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Reisverslag Pleasantly Chaotic
13 juli 2014
A lot has happened over the past week. As I had already mentioned in my previous blog, I was very much looking forward to Sensation - an indoor electronic dance music event which originated in the Netherlands and unites thousands of people in white worldwide. My father received two Special Guest tickets through his work and because he was getting ready to depart for his 110KM run in Corsica, he kindly gave them to me and I invited my friend Koen along.
We took a moment to take in the scenery as we entered the Arena in Amsterdam. The theme of this Sensation was Pleasure Dome and the arena was appropriately decorated with female statues hanging from the ceiling and a stage in the shape of a human face that could elevate into five different levels. I will make sure to include a photo so you can see what it looked like. Aside from the pleasure related decorations the organizers were smart enough to also facilitate huge screens on which the quarter finals between the Netherlands and Costa Rica were projected - and hey, we won!
The atmosphere was great, the music pretty good and one of Koen his connections works for one of Holland's biggest radiostations (radio 538) and so we were invited to join their skybox! We got to see how they live streamed the party and the free drinks, comfy seats and great view were big bonuses. Honestly, we were total lucky bastards. My favorite part was the private lounge that had been set up in the special guest area in which they played deep house so as Koen was in the main area, I stayed in this room and danced with my eyes closed. It was a great night!
Additionally I was also very busy with further preparing my trips to Madrid and Cuba. I made sure to get a multi-trip travel insurance, purchased all sorts of necessities ranging from small shampoo and sunscreen bottles, soap, fins of two euros, a funky straw hat, a map of Cuba and several other things that will come in handy. Additionally I practiced driving with stick shift and I am proud to say that it went really well! So in the case that I decide to rent a car when in Cuba, I feel confident that I will be fine :).
Other great news is that I have some really cool updates on Cuba. I got in touch with my Mother her shoe repairsman whose wife is from Cuba. My mother has been going to him for 15 years and they have had many conversations about the island. She suggested that I contact him to see if he has any tips. What's really cool is that he actually is in Cuba at the moment and will stay there until the 19th. We spoke over the phone and he and his wife offered to meet me in Varadero after my arrival and show me around for a couple of days. He has been going to Cuba for many years and has a lot of insight on how to best travel there, the plan right now is that I will land on the 15th and meet him in Varadero on the 16th. Varadero is a more touristic place in Cuba right by the ocean.
Additionally I have contacted several fellow Cuba travelers among which Renske Hamstra. She also traveled to Cuba by herself and had a lot of great advice as well as gave me the contact information of Kati, the landlady of the apartment she had stayed at. As a result, I now I already have found a place in Havana Centro! These are some really cool progressions that make me feel a lot more confident about traveling there by myself. What will happen in between remains to be somewhat of a mystery but that's the way I like it. What is meant to happen will happen!
The day before leaving for Madrid I had finally finished packing most of my backpack and was happy to take a break. I went to Amsterdam where I watched the semi finals between Germany and Brazil together with my mother and a friend of hers. As most of you probably already know, the German team totally kicked ass and beat them with 7-1, it was a fun match.
As a result, I didn't have much time left to put the dots on the i's the next morning (Dutch expression) and of course a lot of last-minute tasks came up. Luckily I was able to solve and finish most of them right on time. The moment had come to put my backpack on and start my journey!
My brother Sven was kind enough to take me and my huge backpack on the back of his bike and gave me a ride to the train station. My sister Madita didn't have any obligations that day and she decided to join me to the airport which was really nice.
However, catching a train quickly became an adventure. After racing tot he train station, we found out that there was a bomb alert in Almere Centrum and as a result all the trains I needed to get on weren't driving. There was one I could wait for but this one was delayed by 50 min. Luckily I wasn't going to be late for my plane since it wasn't scheduled to depart until later that evening but I would be late for my vaccination at Schiphol.
Luckily they had been informed about the situation and I was still able to get an appointment when we arrived. For Cuba it is advised to get vaccinated for hepatitis A and B which I had already received in the past, but I still needed a DTP vaccine which refers to a class of combination vaccines against three infectious diseases in humans: diphtheria (an upper respiratory tract illness), pertussis (whooping cough), and tetanus (muscle spasms ).
The advisor at the health clinic also warned me to look out for the Dengue musquitos that, when bitten, lead to the Dengue fever of which the symptoms include major fevers, headaches, muscle and joint pains, and a characteristic skin rash that is similar to measles. There is no commercially available vaccine for this disease and so I decided to buy a special brand of mosquito repellent creme. Fingers crossed that it works ;-).
Additionally she strongly warned to stay away from dogs, cats and monkeys to avoid getting the rabies, a horrible a horrible viral disease that causes acute inflammation of the brain and is lethal if not treated within 24 hours. This may all sound pretty scary but I got the shot and will make sure to be very careful.
After the vaccination me and Madita spent some more time at the airport. Around 6pm Koen arrived and after saying goodbye to Madita with a big hug, we passed through the passport and security checks and soon boarded on our plane to Madrid. As the plane increased its speed and parted from the earth's surface, a misty fog embraced the body of the craft and the outside world slowly seemed to fade away to a blinding white.
