Bilbao and Tex Perkins

Arived in Bilbao on Sunday night pouring with rain. Discovered our hostel was well on the outskirts of town and so had our first night in.

Easter Monday in Bilbao was a ghost town. Hardly anyone about and most of the bars and places to eat were closed. Bit of a dissapointment after the edible delights of Sans Sebastian. Shitty hostel beds gave Simon a really bad back which meant I spent most of the day trying to drag him around town, not there was much to see anyway. Decided to head back to the hostel and have another evening of rest. Dragged the mattress of the bed onto the floor so Simon could get a better rest.

Tuesday morning Simon's back somewhat better so we tackle our main reason for coming here - The Guggenheim. A fabulous building of curved titanium tiles sitting next to the river. Inside went to their long gallery on the ground floor, apparenty longer than a football pitch. The room was filled with gigantic steel sculptures formed into metal mazes with the perspective changing curving towards or away from you as you walk into it, messing with your perception of space, light and sound. Simon couldn't resist an Aussie "Coo-Eee".

We were a bit dissapointed that the permanent Guggenheim exhibition was quite small with most of the gallery space given away to a Russian Exhibition. However this was bloody fantastic too with lots of Soviet era paintings, Kanidinsky and then some weird modernist stuff amongst others. One of our favourites was a video of Lenin turning in his grave.

It was in the weird modernist section that I clocked the face (and body) of someone familiar. Tex Perkins. Australina Rock Legend Sex God!!! I took a sharp intake of breath and hurried of to find Simon who verrified it was actually him. We had read that Beasts of Bourbon are playing around Spain this month. Shaking too much to be brave enough to approach him myself I got Simon to do my dirty work. He approached introduced himself which allowed me to nervously smile and shake his hand too. I'm not washing for a week! Looked at some other stuff after that but can cause I was too excited about Tex. So a dissapointing start to Bilbao but a bloody fantastic end!

Donostia or San Sebastian

We had a fantastic time in Donostia, a lovely town on the Basque coast. Arriving on a train in the early morning drizzle wasn't ideal, but things quickly got better. After a short rest, we headed into the old town and stuffed ourselves on amazing Pintxos (tapas), hopping from bar to bar. Donostia is great for this as each bar has different specialties, and it's accepted that you hop from bar to bar. Cidra (cider) is served in a uniquely Basque way, poured as far from the glass so as to aerate the drink as much as possible, and no more than about two centimetres poured per serve to keep it fresh.

The sun came out in the afternoon so we found some beers and crisps and headed to the beach. To our surprise, Tor and Hannah who we'd met at one of writer Peter Moore's events, were there on the beach! We ended up spending the evening hanging out with them, doing the bar hop and Pintxos thing.

After Tor and Hannah had left, Holly and I wandered around town and were on our last beer when we heard a Basque choir singing and went to watch. Holly asked someone to explain the songs to her, and we landed in with a group including a couple consisting of a Basque woman who speaks English in a cross of Edinburgh and Belfast accents and a Basque speaking guy from Belfast. We chatted away and they dragged us off to a few more bars, including one frequented by Basque seperatists, complete with pictures of political prisoners. Great fun.

The following day, still nursing a hangover, we met up with our new friends to go out to one of the amazing cider barns they have in the Basque country. Here you get a stack of brilliant food and all the sidra you can drink, pouring and drinking in the typical Basque way to ensure maximum aeration.

So Donostia, great place. I highly recommend it! Thanks to Mark and Maite, thanks for showing us around.

Catalan Food

Posting this from Bilbao but need to get it out before I forget it all.

We had a fantastic food experience in Barcelona. Lots of tasty tapas stuff, but the place that really shined was off the beaten track and we discovered only late at night. We had some excellent sardines, a first for Holly, and spicy potatoes. It was so good we went back for more.

The second night, we went for the daily special, which turned out to be a meat mountain. Chops, morcilla which is black pudding, ribs, sausages, roasted peppers. Incredible. There should be a picture in our photos, which I would link to except this keyboard has none of the keys in the place marked and no way of changing keyboard layout to something sane.

