España!

Spain was great! It wasn’t super hot, but most days it hit the mid-20s which is apparently the golden number for me feeling like I’ve merely got the flu. I was still sleeping the same, but they encourage you to have a siesta, and we ended up pretty much doing one activity per day, in the early evening, which worked great for me. I’m guessing that for everyone else, it was a super-relaxed holiday.

The people we were staying with were lovely, and fed us lots of very-bad-for-you delicious food! Given I’ve been living off tins and toast for the last 8 months, it was amazing! They also had a lift in their flat, which meant I could go outside almost every day in the wheelchair! It was still really painful, but the heat helped my ability to sit up, so it wasn’t as problematic as I thought it would be.

We were there during the fiestas, although we only saw the one in Irun (where we were staying). We visited Pamplona during the bull festival, but not during any of the main festivities – it was loud enough as it was without that (and smelt of pee).

We visited some beaches/small towns – but we only spent one afternoon actually at the beach. The Spanish complained it was far too cold for us to be there (27 degrees C!) but we quite enjoyed it. The men ran off into the sea and splashed around a lot, but it was too far from where we were camped to the water for me to go and paddle. I would have had to lie down when I got there which probably wasn’t a good plan, after all! I didn’t get a sun tan though, turns out I’m allergic to sunlight – boo.

San Sebastian was awesome, there was some amazing scenery (and much fearing for my life near cliff edges in a chair I had no control over). We went in the late afternoon/evening so that we could go for pintxos! It’s like a pub crawl, but you go to each bar in turn for the specialty food that they have (as well as copious amounts of sidra). The food was amazing. And pretty cheap too, especially compared to here.

We also hung out at “the Association”, which is a gaming group that one of our friends set up. They have a room in an ex-school provided by the local government, as well as a vast array of board and tabletop games in several languages. As well as the obligatory Munchkin, we also watched BloodBowl and played several other new games. The one pictured below is “Noviembre Rojo” (Red November), everyone is a gnome on a sinking submarine, and you have to keep the submarine from being altogether obliterated before rescue arrives. Sadly, we failed on that count :( Frag was another cool game (Steve Jackson, of course) – it’s a board game of an online FPS. You have to kill three people first in order to win, and to do this you’re provided with a variety of cards with weapons, gadgets and computer hacks on them. For instance, I used a “gadget” of duct-taping a needle-gun to a rocket-launcher, for extra precision. The heat gave me a little more energy, but not enough to keep up with the games! I was completely wiped by the end, it was probably the most exhausting thing we did (to me).

We also played a bit of tabletop RPG that we hadn’t played before, we’d been told we had to last year after some of the terrible DnD rolls, since in this game 1s are good. It was really fun, even though by the time we got around to it it was usually late evening and I was too fogged out to tell what was happening. I’ve also forgotten the name, yay, so I’ll have to come back and edit this later. Hmm, someone’s tired….

It was fun, anyway. And great for us to be hanging out with our friends who we hardly get to see! I slept through a lot of it (especially pre-lunch), but had a great time anyway. I really, really missed having people to talk to face to face, and I also really missed having food which isn’t from a tin! The whole experience, minus travelling back home, was refreshing and fun.

Apparently mainland Europe is super-accessible for disabled people, and it was certainly better than the UK at least. Their flat had a lift because the government had a policy of, get this, instead of, when a disabled person asks for help, forcing them to go through difficult, repetetive, tiring paperworks only to call them a liar and refuse to do anything, they actually help them. Like, by giving them a lift so they aren’t trapped forever in their flat. Wow. Hint-hint, UK. But there was also plenty I couldn’t do – for some reason every other shop seemed to have either step up, or a purposeless step up then down into the shop, preventing me from entry. They also had absurdly narrow aisles, so I couldn’t have looked around even if I could get in. It lead to a lot of sitting outside and waiting, although a lot of times I was too tired and lay down in the car while everyone else went off, anyway. It was easier than expected, but also frustratingly difficult.

But, the difference the heat makes was enough that I could sit up and follow conversation better. It wasn’t brilliant (had some issues when we tried to go to a shopping centre – that much noise and bright light are never a good thing), but it was so, so good to feel normal. I know I was still sleeping loads, and still in a chair, and still had all the crazy symptoms that conspire against me… I think what made the difference was I was around friends who were okay with that, who just accepted it and got on with being normal. It was great.

The travelling was dire, I was maxed up on every painkiller I could reasonably take and still in lots of pain and exhaustion. But the flying was awesome – I love planes! So fun! They also reserved us the seats at the front so that I didn’t have to walk up/down the aisle, and gave help with travelling through customs etc. so I didn’t have to sit and wait for ages. I got to go on a weird walky-robot (sooo coool) to get onto the plane the first time, and to get off the second plane they had a small container that could extend up to the plane and then go down again, so I was just wheeled in and taken back down. Sweet! It was all great on the planes until we arrived back in the UK, and they had forgotten they had a wheelchair passenger… then we had to wait in line for ages to get checked for re-entry. Seriously, having seen the security in Spain, I am even more convinced that the UK is insane about it’s flying controls. It must be 99% to put fear into the hearts of any supposed enemy, in the hopes they don’t try anything, because I doubt it’s effective anyway. The train service were also amazing, helping us on and off with ramps, and everyone who saw us was like “oh, do you need a hand?” or “I’ll just phone ahead to your station to make sure they’re ready with a ramp” (for the third time). A happy shout out to East Coast and Scotrail for making what could have been a nightmare much, much easier.

Holidays are great!

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