So, this weekend past, we went to Barcelona. I want to go back. Not because I had such a fabulous time that I have to experience it all again and more, but because I was so disappointed with the trip that I want to go back and actually enjoy it. The biggest problem with the trip was that it rained a lot. Friday wasn't bad and I enjoyed almost everything we saw that night, but we didn't get there until after 4pm and that was after an 8 hour bus ride, so I wasn't feeling my best anyway. But we saw some amazing things that night.
For one, The Sagrada Familia, which is a gorgeous and gigantic church, designed by Gaudi, a very ahead-of-his-time architect who made Barcelona beautiful. We didn't go inside, but we could see people poking their heads out of the top towers and I really wanted to go in to climb the towers. I took a lot of pictures. However, the Sagrada Familia is currently (and has been for some decades) under construction, so there are hideous cranes and construction looking things in my pictures. Some of the things that The Sagrada Familia is known for is the sculptures of the passion of Christ. There is a four by four block of numbers on the side of the church. Left and right, up and down, diagonally, and many other combinations (such as the four in the corners and Z patterns) (310 to be exact), all add up to 33, which was the age Christ was when he died. It was all very beautiful and awesome.
The Sagrada Familia... at a distance because it's hard to get the whole thing in one picture unless you're at a distance. That's me standing in front of it and that sandy looking patch at the bottom is usually filled with water creating a gorgeous pond that reflects the church, but it's drained right now to conserve water...
We left The Sagrada Familia and headed to the Casa Milá, another work of Gaudi. It is a very stylish apartment building, completed in 1912. After being restored in the 90's, some of the apartments were rented out for 6,000 euro a month, which is insane. We were able to see the lobby, one of the top floor apartments styled in early 1900's decor and furniture, the attic, which is kind of a museum and tribute to Gaudi's work, and the rooftop terrace with all kinds of gorgeous sculptures and views of the city.
The Casa Milá. Gaudí liked to use curvy architecture and iron, but iron was kind of considered lower class so he made it into nice designs.
The roof of The Casa Milá. That tiny building in the far background through the arch is the Sagrada Familia. It was much more impressive seeing it off the roof than in this picture.
After The Casa Milá, we went to see the Casa Batlló. It is yet another building by Gaudí. By this time I was beginning to think that the only good things about Barcelona were Gaudí's works. And for the most part, I still believe this. It's not true, but I didn't get to see enough of the rest of the city to disprove it. Anyway, we didn't get to go into the Casa Batlló and I'm not even sure what it's being used for today, although I'm sure Javier (our tour guide and a teacher at our school) explained everything. The place is called the House of Bones because many of the designs look like bones and tendons and things. I noticed this in a lot of Gaudí's work, and being pre-med, it was pretty interesting. I wouldn't imagine that bone looking things would be beautiful.
After the Casa Batlló we headed for the plaza de Catalunya, which is the main plaza of Barcelona. This is where the Corte Ingles is (very important) and the Hard Rock, H&M, etc. Off one of the streets of the plaza is La rambla. A very long street with many many shops and little tent shops running all the way down the center. Pictures make it look much prettier in the summer when the trees have leaves, or the spring when the trees are in bloom. Some of the tent shops were weird. There were open-air pet stores, where you could buy chickens and bunnies and hamsters and birds and the like. There were flower shops, which made more sense to me. There were a lot of tourist shops. Barcelona in general is a very tourist-y town. I heard England-english and Australian-english in the short time I was there and this was in January/February when no one really wants to go.
Off La rambla is this insane market. It's called the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria and it's this giant open area under a metal roof that sells tons and tons of foods, mostly fruits and vegetables and fish. There were also some pastry and candy places that looked amazing. Some of the weird things that we saw were still living shrimp and crabs that flailed about when the lady grabbed a handful and skinned sheep heads with the eyes still intact. If this place wasn't so tourist-y, it would have been an amazing place to shop for food. Some people bought smoothies that were being sold, but I passed. I wasn't feeling too well at this point because we were still marching around the city after being cramped in a bus and we hadn't used the bathroom or eaten since before 1pm and it was now after 7.
La Boqueria. Only like 1/10 of one of hundreds of aisles in this place. It was amazing.
