Post your trip reports, travel experiences, and updates abroad. Or your expat story if you already live overseas. Note: To post photos and images, insert the image URL between the tags [img]and[/img] after uploading them to a third party site.
OK I'm starting a thread for my 2015 travels.
It's an odd numbered year, which means more chance of crazy stuff going on in my life. It's been like it for the past 20 years. Weird but true.
Anyway, I was planning to go somewhere later in the year. But my landlord has sold the house I'm living in, and I did the usual Xiongmao overreaction and handed in my notice at work and at home lol.
Actually my finding out about my landlord's plans coincided with me getting the language teaching bug AND finding a CELTA course with a perfect start date for me.
So at the end of this month, I'm off to Spain .
Why Spain? The weather is good, I saved 10% on the course due to a weak Euro, and I wanted to do a CELTA overseas but in a country where I don't speak the local language. Hee hee, and Spanish girls are cute .
I don't know how tough the CELTA will be but I easily passed the interview, mainly due to my age and also learning an unknown language in the last couple of years (Chinese).
Anyway, I'll be in Barcelona for 4 months if anyone is passing through. After that I am needed in Berlin in July and the UK in September.
Incidentally, if you want to teach you don't need a CELTA, especially if you have a degree. You can just make do with a 120 hour certificate, or maybe not even that. But a CELTA would open a huge number of doors for me as well as being a chance to do something very different from my current career.
I'll post some photos when I get there. I have been to Spain before, but only on family vacations in the late 80's before half this forum was even born. I guess things have changed, or possibly not .
Congratulations! I've been to Barcelona. I think you'll like it. It should be a nice place to live. If you learn Spanish, you should go to Latin America and put it to good use. Are you going to start posting reports on your blog again?
Yes it should be an awesome city. And I'm looking forward to meeting loads of people on my course and throughout the city.
It's probably a bad place to learn Spanish though due to the Catalan population having their own language and designs on splitting away from the rest of Spain. Well it's the whole Guangzhou/Mandarin/Cantonese thing all over again.
It was a long time since I last went to Spain, but one of my best memories were of the hot bikini clad French girls at our hotel!!!
Today was the last day of my job, and I've never had such a low key exit from a job. A new low in my career. I am looking forward to my course though. I had a fantastic time on the face to face part of my 120 hr TEFL course. It was enjoyable brainstorming how to teach a particular part of English, which is an extremely complicated language if you think about it.
People in the UK think teaching English is a low status job. But you can earn a lot of money in the Middle East or Asia, plus you get to travel, yada yada yada. You can't put a price on that. There are so many other things I saw in China but barely blogged about, like the little snake restaurant in my neighborhood, the weird campus shop where nobody went shopping, the thunderstorm so big it closed the airport, and apartment hunting in Chinese gated communities.
I will blog a lot more. I've not written much lately, but work has been pretty busy. But I've had a lot more personal development this year. Lately I've been reading Jung and getting into personality research. It explains so much in my life to date, like how I developed slowly, and why I'm finding mid-life so much fun.
Today I spoke to my friend who's still in Guangzhou (China). He pretty much confirmed that every day is crazy there, which is just as I found it.
He said there were some hot South American women at my old Uni now. I can well believe it. There was a Colombian girl on my course and she was both stunningly gorgeous and her personality was great.
Feels kind of weird that my dad's been to South America, but I have not!
Congrats on Barcelona
Very "hip" international city, lots of Russians and Armenians etc
Looking forward to whatever new stuff you find time to post!
Your Asian stuff was killer
"Well actually, she's not REALLY my daughter. But she does like to call me Daddy... at certain moments..."
All of Spain is pretty good. Also get over to Portugal, it is really nice. I met a girl in Portugal who was from Barcelona who said Portugal is like Spain was 20 years earlier. There is a lot to see in that area. I think you're very smart to work some years and take some years off and see the world or teach English while you see the world. Where will you live? Keep us informed.
Congratulations Xiongmao! Everyone who has the guts to leave a job and a place at such flashing short notice is my hero, in the Tyler Durden style And of all cities, Barcelona! My wife and I spent a long weekend in November and, what can I say, we couldn't have loved it more!
It was beginning of November and the weather was still pleasant, 15 degrees during the day. We could stroll on the beaches of Barceloneta without a coat and see people jogging barefoot and children playing with the sand. Impressively clean beach, considering it's right in the south of a busy industrial city.
