Spanish Road Trip – Day 6-8: Barcelona

Posted by jswt | Posted in 2011 - Spanish Road Trip, General, Spain - Barcelona | Posted on 10-12-2011

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On day 6 of our Spanish road trip, we woke up slowly and made the most of the breakfast that was included at our hotel room before loading ourselves back in the car and starting off on the 4h drive to Barcelona.


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My good friend K, who’s my favorite designer and all round cool cat, had moved from Vancouver to Barcelona back in September, and we’d arranged to spend a couple nights at his place. Little did we know that he’d found himself an apartment is the most absolutely kickass location in BCN – right at the foot of Las Ramblas by the harbor! We got landed in his place and caught up before all settling down for a well received afternoon siesta. Once woken and freshened around 9 it was time to roll out, and K took us barhopping through some of his local haunts. It was an endless flow of mohitos and random tapas from here and there and sometime after midnight we all stumbled back to K’s place for a bit of a nod off. About 1:30, Chris and I got up and were ready to head out, but it seemed that K hadn’t developed quite the tolerance levels or pacing skills required for the evening, and no matter how much we tried, he wasn’t getting out of bed. So, down a man, Chris and I wandered out around 2 and ended up at a decent club but the crowd was thin. Around 4 it’d picked up a bit, but we decided to look for something more age appropriate, so we went to another club (which was *packed*) and rocked out there till about 6am. We decided to walk all the way down La Ramblas (which is a bit of a dodgy trip at that hour – it’s the first time I’ve ever had a prostitute just grab my crotch as she walked by) and back to K’s place, where he wasn’t as excited as we were to see him when we jumped up and down on his bed 😛

[Note – Chris is usually prone to hitting his wall earlier than I am, and I’ve never, ever seen him:

a) bounce back from early evening drinking
b) agree to go out again at 2am
c) agree to go to another club at 4am

As he said tho – “It’s a night out in Barcelona! Lets go!”… respekt!]

Sunday morning we had a nice sleep in and K grabbed some pastries and coffee from a nearby cafe so we could chill and have a lazy late breakfast. Chris was feeling like chilling, so he stayed in to hang out with some movies, and K and I went out and had a wonderful touristy wander around BCN. Back for a late afternoon siesta, then out for a slow saunter to what ended up being a kickass random restaurant selection (even though it violated our “no comic sans” rule) with red velvet lounge beds, some good food and wine, and a great chill scene. As we were wiped from the week, and the late night before, we had a relatively early night.

Monday morning we got up, grabbed breakfast from downstairs and Chris and I wandered off to attend to some tasks (mailing postcards, printing boarding passes, etc) which ended up taking a lot less time than expected (15 minutes. done.). With time to spare, we wandered around BCN, did a little shopping, then found a nice spot to drink in the local sights and meet some locals.

We stopped for a quick bite as we walked back to Ks, and as we sat on the patio watching the sun set over the Christopher Columbus monument at the base of Las Ramblas, I was unexpectedly overcome by emotion: as I reflected upon what’d been an absolutely fantastic week, a wave of elation crashed up against a wave of sadness that it was drawing to a close and almost time to leave, and I couldn’t hold back the tears.

Back to K’s place for some farewells (and promises to visit again asap), returned the car at the airport and ate some regrettable burgers at the airport (chris got violently ill from these the next day – bleh).

We’d scored a flight on WizzAir for $30 each direct from BCN to Vilnius, Lithuania so at 22:30 our roadtrip came to an end as we headed back to the cold tundra of the “ias” (Lithuania/Latvia/Estonia) to wind down our 2011.

8 days.
More than 2600km driven.
Perfect travel partner.
Good friends.
Amazing food and wine the entire way.
Fantastic places to stay.

Easily, the best road trip ever…
(so far!)

I’ve left a piece of my heart in Barcelona.

Posted by jswt | Posted in General, Spain - Barcelona | Posted on 10-01-2010

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Today was the first time in my travelling that I had a really hard time leaving a city.
I really didn’t feel like I was finished with Barcelona…
The city just felt alive and fantastic.

