My next stop on my Eurotrip was Las Palmas, a small city in Spain’s Canary Islands.
I like these diary entries because they show the darker side of travel. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, even in the city that has the “best climate in the world“. I was experiencing culture shock and learning what it would be like to be on my own in another country for the first time. And then I got sick.
This is NOT how I feel now, but I was definitely really upset at the time. I feel so bad for this person who took 20 minutes to find the right kind of mantequilla at the grocery store.
Sunday, August 26, 2018 Somewhere between Paris, France and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain
I ate potato chips for breakfast this morning before heading out to the airport. I was so proud of myself for managing to get to the airport using the train system. Unfortunately, I went to the wrong airport and missed my flight. Shame on me for not realizing that Paris, one of the largest cities in the world, has more than one airport.
Anyways, I had to buy another ticket to Las Palmas and hang out at Charles de Gaulle all day. CDG is not one of those fun airports where you can wander around, drinking overpriced beers and getting drunk while you wait. I basically just sat in a chair, stinking to high heaven, watching Bachelor in Paradise on my laptop.
When I finally boarded my flight, I was shook to discover that my flight to Las Palmas would take over 4 hours. Apparently Las Palmas is as far from Paris as Los Angeles is from Cleveland. Also, I had no idea where the Canary Islands were. I thought they were in the Mediterranean. But they are in the Atlantic, just off the coast of Morocco.
My Airbnb rental is meant to be a digital nomad co-living space. However, I am pretty much the only person here.
My room has a window to an atrium rather than to the outside, which is apparently quite common here. My room also has a door to a little patio at the bottom. However, I have not used it because there is a family in another room with a window to the atrium. Also, other windows overlook the atrium. So basically I would just be sitting in a hole, on display for everyone in the building. I’ll pass.
No air conditioning, no fans. Slept like I was dead anyways.
Monday, August 27, 2018 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain
For breakfast I drank some instant espresso packets that I picked up in France and I ate a dry, toasted piece of bread from the community pantry.
My first order of the day was to buy a SIM card for my phone. The first place I went (Vodafone) had a sign in the window that said “For Sale”, so I went to Movistar. No one spoke English there. I know enough Spanish to say “I need to buy a SIM card for here”, but not much else. With a some help from Google Translate, I was able to get the card.
I walked the few blocks to the beach, which isn’t that impressive. The sand is very brown. In pictures, the water always looks turquoise, but it looks just like the Atlantic to me. It’s the same ocean from the North Carolina beach vacations of my childhood. It even smells the same as the other side.
Next I went grocery shopping in Spanish. This was difficult, because I don’t typically buy groceries in the United States, let alone in foreign countries. I was really overwhelmed. Strangely, the grocery store was playing a Spanish version of “Under the Sea”.
In the afternoon, I went to the co-working space associated with my Airbnb. I guess the whole thing is called ReStation, which is one co-working space and three co-living spaces. I met four women there. They all said they would leave Las Palmas tomorrow if they didn’t have apartment leases. They do not like it here. I have yet to meet a man who is not in a couple.
For dinner, a went to Basal Grill & Beach and had ribeye steak and sangria while I watched the sun set and talked to Carolin, a German/English blogger I know from my blogging days. She was also not impressed by Las Palmas.
Tuesday, August 28, 2018 9:47 am Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain
Today I am planning on taking a run along the beach, then working ahead so I have some more flexibility to explore later in the week.
Thus far, I am really wondering why I decided to do this trip. Maybe I should have spent this money on a down payment on a house in Cleveland. I think Portugal will be better. I don’t know what the Canary Islands tourism board is doing, but somehow I read on the internet that Las Palmas was dope. Now that I’m here, however, everyone is telling me how rough it is. It’s not like it’s not safe, but it’s just run down. I do kind of like run down places, so that doesn’t bother me. I am, after all, from Youngstown.
However, I am not finding the digital nomad community here to be thriving. I have yet to meet one Australian, British, or American person. I know it’s good to branch out a bit, but I am also realizing how my speech is filled with idioms and slang that people just don’t understand. I basically feel like an idiot every second that I’m here because I can’t talk to anyone and I don’t know what I’m doing. Also, I am alone, which is a bummer. You can’t just sit at a bar and eat and talk to strangers here it seems. You have to sit at a table with your friends, and if you don’t have any friends, you have to sit alone with your Kindle.
