, dull, unpretty Paris at 8am or so after making my connection with about 5 minutes to spare after having to throw my 5 rucksacks around the Paris Metro a bit first.

I then got into Köln Hbf and made my connection there to Koblenz, knocking over my suitcase on poor unsuspecting guys who walked past. Oops.

Living in Koblenz is an exciting prospect and from what I've seen of the place so far, it's lovely, but i'm terrified to install myself in for some reason. I need somewhere to live duuuuuuuude. Also the forecast for Tarragona is about 25 degrees Celsius, where I already caught the sun, whereas here in Koblenz the forecast is about 5 degrees C, where i'm more likely to catch a cold. Nooooooooo........

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Crisis of Confidence

I'm a secret worrier.

Everything that can go wrong will go wrong and it will go wrong in true Sod's Law style: when I least expect it and least need it.

Or maybe nothing will go wrong, which will make me think SOMETHING HAS TO FUCK UP SOON, or it's too good to be true, or there's something I'm not doing and I'm just being too god damn relaxed about everything as usual. Maybe I should just continue being relaxed about everything. Nothing will go wrong, I'm being soft.

This, this annoying constant battle goes on in my head whenever I've got some grand impending plans, and it's a thought that is certainly cropping up recently.

Faced with multitudes of people asking me, quite normally, what my plans are and how I'm gonna get there and telling me how it's gonna be an amazing experience, I am struck with this dull aching reminder that, as of yet, I have hardly anything sorted. Nada.

Probability of everything going tits up: close to 1.

I'm talking about my fast-approaching move to Germany. As of when this blog was posted, it is only 72 hours until the big day when I take my 14hr overnight train hotel to Paris, then onwards to Koblenz.

When i'm there I need to find an apartment. But how much can I afford right now? I have to put a deposit down and undoubtedly the first month's rent and I'm unsurprisingly skint.
I want to move in with locals but I don't want to be the English outsider and I'm scared that I'm not going to be able to communicate as well as I will be expected to because my German is piss poor at times.
I also want to find a job to subsidise my travelling, but not something which will restrict my travelling to one day per fortnight.
Finally, I'm worried about having to take extra credits at the uni because I fell short of a few in Aix, and then I'm thinking about how difficult uni will be, and whether I'll even make my original set of credits nevermind my extra classes.

Hopefully I will look on this big grey cloud of a blog post in a few weeks time with good feelings with the oh so awesome 'you silly scared child' hindsight, but right now I'll be honest: i'm quite nervous and it's getting me down.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Where I've Been

Apparently I have been to 5% of the world, and I specifically want to visit another 9%.
I really want to visit America and Québec!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Bon dia, em dic Gareth i parlo català

Monstrously late into my time here before schlepping off to Germany for the beginning of my second Erasmus semester, I have decided to really ramp up my knowledge of Catalan (the co-official language of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and the Valencian Community, as well as the sole official language in Andorra), despite my lack of Spanish fluency.

With around 11 million native speakers in 2009, I recently found out that i'd been completely underestimating it as a language, in favour of Spanish, down to my complete ignorance of its far reaching historical footprints throughout a lot of Southern Europe. It is an interesting and potentially easier language for me to learn than Spanish, too, since it has semantic roots from France and the Pyrenees area in Europe, as well as Latin. Quite a lot of the vocabulary is similar to what I already know, from French, just with that beautiful Iberian twist that is such a bouncy, passionate and lovely addition to seemingly everything on this peninsula and further afield.

So, after hearing countless amounts of people saying 'Molt bè' and 'Adéu' in the streets, I'm giving it a good go.

I've started with the basics, of course. I can now ask someone how they are, where they live and tell them my name, albeit with a Geordie accent lurking deep throughout, but I'm proud of my achievements already. Hopefully I can keep it up and practise a bit while I'm out of the area!

So, wish me luck!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

I'm a legal alien.

While I haven't been very active on my blog in recent times and haven't been doing a great deal of things apart from relaxing, enjoying my time away from university and not getting up until 3pm to then just go walk on the beach or watch Jersey Shore on MTV, I am still having a hell of a lot of fun in Tarragona.