Styles and smiles.

I’d fallen into a fantastic rhythm.

Our second week there landed us in a really comfortable routine: wake up around noon. work till 10. micronap. go out around midnight or 1. get home around 5-6am. repeat.

I got myself well into a project for work (thanks to some inspirational help from this article about developing in a bubble), but still managed to balance that effort with the opportunity to explore somewhere I can’t imagine not coming back to…

Some highlights:

1) Parc Guell. Brilliant park designed by Antoni Gaudí. I love the fact that Barcelona doesn’t treat architecture just as a funcional requirement, but as a canvas for beauty.



2) Three Kings Parade (Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos). I normally *detest* parades, because the ones I’m usually forced to suffer through are boring and painful to watch (slow. spaced out. dull. uninspired. crap.) This on the other hand, was not. Christmas Day as we know it comes a little later in Barcelona – on Jan 5th, they celebrate the return of the 3 kings and hold a parade in their honor, and that evening is when the kids get their gifts. The parade was great – tons of music, great floats, awesome and HUGE crowd, fireworks and firebreathing… [Side note: We watched it in the city square (Catalanya) and then went to go check out a magic fountain a short train ride away. Fountain wasn’t on, but as we got there, the same parade shows up as it was the end of their route, so we watched it again.]



3) The Picasso Museum and in particular their current exhibition called “Secret Images”. It was an exhibition focused around 20 shunga pieces that Picasso owned and carried with him through all his moves. They’re a japanese style of erotic art that are not suble in their explicit attention to detail. The exhibition went into the history of forbidden art and erotic works and how even though they were being produced by grand masters, they were taboo and could only be shown behind locked doors. It was interesting how the whole ‘tentacle rape’ genre so familar to anime and hentai fans is actually nothing new, as shown by this definately not safe for work, but classic piece from 1814 , which was then shown throughout the next century for the inspiration it provided to more than a few well known artists…

Tentacle rape aside, the regular exhibit at the Picasso museum was hugely educational and impressive. It chronicled his life and works so you could walk through his evolution from schoolboy paintings, to training artist, through his cubist explorations and into his drawings. The cubist pieces were brilliant, as I’d look at it and know exactly what I was seeing on a simple level, but when you broke down the details of the image you were looking at you realized how none of it was as it simply appeared [1 2]. I’d never really been able to fathom what made someone a master artist, but looking closely at the pieces, I saw in each single stroke an intention of vision more focused than anything I’ve ever been able to put to paper.

4) Sagrada Familia. Calling it a church belittles the effort. A temple? A shrine? I can’t really do it justice through words, so go ahead and read the link there for the lowdown. It’s insane. It’s huge. They’ve been building it 1882 and don’t expect it to be finished for another 50 or so years. I spent the better part of an afternoon looking at the details. And an eerie special thanks go out to the invisible hand that pushed me out of the way of the car I didn’t see coming.



5) Getting bombed. I don’t mean the fact that the bars don’t even open until 1am and don’t pick up till 3 and are packed every night. I don’t mean the fact that we went out clubbing more in the past 2 weeks than we did in all of 2009. I don’t even mean the time we spent at this fantastically named drinking haunt (that unfortunately does not serve bacon). By getting bombed, I’m really actually alluding to…

6). Getting bombed on the train. No, nothing blew up… But picture this… You’re one stop into the 25 minute train ride at about 1:30am on a Friday night sitting on the last train back (about 4 cars to a train). Haven’t hit the party stations yet, so there’s but a few people on the train, mostly people coming home from work.

Suddenly, you notice a guy getting on the train wearing a bandana covering his face. He turns and yells to a guy behind you, who you realize is also wearing a bandana, and you see another 10-15 guys with bandana covering their faces pouring down the stairs directly outside your train. The guy who yelled first goes to the front of your train, pulls out a knife, and pops the emergency exit door, which triggers the alarm so the train can’t move. About then, the chinese lady coming home from work clutches her purse and starts screaming hysterically.

