Spain is Some Kind of Paradise
We chatted up a bunch of students standing on line with us (shoutout Jenny/Rachel/Brigita--I swear, I'm usually so good at names--from Jersey!) who started swapping horror stories about forgetting to stamp their boarding passes. Wait, what? Yeah, if you're not a EU passport holder, you've gotta get your boarding pass stamped before getting on your trusty RyanAir plane. PANIC. RUNNING TO THE CHECK-IN DESK. A disapproving glare from the attendant, but honestly, if those were the rules, you think you would print that information a little bit bigger one the boarding pass instead of trying to sell me eight rental cars, twelve hotel rooms, three suitcases, travel insurance and your shitty knockoff RyanAir Skype every time I tried to buy a plane ticket. I get it. You're doing low cost air travel and someone has got to finance it. But seriously. Then we got on the plane, and takeoff was late due to the asinine policy of having no assigned seating. Who thought that was a good idea?
We touched down on time in Barcelona though, to a fanfare, a literal, over the PA system fanfare that startled me unfairly. And along with our new friends--I'm sorry I've forgotten your names--we successfully purchased bus tickets to get us to the city center. Even though all of their card machines insist on asking for pin numbers even when you're trying to use a credit card. So thanks for that transaction fee, Barcelona. They are so irritatingly concerned about credit safety in Europe.
We took the metro out to our apartment in Eixample, and waltzed up to the front door and looked around. Now what? Were we supposed to buzz in? But then a man walked up to us calling my name. "Here to check in?" Ah, good. At least that all went smoothly. Which would be the last thing that did...
Daniel, our gracious host, pointed us to a local spot for dinner that served a pimiento pepper hamburger shaped like a double wide on a baguette with Manchego--I just never want to leave Spain, okay?--and sangria and delicious wine a third of the price of what it is in London. And we popped back into the apartment to settle into a wonderful sleep. Well, you already know how that went.
Barcelona has this brilliant system of tourist metro passes. 13€ for a two day unlimited that saved our lives, because no one was eager to repeat the 50 mile walking tour that was Madrid. The next morning, finding an ATM proved to be literally the most annoying thing ever when you're hungry and desperate for a functional toilet and eager to start your day. But then we did, and we had Spanish breakfast and were offered many many cocktails. I wanted another beautiful gin and tonic, but it was 11AM. I was on vacation, but this isn't the Jersey Shore, for chrissake.
Claire literally planned the whole trip, and god, her research was spot on. She took us up to Castell de Montjuic, after a snafu with a broken down bus--don't ask. It's an old war fort that's really unimpressive, but the reason you haul ass up Montjuic (loosely translated to Jew Mountain) isn't for the Castle, it's for the views of Barcelona. And my, my, they were impressive. Even the port side, overlooking the industrial nightmare of shipping containers and cruise ship docks was impressively vast in a way that kind of just makes you question how small you are in this big, big world.
We posed for many many photos and finally worked up the courage to ask a person to take one of all of us--being in a country that doesn't speak the same language is really intimidating sometimes, alright? Then there were four chocolate ice cream bars on the trellis while we listened to some good old fashioned American Rock & Roll, by which, of course, I mean British Rock & Roll. Then we took the cable cars for a spin down Montjuic. Tip of the day: take them down like we did, not up, or you'll spend all of your sunlit hours waiting in line.
We Metro-ed it over to Las Ramblas, central old Barcelona, full to stuffed with tourist shops and restaurants and hostels, where we walked out of so many shops because of over eager salesmen. Seriously, Europe. You think Americans are irritatingly friendly? Let me shop for shotglasses in PEACE. We wandered on the side streets looking for Gaudi buildings, a small taste of the majesty we'd see tomorrow. You want an interesting tour of a city? Go with a bunch of architecture students, you'll see things in a whole new perspective. After waiting in line for the Barcelona Cathedral with a chatty older guy who really couldn't get the time differences straight, we were ushered inside with hushed breath and awe. It hurts every time I try and imagine how these things were built before modern technology. Around the courtyard in back, we were suddenly face to face with some kind of duck sanctuary. And it was adorable.
A little bit more shopping, a pop in here and there, some midafternoon churros in place of Jiwon's birthday cake, and we were back home for a little siesta before dinner. And, the power was out. Great. But a quick phone call, and Daniel was back, and we were off again to find some dinner. We hiked halfway back up Monjuic to the foothills of the Museo Nacional d'Art de Catalunya to watch out over the city and the Magic Fountain, a light show we were promised happened every 20 minutes after 9PM that never came. But it wasn't all a waste (and there were outdoor escalators that took you almost all the way to the top), there was a man playing elevator music on a keyboard and a group of what I can only assume were theatre students, dancing along and having a grand old tipsy time.
The Barcelona nightlife isn't the Madrid nightlife. No one was around after 11. No lines to get into clubs, everything's a little fuzzy, but surely it couldn't be this much of a ghost town. And I'm starting to understand the whole, New York never sleeps thing, because, seriously? The restaurant we looked up on TripAdvisor was closed at half past 11. We fumbled into another one, determined for some paella, a fishbowl glass full of gin, and a handful of croquettes. And it might have been the only place open for miles, but it was worth it, and so delicious. As was the well-deserved full night's sleep we had afterwards. Because tomorrow: it was going to be all about Gaudi, and the Mediterranean.