Friday, March 31, 1989

If They Put Me in the Zoo ...

Viv woke early for class, but I couldn't be bothered, so I slept until 11.30 a.m., at which time I got up, read the paper and waited for Viv to return. When she did, I got ready and we went out to get a sandwich at good ol' Don Jamon's, across the Calle.

After lunch we caught the Metro to Batan, where we proceeded to walk to the Madrid Zoo. It cost about 800 pesetas each to get in, but with our International Student ID cards, we got 20% off. It was a nice zoo and I really enjoyed it.

Even though it wasn't the best zoo I've ever visited, I think it's the on I enjoyed visiting the most. We saw, among the many animals, elephants, tigers, lions, kangaroos, strange and colorful birds, monkeys, hippos, rhinos and eagles. Of course, photos were taken of the flamingos (my favorite bird), as well as the Giant Pandas, the playful red pandas, large pelican-like birds that Viv was able to stand right next to, and the highlight of the day: the baboons.

They were very playful and eager to put on a show for the tourists in the hopes of scoring a treat. One baboon would do back flips, while the other jumped up and down to get our attention, and when a peanut was thrown, he would usually catch it.

Following that, we were able to catch the first part of the dolphin show, but after taking two pictures we had to leave, because it was getting close to the time where we had to meet with the agent to sign the contract for the new flat. We were to meet at 4.20, and it was 10 past already. We arrived at Gran Via at 4.50 and what do you know, we were the first to arrive.

After we got everyone assembled (and I bought another copy of the International Herald Tribune), the five flatmates (Viv, Liz, Kurt, Angie and Raquel) sat and mitigated the circumstances while I sat off to the side and read my paper next to Mark, Raquel's boyfriend from back in Germany, who just arrived for a visit today (ah, the plot thickens).

Raquel (right, photo courtesy of Vivienne King) was being quite annoying, and left early with Mark for her own personal benefit, and the contract was not signed. However, money exchanged hands and things moved otherwise smoothly. Viv was extremely upset with how Raquel behaved there.

Afterwards, we went to McDonald's for some grub followed by another tour of the flat. This time, it had been cleaned and was actually quite appealling. Although the graffiti was still prominently displayed down the hallway, I offered to help paint over it if they wished. The consensus, however, was that the graffiti was pretty cool and should stay (and be added to as well). That's fine with me.

Viv picked out the room she wanted in the flat, but feared that Raquel would want it, and since she usually gets her way, she would end up getting it. I told Viv she should stand firm if she really wants it and not back down. She has no more or less claim to it than you, and you didn't ditch the group at the contract signing.

Everything was in pleasant order, so we left, and those four went to the Chueca Metro Station while I returned to my room at the Villa Garcia. I read the paper a bit more, then went for a walk to find out the showtimes for "Rain Man." Viv didn't get back until 10.15, though, so we didn't get to go see the movie tonight.

Pictured is Viv at a fountain in Madrid. This photo is not from the zoo. As you can see, there are no photos from the zoo here (you can click on the zoo link above to see the animals).

Editor's Note: OK, so here's what happened. Back in Barcelona, when I finished the roll of film, I rewound it, took it out and replaced it with a new roll. Unfortunately, the new roll did not catch on the camera, so I proceeded to think I was taking photos, when in fact, I was not. It was only when I thought I was finished with the roll that I rewound it and discovered the mistake. Needless to say, I was extremely disappointed at this discovery. And this is why there are no photos actually taken from the second half of my trip to Madrid. Ah, if only digital photography had been invented about 10 years earlier...


Thursday, March 30, 1989

The Old Man Gets the News ...

When it was time to wake up and go to class, only about half of the students in the Residencia actually made it. Viv was one of the stragglers.

Somehow, when we woke up, Kurt was in the same bed as Angie. (Even Kurt says he doesn't know how that happened. He said the last thing he remembered was going to his room at the end of the evening. But I guess drinking straight gin will have some impact on your memory.)

Viv took Raquel's bed, and with a chair firmly placed in front of the door, Angie, Viv and I slept peacefully until 1 p.m. At that time, I took a shower, and shortly thereafter the students that actually made it to class had returned for lunch. Following lunch (which was actually quite good), most everyone went back to class, except for Kurt and Angie. Kurt and I played some Gin Rummy and a quick game of chess (he beat me), before I ventured out to purchase today's International Herald Tribune (2nd time in two days... it's an excellent newspaper).

When Viv returned, there was further discussion about the flat before Viv and I left to find a Hostel to stay at tonight. After last night's debacle, we wanted to go somewhere where we could both get a good night's sleep and get away from the Residencia.) We went back to the Villa Garcia off Gran Via, where I stayed when I first arrived in Madrid, and got a different room, this time with a balcony.

After getting squared away with the room, we returned to the Residencia to discover that The Old Man had already been told about all of the students who were leaving. His reaction wasn't what everyone expected, and The Old Woman said "we already knew" (but she said it en Espanol).

Apparently, they've already lined up some new suckers, I mean students, to move in. Poor sods. I guess The Old Man's scam is to overcharge and false adverties to students, then get a new batch to move in every month.

Well, we ate our dinner (my last here), and after Viv and I packed all of our things, we returned to Villa Garcia. I can't say that I'll miss life at the Residencia, except for some of the students that I've befriended who won't be moving into the new flat.

Viv and I relaxed and went to bed much earlier than we were able the night previous.

Pictured is the sign for a building located not-too-far-away from the Residencia.


Wednesday, March 29, 1989

No Rest for the Weary ...

I didn't wake up until 12.30 today when the cleaning lady came in. I took a shower, and when everyone returned from class, we went downstairs to eat a weak and unsatisfying lunch.

Then everyone went back to class again with me alone in the room. A bit later, The Old Man came in and turned off the light, complaining about the music. Stupid man. I'm looking forward to getting out of here.

I tidied up a bit, played some patience, and rested listening to "Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" and some Neil Young. Up until now, a relatively uneventful day.

