A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: desiallstar

Views from the +44 / Same Same But Different

Backpacking is the marathon race from city to city although realistically it's more like an 800m sprint at this point. We've met some people who are on the true marathon backpacking 9 months hitting up a multitude of countries and experiencing a variety of different flavours. I've always been more of a short distance runner and in the travel sense I don't think that's changed much, 17 days after no real long term exursions feels like an eternity away from the comforts of home. That being said, it's been a wild last 7 days travelling from Sevilla to Valencia and finally in our last destination Barcelona.

Valencia was great, we got to finally enjoy some true rest and relaxation and mixed up the hostel life with an Airbnb, sprawling over a bed bigger than a single and not worrying about waking someone else up when looking in your bag for a midnight snack. Valencia was definitely the underdog of the trip with completely unexpected views and an architectural scene that makes the Skydome look miniscule. Coming from the cold cold corridors of Toronto, Ontario where winters never seemed to end, the translucent blue waters and coastline beaches bordering the sea were nothing but welcoming. The beach was sprawled with 4 km of warm sand under your feet and hoards of sunbathers (we tried to sunbathe and all four of us genius medical students were a toasty crisp the next day bathing in aloe vera).
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Barcelona, unlike Valencia, was the leading contender and hence saved to conquer for the end. At first the city was underwhelming, it was just a lot of gridlike neighborhoods with toursity attractions and vendors selling the same trinkets and ham sandwhiches every 5 metres. But there's a reason they say to explore a city you really need a lot more than a stopover. After a day of wandering the streets day 2 was set out to conquer Barcelona and find out what really makes it special. The Sagrada familia is this massive church which won't be done till 2026 but was breathtaking to see the work that's gone into it so far as it towers over the other buildings. As we walked about the subtle nuances of Barcelona's flavour began to arise. From Goudi's fairy tale houses that break the harsh straight lines and add waves to the balconies to etched walkways with intricate designs.
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Once again, we've been epically fortunate to have bathed in the deeply rooted soccer scene of Spain, first having spent time in Sevilla when they won the Europa cup. It just so happened that Barcelona won against Sevilla in the Copa Del Ray cup and boy was it a celebration! But this time instead of sprawling to the streets Barcelona was nice enough (or just had enough $$$) to call its fans for a double cup celebration in the stadium. The stadium was prepped with enough fireworks to give Canada day a run for its money and the stadium was ripped with cheering fans that I've only ever experienced while playing FIFA. Walking back at around 12 am the night was still young and we decided to join the hostel pub crawl and it just so happened to be at a hip hop bar. I felt like home :). As a devoted Canadian, there is nothing more comforting than watching Americans, Europeans and the group of South Africans absolutely jamming to tracks by our very own Justin Beiber and Weeknd and meticulously spitting out lyrics to Drake's Controlla.
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As our trip winded down we decided to embrace the cities viewpoints. When in a foreign place do as the locals do. We had several recommendations to hit up the bunkers for the best view point. After 9 wrong turns and unncessary climbed stairs we finally amassed up the hills to sit atop a deserted bunker amongst a multitude of locals literally just chilling with wine and beer in hand waiting for the sun to drop behind the mountains and for the city to illuminate. This is where, for me at least, the fascination of backpacking lies. I've never yet been to an all inclusive sort of vacation but to be able to engage with the locals and trek up unknown hills and partake in their customs with some of the greatest viewpoints the city has to offer. We take pictures as best we can, but the feeling is unreplicable. The fresh air atop the elevation, spotfiy filling the air with some tunes in the background and deep conversation with longtime friends while staring off into the microcausm of the city. "Feels"

Unplanned aside from a flight into Madrid and out of Barcelona, this trip came together like a perfect stitch. Although not like the Zindigi Na Milegi Dobara movie it was just as exciting to travel across cultures within Spain and get a brief glimpse into a world outside the GTA. My only regret is not learning spanish, with high hopes to have mastered the language within 17 days, the ease of pointing to things and communicating with verbal cues made getting our way around just a tad bit easy. Hopefully the next trip into a Spanish region will evolve past the Ola's and Gracias.

I'm not sure where this blog will go from here and have absolutely no idea about where I'd like to go next. India has always been on my hitlist and I haven't been back in about 18 years. I do know I want something different, perhaps a safari adventure or learning a new sport? In the meantime I'm a month away from starting my new career as a resident physician so I'm very excited to see what adventures that brings about and finally discover the hidden secrets that Toronto has to offer.

/Stay tuned and as always thanks for reading!

