A Travellerspoint blog

20090506 Barcelona

Back on the tour bus!

sunny 77 °F
View Western Europe - Spring 2009 on icufoundme's travel map.

I wake and Ren makes coffee and toast with honey (thanks - yum!).

She has a bunch of papers to grade (She and both her housemates teach English here), then she to go to her art studio for a bit. I want to get online for a while to post more pictures, then go take a tourist bus around the city (and take some more pictures ;).

Around lunch time, we've both reached a good break point with our "work", so Ren takes me to an all-you-can-eat buffet style restaurant (like fresh Choice). We gorge ourselves on tasty things, then go our separate ways. She said she will be back at the house this evening. I will likely be done with my tour in the evening as well. Although I might head into an area that Vicky and Lawrence said was fun. They are looking for a couple more hot spots there to see next time they are in Barca, so I was hoping to go check it out.

I walk to the tour bus stop and buy a ticket on the bus when I hop on.
I take a bunch of pictures (surprise!). Check the photo gallery for the goodies ;)

I really wanted to take the lift up to the castle Montjuic to see the amazing view and sip a caipereinha at the little cafe Vic and Law told me about. But, when i arrived there and walked up to the ticket counter, they said that the castle was closed for the day, so they were not stopping the lift there, just a round trip. And it was 11 Euros. I'll pass. Bummer.
So, I hopped on the next tour bus and finished the tour.

My camera battery died around the maritime museum, so I headed back to the house to charge it. Ren was home, and said her sister Rita and friend Chris were coming over if i wanted to stay and hang out. I was hoping to run back out to get the last tour and drop off photos, then head to the area with the nice nightlife to scope out a couple places for V&L. But this sounded fun, and even if I hang out for a bit, I will still have time to check out the club area. So, I met Rita and re-met Chris - we met at the party in Falset too. We sat around chatting for a while. chris bought a delicious cake. They are wonderful folks, and I was really happy that I stayed instead of running off in "errand" mode.

It was getting late, and i was hungry. I was afraid of missing the restaurants so i was going to take off for a few to grab a quick bite, then come back. But Rita and Chris had to go, so Ren took me to a nice restaurant and we split a couple plates of tapas and had beers and chatted until they were closing up. What a great conversation!

Back at Ren's flat, I got online for a bit to upload more pictures, then slept like a baby.

Posted by icufoundme 22:27 Archived in Spain Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

20090505 Barcelona

Hola Barcelona!

sunny 76 °F
View Western Europe - Spring 2009 on icufoundme's travel map.

We sleep in a bit. So nice. Then we get ready, leave the keys, free the critter, and head over to the cafe again to strategize. (Vicky said she saw a huge centipede in Falset - like 6"!)

V&L are heading to another hotel tonight.
Irena (Ren) who I met at the party and adored, offered her couch to me if I need a place to stay in Barcelona. So, Lawrence offers his phone so I can give Ren a call. She picks up and says the offer still stands! Woo hoo! I get her address, and she says she has to work, but I can meet her at the metro station "Jaume 1" at 9:30pm and she will take me to the house. Perfect!

At breakfast, Lawrence marks some major sites on their map, including a Sony store he spotted with his eagle eyes while we were wandering around last night. Then he gives me the map. Woo hoo! That was infinitely helpful over the next few days :)

We finish our food and part ways. (Thanks again, you two - for everything!)

I walk to the Sony store. They have the battery, but no charger or power cable. Doh! But, she says they will have the charger tomorrow. I almost bought the battery, but figured I'd wait, since it does me no good without the charger.

I walk down the street - which just happens to be "La Rambla" - a famous street of shops, artists, vendors, performers, etc. There is so much to see. I wish I had my camera working.
I notice a Kodak store and decide to pick up a couple disposable cameras. They have universal chargers too - and she says they have one for the Sony batteries, but she won't take it out of the case to let me try it with my knock-off spare that the camera rejected. My battery is not listed, so I'm not going to buy it unless I know it works. I just end up getting the disposables and snapping shots with those the rest of the day.

I run into the Erotic Art museum and decide to go in. I take some pictures and I'm amused by some of the displays. There's a nice view of the flower market from the upper window too.

After that, I find a cafe off the beaten path and get some gelato (very popular in Spain), and a sandwich with chorizo salami. mmm.

