journal #9: barcelona, part two.

12.10.08

I tried to be the polite roommate when I awoke at ten o’clock, but I did accidentally make some excess noise, which soon was followed by irritated sighs and scrunched, sleep-covered faces quasi-glaring at me:  a pet peeve of mine that has grown monumentally during this trip.

Most of the day involved going to a couple of museums in the Gothic Quarter of the city.  I headed out a bit late this time around noon, after a brief check-up on e-mail of course.  I decided to have a pre-lunch breakfast that involved a creme croissant and a normal coffee.  After that, it was off to the Chocolate Museum, which was all right in that it gave a free bar of chocolate upon purchasing a ticket at the entrance.  The sculptures there were okay; nothing too awe-inspiring stuck with me.  Chocolate versions of Don Quijote, FC Barcelona, and the Pieta were some highlights.  Apparently there are a few of these museums around the world with the same history-of-cacao section.  Still, I got some cool photos and had some much needed chocolate.

When I finished here, I went to the Picasso Museum, which was a bit of a letdown honestly for the price of 9 Euros.  Many of his works housed at this one were from his university days and times before he was exceedingly popular.  Therefore, there were very “normal” paintings around most of the exhibit.  At least it was cool wandering around here with a fellow hosteller, even though she wandered off near the end of the whole thing (and I don’t recall her name).

I wandered a tiny bit more around the Gothic Quarter, then shuffled back to Las Ramblas to find the open air market.  I found it, closed.  As it was Sunday, nothing would be open to the public.  Downcast, I made my way back to the hostel for a longer-than-normal siesta before dinner.  Here’s where I met the next intriguing character on my journey:  David from Scotland.  He was an overweight, middle/late-aged guy who has been to a fair few places in his life.  He has lived in San Francisco, New York City, and even knows people in the gorgeous city of Lorain, Ohio – near my stamping grounds.  He has also gone extensively throughout Europe, including smuggling drugs to soldiers in France and Germany; plus, he had recently been traveling through Morocco before stumbling over to Barca.  Strange bloke.

With the siesta over, I went to purchase my bus tickets for Tuesday, which wasn’t too difficult.  After that task completed, I got some dinner at this side shop: tortilla española and some kind of salad with rice and corn.  The waiter tried to charge me for the bread that he put on the table (which I didn’t touch once!).  This grated on my nerves, another fuck-the-tourist move that I’ve seen before.  These things don’t pass by me, and I didn’t pay a cent for that uneaten bread!

That evening I stayed in once more, a strange occurrence considering this is Barcelona.  I hung out with a fair bit of people including David, Vito, and Brendon – along with some others.  D & B had been out scoping the stores and returned with a large quantity of beer.  We all had our fill.  The topic of conversation skipped from subject to subject with Alhambra flowing freely; starting off normal, harmless, everyday chitchat to more depressing topics, especially the economic state of the world and the shitty health-care that America has.  It was still a good evening.  I had tried to steer my part of the conversation in the room from the depressing shit (God knows I didn’t need more of that presently), and I became successful of the rest of the night.

One weird moment happened in the evening:  three newcomers arrived at the hostel around 9:30 found no one at the reception area.  The workers had to be called to return to the hostel and check these people in!  It was odd that they would leave before the precise time of ten, that’s when they had to stay.  I will never understand everything.  They got to check in eventually, and we gave them some beer in sympathy of their plight.

13.10.08

I had no special things today happen for the most part.  Again.  I spent most of it heading back to the Gothic Quarter with David, the Scot.  I showed him around the area, stopping at some side shop/bar to catch a quick lunch that for consisted of a shepherd’s salad and calamari (not the best, pretty greasy and a very small portion).

When that was over, we traipsed through the quarter some more, saw the always-under-construction cathedral, and sat on the steps where Mr. Columbus supposedly asked Ferdinand and Isabella for the dinero to get to “America.”  Here our discussion grew highly political again, talking about the election to take place and the excessive amount of racism and also fundamentalism in the US in comparison to other areas of the world.

