Friday, May 22, 2009

Hola Barcelona!

I got to Barcelona early evening on Wednesday.  I had a couple of moments of panic on the plane when I remembered that I would not be in an English-speaking country again until mid-August, but I assured myself that my Spanish would come flying back to me (don’t ask me what I’m going to do in France or Amsterdam or Prague or Salzburg...).

I successfully maneuvered my way through the airport, onto the train and onto the metro to get to the stop closest to the hotel.  A few misturns walking, and I finally found my way.  Thank you iPhone Google maps!  It’s strange to be back in a hotel after being in an apartment for over a week.  Of course, I’ll be in an apartment in Paris starting on Monday night, so I’ll have all the comforts of home again soon.

That night I walked to a nearby restaurant and figured it would be the perfect opportunity to try out my Spanish.  “Hola.  Uno, por favor.”  Ok, that successfully got my point across - I need a table for one.  Doing good so far... I got nervous when it came time to order, though, and switched back to English.  Would “Quiero...” be appropriate to say “I want...” or does that sound a tad bitchy?  Should it be “Me gusta...” No, that means “I like,” not “I would like...”  Anyway, they understood my English, and I was well fed, so that’s all that matters.

The hotel has a great rooftop pool area, which I have taken advantage of the past two late afternoons.  (The weather here is great - sunny and high 70s).  The hotel is in a good location - close to the metro.  Being near the metro is key as everything to see in Barcelona seems very spread out, which I found out the next day as I set out to walk to the area of Barcelona called La Rambla.  

La Rambla is nuts.  It is a street that is basically filled with tourists, but it’s supposed to be one of those must-sees, so I saw it.  An entire block of La Rambla had every live animal for sale you could imagine - birds, roosters, chicks, turtles, mice, ferrets, chipmunks.  There are a lot of street performers.  The vampires in the pictures below would jump out of their coffins and shout “Hola!” when someone would come up to them to give them money.  I don’t know why I found that so funny.  “Hola”?  Shouldn’t it be at least “Boo”! or something?  One guy was playing this game with the crowd where he would hide a ball under one of three boxes, shuffle the boxes around and then stop and ask "Which one?".  Someone in the crowd would then come forward and bet 50 Euros that they knew which box it was under.  If they won, they got 50 Euros in return.  The guy made a killing.  I stood there and watched through at least 10 games and in my head got every single one right, but everyone in the crowd was missing it.  Too bad I didn’t play - guess I could have made around 500 Euros!  

After La Rambla, I walked to the El Raval and Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter) areas.  On the way to these areas, I noted that Barcelona was a lot like what I imagined a Spanish city to look like - buildings with balconies overlooking very narrow streets.  People had the balconies open and you could hear them talking or hear music coming from above.  The Barri Gotic area is the center of the old city of Barcelona, and many of the buildings date back to medieval times.  After walking through these areas, I took the subway to one of Barcelona's beaches, Icaria Beach.  Though on the Mediterranean, it's not what you would expect a Mediterranean beach to look like - I figure that will come in the South of France.

I spent Friday seeing La Sagrada Familia and the Picasso Museum.  La Sagrada Familia is an unfinished church designed by Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudi.  It has been under construction since 1882 - not 1982! - and is expected to be finished in 2026.  It is massive and the pictures cannot begin to represent what it is. The Picasso Museum was impressive with 3,800 pieces, which were effective in telling the story of Picasso's progression from his childhood art through all of the periods in his work. 

Barcelona went by fast.  Tomorrow, Madrid!

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