M√©rida or Bust — Day One: Haven to Douglas, WY

Total Kilometres to Drive: 5,400

Kilometres Driven Today: 830

Total Kilometres Driven: 830

Kilometres Left: 4,570

Amount of Trip Completed: 15.37%

Google says I did 871KM, but my odometre says 830KM.

Okay, I know I have A LOT to catch up on. What I’ve concluded from the last week is that it is no longer possible for me to be “semi-online.” My 10 months in Europe have made me accustomed to living in the 21st century and I’m lost without access to Siri and the ability to be able to do what needs doing online when I need to do it. It has nothing to do with not being able to unplug, which I absolutely can do, just not in the context of trying to plan an international move! I was so discombobulated and disorganised this past week. ūüôĀ

I am going to try do proper backdated posts about the myriads of things I had to do to prepare to leave this morning, but here’s the short of it:

-I returned to Haven late last Tuesday night, thanks to my neighbours C&C picking me up in Regina;

-I stayed with C&C so that I could more easily pack up (never mind that Haven had no power, water, or Internet). They have tons of room and a similar routine to me so this worked out super well;

-Caroline kept me well fuelled with one delicious meal after another. Here’s the brunch she made for the two of us on Sunday, what she calls an “apple pancake,” but which I find is more like an apple upside down cake even if the apples end up floating to the¬†top:

-I had some work done on Moya to ready her for her final epic voyage. Among the things I tasked my mechanic to resolve is why my overhead light stays on, requiring me to pull the fuse when I park lest I drain the battery. That wound up being harder to diagnose than expected, so he told me to keep pulling the fuse like I’ve been doing and gave me this to make it easier:

car fuse puller

I was suitably amused by his solution, especially since he didn’t charge me for poking around;

-I was able to renew my driver’s license, but it didn’t come before I left so now I have to figure out how to get it to¬†Mexico (my host in Chelem suggested I have it sent to her in Ontario for her bring it down in the fall rather than have it couriered to¬†Mexico);

-I got my property tax assessment and went to town ready to pick a fight because I thought that the amount was a mistake at best or a cash grab at worst. Turned out that the number was real and reflects the current market. So Haven is now valued at 5.35 times what it was valued the last couple of years and I’ve been assured I will only get a token property tax increase. Looks like the expected real estate boom has started!!!

-The traitorous weather was not conducive to packing:

It was freezing in Miranda and I was not able to give her a cleaning before taking off again. By the way, I had some serious mouse damage (my scarf drawer was decimated), so that’s another reason I couldn’t have stayed in Miranda since she needed serious disinfecting.;

-All the Tetris I played as a kid paid off. There isn’t an ounce of space left in the truck:

Here’s how I loaded the cab, filling it with boxes…

And then stuffing soft items into the gaps:

I got about 95% of my most prized possessions into the truck! I’m not that disappointed since I’m headed into a humid climate and so it doesn’t make sense to bring all my journals, photo albums, and the rest of the books into that climate until I fully commit to it. I am going to have to fully unpack when I get to Chelem otherwise I risk packed items moulding over the summer.

So today was departure day. I’d hoped to leave yesterday, but that was a moving target and I was fine with leaving as late as Friday. For one thing, I desperately wanted one day before departure where I could just stop to sit for a moment and think about anything I might have forgotten. I managed to get the afternoon and evening off.

Caroline made her amazing homemade pizza (with homemade venison salami!) for dinner so I could have leftovers for my drive today! After dinner, she and I sat down at her computer so I could show her a few things. She has moved to a Mac and has had basically no learning curve. I’m so proud of her and happy that she now has a computer that works well so we can keep in touch better. It’ll also be so much easier to help her troubleshoot issues, although based on an email she sent me today, I think she’ll be able to handle many of her own issues. We then played cards, visited a bit with my immediate neighbours K&T, and I ended up going to bed way, way, way, way too late, well past midnight.

I wanted to be up at 6:30, but was, of course, awake at 5:00. I got up around 6:15 and was delighted to find Charles up and the coffee already perking. The border didn’t open till 8:00 and I had less than an hour drive there, so I sat for a bit before dressing and putting the last of my bags in the truck, as well as mug of coffee for the road.

Goodbyes are always difficult, but we all three vowed to see one another again in two years in Mexico!!!