I forgot to mention the market!  That was the first place the pair of us went to today.  There was a remarkable amount of fruit on display.  Salivation commenced and continued for centuries.  Figs, dragonfruit, kiwis, mangos, papayas, you name it; they had it.  I tried this mixture of coconut and mango in smoothie form; it was definitely amazing, with the coconut not too overpowering as you might expect from such a mixture.  The market was decent overall with all the variety you might come to expect at one (including various forms of pork you definitely wouldn’t find in Turkey).  I still prefer the Kadıköy market.

I contemplated going to the top of the Sagrada Familia after David and I finished our discussion on the “Columbus” steps.  In the end, the option was the hostel to read and vegetate.  As I lay on the couch, some hostellers put in the first Harry Potter flick, so inbetween chapters of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle I glanced at the TV screen showing the black-and-white version of the film.  The TV for some reason had a tiny glitch that day.

That evening brought another march to the supermarket, where I found exceptionally cheap cucumbers and Granny Smith apples.  Dave, a Chilean woman (whose name I’ve forgotten), and I went to collect some more goods for the dinner.  We all returned back to the hostel along with €2 cases of beer to add to our load, but we had to wait in line for the two lone electric burners (sent by Satan himself to torture us).

While waiting, I munched on cheese, olives, cucumbers, and sipped wine elegantly from a coffee mug.  Soon we had a burner for the mashed potatoes.  Part One of the cookout began.  The second burner eventually opened up for meat, onions, and garlic (plus a healthy helping of red wine).  Just about all was ready soon.  Maria (the Chilean girl, remembered her name!) decided to add in some salt to the potatoes, only to have the lid pop off because it hadn’t been on 100% tight.  All the salt cascaded  into the pot mixing with the mashed potatoes.  As you can guess, Maria was none too pleased with the incident.  She resigned to pitch the potatoes, but we salvaged a bit that was eatable despite the salt dunes.  I scrambled some eggs in recompense and split it between the three of us.  That with the beer was a decent supper I think.

There was going to be another venture out into the city with some of the hostel heads (as there are many Sant Jordis around, not just our Arago facility).  This time, a guy called Eduardo was our guide.

After we injected our bodies with alcohol, we set off to the bar called Le Kasbar.  Little did I know that it was really masked as a club with an outside looking like the normal dive bar.  Figures.  I don’t think they have true bars in Barcelona (other than that mojito dive, tapas places, and also Irish pubs).  There were a ton of Americans in our group this time:  all I can remember name-wise is some dude named Leo and a girl called Erica.  There were also a few Aussies.

I can’t really hate this club too much, as they had a few songs here and there which were nice and were played to the very end!  Not like Shoko.  I really wasn’t in a dancing mood, though.  Near the end of my stay there, I sat at the bar and sipped on a rum and coke, chatting with some Aussie dude from the hostel who wasn’t big on the dancing tonight either.  That passed the time nicely.

Not too long after, most of the group decided to go somewhere else.  The Aussie and a couple others weren’t up for it, so the four of us split a cab back to the hostel and made it an early night.  Around 1:30.

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journal #8: barcelona, part one.

09.10.08

I went to the airport today, and it would prove as painless as could be.  The trains were on time; check-in wasn’t horribly problematic:  only a tiny glitch involving this group of Austrians that went into both queues.  The group in the adjacent line got there first, so the Austrians behind me gave their passports to their first-arrival friends.  This lady then caused an unholy stink about it.  Eventually the woman got her way and checked in before the Austrian throng – her and her displeased husband who had the irrevocable honor of carrying her purse while in line.  I didn’t mind; we would all be on the same plane no matter what.

The flight was like all flights:  plus, I managed to read a decent portion of the new Murakami book obtained in Vienna.

I got to Barcelona only to experience very warm weather upon exiting the airport terminal.  I also met an ornery ticket machine at the bus stop, which wouldn’t take my Euro notes, so I gave up and found out I could pay on the bus.  So the problem was squashed immediately!