We snaked our way down a few narrow side streets full of shops and made from stone to a small plaza that I forget the name with some important buildings that I forget the name. It was too hard to listen to our tour guide at this point and I think he had stopped asking the graduate students to translate for him. Then we walked past (but not down) Carrer D'Avinyó, the brothel on this street inspired Picasso to paint "Les Demoiselles de Avignon".
We made a few more stops at plazas that I can't remember very well (Plaza del Rei and something else with big buildings with guards).
Our last stop, basically, was at the Cathedral. The Cathedral may have been gorgeous, but with the entire front of the building obscured by construction materials, I couldn't tell you for sure. I didn't even bother taking any pictures. The inside was nice, but all of the cathedrals are beginning to look the same. I took a few pictures here and there, but I was ready to head back by that time. Mi madre always feeds me after 2pm and then by 9, so when it was after 9 and I hadn't eaten since before 1, I was beginning to feel a bit sick. Not to mention that I still had to use the bathroom. But there is no stopping when Javier gets going.
I managed to hop into a restroom at a Cafe when we made it back to Plaza de Catalunya and were waiting for the bus. We were wondering why the bus wasn't there yet when we realized that most of the streets around the plaza were shut down for... A PARADE? At 9-something at night? Really? We had to continue our march out of the plaza to a place where the bus could get through and then take a half an hour bus ride to the hotel, which was disappointingly situated well outside of Barcelona in a small, dead town.
Dinner at the hotel was some manicotti-like noodles stuffed with tuna? It wasn't very good, but I've learned just to eat whatever it is. Only the milk is still making me sick these days. The tuna was almost gritty tasting, but I ignored it because I was starving. Second course (what? there is a second course?) was some kind of fake steak and french fries. I was hoping there would be a second course because I was still hungry after the first course and not very happy about it. Desert was natural yogurt, which, if anyone has ever had natural yogurt, you know that it is disgusting. Intense sour flavoring without a hint of sugar. Luckily, they gave us giant packets of sugar with our natural flavor yogurt, and I used both, and it wasn't that bad after that.
That night, about 8 of us located pretty much the only bar in this tiny town where our hotel was, which I never did learn the name of. The bar was like an Irish Pub and besides being packed with people, the only spark of life in this dead little town. I was a little concerned at first because a bottle of beer was 6 some euro and I don't even like beer, so I asked the bartender how much the tequila was (my favorite) and she said 1 euro, so I was set for the night. I hung out with some really nice people that night and had a fantastic time. When I got home, rather late, I took what had to have been a 40 minute shower and it was amazing. It felt so good. I shaved my legs probably three times since that has been all but impossible to manage in my 5 minute showers at the piso. The hotel was actually pretty nice. It was kind of weird because we had rooms with two single beds, but they were pushed together like one giant bed, but no complaints. Free internet, comfy mattress. I was very very comfortable.
For breakfast, we had a buffet. I ate a lot. I figured, free food, why not? I loved it, but apparently everyone said it was terrible. I ate a good three bowls of cocoa puffs cereal, a napolitana, two rolls with olive oil, salt, and tomato, and two pieces of tortilla española. It wasn't necessary to eat again until dinner. When we got to Barcelona, we stopped at a few places on MontJuïc. We saw Calatrava's Olympic telecommunications tower, which was a giant almost sword looking thing. We stopped at the Catalan Art Museum, this gigantic looking castle place, but we only walked in the front entry and then out again. We stopped for 20 minutes at the Olympic Stadium from 1992, the year the Olympics were in Barcelona. Not a bad morning. I don't think it had started raining yet anyway. Maybe only some sprinkles.
View from MontJüic. See the clouds?
Next we went to see my favorite part of the trip: Park Güell. It was raining by this time, but there
were a lot of places to stand under. We passed by this guy selling earrings and I wanted to buy some, but Javier was already out of sight by this time and I had to run to catch up. At the park were these mosaic looking lizard statues, beautiful. I got my picture next to it. This is also a Gaudí place, by the way. There are these curvy benches that overlook the city. It's really a beautiful place and we didn't spend nearly as much time there as I would have liked.