Food was the most amazing discovery: the same cured meat (hamon, chorizo etc.) culture I found in Madrid plus all the fresh fish and seafood one could want, at a price of a bloody kebab food meal in London! If you like fish and seafood do not miss La Paradeta, it's a fish franchise very popular with locals as well (which bodes well for the price) where you choose fresh fish from a huge counter and have it grilled or fried and served to you in the dining area. We were there for 4 days in total and couldn't resist going there 3 times. We never paid more than 30€ in two, with a honest bottle of white wine, and we absolutely stuffed our faces with delicious fish like we could have only done in our hometown (Bari, which is Italy's seafood capital).
And need I mention the culture? The heritage of this proud trading and industrial city is well expressed in the splendour of its architecture, this very peculiar neo-Gothic (Modernista) which culminates with Gaudi's houses which dot some of the most exclusive boulevards. And speaking of Gaudi, once you're into the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's majestic modern cathedral and still pretty much a work in progress, you'll be exposed to the biggest event of Stendhal's syndrome of your life. Since everything is current and relevant to our modern sensibility, you will feel exactly what a middle age peasant must have felt when walking into a major Gothic cathedral.
Nightlife is also, in the Spanish tradition, intense and deep without being mindless and crowded. We were lucky enough to have our hotel near the locals' favourite spot, the Born area, packed full of tapas bars, small restaurants, cafes, taverns, art cafes with small arts galleries, places with live music, all you could possibly ask from a great European cultural capital. We found the fun to be more orderly, less smoke-laden (the ban is enforced much better than in Madrid's establishments) and obviously cheaper.
Monica and I ended up just wanting for more. Both of us agreed immediately to the notion that Barcelona would be a perfect place to live, if for a short time. A dream that will stay a dream, for now... But we'll be back! We have already booked another 5-day trip, in mid-May, so hopefully we could do all the sightseeing we couldn't do before. And more of that fish and beach strolls, please. And if you're around, we'll definitely meet.
Oh, and by the way. If you're starting to develop a fascination for Colombian and Latin American women, Barcelona is full of Latin Americans, Colombians as well! So you can tell your Dad you went there, but on a shortcut
Hee hee, yes I am really looking forward to Barcelona. Just 5 days to go now...
Spanish food and wine are great, and there will be so much culture to experience as well (not least the Miro museum).
And yes, Portugal is also great. I went there on a family holiday in 1989. The place was very poor then - we took no souvenirs home because there was nothing to buy. But I remember a little family run restaurant that had a set menu every night and it was awesome.
I am now in Barcelona. It's only 2hrs flight from the UK, but it could not be more different.
Initial impressions... well the airport is a bit rundown, and the train into the city was 8 minutes late... not so good on a 19 minute journey! So I am definitely NOT in Japan!
It's warmer than the UK, but still chilly in the evening. I guess it's about 5 weeks ahead of the UK as far as the seasons go.
I've only been here about 6 hours, and it's a Sunday night so less stores are open than normal. But I like it here. The food is amazing, and beer and wine are much cheaper than the UK. The food is lots of cheese, meat and tomatoes. Also fish.
In my neighbourhood I've so seen lots of bars, some Asian restaurants, 1 rough looking hooker, and a lot of Chinese tourists (they get everywhere!).
It's quite cheap here, especially with the weak Euro.
Travel is very cheap - around 1 euro per train journey if you get a 10 journey ticket.
It seems easy to learn basic Spanish/Catalan, but maybe much harder to become fluent. I never studied Spanish in school but already I can read a lot of signs and menus.
Everybody lives in apartments, and there are lots of small family run stores at street level. So in this respect it is more like Asia. There are more bars than there were in China though.
As to the women, well they're definitely more open here. For the first time ever, I got to sit next to the hottest girl on the plane, but sadly she was sexting her bf.
I saw two guys kissing outside of Barcelona's main station. I heard there was a big gay thing here.
One weird thing I've seen that would NEVER happen in the UK is that I went in a supermarket and one of the magazines they sold had a topless woman on the front cover. And it wasn't a "men's" magazine.
There's a real mixture of women here. Some tall women, some short women. Pale skin, dark skin, lot of variety. And lots of b***y if you like that. Some looked like Filipinas, although it's possible they were actually Filipinas. The Spanish accent is sexy, I think that is the best thing about Spanish women.