The hostel’s pretty cool, and I met some interesting people at the outset:  three Aussies and an Italian bloke, whose name was Vito.  I waltzed into the hostel, took a quick nap there, then went to find some food for lunch.  I had a quick cerveza and tapas (garlic-stuffed olives along with bruschetta, and then patatas bravas with aioli) while on Ramble de Catalunya.

I did the typical wandering-around-the-city thing, saw that phallic tower (Torre Agbar), traversed through a park nearby before going to the Arc d’Triomf (the ripoff of Paris’s, something Barcelona was fond at the time of doing).  Nearer to late afternoon, I found myself by Las Ramblas like any good tourist, averted my eyes from the hypnotizing statues and made it to the peir for some nice Hitchockian shots before dusk.

My dinner wasn’t horribly exciting.  I simply bought a sandwich and some other snacks at a corner market off Las Ramblas.  I ate in peace at the hostel while watching the abysmal 2nd Harry Potter movie with two of the Aussies, and then waited for the usual evening-out event that the Arago hostel and others put on.

We finally headed out at 11:30 (a half-hour late, but that’s normal Mediterranean lifestyle right there) to this club called Shōko (notice the strangely-accented “O”; you’ll know what’s coming).  The place is right along the beach, and it sported a pretty smooth décor within, the atmosphere at the beginning of the night subdued, a large film projector filming odd close-ups of arms, legs, busts, and other areas of flesh on the wall, not as ravelrousing and ear-pulsing as most clubs, which really made things a bit better at the outset.  The bartenders – upon ten minutes of experiencing the location – were lame.  Other new faces were high on the schmuck factor, and the drinks were uproariously expensive.  After the first complimentary vodka-and-whatever, prices skyrocketed to €6 for a baby bottle of Heineken and €10 for any sort of mixed drink!  One of the hostellers insisted on buying people Jäger shots, including me, which I gingerly took.  After number three, I had to cut it out.

The DJ wound up being crap as well, playing this obscure house/dance/trance tripe that would go on for ages; then he’d put on a great song and then cut it off after one-and-a-half minutes.  A few of us had enough and went out to the back patio and watched the sea surf for a tiny bit before heading back into the now-packed club.

Shōko would prove to be a bust.  Luckily we didn’t take it all too seriously and had a good time.

10.10.08

I woke up exceptionally late, but that was fine because I didn’t have any real plans for the day.  I had some breakfast there at Arago, then got everything I needed together for an afternoon at the beach.  The walk down there wasn’t too bad.  I stopped partway to buy a beach towel, as I had sent mine back with my sister when she visited me in Istanbul.  I didn’t think I’d need it anywhere on the trip.  Little did I know that the cheapest of the towels was a Brazil football one, but I did not notice this until I laid it out on the sand at the beach.  That was not important; all I wanted was the beach.

I went as far down as the abstract fish statue and set up camp there.  The view was amazing, and it was unseasonably warm!  Unexpected, for sure.  I lay down for a while, and right on cue the novice masseuses wandered around the peppering of bodies asking if we’d care for a rubdown.  Multiple times.  It got to the point of aggravation, and I had to shout at them in Spanish to leave me alone.  But I didn’t let this get to me.  I relaxed, and I relaxed some more.  The water was quite warm also, but the waves rough.  Despite that, I dove into the sea and stayed in for a few minutes before heading back to my Brazil towel.

After the beach came my 4pm lunch at this buffet place.  I gorged myself into oblivion, but it was glorious and not expensive.  Thinking about the evening, I went to one of the nearby stores and bought some fresh goods for the late, late, late dinner, which proved to be exceptional.  The prices at the place I picked were down below my expectations.  I had my Mediterranean fare before heading out:  green olives, prosciutto, bread, and red wine.  The whole bottle of course.