Standing by the truck, looking east. Goodbye, Canada, it’s been good knowing you, but I’m heading somewhere new…

I made a pit stop in Coronach and got to the border at 8:30. Based on my experience recently at airports, I made the decision to cross while wearing a wig rather than a headscarf. The atmosphere at the crossing was very different than it was under the Obama years, much more no nonsense than conversational and friendly. For example, I was greeted with “Passport?” rather than, “Hi! How are you today?” I was asked the usual questions about where I was going, where I live, did I have any ATF, etc. All seemed to be going well, but soon as the officer opened the rear of the truck, he asked me to step outside and go into the waiting room. There, he had me fill out a customs form. As I did so, I overheard him say to someone, “This one¬†is going to take a while.”

Well, at least they weren’t making me unpack the truck, but, dang, I’d forgotten my coffee! When the officer came back after just a few minutes to get my declaration, I asked if I could get the coffee¬†and he said, “We’ll be done in a few minutes.”

Curious.

Sure enough, he had me back in the truck a minute later, at most 12 minutes from the time I’d started the interview! The last thing he said to me was, “You wrote a book?” which tells me that they have Rae as an alias on file for me, that he Googled me,¬†and that whatever he found told him that I likely was not carrying contraband or otherwise a threat (by the way, I had provided him¬†an inventory of what I have in the truck).

One of the questions I was asked was how I plan to support myself in¬†Mexico and he didn’t seem happy with my answer that I was going to work there for myself and that¬†Mexico was satisfied with that. My answer¬†should have been, “That’s what made it possible to get my residency visa.” He also asked me if I’m keeping a Canadian bank account and it was obvious that he liked my answer that I am not cutting ties with Canada at this time.

So it was another absolutely uneventful and easy, it not particularly welcoming, entry into the US. I pointed Moya south, fuelled up in Scobey, then continued south towards Circle, where I made another pit stop, before pulling into a Wendy’s in Miles City at 12:30 to get some lunch (most of the pizza had been breakfast, with a bit left for an afternoon snack!), use their WiFi, and find a room for the night. The greeting there was so friendly and a reminder of why I’ve so enjoyed my travels to the US in the past.

After a bit of research, I decided to push on to Douglas, Wyoming, where I would land around 6:00. That was a much longer day than I wanted to do, but there aren’t a lot of cities in that part of Wyoming so I would either stop too late or too early. I’m staying with one of you lovely readers just south of Denver tomorrow and will have a relatively short (400KM) day from Douglas, so I can get a late start.

I just love this corner of the US, just rolling hills not unlike home. It was a very isolated drive, of course. I stopped in Broadus for fuel and coffee and then drove straight to Douglas, with only one pit stop at a rest area about 45 minutes from my destination. After weeks of GREY, it was amazing to get blue sky the deeper I got into Wyoming. There was a brief thundershower right before Douglas, but it cleared quickly.

The hotel rate I was quoted was 79USD. I asked if they had an “Exhausted Canadian driving to¬†Mexico” rate and… got a 14USD¬†discount. WOW! That covered some takeout and a beer for dinner. The liquor store is right next to the hotel and the lady there was super helpful and friendly in showing me what they had for single beers. Interestingly, I no longer get carded when I buy booze in the US so I must be starting to look my age at last… ūüôā

I’m sure there should be more to this already novel-length post, but I’m ready to drop. Hopefully, I’m back to a more regular posting schedule. April really has been sheer madness. But I’m on my way!

I learned about this song just before heading down to Mexico for the first time. It no longer applies to me, but I love the tune. So here’s an earworm for you. ūüôā

Brightoned Out, But So Glad I Went

I forced myself out of bed early this morning for two reasons: 1) to get a bit of work done so I wouldn’t have a daunting amount left after my outing; 2) to encourage me to get to sleep early…

My destination for today was Brighton proper. My host strongly recommended that even though it’s only a 3mi/5KM round trip on foot that I buy a ¬£2.90 return ticket and go on the train to save my energy, which I think was very good advice. I headed out around 9:45¬†to take the 10:08 train, but I got in with plenty of time to catch the 9:59 even with having to stop to collect my previously purchased ticket.