Then evening approached.

It was Leona's birthday (one of the students staying here at the Residencia), and permission was granted to have a party. All went well. It was held down in the basement and featured music, dancing, "special" drinks, and they even had the back door open so that you could stand out by the so-called "pool."

It was after the party that the fireworks began.

First, Angie got rip-roarin' drunk, and after we went back up to the rooms, and while Viv and I were playing a few games of Gin Rummy, she and Kurt started fooling around a bit, and then Angie asked us if we would leave the room. This upset and angered Viv, but we left and went for a short walk (which was preceded by a hassle from The Old Man, naturally).

When we returned to the Residencia, we stayed downstairs until we had an opportunity to make it look to the Old Man and Old Woman like I had left for the evening. However, with money tight, I needed to stay here, and did not want to have to pay the extra money. So when we finally made it up to the room, it was about 1.30 a.m. We were tired, so we decided to get some sleep. I had to share a tiny bed with Viv, because no other empty bed existed (a problem that will be remedied in a few short days). So there we were, Angie drunk and out like a light now, while Viv and I tried to get some sleep.

It was not to be.

In the room next door, the French students and others were still awake and talking (including Kurt and Raquel). No problem there.

The problem arose when The Old Man came up and told them all to go to bed, accused them of being drunk (a point on which he was correct), threatened to call the police on them, and said he was going to stay there until they all went to bed. That didn't work out well.

To give you an idea of further atrocities these people infringe upon these students' privacy, The Old Woman then came up into Viv's room without knocking, and flicked on the light to look for bottles. Of course, I'm not supposed to be here. Fortunately, I was able to hide between the two beds and The Old Woman did not see me. Later, whenever they came back upstairs, I hid under Angie's bed, Angie sound asleep right above, until they went back down and it was safe.

Also during the evening, Angie got rather ill, so we had Kurt come and take her into the bathroom. This, of course, also brought The Old Man back upstairs. When Angie was safely in bed asleep, it was around 4 a.m., and we finally managed to get some sleep... until 6.30 a.m., when Raquel and Jerome rather noisily entered the room. With Angie snoring loudly on one side of the room, and Raquel and Jerome making their own special noises on the other, it became rather difficult to get back to sleep. But somehow, I managed.

Pictured above is my collection of Metro tickets from Madrid. They feature paintings from El Prado on the back. I thought they were pretty cool, so I started keeping my tickets when I got one that I needed. No idea if it's a full or partial collection. The ticket in the middle shows the reverse side with the train information.


The second picture is of some of the students who were at the party (photo is not from that party): from left to right - Kurt, Angie, Raquel, I don't remember her name, Viv and Liz.) Photo provided for this blog courtesy of Vivienne King.


Tuesday, March 28, 1989

Well I Went to the Post Office ...

Hey, today is the 10th anniversary of the TMI Nuclear Accident. I wonder how they are celebrating back home. I was in fourth grade when the accident occurred. Very bizarre day, that was. We weren't quite sure what was going on, but it wasn't good. Throughout the day parents were coming in and taking their kids out of the class. We thought we were pretty funny when we all laid down on the ground and "played dead" after lunch, before the teacher came back in the room. She didn't think it was quite as funny.

Anyway, Viv woke me up at 8:45 a.m. for breakfast, which was a much-too-exciting array of biscuits and cocoa. Afterward I came up to Viv's room and fell asleep in Angie's bed, only to be awoken by The Old Woman at 11 a.m. I got up like I think she requested, sat in the other room, and waited for it to be cleaned. When it wasn't, I went back in and fell asleep again until the cleaning lady came in. She said she would go and clean the other room first, which was very nice of her, but a few moments later old Beelzebub came back in and kicked me out.

So now that I was reluctantly up, I did a bit of writing, listening to music, etc., until the others returned. I was informed that it was now official... they called the agent back and confirmed the flat off Grand Via. Now they'll have to inform The Old Man that they're moving out at the end of the month.

We ate lunch, which was pretty good, and after Viv went to the bank and we finally had some money again, everyone went back for their afternoon classes. When everyone returned from class, Viv and I went to the post office to send all of our mail. It costs 69 pesetas to send a postcard to the United States (35p, or about 50 cents), but it costs only 115 pesetas to send the big letters. The stamps tasted icky, though.

We returned and rested until we were treated to the most repulsive meal I have ever seen: Red (purple, actually) cabbage, followed by cold fish with mayonnaise. I ate almost none of it, and after the meal Viv and I walked up to the nearby Wendy's and had hamburgers.

Now fully satisfied, we returned to the Residencia to talk, play cards and once again not do all that much. It was Kurt and Angie, Raquel and Jerome (not Geronimo, as I thought earlier), and Viv and me in the room for the final moments of the evening.

Pictured is one of the Madrid post cards I sent, this one of El Prado for my parents. It was actually one of several I put into one envelope, then had my parents hand them out to people, in the interest of saving money on those icky-tasting stamps.


Monday, March 27, 1989

Flat Decisions ...

Easter Monday is another "big day" here in Spain, which means that the banks were shut today as well. I awoke this morning to the sight of ants crawling all around Dave's room (obviously, they are friends with last night's cockroach).

It was late morning by the time I woke up, and it was soon time for lunch. I grabbed a shower after leaving "the zoo," which was followed by an adequate meal. During an afternoon plagued by loafing, reading, and playing cards while everyone else was studying, Liz and a few others returned from whence they came.

With Liz here, we were prepared to finally take a look at that flat the students are interested in letting. Unfortunately, Liz disappeared before we left, so we had to make the trip without her. We took the Metro to Gran Via, saw the agent, who gave us the key, and we then walked to the flat.

It was a dive.

The flat was messy, with junk all over the place. It even had graffiti painted all over the walls in the hallway. It needed a lot of work, but it was huge and cheap - about the same for five to stay here as it would cost for one to stay at the Residencia.