Luckily, they weren’t mobbing the train to rob us. The whole group whipped out spray paint cans, and went to work on the side of the train. The sea of bobbing balclava covered faces faded as the windows got covered by layer after layer of spraypaint applied in a well choreographed dance of creation. They’d done this before, and were getting this done quickly. The train conductor tried to stop them, but they’d just swarm around her and take off where the guy she grabbed had left off. The conductor finally gave up on stopping them, and went to work on fixing the alarm and getting the train moving again. By this time, we couldn’t see out of the train but just picked up a symphony of a cussing conductor mixed with hissing spraycans and panicked spanish catcalls and whoopings.

The train finally started moving, after what seemed like ages but was probably 5 minutes. When we popped our head out at the next station to see what’d happened, the train looked like this.

Yeah – graffiti is bad… vandalism… yadda yadda… Their planning was great. They did this as a very, very well orchestrated group in almost no time. No one was hurt. I was just plain impressed.



7) The Wandering. Endless tight classic streets that offer up new little haunts around every twist. Eating somewhere different every night that we’d never find again. Tapas, tapas and more tapas. Custom shops buried here and there… (big note: I have never been in a city that has anywhere near as many fantastic clothing shops for men. omg. shoes.) Every walk was a new adventure.



So yeah…
Sorry I haven’t been updating much.
I’ve been too busy working and letting Barcelona treat me right.

Again, I had a really tough time leaving there this morning…
Can’t say enough good things about it,
and can’t wait to go back.

(sigh)

…going where the climate suits my clothes.

Posted by jswt | Posted in General, Spain - Barcelona | Posted on 03-01-2010

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This post has been a little long forthcoming, because I’ve been much too distracted with Barcelona.

I had no idea.
I really just had no idea…

It’s fantastic here.

The city is old and insanely beautiful.
The people ooze beauty through style, but with sincerity.
I’ve never been in a city this bustling.

Barcelona seems to run on their own schedule… I don’t know if it’s a mediteranian thing, or a spanish thing, or what, but they’re on a different rhythm than I’m used to. Restaurants don’t open until 8 or 8:30 at night. Bars don’t open until midnight. Clubs don’t open until 1 or 2, and dont pick up until much later. I gather this comes from summer siesta, where it’d be too hot here to do anything during the day, and they just go and chill and build up some energy to go out when it cools down and enjoy the evening. Back home, fight to get up early, drink coffee to power through the day, and then crash exhausted. I’m a night owl by nature, but even though I’m keeping “weird” hours, I’m feeling better rested than usual, and making the most of the days here… It just feels like a much more natural rhythm.

We had a great NYE: None of the parties in town started until at least 1am, so stayed in and did our own thing until about 2. Went out to a club to meet up with a bunch of Chris’ work people who’d landed a private section at a big beachfront club. Good times.

Have been wandering but not taking many pictures. I usually find myself stopping to snap good architecture, but there’s literally so much beauty and intricate details all over this entire city that taking a single picture would be pointless.

I do appreciate how they’ve got a sense of history that lets them put effort into perspective. I’m sure they didn’t need to do all the detailing to get it up and functional, but when you know it’s going to be there for a few hundred years, you might as well put in the effort to long term effect.

Was worried about Barcelona’s reputation as pickpocket paradise, but though it’s a matter of fact it happens, I still have felt safer wandering around here than I do in back home (I’ll take petty crime over violent crime).

Did have a bit of a hard time with the language barrier – this is the first time I’ve been somewhere that didn’t have a default English backup, or able to get by on my French. Getting better at it, but it was intimidating trying to get food or interact when you can’t read a single sign or communicate what you’re staying without making strange noises and doing some pidgin version of sign-language.

So, Barcelona… Still not sure if it beats out Copenhagen, but easily falls into a close second in my wanders so far… It still has a fighting chance though:

We’ve been here a week now, and luckily have another week to go.
This city has a lot more to offer, and I’m really not in any rush to leave.