Protests and Pickpocketers in Bar-TH-elona!

Trip Start Mar 31, 2011
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52
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Trip End Jul 05, 2011


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Flag of Spain  , Catalonia,
Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sorry for the delay in blog posting-- our recent internet connection was pretty terrible and I managed to upload 10 pictures in a little under 2 hours. Therefore, we decided to wait until arriving in Germany. Mistake! Apparently the Germans can't figure it out either. So we went to Luxembourg to find internet, haha! 
Anyway, we arrived in Barcelona from Valencia at around 9 PM and were totally exhausted. Thankfully, the Barcelona metro system is a nice, relaxing experience-- NOT! It is an absolute madhouse. Everyone runs around and slams into one another with no regard for personal space. Also, Barcelona is known for being one of the worst cities in the world for pickpocketing, so everyone is super high-stress about their stuff. Don't worry-- we made it through Barcelona without getting robbed, probably because we lock out bags to ourselves like paranoid crazy people.
After changing metro lines a few times, we made it to our hostel. The hostel was located in the center of Barcelona, right next to some of the most famous Gaudi structures and on a beautiful shopping street. The hostel was gigantic and the people in our dorm room were really nice. We met some really great girls from Ireland and a nice pair of girls from Switzerland. Plus, no one in the room was weird or smelly! Horray! We showered and went to bed pretty early because we were so exhausted from our night train/Valencia experience. 
We woke up early and enjoyed the free breakfast buffet provided by the hostel. They had an assortment of good cereals, bread with jam and butter, and a full service coffee bar that served delicious lattes! Definitely the first coffee bar we have encountered in a hostel. After breakfast, we walked to the Sagrada Familia, which is the church that Gaudi designed and has been under construction since the 1800s. The outside was really cool but was partially obscured by gigantic cranes and scaffolding. We paid the 10 Euros per person to get inside, and it was totally worth it. It was definitely the strangest church we have seen so far-- plenty of the usual Jesus figurines/statues of saints, but Gaudi puts a freaky twist on everything. He was definitely a weird dude.
After the Sagrada Familia, we walked to the Gothic district and passed a red version of Paris's Arc de Triomp and a giant park. We wanted to go into the park, but there were police everywhere and tons of signs hung all over the fence. Apparently, Barcelona has had a large number of protest in the past few weeks, and this park had definitely felt the brunt of the Spanish anger. The statues around the park had been subjected to quite a bit of vandalism, and the pictures drawn on the signs didn't seem to friendly. Glad we missed the majority of the protesting fun...   Then, we walked to another few cathedrals but didn't go inside any of them because they were either too expensive or closed. I can pretty much guarantee that none of the would have been as cool as the Gaudi cathedral, so we were not too sad about missing out. Instead, we got some tapas. We tried to order steak sandwiches (on a menu written in English), but apparently "steak" actually means "pork" in Spain. No surprise there-- everything is made of pork in Spain.   
We spent a little while walking around the Gothic district. At one point, we were walking next to some Americans who were talking about how they had "walked along the same street in Assassin's Creed," which is a video game that is very popular with highschoolers and college degenerates the world over. Very funny. Then we spent the rest of the afternoon/evening wandering along La Rambla, which is a big walking street that cuts through the center of Barcelona. There was a gigantic market on La Rambla, and we spent a really long time walking from stall to stall, taking a billion pictures of food, meats, and various sea critters. I'll post some of the pictures at the bottom of the blog. 
By this point, we were pretty hot and tired, so we went back to the hostel to rest and have a little siesta on the hostel's rooftop terrace. There were more protests happening on the streets of Barcelona (parades of chanting students), so we spent some time watching the excitement and catching up on our internet business. Once it got cooler, we went to the grocery store to pick up some pizzas for dinner. We brought the pizzas back to the hostel to cook, but we ran into some problems with the kitchen. First, it closed at 10, and we started trying to make pizzas at 10:30, so we had to sneak in and start cooking them really quickly while people were cleaning up from their dinners. Luckily, the bartender was really nice and didn't give us any trouble. The bigger problem was that there wasn't an oven in the kitchen... we assumed there would be an oven since it seemed like a proper kitchen, but apparently not. We tried to cook the pizzas in pans on the stove top, which sort of worked until one of the guys washing his dishes pointed out that they had PIZZA TOASTERS in the main eating area. Literally-- round toasters that spun and perfectly cooked frozen pizza. Go figure... 