Me at the Park Güell. I'm sitting on the curvy benches. It's raining in this picture, by the way.
Then is was free time. We wandered around the Plaza de Catalunya for awhile, looking for a place to eat, even though I wasn't hungry and didn't want to eat. Then we wandered around stores for awhile. I bought a Barcelona t-shrit for 8 euro. It was actually a kids t-shirt, but I demanded that I wanted one and the guy found me one that fit. It was pouring by this time and I was soaked and miserable. I had brought an umbrella to Barcelon, but I had asked my roommate that morning if I should bring it and she said no, so I left it in my room, for some reason. I really wish that I hadn't. I was absolutely miserable. Then we had the option to go to the Picasso museum and I wanted to go, but someone else wanted to go to the Sagrada Familia to go inside and climb the towers. I figured that would be an amazing experience, so I went along instead. Well, after 3 euro round-trip metro ride to get there, then 9 euro entrance fee, it was 2.50 euro to ride the elevator. So I was like, whatever, let's pay to ride the elevator. But the elevator was closed for the night. It was really disappointing. The inside of the church was decent looking enough, but not 9 euro worth of decent. Oh, well. Live and learn. Like never leave your umbrella behind. After the church, we went back to the plaza to have dinner at the Hard Rock. I've now eaten at Hard Rock Madrid and Hard Rock Barcelona since I've been on this trip. I'll never dislike their spicy mac and cheese.
Free time seemed like it would never end. I was soaked. My feet were soaked. It was miserable and we spent probably 10 hours walking around in the rain. I was cold and miserable. I hated Barcelona at this point. I spent the last probably 2 hours wandering around the Corte Ingles, where I bought some earrings that I really like. Finally, the bus arrived. Many people decided to stay in Barcelona to go out for the nightlife, but I didn't want to do anything but go back to the hotel, where I ran into Carla and her roommate having a hot foot soak in soapy water. I joined them and began to feel better. Then, after a 30 minute shower, I went back to their room to watch the Latin music video channel and relax. When they went to bed, I headed down to my tutor's room where I hung out with him, his roommate, and her friend where I had a glass of cheap wine and some cookies. It was fantastic. Probably one of the bigger highlights of my trip.
I slept like a rock, again, and over-ate at breakfast, again. I thought that we were just heading back to Alcala when we all piled on the bus with our stuff, but no. We had to stop at the Palau de la Música Catalana where we got a guided tour. It was pretty, don't get me wrong, but I was exhausted. We sat in these comfy seats and the guide turned on some organ music. I was asleep in seconds. Then I was trying not to fall asleep as she was talking, but when you hardly understand someone talking about something not all that interesting, it's very hard not to sleep. On the bus ride, finally, I watched Mystic River in spanish. I was very very proud of myself because I followed almost all of the movie. Of course, they had spanish subtitles on and I can read spanish much much easier than listening to it. If the subtitles hadn't been on, there would have been no way I could have followed it. It was a pretty good movie, but I was motion sick by the end of it. I guess Sean Penn (?) won an award for the movie. I recommend it anyway, except that someone said that at one point they have really really thick Boston accents and it's kind of hard to understand them in English, which I obviously didn't experience.
Lunch was cookies and chips, neither very good, but I wasn't in the mood for a plate of spaghetti like some people ate. I slept a bit more. I thought that I wasn't sleeping, but when I saw Madrid 135 and then we were in Alcala like 10 minutes later, I knew I must have fallen asleep.
Anyway. What did I learn? Never forget my Rick Steve's book again. Never go anywhere without an umbrella. Only wear old socks because my shoes leak dye when they are wet. I will never grow tired of tequila and drinking tequila garners respect from most college students. The Corte Ingles, with its 7 floors, does not believe in bathrooms. I do not like the chocolate here as much as chocolate in the states. I would rather give up chocolate than never have a hot shower ever again. My wish that Barcelona wasn't our first trip so that I would know what I was getting into better and therefore could plan better was a very legitimate wish. I love window seats.
There, that's about it. This took forever to write and I refuse to proofread it, so sorry about that. Now I basically have to write it again on a much smaller scale, in Spanish for my classes. Fun!