This time, we got Barcelona beat!

Man, what a difference one day can make. After the dip in sightseeing Sunday, Monday was quite the whirlwind, full of Gaudi, taxi rides and laughs.

Determined to start off on the different foot, Umayr, Iva, Sarah and I dragged ourselves out of bed to hit the Sagrada Familia at 10 a.m. (with tickets this time, mind you). All I can say You know, it might take until 2026 to finish the church, but already you can see how amazing it is on the inside. It's really weird to think of the church as “new” in terms of European churches (just go to any other town and check out their cathedral). I mean, sure it's over 100 years old now, but as Umayr said, it will still look new in 100 years. That said, Gaudi's made quite the masterpiece (which Spain is trying to finish), but I was surprised at how simple and elegant the inside was compared to the detailed exterior. It was interesting to read about how nature weaves into Gaudi's work, a note from my architecture history course back at Poly. Oh, and Blake (+ all my other architect friends), I can bet you're a bit jealous right now hehe :-P

The rain still was hanging around, complete with a giant downpour while we were at Sagrada Famila. Apparently, Gaudi didn't design gutters and drainage systems, since the water from the roof poured right down in a flood on top of the incoming tourists. Take that all you non-believers!

Next up, Starbucks of course! It's amazing that I've been off coffee since leaving Portland, but Monday required it. Umayr and I debated what to order, since a drip coffee doesn't really exist, an Americano is sort of like a drip and Iva says don't even bother with the mochas. A little bit of an ugly American thing, I know, but hey, we all have our staples that make us comfortable. I'm starting to get better at my Spanish, which I'm glad to see is coming back quickly after taking 7 years. I even got to get my name ('Mateo') on my cup. I have to watch it though, as sometimes I am too good at my Spanish that people start rapid-firing it back at me that I have to stumble and say “Hablo Ingles, por favor!” lol.

It was nice to get out of the rain and warm up with some coffee and have a chat while the rain died down. The four of us grabbed a cab to Park Guell, which was quite cozy (meaning I was squashed in the middle), but at least it was clean and cheap. There isn't really a Metro to the park other than one that drops you off at the bottom of the big hill to the park, and believe me, when you're walking 10s of miles a day, you pick your battles my friends. Even the bus from the hostel to the park would've cost more. A cab with four of us cost €1-2 per person; can't beat that!

Park Guell was just...I mean, you just gotta see it. The tiles are absolutely amazing; you can go macro-crazy with your camera if you want. We meandered through the park, taking photos like crazy. I even got to make use of my panorama mode on my phone (which is on my new camera now too; more on that later). Unfortunately, the rain hunted us down, but we were underneath the Gaudi columns when the second downpour of the day started. Even the pigeons ran for cover, latching on to the slanting stone wall underneath the columns. It was pretty entertaining watching them try to hold on. The rain was so sudden, the water flooded out from the top platform and washed down the famous tile steps past the lizard statue. Now, I don't know if Gaudi planned to have a muddy waterfall down his masterpiece when it rained, but seriously man, drainage again lol.

Fighting a slightly broken umbrella (all of our umbrellas were now in different stages of disrepair), we hailed a taxi down to El Born for lunch tapas! One thing that's hard to get used to in Spain is the eat/sleep schedule; lunch at 2 p.m., dinner at 10 p.m. and clubbing past midnight. Well, at 3 p.m., we were right on rime for lunch for once. We had a plethora of dishes, from cheese to croquets to Spanish sausage. And, nobody really spoke English and it had a crowd, always a good sign. I'm still on the hunt for those free €1 tapas, but I'll wait for Madrid. Tapas are fun to share, it sort of makes me think of a Spanish dim sum when you sit down. Of course, the shouting at a bar with napkins all over the floor is the ultimate tapa experience, and that's what I'm hunting down next.

