Barcelona: A City with Fantastic Mojitos!
On Thursday evening, Meghan and I arrived in Barcelona. We had originally planned on going for two nights, and booked a hotel room downtown Barcelona for Thursday and Friday. Once we got on the train from Madrid and were thinking of our next plan, we realized that we hadn't really thought through our plan very well for the time being. We were not going to have enough time to see what we wanted in Barcelona. So once we arrived in Barcelona, we decided to book our next train tickets immediately so we would make sure we had a spot on the train we wanted. Our plan was to head to Cinque Terre in Italy, but once it was our turn at the ticket counter, we discovered that the train from Barcelona going into Italy only goes to Milan, but we could book a ticket to a location in France and work our way over. To make things sound more difficult than it probably was in actuality, the person we were talking to did not speak much English so we did not completely understand each other very well. Meghan and I, thinking 'let's just book a ticket to get us out of here', decided to book a train for Sunday evening to Montpellier in France. We decided that we were going to chance the fact that we didn't have a room booked for Saturday night in Barcelona and try find somewhere to stay for the last night and then get to Montpellier Sunday night and worry about that part later. Skip ahead to Saturday morning, we decide we should probably think about where we are going to be on Sunday night, and we thought maybe we would be able to catch a night train from Montpellier into Italy. Meghan goes online to look for tickets to Cinque Terre, only to discover that no matter what, we basically have to go to Milan first. From the start we should have booked tickets just to Milan and not to Montpellier, and so we decided we should go see if we could change our reservation to Milan. Back to the train station we go! This time when we get there, the person at the ticket counter speaks even less English than the last one. The conversation basically consisted of us saying 'Milan tomorrow', the person looking it up in the computer, then punching a number into a calculator to show us the price, us nodding our heads for yes, and then we had tickets booked to Milan! Yay! Now the next part was figuring out once we got to Milan if we would be able to make it to Cinque Terre the same day (we arrived in Milan at about 10:00am) or if we were going to have to stay in Milan for a night. With some help with the Internet on Sunday before leaving Barcelona, we found out we could make it to Cinque Terre, so we quickly booked a hostel for a few nights in Cinque Terre - problem solved!
Okay, enough about our travel plans....
Barcelona... It's a fun city.
We had booked our hotel in Barcelona on another discount website and it turned out to be fantastic for the price we paid. Our hotel was right downtown, close to shopping and the markets and restaurants and little bars - perfect! Our first night was spent wandering around in search of food and sangria, which we succeeded in finding. After that we just wandered down the streets and eventually back to our hotel.
On Friday, we went to the market to pick up some breakfast. We got fresh fruit juice and apple muffins. It was probably the best muffin I have ever had in my life. And the fruit juice was delicious too! A great start to the day. Next for the day was a walking tour. We had found a pamphlet in our hotel that advertised free walking tours given by this travel bar, as well as dinner for a euro. Pretty sweet deal. And since we like doing the walking tours we decided to take advantage of this one too. It was another good tour, and learned some interesting things about the city's history and architecture. There are some really cool buildings to see - one building for example had these weird round things sticking out of it. It kind of reminded me of eyeballs all over the building. Also, they had some really cool architects in the past, such as Gaudi, who designed some amazing buildings. (Google his work. It's pretty sweet.) Probably the funniest thing I saw though was when we paused near a church and the tour guide was talking. It was a busy area and there were a bunch of people selling stuff on the street. The guys selling stuff have their little blankets spread out with ropes tied to each corner, and they often hold the ropes in one hand, ready to run in case the police come since it is illegal for them to be selling on the street without a license. Well, as we are standing in this square, all of a sudden these guys are grabbing their stuff and bolting as fast as they could possibly go. Two seconds later, the police pulled up on their scooters and collected anything that had fallen when all the peddlers bolted. It was hilarious to see! I wish I had that on camera. For the rest of the time in Barcelona, I kept my eyes peeled for signs of them getting ready to run again so I could try capture it on camera, but didn't really have as much luck. (When we visited Park Guell later we saw some people pack up and go but they didn't bolt as fast because the police were on foot there.) Another thing I found amusing was the building where the school of architecture is. The city is filled with incredible buildings and the school of architecture is just plain boring. But, on the building is a very elementary picture drawn by Picasso. From what I remember of the story, Picasso had been drunk when he drew it. He had said something about another artist, saying that the other man was not very talented basically, and that Picasso could draw just as well while drunk. He then proceeded to draw the image that is now on the school of architecture.
