Anyway, this past weekend (Friday – Tuesday) was our fall break. I flew with 2 friends, Silvia and Nick, to Barcelona for the weekend. Our flight left pretty early in the morning, so I walked to Silvia´s the night before and spent the night with her so we could all leave together. We flew on RyanAir; any of you guys who have ever looked into traveling in Europe know that RyanAir is known for it´s dirt cheap flights to countries within Europe. But cheapness has a price. It was a rather sketchy flight. There were not even assigned seats…we just had to grab a seat wherever there was an open one. But the seats weren´t too uncomfortable, and the flight was short, so I survived. Once we got to Barcelona, we had to take a train to the center of the city, where our hostel was. It was cool…I like riding pulic transportation in different cities. There was a man onboard who started playing an accordion as soon as the train started. It added a romantic, exciting tinge to the whole experience…I loved it :).
Sooo, we finally got to the hostel Friday afternoon. After we checked in, we all kinda sat on our beds and looked at each other in shock. Hostels are cheap, I have found out, for a very good reason. Our room had 14 (bunk) beds in it, tiny lockers for every bed, and little else – including space. I was on the top bunk, and my ladder was hidden by lockers, so I had to do some interesting acrobatics the entire weekend whenever I wanted to get into my bed, lol. The cleanliness of the hostel was less than satisfactory, as well. But it´s right in the middle of everything, and it´s a new experience…I rather like it. For a few days only, mind you – I was very grateful for my bed back in Seville on Tuesday :).
We spent most of Friday afternoon walking. We live right off of a super famous street called La Rambla, so we just walked around that and got lost in the little side streets all day. La Rambla has dozens of human statues who set up all day, hoping to earn money from the tourists who pass by. They´re made up in fantastic costumes, and most stand motionless until someone drops money into their hat; then they dance, or pose for a photo, or whatever. I was fascinated by them…check out a picture of one of my favorites here.
We saw a sign for a free Dalí memorial exhibition, so we popped in and had a look. There were some very strange pictures in there…here is an example of what I´m talking about. We found a cheap pizza place for dinner. There was an attic-type second floor, so we sat up there and watched the people below as they came in and out. I love people watching :).
Friday night, I spoke to my dad online for a little bit. This is not really pertinent to my Barcelona story, but I just wanted to brag on my parents for a little bit. For those of you who don´t know, they are going to Israel soon to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. What I did not know, which dad told me Friday night, is that they will also be renewing their wedding vows on a boat on the Sea of Galilee. I just wanted to point out publicly what incredible role models they are, and to thank them for the impact that they have had on my life. I am sooo proud of them 🙂
Anyway, back to Barcelona. Saturday morning I got up early, before most of the rest of the hostel. I got dressed, had breakfast, did my Bible study…(my Bible was too heavy to take, so I downloaded a Bible application on my Blackberry :D). I also met a really cool guy from England named Richard. He´s nearing 50, and has been roaming the world all his life. He picked up Japanese by going to Japan with zero prior knowledge of Japanese, and a dictionary. Talk about gutsy!! I also met 2 Americans from Maine, Kristin and Tom, who have taken a semester off from college to travel the world. Kristin worked 7 jobs last summer to pay for it!!!