That put me in Brighton just past 10:00 and I headed out of the station to my first destination of the day. There was plenty of signage and clues that I was heading to the touristy part of town.

The first touristy thing of interest that I saw was the Brighton Dome, an arts venue. It is part of the Royal Pavillon complex and is quite impressive from outside!

I walked around the Dome and got my first view of the Royal Pavillon. Keep reading for more details, but let’s just say that I was not expecting this in Brighton and am so happy my host and her decorator put it on my must-do list! There were even palm trees by it, adding to the exotic feel.

I wandered up North Street to find a second breakfast.

Then sat in front of the entrance to the Royal Pavillon to enjoy my last sausage roll and really good coffee from Greggs.

Then, it was time to enter what is, bar none, the most incredible building I have ever had the privilege of visiting.

Unfortunately, interior photography is not allowed in King George IV’s seaside pleasure palace. But the are tons of high resolution photographs on the palace’s website. Please head there now to at least look at photos of the banquet hall and its dragon chandelier. This palace was sold and completely stripped by Queen Victoria, who did not find it a suitable home for her family, but was bought by the city and carefully restored over the years to give an inkling of how sumptuous it was in the days of George IV. Spoiler: while the outside is of decidedly¬†Indian influence, the interior decor is of Chinese influence!

I could have spent a day going through the palace as there were so many exquisite details to take in, but it was overrun by school children and hard to visit leisurely. ūüôĀ I think the music room was my favourite, but the dragon chandelier that is just two feet shorter than Miranda (!) was the most memorable feature.

Entrance to the palace is £12.50, or you can buy online a combination pass with the Brighton Museum for £15 (plus play an additional £2 for the palace audioguide if you want to get any real value out of your tickets). So the museum was my next stop.

It’s adjacent to the Dome.

The museum has a hodgepodge of exhibits, most of which are behind glass, so difficult to photograph. The building held  more interest, to be honest. Here are photos of a few things that caught my eye.

The tiles are gorgeous and have so much depth!

I enjoyed making a motif of Iranian-style tiles.

This turquoise colour is very traditional in Iran.

This pot looks like a beautiful work of art, but is a”stealth bomb.” The background of the images are of unspeakable wartime horrors.

This stack of crockery has a rod going all the way through it to hold it.

There was an exhibit about how Brighton was the place to come for a “dirty weekend.” This is very much England’s Sin City.

The mosaic floor in parts of the museum was a work of art.

This French-inspired bathing costume was the standard in Brighton for a long time.

I really liked these.

This one looks like a rainy day viewed through a window.

This one is deceptively simple. So many colours in it!

Frankly, at ¬£5.20, I don’t think the museum is worth a detour unless you pair it with the Royal Pavillon and basically get in for half price.

I was ready for lunch when I came out of the museum and knew where to go, a little Japanese restaurant right in front of the Dome. Get this. I was thinking I wanted Asian noodles for lunch and was going to ask my host if she could recommend a place, but she beat me to it! It’s rather scary how well she’s gotten to know me! The restaurant is Pompoko and it was super busy, always a good sign. I went with their lunch special of udon noodles with prawns and squid. This picture is terrible, but if you squint, you can see how they cut the squid to make it more tender. This was crazy good!

I then meandered my way down to the water.

My destination was, of course, the tourist trap that is the Brighton Pier.

The pier is free to access, so I got to take it all in without spending a penny. The entire structure is owned by one company so prices are the same throughout all the shops. Not much was open today.

There are free deck chairs to use on the pier. I imagine these go very quickly in the hotter months!

At the end of the pier are a bunch of rides, some for kids, some for adults.

I learned while watching a programme recently that that tower at the back with a slide is called a helter-skelter.

I eventually reached the end of the pier. I’m looking towards France here.

Spot the annoying typo.

The last thing on my list was to walk through “The Lanes,” Brighton’s shopping district in a maze of narrow lanes not unlike the bazaar in Sarajevo.

On the way there, I paused for a gelato, surprising myself when I picked “sour cherry,” which was exactly that, with very tart fruit contrasting pleasantly with the smooth vanilla ice cream.

Brighton Square.

This block of flats does not suit the ambiance of the neighbourhood.

Most of the shops in The Lanes sell jewelry.

I didn’t linger long and decided that I was ready to go home after having a beer.