The question of 'What are you even doing here' has cropped up quite a lot since I moved to Tarragona with my friends Carey and Lauren. Everyone from current Erasmus students, to corner shop owners and random hot men on Grindr asking me 'WHY ARE YOU HERE'.


It's as if Spain isn't a holiday destination or somewhere amazing to relax and lay low for a few months before moving onto a new university, new country and a new lifestyle. Or as if they don't get enough tourists here as it is. What is with that question? Maybe they don't even look at their amazing beaches and seemingly constant good weather in summertime.

By now, if you don't read this blog, or you're just catching up, or you're one of the awesome people i've met in TGN and not had it properly explained to you: I'm on a 2 month break (SPRING BREAK YEAH) in between the two semesters at foreign universities i'm studying at this year, down to some interesting academic year dates in Germany from April - August. This means I get 2 and a bit months of free time to do the hell I want with; some students at my university went back home to go to the grind and save and save and save and be miserable in cloudy, rainy England, but I am here in Spain living with my two friends, in a place and a country that I adore so far.

But on that note I've been here since the end of January and i've just booked trains to move to Germany for semester 2 of my Erasmus year abroad, and yet I am still confronted with that question.....and still considered a tourist. Even if I try and order something in a shop, or a café in my ridiculous broken and fragmented Spanish, I am instantly replied to in English, or French. Maybe I sound a leetle beet like zees now or maybe the Catalonian influx of tourism from France is infinitely greater than the UK. Who knows, but I've got my money on the latter to be honest.

Anyways, i've got my tickets to Germany booked up for the end of the month: i'm taking an overnight train-hotel from Barcelona to Paris, and then onto Köln in the morning where I just have to take a regional train to get to Koblenz all for around 150€, money i've saved up since January.

I honestly will miss this place, Barcelona has such a liberal feel for a city, mirrored by its friendliness and openness to new, bizarre things. People here seem to have a lot of piercings, tattoos and interesting haircuts, all signs of a place that feels new and fresh. I like that about Spain. People are much friendlier than UK or France, less stylish than both, but at least they're not as arsehole-y as the French about it.

We spent a day up in Barcelona with friend who were visiting from Aix, riding bikes into student riots, into hailstorms and then owering into cosy, warm Irish pubs all the while being freezing cold and wet but absolutely loving the place. Not the first time I've been to Barcelona, but one of the best just because I saw pretty much everything in the space of a few hours -on street level- for once. Also on the way home our train broke down which caused a few tears from the girls, but after looking at the mad situation we'd just been through was cause for a bit of a laugh actually. I loved it, definitely one to tell the grandkids.

Also, finally while I haven't uploaded many photos to this blog to document my travels recently, I do have a lot of interesting ones to share, if not just for myself in the future to look back on. Here's a few interesting ones from Barcelona / Tarragona.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Mi casa es tu casa

Living in a house rather than in student halls is nicer in so many way; yes, it was a great experience to finally do it after years of either living with family, with friends in student hovels or even just popping over to the boyfriend's and leaving 5 weeks later, but I ended up really really not liking the awkward feel of halls.

I'm sitting in my spanish 'casa' in Tarragona, on a cold, winty night in front of the TV and our bookcase that we filled with random books in 3 different languages and I just thought to myself how nice it is not having to share a shower with 40 other smelly French students on your floor, or having to disinfect the kitchen before even using it, just in case, or something else like that.
Not that it's any different to halls back home, even. I just I thought it would be a bit nicer since it's not home!

Oh well, weltschmerz.

Since I'm on the accommodation topic, I'm starting to look up apartments in Germany after having a right fucking carry on with their notorious bureaucracy already.

Koblenz uni wanted 638€ (deposit + first month's rent) by the end of this month otherwise my reserved room in halls would be given away. It's a shame as well because it was a 20m2-ish self-contained apartment in the halls building with my own kitchen and own bathroom, so there would have been none of that 'leisure centre shower room'-feel that I got from Cuques in Aix.

But payment two month's in advance is asking a hell of a lot, especially when I've had to stump up money for the rent and deposit here in Spain and live off my Erasmus grant until middle of April. cry cry cry.

The question is: do I find a flatshare with potential random nutcases, or do I hack it in a studio apartment on my own?