Barça Beginnings, the Three Strikes and Larry

¡Hola blog readers!

Guess I should update ya, huh?  Well, so far so good.  Pictures up soon btdubs, I'm a little behind haha.  Compared to last time, the plane was canceled flights or lost days on this trip!  Although, the whole "remote gate" thing at my Amsterdam layover was a bit weird.  With all the fog, they stuck our plane way out in the middle of nowhere (Schiphol is huge!) and bused us in.  No sweat, we were back in the building and through customs in no time.  And on the way, I hung with my plane buddy Betsy, who was on her way to Zurich to work for her professor from UC Davis, along with James and a bunch of sustainability guys going to an EV conference in Barcelona.  If I get a chance, I just might stop by.

Barcelona brought rain...and it's been nothing but since.  I have to say, coming from the PNW to land in rain and 50 degree weather, not my favorite.  But, you gotta make do with what you got, and so far it's been a blast.  I'm so thankful for Umayr, Iva, Sarah and all my other hostel guys are awesome!  The first day, fresh off the plane and 9 hours jet lagged (with no sleep either), I found my friendly hostel in the Raval neighborhood after wandering up a few shady streets, toting me huge ass backpack and daypack through the airport and train station.  Oh!  If you're an Android user, you have to try MapsWithMe, it does an awesome job with offline maps...just be sure to download the 270MB file for your country BEFORE the plane ride lol.  Though I don't recommend holding your phone out in public in Barcelona, it was a lifesaver for finding the hostel.

So I checked in, got my tour info, and immediately bumped into Umayr, who checked in right behind me.  He was fresh in from Toronto and I just got in from the US.  What do we do?  Hit the town, son!  I mean sure, I didn't have sleep, but after my marathon of not sleeping 4 days last time in Europe, I figured I'd just keep pushing til I was dead.  And man I gotta say...I really can push the limit hehe.

First up, we got lost in the Old City, scrambling around the winding, narrow streets of Barcelona.  The rain did put a little bit of a damper on walking around, but hey, I'm from Portland, I'm used to this by now, right?  We hustled our way over to Las Ramblas, tourist central in Barcelona, wandering through the crowds down towards the water.  We popped into La Boqueria, the market at the center of the street, checking out the piles of candy, fish, tapas, fruit and other scents that filled the air.  Oh man, Umayr, I'm sorry that the snack you grabbed turned out to be fried fish skin...but it was pretty hilarious hehe.  The kiwi/coconut drink I grabbed though, very refreshing.

Next up, we segued into the Barri Gotic, strolled passed Catedral, grabbed a couple chocolate-covered xurros (6 for €2!) and meandered right into the Museu Picasso.  We kind of walked straight pass the security guard to use the bathroom in the museum (hey, it's an open-air museum, not my fault)...but we were good boys and bought tix, since it turns out we would've needed them right after the bathroom anyways haha.

With the rain (and now wind) as it was, the two of us ended up walking into the Santa Maria del Mar, which is an absolutely beautiful church at night, and we ran right into a free classical concert.  It was very pretty, especially with the church as it was.  Our march forward continued on along with the intensity of the rain and wind, leading us through El Born and towards the beach and La Barceloneta. Not much to see of the beach with the pouring rain, so we checked out and grabbed a Metro back.

Now, I'm always stressed about getting on to a decent sleep schedule while traveling.  Not getting sleep...just some sort of sleep (don't joke, nobody really gets much sleep in hostels haha).  This time, I think I nailed down the secret formula.  It came by way of a meal among new hostel friends, a bottle of wine, and a pub crawl with some absinthe and mojitos.  Natalia, you rocked at showing us around to a few cool bars and club in the city...I just wished I could've stayed until 5am!  I'm always up for talking with a fellow Pole over drinks with new buddies :-)

Back at 3 a.m., out in 30 minutes BAM!  That's how you beat jetlag lol...well, that and maybe the ridiculously cold shower at 3 along with it...damn boiler.  Didn't feel shabby in the morning either, other than I set my alarm to PM instead of AM...oops.  Umayr, Iva and I got up and going by 11 a.m. (a little late, but hey it's vacation) and made an attempt (key word, attempt) at some Gaudi sites.

First up, the Exiample and Casa Batlló for a few pics.  I somehow jammed the shutter on my camera and had an "OMG OMG OMG!" moment, so I switched to my phone.  I mean, it is the beginning of the trip, but replacing a camera on the most expensive street in Barcelona?  No thanks.  Luckily, we made it to Casa Milà (just up the street), snapped a few pics and went for coffee, and the damn thing decided to wake up...thank you, stupid camera, hope you live for two more weeks!