Initially, the answer was a unanimous "No." But further consideration on the way back left it again up in the air as a possibility.

The lecture from The Old Man back at the Residencia during a repulsive dinner (fish cake thingies) sealed its fate. He talked of a student's duty to study and not fool around, and offered to give the students Statistics lessons for £25 a month. (Viv translated for me.) He said all of this while everyone basically ignored him and showed him no respect whatsoever, simply continuing to carry on their own conversations while he talked.

Granted, the way he runs this place, he deserves little respect. Still, I felt a little bit sorry for him when he was being completely disregarded by the students. Hopefully he will learn a valuable lesson from his errors. These students really got ripped off by these people here.

Well, as talk among The Five (Kurt, Angie, Viv, Liz and Raquel) leaned towards taking the flat (Viv was still very skeptical and unsure), the evening continued. Later, many of the students went out, but Viv and I stayed behind, again because we have no money until the banks open tomorrow.

So instead we played two games of checkers (draughts), which I won, and then a first-to-five series of Gin Rummy (I won again, 5-4). Then when that was finished, we parted our separate ways for the evening. I had trouble getting to sleep at first, but managed.

Pictured is the cover of the Metro map I used during my stay in Madrid. It didn't take too long before I didn't really need it to get around. I would show you pictures of the flat but, well, more on that later.


Sunday, March 26, 1989

Mixing It Up with The Old Man ...

Woke up very late today... 1 p.m. in the afternoon, to be exact. Played a few games of Patience before Easter lunch. It wasn't much to scream about... some icky bean and potato casserole followed by a pretty good steak and chips (as in potato chips).

Spent most of the afternoon on the terrace writing postcards, reading The Satanic Verses, and acting silly. Dinner was sandwiches... great.

Viv and I played umpteen games of Gin Rummy, and for quite awhile she was clobbering me. Then we played a first person to 10 series and I narrowly beat her, 10 to 9.

Following that, we got together the students in the Residencia for an international game of "Up the River, Down the River." For our international French and German friends, I ran the game in Spanish. So now I still can't speak the language, except to play this drinking game (and to order mas pan y mas agua, por favor... more bread and water, please.):

  • "Tres bebe dos." (3's drink two [times])

  • "Nueves regulan cuatro" (9's give four)

Well that was all fine and dandy, but just as the game was breaking up, The Old Man came up to the room to complain about the noise. After he left, everyone except Viv and me (who are broke until the banks open again on Tuesday) left for a pub. We cleaned up the room a bit, interrupted by The Old Man three times (one time he told us that the lady next door had called the police).

We're still not sure if he suspects that we aren't brother and sister.

Well, the evening didn't end there, no siree bob. When everyone returned from the pub at about 2 a.m., we sat in the room talking and making coffee when The Old Man came up again and yelled that we should be in our own rooms and in bed by midnight.

On this point, Kurt (pictured right) blew up and began a spirited argument with The Old Man. In the room at the time was Angie, Raquel (who had just returned earlier today from Germany), Geronimo (cool French dude who looks a bit like my friend Bill Lattanzee back at Millersville, and who later hit it off with Raquel), the guy whose name escapes me but looks like Lou Diamond Phillips and my friend Duncan Campbell from Camp Hill High School mixed together, Viv and me.

Well, after the row, I went downstairs to Dave's room, my place of residence for the evening, and after getting rid of a cockroach, I went to sleep.

Pictured above: I am leading a game of Up the River, Down the River with the students at the Residencia. Note that I have my trusty Spanish translation guide to make sure everyone understands what to do. The second photo is of Kurt, celebrating... who knows? Sunday? Both photos are courtesy of Vivienne King.

  • Number One Song in Britain This Week: "Like a Prayer" - Madonna
  • Number One Song in America This Week: "Eternal Flame" - The Bangles

  • Eurochart Hot 100 Singles This Week: "Like a Prayer" - Madonna (it hit #1 this week, and would stay there until June 10.)


Saturday, March 25, 1989

With 3 pesetas in my pocket ...

Woke at 10.30 a.m. and showered before packing our things to check out of the room. They wouldn't accept Vivienne's check, so we had to go out and find a bank. None were open (again with the Easter weekend, in hindsight probably not the best weekend to visit a very Catholic city), so we had to go to an automatic teller and use my Access card to get the money we needed.

We went back to Pension Pintor, paid our bill, and then left our luggage there so that we could take in a bit of last-minute sightseeing. Again, we walked through Gotica and Ramblas, eating sandwiches at a little shop near our room (the only way to eat on a vacation to Spain!) (Pictured is one of the buildings located in he Gothic Quarter.) Next we took the Metro to the Arc de Triomphe, and it was an absolutely clear day. I took a few more photos and relaxed in the park before we returned to our room, picked up our luggage, and returned again to the Arc de Triomphe, this time to wait for the bus.

At 3.30 p.m., our bus left for the return journey to Madrid. Along the way, we were treated to listening to the American Top 40 countdown on the radio while getting another look at exactly the same beautiful scenery we saw when we first came to Barcelona.

Unfortunately, we had Mario Andretti as our bus driver, who insisted upon driving excessively fast along some very narrow and winding roads that would be tricky for a regular car, let alone a large motorcoach. We weren't the only ones who thought he was going a bit too fast. Eventually, he was pulled over by the police and ticketed for speeding, which was actually quite humorous to me. Of course, it did little to deter him, and it wasn't long before he was speeding along the Spanish countryside once more. (Pictured is some of that Spanish countryside, zipping along.)

Well, after passing through the cities of Zaragoza and Guadalajara, as well as making two pit stops - one where I bought a Barcelona '92 Olympics key chain and a can of beer (since it was 60 pesetas cheaper than buying a Coke), we finally arrived at Madrid's bus station, poor and tired, at midnight.