More pretty tile work at a hotel.

Another church made of flint.

This pub seemed welcoming.

I ordered a half pint of bitter and was offered a choice of four. I went with their darkest and strongest, Laine’s Best Bitter. So pretty! One of the options was an American pale ale, so I’m thinking that’s what I have to look for in North America.

I then meandered my way back to the train station.

But took a detour up a very steep hill to check out St. Nicholas’ Church.

I am fascinated by the use of the flint as a construction material. It is exquisite!

And here I am back at the Brighton train station, where there was a train only going to Hove leaving in two minutes. Talk about good timing with trains today!

I’m glad I went to Brighton for the day, but it’s definitely not a place I would care to return to and I’m happy I stayed in Hove. As I’d been warned, Brighton proper is very dirty, run down, and full of panhandlers. It’s also very tourist and gaudy. I can imagine that there are much nicer places to go for a seaside holiday in England. But the Royal Pavillon is worth the detour!

When I got into Hove, I had the bright idea of picking up my ticket for Gatwick tomorrow to save me a step. Well, I witnessed a distraught young girl have her money eaten by a machine. She said that there’s never anyone working at the Hove station and that¬†when this has happened in the past, she was never able to get her money back. A nice man stepped in to buy her a ticket on his card before I could offer, so she was able to get home. But that sure validated my feelings of hopelessness the other night when I missed my stop!

I popped into Tesco to pick up a pizza and a small bottle of wine for dinner. One of the first things my host showed me in her kitchen was how to use the grill to heat up a pizza, so I knew I wouldn’t have any trouble doing that for my dinner.

Now, my host is the lovely Moira! I don’t like to say where I stay when I’m there, but I can finally¬†give a shoutout to her and her ¬†Airbnb listings. Coming home tonight, I marvelled that I’ve been living with her a full week and haven’t gone nuts yet! ūüôā Her home is unfussy, cosy, clean, and so welcoming. I could make meals at home if I wanted, watch telly in the lounge with her in the evening, and just live my normal routine. It says a lot that I felt comfortable leaving the door to my office open while I worked and didn’t feel the need to squirrel myself away to¬†be as invisible as possible.

My European adventure has¬†wound down. If I have time to grab a late lunch in Iceland tomorrow instead of just rushing through the airport, that will be icing on the proverbial cake! It’s been incredible and I feel so grateful to have had this opportunity.

Now, it’s time to go pack. I’m told WOW Air is extremely strict and won’t let me on with my purse in addition to my backpack and suitcase, so I have to get everything packed the way it was when I came over here. Even though I actually have less than when I arrived, I’ve been struggling with the packing, so I really need to go spend some time on that. Then bed, because 5:30 is going to come really soon…

Comfy

I am so happy with my accommodation in Brighton! So I got that upgrade last night to the larger room at the back of the house with a better bed and that in combination with two glasses of wine meant that I slept eight hours straight! I was so surprised when I looked at the clock this morning. I can’t remember the last time I slept the night through.

My host makes me feel so comfortable in her home that mornings are a relaxed thing here, just as if I was on my own. I get up when I’m ready and then go to the kitchen to make coffee and breakfast. This morning, I got ambushed by the ancient, senile, and deaf cat who greeted me in the near darkness with a scream that made me jump high enough to hit the very high ceiling.

Meet Charlie. This is from four years ago, “before he was senile.”

Now, imagine being startled by that meowing, but about ten times louder. That got the adrenaline pumping this morning!

I had a stupidly full day of work to do today and hadn’t factored in the North American time change that made me lose an hour on my deadlines! What didn’t help matters is that I didn’t do the work I was supposed to do when I came in from Lewes yesterday. I’d left it since the jobs for that client are normally super easy and take an hour. What awaited me was a rare difficult file that would take almost two hours! I was just bushed, so I contacted the client and requested an extension, which was no problem. Not very professional of me, but¬†she’s really lax and I know that weekend deadlines are pretty soft. So that meant extra work today.

