Sunday, August 10, 2014

Spain Part II: Beaching, Walking, and Eating

Thursday 12 June 2014
We had breakfast at the hotel again and decided on a beach day. It’s terrible, but we are just a bit tired of sightseeing.

Traveling for this long definitely has its disadvantages. Forgive me, as I know I’ve mentioned this before…but you just get tired. You get tired of walking. You get tired of seeing incredible and awesome things. It sounds so horrible and spoiled, but it’s true. When everyday greets you with some new breathtaking sight…they become less remarkable. It’s kind of sad. I do the best I can to find the excitement and enthusiasm inside of myself to be PRESENT and recognize the amazing-ness of it all. However, there are still some days that you want to just sit around or go to the beach :D

The owner of the B&B suggested avoiding the crowds and pickpockets by heading east of Barcelona’s main beach.

In the metro, we bought a bulk of 10 tickets, which is cheaper than buying individual tickets (same goes for Paris) and made our way towards the beach.

We got off the metro in the neighborhood of Poblenou. The area was charming and full of little cafes. 

We walked down towards the beach, which was still crowded despite the advice of our B&B owner. The area had another (or really, the same) wide pedestrian/bike path that wound through a park to come out on a beach. Along the beach, the path was lined with restaurants.

We plopped in the sand and enjoyed reading in the warm sun. I got in the water up to my knees, but it was still chilly and not as clear as Greece, or even France, had been.

The sky here is always kind of hazy and seemingly threatening to storm, but it never does storm.

We stayed at the beach for a few hours and then walked the beach path back into the city to return home on the metro.

We got off one stop early to explore the streets around our B&B. We found a huge, enclosed market. The market was a lot like the one we had visited in Florence with various stalls, each selling a particular item (meats, cheese, produce, etc).

Pres bought some cheap and DELICIOUS fruit juices and we made our way back to the B&B.

Around dark, we hopped on the metro and headed back to El Gotic for dinner. We found a super touristy place in a square with a great paella special that included sangria ;)

Blurry :D

Predictably, the food was just OK, but the ambiance in the square was nice and there was live music. The night was warm and humid. I loved it.

We made our way back to the metro through the medieval streets, which were magical at night.

Friday 13 June 2014 (aaaa-oooo Friday the 13th!!)
Breakfast again was had in the sunny room upstairs. We set off on foot to wander west on the streets. Barcelona is such a busy city and SO hot.

We walked to an area-of course I can’t recall the name-which was sort of alternative, with lots of tattoo parlors and record stores.

We found another food special with tapas in a busy square. Honestly, the food was terrible and our waiter was super rude, so it wasn’t the best lunch.

But there was wine

Wandering again down La Rambla (a busy shopping street), we headed towards the water. It was unbelievably hot. We stopped for a while on some benches in the park and realized we were sitting outside some sort of homeless shelter. Haha.

Dripping with sweat, we walked the long way back towards the B&B. We stopped at another market for more fruit juices, which we INHALED. Not long after, we stopped for ANOTHER juice. We are so thirsty in this hot, heavy air.

We stumbled upon an adorable street market with kids singing and arts & crafts. It looked again like it would storm, but never did.

Back in the wonderful AC of our room, we rested a bit before getting ready to meet Preston’s friend Nate for dinner.

More terrace views of the 'not-storm'

Nate was very good friends with Preston’s childhood neighbor, so Preston has known Nate for some time. Nate met a Spanish girl in Arizona and subsequently married her and moved with her outside Barcelona so that she could be near her family.

Nate came to meet us at our hotel and we walked up the street for some chilled red wine in a sidewalk café. Nate's wife was unable to join us, because she was not feeling well.

Nate was just wonderful…an incredibly kind, spiritual, and knowledgeable guy. To hear him talk about the love he has for his wife and how he overcame the struggles of moving to a foreign country to demonstrate that love to her, brought tears to my eyes. 

Nate is great (and strangely...photographs nothing like he looks in person)

After our drinks, we continued on to a cobblestoned area full of restaurants and bars.

Nate was so funny, because he said we were looking for a few ‘key indicators’ as to where would be a good place to eat. The first of these indicators was a wine barrel out front of the restaurant. He was also looking for certain menu items and a specific ambiance.

We walked a while through the busy streets and finally found the ‘perfect’ place, which was really well worth the wait. We ordered meats, breads, and cheeses, and red wine while Nate regaled us with stories about integrating into Catalan Culture and we told him about our trip. Nate explained what a different language Catalan is from Spanish…and I was grateful, because it explained some of my translation issues.

Totally made up for our disgusting lunch

The three of us had a few bottles of wine and by the time we headed back to the hotel it was nearly 3am!!

A wonderful night!!

I went up to bed, but Preston and Nate stayed up and went to another bar and then sat in the park talking till almost 6am!!

Party animals

Spain Part I: Hola Barcelona

Tuesday 10 June 2014
We had a sleepless night. The increasing heat led us to sleep with the windows wide open and there was a lot of noise…people spilling out of bars, insanely loud seagulls, garbage trucks that took forever, etc.