Also I've seen lots of Chinese tourists. They get everywhere these days.
I'll post some photos once I get out and about.
When you get so fed up with everything and nothing ever changes.
This is the only thing left is to start over.
Even I had to throw my American compatriots under the bus. So I should be a hero in your book.
By the way I went to Spain and I was not a fan. I don't like the food, people or culture.
For all the similarities to Italy I still prefer Italian food, culture, history and people.
Just not a fan of Spain.
It takes particular desperation to throw everything and everybody under the bus...but I see exactly what you mean.
Well I'm still in Spain and enjoying it immensely.
Actually I'm in Catalonia - one thing you WON'T see here are Spanish flags flying.
I'm really enjoying it here, the weather is better than England and the food is great. I've been for tapas and found a great lunchtime deal at a Mexican restaurant. I love the crusty bread, chorizo and hams. Also the cooking is of very high quality and eggs in particular have been cooked to perfection. It's telling that I've not been in a McDonalds here - I don't need to, there's so much other food to eat.
The weekend seemed to start early, and there were a lot more hot women around on Thursday night than I've seen before. The downside is that Spanish women tend to peak quite early, so it's not as good for MILF's as China was.
Speaking of China, there are A LOT of Chinese here. Both tourists and also residents. Chinese food doesn't seem to be that popular though - there are more Japanese restaurants from what I've seen.
I'm finding the language is very easy to read - if you have a large English vocabulary and have studied French then you'll be able to recognise a huge number of Spanish words. And there are also plenty of Spanish words that have made it into everyday English. I also managed to buy a phone sim card from a store with no English speakers - I'd never have managed that in China.
Barcelona itself is very easy to walk around and the metro is also superb. There isn't a traffic problem like Bangkok. If you're a fan of architecture or art then it's a great place to be. Also I will definitely be going to see FC Barcelona at some point.
It's reasonably cheap here. Beer in a small bar is 1 euro (a quarter of the price of your average British pub!). A sim card with 800Mb data/60 mins voice is 10 euros a month. Metro trips are 2.15 euros each but I've got the cost down significantly by getting a 50 trip card for 42 euros.
On the downside, the economy is bad here and many people make a living from pushing round supermarket trolleys and filling them with scraps found in bins and skips. Also there are quite a few tricksters around - already I've seen the crying lady and really the best policy is to not engage in conversation with anyone on the street.
I promise I'll post some photos soon. I brought 3 lenses with me this time, but I'm a little wary of thieves, so haven't taken the camera out as much as I would have liked.
Sounds cheaper than when I went back in 2007 I remember buying a beer for €4 and eating out tapas was usually like €10.
Things must have shifted with this crisis.
Yeah, depends a lot where you eat. Tourist places will tend to have a premium price.
Tapas can be expensive as all those little €2 dishes add up.
I found a wonderful little pizza place this afternoon - it was €3.50 for a slice of hand made pizza and a bottle of water.
Just been to the supermarket and fruit juice is half the price it is in the UK. Also I got 1 can of beer for €1 and the other was discounted to €0.55.
I met an English teacher this afternoon - he has a foreign gf and is living his Happier Abroad dream. Actually teaching English here isn't that well paid and there's a lot of paperwork (by that I mean government tax filings etc) but this is a wonderful city to live in, with a great climate, great food and world class art everywhere.
We talked about how many Chinese people there are here. Not just tourists, but many immigrants running small restaurants and stores.
I found another Chinese restaurant but it was empty - not good for a Saturday night. The more successful Chinese have turned to running cheap bars and tapas cafes.
I've not updated this report for a while but here goes....
I've been in Barcelona for nearly a month now and have enjoyed every minute of it. Sure, it doesn't offer the dating opportunities for a Western dude that Asia does, but the nightlife, food and culture here are just awesome.
It's pretty telling that of the 40+ CELTA students I've met now, almost all want to carry on living here.
I partly bailed out of China because of the poor quality food, so it is a pleasure to live somewhere that food is seen as a religion. If you doubt me, well then you've never tried Iberian acorn fed ham...
I went to the Joan Miro museum last week. The guy was a creative genius and had no match in Asia. Modern day Barcelona carries on his legacy, from witty street art to amazing shop window displays.
I've met a lot of people from other countries who are enjoying their own Happier Abroad experiences. It is kind of weird to think I went to Asia so many times, and yet I had all this cool stuff right on my doorstep...
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