So I owe a post about my fantastic spring break in Barca, and promised to make good on filling everyone in, and I finally have time right now to do so before I go take a run around Granada :)
We left Granada's tiny "airport" (that has maybe three gates, tops) for Girona, the ghetto airport Ryan Air flies into (we actually came close to missing out flight because Joya and I were keeping tabs on the flight to BARCELONA instead of to Girona ... Dio saved the day though haha) in the early early morning, and after an hour and half long plane ride followed by an hour long stuff bus ride from Girona, we made it into Barcelona! It was a beautiful sunny day, so even though it took us a good hour to find our hostel from the bus station we didn't mind.
(We ran into the Arc de Triumf on the way to the hostel
We stayed in the Kabul Backpackers hostel in Plaza Real right off of La Rambla. It was an amazing hostel, providing us with free breakfast AND dinner. While the dinner was usually some oddly cooked form of pasta with meat, it was free a good start for an evening out. The main level where you eat had a pool table, tons of computers, a foozball table, chess set, bar, vending machines, a tv, and projector for soccer games. We watched the Barca-Germany game there which was really fun because you're immersed in a really international crowd. For 2 euro we got big cups of Heineken on tap, so there was really nothing to complain about.
I stayed in a mixed dorm for 8 people, but we made up the majority of the beds: joya, dio, arash and daniel (who dio's good friends with back in the states) and me. We had a lot of different roommates come in and out of our lives during the week, but a few stand out as highlights:
Benjamin. Benjamin was Austrian and only there for our first night. He's in his late twenties and resembles some sort of large bird, maybe a stork. He got to sit on the top bunk and just laugh at our large group of American kids playing drinking games before heading out to Razzmatazz (more on that later). Europeans don't play drinking games, and don't really understand WHY we do them. So we're sitting there doing ridiculous things like saying "first horse third horse" or making animal antlers among other idiotic things that the boys insisted we play, and Benjamin is soberly laughing and gawking at/with us. We offered him a spot in the game, but he had an early flight and enjoyed the show from his perch.
(benjamin on the top bunk)
We had a creepy roommate for a few days named Isaac, and by creepy I mean hipster 20 year old blonde skinny guy from California who managed to lose his phone, camera, dignity, and hostel reservation in the course of three days. He tagged along with us for a night, and he was beyond awkward, in an almost endearing way. Keyword on almost. Skinny jeans, ironic t-shirts, and librarian glasses. Yeap, he was that kid.
My favorite roommates were the Dutch ultimate frisbee team we hung out with on Dio's last night with us. They were all hilarious and really down to earth people. We hung out with them all night, got some drinks in the hostel bar (cold and rainy outside = we gave up on the idea of going out out) and just talked and laughed til five in the morning. It's insane how many Europeans know English even though it is not their first language. We had some great conversations, and they had only been taking English since high school. Once of the girls told me that it is because all the American TV shows over there are shown in English and just subtitled in Dutch, so thats how they picked a lot of it up. We had some fun discussions with them from everything about how frisbee isn't popular in Europe like in the States, to Bush, to Obama, to how bad the boxed wine in Spain is. I really liked them a lot, hostels are cool because they expose you to all different kinds of people.
And of course, the two 50 year old French women who were in the all girls room that Joya and I moved into after all the boys departed for Rome or Paris the last couple of days. They were stuck up and rude. But, they WERE middle aged women staying in a youth hostel, so I really have no idea what they were expecting.
Site seeing wise we hit all the majors: Guadi buildings including the Sagrada Familia which is one of the ugliest/coolest things I've ever seen. I don't know what Gaudi was thinking, even though I did some background reading before going, really at all. But it is pretty impressive to see up close, and we went on a pretty overcast and gloomy day, so it looked even more intense and eerie than usual.
Our second day we slept on the beach at Barceloneta for the morning (Joya and I had to forcibly make the boys get out of bed, they were understandably tired being that we got in around 830 and were waking them up at 11...) which was relaxing .. minus all the "me-sah-ays"? "tatoos (marijuana, cocaina, what you like I got what you like??)"s and "sexy beer sexy beer" vendors illegally prowling around. But nada pasa, we just enjoyed our picnic of bread, jamon y queso and soaked up the rays (which we wouldn't have the priviledge of hanging out with again for many days).
That afternoon we met up with some of Arash and David's friends from Columbia who are studying in Copenhagen (one knows Andrew and went to high school with him!?!? SMALL world) and hiked up to Park Guell (sp?) which was a multiple hour affair in which we got lost in the forests, A LOT, but eventually made it over to Gaudi's wonderland of a park and enjoyed the gorgeous views and people watching. On the way over we hiked up to this sweet view point where a bunch of people were all perchin on this huge cross, kind of creepy, but it was an unbeatable view!