A homeless woman comes by asking for change, so I give her some - to the annoyance of the other man sitting outside. I'm surprised at the appearance of people asking for change here. They are all very clean and nicely dressed. More tidy than I am right now, I think. The very few times I've been approached for change, I just thought they were local people about to talk to me until they put their hands out.

I finish my lunch and just sit - enjoying people-watching for a while. Then, I head back down La Rambla toward the port.

I run across another photo shop. This one allows me to test the universal charger, and it fits my spare battery, so I buy it. Now I'm wishing that I had bought that battery at the Sony store after all. Heh.

I head down the rest of La Rambla to the port and use up the rest of the disposable camera pictures.

I catch the metro back to the station closest to the Sony store and walk the familiar route. I buy the camera battery and start walking back down La Rambla. I need to find a place with power to charge the battery. Preferably also an internet connection. If I find a photo place, I'll drop the pictures off to get developed, too. (Oops - Never mind that last thought - It's siesta now so all but a few restaurants are closed. No way i'll find a photo shop open until later.)

I see a sign for "wifi" in a restaurant window, so I step inside and ask the girl at the bar. She points to a table in the front by the window, so I go sit down. A server comes over to take my order and I order Churros y chocolate (i saw it advertised outside, and Crissy said I absolutely had to have it in Spain).

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I plug the charger into the wall and start charging the camera battery. So exciting!
When the guy comes back with the food, I ask about the wifi. He brings me a paper with the password. I start up and log in fine. It's slow, but tolerable. So, I start uploading my backlog of pictures.

After I finish my delicious churros y chocolate, I notice the bartender making pitchers of sangria and decide that looks mighty tasty, so I order one. Mmmm!

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I sit there for a couple hours and chat with the Indian server (who speaks English) between uploading photos and reading email that's been languishing forever.

At around 7pm, I decide to set out and navigate my way over to the station where I will be meeting Ren.

The most direct path is through a narrow street that is filled with small shops. It opens into a courtyard with beautiful public buildings, so I stop and take pictures. It's so nice to have a working camera again!!

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The street narrows again then opens to another small courtyard where there are a few restaurants around the metro entrance. I stopped in a few shops to browse on the way, so I have about 30 minutes, and I'm hungry. I order a focaccia with ham and cheese at the coffee shop and sit at a table in the courtyard to eat and read and wait.
I'm enjoying the weather and the people-watching, when a server asks me to move, because these tables are for a different cafe than the one I bought food from. Hm. OK. So, I move.

It turns out this is typical in Spain. You will have a big outdoor eating area and tables will be reserved for different restaurants or cafes surrounding the courtyard. Some are more obvious in marking the tables than others though.

Right at 9:30, Ren pops up next to me with a warm greeting. I'm so glad to see her!
We walk back to her flat and unwind a bit. She gives me the tour. She just got off work, so needs to decompress a bit. We drink glasses of beer and chat, then decide to go out for some dinner.

She walks me around to see some interesting sites in the Gothic Quarter where her flat is, then we stop at a restaurant and get pizza and I get an Empanada too.

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Ren shows me a few more nice sites on the way back.

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We talk for a bit then make the couch into a bed (wow! bonus!), and turn in for the night.
She warns me about the noise in the area, so I put on my earplugs and sleep like a baby.
Aaaah, Barcelona!

Posted by icufoundme 22:03 Archived in Spain Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

20090504 Falset to Barcelona

I'll be missing all you Nutters!

sunny 75 °F
View Western Europe - Spring 2009 on icufoundme's travel map.

I wake to some funky beats. Tony is out there starting the day off right! Woo hoo!

Gee will be hooking up some amazing curry later and I would love to stay. But Karen has introduced me to Victoria and Lawrence who are headed to Barcelona today. They are up for a travel companion, and traveling with these amazing folks is an opportunity I just can't pass up. (Thanks V&L!!!)

I guess Becky has also hooked us up with a place to stay in barcelona tonight. Woo hoo! How can I be so lucky? (Thanks, Becky!!)