Enjoying the magical experience of no distinguishment of colors (or perhaps the lack thereof), I was beyond surprised when we ascended above the clouds. My heart dropped at the view of the mystical sun as she elegantly colored the top of the rainy clouds with a warm summer glow. It reminded me of the fact that, no matter how much rain is pouring or how dark and cold the nights can sometimes be, the sun is always present. Like a shining jewel she proves to be a constant treasure in our lives that can only be appreciated when the clouds clear or, as such was the case, an effort is made to reach above them. With a positive and energetic attitude, happiness almost seems to be inevitable. :-)
Anyways, we arrived and were picked up by Koen his aunt Christa - a wonderful and sweet lady who immediately made us feel at home at her house in San Sebastian de Los Reyes. We opened up a wine bottle and watched the last part of the semi-finals between the Netherlands and Argentina which we unfortunately lost but hey, it's just soccer and life goes on + the wine tasted really great.
The next morning, our official first day, we got up and went jogging in the neighborhood! This gave us the opportunity to explore the neighborhood and get some exercise. Afterwards, we enjoyed a typical Spanish breakfast with sweet cakes and a not so typical addition of a KLM sandwich. Around noon we went to Madrid by train and the first impression we got was at Puerta del Sol, one of the main squares in the heart of the city. A lot of people were walking around and the person that struck me most was the guy dressed as a bear who sat by a tree. I later learned that this is the city symbol of Madrid but in the moment it just seemed really funny and silly to dress as a furry bear when it's 30 degrees Celsius.
From Plaza del Sol we walked all throughout the city. Some of the highlights we got to see were the Plaza de la Independencia, Parque del Retiro, El Real Jardín Botánico, El Jardin de Sabatini, Parque de Atenas, Palacio del Oriente (Royal Palace of Madrid), Rio Manzanares, Plaza Mayor de Madrid, and many more.
In the evening we went home where Christa had prepared a delicious dinner that consisted of tortillas, salad, and tapas. Afterwards we went back to Madrid where we met with Koen his nephew Dennis, a good friend of Dennis called Daniel, and a girlfriend of Daniel's called Alejanfra. The three of them were really cool and we all went to a club called Commo close to Puerta del Sol. It was a fun night and a Spaniard actually approached me and told me that he wanted me to fall in love with him and that he knew we would get married - tee hee.
The next day we went to El Valle de los Caídos and El Escorial. This was actually my favorite part so far! El Valle de los Caídos is a stunning Catholic basilica and a monumental memorial in the municipality of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. It erected at Cuelgamuros Valley in the Sierra de Guadarrama, near Madrid, and was conceived by Spanish general Francisco Franco to honor and bury those who fell during the Spanish Civil War. It was claimed by Franco that the monument was meant to be a "national act of atonement" and reconciliation. The Valley of the Fallen, as a surviving monument of Franco's rule, and its Catholic basilica remain controversial, particularly since 10% of the construction workforce were convicts, some of whom were Popular Front political prisoners.
The Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial is a historical residence of the King of Spain, in the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial.The Escorial comprises two architectural complexes of great historical and cultural significance: the royal monastery itself and La Granjilla de La Fresneda, a royal hunting lodge and monastic retreat about five kilometres away. These sites have a dual nature; that is to say, during the 16th and 17th centuries, they were places in which the power of the Spanish monarchy and the ecclesiastical predominance of the Roman Catholic religion in Spain found a common architectural manifestation. El Escorial was, at once, a monastery and a Spanish royal palace. Originally a property of the Hieronymite monks, it is now a monastery of the Order of Saint Augustine.
Afterwards we went back home and Koen and I cooked dinner for Christa to thank her for her hospitality. Afterwards we had agreed to meet with with Dennis, Daniel and Alejanfra again at Alejanfra her place close to Arguelles. There we met an even bigger group of people and had some drinks together which was fun. The night didn't exactly go as planned. Dancing in Madrid is quite expensive and since Koen and I both want to save our money for our main trips (Koen -> Thailand, Me -> Cuba) we decided not to join the others and instead walked through the city at night and took the first metro back to San Sebastian de Los Reyes.
This morning we got home around 8AM and decided to sleep in to regain our energy. We did go for a walk, did some groceries, did some traveling research, went to a cafe and enjoyed another nice dinner and now I've been writing this blog for most of the evening. It turned out longer than I expected but I had a lot to update on and since I will soon be "off the grid," I figured that it would be nice to let you all know what I've been up to. :)
Tomorrow we will go to a flea market with one of Christa's friends and in the evening we plan on watching the final soccer world cup match between Germany and Argentina at some sort of German bar or restaurant. I also hope to meet with Irene, a friend of one of my best friends in LA who moved back to Spain a while ago and now lives in Madrid! It is really fun to see friends I've met in LA and Hawaii on the other side of the world!
Anyways, I am very much looking forward to all adventures ahead.
May there be many more dancing stars!
Foto's bij verslag (18)
14 juli 2014 03:44 | Door: Emma
Hee lieve Ronja,
Mis je en geniet van je verhalen (en quotes). Kijk uit naar je terugkeren in LA en al de foto's te zien en je verhalen te horen!
21 juli 2014 17:32 | Door: olga
thanks for the update
it takes me back in time when I traveled by myself
what I liked the most was the unknown where I would be the next day
keep on trekking..........
2 augustus 2014 19:53 | Door: olga r.
Keep on trekking
Enjoy nature, cultures, and everything comes along with it