On our tour, we met a guy from Toronto, so we hung out with him for a while after and the three of us wandered down to the beach. It was packed in places, and for all you guys, there are some lovely topless women. We also heard stories that there is the "elephant man" in Barcelona, who is not wearing any clothes. (In Barcelona, it's legal to go nude as long as you are wearing shoes. It sounds like this elephant man takes this to heart on hot days.) We kept our eyes open for him, but didn't see him.
After wandering down the beach, our new Toronto friend went off on his own to see a church and Meghan and I headed to a park to relax for a bit. Our plan was to go to the Travel Bar in the evening for the euro dinner to test it out and we had some time to kill first.
Dinner time: we headed off to Travel Bar and as it turns out one of the servers is Canadian, and she was talking to another guy who was sitting at the bar, who was also Canadian! (Canadians are everywhere!) So after she talked to him she came over to us, realized we are Canadian too, then called over to the guy, saying "More Canadians!" And so we invited the guy to pull up a chair and sit with us. Which led to a great great night and the discovery of the best Mojitos I have ever had in my life.
So this guy - Paul - had been living in Australia for a few years, decided he wanted a change and came to Barcelona to try find a job bartending for a while. Which is what he was doing at the travel bar - searching for a job. (He did manage to get one there and actually started the next day.) Anyways, this travel bar is only open til 10:00 pm, but they have another location by the port and anyone in the bar when they close is invited over to the port bar for a free shot. Well, not wanting to refuse a free shot, Paul, Meghan and I head over there, with Paul saying "okay, I will come for a while but now I have to work in the morning so it can't be a late night." So much for that plan. Off we go to the Port bar, where we get our free shot and order another drink. Then for some reason they gave us another free shot, and then another. We were not ones to complain. (They weren't very strong shots anyways.) Then we decided we should probably carry on with our night and try a new place. Off to the streets we go, wandering around looking for a new place. Our first find was a place that served the best Mojitos ever!! Soooo so good. So we stayed there for a drink. Then, since it started getting really full in the place, we decided it was time to move on. Next stop: a little hole in the wall place where Paul ordered this drink called a Michelada. Meg and I had never tried these and decided to be safe and stick with beer, but we tried his and it was pretty good. One drink there, then on to another place. Paul had found before a place that he really liked and we decided we should try find it again, but with no luck and some distraction by a sign advertising cheap sangria, we stopped at out last place for a sangria. It was our own little amazing pub crawl in Barcelona, and was one great night! Paul, so happy we met you! (Plus, thanks to Paul, we were not creeped out by any guys trying to hit on us or anything since we already had a guy with us.) A few drinks more than planned and hours later, we headed back to the hotel and said goodnight to Paul.
Saturday was our trip to the train station to change our train ticket, then switching to a new hostel since we hadn't booked enough nights originally in Barcelona, and then we went to Sagrada Familia, which is a magnificent church designed by Gaudi. Incredible place. Gaudi was alive in the late 1800's and early 1900's and had a unique style of architecture that is very detailed. This church is no exception. The detail in the design is simply astounding. And the church was so bright and cheery inside. We also went up the towers and had an awesome view of Barcelona. On our way back downtown after visiting the church, we passed another building designed by Gaudi called Casa Batllo, another really unique building and now a museum. People were lined up like crazy to get in, so we kept walking. Later that evening, we went back to Travel Bar where Paul was still working for his first shift, and we had dinner again for a euro. Once Paul was done work, the three of us spent the night hanging out and retraced our steps to the bar with the best Mojitos ever. And Paul managed to find the place he had wanted to go the night before, so we stopped in there. And it was a great little place. So it was another fun night hanging out with Paul! Yay for making new friends on our travels!
On Sunday, Meghan and I headed to Park Guell, which, guess what!, is also designed by Gaudi. The park was originally designed to be a community for the upper classes, but was a flop and eventually turned into a park. It has a very fairy-tale feel to it, as his buildings are really unique and the park has some really cool features, such as a dragon bench that winds around a big open area and is made with broken colorful tiles for a mosaic. For anyone ever going to Barcelona, make sure you visit this park because it is pretty cool, and it's up a hill so you have an incredible view of the city and the ocean from there. There are also a bunch of peddlers selling stuff, and we came across one guy who was making his jewelry as he stood there. It was really cool and only a few euros for each piece so Meghan and I each got a necklace and she got a ring too.
Then we headed back downtown to find some food and wander for our last few hours before we had to go back to the hostel to get our stuff and catch the train to Milan.