Further revelations occurred at this late hour:
  1. Being Easter Sunday now, the Metro was closed.
  2. This meant we would have to take a taxi back to the Residencia.
  3. The clocks here were moved ahead an hour, making it even later than midnight.
  4. We had very little cash on hand.
Well, we dished out all of our money to the taxi driver (including 100 pesetas extra for night service.) So with a secure 3 pesetas in my pocket, we carried our luggage from the taxi back into the Residencia. We said our hellos to everyone who was present, and even The Old Man gave us some food - a delicious hot ham sandwich.

After unpacking and a game of checkers, Viv and I hit the hay for some sleep. After all, it was 3 a.m.


Friday, March 24, 1989

A Very Good Friday ...

In the interest of saving money, today was to be a beach day. Actually, since it was Good Friday, nearly everything was closed. Well, not everything, but the banks were closed, and that meant we couldn't withdraw any money, which left our options limited. We walked through Parc De La Ciutadella, where they have a nice zoo, Zoologico De Barcelona. We had difficulty finding the beach at first, but eventually we found it... though it wasn't much of a beach.

First, we ate lunch at a little cafe, then we went out on the beach to sunbathe for awhile. It was a little cool for the beach, but OK, especially considering it was March. Hey, I think I managed to get a little tan.

It was also a beach where many people went topless. Interesting. Viv didn't partake. I did, though.

Well, at a little after 4, it got a little too cold for us, so we left to clean ourselves up and do some more sightseeing. We walked through the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gotic) towards the Ramblas, which was absolutely jam packed with people this afternoon. It turned out to be a Easter (Semana Santa) procession that we couldn't quite make out, but from our vantage point we managed to capture glimpses of a drum corps, a hugh float-type thing, some guys on horses, and little guys wearing what looked to me a bit like KKK-ish outfits (though quite obviously, this was for a much different purpose.)

We ate dinner at Burger King, and afterwards did some night sightseeing. Took some photos in the central area with lit-up fountains, and then walked down a road to what was supposed to be another Gaudi building. Unfortunately, it turned out that most of it was covered up for renovations, so no photo there.

Following that we caught the Metro at about 10 p.m. and retired to our room quite exhausted, concluding our last full day in Barcelona.

Pictured is the
Museo de Arte de Cataluna (top), and the view from the front of the museum (bottom).


Thursday, March 23, 1989

Rambling About Barcelona ...

Woke up at around 11 a.m., showered, then hit the city. The first thing Viv and I did was walk through the Gothic Quarter, which was a beautiful area. Very narrow streets were lined with ancient buildings, and filled with little shops and restaurants. It soon led us to the Ramblas, which was a rather touristy area, but nice anyway. We bought a few postcards, and I bought an ALF comic book and a T-shirt commemorating the upcoming 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona.

We walked around more Gothic buildings and shops (Viv bought sunglasses as well) until we returned to our room to drop things off and make our way via Metro to the Temple de La Segrada Familia. It is a century-old gothicy cathedral designed by Gaudi that is noted by its continuous construction. Gaudi started building it in 1882, and it has yet to be completed. (Pictured top is me at the temple. To the left is my admission ticket.) Since it is unfinished, there was a lot of construction going on while we were there, but it was still opened to the public. We climbed some steps to get to the top, but only made it part way.

After a look in the museum at the temple, we left to check out the site where the 1992 Olympiad is being constructed. To get there we had quite a climb up to the top of a hill where a Ceramic Museum sat. It gave us an incredible view of the city. We walked around here awhile before we came upon our destination. Though not impressive in and of itself, what made it worthwhile was knowing what was going to be there in a few years. We saw the shells of several large structures being built for the Olympic Games at the construction sites. (Third image above is of Viv outside one of the Olympic construction sites; fourth is of another construction site.) Hope they get this project finished faster than the one over at the Gaudi temple!

Next we walked on past the Miro building (closed) to the tram, which we rode and got another skyline view of Barcelona. The tram took us to the Castilla, and though it was rather cold it was definitely worth the trip. Here I got what could be an incredible photo of a sunset over Barcelona. (Picture #4, above, is me at the Castilla, with the tram in the background. Sorry, no photo of the sunset, actually. More about that fiasco later.)

After looking at all this castle had to offer, we walked down the road to the bottom and gradually made our way back to the room. After a short rest we left for dinner, and decided on a place that was way over our budget, but very nice and worth the extra expense. It was at Cosmos on the Ramblas that I (finally) had a steak, and Viv had Hake, all with soup, the trimmings, dessert, and a fine bottle of wine. Our bill came to 5,600 pesetas (£23 or $38) Wow!

We came back to our room a bit tipsy, broke, and very pleased to be spending the night in a city as beautiful as Barcelona.


Wednesday, March 22, 1989

Madrid to Barcelona ...

Today marked my 6th month living in Europe. I woke up quite early today - 7 a.m. - to eat breakfast and then leave with Viv for the bus station. With our bags in tow we set off and arrived with 15 minutes to spare. However, we very nearly missed our bus when we waited in the wrong area. Fortunately, we caught the error in time and just made it on the bus.

The trip was quite long... nine hours, to be exact, including an hour in stops along the way. But it was fascinating because of the amazing scenery we enjoyed along the way. We saw towering snow-peaked mountains, sleepy little Spanish towns that almost seemed deserted, and everything from farmland to desert.

Viv and I sat in the back of the bus relaxing during the journey. While she rested, I read some more of "The Satanic Verses" and took a few photos. They showed the movie "Splash" on the TV in the bus along the way. But of course, it was dubbed in Spanish, so I couldn't understand it.

We finally arrived in Barcelona at 6 p.m., and after a bit of disorientation, I bought a map and decided which way we should head. We hopped on the Metro and headed from Arc de Triomf to Jaume I, on the fringe of the Gothic Quarter. After a short walk we finally arrived at our destination, Pension Pintor, a recommended hotel in my cheap Europe guide, nestled deep in the very old buildings of this section of Barcelona. We got a room for 1,800 pesetas a night, and after we unpacked we took a walk towards the beach. It was windy, so when we found it we didn't stay very long.

