Wednesday, 4 September 2013

and the winner of the best city ever award....

Our brief stint living it up in the coolest city I've ever been to is over now, we are back in the country working on a farm, but this post is all about Barcelona. I promise you will all want to go there, after a week of tramping around its cafes, bars and neighbourhoods, we were all smitten.

You can walk in pretty much any direction from the horribly touristy central street called La Rambla and you will find something interesting to look at. There was the neighbourhood directly behind our hostel, of which the outskirts were the domain of homeless crazies and prostitutes but which became considerably cooler the further in you explored. Full of little bars and cafes and a big concrete square home to skaters and people practising night, at about midnight, after a beer we sat and watched them...they were pretty good. Though not as good as the Jamaican dance-fighting troupe we saw at another square on another night...they were awesome, triple back flips and jumping over each other's heads. We even threw some euros into their hat after only seeing them perform for about a minute and a half, that's how good they were!
A bar we found and ate the worst nachos ever, microwaved, with packet cheese...but the beer was cheap and the music was good.

If we walked up the hill from our hostel we ended up the in fancy area, the Calvin Klein kind of shops area, where there are numerous Gaudi buildings to admire and wonder about. And that's the thing about Barcelona, you can just be walking up a shopping road and all of a sudden, amongst all the old European buildings, there is this crazy, odd shaped, colourful thing to make you stop and look. And then you walk on- or if you are rich go inside and admire anew- and find something else to look at.

One day we walked up to Park Guel, another of Gaudi's creations, about an hour and a half from our hostel. It was worth the walk though, to see more of his unreal buildings and also to listen to the band we chanced upon as we were wandering around...they were very good and very entertaining and they had decided to spend their Sunday afternoon entertaining tourists at the park, much to our delight.

The gingerbread house of Park Guel (sorry, I don't know how to rotate it)
Another Gaudi building we discovered on our walking...this one used to be apartments, now it's a gift shop and tourist destination as well as being a performance space sometimes.
I forgot to say, we also visited the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's most famous building (and most expensive to visit I imagine), which has been under construction for over 100 years and still isn't finished.
We spent a lot of time in Barcelona just wandering around, discovering places and cafes and bars. Luckily coffee and beer is pretty cheap, even in the city, so these many halts didn't break the bank. Although towards the end of our stay we did discover an awesome tapas bar where you sat down and just grabbed whatever looked delicious from the bar and even though each piece was only 1.65 each, we ended up spending around twenty euro each time...oops. But when you are sitting there with a beer and looking at little pieces of bread topped with things like jamon, goat cheese and berries, or the best Spanish omelette ever, or salmon, or even a piece of blood sausage- which sounds disgusting but is actually delicious-, you can't really stop yourself from reaching for more. We even convinced Iz to come with us on our last night and spend her last 3 euros on tapas. She was very pleased with her decision. (She was less pleased when we insisted on stopping for a drink at every reasonably priced place we came across...but after I bought her a custard filled churro she humoured us a little longer).

We had our first (and our last, now we know what to expect) European pickpocket experience in Barcelona. Just as I was beginning to think all those stories people bring home from Europe about being so quickly and unexpectedly robbed were unsubstantiated, we got robbed. Quickly and unexpectedly. More precisely, Iz got robbed. We were in the park, in a little circle, playing cards and these men kept wandering past, trying to sell beer or water or whatever. One must have noticed her phone poking out of her bag and so he bent down next to us and tried to convince us to buy hash which he used one hand to distract us with while he took her phone with the other...we didn't notice until about 20 minutes later when he was long gone. So now we can join camp 'seriously, don't leave anything anywhere obvious in Europe, it will get stolen', and I hold my bag much closer to my chest at all times now.

After the iphone so she had to resort to her actual camera. Oh life!
As well as that, Barcelona also taught us some other taught us that vermouth is delicious, especially when it is only 1 euro a glass, it taught us that public squares and parks and general areas mean life is lived outdoors and the city instantly becomes more vibrant, it taught us that a good way to get people to ride bikes around the city is to put racks of them everywhere that you can pick up and use and drop back somewhere else when you are done.

A bar with jamon. And delicious sangria. And a photo-shy Isabelle.
We had a fantastic time there. Visiting the beach occasionally- it was always packed though, we aren't quite used to that yet, pedalling out to visit other areas, buying ridiculously cheap baguettes and picnicking on jamon sandwiches for lunch, visiting shops we couldn't afford and looking wistfully at the products. We visited one tea shop at least 5 times to get tiny free sample cups of ice tea. Iz and I sprayed ourselves with what we thought was peach perfume in another shop, then realised it was actually toilet spray and left the shop laughing hysterically, under the unimpressed gazes of the salespeople. It was also good wandering around the tiny, winding streets of the old town and ending up in little tree strewn squares, home to cafes and, more often than not, some type of sculpture. These walks would have been better, of course, if there weren't a billion other tourists there too. The good thing about  most tourists though is that they rarely wander too far from the hordes, so all we had to do to escape them was walk for 15 minutes in another direction. Usually then the coffee and beer got at least 25% cheaper as well.

La Rambla and the famous mural by Miro.
Us being the wicked-sick dudes we are in graff central.
A little alleyway and some cool cats.
But the time came to leave- money allowing I could have stayed there at least a month, unfortunately it wasn't allowing- so we ate our last tapa and gelati and custard filled churro, drank our last café and beer and woke up horridly early to accompany Iz to the train station from where she was headed to the airport. And we were headed south, to a farm, to see what was going on there.
Just one of the many plazas of Barcelona.

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