A Travellerspoint blog

Adventure Owl....possibly to be renamed Bastian

It´s the little things I love.
I love that in Spain there is living grass, actual, green grass that indicates it´s rained here for more than 3 days of the last 1825.
I love that up and down the Ramblas (Barcelona´s main strip) on a Friday or Saturday night, there are hoards of guys with 6 packs of beer, willing to sell you one if you need a traveller to last the 20m to the pub (unlike NYC, where you can get thrown in jail for drinking a beer on your own front step).
I love that this city, which is cool in the way that Collingwood is cool (significantly seedy, somewhat industrial in parts, but full of hidden treasures) celebrates music that hasn´t been cool in quite along time - in some people´s opinion (though not mine). In the last week and a half, I have heard the Neverending Story Theme Song three times, on a bus, in a very cool bar and in a shop selling only things made out of string (suprisingly cool). I have not heard the Neverending Story Theme Song this frequently since the mid eighties and I admit, I owned the album. On vinyl. Thus, I am thinking of renaming my Adventure Owl, after the lead character, Bastian.
And speaking of my Adventure Owl, somebody offered to buy him from me today, for ten euros. For those of you who are not aware, I was gifted the fairly-awesome Adventure Owl shortly before leaving for New York. He was made by my sister Anna and I would not part with him for all the world. I´m not sure if her intention was to enable me to take actual tourist photos (instead of my usual photos of random doorways and unidentifiable objects) by inserting the Owl into the shot, thus delivering the requisite amount of irony. ¨I´m not really a tourist, I´m just taking an ironic shot of this stuffed Owl¨ - that kind of thing. Or maybe she just thought I´d need something to cuddle in the absence of Leroy.
Whatever the reason, I now have a not-insignificant number of photos featuring the Adventure Owl. He´s having an awesome holiday!

Anyway, much has happened that is not owl-related. Alejandro has remained in Seville, leaving me to go for broke in his apartment. I have discovered my favourite thing; the Barcelona Filmoteca. They have these government-run palaces of film in most large cities. You can see a movie for E2.70. Yup, that´s about $4. You can get a pass to see 50 movies for about $45. It´s incredible! And they´re great films - this week I´ve watched an entire retrospective on Steven Soderberg (happily in English, for the moments where I just need to hear something I can understand!). I´ve also seen a few great Catalan films and last night I saw this bizarre movie from the 1940s called ´Black Narcissus´about a group on nuns who establish a convent school in a palace on a mountain in India, that was formerly used to house concubines of the local Raja. Part religious drama, part murder-thriller, it was totally insane and extremely cool! Seriously, get it out on video (soooo won´t have made it to DVD). So my evenings have been filled with watching weird films, eating cheese and drinking wine. Nothing more high-tech or high-brow than that!

I leave Barcelona tomorrow morning and head to Valencia for a few days. My main mission for Valencia is to eat paella, lots of paella. I´m in training now, much like those competetive eaters from Japan. Ah, paella. If I survive my crazy eating plan, I´ll write again.....

Posted by Emmalineau 07:55 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

¿Donde esta me brain?

It seems like an eon since I last created an entry here and much has happened since I did!

New York wound up in an inimitable fashion - I caught up with Nik for dinner in the West Village before he led me to a divey bar on the Lower East Side where we drank a few beers and tried valiantly to ignore the hideous sounds of air hockey (the worlds most aurally offensive amusement!) I managed to see some great avant-garde film in the last couple of days - the kind of films you just know will never make it to Melbourne (even in MIFF). Lastly, my best discovery of the week: Strand Books!! This is a veritable mountain of second hand books. There are also new copies that are extremely well priced. I was in Emily heaven, attempting to weigh up (literally) how many books I could realistically cart around Europe and Morocco. I decided that, for me, a holiday involves copious amounts of reading and I´d be glad of something to accompany me.

So I bid farewell to New York with a last dash to MoMA and Central Park, ready for Madrid. Short flight (7 hours, seems like a walk in the park when you become accustomed to long-haul flights from Australia)....then Madrid´s gorgeous new airport. Yep, it´s new, beautifully-designed and I loved it for about 30 minutes. Until I went to get out cash in Euros (having proudly disposed of all my US dollars so I didn´t have to change a tiny amount). My ATM card didn´t work. I tried 7 ATMs and no love. AT this point, I was getting a little cross. So my Production Management brain kicked into gear and I began coming up with increasingly-ridiculous plans of how to get cash. I discovered that in Madrid you can´t buy a train ticket, a phone card, ride in a taxi etc etc using a Visa card. This is a bad thing. With no actual cash and no place to use plastic cash, I was stuck. Actually stuck, faced with the possibility of living in the airport. I wandered around for 5 hours (yes, 5 hours) trying to use my horrendous Spanish to get people to help me. It didn´t work. The police laughed at me. I´d hate to have been in actual trouble. Finally, as I was contemplating flying to London to use an ATM (and I´m not kidding here), the lovely lady at Iberia Air let me use her phone to call the bank and see if they could sort it out. They did, in about 15 seconds. I hate Westpac.