We returned to the room and made sandwiches with the luncheon meat we had. We were exhausted after our long journey, so soon afterwards we went to sleep.


Tuesday, March 21, 1989

And the Winner Is ...

Well, I woke up very late today. I led another game of Up the River, Down the River with the gang at the Residencia, and let's just say I am never playing it with Gin and Lemonade again. Ever. (Editor's note: It was actually a few years before I could even drink gin again.)

Viv and I went back to the bus station to purchase our tickets (billettes) to ... drum roll ... Barcelona! It beat out Andorra only because it is more difficult to get in there thanks to the damn French government.

Anyway, after we bought our tickets, we returned to the Residencia and did close to nothing of any importance other than eat, pack, watch bits of a dubbed "Roxanne," and get a lecture from The Old Man and Woman, which I, of course, didn't understand. After faceless nondescript endless games of cards, we went to bed.


Monday, March 20, 1989

Andorra or Barcelona? ...

We had a lie-in today and I woke up after 11 and began to finish writing my postcards before Viv got herself up. We had missed breakfast by this time, and since were to look at the apartment at 1.30 p.m., we asked if we could have our lunch at 3.

We went to the place and waited for Kurt and Angie to show up, but while we were waiting, the guy who was showing us the flat came out and said that we had to come back tomorrow because the place was being cleaned.

We then saw Angie and Kurt approaching and went to McD's for a little food. Viv and I then went through Sol to the American Express building to cash in my travelers checks before catching the Metro back to the Residencia for lunch.

Following that, Viv and I set off once again, this time to the bus station to do some research on possible trips to take, since she is now on spring break. I brought up Casablanca, Morocco as a possibility (it's actually not too far away, and yes, I know that Rick's Place isn't actually located there), but we quickly realized that would be expensive and problematic getting in. So we narrowed down our possibilities to Barcelona or Andorra (the tiny country nestled in the mountains between Spain and France.) (Pictured is Andorra bus trip brochure.)

After finding out what we could about both destinations, we came across difficulties with Andorra. The French Visa restrictions on Americans such as myself apparently apply to entering Andorra as well. At least, we think that is the case. We'll find out for sure tomorrow. Basically, if we can go to Andorra, we will. If not, then it's Barcelona.

We returned to the Residencia to sort things out, eat some dinner, and partake in other social activities of little importance with the rest of the gang. (Pictured at the Residencia doing things of little importance are Raquel, Viv and Liz.) Should find out more about our upcoming trip tomorrow. (Wow, a trip, within a trip, within a trip for me!)


Sunday, March 19, 1989

Exploring the grounds of Palacio Real ...

We slept in a bit and got our breakfast close to noon. After this, Viv and I picked up our pack lunch and headed for El Lago, a lake on the outskirts of Madrid. It was a mild, sunny day, perfect enough for a picnic.

We sat on a hill overlooking the Palacio Real (the Royal Palace) and the lake, where we ate our lunch (top photo). When we were finished eating what we could, we walked down the hill and over to a kiosk, where we both bought very old cans of 7-Up. We could tell they were old because the cans had rust on them.

When we were nearly finished, we began our walk toward the Royal Palace. We arrived a short time later and spent a good deal of time in the front garden, looking for the palace entrance before we decided to rest on a bench for awhile in this incredibly peaceful area.

Later we walked out the front gate and around to the front (middle photo), where we passed through another garden before we found the gate... and the sign that told us the palace was closed on Sunday.

We still got a magnificent view of Madrid from here, and decided to continue walking into town. We stopped at a sidewalk cafe and had some Coca Colas, then continued to walk until we found ourselves outside El Prado. So we again walked up to El Retiro (bottom photo, Viv at the park) and relaxed for awhile outside the Glass Palace.

We bought some treats on the way to the Metro Station, and got back in plenty of time for dinner, so we rested. After dinner, Viv and I relaxed at the Residencia while others went out.

  • Number One Song in Britain This Week: "Too Many Broken Hearts" - Jason Donovan
  • Number One Song in America This Week: "The Living Years" - Mike + the Mechanics


Saturday, March 18, 1989

Un Día en El Prado y El Retiro ...

Today was El Prado Day - finally, a chance to see the famous Madrid art museum. Fortunately, I was not discovered spending the night at the Residencia, so when we awoke we made it look like I had just arrived and went down to get some breakfast. We waited for a pack lunch to substitute the one we would not be getting at the Residencia, but when it didn't come, we decided it wasn't worth waiting any longer and left.

We took the Metro to the stop close to the American Express building, and ate lunch at McDonald's (two McPollo sandwiches.) I then bought loads of postcards at a store that sold them for 10 ptas. apice, so I ended up buying 20 for the equivalent of about £1. We arrived at the American Express building, but it was closed, so we continued toward El Prado. We stopped at two gift shops before entering the magnificent art museum... free admission with our international student ID cards. (Pictured is the entrance to the museum.)

"El Jardin de las Delicias," by Bosch

It is an absolutely incredible art museum... so vast that we didn't get even close to seeing the whole thing on this visit. Fortunately, we should be able to carve out some time during my stay to come back and explore the second floor. But on the first floor we saw pieces from Hieronymus Bosch, El Greco, Anthony Van Dyck, and many other master works. We saw some works by Francisco Goya and Diego Velazquez on the second floor before we started to get exhausted and decided it would be better to save these paintings for another day.

We walked out of the museum to a very brisk afternoon and headed toward the nearby El Retiro. (Pictured is me at the park.) We sat by the lake for a bit, but because it was quite chilly, Viv and I decided it best to catch the Metro back to the Residencia.

Viv and I spent the rest of the evening there, at first relaxing, me writing out some postcards, but then I got an opportunity to lead this band of merry international students in a brilliant game of "Up the River, Down the River." With students from England, France, Germany and Holland, the only common language they all have is Spanish... and I don't have that one, making it difficult to converse with many of them. However, I learned just enough to lead this drinking game. It was foreign to all of them (actually, the concept of a drinking game is somewhat unusual. As Kurt said, "We don't play games, we just drink." But they were game to try it out.)