So that brings me to...(drum roll, maybe?)

Strike #1: Casa Milà's roof terrace was closed for rain

There was like NO rain, but it was a safety thing.  Fine, we're positive people, so we just headed 10 blocks west to Sagrada Familia, THE thing to see in BCN.  We didn't have tickets, and lines can suck, but it didn't seem like a big problem off-season.  Well the line stretched all around the side, past the Metro stop (which conveniently dumps you right off in the Sagrada queue lol) and on and on.  When we when to get in line, it turns out that...

Strike #2: Sagrada Familia was closing for mass at 2 p.m.

Damn!  So close to doing something!  Okay, okay, we grabbed a quick lunch (got a great jamón sandwich at a little cafe) and jumped on the Metro to Montjuïc to take a stroll up to the Museo Nacional d'Art de Catalunya and...

Strike #3: The museum closed at 3 p.m.

A bit defeated, the three of us trekked back through the neighborhoods to the hostel for a pit stop.  I gotta say, the rain definitely doesn't help with Sunday schedules (and the late start lol).  Right then, we made a vow to hit Sagrada (with tickets) and Park Guell first thing tomorrow!  With that, we cleaned up and met up with Sarah, who's from friggin' Detroit! (Inkster, actually).  Not to mention my new roomie is from weird.  Anywho, the four of us trekked back into the rain, since it was only 6...I mean, that's like the dead time in Spain, with dinner starting at 10 p.m.  We made it back to Barceloneta on the bus, laughing all the way.  Apparently, dirty jokes are a common denominator amongst international friends, along with comedy.  I'm glad I'm well-versed in both :-)

Mr. Rain came back with a vengeance  but we slid into an awesome Argentinian restaurant (around 8 p.m., still too early for dinner, but I'm still trying to figure this out).  Lots of sangria and some filling food made the cool, chilly stroll back to the Metro all the better.

Oh, and then there was "Larry" to round out the evening.  So, the four of us get on the Metro and a few stops in, a random guy (who we all now call Larry) got on the train.  Now, they say that you have to watch yourself on Metro, but as Umayr said, if this guy was a thief, he was REALLY bad.  Not to mention all four of us had trained ourselves to be uber-aware in Barcelona, since that's what everybody says.  So...guy gets on the train, right between Umayr + Me and Iva + Sarah.  We're standing at these like standing pads/chairs and this guy is leaning right on the door...even though there was space all over the train car.  A stop later, he comes and stands right on top of me (still space all over the place btw) and puts his one arm across my face and reaches for one of the handrails.  Now I'm like, okay, he obviously wants to yank my camera or wallet, staring off casually in one direction.  I proceed to turn my head and stare past him in the opposite direction, looking right at the transit map, watching him from the corner of my eye.  At this point, what does he do with his other hand?  Uh, he sticks it down his pants?  Hmm...ok.  I just sat there and stared.  A moment later, he moves a bit away, and I feel relieved after checking my pockets.  A minute later we get off to transfer, and Sarah breaks out laughing, along with Umayr, for what seems like no reason.

Well, turns out that everyone in our group watched my stare-down and the hand-in-the-pants thing with Larry go down, which I gotta admit must have looked hilarious.  That, and he followed us to the transfer! Needless to say, he went home empty handed, with the stare-down from 3 Americans and a Canadian.  It was like having my own Metro posse, very cool haha.  Oh, we also go heckled by a guy making random remarks in English (it's amazing what people think of Americans), but after we figured out he had started talking gibberish and his girlfriend was holding a conversation with her umbrella, we decided to let them enjoy there trip and waited for them to get off the train.  Public transit, gotta love it!

Back to the hostel, a few treats bought from the snack shop and some good stories made it a nice, chill night...AND I found enough time to even write :-)  I have to say, so far, the weather's not cooperating, but you gotta work with what you got.  I'm so happy for my little umbrella and extra layers...I was totally NOT expecting this with the forecast. I'm hoping for warmer weather *fingers crossed* on future parts of the journey, but even so, it's still an awesome time, and the hostel culture is so nice to have at times like this.  To come "home" and have people to just chat with, share photos, crack jokes and have a drink is so much nicer than staying alone in a hotel.  As always, hosteling is the way to travel solo for sure.  Soooooo many people, it's great!

Well, off to bed and Sagrada early in the morning, I'll keep on posting and getting more clever as I get some sleep lol, have a pleasant evening/afternoon all yous US people and we'll chat soon.  Oh, and I'll have the lowdown on tapas as soon as I can get a clear night to go hopping around.

¡Buenas noches!

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tinybunnyhops said...

Hope your camera holds up for the next 2 weeks, I look forward to the pictures :)

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