Monday, August 10, 2009

Balloon Fiesta...of death.

Back in the UK for another gray summer.

To be fair, we've had sun at least half of each day, except for that day it rained all day.

Slovakia was great. Like a rugged England where the people speak jibberish. Making my way from the airport to the country house was humorous. Nothing like being in a place where you can't even guess what the scribble on the bus ticket machine means to put you right back in your place. But through the international appeal of Spanish and English managed to get from airport to train station to Zilina. From there, handed mobile phone to taxi driver, and Slovak friend Stani told him where to take me in Terchová. Taxi driver got somewhat confused at one point and we had fun speaking loudly and slowly at each other in our respective languages, trying to determine where exactly my friends and family might be. An old lady on the side of the highway eventually sorted us out. Then I told the driver I liked his music and he let me use his phone to call Oli to alert him of my arrival, since my Spanish phone gave me a message that more or less translates to, "No, loser, we will not let you use our Slovakian network, even though we never give you problems in other European countries where you can better speak the language". Gah.

Besides that, was weird and nice reuniting with Oli and Lily. Lil ran across a road when she saw me and held on in a tight hug for a full two minutes before letting go. That was nice.

Otherwise, it was all catching up with friends, climbing mountains, scootering down mountains, drinking beer on mountains, and barbecuing in stone pits (near the mountains). See photos.

Our first weekend in the UK we were excited to use the VW. She worked well in France, but then started acting up with a similar problem to the previous one. Basically, on a full tank she's happy. Under 1/2 tank and she starts shuddering and stops. We thought, let us not take her to Wales in this condition (mechanic hasn't had time to look at her yet), so instead, we went to Bristol to do some simple camping. This weekend happened to also be the annual Balloon Fiesta (Why "Fiesta"?). What luck, we thought.


Bristol is known for bad traffic. Think Chicago but with roads the width of capillaries. Add a hoard of hot air balloons taking off on a big hill and you get traffic chaos of the most heinous proportions.

So, the bus broke down just as we entered Bristol, but no problem, there was a gas station just on the other side of the road. Oli and our friend Sam added more fuel, bus was happy and off we went. Then we made the terrible decision to proceed to the Balloon Fiesta, rather than leave the bus at Sam's place and somehow make our way to the Fiesta. Entered the most ridiculous single-file line of cars and in a most non-de-script moment, we ran into the car in front of us. They were fine and so was their car, but their tow bar had completely nailed the bus' face :( Her VW symbol even fell off. Sam rescued it from the pavement and within 5 minutes we sadly proceeded. But now, all the other VW drivers wouldn't wave at us (there are lots of buses in Bristol). As Larry David would say, "No wave? Where's the wave?!"

After 40 more minutes of moving nowhere, we decided to park where we could and walk the rest of the way. Of course, from that point on, there were no turnoffs. Then the bus broke down again, most likely due to all the idling, and now we were blocking the second lane that had just opened up. Now the traffic jam was worse, it was our fault, and the balloons were set to take off in an hour. All we had wanted was to get some time-lapse footage of balloons. Actually, no, all we had wanted was to CAMP...there had just happened to be a balloon fiesta. How did we end up here when all we wanted was CAMPING!!!?>£:e

Lil and I jumped out with a book bag and a stroller and went to a nearby park. This was fun, until in a moment of looking at the camera to make sure I knew how to work the time lapse function (I was determined to get Oli his footage!), Lily somehow managed to fall off the play equipment, and when I looked up, she was hanging upside down with her foot caught in a ladder, holding on for dear life with her hands, blood dripping out her nose. Shit. Luckily, the trauma passed quickly, like less than 40 seconds quickly.

In the next hour Lily and I made our way up a monstrous hill through crowds the likes of which I have never seen and in a desperate moment of crowdedness, I spied a teeny patch of green on a hill above the balloon launch site. It would be ours, if all the day's events were to not be in vain, it would be ours!!!!Lkgoprs@kisortu7isrtu!

And it was.

The only other casualty was my eye, which got savagely elbowed by a drunk in a crowd while trying to get the hell away from the god forsaken balloon fiesta. Fortunately it only hurt for a few minutes, but I have this silly little bruise next to my eye such that it looks like I perpetually have makeup smeared there. Blurg.

Now we're chillin' in England 'til the 25th of Aug, and the bus will most certainly not be heading back to BCN with us. But it could be worse. We could live in Bristol.

Saturday, August 01, 2009


I'm over my funk. (Man, I mis-type that word every time.)

Today was a lovely last one in BCN, for three or so weeks anyway.

Clearing up my apartment since the Americans left and the French were arriving. Welcomed Franck (a French student who lives in BCN) and his parents who are visiting him, and they were such a cute little family I ended up staying for a long time with them. The parents spoke no English or Spanish, so it was sort of a Spanish-French free-for-all, with lots of gesturing and smiling. The dad Claude was such a dad: "Where can I buy a French newspaper? Where can I buy tobacco?" And the mom Regina was such a mom: "How does the washing machine work? There's a market up the road?!" It was all that much more cute because when Franck had come to see our house a couple months ago, he was specifically pleased that we had a big balcony with a view ("For my father to smoke his cigarettes and look at the sea.") and were near the Hostafrancs market ("My maman hates supermarkets.")

Met up with Rodolfo for a final coffee before our respective vacations. Reading material exchanged.

Then zoomed off for one last clothes shopping session (We've entered segunda rebajas, people! Super low prices on great stuff. Wrah!)

Then to Adam and Leeann and Violet in Barceloneta....where Leeann mended two articles of my clothing on her sewing machine, fed me gorgeous homemade food for the third time in as many weeks, and was pleased to see I was wearing the earrings she had made me (They are perfect for my head! I wear them every day almost now.).

Now at Antoni and Marta's café using their internet and drinking their coffee....then it will be home to shower off my many bike-rides' worth of sweat, two episodes of Entourage, and bed.

Have received a little email from my monkeys and am in the quiet happy pre-viaje mode. Mmmm.