My host and I had sort of thought to go to a nearby Indian restaurant for their buffet for lunch, but she wasn’t in the mood by the time lunch rolled around. England has been bad for my waistline, so I decided a buffet wasn’t a good idea, plus I didn’t have much time for lunch anyway. So I ran down to the Tesco Extra to grab a quick something for lunch and figured that since I now had curry on the brain, I could get one of their¬†prepared meals for dinner. My host didn’t have a microwave when I arrived, but she asked me if that’s something that would be good if she has Airbnb guests and when I said yes, she ordered one. The machine was due to arrive this afternoon, so I took a chance on Tesco’s 2 for ¬£4 curries that are meant to be nuked, figuring that, worst case, I could heat them gently on the stove.

I came out of there like a bandit since I got two of their pizza-type puff pastries for just ¬£0.62 for my lunch, plus the two curries for ¬£5. So that was three meals sorted for half of what I would have paid for the buffet. Getting ready meals is definitely not as cheap as cooking from scratch, but it’s a good compromise between that and eating out, especially since prepared foods in Europe tend to be fresh and made with real ingredients, just like you’d make at home. Not having a pantry full of spices and other staples, it’s also a great way to get some variety and try new things.

When I came in, I helped my host take apart the bed in the room I was in originally, which she’s been letting me use as an office since the new room doesn’t have a desk. Talk about a double upgrade! That done, I went back to work.

A couple of hours later, she came to ask if I wanted to go with her to Asda, kind of like their Walmart (even carries the George brand products), to go pick up the microwave. I must have been a dog in a previous life because all I could think was, “Ooh, I get to go on a car ride!” It wasn’t until we were in the car that I realised I’ve never ridden in a car in this country, just a bus, and let me tell you, it’s scarier close to the ground to be on the wrong side of the road! ūüėÄ Unfortunately, I never did manage to get to drive here on this trip since all the driving schools I contacted for lessons were booked solid. ūüôĀ

The collection process at Asda was very sophisticated. There’s a touch screen flat panel by the entrance where you can put in your order info and then someone brings it out to you on a cart. He checks your ID and you’re good to go.

I didn’t feel like having a poke around Asda since it’s so like Walmart, so I declined the chance to do that, but I did accept the invitation to pop into a Marks and Spencer a little ways away since I’d heard so much about them. They sure carry some nice things! I was tempted by the sushi, but resisted! We did both stock up on heavily discounted pastries so I have a nice pain aux raisins waiting for me tomorrow and the almond croissant will go to the airport with me on Wednesday (it’s in the freezer, so it will stay fresh).

We also popped into another Tesco Express that she said is a good source of discounted stuff at the end of the day and that I should seriously consider checking out on Tuesday to possibly get food for the¬†plane trip. It’s nice having a local guide!

The outing¬†was a lovely¬†break, but I really had to get back to work when we got in¬†and I finished with a half hour to spare before the deadline! I still had another hour to do for the client who had given me an extension on yesterday’s work, but that would be an easy file. So I took another break to have dinner, breaking in the new microwave to heat up a ridiculously good coconut chicken korma curry with rice. I am going to really miss Tesco. Hope my tikka masala tomorrow is as good!

After dinner, I finished my work and then was finally able to take a hot shower to work out the kinks and slip into my jammies before joining my host in her¬†lounge¬†to watch some crap telly. I made sure to confirm that she wasn’t just being polite, but she said that it’s nice to have the company, one of the nicest things anyone’s ever said to me. She got up at one point to grill me a small hot cross bun that she’d bought at M&S a few days ago that I simply had to try as it had caramel and chocolate and was divine. She wasn’t kidding. What a yummy treat!

With the weather being miserable today, I was very happy to stay in and make some money. The next two days are supposed to be sunny… I have quite a bit of work left ahead of being off for a while, so I think I’ll focus on that tomorrow and then go out all of Tuesday to properly explore Brighton. But I might be able to do another wander around Hove for a break tomorrow afternoon depending on how late I get started.

Now, here’s hoping I sleep well again tonight!

Exploring Alicante’s Santa B√°rbara Castle

Yes, this post is a little late. I am feeling very run down and have a sore throat. I really need a few nights of interrupted sleep!

Like in Barcelona, it’s insanely loud in this building until just past 1AM, then quiet until about 10AM. I guess that’s just the normal Spanish rhythm… I didn’t even bother trying to sleep until it got quiet on Friday night/Saturday morning and then I slept like the dead since my room was surprisingly dark and quiet. I only woke up because I was cold and had to find another blanket.