Per Iva's request, we immediately headed across the street to the Museu de la Xocolata. The coolest part was that actual ticket was a candy bar! Heck, it seemed like almost everything in there was made of chocolate (except the walls, we checked). That, and the liquid chocolate (thicker/richer than hot chocolate) was really good. Well, other than giving Sarah an EXTREME sugar high; shes crazy enough without it lol (sorry Sarah, you really are).

Right then and there, my camera shutter jammed AGAIN. Argh! Well, when traveling, treat everything as an experience, right? That experience gave us the idea to wander El Born, checking all the cool shops along the way for cameras and other swag, winding back up on Las Ramblas. We made it back to La Boqueria and showed the girls the fish skin Umayr had tried. Sarah even spontaneously jumped on a guys dolly after he finished moving some boxes (sugar high lol). Everybody around us had a good laugh. Next up, El Corte Inglés, the biggest department store in Barcelona and my prime target for a camera. The place on Plaça de Catalunya was HUGE; 10 stories of everything you can think of. I made a beeline for cameras on the 7th floor, finding a wide array of electronics that even makes Frys seem tame. After debating models and talking to the salesman (thank God I know some Spanish), I got a super-compact Panasonic (I missed my old Panasonic, and I've had no luck with my Sonys). And it was only about $150 with the SD card; not too shabby for a purchase I was not expecting. It's even a cool dark blue color (though the box says violet lol, oops)

After doing a little more window shopping, we made it back to the hostel to crash for a bit. All day on your feet will tire you out, but at least we accomplished a ton more than Sunday. I immediately started to charge my new camera, digging through the instructions in every language but English to set it up. Luckily, the guy behind the hostel desk was from Brazil, so he translated the Portuguese instructions we found. Gotta love meeting international friends!

I guess it really is off-season, as the hostel was now only ¼ full, which for this small hostel was 10 people. The entire kitchen/common-area held the entire population of the hostel! We all sat, ate a Brazilian meal of rice and beans. Umayr was super proud to have found and bought €1.95 bottles of wine, which we passed around as well. Gotta love it when alcohol costs way less than the food haha. And, it was actually decent stuff.

We played cards, chatted, laughed, had a good time for a rainy night. I journaled, planned Madrid and even got all my Barcelona pics edited and up (enjoy!). Although we were beat, Umayr and I planned to leave at 6:30am to catch our trains while Sarah figured she'd get a ticket for my train, since she was also heading to Madrid. We ran upstairs to pack so we didn't bother Iva too much in the morning since all of us were heading to...wait for it...

Nasty Monday. A great name for Barcelona's biggest club party on a Monday night. We all strolled down a few blocks to the club (Sarah falling and almost getting a concussion after trying to jump on Mike's back for a piggyback ride) and our hostel host got us in with a free drink. I'll be honest, we were getting up at 6:30 a.m. And we got to the club at 12:30 a.m. So yea...either we stayed for a bit or stayed up all night. Umayr and I went with the latter, preferring at least a little sleep. What made it easier was that the scene was predominantly rock music, which isn't my dance scene. They had some EDM (of which Umayr's also a fan), but that floor was kinda dead. So by 2 a.m., the two of us left, leaving Sarah with Mike and the other hostellers (who were apparently going after a pack of Swedish girls lol, have at it guys!) and we headed back.

We crashed, though not before I had another freezing cold shower (why!). I tossed and turned, forgetting my earplugs, but I figured I wasn't getting much sleep anyways. Tuesday morning, Umayr and I got up and headed out just before 7:30 a.m. to catch our 8:30 a.m. Trains. Unfortunately, Sarah came in later and wasn't up when we were leaving, though we did leave a bit earlier...but she found me in Madrid later so it's cool :-)

I wrote most of this sitting on the AVE high speed train, whose 200-300kph blows MAX and Amtrak totally out of the water lol. Madrid's been a blur and I'm heading to Toledo in the morning, so time to get to sleep!

...oh and I forgot a few sections on Barcelona, so those will be in the next one too...

Alrighty, adios!

- Mateo

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