The Amazing Guided Experience, Barcelona

Trip Start Nov 30, 2012
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Trip End Jan 30, 2013


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Flag of Spain  , Catalonia,
Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Day 1
BARTHELONA‼

As the locals call it.  Fantastic time in this city is all thanks to Alex and his super-efficient tour!  All for the bargain price of $0! =P  It was crazy, and hectic and tiring and our feet hurt but I don't think you’ve experienced Barcelona properly if that didn’t happen!  So much to see…we really should’ve planned for more days and I really didn’t do it properly last time XD like I’ve said before, there’s no city like a city with a local friend to show you around =).  Yee-Ling and Lee…you have been told! =P

It started like a whirlwind, we just got off our bus to our hostel and there Alex was waiting across the street! Haha he looked exactly the same…maybe a bit more stubble but that same old goofy smile of his =P.  We quickly checked in and off we went, through the immigrant part of town and Alex pointing out things all along the way…the bar where people could secretly get food and drinks at 5am, the dodgy parts of town, the funny Asian cat with balls XD haha and all of a sudden we were going in the back entrance of the St Josep Mercat!  The place that Yee-Ling and I had tried to enter 2 years ago!  Then it was right onto La Rambla!  Sun in Barcelona makes so much difference, last time it was cloudy and raining and I had no idea why people kept talking about La Rambla and how pretty the street was…with the sun I understood.  Actually all over Barcelona, people knew how to make an avenue look nice! 

Had Argentinian pizza and off we went to the port and beach.  Alex still pointing things out, the cable car that looked like the top of the Eiffel Tower, the castle poking out on top of the hill, the cool reflective shopping centre where tourists take photos and people working inside can judge and ridicule =P, the submarine where Alex wanted to pose with the guard’s weapons (slightly disturbing…), the hotel with the "W" on it that Alex really seemed to like (he would point that out every time we reached some place with a view =P, I think we have to go grab a drink there next time =D).  Relaxed beside the beach and this time it was a proper beach! ...sorry Stockholm, you guys are seriously deprived.  Even with the cold weather I was a little tempted to go check out the water, and they have volleyball courts!  I really should pick it up again…

And that was all before lunch!  Crazy huh?  Checked out the church of Santa Maria del Mar before heading off to Kiosko for lunch with Alex’s girlfriend Paula!  I just remembered her from Stockholm as being very little with a cute smile haha but shamefully had forgotten her name XD…to make it worse, she remembered mine! >.<  Btw, the lunch place was so cool, apparently it was run by Australians!  So straight away it got ticks, it got more when we found out about the awesome vegetarian tofu burger, the English menu and to top it off…AMAZING burgers!  Kinda important in a burger place =P.

After lunch it was back on the trial with Paula joining us as an additional tour guide, it was a good combination, Alex knew a lot of places and Paula knows a lot of history =D  Walked through the central park of Barcelona complete with zoo and abandoned school kids, towards the Catalonian parliament and learned a bit more about the independence issue…complicated I guess but all the best for them, we’ll see what time will bring.  Headed deeper into the park where we found el ganso, and a mammoth!  Of all things in Barcelona haha, a mammoth!?  Then we were hit with one of the most amazing fountains that I’ve ever seen and the weather was just perfect, I dunno I was really stunned that this appeared in Barcelona and that’s when the Barcelona/Madrid scale started to tip =P.  Had always associated Barcelona as being just party crazed with some interesting Gaudi buildings but that might be because last time I was here the weather was crap, we had no idea where to go and we didn’t have awesome tour guides!  Now we were getting shown the grand part of town, as Alex puts it… “we had money…once” =P.  Anyways, I was very impressed and despite the people peeing on top of it (let’s forget that), it’s become one of my favourite places in BCN.

Kept going through their park and more buildings…more sights! The Barcelonian Arc de Triomphe, the castle of three dragons, the greenhouse!, a xocolat museum! mmmm, the school of bakery!  Haha Alex says there are three things that Barcelona has, ATMs, bakeries and…my goodness there was something else! Haha well there’s my goldfish memory.  Now you can understand why I have to write all this down and take so many photos, otherwise I’ll be like…really?  I was in Barcelona? XD.  The guys took us down El Born, one of the oldest parts of Barcelona (I heard Paula say from behind me to Sin Ki and Brian =P), Alex for his part was pointing out all the awesome Christmas foods they had in Barcelona =D…Turros and polvorons! And of course reminding me of the hilarious Catalan Christmas traditions such as beating a log pi˝ata style until it shits out lollies…and the pooing man haha I don’t know why or how they came to this but it didn’t quite hit me until we wandered into a Christmas market in front of the Barcelona cathedral and saw the logs XD  haha it’s a tradition I think I’ll enjoy quite a lot =P

Paula had to leave us then to go to uni, I’m glad I didn’t try to exert my bad influence and tell her to wag =P cos she had exams coming up!  Was sad to see our history guru leave but we continued on bravely.  Alex took us up through some shopping streets, Sin Ki was of course very happy and decided promptly to buy a H&M jacket…of all things to do in Barcelona, she didn’t even go into Zara!  Made it to the top and saw the Plaša de Catalunya, more nice fountains =) and very impressive department stores (apple included).  Finished up the day by taking a nice walk along the Passeig de GrÓcia to see some of the high class stuff along with the cool and freaky Gaudi architecture.  Chilled out at the top of El Cortes Ingles for a very welcome break there we found the most amazing drink, Cacaolat!  Man it was good, like a chocolate milkshake but not crunchy, we were quite hooked and excited, especially with the thought of combining cacaolat and tim tams XD  It will be done!  It was even cooler when Alex told us that it was a drink from Catalonia and to top it off, his company is responsible for distributing it!  Forget Don Simone!  This is the drink in Barcelona!

