Day 51: Wednesday November 30th, 2011
To liven things up, you can turn my blog into a drinking game. I could make up a lot of rules and make it complicated, but you really only need two for it to be worthwhile. Every time I have a parenthetical missive, take a shot/drink. Every time I mess up with a girl, finish your drink (but seriously, drink responsibly; The Wanderer doesn’t want your bile on his conscious).
And Mom, I’d avoid reading this one after the Sagrada Familia section.
The free breakfast is pretty good: baguettes, cheeses, cereal, yogurt, etc. And they apparently have free dinner as well, which I will learn to know and love.
I talk with Aubrey and Justin and make plans to meet at 1 for food, folks and fun.
In the morning, I check out Las Ramblas (or Les Ramblas in Catalan, the official language of Barcelona, not Spanish), the most famous street in Barcelona teeming with shops (flowers, souvenirs and Barca tickets galore), pickpockets, street performers, forceful salesmen, and awful touristy restaurants. It stretches through essentially the cultural center of Barcelona. I walk down to the water to see the Christopher Columbus monument. They really like Home Alone here (I’m not even gonna explain that awful reference, if one person gets it though, it’s almost worth it). I always like to support racism and imperialism, and this 60 meter high column is a pretty evocative symbol for the city, situated in the spot where Columbus returned to report back to Ferdinand and Isabella about his rape and pillaging in the New World. But still, history aside, it’s a pretty cool statue, with Chris pointing to America. And you can pay to go up and get a nice view of the city, but the key word in that sentence is “pay.”
Then I wandered up to the top of Las Ramblas, checking out a few Gaudi constructed buildings, saw the main cathedral in the city and the Picasso museum, even if I didn’t go into it.
Antoni Gaudi has his fingerprints and unique architectural style all over Barcelona. Influenced by nature and one can assume LSD, his wacky designs differ from almost every other architect in the world, ESPECIALLY in the 19th century. He built houses, parks, churches and is probably one of the most important figures in Barcelona after Messi. It’s impossible/stupid to make a sojourn to Barcelona without seeing one of his works, and I think I saw five in my first full day.
Possibly my favorite sight of the morning was Parc de la Ciutadella, a park (obvy) downtown that houses a zoo, a museum, the Parliament, and my 2nd favorite Gaudi work, fittingly called La Cascada, a gorgeous Baroque fountain structure flowing into a tranquil pond adorned with ivy and flowers, many a finely crafted statue (from griffins to a horse drawn chariot about to fly) and happiness. It was actually not designed by Gaudi, as he was merely an apprentice at the time and it was apparently loosely based on the Trevi Fountain in Rome (which I’ll see around December 17th), according to PanoramicEarth.com.
Anyways, Cascada is the perfect place for a picnic, to read a book, to hang with the homeless and it probably oozes romance at night to the point of nausea. Note to self: bring a woman to this fountain. Really, bring a woman to every fountain.
After this I walked up to Barcelona’s own Arc de Triomf, proving that every country needs to have their own, if only to show you how they spell the word triumph, and to boast that they triumphed at least once in their history.
I returned to the hostel and met up with Aubrey and Justin. We went to the Boqueria Market, the best of all markets in Barcelona. You can get everything you could ever want here, from fruits, vegetables, fish, candy, meat (like the famous and ridiculously expensive Spanish ham) to beggars and pickpocketers. It’s so much fun to just walk by the stands and pretend like you’re going to buy something, or to find the best bargain. This one rivals the Pike Place market, and really, every European city has one that does, making Pike Place feel a little less special.
Eventually I succumbed, and bought pinchos, apparently a basque delicacy that is their own version of tapas. The one’s I had were soggy, but hot and decent. I couldn’t tell you what was inside, but I think it was shrimp. I also had a croquette (minced meat) and some potato and meat concoction that was yummy. And then, the highlight (probably of our friendship) was when we rallied together to get a bunch of fresh juices for the price of 3 for 2 euro. I think we got 6 and I had three of them. They were kiwi coconut banana (orgasmic), coconut pithaya (interesting; pithaya is a cactus fruit) and chocolate coconut banana, which is one of the best things I’ve ever tasted, and Justin’s favorite as well.
