My Spanish story is divided into four parts, you can read the first part here ,
and now about the second part:
“The Visiting Period, aka. Still a Tourist”
Just a month after leaving Torrevieja and thinking Spain was not for me, my parents decided to move to Altea. Interesting... Let's be honest, I didn't need much convincing to go back and check out the new place. Altea was so much nicer, I couldn't stay away.
My visiting period lasted close to two years, before I actually moved there. In the first year, I flew back and forward 8 times to visit my parents, and see my cat, Beta. And the following year my brother, Ranko, moved there, so we drove through Europe to move him over to "the hot side" ;)
We started in Tallinn, Estonia, in winter, which meant packing all of Ranko's life into the car wasn't easy... For a guy, he still had a lot of stuff, mainly computer stuff. But hey, who am I to judge, I took 10 pairs of shoes with me for a two week trip. The car was so full that we were laughing that there wouldn't even be space for one more credit card.
First Stop: The ferry to Stockholm (Sweden), popping by Finland.
After almost missing the ferry, we were finally on and ready to say bye-bye to our dear Estonia. The ferries and ships going between Estonia-Finland-Sweden are always full of crazy-drunk people who have no idea what is going on... You can see from the photo above (first photo of the three small ones) a random guy hugging Ranko with a massive vodka bottle, he said he was searching for his friend... That was at about 10 pm. When we woke up at 8am he was still wandering around with the same bottle... We decided not to join the circus and have an early night. Okay, okay, we had a couple of drinks in the funniest on-board “nightclub”. There were some friends with us too who were going the same way until Germany, so it was a bit like Ranko's leaving “party”.
It was late winter, but like it usually is in Northen Europe the roads were still covered with snow, and I think it is still mandatory to have winter tyres until the 1st March, at least in Estonia and Sweden. We were a bit naughty and had summer tyres on already (as we were staying in Spain where winter tyres were not allowed). Sometimes leaving the ferry in Stockholm they check the coming cars for the tyres, but we were very lucky and didn't have any problems...Huuuuh, I was holding my breath for too long that morning.
We had some short stops in Sweden, but we didn't stay overnight, because we wanted to spend more time in places we hadn't been before. One of Ranko's friend's mum had packed us some sandwiches for the road trip, which I found extremely cute and funny (Yo, Lex!), however, it was probably the best meal I had in Sweden because we only stopped at petrol stations. The coolest part of the Sweden trip was crossing the bridge between Sweden and Denmark. It was so beautiful, I think it is totally possible to have a crush on a bridge. Now, years later, after watching one of my favourite TV series “The Bridge” (not the horrible American one, the original Swedish/Danish one), I am even more proud that I have been there.
Second Stop: The unknown scary place in Germany (the sausage country).
We stopped in different places in Germany for quick food breaks, and I was so disappointed everywhere... Like seriously, it was just mainly stews and sausages everywhere. I have a black belt in hating sausages. I was not happy. Finally, when we all got really tired in a random place and decided that it was time to find a place to sleep it wasn't as easy as we thought.
Our “weapons” the German speaking Ranko and Lehar where on the phone to about 10 of the closest hotels. NO ONE ANSWERS THE PHONE!? Umm... We had started to think that we would have to sleep in our cars... But then someone answered, we were saved.
We were "saved" indeed. I was sure that we wouldn't see the next sunrise. It felt exactly like in a scary movie, when a group of young people go to a random small village late one night. The hotel, if that is what you can call it, was as creepy as it gets. And that wasn't the worst part... We decided to go for a walk around the village a bit before sleep. Who had that stupid idea? Confess now! It was like a ghost town. There was a massive mysterious “building” in the middle of the village, walls so high that you coulnd't see what was going on in there... It looked interesting, so we tried to find the entrance... We only saw a lot of warning and stop signs... We walked all around it and still didn't get any more clues – these days we refer to this mystery “the place where they hide the bodies.”