The game went on for well over an hour, and we had some very interesting rules added to the game at the end of each round (failure to follow a rule results in the taking of a penalty drink.). The rules included, "You must drink with one hand on your head," and when a 3 comes up, you must put your hand on the bed, last person taking a drink. It was especially great because Kurt had 3 Kings, which got him beyond buzzed right quick. If it could take down a serious drinker like Kurt, you know it's an effective game! (Pictured playing a game are some of the international students. Angie and Kurt are laying down. Viv is to the left with her back to the wall. The others are international students whose names now escape me.)

Anyway, when the game finally ended, Viv and I chatted for a good long time, and we finally went to sleep at about 3 a.m. Of course, most of the other students were still up when we fell asleep.

Pictured above is one of the guides provided by the museum, this one for the Goya section of El Prado. Very interesting publication. At least, I think it is. It's all in Spanish so I can't read it. But the photos are nice.


Friday, March 17, 1989

Flat Hunting in Madrid ...

Checked out of the Villa Garcia hotel this morning (pictured), paid the bill, packed my bags, and left without knowing exactly where I would be staying tonight. Viv and I headed back to the Residencia. We bought a local newspaper, "Ya," to look through the ads for flats once we got back to Viv's. After we realized that Viv (as well as everyone else) had missed their lesson, we went out to eat some breakfast.

Afterwards we contemplated heading to El Prado, but decided to postpone that visit and instead decided it would be best to go apartment hunting instead. I found what I thought would be the ideal place, but we looked at all of the others before settling on that one. After phoning an agent in the phone box, we got an appointment to take a look at the apartment at 8 p.m. tonight.

We called two others, but ruled them out as well as all of the others because they were being handled by agents, which made them more expensive. Later on it began to rain (...the rain in Spain does not stay mainly in the plains), so we canceled plans to go out anywhere and we stayed in. Viv, Kurt, Angie and I played (off and on) umpteen various games of cards, stopping for mealtimes. After dinner we watched bits of dubbed episodes of "The Cosby Show" and "ALF," before returning to cards.

At half 7 we left for the flat, which was in Gran Via, the main road in the heart of Madrid (pictured in the lower photo). We arrived at a very posh building. It looked very promising, until we realized that this was just the owner's office, and not the flat building itself. The one he advertised in the paper, it turns out, was too far away. But he suggested another one that was only five minutes away, which had five bedrooms and was 65,000 pesetas a month rent. (Divided among 5 students, that would make it around £70 a month each, compared to the £300 a month they are currently paying to stay in the Residencia. They scheduled an appointment to take a look at the place on La Lunes (Monday), so I really hope it works out.

After that I bought six more postcards and when we returned to the Residencia, I wrote out five of them. We finally decided that I would stay at the Residencia tonight and just hope that I don't get caught. Angie, Kurt and others went to a pub, then came back and had a party here. Viv and I finally fell asleep at about 2 a.m.


Thursday, March 16, 1989

Adventures in Telephoning ...

Started off the day with much the same routine. Left the hotel with Viv and ate breakfast at our usual spot (hey, I'm becoming a regular!), then caught the Metro to Republica de Argentina (highlighted in the map), the stop closest to her Residencia. Ate a little more food here before everyone left for classes, which is when I wrote up the rest of my "Life in Hull" article.

When everyone returned for good, other than a trip to the grocery store, we remained inside for the evening, playing cards or checkers (draughts, as the English call the game), eating dinner, and watching a dubbed episode of "Moonlighting." I couldn't understand a word of what they were saying, but I still watched.

At ten thirty Viv and I began our attempt to call my parents. First we tried the hall phone, but nothing happened. So we next tried an outside pay phone, which informed us that we were not permitted to make a collect call from a pay phone.


So, now we went to The Old Man in the Residencia and asked him if it would be possible for us to use his phone, and he gave us the runaround, and spent the whole time trying to connect using the methods we had already unsuccessfully attempted. Finally, he let us call ourselves, and it took us five minutes to get through... and there was no answer. The connection was not successful. Frustrated, the operator aked if we'd try again in 15 minutes, which we did, and lo and behold, we got through!

I talked to Angie and Dad to let them know how things were in Madrid. Unfortunately Mom was out at the time I called. Dr. Morrison had arrived from England a short time earlier, and Mom was showing him around the area. After concluding our call, Viv and I made a mad dash to the Metro, but our one connection we had just missed, so we had to wait 16 minutes before the next train arrived. I finally got to Gran Via and the room at around 1.3o a.m.


Wednesday, March 15, 1989

Beware the Ides of March ...

Woke up bright and early again, and Viv stopped by so that we could make our way again to the little bakery across the road for an inexpensive breakfast. We traveled by Metro back to the Residencia and as they all left for their lessons, I remained behind once again on Viv's bed, this time to write some postcards to friends at Millersville.

When I finished writing post cards, I started writing "A Day in the Life" for Michele back home. I thought it'd be a nice way to give her a snapshot of what a typical day is like living in Hull. I was in the process of writing this letter when everyone returned for lunch, which was pretty good if you like fish.

Following lunch, Angie, Raquel and others continued to hunt for a new flat... and some of the French students weren't shy about it at all. They were looking at places in the paper right in front of the owners of the Residencia... the owner is a throwback from the Franco Era, very stern and disciplined. Also, apparently, rather cheap and a lover of fish.

After going to the bank, Viv and I took the Metro to El Retiro (pictured above), a large park located right in the center of Madrid. It was a beautiful day and we were able to take off our jackets and enjoy the sun, the trees, and everything about the place. My only complaint was the large concrete road that cuts right through the center of the park. In Retiro you can rent boats, enjoy an outdoor lunch, even have gypsies read you your future, or as we did, lay in the sun and relax for awhile.