I get my things together, hang out a bit, then exchange contact info and say farewells. Karen drives us to the train station.
About 10 minutes away from the house, I realize I've left my camera battery and charger plugged into the wall. We are cutting it close for the train, so I just figure that I'll get another battery in Barcelona. I needed a backup anyway.
(Of course, there were a ton of gorgeous images I would have loved to take pictures of on the way to the station, at the station, from the train, once we arrived in Barcelona, my first meals in Barcelona, our room, Vic and Lawrence, etc. But at least it will give a small break to anyone who is actually looking at my pictures ;)

The train is super fast (like 295km/h fast!). It also goes by the coast. Seeing the Sea from a train is splendid! Thanks for pointing it out to me, Vicky! (I was resting my eyes ;)

I had some confusion buying the ticket on the train before the last stop. I handed the ticket guy a 20, but he kept repeating "30" "30". So, I thought he was trying to say that no, it was 30 euros. So I got out another 20, but he wouldn't take it, and kept repeating "30". the Spanish guy sitting next to me tried to clarify as well, but i finally asked for the cost (cuanto cuesta?) a few times and he stopped saying "30" and said "9.30". So, the whole time he needed 30 cents, because he had no small change. I wondered aloud to Vic and L why he didn't just say "cents" or "centavos" instead of repeating "30", but whatever. Then, the Spanish guy started talking to me once he heard me say "centavos".

That's when I realized that all those years of Spanish in school, and just hearing Spanish from being Californian - have paid off. This Spanish business man and I were actually able to carry a limited conversation. I had assumed that the Catalan and Castillian was so different from American Spanish that it would not be useful. But he said most people here understand it fine. And I understood him. Very basic, of course - but enough that I knew I could get by comfortably here. Woo hooo! We talked about cultures and economy. Here, they percieve the English as being very wealthy and seem to have some resentment about it. (I've noticed that people are often more welcoming once they realize I'm not English. hm.)

(Side Note: Many spanish professionals still wear full suits to work. And many of them ride motorcycles or mopeds, so you see a lot of bike riders in suits in Spain.)

We arrive in Barcelona! Yaaay!

Lawrence has everything dialed-in. Maps, routes, ticket rituals. I'm used to having to muddle through all this stuff myself, and it's really amazingly nice when someone else knows what they are doing and I can shift into auto-pilot for a bit. Whew! (Thanks, Lawrence!)
He encouraged me to get a metro ticket that's good for 10 trips - to get me through the next few days. (I end up using every last one of those - my last one being the one to go back to the train station to head out to Madrid - perfect!)

We leave our big bags at the consignment in the Barcelona Sants train station. Then, walk to the metro and head to the office to pick up the apartment keys.
Keys in hand, we head to the apartment Becky worked out for us. (Thanks, Becky!)

We drop our stuff, and decide to go to the cafe across the street and strategize. I order a cafe con leche and a salame dulce con leche (Literally: sweet salami with yogurt. It's A type of cylindrical cake that looks like a salami when cut, but the similarity stops there. They give you plain yogurt to dip it into.). It tastes marvelous - actually, everything from that cafe is marvelous. We share a piece of foccacia pizza that may be the best I've ever had. Yum!

After a bit, we go back to the apartment and decompress, settle in. Then, we decide to grab some food. victoria has a great travel guide and she's a pro at finding the best spots. (These two are so great to travel with!)

In the mean time, a fire breaks out in the trash bin out front of our place. We watch the fire crew put it out, then stand around smoking cigarettes. Hahaha!

Yay, Tapas! Vicky finds a great restaurant in the book, and they locate it on the map. My first Tapas experience is wonderful. We try all sorts of tasty things. The Spanish really know how to eat. This is right up my alley... focaccia, chorizo, fried calamari, fried artichokes, lasagna, potatoes with paprika dressing, cod and peppers, asparagus. With some nice beers to wash it down. MMMM!!

We decide to stop for a drink on the way back to the rooms. Vicky generously rallys us to celebrate my first night in Barca properly - With a salud!
Apparently, if you order a mixed drink, they bring out the bottles and make the drinks at the table. They pour the booze until you say 'when', then add the soda. and it all costs the same for one drink. They have this great rum "Havana Rum" 3 or 7, silver or spiced. And they actually brought out Coke in a glass bottle to make the Rum & coke. Nice!

We head back, sated and ready for some good rest after a long weekend. Aaah, the shower was great. Even though the water went cold for a few, and my towel dropped into the tub and got wet before I was done. A shower is really a great luxury!

