September 24, 2015 - 6:45 pm No Comments

After a quick stop at the pretty train station in Montpellier, France, we were back on the train to Spain.

Montpellier Train Station

Soon, it started looking more like Spain outside. More Spanish tile, more horses, more shrubs.

Finally, we were in Barcelona. We hung around for about 45 minutes until Fredy, Nader, and Ally showed up. It turns out that Nader and Ally missed the train because they were busy shopping for some birthday treats for me! This crew is too awesome. ­čÖé They handed me a box of pastries, a bottle of wine, and a bottle of J├Ągermeister, from which everyone took a shot. Getting the birthday started right.

It was already late in the evening, so after dropping our bags, we headed out for a birthday night on the town. Fredy helped me pick out a tapas buffet place for dinner, and then a street vendor helped us find a secret drinking hole called the Black Sheep. The 10 of us proceeded to drink 15 L of sangria. A great birthday.

Our first full day in Barcelona started with an orientation walk past some famous Gaud├ş buildings.

Casa Milà

And then, La Boqueria, a giant covered market that reminds me a lot of the Great Market Hall in Budapest. Vendors sell fruit juices, ham, and sheep penis, among other things. Ham, especially in prosciutto form, is everywhere in Spain.

Jamón at La Boqueria

Then a small group of us headed to Barcelona’s crown jewel, Sagrada Fam├şlia. The basilica was designed by Gaud├ş, and he worked on it until his death in 1926. Definitely stylish and unique, but unfortunately the exterior was covered in cranes and scaffolding. The building will be under construction for another 15 years or so to complete Gaud├ş’s original vision. Inside, the late afternoon sunlight streamed in through the red stained glass windows, but the interior is a bit smaller and simpler than I thought given the ornate exterior. Huge sections of the floor were corded off for construction work, making it hard for me to get all the angles for my photos.

Sagrada Família

Sagrada Família

Of course, they yelled at me for laying on the ground and using my tripod to get shots of the glorious ceiling. I think gift shop revenue was the reason here.

Sagrada Família

Me at Sagrada Família

View from Sagrada Família

After dinner and a few drinks, a few of us splintered off and went to a dance club. I showed off some of my sweet dance moves, and we partied into the wee hours of the morning.

My second day in Barcelona started with a trip to Park G├╝ell, a giant space laid out and designed by Gaud├ş. I found the park a little plain, though it seems that the poor illustrations on the park map led me to miss a big chunk of it.

El Drac

The Hypostyle Room

Window in Casa del Guarda

With his curves, geometric shapes, mosaics, and chunky concrete, Gaud├ş has styled the entire city and given Barcelona a unique feel. It’s an old city with a lot of beauty and charm, like Prague. I can see how people consider it to be one of Europe’s great cities.

The Spanish, it seems, are more varied in size and color than Italians, but a good-looking people as well. They’re not quite as gregarious as Italians, but they do seem content and happy to be alive. Here in Catalonia, they speak Catalan, similar to Spanish in a lot of ways but distinct enough for native Spanish speakers to have trouble with it. I’m no cunning linguist, but Old World Spanish sounds like New World Spanish with a lisp. So it’s “Barthelona”, not Barcelona.

I stopped at the highly-rated Palau de la M├║sica Catalana, a concert hall in the middle of town. The short tour was interesting, and the interior is dazzling.

Palau de la M├║sica Catalana

Palau de la M├║sica Catalana

Palau de la M├║sica Catalana

Then a quick stop at Barcelona’s Arc de Triomf, where they were having some sort of wine festival.

Arc de Triomf

I met up with Nader and headed to Barceloneta, one of the city’s most popular beaches, for the rest of the afternoon. It was packed with locals and tourists alike. The sand was course, but it was the first real beach we’ve been able to enjoy on this trip.

Mojito on Barceloneta Beach

The Mediterranean Sea on my Feet

Barceloneta Beach

W at Barceloneta Beach

Nader and I took a stroll down the beach and soon found ourselves surrounded by naked men. One nicely tanned gentleman was feeding pigeons.

Our big finish to Barcelona was a dazzling fireworks show by the Pla├ža d’Espanya. It was probably the longest and best choreographed show I’ve ever seen, better than anything I’ve seen on DC on the 4th of July. Fredy says that they put on big fireworks shows like that every weekend in Barcelona, which is pretty amazing if it’s true.

Fireworks at Pla├ža d'Espanya

Fireworks at Pla├ža d'Espanya

Next stop is Valencia (“Balenthia”), a place I’ve never heard of but is supposed to be pretty cool. We’re now on the bus for 4 hours. Should be there soon.

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