Thursday, May 19, 2011

Alison, you would have been impressed.

After packing our bags and stuffing them in an office at school in Geneva, where we planned to come back and get them before heading to London, Jonathan and I were ready to explore new cities. He talked about wanting to see a concert in Barcelona, so why not. Madrid was on the list, too. That was my doing, of course. So we caught an afternoon flight to Barcelona and checked in to our hostel with just enough time to go find food and then come back and…pass out. Conveniently, we were in a 12 person room at a hostel centrally located in Barcelona. 
Las Ramblas
The other 10 people in our room we met earlier in the evening and again at 4am when they came in laughing and tripping over things. There were of course apologies but all I could muster at that point was, "umhmm s'ok". Oh the life of hostel living.

 The next morning we woke up early and headed down to the very touristy but symbolic Las Ramblas where we planned to meet Carly. This road is impossible to miss, with its tree-lined streets and almost tacky vendors and street performers trying to steal your money. 
But it's also one of the most lively and energetic areas of the city, too - a must see, actually. Minutes after meeting up with Carly we found ourselves in one of the greatest food markets known to man (at least that’s my opinion). Meats, cheese, olives, peppers, still living sea food, and much more could be found at this grand food palace. I bought a bag of dried banana chips and a few apples and cut myself off. Good thing, too, or I might never have stopped.

Park Güell
After the market perusing and food buying, we headed to the metro where we planned to take a train to see one of Gaudi’s greatest architectural marvels (again, this is my opinion): Park Güell. Antoni Gaudi, Barcelona’s master architect who lived in the city for many years until his death, is my favorite architect, and one that truly brought a new style to Barcelona’s buildings. 

This park is no different. It’s beautifully set at the top of a hill overlooking the city. Gaudi is known for his unique designs, which can be seen all over this park! Truly one of the most amazing places in this city!

After Park Güell, we headed to the other side of town to check out Gaudi’s other masterpiece: Sagrada Familia. It’s unfinished and will be until funds permit it. Gaudi refused to allow government money to build this work of art so the admission into Sagrada Familia is where the funding comes from. No telling how long it will take. Either way, it’s a must for visitors. 

Carly working on her navigational skills.
After Gaudi, we decided a quick nap was in order, followed by food. We wandered around finding a little café looking restaurant that served tapas, ordering everything from mushrooms to potatoes to beef. We then parted ways and Jonathan and I found ourselves at this bar around the corner where we were followed in by a bachelor party. Needless to say they didn’t make a very good impression on the staff. With matching t-shirts, beers in one hand and a blow up doll in the other, heads definitely turned. After being thoroughly entertained by the outgoingly obnoxious party, we left and headed back for the night. Another long day ahead of us to follow.

The next day consisted of shopping, street wandering and a grand tour of the coast. Barcelona has some amazing beaches (not necessarily because the water is crystal clear or that the sand is white; but it’s always crowded with people enjoying the sun). Even with jackets on, people are lining the beaches playing with their dogs, riding bikes or just sitting and enjoying the view. 
We walked down the beach for a while and turned back to make sure we had enough time. We had a concert to go to after all. But before we did, one more stop.

We took the metro back to the center of town. On the way back up to the hostel, we found an amazing outdoor seating area just near the end of Las Ramblas. It was situated next to a café that had so many choices of food, wine, coffee and beer, it was hard to decide what to have. We took our seats, after waiting a few minutes for a small group to slowly vacate the table, and ordered two beers and sandwiches. 
Afternoon beer anyone
It was just cool enough for jackets but people didn’t seem to mind it. After our afternoon snacks and a bit of time relaxing, we decided to head back towards the hostel. It was time to get ready for the concert.

I feel the need to explain the ticket hunting we did for this concert. Jonathan found out weeks before we left Geneva that My Chemical Romance was playing in Barcelona during our break. So we decided to go for it. He bought tickets and that was that. Getting the tickets, however, was a completely different story. The “simple” instructions given to Jonathan in Spanish told us to go to any ticketing booth strategically placed all over the city and pick them up there. Of course, what we didn’t know was that all of the instructions were in Catalan – a sort of off-shoot of Spanish adopted by those living in the region of Catalonia in Spain. Although Jonathan is fairly well-versed in Spanish, it becomes a bit harder when you add a Catalan twist. Catalan and Spanish are very similar, but not when trying to read instructions on how to print tickets. Overall, we went to about 7 or 8 booths all refusing to take his card, scan his confirmation sheet or give us directions in English. Needless to say it was an exhausting experience. Eventually, he just happened to confuse one machine enough to where it DID give us directions in English and then on to the printing. Now why couldn’t it have been that easy the first 86 tries?

The good news is the concert was amazing. It was at a building near the Olympic stadium, which overlooked the city. After singing and jammin' for about two and a half hours, we went back to the train by which we came only to find out it stopped running about 2 hours before. Hailing a taxi was our only option – conveniently, the ride back towards the center of town was much closer than we thought, which was comforting considering our taxi driver learned how to drive at Talladega (or the Spain equivalent). Back to the hostel. The next morning we were parting ways with Barcelona.

One of the cheapest ways to travel from one city to another is by bus. Therefore, our first thought was to go to the main bus station and catch a bus to Madrid from there. Yet, we didn’t anticipate the nearly 8 hour bus ride, which was only that long because 1) it definitely did not take a direct route to Madrid, and 2) it stopped nearly every 15 minutes. Our second choice? Rent a car of course. We were told the easiest place to rent a car to drive to Madrid was at the main train station. What we didn’t know was that we should have booked a car in advance. We arrived at the main train station only to find out that all three car rental shops had no cars available. Third choice? Take the train. Finally, Madrid here we come!

-          Brandy

No comments:

Post a Comment