Posted by desiallstar 08:38 Archived in Spain Tagged #beaches #eurotrip #spain #vijilante #barceloan #valencia Comments (0)

A lot of cathedrals with a side of tired feet por favour

sunny 30 °C

Hello again readers and thank you once again for sharing my travel experiences.

Boy has it been a whirlwind, we're 9 days into our 17 day journey and it actually feels like I've been in vacation for an eternity. After leaving Madrid we've had the chance to drop into Cordoba are almost done our 4 day stop over in Sevilla which is in the south of Spain.

First off I did promise a review of Madrid which I'll go over. In retrospect Madrid was a great city to orient ourselves to Spain, a bit torusity for my taste but a great city nonetheless. We had the chance to explore art museums which were cool to stroll around but I'm definitely more a fan of the modern installation type art of the Sofie versus the Catholic inspired classics of the Prado. The stadium trip was the definite highlight of the trip. I love to play sports but watching sporting events (aside from the Raptors kicking ass this year which ive been able to tune into thanks to the semi decent wifi in Spain at 3 am) isn't my thing. But even just playing soccer and never having watched a Real Madrid game i was in total awe of the actual stadium and the AV component as you strolled through the leagues championship history.

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In terms of day trips the ride to Toledo was only an hour and the views from Toledo make it all Worthwhile, once inside the actual town I found the exhibits to be less amazing especially considering the future sights we had to visit. If you have the time i would also recommend Segovia which is an hour and a half away and the aqueduct is actually a pretty cool sight to see. Madrid itself was in the midst of the San Isidro festival and along with our amazing new friends from Australia (shout out to Susan our new med student colleague from Melbourne) we were instantly networked with people around the world sharing the love for travel. The spurs fan from France, the Bolivian born software engineer working in Milan, the American tv loving Mexican, our friend in the NGO from Calgary and finally the two Argentinan woman who knew not a word of English but we're still great to party with.

As we took the Socibus to the south this was definitely my kind of flavour. We left the strictly Catholic inspired Spaniard architecture for a more fusion flavour between the Moorish and Catholics for a really eloquently flavoured style. In Cordoba which is a small city on the way to Seville, yanbo was enjoying some escarot as we finally got to baste in some nice 30 degree sunshine and enjoy the views of lavender trees and oranges hanging off branches. Definitely a game changer from the lovely rain we had gotten accustomed to. The Mezquita in Cordoba did not disappoint and was absolutely massive. It was quite a sight to see the Christan chapel built right within the Mosque still adhering to its original infrastructure. The mosque with its horizontal walls and arched ceilings creating a feeling of closeness in contrast the the sheer vastness and exquisite design of the Cathedral almost flaunting it's character.

Seville has been a sort of fusion between the two cities with a dynamic church setup with strong Moorish influences and a plethora of food options. Tapas are finally starting to make sense. We've transitioned to large breakfasts and lunches (Spain literally has some of the greatest thin crust pizza I have had in my entire life Snapchat-1..49189540164.jpg) and return back to the hostel in an attempt to avoid the blistering sun for a siesta. We then recover around 10 pm and regain composure to grab a little bite around various tapa bars around town.

Zindigi Na Milegi Debora has a few major scenes which I had desired to play out during my own little adventure. Although the bull run or tomatina likely won't make the cut I did have the opportunity to witness a local Flamenco performance! Coming from a bhangra background I really didn't expect much from this dance known as the Flamenco, it wasn't even closely related to what I listen to on Spotify... As we strolled into the bar at 10 pm Yanbo had somehow snagged seats behind the performing stage and we were quickly introduced to three male individuals. Person numero 1 was the amazing guitarist, person 2 was our gifted vocalist and person 3 remained a mystery. The guitarist and vocalist immediate warmed the crowd and dropped me into a trance with musical styles reimincing of qawali music I often heard through my father's playlist or through bollywood movies. The second act comprised of our mystery 3rd gentleman with the beard and curly hair starting a beat by clapping his hands which I was frustratingly (being a percussionist in the past) unable to pick up, it was so unique and raw I had no idea what the rhythm was. Seconds later the performer hopped on the stage and in a tap dance like fashion began to literally rock the stage with a series of spin moves and toe stomping (tap dancing on steroids as I like to refer to it) in liaison with the vocalist and guitarist in perfect unison. For those thst are in the area I highly recommend la carboneria for some amazing performances that will leave you satisfied of your Seville experiences!!!

