Friday, 17 May 2013

Penny Comes to Lugo

Last weekend Penny decided to venture East, and came to see me in Lugo. She arrived into La Coruña on the Friday evening, and after picking her up from the airport we headed into town. La Coruña is one of the biggest cities in Galicia, and is responsible for the majority of it's economic output. It's a big business and industrial hub: international fashion chain Zara began here. It's on the coast about 2 hours drive from Lugo, and is a up-and-coming cruise ship destination, although tourism is still nowhere like down South.

This being Spain, we didn't go for dinner until the very reasonable hour of 10pm. We headed out to a nearby tapas bar and restaurant, to indulge in some shellfish and local wine. 

Dinner in La Coruña
The next day we had the day in the city. I got the bus times wrong, so we had a bit more time than expected (5 hours). We wandered around the old city, saw the central square, the port, a few churches, and also headed towards the Torre de Hercules. The Torre is the oldest functioning lighthouse in the world, having been built by the Romans about 2000 years ago.

Torre de Hercules
That evening we got on the bus successfully, and arrived in Lugo just in time for lunch: 6pm. We installed Penny in her very nice hotel, the Pazo de Orban, and she came down to my area of town and had a look around my area. Dinner once again, and another big meal at a ridiculous hour. The next day we started early, and had a wander around Lugo and the surrounding area.

Roman Bridge of Lugo
Penny came and had a look around the USC Campus, and all the architectural delights it has to offer tourists. We walked down to the river (via the motorway which Penny insisted we cross) and along the tow-path to the Bridge, another part of Lugo's hangover from the Roman occupation. Then it was up towards the town via the Camino Primitivo, a branch of the Camino de Santiago, and for an extended lunch.

Dinner in the Praia Maior
Other trips of note were searching for Dulce de Membrillo, going to the Centro de Interpretación de las Murallas, the Cathedral, and people shooting stuff in the woods by my house. Penny returned to England on the Monday tanned, tired, and extremely full: a successful trip.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Going to the South (of New Zealand)

In the spirit of the year abroad I decided to pack in Spanish speaking countries for a while, and headed to Nrew Zealand. I spent 3 weeks in the land of Speight's, sheep and bungee jumping with my wonderful family. I spent time in Queenstown, Dunedin and Auckland, walked a bit, climbed Ben Lomond, ate nice food, and avoided tapas for the duration of the trip.

Whilst the rest of the family were relegated to China Southern Air, I managed to get cheap tickets with Emirates, going via Dubai and Melbourne. Although this resulted in a rather long journey, it was all quite pleasant. They give you menus instead of announcing the meal choices over the tannoy, and have fake stars on the cabin roof at night. Classy.

I spent a few days in Auckland with the Taylor family, including of course Rex, my favourite dog in the Southern Hemisphere. We visited MOTAT, went for a nice Indian, ate a lot of meat, and played Call of Duty. All in all, a very productive trip.

I met Penny and Martha off the plane from Guangzhou, and we raced over to domestic for our flight down to Dunedin, making sure we had enough time to take waving pictures in the air bridge. Once in DUD we only had a few days there before heading off to Queenstown, time to wander round the town a bit and pack the car for the trip.

Once in Queenstown, and successfully reunited with Alice, we set about doing Kiwi stuff like climbing up mountains and sliding down them. Me and Penny climbed Ben Lomond (974m) in a very respectable time. We all went up to the Skyline Luge and raced down a few times. We played mini-golf, and the adults tied in first place. The children (Martha and Alice) lost.

Greg arrived and Martha managed to persuade everyone that going kayaking on Lake Wakitapu where thousands of people die every year was a good idea. It was actually quite fun, and Greg turned into Ray Mears for an hour.

When Auntie Susan arrived from Auckland the incomplete group was complete, and we went for an incredible lunch at the Tiger Woods favoured Amisfield Winery. The salad was very nice. We also ate rabbits, sheep and fish. Then we played Petanque - I lost.

Not feeling enough like Southern Men, and reeling after yet another Highlanders defeat, we headed out onto the Routeburn Track for a day walk up to the Flat's Hut. It was very pleasant. Then, after saying goodbye to the Auckland contingent we headed back to Dunedin, making sure there was time for a Jimmy's Pie en route.