I think it will get better though.
Wednesday, August 29, 2018 11:18 am Las Palmas de Granaria, Spain
Why is it so hard to wake up in the morning? I guess perhaps because waking up at 10am feels like waking up at 5am. I really need to work on getting on European time and to go bed at a decent time at night. This morning I don’t feel well, which is a combination of jet lag, allergies, and maybe having too many beers last night (though I only had three).
In the morning, I went on a run along Playa de Las Canteras. The tide was out, so the water looked much more blue (like the pictures). I saw people snorkeling in the tide pools and I really want to go, but I don’t know how! I wish one of my friends were here so we could be idiots together.
I had to cut my run a bit short because I was just so goddamned dehydrated. I didn’t bring a water bottle with me, figuring that there would be water fountains along the beach. Nope. People here don’t seem to drink water. I guess they don’t drink the tap water at all, because it comes from the ocean and they think it tastes bad. Nothing tastes as bad as the water in Louisville, Ohio, however, so I’ve been drinking it and it really hasn’t bothered me that much.
I was not as productive as I had hoped to be yesterday. My domain name for my blog expired so I had to deal with that for three hours. I still haven’t totally figured it out. There’s a chance I just lost my entire blog. I will be sad if that’s the case, but also, it’s kind of liberating.
I also got things straightened out with American Express after my Uber account was hacked and someone took several joy rides around the Netherlands in an Uber. Gosh, I hope they didn’t fuck up my 5-star rating.
So, the day wasn’t a total wash.
In the evening, I went on a walk around Parque de Catalina, which was pretty underwhelming. They have a recreation of one of Christopher Columbus’s ships, which is interesting because there is also one in Columbus, Ohio (where I used to live). I intended to walk around and take pictures since I did my books in the afternoon and realized that I needed to have more fun, free activities in my life. But then one of the guys I was talking to on Tinder, Carlos, invited me to get a beer so I did that instead.
Carlos is a programmer from Madrid. He is staying in Las Palmas for four weeks as a working vacation. The conversation was okay. I liked when we talked politics, but of course I just went on and on about nonsense as well. Like, no one cares about my best friend Shelby or my dog Winnie. And yet, since I care so much, I just can’t stop talking about them!
We had drinks at La Terminal and dinner at Malasaña. Then we went back to his place where I had several glasses of water. We kissed on the couch for maybe one minute, and then I panicked and fled. I just wasn’t feeling it, I guess. I feel bad because he’s probably wondering what the hell that was all about. I just can’t explain it. I guess I’m just a weird person.
Will I ever be able to get close to anyone? I can’t tell you the relief I felt when I got back out on the street and was alone again. It’s not like he was creepy or weird or anything like that, I just couldn’t proceed. I had no desire to whatsoever. Is it always going to be like that?
This morning, ReStation put on a breakfast at 9am-10am. Maria assured me that more people would be there (since it’s just been the same 3-4 women every day), but of course I slept through the whole thing. Oh well.
Anyways, I’m going to fry up some eggs here in a minute and maybe have another cup of coffee. Then I’m going to take a quick shower and head over to the workspace. I want to try to actually work for a while, then I’m going to walk up to the northern part of the island and see what that’s all about. Maybe I’ll eat up there, but I should actually probably just eat some of my groceries.
I also need to practice Portuguese today. I need to start practicing for like 30 minutes each day, or I’m totally screwed.
Thursday, August 30, 2018 4:53 pm Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain
So I definitely have a European cold. It’s like an American cold, but far more sophisticated.
Seriously though, I really don’t feel very well, physically. And if I’m being honest with myself, I’m not feeling well mentally either.
I have been in Europe for one week now. I am so tired of going to restaurants and eating alone, always struggling because I only speak English. I am tired of all the construction noises that I can hear from my apartment. I have like 0 energy. I miss my mom and my dogs and my home. I am tired of living out of suitcase. I am tired of not knowing how things work or how to do anything and feeling like an idiot all the time. I am tired of feeling lonely and shitty and weird.
So, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to allow myself to wallow and pout today. I can lay in my bed for the rest of the day and just have a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner, but tomorrow I have to get up with an alarm and go on a run, go to work, and take myself out to a nice dinner. And maybe lay on the beach if it’s nice. But for the rest of the day, I can just mess around with my laptop or read or watch Bachelor in Paradise or whatever.
I leave here on Saturday, and I can’t wait. Las Palmas isn’t very nice. It feels old and off-brand, and not in a good way. The novelty has worn off. I’m really hoping that I like Lisbon better, because I’m going to be there for a long time.
When I get to Lisbon, I need to make a concerted effort to make some friends. I will ask my roommates if they want to go to dinner with me, and I will go to some Meetup groups and other events. I need to be more engaged with people and interested in them, and not just wallowing in my own self pity.
I now have two German roommates here, both named Marcus. Now I feel that they’re going to judge me for being in my room all day. I really need to stop caring what people think. One Marcus told me that the cold was probably from all the wind here, which sounds very Old World to me. It’s obviously from going out to dinner and not washing my hands before I ate, which happened several times in France (and is admittedly disgusting, but what could I do?). Parisians apparently don’t wash their hands before eating. Also, it’s difficult to get up from your table with nothing on it just to wash your hands. You’ll come back and find that someone else has taken your table, and you won’t be able to say anything about it because you don’t know the language.
That’s another thing: I need to get over my language embarrassment. I need to start working on improving my language skills, or just muddle through with the Spanish/Portuguese/English pidgin I am developing.
Friday, August 31, 2018 10:34 am Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain
An unexpected result: thus far, this trip has basically made me ready to settle down and buy a house in Cleveland. Maybe Columbus, but for some reason, I really want to move to Cleveland. It’s inexpensive, has a major airport, a body of water, a baseball team, and some of my friends live there. I want my own space with my own kitchen.
Maybe I will feel differently once I get set up in Lisbon.
I am feeling somewhat better today. At least I have some energy, although I am planning to take a nap after lunch. How European of me.
I want to take a moment to describe Las Palmas. As far as I can tell, the Canary Islands are volcanic islands. I didn’t look this up on the internet, but there’s a lot of volcanic rock and black sand, so that’s my assumption. It’s actually very cloudy here, more cloudy that I was expecting. Apparently August is Gran Canaria’s “June Gloom”, which here they call “Donkey’s Belly”. So of course I chose this time of year to visit.
I’ve been in the central area of town this whole time, except two days ago I walked up to the old fisherman’s village in the northern part of town. In the central area, the buildings are mostly old European style with businesses on the bottom and residences on top. It seems like half of the businesses are closed, which I’m not sure if that’s from it being August (Europe’s vacation month), or because this place is economically depressed. It definitely feels “rusty” though, if you know what I mean.
I am staying at Calle Tomas Miller 53 on the second floor. It’s an old-style building with many windows and atriums for air ventilation. I do like that the windows are set up in a way that creates a nice cross-ventilation. However, you must sacrifice privacy for some extra air. My room is terrible because there’s no air at all when you have the door shut, and of course, as a solo female traveler, I must sleep with the door shut and locked. I’m somewhat convinced that that is what made me sick in the first place.
Las Palmas has a nice boardwalk area along the beach with lots of restaurants and shops. But everything seems old, and not in a charming, European way. More like a Sharon, PA way. Like everything was last updated in 1978 and has just been left to rot.
Furthermore, I don’t think that it’s really that inexpensive here. I am probably paying the same prices I would in, say, Youngstown. However, I guess there’s a beach here, so that’s nice. But Winnie isn’t here, my mom isn’t here, and it’s just not as fun. I think I would rather be at home.
Can I just say that I am SO GLAD I didn’t sign on here for three months or something? My God, I hope I like Lisbon better than this place. Because this place kind of sucks.
Yesterday I really did just hang out in my bed all day. But today I will get some work done, eat a cheap lunch, take a nap, work some more, maybe go to this coffee event later, and then go out to dinner. And I need to prepare for my trip tomorrow, because I can’t WAIT TO GET OFF THIS ISLAND.