Alex had to go home with his dad so he left us to fend for ourselves that night for dinner.  He did give us a suggested place which we bravely hiked up to and was even waiting for a table!  But the others got kinda antsy about how long we had to wait and the very local feel of the place…so much to my regret, we left…I was kinda annoyed actually, I mean we travel to try out new stuff right?  Ah wells, we were really hungry by then and tired so we settled for paella and sangria at a Spanish chain restaurant.  In hindsight we made up for it by having tapas the next day (more on that later =D) so it wasn’t so bad but I still think it would’ve been awesome to go that night…Dessert too helped make up for it though and all I have to say is that the Patisserie school is doing its job well =)…seriously, Paris has some competition!

Day 2

Next morning we packed and got ready to leave, and despite Alex arriving 30 mins late…we still were somehow not ready haha…I think I’m starting to understand how Yee-Ling felt last time haha, I’m sorry!  Anyways, today was road trip day!  Alex had gotten the car back and was gonna drive us around and do that he did!  Feels weird as always getting into a European car and driving on the right side but rules are rules.  First stop was the Plaša d'Espanya complete with tour of the MNAC one of the most ridiculous art galleries ever…I thought it surely must’ve been a palace or something but apparently it was just the exhibition building for a world exposition in the 20’s!  The pictures don’t do it justice.  Headed down to another amazing fountain, right in the middle of a roundabout, if I was driving I think I would’ve just done laps around the thing.  More points right here for Barcelona.  Even more awesome was the converted bull fighting ring where they’ve kept the entire outer walls but the inside is a completely modern shopping centre!  The transition from the outside and inside is eerie, I almost didn’t think it was the same building.  Headed up for some more cool city views and more local knowledge from Alex (only shopping centre with no Zara! Running tracks around the gym) before getting back into the car and driving up to the fort overlooking Barcelona (Montju´c).  Would’ve loved to know the history of the place but Alex didn’t know too much and Paula didn’t join us till lunch time =P.  He did tell me about chilling out on the castle in summer time and movies that they would show, and in my head was the image of people enjoying sangria in the summer evening while watching a movie while overlooking Barcelona…mmm sounded perfect =).  The fort itself was also very cool, the first star fort that I’ve seen, I think it was upgraded from an earlier block fort that you can see protruding from the centre.  Maybe I make up too many things but that’s my version of it.

Was good chatting to Alex at the top of the fort too, I really appreciate him showing us so many things but regret not having time to just sit down and catch up properly =P.  Turns out he’s doing his CFA while working, sounded like a busy schedule =S…he’s a lot more organised and efficient and less lost than I remembered haha.  Maybe it’s cos he’s a working man now or maybe it’s cos I didn’t hang out at DKV often enough but I found it amusing that he had planned and thought about so many things in advance for us while I had no clue as to what to do or see XD.  All of us were very grateful for that though =), of the things my sister had on her list, I think we only missed 2! 

Grabbed lunch next…oh man and this is where we made up for everything last night =P.  Alex and Paula (she joined us there) took us to this awesome little restaurant called La Esquinica…not Alex’s family restaurant unfortunately, nor was it on a corner however little…but man the food was just fantastic!  Was very cool having the guys just order everything without even looking at the menu, felt very local…if only we didn’t get stares from some the people around us who were probably all thinking what the hell are these random Chinese people are doing here!?  XD For those who are curious, patatas bravas are an awesome standard but I especially enjoyed the esparragicos (asparagus) and chipironcicos (squid I think) =), oooh and the fried octopus, and olives!!…actually everything was amazing, all these different spices and flavours, I really need to check out the Spanish restaurants in Melbourne…mmmm.  Hands down, no kidding, best meal I’ve had so far in Europe! =D

On our last legs we headed over to the Sagrada Familia, of course you have to see that right?  But decided not to go in cos of the lines and the money.  Still was just as impressive as I remembered it and I think even more had been added!  Rushed finally up to Tibidabo where we caught the sunset over Barcelona.  Was pretty amazing and fun hearing Alex tell us of stories of the theme park on top of the hill, some not so great like the girl who died in an accident but the creaky ferris wheel on top of the massive mountain sounded like a terrific/terrifying ride!  Anyways, we got some really nice views and I felt quite proud of myself recognising some of the streets (albeit after Alex had pointed out a few of them already haha).  To make things even more awesome, we went up the cathedral on top of the hill to high five the top of the world =D.  Highest point in Barcelona‼  It so amazing up there, windy as hell but ah the views!  Think that was a very cool way to end the trip but wait there’s more‼

Couldn’t leave Barcelona with all its local goodness!  Haha Alex took us over to El Cortes Ingles for a Cacaolat, olives, turros and polvorons run!  mmmm
 
So that’s it, I thought I couldn’t top it but I did, 2000+ words and I didn’t even finish the entry while on the ferry to Rome…I had a WHOLE day and 5 hours into writing it I’m still going.  *sigh* I think I need to limit myself…anyway, was really great to see Alex (and Paula) again after these two years kinda wish Anna could've meet the guys that I had met while over on exchange =)...one day! =D  Oooh and I really appreciate him taking his time off to show us around, can’t have been easy taking time off and he’s now down to his last day! >.<  Muchos gracias mi amigo!  And remember, we’ll be expecting you both in Melbourne! =)
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