Then we went down to the water where there are hundreds of black guys selling top brands of clothes and sunglasses and what have you for really cheap, because they are obviously illegal and crappy knock offs. But that’s appealing to girls, apparently. Hanging out with Aubrey for two hours led to more “shopping” than I would do on my entire trip combined. She loved to barter and buy shit, and ended up with a pair of sunglasses for real cheap, because the cops had come to break up the illicit activity. I’m obviously not an expert, but that’s when to swoop in for the best deals, assuming you’re okay with the possibility of getting in trouble with the police, because it is illegal. But this is Barcelona.
After a brief respite at the hostel to decompress and to shit, I went out to see La Sagrada Familia (UNESCO), the premiere church and sight to see in Barcelona. And it’s not even finished yet, and may never be. But it doesn’t need to be, it’s already one of the coolest and most interesting buildings you’ll ever see, and obviously, it’s Gaudi’s crowning achievement, even if he died before it could be finished. Construction started in 1882 and you will still see a construction team work on it to this day (they aim to finish it by the middle of this century. Seriously.). Rick Steves mentioned that if there was any building he wants to see (in the world) when completed, it’s La Sagrada Familia. It’s really hard to describe, and pretty expensive to go in, but I lucked into going right before dark, so I got to see it in light and at night, which illicit two entirely different responses inside and out. There’s a good museum about Gaudi and the history of the building, with models and sketches out the ass, a crypt and you can even climb up to the top (if you go earlier than when I did). I’m pretty sure this is why you study architecture. The inside ceiling looks like a honeycomb network, and the columns resemble trees in a forest, as Gaudi intended (he loves nature). There are 18 towers on the outside, and the entire structure is more intricate than Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue. I’ll stop there. Go visit it.
Back at the hostel I met up with…wait for it….Taylor from Dublin! Our favorite dreadlocked lady friend had been in Spain for awhile (she speaks Spanish), and I had finally caught up with her. I also met Holly, a nice Aussie, and Christina, a friend of Taylor’s also from Ohio (who’s a babe but also a bitch). At the hostel we had the free dinner that consisted of (unsurprisingly) pasta and bread. It wasn’t half bad.
Once finished, I went to the Carrefour, one of my favorite cheap grocery stores in Europe, and proceeded to get blackout drunk on 2 euro and 67 cents. I got a boxed wine for 55 cents, a large San Miguel for 1.10 and the rest of that large total in warm, store brand beer cans (at 22 cents a pop). It was one of the worst ideas of my trip. Spain is too cheap.
We all drank and socialized in Room 202, a massive 20 bed room with everyone pregaming for the clubs. The crazy cheap wine tasted like vinegar and was undrinkable, so I mixed it with fruit juice. I should’ve just thrown it away, but that was 55 cents! I don’t waste. I’m going to rethink that adage.
There was a Canadian asian guy running around with a bottle of Absinthe that he needed to finish before he left, offering man shots to anyone who would take it. I did once or twice and was quite content to leave it at that, because Absinthe is like Jager times 100 in terms of awful taste and alcohol content (170 proof, son). But if a shrimpy Asian guy is going to question my drinking ability, which he did later in Joe-like fashion, I had to respond. And did.
The Absynthe won (I like to spell it with a y, but I think it’s with an i).
We all apparently went out for the club (it gets fuzzy for me once we leave room 202), and we met back up with Christina, who had left with some old locals she vaguely knew earlier in the night (creepy). Once at the club, we don’t get in. We’re not dressed up enough, you can’t have dreads in clubs, my tennis shoes were probably an issue, etc.
My friends were waiting for a taxi and me, when they saw me run from the bathroom and them, into a separate taxi, and that was the last they saw of me.
I do know one thing: I didn’t take that taxi. I didn’t spend any money that night, as my pockets the next morning can attest. When delving into the psychology of Drundy, I believe he was either asking the taxi for directions to the subway (I wonder how that went), because I absolutely HATE paying for taxis, or I was just avoiding my friends because I knew I was about to get sick and was too embarrassed to be seen like that. But that’s pure speculation. Only Drundy knows, and he never forgets.
Anyways, I do remember later taking the metro and vomitting inbetween stops, because in my mind I knew I couldn’t vomit ON the metro. So every time the door opened, I spewed or spit as much as I could. I think that scared away any potential muggers.
I was told the next day that I didn’t return to the hostel until 6 am. That’s all well and good, except for the metro stops running at 4 am, and I know I was on it, and the metro stops right next to our hostel. So clearly something didn’t work out. But I made it.
NEXT: Barcelona and my hostel is crazy.