So finally I could leave the now-loathed airport, after hours of wandering and at least one fit of tears. My first night was spent in a little town about 45 minutes south - for reasons unknown) but maybe to do with the big fiesta commencing on the Tuesday), I couldn´t book a hotel room in central Madrid for the first night. So I caught a bus to Chinchon, a little village that apparently is the home of the liqueur Anis. I didn´t drink any but I did crash out in the hotel for about 12 hours to rid myself of the airport horror. The next morning, I wandered the village and checked out their local castle. The castle looked out over a valley that was alternately crops, grass and olive trees. It looked like a giant patchwork quilt.

I caught the bus back to Madrid later that morning and checked into my hotel. I promptly fell in love with Madrid. A lot of people aren´t that impressed by this village-like city but it really resonated with me. I particularly enjoyed that everything worth having was within a 2km radius of the central plaza. Bars, museums, cinemas, shops...you name it, it didn´t take more than half an hour to walk there. I holed up for several days visiting musuems in the mornings, siesta-ing in the afternoons, seeing films or theatre in the early evening before holing up in a bar somewhere to read and generally chill out. Seriously, I could grow to like this lifestyle of nana-naps being a national past-time and dinner being at 10pm. I found a fabulous little bar that seemed to always be playing Billie Holliday or Ella Fitzgerald, so that became my surrogate home for the week. I ate meals that consisted entirely of cheese (and regretted it later!) I found a Museo de Jamon (thats Museum of Ham - actually just a shop specialising in ham) that my mother and sister Anna would have LOVED! And I´ve come to view tortilla as a foodgroup (who needs fruit when you have potato and eggs!)

The Museo de Prado was excellent, with queues to get in on a Sunday. Grandparents, mums with toddlers, hip cafe-dwellers who looked like they just woke up.....here is a nation that has perfectly blended their love of art and sport. Everyone goes to a museum for a wander around and a chat and then sits in a bar to watch the football. Cool.
The Museo itself was great, mostly Old Masters and a focus on Spanish greats like Velasquez and El Greco. Best of all was their focus on Hieronymous Bosch - all of his best works are held at this museum.
But for my money, the Prado has nothing on the Centro de Reina Sofia. This contemporary art museum, housed in a former hospital, is the home of Picasso´s Guernica (it has a whole floor dedicated to works about/contributing to/inspiring/cataloguing Guenrica) plus volumes of work by Miro, Picasso, Dali and other luminaries of contemporary Spanish and international art. It was incredible....I spent 6 hours there (admittedly with a mid-museum nap in the downstairs courtyard, as much to clear my brain as for any newfound dedication to siesta).

Time came to leave Madrid and return to the hell-airport for my quick flight across to Barcelona. Alejandro met me at the airport: for those of you who don´t know, Ale is a good friend of mine who works for a theatre company here in Barcelona. He´s going to be my unofficial tour guide around Southern Spain. Sadly, while I was in Madrid, his mother had a stroke, so he is going between here and Sevilla helping to care for her. She is apparently bearing up well but has lost her motor skills and speech. Anyway, I´m staying in Ale´s apartment and will hopefully meet up with him when I get to Sevilla at the start of next week.
Barcelona is proving a little more difficult to navigate than Madrid, being a lot more spread out, but equally fun. This morning I explored an ancient ruin situated under one of the plazas in the Gothic Quarter. Sadly the magnificent gothic Cathedral is being renovated so is shrouded in scaolding and fabric but there´s so much to see just wandering around. I feel very much at home in Spain: the focus on the arts and literature, as an inherent part of the culture, makes sitting in the street just watching people or reading a book, a perfectly acceptable pastime. I´m hoping to get the chance to see a little more theatre while I´m here, but we´ll see how we go. In some ways, it´s nice to have a break from it!

But it´s getting on for 6pm, and time for more cheese. I´ll check in again from Sevilla.

Posted by Emmalineau 05:52 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Walking is fun. Kind of.

So my madcap week in NYC is winding to a close. I can't even remember half the things I've done and it's only been 6 days. Actually my most potent memory is of being almost mauled by a giant chipmunk in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, whilst taking a nap in the sun. OK, so it wasn't like a human-sized chipmunk and perhaps mauled is going a little far but it was still pretty scary. I was taking a nap in the sun and awoke to find myself face to face with said chipmunk, which was gnashing it's not-inconsiderable front teeth. I screamed, chipmunk vamoosed. Now that I've got that horror of my chest, I'll try and conjur up some less rodent-focused stories for you....

Have mostly been staying with my mate Lee, who works in A&R for a record label here in New York and lives in an apartment on the Lower West Side with his dog Cato. His apartment is about the size of the kitchen and living room from mine and Anna's house in Richmond. It's a small apartment for one New Zealander (Lee), one Aussie (me) and one springer spaniel (Cato). Nevertheless, it's been great to be so much in the thick of it. The Lower West Side is a very cool neighbourhood and I've been indulging my passion for secondhand books though I know I'll end up lugging them halway round the world, cos try as I might, I just can't let books I've loved go!

