Barcelona Day 1

Trip Start Aug 16, 2010
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Spain  , Catalonia,
Saturday, October 30, 2010

2/10/2010

               I'm sitting in the Barcelona Airport and was able to find a plug so since I’ve got a little bit of time I figured I’d get some writing done.  I’ve been listening to my news podcasts and Christmas music for the last little while in order to get my mind off my terrible morning.

                I was supposed to be in Porto, Portugal by now… Obviously I’m not.  I didn’t plan to get there early enough.  I thought I had left enough of a cushion, but clearly I did not.  I also did not count on my bus sitting at the bus stop for 20 minutes or getting stuck in traffic when we finally left.  So then when I finally get to the airport and I figure out what I’m doing, I end up sprinting through the airport to find my gate, but to no avail.  I find the gate but they had already finished boarding and even though the plane was still sitting at the gate they wouldn’t let me board.  So my options were to wait until 11:00 tonight, 11:40am or 3:30pm.  The 11:40am flight would have cost about 550 Euros, so that was out.  I opted for the 3:30 flight on TAP airlines, a Portuguese airline company.  So that cost me another 150 Euros but there wasn’t really anything I could do about it.  So I’m going to get about a day and a half in Porto instead of 2 days.

                So now that I’ve finished griping about my very own series of unfortunate events, lets backtrack a little bit shall we?  Saturday morning I got up at 4:45 in order to be at the bus at 6:00, which is about a 20 minute brisk walk away.  I had pretty much packed almost everything the night before except the things I would need to get ready in the morning.  I got on the bus and settled in for a 6 hour bus ride.  It was long, boring and uncomfortable but I suppose all bus rides are.  On the way we watched a documentary on Barcelona, which I slept through and then a really bad French comedy.  By bad I mean that is was silly and hokey, not necessarily  that the jokes were bad, they were too fast for me to get the humor besides the obvious, but it seemed to be along the same lines as British humor, which really requires full comprehension of the dialogue.  It started out with some  Ancient Egyptian architect designing a temple or something like that, I lost interest and went back to sleep, when I woke up there were romans, Vikings, and I think maybe Vercingetorix and I had no idea why.  But it seemed very weird.

                So I’ll have to write more about what happened when we actually got there later.  I have to abandon my power outlet and go find my gate.  I can’t afford to miss two flights in one day.  Argggh… FML! worst morning ever!  The elections back home better go well tonight, that will really help me feel better about today.  I hope you all vote, (or voted, depending on when I have the chance to publish this.)

7/11/10

                OK, so I voted, because this is the first time that I’ve had both the time and the energy, at the same time, to write about last week.  So when we first got to our hostel we were assigned rooms by George, our trip organizer/ tour guide.  All the guys from the CSU program were put in the same program along with several Chinese foreign exchange students and two French brothers who I guess were just there for the trip because they weren’t foreign exchange students like everyone else on the trip.

                The hostel seemed nice enough though there was only 1 outlet to plug things into and it was on the opposite side of the room from me, so that was a pain.  Then George took us on a brief tour of the old downtown area where we were staying.  It was pretty cool.  Afterwards Rob, Angelica and I wandered around for a while to get a better idea of the layout of the area.  I especially needed to find a bank.  I had meant to stop on my way to the bus in the morning but was cutting it so close that I didn’t have time.  I didn’t want to have to pay a fee to use a different bank so I asked the tourist office where a BNP was.  They were very nice and looked it up on their computer and gave me a printed map.  But the pretty girl spoke so fast and with such a strong accent that it was very difficult to understand her completely.  But I thought that I had a pretty decent idea of where to go.  It was further than Rob and Angelica wanted to walk plus we were all tired so we decided to split up and meet up later that night.  I was tired too, but I had 10 Euros and knew that I would need more, so it was absolutely necessary that I find a bank.  After getting fairly lost, in the small and meandering streets I was finally able to figure out where I was on the map, I realized that I had gone way too far in the wrong direction.  However it wasn’t that far and at least now I knew exactly where I was, so from there I was able to figure out how to get where I was going.  The streets weren’t labeled on the map, so I had to try and figure everything out just on the shapes and sizes of the roads.  In this kind of situation the roundabouts really help, because you can use them as markers.

                I finally find the road I was looking for and wander around for a bit before realizing that I had been passing it because it was right there but inside and the doors were locked.  So I ended up using a random ATM to grab some cash.  But it didn’t say anything about a fee on the screen so hopefully I didn’t get charged one.  But I didn’t really have a choice.  However while I was wandering I saw some cool statues and buildings including Gaudi’s house.    Barcelona is amazing, in that it really has a very distinct character and atmosphere.  It is the capital of the region known as Catalan.  The Catalonians are a very distinct and proud culture with their own language, their region actually includes Provence and many people in Aix think of themselves as Catalonian.  It’s a very happy, welcoming and Mediterranean culture.  It seems very based on the simplicity of life and simple pleasures of food and friends.

