Sunday, November 1, 2009

Day 35 - Making The Best Of A Non-Ideal Situation

Greetings from Espana everyone!

In hindsight, I probably should have combined this one with the last post, but since we're already here, let's go for it. Up to this point of the trip, I've had exceptionally good fortune with my train schedule and moving efficiently from place to place.  While I still have not had big problems, down here in the southern part of the continent, the rail has not been quite as kind.

I prefer buying a berth on a couchette and taking the night trains to eliminate useless travel during the day that keeps me from sightseeing, but for whatever reason, this little stretch of 3 or 4 stops starting with Provence has not had that option.  So in order to get from Avignon to Barcelona, Spain, I had to leave mid day.  Not a big deal but it kind of put a hit on what I could do.  So, rather than wait for my train in Avignon, I decided to go see another small town in Provence that was on the way, Nimes (pronounced Neem).  If you remember, Nimes is the town that the Pont du Gard provided water for.  It was a very big deal in Roman times and was the capital of the province in Southern France (or Gaul as it was called back then).

Here's a shot on the train going from Avignon to Nimes.  Down here, if you don't have a scenic bridge with a beautiful river flowing through lush greenery they revoke you township papers and you become the dreaded backwater hamlet where "those people" live.

This is what happens when there aren't a ton of pictures to show for the post.  You get shots of trees and a nice street.  .

Little better this time as we are seeing a shot of one of the main squares heading into Nimes.  I'm afraid you're going to see more of the same as yesterday as Nimes is also known for it's Roman ruins (albeit better than Arles).

From what I've read, to the left you are looking at the most complete Roman coliseum or amphitheater in the world.  It's obviously not as big as the one in Rome, but it gets points for not having a huge chunk off the top lopped off.

Here it is in all of its glory.  It's a fairly complete structure, even at the top.  Like most of these buildings, this was used for any number of activities that revolved around permanently maiming (Spectators at event:  ehh) or hopefully killing something (Spectators at event:  woo hoo!!).

Since I was in transition between cities, I had to have all my luggage with me.  Unfortunately, Nimes train station was sans storage lockers, so I got an unexpected workout walking around town and even climbing to the top of this big daddy with my 35-40 lb pack.  This is why I have lost 5-10  lbs on this trip even though I have made it a rule to eat dessert 2-3 times a day.  Despite the workout, I have confidently concluded that this is a way better alternative dieting regimen than say, oh I don't know, perhaps having your mouth wired shut for three weeks.

Here's the inside. I was so tempted to pull a Maximus Decimus Meridius here and go down there and yell, "ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED??!!" and then throw my water bottle into the stands, but I didn't think anybody would get, most of them not speaking English and all  (and for all you unfortunate Americans who also don't get it, this is from Gladiator.  Get with the times people).

This is the Maison Carre, which is one of the best preserved Roman temples in the world.  It was built in 16 BC.  In one of the more curious moves on my trip here, they have turned the inside into a movie theater where they have short kid aimed shows about ancient Nimes.  I would have given you a shot of the front, but true to form, it was, surprise!, being remodeled.

Considering I only had about 3 hours before I had to hit my train, I thought I did a good job of seeing the sights.  After that I hopped on board and took off for Spain, specifically Barcelona.  I wasn't going to arrive until around 10 PM so I didn't get to do much.  Here's another shot out the train window.  I've really had some beautiful scenery just about everywhere I've been.

So I finally make it into town and to my hostel by 10:30 or so.  Since I hadn't eaten in 8 whole hours (How did I survive?) I was famished so I went to the main drag in Barcelona, La Ramblas, and went looking for supper (that's for Cuzick).  Let it not be said that I have not been open to trying new things on this trip.  Probably the most popular style of food here are tapas bars (places that serve you a bunch of different appetizer type food where you pick and choose what you want).  Well, I was in the middle of some chorizzo and rice, some really unique tasting fries, and some kind of chicken thing, when I noticed this.  The owner of the restaurant was a really nice guy so he made me up a plate after I told him I'd never had grilled squid before.  Once you move past the fact that this thing would still be able to look you in the eye (with his or hers) if it was alive, it tastes quite good.

So tomorrow is the full onslaught of Barcelona including one of the highlights of my trip, a match of European futbol.  Stay tuned. . .