The Alcazar of Seville was another awe inspiring monument telling of Spain's rich (literally things adored in gold) history. Strolling through its majestic gardens I was taking in the cool architecture of the landscape and Royal quarters. As any brown person there's a few things that get us excited right away; butter chicken, drum beats, spicy foods, anything designed with paisley (ambiyan) and of course peacocks. Naturally as I was strolling through these gardens I came face to face with a male peacock in all its glory and my excitement level went through the roof as I felt I had transported to my mother land (weird considering how I hadn't even been there in 18 years, are peacocks in India even a thing???!) despite this, I paraded around the peacock adoring in selfies and appreciating the really cool bird.

As we near the midway point of the trip I can definitely say I am cathedraled out but do look forward to the trip to the coastline and waters of Valencia and Barcelona where we reunite with two of our classmates Haroun and Mike!

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Stay tuned Chicos!

Posted by desiallstar 10:50 Archived in Spain Tagged seville toledo medical backpacking sevilla cordoba student segovia Comments (0)

Ola Ola Coca-Cola

For some reason I never get to blog as much as I intend to but nevertheless day 3 of our travels brings upon a new reflection.

The efficiencies of medical school have carried over to the vacation as it looks like we've almost conquered the adventures of Madrid from a sightseeing point of view. They say there's a difference between the wandering traveller that comes in for a dip to experience a new city and the traveller that stays and embraces the culture and tradition the city has to offer. I believe we've mastered the tourist life of Madrid but have barely scratched or understand what it means to be a "Madrid-ian".

As you stroll the streets of downtown there are striking similarities between Madrid and the rest of the major Metropolitan centres of the world; street performers,"I am a girl" donation seekers, bustling Zara and H&M stores and burger kings galore. But mixed in with the common is the not so common. You'll be hard pressed to find an automatic car on the streets or the well known Mazda's and Toyota's of North America and are instead greeted by the Renault's and Opel's of the European world encircling their endless roundabouts and plazas de_____(insert famous person here).

Food here is backwards and complex. First off, not entirely sure the Spaniards embrace the culture of whole wheat anything, breakfast is often black coffee and a scrumptious pastry or churro (could just be a touristy thing). Lunch here is often the largest of the days meals during the "siesta" when families can dine together. In medical school I had mastered the 5 minute scarf your sandwich down between OR cases and dictations (unless you were on family where you had a pleasent 2 hour lunch) and in Madrid the lunch never ends. Lunch is a 3 course affair with copious amounts of bread and olive oil accompanied by a large appetizer, a second course of a main meat (usually involving some sort of ham or jamun) or fish dish and finally a third course of dessert and espresso. Talk about itis. My GI system was not ready for this afternoon carb loading. What struck me was the diligence of the wait staff. Unlike North America the staff is in no rush to turn around a table. Eating at hakka food joints in Toronto the main meal can show up before your appetizer but here in Madrid the waiter won't even think about bringing the next course until everyone on the table is done the previous course.

Dinner is a more complex issue, this epic idea of tapas. Rumour has it that back in the day the king was very fond of wine but also experienced reflux (my long lost twin) otherwise known as GERD (gastroesophgeal reflux disease #nerdstatus). To combat this the physician at the time had prescribed a tiny meal alongside each glass of wine and tapas were invented! Dinner here is a tapas affair, the more to share the better. Spain culture has it that at the more traditional places (El Tigre in Madrid) you walk in and are rushed over to thr bar and order a cervezo (beer) or via (wine) and are then given your drink. Seconds later they are piling food on your table ranging from potatoes to chicken wings to ham and bread, the more stingy places at least give you chips. The idea is to share a meal and have drinks with friends and family in a festive environment with a bunch of different tastes. We're still getting used to this whole idea and figuring out which tapas are better than others slash suit our taste buds. A palate designed for the mirch and masala associated with Indian cuisine or the siracha and taco bell hot sauce culture of Toronto create a struggle with Spanish cuisine which leads itself to a different set of ingredients.

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Events done so far:
Day 1: walking tour of the city to get accustomed to Madrid followed by the Plado Museum in the evening
Day 2: Real Madrid stadium in the morning followed by people watching and a trip to the Sofie modern art museum in the evening
Day 3: Day trip to Segovia looking at the amazing Cathedrals, Alcazar and UNESCO heritage Roman aqueducts
Day 4: Bullfighting museum in the morning, Royal Palace in the afternoon followed by San Isidro festivities at night
Tomorrow's plan: Day trip to Toledo!

Stay tuned for a more in depth look at our favourite and not so favourite attractions!