Mid-morning, Nick and I went on a guided walking tour of the Gothic district of Barcelona. Silvia went off and did her own thing. The tour was free – the man worked for tips – which meant that he was very motivated to give a very, very good tour. It was excellent. I had a wonderful time. Make sure you check out all my pictures from this weekend to see some of the photos from the tour! OK, mini-history lesson time! The tour started in an old plaza around the back of the Travel Bar, a place for all things tourist and travel. Much of the Gothic Quarter was destroyed by Hilter during WWII; we saw the buildings in the quarter that were restored after the war, the contrast between the old stones and the large amount of new stones starkly evident. We also saw the church in front of which rebels in the Spanish Civil War were executed – the front of the building is still riddled with bullet holes, and there is a plaque honoring those who died there. There´s a drawing that Picasso drew on the outside of the school of Architecture (which, ironically, is probably the ugliest building in the city), across from the Cathedral of Barcelona. Apparently, Picasso wrote it while drunk, and he was making fun of his surrealist painter friends; it looks like a child´s drawing. Quite an amusing story :D). We heard about one of the first Cataluñan kings, King Wilfred, who, although rather valiant, was known as Wilfred the Hairy – for obvious reasons. We saw the first ever public exhibition of Gaudí, in the Plaza Real – a lamppost :). We also went to Plaza George Orwell, which was named after the famous writer, in memory of him and his service to the Spanish people during the Spanish Civil War. They hired an artist to make a commemorative statue for his plaza; instead of making some inspirational bust of the famous man himself, he created….a massive statue of the tuberculosis bacteria, the disese Orwell is said to have died from. The artist must have been high on something when he designed that :). Apparently, other people think that, as well…the plaza is rarely called Plaza George Orwell, but rather by it´s more common name – Plaza Trippy, and it is a favorite spot for drug addicts and alcoholics. I saw a ceramic depiction of the old space invaders game on one of the walls in the Gothic Barrier…apparently, there´s a French guy who´s completely obsessed with them, and puts them up all over the world. In fact, if you mark on a map all of the cities where space invaders have been found, it makes a giant….space invader. Cool, huh? :). So ya, the tour was 2 hours of fascinating information like that. Definitely worth it :).
For lunch, we met up with Silvia in a tiny, dinky little shop that was recommended by our tour guide, Colin. It was wonderful, and very cheap, regardless of the nearly 30 minute wait for food. After lunch we explored the Maremagnum, a huge shopping district built on the water of the Mediterranean. I´m not a huge shopping fan, but it was cool, nonetheless. There were outside artists and vendors, and a boardwalk where you could sit and watch the boats pass by. Nick and Silvia took a nap for a while while I sat and enjoyed the view – they didn´t want everyone to sleep, for fear of someone taking our stuff :).
That evening we went out with Richard, the 2 Americans from Maine, and 2 Canadians. We went to a pub called the 4 Cats. It was recommended to me by my professor at school; it also happens to be quite famous, as it was the pub that Picasso frequented when we lived in Barcelona. They all took shots; I took pictures. But it was fun, anyway. After shots, we made our way back to have dinner at the Travel Bar. There were coupons in our hostel for a free meal there…so of course, we went. It was just pasta, nothing special, but quite yummie and of course, free :).
I had had numerous people recommend to me that I go see the magic fountain, a huge light a water spectacle on the west side of the city. So me, Nick, Silvia, and Richard made our way there by metro to see the light show. That is the only thing that I disliked about our tour guide, Colin – he told me it started at the wrong time :(. So we missed the light show. But we did get to see a spectacular VIEW of the city at night, and also the Museum of Art.
Sunday morning dawned cold and rainy. I was going to go to the Parque Guell, Gaudí´s famous park, but parks generally aren´t very fun in the rain. So instead, I walked around some with Richard and an Italian friend, Roberto. Halfway through the day, we found a museum of contemporary art, and Richard deserted us to go visit it. So Roberto and I walked…and walked…and walked. We walked wayyy up north, almost to Gaudí´s Sagrada Familia. We walked wayyy east, to the man-made beaches on the coast side of the city. We walked wayyy west, past La Rambla, the huge street that runs through the center of town. And then, we decided we hadn´t walked enough, so we walked around the center of the city for a while, looking for the Museum of Picasso. We found it, but the line was interminable, so we decided not to go in. Along the way, we found Barcelona´s Arc de Triumph…ate the best paella I´ve ever had in my life (not that I´m an expert in paella, lol), watched surfers strut their stuff, and listened to a live band in a gorgeous park that I happened to stumble upon. I also found out that Roberto is a professional ballroom dancer…so we danced in the muddy park with the rain pouring down on us, accompanied by a 30-piece band playing the soundtrack to Pirates of the Caribbean in the background. It was excellent :). Oh, and I forgot to mention, that all of this was done without a common language. Roberto speaks broken Spanish and very, very little English, and I speak no Italian. So we muddled along, me speaking Spanish and him trying to, but with liberal amounts of Italian thrown in there. It was really hard, but fun. Plus, I got to learn some Italian, which was cool :).
