So it is really happening. I have arrived in Barcelona on the first leg of my journey to Sofia Bulgaria. I knew it would not be easy but it was even more emotional than I had thought.
I will really miss Las Palmas but I can always come back. The worry in my head is maybe I will never get back but that is not for now.
In the meantime, my thoughts are that in the short term my life will change. No walks and swims on Playa Las Canteras. No morning coffee on Plaza de Espana smoking my one a day La Palma cigar. No more chilling out with a beer in Santa Catalina park. Enjoying a tapa in Mercado del Puerto. No more tropical beer. Ok, that is maybe is not a bad thing. I like most things about Gran Canaria but a tropical beer is not one. No more for now Carnaval.
Las Palmas Carnaval. A month long party.
No more Carnaval. Even as I write that my heart sinks. Las Palmas Carnival is rated to be one of the best in the world. I have been lucky to have experienced 4 Carnivals. I am not even going to try to explain the Carnaval that runs each year for almost a month. It cannot be explained. It has to be experienced. I will miss saying Hola Superman. Hola Spiderman and Hola Wonderwoman as I made my way home at 5 am in the morning from an event.
I often think of the 1000s of people on holidays in the south. Totally unaware of that one of the amazing parties in the world is happening less than an hour away. As I said it cannot be explained in words. Next years Carnaval runs from the 15th of February until the 10th of March 2019. The best events happen in the last week. Tuesday night when Los indianos is celebrated in the old town Vegueta. This is followed by a big Gala night in Santa Catalina Park. It is the one night when everyone in the city gets dressed up in costume.
The Grand Parade happens on the last Saturday. Over 100,000 people dance as they make their way from the old town to Santa Catalina. I know I said I would not try to explain it. Believe me, I have not.
The interior of Gran Canaria is also a special place. Some of the walks I have gone on in the mountains are some of the best I have ever been on. Especially near the towns of Tejeda and Artenara. Take one day out of your beach holiday. Hire a car and explore the Island. You will not regret it.
Do you prefer Barcelona or Madrid?
So here I am in Barcelona. I am spending one day here before I fly out to Sofia tomorrow night. I think this is my 7th time in Barcelona. It is a fascinating city. Steeped in history. Overrun with tourists including myself. It is one of those cities you can smell wealth in some areas. I felt the same in Dubai and areas in central London.
As I was based in Gran Canaria for 4 years I took advantage of many deals from low-cost airlines to take short breaks in Barcelona and Madrid. The one common question I received when in each city was do you prefer Barcelona or Madrid. Now I am old enough to know how to answer that question depending who is asking and where I am.
The honest answer?
I liked Barcelona better when I am there and Madrid better when I am in Madrid. Both are great places to visit for a short break. Barcelona can be more difficult to get to understand and might take a few visits. Some of the main attractions in Barcelona can be a taxi or a metro journey away from each other. The city is stunning but sometimes I get confused as many streets although very beautiful look the same. I don’t think you get a true feeling for Barcelona in a day or two. It takes a bit more work than Madrid but it is worth it.
Madrid feels a lot more compact. Most of the main attractions are nearby and it is possible to walk to most of them. I love the Taverns. There is so much character in the bars of Madrid. Also, Madrid has the best Tortilla in Spain. Madrid is the best place in Spain for giving free Tapas with your drink. Because Barcelona has more tourists then Madrid I have found you are more likely to get to speak to a local in Madrid.
I fly out of Barcelona Friday night at 2200 and arrive in Sofia at 0200. Not a great time to arrive but as I am going to be there for the foreseeable future it is as good a time as any. I have arranged a pickup from the airport from the lady who owns the apartment I will stay for the 1st month in Sofia. 10 Euro for the pickup. Not bad at that time of night.
I am a big fan of using public transport when I am visiting other counties. I find it adds to the experience. It also is cheaper of course. There are times when public transport is not possible such as my 0200 hrs arrival in Sofia. In these cases, I try to arrange a pickup with the place I am staying. Most of the time it is cheaper than a taxi and the person quite often is happy to make a few more Euros.
It can also be safer. If you are going to meet dodgy people it will be at airports, train stations and the main tourist attractions. Fish where the fish are as the saying goes. At airports, I always avoid guys dressed like limo drivers. They tend to ask for limo prices on arrival. At train stations and attractions if I am looking for a taxi I will walk a few streets back. Usually, here you will find a passing taxi. Not piranha taxi drivers that will wait all day for 1 big killing.
Ok, so tomorrow I arrive in Sofia. To be honest I don’t know what is in front of me for the year. What will the people be like? Will I like them? Will they like me? What about the language.
At 56 years of age, I am going to accept I am not going to master Bulgarian. I will try to get to know some basic phrases like I want a beer and another beer.
I really did try to learn Spanish in the 4 years I have been in Gran Canaria. I can get around but I have to admit to learning languages is not one of my skills. I used to go to a language school 2 times a week. When it started there were 40 people. I calculated there were at least 10 people more stupid than me. I was happy with that. Normally in these situations, I am the most stupid. The problem was that over time the 10 people more stupid then I all left so by default I became the most stupid again. I stayed. I might be stupid but I am also stubborn.
So goodbye to Las Palmas. Goodbye Barcelona. Goodbye Spain. My next post will be from Sofia. The adventure begins.
Join me on my journey.
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