March 28 & 29 (Days 16 & 17):
The overnight bus from San Sebastian dumped us at the Estacio’ de Sants (South Station), Barcelona. Unlike most bus stations where the buses dock underneath or beside, this one you have to cross a busy intersection and navigate a labyrinth of parked scooters and crotch rockets. The ticket machines upstairs only sell tickets for the train – not the metro – which is downstairs. To top it off, everything is written in Catalan which is similar to but different from Spanish and further confuses navigation and pronunciation. There just might be something to that whole carrying of guidebooks after all.
All that said, Barcelona is big, beautiful and constantly busy. We had some good info from our San Sebastian buddy Phillip, but two days and one night simply wasn’t enough time to do it all. We got to our hostel (Mediterranean) way before check in, and they were accommodating, letting us wait around until sunrise and nap on the couch. The Mediterranean was okay but couldn’t fill the big, warm boots of David Quinn in San Sebastian. Our shower water was cold in the morning, and we had to make our own beds and pay for towels; but free internet and a good location.
I read somewhere that Las Ramblas is the most recognized street in Europe, and I’m sure the atmosphere was amazing a couple decades back. Now there is a lot of vending of overpriced food, drink and tourist trinkets. It is definitely worthwhile to walk it (with your valuables well-secured) to check out the street performers…
[some Euro tourist is climbing on and breaking this dude’s sweet bike.]
…and the big market (Mercat San Josep?) on your right if you’re headed toward the water.
Tourism booths along the way give out free maps.
We missed the Dali and Picasso museums, but this city is Gaüdi-mania. An interesting artist with a modest beginning; a sudden end; and an outrageous legacy – the trip was worth it just to see his work in Park Güell and Sagrada Familia. His style looks like a collision of Tim Burton and CandyLand, pieced back together in mosaic form. Tall and skinny and colorful and strange; I loved it. Sagrada Familia is awesome in the dictionary definition sense. It is unbelievably tall and ornate. It has been in heavy construction since before I was born and will be after I am dead.
[Sagrada Familia with Ashley in the foreground.]
[detail from Sagrada Familia]
[sweet cubisty Jeezy at Sagrada Familia]
[even shiny street performers have to eat lunch and smoke now and then.]
[Barcelona from Park Güell]
[Park Güell detail]
[CandyLand in Park Güell]
Meanwhile back at the hostel…after talking to me a few minutes in Spanish, the handsome afternoon counter guy asked me to assist him with a crank yanking of his Nordic friend who plays basketball in Barcelona. So I called Hank, the Nordic b-baller and asked if he knew who it was and if he remembered when we met at that club (club name provided by counter guy). He said, “Yes. Of course.” I tried to make a pseudo-date with him, but his evenings seemed really busy, so I turned him over to his giggling friend.
All Wednesday the city was swamped with English football (soccer) fans, wearing jerseys or any number of fanboy apparel.
Apparently some important game was being played in Barcelona, and all of England had shown up to cheer. We went out near Las Ramblas that night and ended up in an Irish bar (the only thing that seemed to be open). We watched the televised win by the English but left before the inevitable swarms of revelers could leave the stadium and descend upon the city.
An American couple were back at the hostel, having had their passports stolen at the bus stop en route to the airport. Also in her purse: iPod shuffle, ID, debit and credit cards. They were in surprisingly good moods despite delaying flights, canceling cards, filing police reports, paying for another night in Barcelona and visiting the embassy for new passports. They said eight other girls were at the passport office with the same story.
The moral of today’s blog? Never set your important shit down ever – purses and daypacks are especially susceptible.