One of the rogue seagulls :D

Goodnight La Grande Motte

Exhausted, we were up early and lugged our bags back to the bus stop and fumbled our way back to the tram in Montpellier. We were all ready with exact change for the bus driver, but apparently the fare had increased 10 cents. This took some time to figure out with neither us, nor the bus driver speaking the same language. Since, somehow, the same bus (#106) took a different route back to Montpellier from the way we had arrived…we had a scare that we were going to the wrong place, but all was well. We returned to the tram and then to the train…feeling all was much easier to navigate on our return.

 I wish that we had time to see more of Montpellier, as it seems a cool town, but we chose instead to spend a few days relaxing by the beach.

We arrived to the train station and found that all trains into and out of the station were stopped due to someone having been injured on the track (!!). We got coffee and croissants in a café and waited.


Ciao for now France

We had arrived about three hours early in fear that something would go awry with our many forms of transportation. So, we sat and sat. Luckily, our train was only about 20 mins late.

Pres and I boarded the train without incident and were on our way for our 3 hour journey to Barcelona.

We arrived to a busy train station and made our way through to the connected metro station. We had only a few stops to reach our B&B, which we found after a few minutes.

The B&B is a cute little place on the top floor of an old building. It has a kitchen, a breakfast room, a nice terrace, and rooms on the floor below…which share a modern bathroom.

Breakfast room

Tired from our sleepless night, we rested a bit and then set out to see some of the city.

From our window, we can see the top of the famed Sagrada Familia, so we headed there.

There it is!!

The walk was only about a ½ mile and we opted to take some pictures from the park below rather than going inside.

The church looks nothing in person like I thought it did from the many pictures I’ve seen. Pictures make it seem so ‘hive-like’, but in person, the church is intricate and grand, despite the cartoonish colors of the spires. I was truly surprised to find that I liked it.

We got some iced coffees to keep us going and headed north through the city on a gentle incline. I’m not sure how to describe it here. It’s more open and inviting than highbrow :P Paris, which can be intimidating.

There are dozens of little markets selling fresh fruit on the sidewalks of every neighborhood. The insides of these markets are like convenience stores.

Despite my lackluster Spanish (four years in school!!), it’s comforting to recognize at least every few words I hear spoken. It’s warm here too…and humid. My fave.

We made our way up and up to Park Guell, which was an outdoor venture of Barcelona’s beloved architect Gaudi.

The park was magnificent…like something from a story. It’s hard to describe. There were flowers, overhanging structures, and old buildings with columns. I didn’t take pictures that do it justice. (In fact, I'm really slacking on the good photos of late. Tired?) 

It’s possible to walk around the park for free, but some areas need tickets. For example, there was a wide terrace that overlooked the city, which required an entrance fee and a wait in a long line. The views were fine from everywhere, so we skipped the terrace.

It was a hilly park. We climbed our way to the top and took in the views of the city. It was absolutely gorgeous…and HOT. We were dripping with sweat :P

We took our time walking back down the hill to our hotel. We stopped at a little market and got some wine to enjoy on the terrace of our B&B.

We had our wine, read books, and ended up going to bed early. Dinner in Spain is traditionally served late (like, past 10), so we skipped it for a good night’s rest.

Wednesday 11 June 2014
We enjoyed a simple breakfast this morning in the breakfast room of the B&B. I chatted with the owner for a bit. He was very helpful and a tad condescending. ;)

We set out on foot towards the Old Quarter of Barcelona, which is just south of where we are staying. We walked down the wide Passeig de Gracia-the main artery of shopping here in Barcelona. We arrived in the tall, old, stone buildings of the Old Quarter soon enough. El Gotic was the first area we explored. The area is very medieval with narrow alleys and old iron accents on the buildings. I loved it.

Kind of a lie about the carros :D

Unbelievably, cars were driving in these tiny streets. El Gotic mostly housed little boutique shops and restaurants with apartments on the top levels.

We strolled around and took a little break by a fountain before walking out towards the water. We walked along the wide pedestrian/bike path and crossed over a bridge towards a shopping center on the pier.

Inside the shopping center, we located the restrooms, but they were pay only. This is common in Europe…and I have to say, a huge diss. :D

On the way back, the bridge we had crossed was opened to let a boat sail through, so we sat and watched for a while.

After wandering back through the streets, we settled on a “Menu de dia”, which is common here. For a set price, you get an app, a main, dessert, and a drink. There are a few options for each and the price is quite reasonable.

We enjoyed rose wine with fish and chicken and headed back towards our hotel…full from our three course lunch!!

We spent the afternoon on the terrace reading again and then headed down the street to have tapas for dinner.

Terrace views

We got a good spread: Catalan bread-olive oil on toasted bread smeared with tomatoes; veggies; and cheesy potatoes-all with red wine.

Mmm bread :D

It was tasty. We returned to the hotel and tucked in for the night.