Tuesday, July 11, 2006

In Madrid

Got to Madrid, set up camp and headed out for some lunch. There is a restaurant right across the street from our hostel, and it had a menú for lunch, so we decided to eat there. First course was good and all, but for the second course I ordered higada de pollo blah blah blah. All I saw was ´pollo,´ which means chicken. Unfortunately, what I didn´t know was that higada means liver. So when my second plate came out it was half french fries, and half chicken livers. They must have killed 15 chickens to make my lunch. And if you´ve never had chicken liver just by itself, it has a consistency that is hard to deal with. I ate a little of it, left most of it on the plate, got a dirty look from the waiter, and then moved on to dessert.

Aside from the initial lunch fiasco, everything has been going really well. We´ve been to two museums so far: the Reina Sofia and the Prado. The Prado was mostly classical art, while the Reina Sofia was mostly modern art. Both were amazing and inspiring.
Breakfast has usually been at a little cafe called the Mallorquina, where we get a couple pastries and a cafe con leche all for 3€ apiece. For lunch we usually pick a nearby restaurant and eat the menú del dia, which is always delicious. Lunch today was at the Museu de Jamon (the ham museum).

Had another crazy awesome dinner at a restaurant called Suite. They didn´t even start serving until 10:30, which means we didn´t really start eating until about 11:15, and didn´t finish until about 1am. It was a 5 course dinner including:
pate de foie gras,
salad with lamb and granny smith apple,
lobster ravilione,
and white mousse with raspberry ice cream.
We also had another bottle of good spanish wine. Dinner was delicious, and we walked home very happy.

Sat and Sun nights we went out to the clubs of Madrid. Sat we partied at a cool place called Ohm, where we made some friends (Nacho and his girlfriend Almudena, named after the patron saint of Madrid) that we talked to and danced with until about 6 am. Sunday we went out to Ananda, which was decorated like an Arabic palace, and hung out till about 3 before catching a taxi home.

Time is up again, so I´m done for now. Just got my ticket and booking for my one last night in Barcelona, which will be alone, as the girls leave on the morning of the 13th, when I head back to Barcelona.

See you all soon!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Thur in Barcelona: La Sagrada Familia and the Beach

La Sagrada Familia is one of the only cathedrals still being built in the entire world, and has been under construction for some 120 years already too. But this is no ordinary cathedral: it was designed by Barcelonan native, Gaudí. Which means that the statues on the outside are angular and severe, while parts of the cathedral itself look like they are ice cream just beginning to melt. And this is a real building. The interior was vast, with huge vaulted ceilings. The roof is held up by columns that mimic trees, rising a ways and then splitting into 3 or 4 branches which continue up to the ceiling, which is carved as their angular canopy. Everything about the cathedral was unique and unbelievable. It will be amazing when they are finally able to start having mass there. We have tons of pictures, and even got to see one of the construction workers working on carving a stone piece by hand!!

After the Sagrada Familia, we headed to lunch. Another menú del dia, but this time we got to eat paella, which was quite good, and came complete with whole crawfish and mussels.

We stuffed our bellies, then headed to the beach. The sand was rough and brown, but the water was beautiful. And the beach was absolutely packed. We found ourselves a place to lay out, and couldn´t have had more than 6 ft on every side till the next person. The beach was quite an experience. About 1 in 10 women were topless, and some guy that came out and set up near us just changed on the beach. There were vendors constantly picking their way through the people selling whatever it was they had. Coke, beer, massages, and doughnuts were most of what you heard. The doughnut vendor was the most entertaining, as he was balancing (no hands!) a huge tray of doughnuts on his head while dancing around and singing about his doughnuts. Our favorite line was something about how he loved doughnuts that were hot, fresh, cheap. All this while balancing a big tray on his head. He was the highlight of our day.


So in America, everyone is American. We may break it down a little further along very blatant lines into categories of Asian, Hispanic, and Black, but we don´t see much beyond that. Here you start to pick out people´s ethnicities. German, Mediterannean, Nordic, Turkish, Asian... It´s cool. The Germans are the ones I mistake most often for Americans. The Mediterranean people tend to be shorter, with darker skin or hair. The Nordic people tend to be taller. Once you start to notice things like that you can actually look at a person and make a guess about their ethnic background. Very different from Georgia.

Wed in Barcelona: Montjuic and Park Güell

The palace at Montjuic was beatiful, though we only saw it from the outside. The fountain that stands out in front is called the Font Mágica, or Magic Fountain, and with good reason. The fountain cycles through a series of displays that range from shooting streams of water a good 40 ft into the air, to creating mist that makes it look like the entire fountain is covered in fog. We stopped to eat some ice cream and watch the fountain before heading on up the mountain to the war museum at Castell.

