You say to-mah-to, i say to-mae-to

Trip Start Feb 18, 2004
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Trip End Dec 05, 2005


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Saturday, August 28, 2004

Alright, alright, I know what you want so I'll get right to it. La Tomatina was packed with people and CRAZY!!! I went and checked out the town of Buņol the day before (Aug 24). There was a bike race going on and most everything was closed (for siesta). Otherwise just looked like a quaint little town. I woke up early the next morning and caught the bus into Valencia (where I was staying). On the bus, I met a couple Malaysian guys and a girl from London going to La Tomatina so ended up tagging along with them (they all pronounced tomato as "to-mah-to"). The train to Buņol was packed full of tourists. We arrived and followed the horde into town, left our stuff at a baggage check place then chilled out with some sangria before the insanity began (though in truth it had already started). The town center was packed full of people and you had to push your way through to get around. Within about 5 minutes of being in the crowd, I had my shirt ripped off (that's one of the things they do)...luckily it was a cheap shirt I had bought in Alicante. People were massed together in the street and yelling up at the people in the apartment windows to throw down water (by the bucket, hose, whatever). Now and then they'd start jumping up and down and singing "olč...olč, olč, olč". This was about an hour and a half before the tomato fight even started. Lasted about a half hour in that then figured we needed to save our energy for the tomato fight so moved to the far end of town. There's a pole in the center of town with a leg of ham at the top. People make a human pyramid to get it down and that's supposedly when the tomato fight begins...but really it starts at noon regardless. The trucks (big dump trucks) came into town right where I was at. The trucks are filled with tomatoes and about six guys in back throwing them at the crowd. I was on an upper street that was about even with the guys in the back of the trucks which meant I got pelted in the head a lot. From then on it's just everybody throwing tomatoes at each other while more and more trucks come through. Soon the tomatoes are squashed and broken up so you're just throwing chunks, and a bit later it's more like tomato sludge you're hurling at others. Yes, it's very messy. Josh sent me a link to a page with pics from the fight which may give you a clue as to what it was like: Click here to see pics from La Tomatina. (I had my camera in a ziploc bag wrapped in a plastic bag to keep it safe during the fight.) At 1pm the fight is over and people slowly trudge out of the streets and down towards the river for a shower. There were some nice locals along the way with their hoses out to rinse you off. I cleaned up then found the others and we hung out in town for a bit swapping tomato war stories. The train ride back was filled with people still covered in tomato goop and half-dressed. I have to wonder if the train people cleaned those seats afterwards. I think everyone just wanted to get back to where they were staying and have a real shower and change of clothes. My hotel was close to Daniel and Nicola's, so met up with them later that evening for dinner and drinks. It was a nice way to wrap up a long, crazy day.

Tom before/after tomato fight

How did I end up in Spain, you ask? I flew from Bergen, Norway, to Alicante, Spain. Bergen = cold & rainy, Alicante = hot & humid. Even with the humidity, it was more preferable to rain. I had been planning to make it to La Tomatina for quite some time so had flight and such already booked. It took me a while to get checked into the hostel in Alicante 'cuz someone made reservations for the wrong night (d'oh! can't figure out why I screwed that up since I knew my flight date.). After finally getting checked in, it was rather late so I just took a walk around town and got some food. The next day I looked around town more, got some cheap clothes (for La Tomatina) and laid out on the beach. I must say it's nice to be back in Spain - the culture and way of life are fun...much better prices than Scandinavia too.

Alicante

Had a train ride up north to Valencia then took the metro and bus WAY OUT into the 'burbs to my hotel. I made reservations quite a bit in advance because things were filling up fast, but I obviously didn't check the location very carefully. That same day is when I did the day trip to Buņol. I also looked around the city of Valencia a bit too. The day after La Tomatina I had planned on going to Cuenca on way to Madrid, but it turns out all the trains to Madrid were sold out. D'oh! I got an overnight ticket to San Sebastian instead. That left me the day to do whatever in Valencia so I went to their art museum and the beach.

Overnight trains and buses are not something I like much (refer back to the overnight bus trip from Granada to Valencia). This one turned out to be not so bad. I was in a compartment with 5 others. Three of the others were gone by 2:30am so the rest of us folded the seats down and attempted to sleep. I did get a little sleep, but not much. I arrived in San Sebastian at 8am, dropped my stuff off at the hostel then went for a wander. I caught up on some sleep when I got back to the hostel. Went for a haircut, which is always an interesting experience when you don't speak the local language well. Anyway, I told the lady only a little off the top (un poco), but she got started talking (in Spanish) and kept cutting and cutting. I supposed I could've screamed or something. I actually understood some of what she was saying though. I went and laid out at the beach after that. Went for a night out on the town with some people from the hostel that night. The old town area was filled with people hanging out and wandering around. None of the bars were very big, so we kind of bar-hopped for a bit. I didn't stay out too late (by Spanish standards). Slept in the next day, wandered around then went to the beach for more sun. San Sebastian is a cool town I'd definately recommend. Nice place to chill out.

San Sebastian

Spain needs to improve their train ticket purchasing system. Many countries have machines to buy tix from, but not Spain. So everyone has to wait in line to buy tix. In their brilliance, they have one line for tickets for trains leaving today and several lines for trains leaving at a future date. Of course, the line for tickets for today takes freakin' forever. It doesn't take a genius to figure out they need more people selling tickets for same day travel.
An annoyance when traveling on the trains in Spain is that smokers like to buy tickets for the no smoking section and just wander out of the compartment into the hallway and smoke (so it still gets smokey in the compartment). Europe's policies on smoking are decades behind...smoking is still allowed in various public places.

I've been watching some of the Olympics on tv. It's a bit different here as each country I'm in focuses on their local athletes. It's nice though 'cuz you don't really have to know the language to follow along with sports. I was glad to see the U.S. basketball team lose...maybe that'll squash some of their big egos.

Next stop is Bordeaux, France.
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