There's also an art museum in the center of the park, but we didn't go in, because foreigners are required to pay admission (Spaniards are not). Strange. (Pictured below is the building we did not enter.)

After a relaxing afternoon in the park, we ventured back out into Madrid and took in other sights. We marvelled at many of the buildings and stopped at one of the dirtiest cafeterias I've ever been in. I've been told that in Madrid, cleanliness is not next to godliness.

We weren't exactly sure where we were at this point, until we happened to stumble upon Gran Via. So we returned to my room for a bit before returning via Metro to the Residencia for dinner.

After the meal I caught a few minutes of an episode of "ALF" dubbed in Spanish. That was an interesting experience. He's quite popular here, but it looked strange to me being dubbed. From what I saw, I wasn't able to identify what episode it was. Also interesting were some of the commercials. Apparently, nudity is OK to sell products on prime time television in Spain.

Later that evening, Viv and I left once more for Gran Via, and I got an early bed tonight.


Tuesday, March 14, 1989

Exploring a Little Bit of Madrid ...

This is my first full day in Madrid. Since Viv and everyone had classes today, I was restricted somewhat for things to do.

Anyway, Viv came to my hotel room at about 9 a.m. and shortly after we went to the little bakery across the road for some breakfast croissants, which were cheap, tasty and filling. From there we came to the Residence where Viv is staying - but not for long. (Pictured right is the Residencia. Photo courtesy of Vivienne King)

After they left for class, I stayed in Viv's room to work on various projects. She shares a room with Angie and a girl named Raquel, and the room is about the size of my single room back in Hull... just to give you an idea of how small it is. Basically, everyone here is disgusted with the Residence, and are actively looking for other places to live. (That would work for me, if they found a place where I could stay for free!)

So through the course of the day, I wrote an article for The Snapper on the Channel Tunnel, or the Chunnel, that they recently started building to connect Britain with France, and I also wrote a letter updating my recent article on the IRA. Everyone came back for lunch at 1 p.m., and we ate at about 1.30 p.m. At 3, everyone went back to class, and I continued with my writing until about 5 p.m.

When everyone returned from class, Viv and I went out on a walking tour of the area. It was a mild day and I only had to wear a sweatshirt. I brought my camera along and we explored the vicinity. She showed me where her lessons are, and then we walked past the stadium where the Real Madrid Futbol Team plays, the Ministry of Defense (heavily fortified with guards armed with machine guns), a shopping center, large buildings, and other sites. We stopped at McDonald's for cheeseburgers and a bookstore for post cards. Pictured is one of the photos I took during the walk.

After that we returned to the Residence and listened to my Steven Wright tape until dinner (fish), then finished listening to the tape after dinner. It was then that Angie, Liz and Raquel said that they had found an apartment that was ideal, but didn't know for sure if they could get it until tomorrow. Everyone was happy with that new, and later a "party" was held downstairs in the common area of the residence.

Viv and I left a little while after the party began, because I had to get to my room while the Metro was still running. Got off at Gran Via, the stop closest to my hotel, then went in and relaxed for the remainder of the evening.


Monday, March 13, 1989

From Hull to London to Madrid - the Adventure Begins ...

Whew! What a day! It all started at 7 a.m. when I woke and gathered my wares for a full day's journey to Madrid, Espana. At 10 to 8, I caught a local bus into town, but of course I caught one that was not going directly to the station (first time for that, of course.) So I got off the bus at the closest stop and walked about 200 yards with my large duffel bag to the bus station.

At first I had trouble finding the right bus, but I was able to figure it out in time, and climbed aboard for the journey to London. I got my first opportunity to cross the Humber Bridge... the largest suspension bridge in the world, and it felt like the bus was going to be blown over the edge, the wind was that strong.

During the ride I ate a sandwich, read some more of "The Satanic Verses," and enjoyed the scenery of the journey. The bus arrived in London, on schedule at 1.05 p.m. It was such a nice day I wished I had allowed myself a few hours - heck, a few days - here in London. But I couldn't, so I hopped on a shuttle that took me to Victoria Station, where I caught the Gatwick Express train down to Gatwick Airport. During this ride we passed by the site of the rail disaster at Purley - the crash that nine days ago killed 9 people. (Seems like lately I happen to pass by every British disaster site within a few weeks of the incidents.)

At Gatwick I checked in, had my baggage searched, and bought a sandwich before waiting an hour for my flight. At 3.55 p.m. the gate opened and a short while after I were on board the British Airways 737 bound for Madrid. It was a nice flight, and since the plane never really went too high in the sky, I was able to get a panoramic view of the South Coast of England, the English Channel, Northern France and Brittany, the Bay of Biscay and the Northern Spain landscape.

The flight arrived on time at 7.30 p.m. - a 1.45 flight (Spain is an hour ahead of Britain). After breezing through customs and getting my luggage without having to utter a word of Spanish, I met Viv, who was waiting for me at the gate. It was the first time I had seen her in three weeks. It was also comforting to know that I wouldn't have to worry about the fact that I speak practically zero Spanish.

After relaxing and chatting for a few minutes, Viv and I caught a bus back into the city, and I was able to catch my first glimpses of Madrid. The traffic was terrible, but at first glance it looked similar to many big cities I have visited before.

When we got off the bus, we were immediately challenged by the aggressive Madrid drivers as we made our way to the Metro station. We caught this train back to Viv's residence, which is located right next door to the Iraqi Embassy (and me with my copy of the evil "Satanic Verses" in my backpack. Oh no!)

When we got into the residence, I said my hellos (excuse me, holas) to my friends from back in Hull. They included Liz Ortega (Viv's old roommate), Kurt Dross, and Kurt's girlfriend Angie. Afterward we ate some dinner, then Kurt, Viv and I caught the Metro to try and find a cheap hostel where I could stay. Kurt said he knew of a cheap one, so we went there... the Hotel Garcia. It was cheap, and it looked a bit dodgy on the outside, but it was a nice room, and it was quiet.

