Monday, May 28, 2018

Arrival in Barcelona

When we arrived yesterday we went through the easiest customs since The Bahamas. Then we dragged our suitcases out to terminal B and grabbed the Aerobus to Placa Catalunya (last stop). After that came the usual bewildering trek to wherever we’re staying, in this case on La Rambla. It wasn’t so bad, just about six blocks pulling 3 weeks worth of luggage. Our room is up 3 flights of stairs (recall the luggage). Ricard, our host, was very nice and recommended a restaurant…  unfortunately it was mostly shellfish. I couldn’t take the risk and get sick from cross contamination. We grabbed a bite nearby and shared a scrawny grilled cod.
We hit the streets again after a stop at a chocolate booth in the local market. Joe was hankering for a beer, so when I saw an Irish pub with a Guinness sign we went in. What an experience! It was so loud and there were so many drunk guys, we almost left. But Izzy had never been inside a pub before and she was fascinated (and Irish). As we were hunting for a table, this drunk guy, wearing a giant dinosaur costume, staggered back and Izzy and she almost stepped on his tail.
She said, “Wow, I’m in Barcelona/Spain, in an Irish pub and I just almost stepped on a dinosaur’s tail.” This has now become our private joke. Then we ordered fish and chips to share. Apparently when Joe held up one finger and said one fish and chips, the server took him literally. We got a plate with French fries and one mushy fried fish. Oh well, we were starving and the wine was good…

Jet lag woke us up at 4:00 am. It gave us time to get ready at a slow pace I guess. We put on our finest church clothes and set out for a 35 minute walk to church. I’d decided the best way to experience the Gaudi Cathedral (La Familia Sagrada) was to visit under the purpose it was built for… a place of worship. A place to connect with God and the essence of his creation—nature. I hadn’t factored in the beauty of the choir. Wow! To go to mass you have to arrive 15-30 minutes in advance through the north-east side (on Marino).
You go through airport-level security and are guided to your seats by an army of guides. Once seated we sat respectfully listening to the music until I broke all protocol and snuck out my phone, put it on video, and lay it in my lap recording the music. Now in retrospect I should have flipped the direction to selfie-mode so that it would have been facing up towards the lofty columns that give you the feeling of being in a heavenly forest.
It was Pentecostal Sunday, so the service was more elaborate than usual. If you go to mass, you are the first to have access to the cathedral. As we were leaving (after going under the church to the museum) large tour groups were being led in. Lucky us, we went early.

We walked for several hours trying to find the Guell Park. We finally gave up and sat in the shade with a beer and a glass of wine. It’s nice having Izzy with us, because I’m a painfully slow drinker of wine. I don’t like to reach that liver-overload where you can feel the alcohol. Believe it or not I drink wine for the taste J Anyway, Izzy shares my wine with me. This is her first experience with actually drinking it. She had only tasted it. Now she’s learning how to drink and not get drunk. Not an American skill for sure.

We napped back in our room for a couple of hours and hit La Rambla. We were energized and ready for another couple of hours of walking. This time we headed to the sandy beach. We didn’t find it. We did find a bridge going to a giant shopping mall. It was cool to be on the bridge when they stopped us and spun it to allow a couple of sailboats to enter the marina. We walked the outskirts of the little spit of land and detoured to the sound of a live band. It was a no-charge concert next to one of thousands of McDonalds here. It took us a minute to realize it was a Christian band! That was awesome to be in a crowd of people singing and dancing with little children on their shoulders. So fun. Anyway, I was too hungry to stay. I didn’t want to shift to hangry!

We stopped and photographed a giga-yacht. It even had its own helicopter. We went to a nice restaurant (with a giant disco ball) and had three meals, one wine, one beer, and a glass of champagne that only came to 45 Euros ($55). For a restaurant on the most popular street in Spain, this was a big surprise. I guess coming from overpriced California has is benefits.

Monday Joe and Izzy went for a run in the morning while I wrote this blog and then we wandered the back streets. We stopped at a traditional tapas restaurant and piled up the toothpicks (you snag a little snack from a tray on the counter or passed around by a waitress. Each one has a toothpick in it. Each toothpick has a value.
At the end of your meal you simply count your toothpicks and pay the bill). Then we headed back to the streets to the local farmers markets and then an antique knick-knack market in front of a massive cathedral. One of the tables had a little bowl of coins from various countries… 3 coins for 1 euro. Imagine our surprise when we found American pennies in there! I could buy 3 pennies for a euro… what a deal.

Sadly, every church we came to was either closed or charged money for entrance. Definitely not like Italy. Anyway, Izzy got to choose dinner Monday night. We ate a lovely little restaurant on a side street and had Paella. It was excellent and relaxing. Did I mention our airbnb is next to a gelataria? They have this amazing coffee flavored gelato.

Well today, Tuesday was our last day in Spain and Izzy has already decided to move here… hehe. We dragged our suitcases back through the streets to the bus stop. Caught a plane to Rome and now I’m sitting here in cramped little seats writing my blog again. Tonight we will be in Roma with Gianluca and Egle.

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