We spent the rest of the night drinking beer in the hostel with a group of other travellers that we met the night before. We initially wanted to go out to the clubs, but we had been awake/walking around Barcelona for many hours and were pretty tired. Plus, they don't go out until 2 AM in Barcelona, and there was no possible way we could stay awake that long. Oh well, the hostel was pretty fun anyway! 
On Thursday morning (6-16), we woke up early to check out, store our bags in the luggage room, and have breakfast. Then we took the metro to the port and spent the day walking along the water. The beaches in Barcelona are really nice, but we just sat on the boardwalk and people-watched from there because we were not interested in getting all sandy again. We spent a while taking creepy pictures of a group of Spanish children who seemed to be on a field trip to the beach. It's very interesting to see how different cultures of children behave. For example, the Spanish children are clearly taught to sunbathe and be fabulous on the beach at a young age. Boys and girls alike were carefully laying out their towels and positioning themselves in the ideal way to get the most sun with the least number of tan lines. The little girls were even taking off their bathing suit tops like their risque teen counterparts! Definitely strange to watch.
After the beach, we walked through Barceloneta to the Monument de Colom, then back up La Rambla in the direction of the hostel. We had paella, croquettes, lamb, and flan at a nice little restaurant before heading back to the hostel for another siesta. Once we were rested, we went back to the grocery store to pick up food for our night train and for our beginning time in Switzerland. During our last few visits to Switzerland, we learned that it is far too expensive to go out to eat in every single restaurant in the entire country. Therefore, we plan to cook every meal at home. It worked in Basel and Zurich, so why not in Geneva too? Plus, we got some booze presents for Adrienne's school friends that we are staying with. Booze is also much cheaper in Spain than Switzerland...
We went back to the hostel to pack our new groceries in our backpacks, which made them about a third heavier. Then we hopped back on the metro to go to the Estacion de Franco to catch the night train to Geneva. This night train was easily the most expensive supplement fare so far-- 45 Euros for a SEAT! That's on top of the Eurail pass, which theoretically takes care of the cost of the train ride. Turns out that the train was totally amazing and the seat was great enough to probably be worth 45 Euros. It was huge with tons of leg room and reclined almost all the way flat. Plus, the train came with presents!! An eye mask, ear plugs, toothbrush and paste, eyeglass holder, blanket, water,  and a drawstring bag to hold it all!  It was pretty fabulous. In addition, our seat neighbor was a jolly little Spanish man who thought we were totally hilarious. He even shared some of his cookies with us! Probably because we had tried to share our bread and cheese snack with him, which was far less appealing.
After our bread and cheese snack, we locked up all of our stuff and donned our eye covers to go to sleep. We all slept pretty well until border patrol came on in the middle of night and woke us all up. They freaked Jeremy out a bit because he wasn't expecting police to come barging into the train for no apparent reason, but they barely even looked at our passports. Usually, border control doesn't even mess with trains going from one EU country to another, but we had heard that France/Italy/Spain were amending the Shengen agreement temporarily to deal with the influx of North African immigrants. Regardless, we arrived with no problems and will post about Geneva in a few days. Adios! 
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Comments

Mom on

So good to hear from you again. Too bad about all the internet problems, but so what! These life experiences are so fantastic, and you have your killer camera to preserve it. Interesting about all the pick-pocket warnings. Wonder if that makes a difference since the public is pre-warned about the thieves? The food looks so wonderful...and the markets! We're talking shopping heaven here! The Gaudi photos are wonderful, thank you. Spain is very proud of Gaudi, which I learned on Wiki. He's a national treasure. Thanks for your very interesting blog.....love it!

Jenna on

Spain seems amazing. Sorry I'm missing out on it. Hope you guys have a great time!

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