The war museum contained everything from suits of armor to scaled battles of miniatures, models of forts and all the weapons you could think of. Pretty cool, and the view from the mountain was a beautiful swath of the mediterranean. Pictures all around.

Park Güell, the famous park of Antoni Gaudí, was our destination for the evening, but first we had to get our train tickets to Madrid. This was about the same as waiting in line to get your drivers liscence renewed, though we only had to wait about an hour to get our tickets.

Once we had our tickets in hand, we set out for the crazy Park Güell. This park is as famous as it is because it looks like it belongs in a Dr. Suess book. It has 2 houses out in front, complete with spiraling roofs checkered in blue and white, and sides that look as though they are melting. In one part of the park is a pathway that is covered by a series of arches, only the arches are all leaning at about 45 degrees. The best part, though, was the forest of columns. This was originally designed to be a marketplace, but the plans surrounding the park never came through, so now it is just a huge plaza full of columns. The columns hold up the large open air area above it, where you can sit on the ergonomically designed, tiled benches created by Gaudí. We made sure to play Gobblet in the forest of columns, adding it to our list of Gobbletted places.

After Gaudíing ourselves out (and getting a couple gifts ;)) we headed back to El Raval for dinner. Dinner was at La Biblioteca, a restaurant known for its wide selection of books on cooking. We started with an appetizer of some kind of quiche, and a bottle of wine, both of which were delicious. I then got a shank of lamb for a main entree, and you could literally pull the meat off of the bone it was so tender. La Biblioteca definitely wins the award for best food so far, and it´s going to be a hard one to beat.

After dinner we walked home and fell into a food coma.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

7-4-06 Tuesday: Gothic Quarter and Flamenco

Tuesday we went into the historic gothic quarter, where everything was stone and cast iron, the streets were narrow and the buildings a high surrounding wall. Everything was beautiful, if maybe a little dirty, but the ambiance more than made up for it. There were musicians on almost every street corner. As soon as the sound from one faded, the music from the next picked up. And there were lots of open plazas made entirely of stone. So pretty. For lunch we just wandered into one of the restaurants in the Gothic quarter, L´Academie, and each got the menú lunch. A menú lunch is a fixed price lunch, sometimes with food options, sometimes without, and it includes an appetizer, a main entree, dessert, bread, and drink; all for about 10€ usually. And its always good. So we got the menú at L´Academie, which offered no choices. The first plate was some kind of soup with a thick pasty chicken base and onions and ...garbonzo beans? Who knows. It looked a little sketch, but tasted amazing. Our main dish was a fish. No really, a whole fish. All that was missing was its head and organs. Put the head back on and it looked like it could have swam off the plate. We had to slice it open and pull all bones out, (and more than once got a mouthful of bones anyways), but the fish itself was delicious. Dessert was some coconut custard, followed by a cortado, the popular spanish coffee drink. It´s really just espresso. As is all the coffee here. Even when you order a café con leche, you still get espresso with milk. It´s all pretty tasty though, so at least they got that going for them.

Played Gobblet in a cute little café. We´re taking pictures of all the different places that we play it. So far the count is Plaça Catalunya and the Gothic District.

After lunch and shopping in the Gothic Quarter, we showered and went out to a Flamenco show at Tablao de Carmen. Flamenco is essentially a Spanish form of tap dance. It involves crazy-fast feet, out of tune singing, and a bunch of sassy attitude. Towards the end the feet were amazing. And the guitar player got a solo that was ridiculous. He played a guitar better than I´ve seen alot of professional violinists. Those fingers were fast. As were the feet of the final guy. Just amazing. Afterwards we went out to a Pinchas bar, which is similar to Tapas. Lots of small foods a la carte. I have no idea what most of that was, but it was all damn good. I ate 10 different pinchas by myself. Then home for some sleep.

Out of time again. Comments are open now, so you don´t need an account to comment.

Love you all. See you soon!

Down Las Ramblas

When I got back to the Hotel, Jen was finally there, so we headed out to Las Ramblas for some dinner and exploring. Las Ramblas is a huge, broad street that is mainly pedestrian and is lined with shopping and restaurants. To the west is El Raval, an up and coming part of the city (which really just means dirty and sketchy) where we would catch dinner another day. To the east is the Gothic district, complete with its own Gothic church.

So we rambled down Las Ramblas for a bit, then got a pitcher of sangría and watched a live statue for a while. The entire length of Las Ramblas had street vendors and musicians and live statues. Pretty dang cool. The one we stopped for was particularly entertaining. There were some that were dressed as knights, some as marble statues, others as medieval clowns, and pretty much whatever you could think of.