But since I am writing about it now obviously nothing happened, and the biggest tragedy (for me) in the hotel was again the breakfast containing only 10 different types of sausages. From all the amazing hotels I've stayed at, I guarantee you that this weird one, I will remember for the rest of my life, not the fab ones.
Driving in Germany was fun and scary all at once, having no speed limits for the first time in our lives... Sounds more fun than it actually was. When you are not allowed to drive really really fast and you find a place where you know you won't get caught... You will love doing it. But when it is allowed, and 70-year-olds in Volvos that have seen at least 40 summers are driving past your reasonably fast car, you feel like your sweaty hands are going to just melt off the steering wheel. And the fact that when our car got serviced before leaving Estonia something went wrong was not helping. The lights were not calibrated, they were pointing downwards. So when it got a bit darker we saw only about 10 meters ahead and were guessing the turns from looking at the GPS. And also because the car was so full of stuff it was so heavy, it made it difficult to get a nice high speed and then again even more difficult to get it to stop fast when needed (especially with summer tyres on snow). But hey, we survived, and it was good practice for Spanish autopistas.
After Germany we said goodbye to the other guys and continued our trip, just the two of us, through Switzerland, Monaco, France and Barcelona.
I don't even want to spend my time on describing France, I will let Jeremy Clarkson (as we agree on many things) do it for me – quoting from his book, Motorworld: “Yes, to be born French really is to win second prize in the lottery of life. Your wife will have hairy armpits. You will have to speak in a stupid language, in which a table is somehow female. You will know that you have lost every war in which you’ve been involved for 900 years. You will be forced to eat horses and you will not be allowed to eliminate your taxes by moving to Monaco.”
Even though the “design” hotel in Cannes, with a pricetag of 200€ a night, didn't have a window in the room and there was a sign next to the bathroom's miniature window to keep it closed because of the local crime, I'm still excited to go to Paris one day, haha.
It is worth mentioning the third stop though: Barcelona.
My main goal in Barcelona was to visit the zoo. No shopping, no sightseeing, none of the usual stuff – I wanted to see the unique albino gorilla called Snowflakes. I had been waiting for it for ages. But there was a horrible “surprise” when we arrived at the gorilla cages. Unfortunately Snowflakes had passed away couple of years ago :(
I still sometimes google his photos, what a cutie pie.
I loved the hotel in Barcelona – Barcelo Raval. It had everything. And when you are exhausted from travelling and driving all the time, you don't want to go look for a place to have a decent drink or a good meal. Everything was better than expected; you can get everything in one hotel, the views of the city, great music, delicious food and even a little party vibe.
This trip was totally different; I'm a bit sad that we didn't take more photos and didn't go to more places, but that wasn't really the plan anyway. The plan was to get to Altea as fast as possible, and that was an adventure of its own to come. If selfies and Instagram would've been in fashion then I would probably have 100 times more photos ;)
The closer we got to Altea, the more the annoying lady on Tom Tom made us turn closer to the destination, the more, and more and more and more, reality started to hit us (mainly Ranko) – it was hasta la vista baby to Estonia. This was home now. Spain was home now for Ranko.
With the quite noticeable music system in the car, we decided to celebrate with some Estonian national songs (“Koit” etc.)– don't ask. Haha, it was just too hilarious.
Since Ranko had never been to Altea or even Costa Blanca before we spent weeks doing just pure tourist stuff.
The Motorcycle Museum, Guadalest, Fonts del Algar, different zoos, and more.
The first time, like always, going to these places was amazing... breathtaking views and all new and exciting experiences. Later, when I was also living there and took all my friends visiting one by one to the same places, I stopped appreciating all these things. Now writing this story 5 years later from rainy London makes me realise how stupid I was.
Time went by fast and soon it was time for me to go back to Estonia. This time, totally alone.
End of Part 2.
I can say as a hint that it was the last time I was leaving Spain and my family for Estonia – Part 3 of 'My Spain' is coming soon...
Meanwhile, you can check out more photos of my Spain on our Pinterest page http://www.pinterest.com/puravidalondon/marias-spain/