We finally made it back to the hostel, and Nick and Silvia showed up a few minutes later. I figured I hadn´t done enough walking for the day, so we decided to go to La Parque Guell, since it had stopped raining. And ohhhh my goodness, what a masterpiece it is. Gaudí was obsessed with nature – he hated symmetrical lines. So the entire park (and it is massive) is a fantastical display of sweeping, curving, dripping lines. We only had a few hours there, which was a bummer; I could have stayed all day. But I did get to see the sun set from my perch above the city (the park is on a hill overlooking Barcelona), and then I saw a bit of the city at night, so that was cool. Silvia and Nick and I got separated, and their phones were dead, so we had a bit of a hard time finding each other, but we finally did, and made our way to the hostal on the metro. Trying out public transportation systems in different cities and countries has become a bit of an obsession with me…I love it :).
A huge group of hostel-stayers (I think there were 12 of us) went out for tapas and shots after we got back from the park. Well, they had shots…I had orange and pineapple juice. If I hear one more person call me a party pooper or tell me to “live a little” because I don´t drink I´m pretty sure I´m going to scream. I think I´m quite good at living, and I rather enjoy it, actually…no drinks necessary. That doesn´t make me a downer, right?? But anyway, that was fun, but I was super tired from all of the walking I had done that day, so I went back to the hostel “early” – like 1 am. I found out the next day that most of them were out until 5 or 6 in the morning!
Me, I prefer to see the mornings after I´ve slept, not before. I got up the next day (Monday) around 7. It´s quite possible that some of the partiers were still up from the night before, lol. I had a lovely morning doing my own thing, exploring the nooks and crannies of La Rambla one last time. I ate a relaxing breakfast by myself in the hostel, then did my Bible study and went shopping a bit (got a really cool skirt and pair of pants for €5 each). I also went to a huge food market super close to the hostel, and took pictures of the place while munching on a warm crossaint that I bought at the entrance. By the time I came back it was nearly noon. I was trying to wait on Nick and Silvia to get up so we could explore the city together, but they were still dead to the world. So I decided to just go ahead and go. Ted, a recent graduate from New York City, came with me. We walked to the Sagrada Familia, another one of Gaudí´s masterpieces. Pictures simply do not do it justice. Even though it´s still under construction, it was totally worth the €10 entrance fee.
So I figured a good wrap-up to this post would be a summary of things I saw and observed this weekend. In the hostel, it was normal to see people washing their clothes in the sink, and drying them with the hand blowdryer. People – men and women – changed in the middle of the 14-bed room. Five or six different languages were often spoken in the room at the same time. I also met an incredibly diverse amount of people. There was Richard from England, Katrina from Scotland, Rabat from Egypt, Shauna and Lisa from Canada, Tae Koh from Japan, Roberto from Italy, Eliza from Australia, Ted from New York City, Kristin and Tom from Maine…I heard (although I didn´t meet all of them) German, Greek, French, Italian, Spanish (duh!), and Swedish, as well as English dialiects from New York, Maine, Scotland, Ireland, England, Australia, and I´m sure I´m forgetting a few. Speaking of languages, though, it´s kinda crazy being here in Barcelona. It´s a part of Spain, so everyone speaks Spanish…but the dominant language is Cataluña, and all of the signs are in Cataluñan, not Spanish. I wasn´t expecting to need a translator when I stayed within the same country :). I actually don´t really need a translator, but still, it´s the priniciple that counts, right? 😉 It really is kinda crazy, though, how much Barcelona (the whole province of Cataluña, for that matter) can be a part of Spain, and yet so separate from it.
But anyway, I finally made it back, safe and sound. We had a super early flight, so we had to leave at 3:30 in the morning to make it to the airport on time. I spent much of the afternoon sleeping, but I was back in the thick of things by the next day. I enjoyed Barcelona, but it´s great to be back in Sevilla. I missed it – and my señora´s cooking, lol :). So that was my adventure in Barcelona! Hope you enjoyed hearing about it!!