One of the great things they do is Catalan bread. Toasted bread is served with a garlic clove and tomatoes. You slive the garlic and tomato in half and rub the bread in garlic. Then you smear the tomato over the top. Beatiful!

Finally uploaded some photos

We caught the overnight train from Barcelona to San Sebastian last night. Slept in our six-berth sleeper, which was quite pleasant.

We've finally found an Internet cafe we can upload photos from. They're still going up but you can see them here

Business at the back, party at the front

Geo: 41.38788,2.20392
Business at the back, party at the front

We've been in Barcelona since Monday night and in our first twenty-four hours, we spotted at least forty Iberimullets. It's certainly a popular haircut around these parts.

I haven't got my phone connected to the net just yet, so the attached photo is from Wikipedia and the location is approximate.

Barcelona is a beautiful city and the weather is fantastic! 20-22 degrees every day so far, with clear skies.

The most impressive site so far has been Antoni Gaudi's under-construction Sagrada Familia modernist church. The amazing thing about this church is the way the disparate elements of the design work together so perfectly. The guy was definitely a genius!

Tomorrow we're heading out of town to the mountain monastery of Montserrat, accessible by train then cable car. In the evening we catch an overnight train to San Sebastian in the Basque country.

Staying at Pyrland

Geo: 51.550611,-000.087570
Staying at Pyrland

We're spending the week at Scott and Katie's place in North London.

This is my shiny new moblog thingy. You'll notice I've got a link at the top of the post where you can see the location of the blog post. Groovy eh? This is via a little Python app on my mobile that talks to my gps and a little Perl hackery with my blog.

I'll be blogging this way while we're travelling around for the next eight months. Starting next Monday. Can't wait!

Phone for travel

In case you don't know, Holly and I are heading off travelling around Europe in April. We're planning to be on the road up to eight months, so I've been doing some research into communications on the road.

Mobile phone companies are making ridiculous amounts of money from what they charge for roaming. Text messages cost 30p and data can weigh in at £16 a megabyte!

After rather a lot of hunting around, I've found there are other options. In fact, some of these options are worth considering for UK residents anyway as they're cheaper than most pay as you go tarrifs. Prices are in Euro unless otherwise specified.

I'm going to get two SIM cards, one for Holly and one for me.

My one is the GT-9 which costs €39 and gives you a UK mobile number. It does 26 cent/min calls to landlines (worldwide) and 9 cent SMS. It also allows data, so we can check our email and browse web. Downside is you pay for incoming calls (38 cent/min) while you're outside the UK and it has limited coverage so a couple of our destinations aren't covered: Belarus, Ukraine.

This would be worth exploring even if you live in the UK and don't travel all that much. 9 cent SMS, 26 cent/min calls to landlines or 39 cent/minute to mobiles is certainly cheaperthan Orange's 10p, 20p and 40p, what's more those rates are for calls and texts to anywhere in the world!

For Holly's phone, we'll get United Mobile for £29 which gives you a Liechenstein number. This has free incoming calls in all the places we'll be visiting (except Gibraltar, Ukraine and Liechenstein), coverage everywhere though in the abovementioned and some other places you need to pay for incoming, 49 cent SMS, 39 cent/min calls to Australia and UK or 59 cent/min calls to Australia and UK mobiles.

This way we've got coverage in all the places we're gonna be, can make calls at quite reasonable rates and can receive calls free (the caller needs to call Liechenstein, but the rate for people in Australia is the same as calling a UK mobile). Most importantly, SMS will be cheaper than it is in the UK and I imagine that's what we'll be using most.

Back from Ireland

Got back from 9 days' holiday in Ireland spent with Holly and Mum. What a fantastic trip! Essentially we saw all of the northern half of Ireland. Loads of neolithic passage tombs: Ireland appears to have some of the best in the world. Also enjoyed the black cab tour around the Catholic and Protestant areas of Belfast.

Off to work now, so more later including pictures.