                The architecture in this city is absolutely beautiful.  It’s so detailed, ornate and distinct.  Everything seems to be covered in those glazed colored tiles for which Spain is so famous.  This seems to give the city a lot of life and vibrancy, through large areas of bright yellows and oranges covering many of the buildings surfaces.  And everywhere the red and yellow stripes of the Catalonian flag can be seen.  On top of that all of the buildings and architecture even down to the small details seem to have a very strong root in geometry, very detailed but very organized.  Even the sidewalk tiles have very intricate and interwoven geometric patterns in them.

                One of the very first things I notice about Barcelona was how crowded it was.  I guess I’ve grown accustomed to Provence.  Most of the small cities and villages I’ve visited have really almost made me forget what a big city is like.  Everything was very metropolitan, which is kind of interesting in a very ancient city with centuries old buildings housing H&Ms and McDonald’s.  I felt almost claustrophobic just trying to walk down the overcrowded streets.  But that reminds me, one of the things that have struck me about much of Provence is its distinct lack of many American chains.  Here in Barcelona, I saw my first KFC since I left the U.S., as well as Burger Kings, McDonald’s as well as enough Starbucks’ to rival San Francisco.  I was going to grab lunch at a KFC once but they didn’t have the Double Down sandwich, which I love, so I decided to get something more local since I was in Spain after all.  But I have been craving fried chicken for a little while.

                What an amazing city though.  It was the home of Picasso, Gaudi, and Dali.  You can really see their influence on the city and see its influence on them

                One of the other things that are literally impossible to miss in Barcelona is the street performers.  The elaborate costumes and spectacles they would put on as well as the mere number of them were striking.  On the main street La Ramblas there were literally performers every couple of feet.  Check out the pictures below.  They’re everywhere!

                On my way back to the hostel to meet up with the other CSU students I stopped at the large market that George had pointed out to us earlier which he said was a landmark in the city.  I understood why very shortly.  They had everything!  Dad, Chris and Bret all would have been in heaven.  There were all sorts of vegetables, even American style pumpkins, whole booths of just mushrooms, butcher’s who cut the meet off of the pig’s leg right there in front of you, the most delicious fresh fruit smoothies, (I got a passion fruit and pineapple one for 1 Euro), spice booths with every spice and pepper you could want, fresh seafood of all kinds, (including sea urchins and bags of live crabs!), and egg booths with emu and ostrich eggs!

                So then I got back to the hostel, I ran into Angelica who was very excited.  She had apparently found a classical Spanish guitar concert that night, by some (apparently) very famous guitar player, which she really wanted us to go to.  She is a classical guitar major, which is why she was so enthusiastic.  I figured that what better place than Spain to see a Spanish guitar concert so agreed to go.  So she, Rob and I all headed out to find tickets, which turned out to be almost an adventure in itself.  The booth that had told her about the show was sold out of tickets but said that there were probably still some available at the theatre.  So we hustled over there afraid that they would already be sold out.  Luckily they weren’t.  Then we decided to go grab some dinner in the time that we had before the show.  We found a really good Mexican restaurant with cheap drinks and spicy food!  Spicy apparently is not in the French lexicon, so it is something that I am always craving.  So this was a well enjoyed find for us.

                Afterwards we went back to the theatre for the concert.  The show was very nice and relaxing.  I’ve always loved this style of music and it was really nice to hear Spanish guitar in Spain.  At the very end he did two encores.  The very last song was a very funny medley of pop and movie themes mixed with really cool sound effects and gags that he made with his guitar, it was quite entertaining and had the entire audience laughing.  He received at least two standing ovations.

                Afterwards we headed back to the hostel to meet up with the rest of the CSU students, as we had planned to go out to a club that night.  On the way we found a small children’s park with those cool spinning disks that use center of gravity to spin you around.  Angelica had never seen them before and we practically had to drag her away from them.

                Back at the hostel there was a girl gathering up lots of the residents to go to a club on the beach.  It was only 5 Euros for entry and a drink, so it was a pretty good deal.  We all decided to go.  We met up with some groups from other hostels who had been collected by other members of what at that point we had figured out were employees of sorts for the club who worked as promoters.  We ended up having to take the metro to the club which we hadn’t expected but wasn’t as big a deal as some of the people in the group made it out to be.  Once we got there, they had a chocolate fondue fountain and champagne for us.  I snuck a second glass later ;-)  so we danced in this smaller area with couches and a DJ which was alright but kind of small and lame, but it was where they had directed us.  Later I wandered over to where I had seen lots of other people go who weren’t part of our original group from the hostel.  I found what was the main part of the club, with tons of people, better music, more bars and go-go dancers on the stage with the DJ.  I went back and got the rest of the group and showed them where the main dance floor was.  They were all surprised and excited to find a better area, the other area was kind of lame.  They all thanked me for finding the area.  So we danced and drank and took quite a few tequila shots and had a great time.  The club was decorated, (as were the go-go dancers) for Halloween, which was pretty cool, even though the only Halloween song they played was thriller.

                So after dancing for a long time and drinking quite a bit, some of the girls rounded everyone up and I was informed that it was 3:30am so we all headed back to the hostel for to get some sleep.  Thus ended our first night in Barcelona.  Spain Rocks!
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