Essential travel tip #1 – Drying clothes

When traveling, one often has to wash clothes in a sink and dry them. Most travel guides recommend bring your own universal drain plug, which we did. This was helpful. I don’t know why some drains lack plugs, but nevertheless…

Drying clothes can be difficult. High humidity in Thailand can keep clothes wet for days, even with a fan blowing right on them. This tips will not magically dry your clothes, but it will get them close much faster than wringing alone.

My dad taught me this. Beverly and I marvel at it every day. Wash your clothes. Fold, roll, and wring out in sink. Then, and this is the tip, fold them in your towel and walk on them. It has to be the pounds per square inch of your body weight versus the amount of pressure your hands can generate by wringing, but this will save at least an hour on the clothesline.

Thanks, Dad!

Thanks to our sponsors

I want to share the indispensable items that made my trip so much easier. These are items I appreciated time and again and recommend whole-heartedly to traveler.

REI Adventures Pants & Shorts. Very easy to clean, quick dry, lightweight, and three hidden zipper pockets for valuables.
REI Sahara Tee. Comfortable, wicking, easy to wash and dry.
Gregory Z35 Pack. Fits so much, easy access, comfortable, great frame and support.
CamelBak Blowfish. Great daypack. Older model. Unfortunately, did not bring the bladder.
REI Dual Wattage Converter and AC Adapters. Kept us up and running.
Acer Aspire One. Great little netbook. Good battery. Picasa 3 drags it down when using RAW images, but all in all, an essential modern-day travel tool.
Ciprofloxacin. Like a reset button on life, when you drink or eat the wrong thing, this makes it all right.
H&M Men’s Underwear. Acquired in Barcelona. Cheap. Comfortable. Easy to wash and dry!

Montserrat and the Festival of Saint Joan

got up, ate, changed our torn 50 euro for a good one, the guy was nice and just nodded in shame, picked up snacks at the store and some sandwiches to go, caught the train to Montserrat, 1 hr ride plus a 5 minute Aeri (cable car) to the monastery, ate our lunch, walked around, took the funicular to the top of a peak to hike down, there are lots of hikes, but we did the 45 minute one, which took us 1 hour 15 minutes, the rocks are amazing, the view is 360 degrees of some beautiful mountains, the hike was incredible, makes me want to live in Spain even more, found some boulders and a climbing area, wished we had time and gear, walked the basilica, super nice very ornate church, lots of mosaics, touched the Montserrat, or Black Virgin, supposedly carved by Saint Luke, which apparently Saint Peter hid in mountains, caught the train back to town and crashed at the hotel, not a moment too soon, we both had blistering headaches and no pills for them, around 10pm we headed down to the coast to meet some Couch Surfers for the festival of Saint Joan, celebrating Midsummer Night’s Eve, fireworks were already blowing off around our neighborhood, the train was super crowded, like ACL Festival crowded, everyone was drinking beers or carrying tons of beverages, lots of Fanta, red wine in plastic bottles & boxes, sangria, bottles of rum, luckily our stop was past the two main beach stops, but at those stops the train nearly cleared out, walked to the beach with thousands of other people headed in the same direction, packed with people hanging out drinking, dancing, grilling, eating, lighting off fireworks galore, lots of fun, we tried to find the Couch Surfers but had no luck, dipped our feet in the ocean for absolution of our sins, with our headaches still present and ears ringing from explosions we headed back home at 1am, there were still tons of people headed toward the beach, apparently they party until sunrise, it is one of 4 days of the year including New Years Eve where the trains run non-stop, at 2am we called it a day, and a good one, luckily we have the tested ear plugs to block out the explosions

Last day in paradise

got up and checked out of hotel, left our bags at Urban House, cool people, walked around Parte Vieja more, got some espresso and a croissant, shopped around some cute stores, tried to go Cuchara San Telmo again, still not open at noon, ate some tapas and txokoli (Basque white wine) at Casa Urola, good place, wine was better than the cider, bill was 5-6 euros, bought a baguette, went to Mercado to buy some jamon and queso, guy was really nice, spoke broken french and recommended a good cheese for our ham, bought a bottle of wine (4 euros) for the train, David tore a 50 euro bill pulling it out of his travel belt, all the banks were closed for siesta, walked to Playa la Concha and sat on the beach, ate half our ham and cheese, drank some San Miguel, the beach really is amazingly beautiful, like really, really beautiful, grabbed our bags and walked to train station, rode the train, watched Madagascar 2 in Spanish, ate our jamon and queso, but no wine opener, checked back into Ally’s, talked with Rosa and some Mexican guests about the fact that English is supplanting the native language for youth in many countries, opened our wine, headed to Open Cor, like Walgreens without the pharmacy, grabbed microwave lasagna and late night snacks, cooked, ate, crashed