Time to turn in. I move my bag to the corner and a centipede (i think) winds toward me. Yikes. one by one, it heads toward the bags on the floor. as i pick one up, it heads for another one. once all the bags are moved, and it has no place left to hide, it heads under the bed. I run to the dining area to grab a bowl hoping it doesn't dissapear. Its only a little ways under the bed, so i'm able to put a bowl over it. That should be fine until the morning.
It's only about 2-3" long. I would have expected them to move more like a caterpillar and be slow, but it was more like a sidewinder and pretty fast.

That's enough excitement for one day ;)
Nighty night - out like a light!

Posted by icufoundme 21:58 Archived in Spain Tagged train_travel Comments (0)

20090503 Falset

Nuttery day 3

sunny 72 °F
View Western Europe - Spring 2009 on icufoundme's travel map.

I expected to feel pretty cruddy when I woke today - physically speaking. But I actually got some decent sleep and I'm feeling good. The local DJ (I asked his name, but didn't quite understand it through the noise - little help?) was on a again, providing the morning groove with some funky Fela Kuti mix. Talk about a great way to start out!

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Vance and Jason are planning a nice meal, but it looks like a bomb went off around here. And, well. It sorta did, I guess. Criminy! What devastation!
Time to get to work. Mm, hmm.

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Nick strategized and came up with the brilliant idea for drying the dishes on the table in the sun outside and having a rinse tub out there, too.

Jason did the hard part in my book - washing the glasses (I was grateful because I tend to break those ;). Then I stepped in, and washed pots and pans like there was a great prize waiting at the end... because there was - A tasty tasty meal! Dang straight! And Jim provided the transfer services and elbow grease on a couple pots that were particularly troublesome. Vance was a master with a broom, and lots of people pitched in picking up bottles, cans, etc. The house transformed before our eyes. (Go TEAM!)

And this was just one clean-up session out of many over the weekend. Every meal was a creation and cleanup, and everyone was so amazing about pitching in one way or another. And every night another tornado blew through requiring another cleanup. It was really impressive to see how collaborative, lovely and respectful people were. Really high-quality humans, I tell you! ;)

(Mom, If you're reading this - It's really me. I know you can't believe I did dishes willingly, but it's true! I swear!)

---

Americans turn to zombies if they haven't had caffeine all day. It's similar to the Gremlins rule, just slightly modified.

So, in the afternoon, I walked into town with Nick, Donna (from LA), and Jim to grab some coffee and explore a bit. We Ran into Johnny and Grant while were having our cappuccinos (yummy with brandy!).

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We decided lunch was in order, so we all wandered into a restaurant where Johnny had been before (could vouch that it was decent). We proceeded to confound and annoy the server trying to understand the menu. All's well that ends well, and with semi-contented bellies we all parted ways.

I wanted to pick up a good bottle of wine to bring back to the states. Jim volunteered to take me to check out the wine festival. It was great that he had been there before and knew the way - or I would have gotten lost in those narrow winding streets. (Thanks, Jim!)

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I was also able to get some pictures of the town that I missed on the quick trip yesterday:

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I wasn't particularly excited about actually doing any wine tasting by the time we ascended the hill to the castle. My body was protesting the effects of the long weekend, and I was pretty hot and dehydrated. I also felt overwhelmed by all the options, and wasn't really sure what to look for. My pallet is not very sophisticated yet, so I figured it would be easier to ask Vance which Falset wines are best. He tried most of them already, and seems to know what he's doing. That way, I can just come back before leaving town, and buy a bottle at the shop.

One thing I was really interested in... getting some pictures of/from the castle where the wine tasting was held. There was such a beautiful view of Falset from up there! Maybe I can stitch a couple of those shots into a panorama later.

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Back at Casa Pinson, folks were playing music, dancing, playing drums, throwing the Frisbee, lounging by the pool, hula-hooping, laying in the sun, and generally enjoying themselves. As usual ;).

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Nik even read us a hilarious story from a book he's consuming. It's nowhere near as good as his poetry, mind you. I strongly recommend that you check out his book of poetry "Wormhole" at http://www.cyberwit.net/marvin.htm. Fabulous!