Other sights we saw: Picasso museum and the gothic neighborhood, both were awesome (despite the rain and chilliness that seems to love following me around) and incredible to see in person, even if the whole week it seemed like we never actually slept, just took glorified naps. Another cool thing we saw was the Museum of Contempary Art, not just because the exhibits were fascinating (I'm discovering that I really really like modern art and how it challenges you to make sense of it, which Lily cerca 9th grade would hate me for) but because right in front of the museum local skaters set up a make-shift skate park! I don't mean like five kids, there were TONS. You really get a taste for the local culture when you run into places like this, a bunch of kids and adults hanging around skating, smoking, and drinking their sexy beers. (Sexy Beers are the beers random men sell on the street for a euro each, Estrella is the brand I think, I asked one once why he called them "sexy beers" and he said because it's proven to be a successful ad campaign, because who doesn't want a sexy beer?) The whole site was out of this world, this huge modern building situated in the middle of all these old buildings, surrounded by kids skateboarding. Definitely one of my favorite sights of the trip.
Cuisine wise we stuck to the hostel usually for dinner, our second night this kid Craig (the one who guided us up to Park Gueill) took us to Pim Pam where I had the most amazing burger of my life. I'm not sure if it was amazing just because I'm used to Granada's tapas burgers that are made of pork or ham instead of beef, or because it was really just that good. But either way, I was in heaven. Another night a huge group of us trekked through the pouring rain (not exaggerating. At All.) to a chicken and paella place the hostel desk workers recommended to us, huge portions, yummy food, and cheap prices ... we couldn't really beat that! For lunch we spent most of our time in the amazing market off La Ramble and bought baguettes, fruit, and cheese to picnic in a plaza or on la playa. The market was another one of my favorite places we frequented whilst in Barca.
At night we generally had a few drinks in the hostel and then went out in search of adventure. We usually were out until 7 or 8 in the morning and rallied it all together the next day to go sight seeing. Looking back on everything, I'm impressed with how efficient we were at seeing everything we wanted to, and having as much fun as we did! Highlights for nighttime:
Razzmatazz - five level disco with all types of music and people. We had a lot of fun, even though it was our first night and Joya, Dio and I had been up since 5am, we stayed til it closed ;)
Roxy - the disco itself wasn't that special, but we went with our hostel so we got in free and there was a live Brazilian band playing and they were SO much fun. We were in the very front row and the singer interacted with the crowd a lot and got us to do some ridiculous dance movies that bordered on the Macoraina (no idea how to spell that one):
Felinnis - Disco on La Rambla, it played mainly house music but was a good time, especially since it was all of two blocks away from our hostel.
Opium - this was our last night, Joya and I met up with Seth, his little brother Lyle, and his friend who's studying in Barca Graham. We went out for a drink with Seth's parents and then headed to Chupitos (I will explain this ridiculous bar later) and then to Opium. Opium's cool because it's right on the beach -- the club literally opens up to the sandy shore! It was a nice club, lots of white couch type things to relax on and a pretty international crowd since the beach clubs usually attract the tourists. We didn't stay too late and got home around 6 but we hung out with some French guys in the hostel til 730, which Joya and I both regretted when waking up at 1030 to check out.
The rest of the nights we just ended up at random bars or cafe/clubs. Seth, Joya, and I were wandering around one night and were whisked off in a whirlwind by a promoter claiming to be from Chicago, dressed like he was from the 40s. He took us to a cafe where we had amazing mojitos and relaxed while listening to a local hip-hop/soul/funk dj spin tunes. It was packed and a cool atmosphere, even though none of us are still positive how we ended up there. We were all pretty sure our promoter friend was on some sort of drug, he was bouncing EVERYWHERE.
Our bar of choice, which we went to three times, was Chupitos: a shots bar with two euro shots that you go to not for the alcohol, but for the show. There are over 400 shots, and most of them involve setting the glasses or bar top on fire, fruits, and whipped cream. There's the Harry Potter, Bin Laden, Finding Nemo, and all sorts. It was really fun, each person bought a round for the group so we ended up getting a round free too, the bar tenders got a kick out of us.
All in all Barca was an amazing, but exhausting adventure. It's an amazing city, really bursting with life and really gorgeous archetecture. But I couldn't live there, my heart belongs in Granada. Barca was just crawling with tourists ... granted it was Semana Santa. But La Rambla was a really cool place to be, the street performers were out of this world! And I never felt unsafe once, probably because Joya and I were constantly with our guys friends and not really ever vulnerable, but even pick-pocket wise I'm pretty proud of the lack of theft that occured!!
I really don't like doing posts that summarize trips that are more than two or three days, it just seems so daunting, and then I get really behind. So I'm sorry this took so long, I'm headed to Italia on Thursday with Carolyn to see Christian :) I will be much more on the ball with that update!!