The weekend was spent just exploring, seeing some good bands (including the UK soul singer, Amy Winehouse, at the Highline Ballroom - she rocked), seeing some great theatre and contemporary dance, attending several too-cool-for-school benefit parties (one for a new theatre company and one for a gallery). Then Lee and I holed up in the Hamptons for a couple of days. Yep, the Hamptons, of Sex and the City fame (they're probably namechecked all over the place but thats my only reference). The Hamptons are kind of like Portsea - for the mega rich. Yep. The houses are a whole new level of big. Lee had borrowed our house from a rock friend so we spent the day sitting on the deck drinking Lee's almost-toxic South Island Ice Tea (I think it might have had actual fermented New Zealanders in it). We made chowder and played scrabble and walked the dog on the beach, reveling in our impression of a really bad made-for-TV movie.

We then flew to South Carolina, to Charleston, for 24 hours. Bands, beer, crazy civil war museum, staying in National-Trust-registered house with actual bulletholes in the walls from the Civial War, more scrabble (seriously, you can never have too much scrabble). It was strange and southern and I can't do it justice here. You'll have to ask me about it when I get back.

So now Lee has gone to Phoenix for work and I've been filling the days by lying comotose in Central Park, a bit of museum action, some great films, the Bronx Zoo etc etc. I almost feel like a tourist, though people do ask me for directions all the time which makes me feel quite smug! Have also been exploring Brooklyn, which is such a fabulous neighbourhood. Filled with great bookstores, funky clothes stores and an incredible vibe. It's a great antidote to the tension of Manhattan and somewhat similar to home (feels very much like Fitzroy with a better view).

Am going to run now - Nik Pajanti (lighting designer from my work) is in town for a Broadway Lighting Design Masterclass so we're going to go and get drunk in the West Village, Melbourne style (that's really cheaply, in case you were wondering).

Next stop: Madrid.

Posted by Emmalineau 13:01 Archived in USA Comments (0)

I need to learn how to read.

OK. 18 hours to go. The madness of the Melbourne Comedy Festival and it's 18 hour days is almost behind me and it's not a moment too soon! Lucky for me that I have an organised mother who rang me earlier in the week offering to drive me to the airport, for my flight at 10pm Friday. Checking the ticket again for finer details, discovered it was a 10am flight. Yep. My brain (still stuck in the alcohol-infused fug of Comedy Festival) had miscalculated and I lost a vital 12 hours. So now am madly packing, trying to finish off documentation/budgety stuff/assessments for our volunteer TAFE minions, exchanging buckets of gold coin donations from the Photobooth Project into US dollars etc etc. My reputation as the mistress of uber-organisation is slipping. I blame the Comedy Festival. No joke, Comedy has ceased to be funny.

Lucky I have been doing some packing earier in the week, culling items I know I won't need. It's highly unlikely I'll get caught in a tornado or a blizzard, I'm extremely unlikely to be cast as an extra in Law and Order whilst wandering around the wrong parts of New York and it's 100% unlikely that I will trip over Ryan Adams, who offers to fly me to Louisiana on his private plane. Probably won't need all my tornado-defence/TV extra/random star sighting outfits. I'm getting better at this packing thing, but once a Production Manager, always a Production Manager.....I have a stellar tiny first aid kit and little theatre kit full of batteries, safety pins, multitool etc. Ready for any non-tornado emergency.

It's the moment before, that night before you get on the plane, the hours before you realise it's actually happening. I haven't had the headspace to get exited so you'll likely all be subjected to crazy stream-of-conciousness ramblings as I disembark in New York and immediately fall prey to some nasty post-festival flu. Cross fingers for me everyone!

Posted by Emmalineau 00:07 Comments (0)

8 weeks to go....

With a poodle in tow!

Finally. After all my scheming and planning, my trip is actually drawing near! Being a pathological organiser, with a touch of OCD, I tend to organise my travels pretty far in advance. Thinking about where and when to go, researching destinations and where to stay and where to find quirky little-visited places to visit. So now I've hit the point where all the big stuff is paid for, most accom is booked and I have a vague idea of what the hell I'm going to do once I skip town. Bliss!

I've dreamed about Morocco for a long time - it's always held a firm place in my imagination and although I try not to build things up in my mind too much, for fear of disappointment, I have a feeling that Morocco will meet, and surpass, my expectations. Best of all, my mother has been feeling somewhat philanthropic and decided that my youngest sister, Pippa, should get her travelling feet wet and join me in Morocco. Since I'm travelling with a friend in Spain and was planning to do Morocco solo, this seems like the perfect plan. Specially for Pip, if Mum is footing part of the bill...maybe my fee for 'finishing Pippa on the continent' will be Mum footing the bill for my shopping trip to the medina in Marrakech! Think Pip and I will make quite good travel buddies - she's the perfect foil to my pathalogical organising (she's spontaneous to the n-th degree). We even have a little international film project on the boil....but more on that later.

Probably time to procrastinate some more and find some new cities to visit!

Posted by Emmalineau 14:21 Tagged preparation Comments (0)

(Entries 6 - 10 of 10) « Page 1 [2]