I went out Friday night to get some breakfast stuff at a nearby supermarket, so I was all set to make peanut butter with banana and coffee on Saturday morning. I ended up buying a large bag of powdered milk for just 4 euros (6CAD). Twice what I’d pay in¬†Mexico, half what I’d pay in Canada. It’ll last me for months and since I only have one more stop to make before I land for seven weeks, it made sense to get some last night so that I could make coffee here.

I dropped my groceries off and then went out again to look for a fast food supper around 8:30, eventually stumbling on a kebab shop that was opening up for the night. Thank goodness for the Turks! ūüėÄ I could have kebab just about every night and, really, as long as you go easy on the sauce, there could be worse suppers. It’s a very popular late night fast food option all over Europe.

I then had to put in a couple of hours of work before bed. It’s very rare that I leave work for arrival on a traveling day because I’m always afraid of contingencies, but Thursday night was not conducive to working in the public spaces in my Barcelona flat. Since the job was super easy and not due till Friday night, it made sense to take a chance and finish once I’d landed in Alicante.

I pretty much picked Alicante as my stop this weekend by throwing the proverbial dart at a map of the Spanish coast. I couldn’t afford to stay in Barcelona any longer and I also did not want to have to travel straight to Almer√≠a in one day as it would have been something like 12 or 13 hours of traveling time. Alicante is¬†about two-thirds of the way to Almer√≠a from Barcelona, meaning a shortish traveling day on Monday, and boasts a charming old town and a magnificent castle to explore. Sounded pretty good to me!

So it was a very, very, very late start Saturday morning. It was really nice to stumble into a super clean kitchen and put together coffee and breakfast. After that, I did a bit of my work for the weekend and then headed out to find a town map and the castle.

My flat is located on a public square and is making me realise I do not want to live right on a public square in Mexico!

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My wonderful host here oriented me as to the main street in town and the pedestrian zone, so I had known where to go look for food Friday night and where to find the info centre Saturday afternoon.

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I love how an interior wall became an exterior wall and that you can still see where the old staircase was.

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I thought I’d found tacos on Friday night, but they want 10 euros/15CAD for two!!!

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The tourist info centre was just past the Mexican restaurant. I came¬†in and was sized up by the person at the desk who yelled towards the back, “We need your English skills!” Bemused, I shook my head and said in Spanish, “I just want a map and walking directions to the castle…” “Oh!” was the reply and then aid was forthcoming. The map I was given was pretty terrible in that it’s not particularly portable, being printed on heavy paper, but it is pretty detailed and colour coded. The instructions on how to walk to the castle seemed clear…

I headed UP into the old town.

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I found this wonderful poem on a building. I photographed all of it, but am only sharing my favourite stanza, the one at the bottom: “How many days does a week have? Seven days, and no more. But I would give it eight days, one more to travel.”

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The Santa B√°rbara castle is a rather impressive. It started as an Islamic fortress in the 9th century, with the Christian castle built over top in the Middle Ages.

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Getting to the walking path up to the castle was insanely frustrating. I will never again complain of the dearth of signage in the Balkans as Spain appears to be worse. I think that in this case, it is intentional. The castle is free to visit, but there is a new elevator to get to the top that costs about 3 Euro. I think that the walking path is hard to find so that people will choose the paid option. That had the opposite effect on me. The more I climbed up to a dead end and had to backtrack, the less inclined I was to pay the elevator fee! And, yes, I asked multiple people for directions.

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One man finally gave me good directions, as opposed to a more vague, “It’s that way,” response. I started to climb.

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Spoiler: I would end up higher than that little tower you see jutting out of the cliff at the top!

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It became evident as I climbed that there are actually a few different walking paths of varying degrees of difficulty.

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I ended up on what I would, at the descent, confirm as being the official walking path, and it was very difficult as the step risers were super high.

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This is the part where I got really annoyed with the lack of signage. Right through that door.

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From there, I could go up these very scary steps strewn with broken glass or move ahead on a dirt path.

