Sunday, 12 January 2014

by Lai Li Chan, Junior 1 Higgs, Class of 2015

I thank the heavens that my hunger for travel has been satisfied temporarily this past school holidays. Entering the world of the Flamenco and Paella was always one of my dreams, and visiting the country that invaded my homeland was included with the tour so why not?

My flight was a total of 14 gruelling hours, not including the four hours in Dubai airport waiting for the transit flight - which was spent mostly in the duty free shopping area spraying everything I own with sample perfumes (Marc Jacob’s Daisy, to be exact).

Photo Credit : Lai Li Chan
The long flight hours was worth the beautiful Spanish view. The skies were absolutely clear of clouds and there were always maple trees nearby. The weather was refreshingly cold but not overly so - my idea of perfect weather. My tour group consisted of 15 teenagers who were mostly from Wesley Methodist School, most of them amateur photographers like myself and 25 adults.

Visiting Barcelona, Granada, Valencia, Madrid, and many more places in Spain, two things were quite apparent. The architecture combined with the perfect lighting from the merciful sun and the beautifully bald trees made the best location for a photo shoot. Every morning and evening, I took a picture of the sunrise and sunset colouring the sky (which you would know if you follow my instagram: @chaaanners). It was as though got a new box of paint and decided to try all the colours out. Also, everyone - and I mean everyone there was a football fan.

Photo Credit : Lai Li Chan
There were many contrasting cultural and religious sites. There was one in particular that I found the most interesting; a church, taken over by the Muslims and turned into a Mosque, then taken over by the Catholics and turned back into a Catholic church. Though it is still used as a church to this day, there are dozens of areas left with the designs and religious inscriptions of the previous Mosque. The whole building was filled with priceless artwork and jewels from top to bottom.

During meals, seatings arrangements according to families were made, but in the end, all the teenagers ended up in one table leaving the parents to eat at ease. This is how we got to know each other, finding out about mutual friends, and talking about PMR results, the debate between Nikon and Cannon, and of course the inevitable what-course-are-you-going-to-take-in-college question.

Photo Credit : Lai Li Chan
The traditional way of serving the food in Europe was firstly with rock hard bread, followed by vegetable soup and a starter, then the main course before ending with a palette cleansing desert. Though it seems like a lot of food was been consumed over the trip, do not be fooled. Every dish was served in such a small portion that by 11 o’clock, we found ourselves searching for hot water to make our own Maggi Hot Cups for supper. And yes, every single person on this trip brought Maggi along. 

Portugal was not much different from Spain, except for the food which was thankfully served in bigger portions as well as the local language which was less rough.

The place we visited in Portugal that I have the most recollection of was when we went to a local silversmith. We saw how watches, jewellery, armour, weapons, and other things were made. Being a typical girl, I wanted to buy every sword I saw, though ended up getting a pocket watch that I will cherish forever!

Photo Credit : Lai Li Chan
The shopping in Spain and Portugal is very deceiving. Everything looks very affordable to the unfamiliar eye. Thoughts would first be “Only 19 euros!”. After some time, the realisation of currency kicks in. “Oh, That’s near RM100. So expensive!”. Things we bought over the 13 day span included binge food, dozens of postcards, a range of clothing and football jerseys.

Photo Credit : Lai Li Chan
The award for best tour group goes to this one. When it was time to say goodbye, all of us parted ways with sad faces but not without exchanging cellphone numbers and taking a number of selfies. (Technology is a beautiful thing; the saying “I’ll never see you again” is now out of the question.)

Traveler's tourettes never goes away, and I hope to share more adventures with you soon.
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