After I settled in, Kurt and Viv left and I played some solitaire, listening to Neil Young, relaxing in a country that no hablo ingles. Following a busy day like this, I had no problem whatsoever getting to sleep.


Sunday, March 12, 1989

Preparing for Spain ...

Wow, what a lie-in today! I woke up at 8.30 a.m. for breakfast, but when I came back to the room I fell back to sleep and didn't wake until 12.50 p.m., just barely in time to grab lunch. That was nearly 12 hours of sleep!

After a not-too-bad turkey lunch, I went out to play a little game of co-ed soccer with the gang. I spent most of the time playing goalie. We played with the rule that only the girls could score the goals. That was entertaining.

Then I spent a few odd hours working on a presentation on Islam for the geography seminar that I would not be attending next week. Fortunately, Kenny agreed to read it to the class for me, so when I finished I gave it to him.

Later, at 10.15 p.m., I watched the second part of "Billionaire Boys Club," this time in the St. Martin's common room. During the movie Viv called, so I was able to finally explain to her what happened with yesterday's phone call, and we were able to get all of the details about my impending arrival in order. I'm a bit nervous about getting there and moving about in a country where they do not speak English - this will be my first visit to a non-English speaking country (French-speaking Canada and Scotland excepted). But I think things will work out just fine.

After the phone call I went over to St. Hilda's to square things up with the gang over there and bed them farewell in case I didn't see them tomorrow. Then I came back to my room to pack, read and sleep. Good luck!

Pictured is not me playing soccer with the gang outside The Grange. It's actually a postcard of John Barnes, star from the Liverpool Football Club. He's really good. I'm not.

  • Number One Song in Britain This Week: "Too Many Broken Hearts" - Jason Donovan
  • Number One Song in America This Week: "Lost in Your Eyes" - Debbie Gibson


Saturday, March 11, 1989

No hable ingles? ...

I actually got up for a Saturday breakfast! No mail today, and at 9.30 I gathered my change to make a call to Viv in Madrid. My ears were still ringing from last night's hijinks, but my hearing difficulties soon turned out to be the least of my problems.

I momentarily forgot that Viv was now living in a foreign country with several people in a residencia who no hable ingles. That was true for the person who answered the phone. After a few seconds of hardly being able to hear the other line, and what few things I did hear I could not understand, I finally told the person that I must have the wrong number (momentarily forgetting that they would not be able to understand that, either) and hung up, hoping that Viv would somehow figure out what had happened and would try to call me back.

I went out and bought a copy of The Times, and spent part of the afternoon packing for Spain. I'm looking forward to a little adventure, and maybe getting a nice tan.

Later that evening, after dinner and watching "ALF," several of us headed into town to the cinema to see "Rain Man." Wow, what a fabulous movie! Dustin Hoffman was brilliant and deserves to win a bunch of Oscars for his performance. Even Tom Cruise did a good job in the movie. I'd be surprised if it doesn't win Best Picture as well. Simply excellent.

After the movie we grabbed some milk shakes at McDonald's, then headed back to The Grange, where I hung around with the gang in St. Hilda's until about midnight, then returned to let Shannon run around the room. As far as I can tell, Viv never called back. I finally went to bed at 12.45 a.m.

Pictured is one of my favourite features in Viz Comics: The Viz Top 10. This is the magazines top 10 albums, and it is based totally upon who sends the most money along with their recording. I always wanted to send in a Yokel tape with £10.02, but that was a lot of money to sacrifice back then... and I was always afraid I'd pick the month when everyone sends in £50. (Perhaps I should've spend my money on immortality for my band instead of a hamster.)


Friday, March 10, 1989

Some Much-Needed Comic Relief ...

I went to my early morning Social/Political Structures seminar, where we watched a video on racism in the media, and then held a discussion (minus Roz Billington). It was pretty interesting.

After lunch, I checked out some books that I figured I would need to read over vacation, then returned to my room determined not to do any more work today.

Today is Comic Relief Day - the third annual - which is a day to do goofy things for the benefit of various charities. It's been quite successful thus far, and quite fun. My unscientific poll determined that 50% of the British population was wearing a Comic Relief red clown nose today (it's also known as Red Nose Day), as well as various t-shirts, hats, etc., with two-thirds of the proceeds benefitting African charities. The remaining one-third remains in Britain. From what I heard, by the end of the evening the effort had raised over £10 million.

Well, with my goofy attire (hand-drawn Yokel t-shirt, nice pants, my "kick ass" boxer shorts over those nice pants, a cap, a tie and goggles I borrowed), I set off with J.P. to the Student Union. We left a little early so that we could get in for free, before they start collecting admission at the door. It was good fun. I drank two pints of bitter and a gin & tonic, and we played a few games of poor-man's pool (you only use the cue ball). We danced, talked, and had a grand time.

While we were there that evening I managed to find two red noses. I wore one for the rest of the evening, and I gave the other to Big Jon, who was dressed in drag... as were J.P. and Neil.

At one point we got on the stage to dance, during which time a girl named Emma started to dance with me, which caught me by surprise... for about two minutes. Also, a girl that was snogging with Kenny absolutely insisted that she wanted to wear my Yokel t-shirt. (Hey, a fan!)

Also, a scuffle broke out on the dance floor that somehow involved Little Johnny, Mousey and Paul. Fortunately it broke up before anyone got hurt or thrown out of the Student Union.

I left the Uni at about 1 a.m. with Big Jon, Matt and Steve, returning to the Common Room where we watched some of the Comic Relief special on TV, as well as an episode of "The Young Ones" and "Monty Python's Flying Circus."

I finally returned to my room at about 3 a.m., where I found a note on the door telling me to call Viv at 9.30 a.m. tomorrow morning.

Pictured celebrating Comic Relief Day are (top photo) me, Big Jon (in drag), Kenny and Andy; (bottom photo) the hottest couple in St. Hilda's, Sid and J.P. (also in drag).