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Posted by desiallstar 09:19 Archived in Spain Tagged medical prado madrid travelling student tapas sofie Comments (0)

Harold and Kumar go to Spain

"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass... It's about learning to dance in the rain"

It's been a crazy week to say the least. The Canadian licensing exam is finally over and left most of us writing it feel slightly inadequate, nonetheless it's over. The whiff of fresh air and a blast of sunshine after walking out of that exam was a welcome relief. Coupled with the small stress of the exam was the unfortunate passing of my beloved grandfather this last week. He was quite an amazing man and it was humbling to see the support of both friends and family over the last week in helping with everything from food arrangements and warm prayers for our family. Being in the field of medicine does help with the understanding of the loss and to help rationalize the body's failure to cope with crucial systems losing their function but doesn't do much to help with the emotional blow as families enter the grieving process. To go from laughter to tears and back to laughter, cyclically through the course of the week was a powerful sentiment to experience.

Famous physician author Atul Gawande once wrote
"In the end, people don't view their life as merely the average of all its moments—which, after all, is mostly nothing much plus some sleep. For human beings, life is meaningful because it is a story. A story has a sense of a whole, and its arc is determined by the significant moments, the ones where something happens."

As we celebrate the life of my grandfather and talk about his stories at the dinner table it's now time to create some worthy memories that I hope to one day share myself. The journey is now under way as I sit here in JFK awaiting the next leg of our flight amidst the thousands of travellers each looking to craft their own memories.

This trip is definitely less planned than I would have liked but it's also exciting to be walking into a new country with an open itinerary for the most part. Yanbo and I have our hostels hooked and nothing else and we may plan something on this next 8 hour flight or just pass out and get some rest before our 9 am arrival in Madrid.

The working itinerary:
Madrid until the 15th
Cordoba for a night
Seville for 5 days
Valencia for 2 days
Finale in Barcelona for 4 days

Here's to new adventures, travel friendships and a lot of selfies.

Stay tuned!
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Posted by desiallstar 15:13 Tagged barcelona medical spain madrid school travelling jfk Comments (1)

Round 2!

One journey is over, the next is yet to begin

I'm back!

After a 3 year hiatus and on the verge of finishing up medical school at McMaster University it's time for some travels. These last three years have flown by so fast and unfortunately outside of Chicago and a brief 2 day stint in Calgary haven't had much time to explore any new destinations. The last trip to Thailand / Cambodia / Berlin / Amsterdam was a celebration of getting into medical school and embarking on a once in a lifetime journey. It's hard to imagine it flew by so fast and I'll now be starting residency in July at the University of Toronto in Family Medicine, super excited about that! What's the best way to celebrate? Of course with another one of those once in a lifetime travel plans.

Last time there was a lot of debate as to where to plan our vacation and we ended up choosing Southeast Asia and parts of Germany for our trip but we had been highly considering Spain at the time. This last few weeks a lot of ideas were thrown around and at one point it was more frustrating to choose a destination because it seemed as if there was no perfect spot to go visit (on top of all the exam preparation, and the 9999 forms needed to fill out for residency). India was on the list initially until my travel mate pointed out it's probably going to be about 45 degrees and full of monsoons so that was off the table. Next up we had Mexico where we had planned to backpack from Mexico City to Cancun over three weeks which we thought was pretty badass secondary to a ridiculously cheap flight for $370 courtesy of yyzdeals.com, but with the recent questionable zika developments and the questionable safety of Mexico (which from reading actually looks like its not as much an issue if you keep your head down and don't attract unnecessary attention) we had decided to stay astray. Option numero 3 (but was really #1 the whole time) was Spain. Spain has for some reason been on my radar for the last 5 years ever since the movie Zindigi Na Milegi Dobara came out in 2011 and I had this internal inkling to jump on that expedition. As we sat in class last week, my travel mate, Yanbo (further introductions to come in the future) and I pulled open our laptops, searched for some fares and made a semi-YOLO decision and booked flights into Madrid and out of Barcelona. I finish my exam on May 6th and May 9th will be heading out for this 17 day journey, returning a comfortable 2 hours the night before we have graduation :/. Cozy.

The excitement factor is on the rise day to day as I read more and more blogs from fellow global travelers and provides a good outlet for exam time stress.

There's a few minor hurdles until this big trip begins and then this blog will be in full swing.

1) Buy a backpack (wasn't a real fan of my old 70L pack, it was too bulky so I had to sell it off)
2) Pass the exam (should really be priority #1)
3) Start booking hostels...and trains...and buses...the excitement begins

Stay Tuned!

Below: a still from the movie, must watch if you haven't already!
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Posted by desiallstar 05:26 Comments (0)

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