Super sweet San Sabastian

breakfast at hotel, walked up Mont Urgull for a scenic view, nice challenging hike, museum of San Sebastian history at the top was pretty interesting, all in Spanish, but the displays and AV montages were cool, saw some paragliders coming from across the bay, went back down to Juntxo again for sandwiches and cider, they were SO good and SO cheap, the fried calamare bocadillo was delicious, but the cider wasn’t so great, got some San Miguel and Limon, walked to Kursaal Center to see the building, the waves, and Martin Berasategui restaurant, Kursaal, where I’d wanted to eat, but we missed the lunch hours and they close Sunday evenings, Mondays and Tuesdays, went to beach there, surfer beach, but no waves that day, lots of topless women and two fully nude dudes… like big fat hairy dudes, not cool, weather was epic and we spent an hour relaxing, it was 5pm, walked back to hotel, napped and worked on photos, went out for dinner, streets were significantly quieter, tried to got to Cuchara de San Telmo, but couldn’t find it at first, went to La Cepa first for some wine and jamon, super cheap, found San Telmo, it was closed, so we went back to a place underneath our hotel, they spoke English and our bill seemed high, 20 euros for 6 pieces and 2 glasses of wine, we sat to eat and felt like we were in a tourist trap, luckily the food was good and the bartender actually returned 2 euro to us as his mistake, went up to hotel to drink our clara, talked with the Aussies about all the nudes on the beaches, went to bed, earplugs were necessary, but not all night, got quiet by 2am, time in Spain is another world, fits me perfectly

Beverly:Thailand::David:Spain

she likes roughing it and being in nature and eating street food, while I prefer culture and citylife and fancy meals, it’s not that I didn’t like Thailand, I just enjoyed Spain more and she felt like it was too easy, I have to say that Spain is pretty awesome, but Thailand was too, we discussed how the trip would have been different in the opposite direction, of all the places we’ve bee, we’d go back, we have unfinished business with the Sahara and Atlas Mountains in Morocco, more climbing and sunny beachy time in Thailand, and Bali is the place we’d just go to live for awhile, I know we’d both like to do more Japan and Spain if money allowed, I could do more trips where we rough it, traveling in some places is harder, language barriers are difficult, backpacking and washing clothes in sinks get old, luckily we stayed in pretty nice places the whole time and weren’t camping, honestly our trip was pretty easy, the hard parts being — the nature of traveling for a somewhat extended period, changing gears all the time, & learning new systems, the challenges of traveling are gratifying in that we grow more from the experience, I think, for me, that limiting the variables helps, when some things are easier, others can be more difficult (language, transportation, weather, accommodations), just some thoughts on it all

Gastronomie & good times

got up early to make the train to San Sebastian, got espresso and croissant at the train station, train arrived right on time, nice train, nice ride, slept a lot, listened to their in-transit music, lots of good stuff with little NPR like clips in-between in Spanish, upon arriving in San Sebastian we were immediate struck by how cool it was, they call it Belle Epoque architecture which we just called French because that’s how it looked, couldn’t find our hotel at first so we wandered in the general direction, finally decided to call and were literally standing right there, annoying, our actual building was a couple blocks away, which means a few meters, since it was the Old Town and every thing is old, small, narrow, and more walkable than Barcelona, our room was very Ikea-chic but super cool and updated, right above a pintxo bar (Basque tapas), we walked to Juntxo for food, suggested by the dudes from the hostel and later confirmed by the Lonely Planet digital guide, pointed to a breaded pork cutlet sandwich and some patatas bravas, ordered an Amstel on draft, great meal and cheap, 6-7 euros or something, walked to the Mercado to grab some food so we could maybe eat cheaply, left with two San Miguels and two Fanta Limons for making claras, the wine in there was cheap, everything under 5 euros, walked to the beach and drank some claras, topless beach? okay! headed back to hotel for a nap, woke up drank our other clara and headed out for a Michelin-starred dinner, went to Bodego Alejandro, one of Martin Berasategui’s places, he has 3 in town, it wasn’t the list of Michelin places, but was in the Rough Guide and when we showed up they had a Michelin sticker on the door, we called it Michelin recognized, either way it was fancy and fixed price at 39 euro/pp, the meal was amazing and definitely in the category of meals we’ve paid that much for in our lives, we had a starter of Asparagus creme, imagine flavored half-and-half in a shot glass, Bev had seafood soup as her first course, I had a meat-stuffed tomato, her entree was lamb, mine was pork ribs off the bone, her desert was berry juice with ice cream, mine was french toast with ice cream, we were offered a desertif of run creme (like our starter but sweet and rummy) and a bite-sized cookie, they were delicious, finished the meal with cafe solo and a chocolate truffle, i was in heaven, during dinner we made the analogy that Beverly is to Thailand as David is to Spain (see separate post), after dinner, we walked around town a bit, lots of people out and about, the whole district reminded us of Fourth Street or West Sixth in Austin, but 5 blocks by 5 blocks of it, we walked to the water and found tons of teenagers hanging out and drinking soda with wine or rum, no police, no fuss, everyone behaving, we returned to our place to sleep, unfortunately it was astoundingly loud, so we took some melatonin and used our ear plugs, wish I’d had some Thai Air cognac, too, amen