The evening meal was fantastic, of course! 1000x thank you to Vance and Jason and all who helped out!

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Nik has been the master of the grill all weekend and can cook up some tasty flesh like nobody's business! Thanks for the nourishment, Nik!

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Another night of camaraderie and reverie for all. Most of us are pretty worn out, so its *relatively* mellow.
The sunset is incredible.

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Somehow Adam manages another fantastic fire.

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But there's a special treat... he shows us some incredible effects with his green laser. It looked amazing in the trees, grass, clouds, and especially the fire smoke.

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Some folks were still up dancing most of the night - go them! I wish I had that kind of energy :-p
I actually retired at a decent time and got some sleep. I think I'll likely be heading out to Barcelona tomorrow.

Posted by icufoundme 20:52 Archived in Spain Tagged events Comments (0)

20090502 Falset

The Nuttery - Day 2

sunny 72 °F
View Western Europe - Spring 2009 on icufoundme's travel map.

The early birds get up and chat. The rest of us trickle in slowly, yawning and stretching.

I'm a little groggy from staying up late celebrating life and making new friends. But, I have a smile in my heart and a grateful soul and that goes a long way.

Hey! Are those Spanish tortillas? yum! Thanks for sharing, Nick!
I wish I could bring some of the pre-packaged ones home, they are so delicious! (In the states, you might see these as "Fritattas". They also call them Spanish omeletes.)

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I hear Vance makes the best Bloody Marys. I'm sure they're great if you're into all that, but I just can't do the tomato juice or horseradish (shudder).

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Some people head into town to check out the wine festival in Falset. Some stay and chat, basking in the sun and lounging by the pool. Some people help clean up last night's mess. Some play badminton and Frisbee. Some get their outfits together. There was even a girl there doing massage!

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I can't recall, but I think it was Becky that brought some "Cava". I didn't know what they were talking about. But, apparently its Spanish Champagne. You cannot call sparkling wine Champagne unless it's from Champagne in France. So, this is the Spanish version.

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I debated on napping like some of the others, but I was just having too much fun!
Instead, I headed to town with Vance, Jason, and Jim to pick up some supplies. The wine shops are great! They have some big chunks of cured meat, super stinky cheeses, and tasty sweets to boot. Plus - all variety of pate and sauces and seasonings I've never heard of.

The town is quaint and beautiful. Wrought iron and big heavy wood doors. I wish I brought my camera, but I'll come back tomorrow and spend more time. We need to get back to the house with the goodies.

Dinner is unbelievable! By that time a lot more people have arrived, and also brought their own dishes. A little of everything. Talk about a smorgasbord - mmmmm!
I was so busy enjoying eating that I didn't take pictures of the food. That's totally unlike me ;). I wonder if anyone recorded the menu. hm.

Each meal here has been spectacular. I can't quite believe my luck!

I also met Charles who makes wine in Falset "Mas Gran Montsant". www.masgran.com

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After dinner, a local DJ starts to work his magic and I really like his style.
People start to get moving. There was a girl fire dancing (but I can't recall her name... little help?). She was great, and I got a couple of nice pictures. What a great outfit!

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Adam really knows how to build a fire, I've gotta hand it to him. They somehow magically hauled some behemoth that looked like the entire root-ball of a tree onto the fire, and that puppy stayed hot all night! I didn't get a picture, but Charlie did:

http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2860979830105119412KyvKte

I danced and danced and talked around the fire, and danced and danced some more (and took a picture or 2 ;).

There were a few DJ's over the course of the night (and the weekend). They were all masters of their art (anyone have names for the record?). I know Tim Kidney and Tony Tee, but not sure of the others. Here's Tony doing his thang from Char's pics:

http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2226199670105119412OItlmS

Tim and Tony:
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Here are a few of the other DJ's. The one on the left, the one sitting, and the guy on the far right. Does anyone recall names?

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I was pretty tired since I hadn't had much sleep or a nap, so I didn't stay up until dawn like some of the others, but I held my own until the wee hours (probably 3ish).

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I'm not sure what ended up in the kitty, but I AM sure that it wasn't nearly enough after seeing all that Karen and Adam did for all of us. All hail to the King and Queen!!! SALUD!!!

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Posted by icufoundme 17:32 Archived in Spain Tagged events Comments (0)

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