Last Day in Madrid... and Europe

Trip Start Dec 26, 2005
Trip End Jan 25, 2009

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Today marks my last day in Europe... and its come at a good time because Im ready to move on. Today I spent about 4 hours in a beautiful garden, Compo Del Maro behind the Royal Palace... I wanted to do this garden yesterday but was closed. I spent time reading, sleeping on a bench, roaming the gardens and just reflecting on what has been an extraordinary 3 months in Europe. I continue to learn Spanish, and Ive since purchased my English-Spanish translation guide which is going to be essential in South America, if Spain is anything to go by.

Ive done Europe justice... 3 months was definitely enough. I leave Europe with positive memories, but no where as satisfying and enduring as South East Asia. Europe turned out to be a challenging continent to tour in Summer, even though it had its positives such as fine weather, abundance of festivals and other events (the film festival in Vienna was the best), extended hours, party atmosphere (Berlin, Munich and London had the best nightlife), lots of tourists to mingle with and lots of sunshine (typically 5am to 10.30pm across the continent). However, the negatives such as limited air-conditioning, over-inflated prices, poor Aussie-Euro exchange rate, phenomenal crowds and queues makes for a balanced experience. As Ive mentioned in previous travelpods, I doubt that I will return to Europe in the summer. Ive had the advantage of touring Europe in both the winter and summer and both seasons have had their negatives and positives. I look forward to coming to Europe on either side of Summer.

Im glad I returned to travelling for Ive seen some phenomenal sights including The Louvre, Notre Dame, Vatican City, many fine churches and cathedrals, sensational scenery etc. etc. I think Ive had a balanced experience, including lying on the beach, immersing myself in the culture, having tiring days at museums, doing the sights and having extended travelling days. The accommodation has definitely been very mixed with some good and some not so good hostels/hotels. The best hostels... Rome, Vienna and Berlin. ʹm so glad I hostelled it because Ive met some fine people, mostly young in their 20s.

Even though Ive loved travelling on the trains using the Eurail pass, I was kind of surprised and disappointed to be confronted with additional costs on every train, which wasnt really mentioned when buying the pass. The trains, however, are excellent here in Europe and provide for a very hassle free travelling experience in getting from place to place. If I come back to Europe, Ill probably look at hiring a car to give me added flexibility and freedom to experience smaller towns along the way.

My favourite European cities were Barcelona and Berlin (London rates up there as well when comparing), and the least favourite was probably Zurich. Ive found a new love of Germany and Italy and cant wait to return to either of these countries to do them further justice.

My opinion is that touring South East Asia is more suited to the independent traveller whereas it would of been more satisfying if I had of had someone to travel Europe with... I admit that Ive missed out on many fine cafes, restaurants and tours in travelling alone on a budget. Ive met locals, but nowhere as many as I wanted to. Travelling through cities for 3 or 4 nights doesnt really give you the opportunity. My advice is to streamline... I could spend 3 months doing Germany and Italy alone. But some travellers Ive met are doing it quicker than I am, spending 1 or 2 nights in each city. One guy I met in Vienna admitted to doing his head in given that he was moving countries nearly every day!

In terms of budget, I will upload details of my costs for Britain, Ireland and Europe when Ive moved on to South America. I figure its averaged out at about $120 a day, including my return flight to Australia, Eurail pass, tour costs etc. Ive missed out on a lot with this budget... definitely a 1 star holiday. I figure that you probably need about $250-$300 a day to do this continent justice. In terms of future holidays, I will probably prioritise South East Asia over Europe.

Tonight I travel on the overnight train from Madrid to Algecires, from where I will board a 2.5 hour ferry to Tangiers... it was always an intention of mine to touch upon the African continent on this RTW journey. From Tangiers, I aim to get a train to Casablanca, for the start of my 2 week tour through Morocco with Intrepid. Im looking forward to a change in scenery, but know that its going to be VERY hot and humid. Next time Ill sign in, I hope to be in Africa! Aldios from Spain.
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