Back in Dunedin we carried on the Southern Man theme and went round the Speight's Brewery for a tour, which was a lot more interesting than either of us thought it would be. Turns out they make cider too. That day, Greg left for London, and the trip was nearly over. After a few last minute excursions (MacAndrew Bay, Gardens, Sushi, Thai Hanoi) we headed up to Auckland one more time.

Seeing as I didn't fancy 6 hours waiting in the airport (again) we headed into town and went for lunch in the Wynyard Quarter, on the harbourfront after dropping off our stuff. Then we parted ways, and I resigned myself to another 400 hours of flying. Yet again, Emirates didn't fail to deliver and I had a very pleasant flight complete with menus and fake stars on the ceiling. Fast forward a few days and I'm back in Lugo, where I appear to have brought the sun back with me. Nice.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Paris is nice, too.

Last weekend I decided to take advantage of having no classes on a Friday, and headed to Paris, via the delights of the Galician Sleeper and Madrid Airport. I arrived in North Africa (aka Gare du Nord) late on Friday afternoon, met up with Megan and headed back to her apartment somewhere in Paris - still not sure quite where.

We sorted out what we were going to do that weekend, and hit the town. We went for happy hour cocktails at the very chic Le China, followed by a quick sightseeing trip up the Arc de Triomphe to see Paris at nice. Unsurprisingly, it's amazingly beautiful.

The next day was filled with some intense sightseeing, taking advantage of the sun by walking around a large area of Paris. We took advantage of free entry for EU under 26s at the Pantheon, where Victor Hugo and other French celebrities are buried, as well as at Notre Dame, went to the Jewish Quarter for a falafel lunch, and walked through the Tuileries and loads of other gardens just slightly prettier than the Wollaton Park.

That evening we met up with a friend from Durham, who took us to an Irish pub (classic Brits), Saint Germain, and then a totally legit bar which turned out to be some kind of metal club. Then we went home.

Sunday was where it got exciting. After a trip up Sacre Coeur (we got the funicular instead of walking - yolo) and watching the strict security guards throwing out numerous Japanese tourists for taking photos, we headed back towards the river.

We met up with loads of other Durham people for an afternoon of wine tasting aboard a riverboat next to the Eiffel Tower, and with the "creme de la creme" of the French wine industry there we had a fun time in store for us. A slightly awkward start to proceedings (several of us spoke next to no French) was improved by a chance encounter with an English speaking wine expert from some vineyard in Alsace.

His table was groaning under a considerable selection of fine wine, of which he proceeded to educate us about. An hour later, after making our way through the entire collection of white (average bottle price, 20EUR), we elected not to do the same with the red, and beat a very chatty retreat to a nearby crepe stall.

Then I went back to Spain. It was snowing.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Sorting myself out

So I've been here for just over a week, and in that time I've managed to settle myself into Lugo fairly well. I've found a nice flat in a great location just over the road from campus (and practically next door to several lovely bars), and am living with two other guys: one from the Dominican Republic and one from Poland.

I managed to register for all my classes, then had to change most of them due to clashes. I'm now doing some kind of hybrid Economics/Translation/History course which is apparently OK. Most of my classes are with humanities, which is a bit like going back to school as the biggest module has 8 other students in it. Translation theory is me, some Polish girls, and the teacher, who informed us that because we're all Erasmus we can study whatever we want. My history teacher is slightly scary though.

One hurdle stands before me though, which is the mandatory police registration. It took me several hours of form filling and preparation before I was ready for this, when I duly hauled my paperwork to the Policia Nacional this afternoon. However, it was not to be, as they apparently only do registrations before lunch.

Oh, and Lugo is nice.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Benvido á Lugo

So, less than a month after leaving Chile I'm sat in another foreign country: Spain. I'm going to start studying at the University of Santiago de Compostela, in the Lugo Campus. Lugo is a city of nearly 100,000 people in the north-west of Spain, in the autonomous community of Galicia.

I would say more, but I don't actually have anywhere to live yet. So, instead of writing this, I think I should find somewhere.