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There was a bunch of us who were confused and it took a local to tell us that the least obvious of the paths, the dirt one, would lead us to the paved access road to the entrance of the castle. On the way back, I came across a few different groups of tourists all as equally confused as I was at that point and I had to guide them to the entrance. What could have been a really lovely walk up was incredibly frustrating because I was expending a lot of effort to climb up things that seemed to lead to the castle but which ended up being dead ends. To meet other people who felt as frustrated as I was spoke volumes as to the validity of my feelings.

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But I finally made it to the entrance!

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Right through that arch, I saw this sign about a sci-fi exposition. Curious..

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I went in and as soon as I started to look at the exhibits, I just gasped. I was looking at case after case of mostly original props from many science-fiction/fantasy movies, some of which I really love! This was such a random and unexpected part of my day! These are just a few of the original props that I enjoyed viewing.

Hydra’s cosmic energy battery from Captain America: the First Avenger.

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Bruce Banner’s laptop and drink from The Incredible Hulk (2008).

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Obadiah’s sonic taser earplugs from Ironman.

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A piece from the Tumbler in Batman Begins!

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I could not stop staring at this original mask, hat, and wig from V for Vendetta, one of my favourite movies of all time.

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What a surreal exhibit, and free to boot!

Then, I wandered around the ruins. You can go almost anywhere.

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At the top here, you can see the caf√©. I didn’t plan my day well and got to the castle at about 2PM, lunchtime. I should have had lunch first and then gone exploring. So I decided to pay a premium for a mediocre burger with a great view and didn’t regret it one bit!

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The castle complex is huge.

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This is that little tower we saw earlier and I’m above it, at the very top of the castle. The view was so spectacular!

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I would not want to be a bus driver having to go around that hair pin turn!

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Here’s that archer again.

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I haven’t had ice cream in ages and 2.50 euros was insane for gelato after an afternoon of wandering around flat Barcelona, but was a fair price for this treat after all that climbing!

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The figures fighting in the background of this picture amuse me immensely.

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Found the elevator. It’s free to go from the 1st to the 2nd level and to go down from the 2nd level to the beach.

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The sci-fi expo is showing off some of the best sci-fi movies of recent years! *snickers*

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As some of¬†you know, I did my BA in medieval history and so I know a bit about the construction of these sorts of structures. What I’m seeing here is that there was some sort of wooden construction jutting out of the stone foundation.

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The Mediterranean at Alicante is just…

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Ruins of Saint Barbara’s Hermitage.

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I thought this was a weird coincidence in that at this time two years ago, I was near Arco, Idaho, wandering through an equally amazing space

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It’s forbidden to feed the cats and the doves. Saw lots of gulls, but no doves…

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The hike down was hard on the knees. Just like after the climb in Old Kotor, I’m shocked that I wasn’t sore the next day!

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I may have yelled to this guy that he was doing a fine job with his painting…

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Ah, a dove!

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I was done by this point and just wanted to get in. I thought to stop at the market, but was disappointed to discover I’d missed my only chance as it closes at 2PM on Saturdays and is closed on Sundays.

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I made two stops before coming in. The first was at a fruit and vegetable store for a tomato and small cucumber, the other at the grocery store for ham, cheese, and yoghurt so I could have dinner in when I was ready for it. I am surprised that Spanish grocery prices appear to be low. Four single-serve containers of yoghurt were about 0.75CAD (about four times cheaper than in Assiniboia). A package of good ham was about 1.50CAD. A cheese similar to Boursin, which was 8CAD last time I didn’t buy any in Assiniboia, was just under 2CAD.

I came in and did more work, then made dinner. I have access to not just the kitchen here, but a whole cupboard full of spices and condiments! I had a few things in Sarajevo, but nothing like this, and I had to build a pantry from scratch in Bulgaria with not much available to me locally. So being able to not only pull out oil and vinegar last night to make a dressing from scratch, but also sugar, salt, oregano, garlic powder, and a few other things to make the dressing extra special felt like an incredible luxury.

Even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep that early, I went to bed around nine, just as the noise level in here started. I managed to fall asleep around eleven, was woken around one, then slept from two to four, five to eight, and 8:30 to ten. Not a great night… I have to leave early tomorrow, so I don’t expect much sleep again. It will be a relief to land in Almer√≠a!

It’s 1:30 on Sunday now. Nothing’s open at this hour on a Sunday, so I’m just going to wander around, find a nice lunch, and enjoy the Mediterranean sunshine. ūüôā