Sunday, November 30, 2014

Spanish Lessons

On the way to Cordoba

My solo trip in Spain was chock full of discoveries, lots about how to travel, some of why to travel and some about managing anxiety in situations when you’re alone and afraid. Take a deep breath and slow the hell down.


Traveling light is a big part of making travel work, I’m not John Farnsworth who travels for months with a man purse, but I have made inroads in the make it easy on yourself part of wandering. It’s just two bags now, a carry-on backpack and one decidedly smaller checked bag than before. I’m down to two lenses for my DSLR with two pocket cameras as back-ups. That said I missed a tripod on a couple of occasions, flash too.

My kit at Estacio Sants, Barcelona

I suppose the full tilt boogie is still two DSLR bodies, plus an additional longer lens, the tripod and a flash. Then again, the other paradigm would be a big sensor compact camera with an even smaller one as a back-up plus a small tripod and flash. Oh, and the computer, that’s a whole other thing. It can be smaller but isn’t expendable just yet. Two portable hard drives, one for back-up, are de rigueur. Never again will I lose a month of photographs.

With my new Sony RX100 II I may be on to something. That compact little unit has 20MP resolution and decent sensor size. All the Marseille fish market shots were shot at an ISO of 400 with the RX100 and my first largish print of 12”x18” showed no degradation whatsoever. Someday soon somebody will introduce a camera I can stick in the front pocket of my Levis, one that has a full size sensor and let’s say a 24mm to 120mm zoom at a continuous f.2.8 or faster. There’s a Nobel Prize awaiting that somebody I reckon.

When I can carry on the whole shebang I'll have reached some kind of nirvana. 

High Speed AVE trains before lift-off. That's Malaga I think.

My second class cabin on the way to Seville.

I learned that public transportation in Spain is the way to go.  Renfe trains are spacious and modern; and go wicked fast between the major hubs like Barcelona and Madrid. They’re twice as fast a car and you can relax the whole trip. And the added bonus is that Second Class is virtually as nice as First Class. There’s absolutely no reason not to go coach. And the next time you’re going to flag a cab from the airport to El Centro think again and catch the handy dandy downtown bus. From Marseille airport I took the commodious non-stop bus to the train station downtown for 8.20 Euros. A taxi was 50 Euros. And, speaking of trains, Madrid’s Atocha station was a short two blocks from my two star hotel the Mediodia. That means no taxi or bus and no tips either.

My Hotel Mediodia from Atocha Station, Madrid.

The Mediodia at $70 per.

And on the subject of stars or lack thereof I’m on Team Cheapo from now on.  My no star in Cordoba, the charming Antigua Convento at $65 a night, was perfecto. It boasted a lovely courtyard and included a served breakfast. A scant two blocks and two right turns and I arrived at La Mezquita. The two star Hotel Sevilla at $95 in, you guessed it, Seville was equally charming and it included breakfast, as well. Outside the major cities accommodations cost less so I sprung for a three star in Girona at $75 per. Breakfast another 12 Euros. That’s where they get you. My hostel El Caballo Andaluz in Gaucin was $75 a night with an alleged breakfast of a piece of toast and coffee. On the other hand I had a huge room with three twin beds. My student housing in Barcelona was another $75 with breakfast and while as plain as a minimum security prison was actually a one bedroom apartment replete with kitchen. Four blocks from the beach to boot.

Hotel Sevilla, Seville.

Hotel Sevilla, Seville.

Breakfast at El Antiguo Convento, Cordoba

With such excellent public transportation there’s little need to drive. So in my eighteen days I drove in the countryside for 2-1/2 of them. If I’d tried harder I imagine that I could have found a bus to Gaucin but the backroads were therapeutic. On the flip side retracing my steps back to the train station in teaming Malaga was hell.  If a thoughtful Spanish gentleman hadn’t literally gotten into the passenger seat with me to show me the way I’d still be circling the city like Charlie on the MTA. It was the closest I had to a panic moment the whole trip and underscored why they shouldn’t let me drive in cities.

You can still work the tapas game to eat on the cheap though I think it’s getting harder. My least expensive meal of the trip was a $6 lunch of a tapa of sliced chorizo, a tapa of excellent paella, pan con Jamon de Serrano and a draft beer at a bar on upscale Via Castellano.  The beer was a buck which sure does keep the tab down. And it was a block from Calle Atocha and just across from El Prado.

A tapas lunch in Madrid

Paella tapa at the above establishment

I had hoped to live on $100 a day but fell far short most days. If I could wangle a room for $65-$75 including breakfast I had a shot at the hundred. And if I didn’t seek out really good restaurants the target would have been more likely.  But that might not be living if you know what I mean.


4 comments:

Daryl Black said...

We definitely need sherpas. I had a fairly deep abrasion in my left shoulder after fifteen days of carrying both cameras and lenses through Europe. Since then, like you, I have been pondering my packup as well. Perhaps we should hire ourselves out to camera bag companies to test their equipment. But I digress...

Today's blog is filled with juicy nuggets of language and photography. The high speed train photograph in Malaga should go in your street photography book. And of course, your cerveza and paella tapa photograph is a beauty. Great selfie too!

Never doubt you have provided many with a lens into Espana that otherwise would not be seen. Muchisimas gracias!

Steve Immel said...

De nada, chica.

Afarnsworthaday.wordpress.com said...

A DSLR, two lenses and two pocket cameras for a selfie? :-)
You forgot my "stupid vest" and iPad.
Still, another great post, as were the Internment Camp Series, the Little White Church, and my favorite, the Lubina of Malaga. Oh, you've made me homesick for EspaƱa!
John "Juanderlust" Farnsworth

Anonymous said...

I loved reading all the travel tips .... now if you could just help me pare down my plein air oil painting kit .......