A group of us lounged around, waiting for the outing this night; it didn’t happen.  The Aussies made their departure pretty late for the night bus to Madrid.  I hope that Jas has the remembering power to send me the photos we took.  They were real cool people, and I want those bleeping photos!

A group of Americans, another Aussie bloke, and I finally took matters into our own hands and left for Las Ramblas at around 12:30 to find a decent hangout bar to spend the rest of the night.  Brendon (the Aussie) and I finally took charge after wandering aimlessly down side alleys and took a road that looked unpromising, a skinny alley that had the grime of misuse and sketchy people wandering alone.  We went into this one bar that boasted cheap mojitos.   One tiny gripe:  only one of the Americans decided to drink with Brendon and me.  And he was one of the people lagging behind earlier!  They were decent enough company though, something felt really hollow to me while there, sadly.

Overall, I would rate this day high on the grading scale.  There weren’t too many pitfalls.  I think the goal on my list – at the top to be sure – is to use the Internet less often and try not to be too obsessed with the election.  That would be a good thing.

11.10.09

The specfics of these upcoming days are going to dwindle.  No hangovers grew while asleep though, but I don’t recall a breakfast this time around as I write.

The main part of the day focused on getting to Montjuic, which is a large mountain overlooking Barcelona from the west along the shoreline of the Mediterranean.  Taking the special train from Parallel proved to be free, so I took advantage and went up that way.  I walked around the gardens and such, particular names escaping me unless something miraculous jars my brain into working.  No big deal.  I managed to wander around this park only open on Saturdays, Sundays, and festivals.

I got to check out the Olympics stadium and other edifices around it; this was mainly a cool nostalgic moment for me because the 1992 games were the first I remembered watching as a child.  There were also imprinted molds of famous Spanish (and other) athletes’ footprints on the sidewalk near the main stadium.  I compared my shoe size with them.  (Pau Gasol was ginromous; Lance Armstrong, midget-sized; Rafael Nadal, comparable.)

I tried to locate a decent spot to eat a small lunch, but there was nothing anywhere.  I continued walking and managed to luckily head up to the castle by foot the difficult way in scorching October weather.  I don’t know how the bikers and runners that went around the area managed it.

In the end, I reached Montjuic Castle, which had a great view of the whole city and no entrance fee (except for the museum which I didn’t partake in).  The food was a bit pricey at the outside stand, but I got a ham and cheese sandwich and chips to tide me over before the spectacular dinner I was anticipating that night.

Instead of making the laborious trek back down the slope, I opted for the funicular to take me to the base.  I somehow managed to snag a whole car to myself and floated down with ease, having the spectacular views surround me as I soared down suspended, the undergrowth in the parks and the gardens.  There was one heart-stopping moment when the conductor halted the lift’s progress; I was floating precariously with only the wind buffeting me around.  I made it down in the end, smoothly and safely!

At approximately 4pm, I had a tiny 2-shot bottle of Dewar’s to remember my grandfather, as that was when his funeral service was going to happen.  I had bought the bottle at this liquor store near my hostel earlier that morning.  It was tough to keep a straight and somber face in the funicular; I didn’t want to draw attention.  With that, a tiny siesta upon my arrival back to Arago, and then a quick drop to pay my respects to the Sagrada Família, I was ready to relax and have some more of my unthinkably arousing dinner wares.  It was the same as the night before, but with an even cheaper bottle of red wine from Lidl.  Instead of going out like the last two nights, I hung out at the hostel and finished my bottle and listened to The National and other mellower tunes before turning in early.

The Californians (from the night before) managed to be complete twats.   This involved them returning back from the club at the buttcrack of dawn drunk and therefore loud, obnoxious, and unapologetic.  Hoorah!  Just what I needed…  One of them even popped open a bag of Cheeto’s and was going to munch on them – but I put a stop to that right away.  It wasn’t one of their better moments.  Let’s hear it for 20-year-old, immature Californians who think they own the room they bought when others also have the right to have it at least bearably quiet!

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