After we finished our pitcher of sangría we headed off to find dinner, with a specific restaurant in mind. Most things are closed on Mondays in Barcelona, and this was no exception. So was choice #2. And since we were walking everywhere, by this time it was like 11:30 or so, and nothing was open anymore. SO, much to our chagrin, our first dinner in Barcelona was KFC. Yeah. We´re pretending that didn´t happen.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Lunch Adventure

So I tell the landlady I´m looking for food, and she sends me around the corner to a little cafe. The portion I got was quite small, but it´ll hold me over for a while. The adventure of the day was that inside of ten minutes in the cafe, some girl walks up and asks if I´m a model here in Barcelona. No? Back home in the States then? No? So she invites me up to their studio which is literally on top of the cafe. (Every building here in Barcelona is at least 5 stories.) I go up with her after my lunch and talk to a few employees, all of whom seem pretty enthusiastic to see me. They´ve just started their men´s division modelling, but all of their girls are stunning. They take a couple of pictures, then ask if I want to do a casting call tomorrow morning. Will have to check with Jen on that one. The job would be 700€ though. Have to see how the rest of the day goes.

More updates when I have more time!!

In the Hotel!!

Well that was entertaining. Took a while to find an ATM and get out of the airport, but I got some moneys and hopped onto Aerobus, which runs to Plaça Catalunya, the heart of Barcelona. Everything here is so spacious. It is designed with room to walk, trees on the streets, large plazas with towers on the edges, and just all kinds of neat stuff. My companion on the bus could have been the prototype for the Tech CS major, but he was German and was here for a convention.

Plaça Catalunya is beautiful. Statues and fountains and tons of people... It is quite a site to see. Can´t wait to get back to it.

And of course when I get to the hotel I find that Jen has left not three minutes before I got there. When I got my itinerary wrong I told her the wrong arrival time, so she had to wait for a while. Whoops. Guess I´ll just take a nap and go get some lunch.

9 Hours on a Plane is a Long Time

Luckily the melatonin I took made me crash as we took off. I woke up just in time for Delta dinner, which was better than I thought it would be. 3 cheese lasagna, small side salad, and a brownie. The woman next to me was someone´s grandmother and very kind, but didn´t speak a word of English. We got along pretty well, but mention of Barcelona brought a warning from her that involved her punching her open hand then trying to repeat the motion on the top of her head. Doesn´t bode well for the crime scene in Barcelona.

Back to sleep...

Finally Time for Some Updates

Didn´t have a lot of time to update while in Barcelona, so here´s the general update from the last few days:

July 2nd:
In case the 3 am blog post didn´t tip you off, I´m pretty tense about this trip. Tense in a good way: excited. But part of the tension comes from the fact that I am travelling alone to a foreign country, landing in a city that speaks a hacked up dialect of a lnaguage I stopped learning four years ago. How am I supposed to get around? Still, the line keeps running through my head: "I´M GOING TO SPAIN!!!"
It echoes cavernously in my mind and appears in slow motion, like the opening scene of a classic football movie, fans screaming and energy surging.
I´m going to Spain.
T-12 hours and counting and I still find it hard to believe.
I am going to Spain.
Intrepidation, excitement, awe. Holy crap, how did this happen?
I´m going to Spain.
I am so ready for this.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Always Check Your Itinerary

So that's the lesson for the day kids. Always read your itinerary. The flight leaves at 8pm tonight, not 5pm. At least I made the error in my favor. The alternative would have sucked.

The Moment of Truth

Ok, well not quite. The plane doesn't leave for another 3 1/2 hours, but in about 5 minutes, we leave the house. I guess there's multiple moments of truth. Leaving the house; boarding the plane; disembarking from the plane onto new soil; trying to communicate for the first time; ....
I'm excited and way wound-up, which is not what I need for a 9 hour plane ride. I'm fully equipped though. I've been checking and rechecking my travel lists for two days now. I've got everything I could possibly need, and enough travel sizes to make Palahniuk giggle. And it all fits into one backpack and one dufflebag.
As I pack and run around, typically forgetting everything I'm doing, I keep having little mini-revelations: I am leaving the country. I mean, I can rationalize it to death, but somehow it still has weight. People are still people, land is still land, buildings will stand and gravity will operate. This ain't no big thang. But still somehow it is.

The door across the hall opens: time to go.
I am so ready for this.

The Itinerary

July 2nd: Depart ATL, Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta at 5pm. Try and sleep.

July 3rd: Arrive in BCN, Barcelona International Airport, at 8am BCN time.
- Accomodations:
      Petit Hotel
      Laforja 67, 08021 Barcelona

July 7th: Depart Barcelona for Madrid by train
- Accomodations:
      Hotel Marlasca
      Cruz 14, 28012 Madrid

July 13th: Return to Barcelona by train

July 14th: Depart BCN for ATL. Return to normal life.

Round trip plane ticket (purchased late): $1300.
Round trip train ticket: $150.
Hotel: $30/night.
10 full days in Barcelona and Madrid: Priceless.