Monday, July 8, 2013

Barcelona, Spain

While Dylan was traveling around, he had met some people from the east coast (whom he had apparently dubbed 'the Appalachian kids'). When we asked where they were from, he'd look at us blankly and say, "I don't know...Appalachia." He said they'd gone to Pamplona for running of the bulls (my original plan!) and that they were headed to Barcelona and we were going to meet up with them.
We had some time, so we walked around the Gothic Quarter, peering into shops and marveling up at the buildings. We passed a few food places that seemed promising (vegetables!!), which I made note of for later. We also passed a restaurant with a sign for churros con chocolate, which my companions decided was necessary.
We went in, got seated, and ordered churros. When they arrived, both boys were both very perplexed as to how to eat them. They came plain, with packets of sugar and two saucer cups full of hot chocolate. Dylan opted to dump all his sugar into the chocolate and stir it around, and Noah opened his sugar and sprinkled it onto his chocolated churros. It was highly amusing.
Good job, Dylan.
It took most of the plate of churros before they noticed what other people were doing, and figured out the proper way to eat the damn things. Dylan proceeded to drink the entire cup of bitter chocolate, and then make that face that dogs make when they eat a spoonful of peanut butter.
After beaucoup de wandering, we headed to the Cristobol Colón statue where we were to meet the Appalachians.

All of this reminded me of El ángel en La Reforma en el D.F., México.

We finally came across Kate, who was one of the three people Dylan had been traveling with. She said they had all just gotten showered for the first time in days, and all of her stuff had been stolen in Pamplona. Pamplona sounded awful. I hope the city isn't so bad when there isn't an insane tourist event happening.
It was decided that the beach was in our future (and I was all for spending the next few days lounging along the Mediterranean from the other side of it), so we started walking that-a-ways. It was a pretty far walk, but seeing as how we'd put on at least a few hundred miles by foot at this point, none of us seemed to mind. We happened, by accident, upon the Roy Licthenstein sculpture I'd read about and had wanted to try to find on purpose.

I find this immensely creepy.
As it turns out, the beach was freaking awful. Just terrible. It was ridiculously crowded, and as we ventured down toward the waves, we noticed the water was a weird colour. We walked out onto this terraced cement dock that shot out into the ocean, and the amount of garbage floating around and slamming up against the concrete was....frightening. There was so much. Kate and I started playing 'count the feminine hygiene products' because there were so many floating in the water that we felt it had to be a joke. It was gross. And all the people sitting on the steps around us were jumping into it, which squicked us out so much that we had to leave eventually, all of us unable to continue watching them diving head first into a literal sea of pads. Ugh. So gross.
So, having failed at finding a beach to enjoy, we walked back into the city instead, to find food and beer, possibly in that order, though probably not. As we were walking back, some guys start yelling at us, and I only think it's strange that we're being yelled at when I realize that it's in English. We'd inadvertently run into Will (the other Appalachian) and two other Americans. Random. This became a theme in Barcelona. There were only a handful of us, but no matter where we went, we ended up running into each other. Kate went off with them, and we ended up going back to a vegan restaurant I had found online, Juicy Jones. Vegetables! I realize it sounds like there were vegetables all over the place, because I keep writing about them. But there were no vegetables. Anywhere. All anyone had was iceberg lettuce, and I was craving actual food so bad that any time there was a chance for vegetables, it was a big, exciting deal.

There was guacamole and carrot juice and a beet salad and I was so happy. Fruit and juice and veggies all in the same day! We walked back to Las Ramblas and made our way back toward the hostel. This is where it all gets a little fuzzy for me. Spain was the first place I had more than 2 days in a row to just dump my stuff and explore, and relax, and the days all kind of blur together in my memory. I know that first night involved really cheap drinks and lots of walking, and at some  point I couldn't hold my eyes open anymore, and they all ended up out til 4 or 5 or 6am at some dance club. But we did find a giant spool in the middle of a lazy fountain, which I needed to stand on, and Kate joined me. I think this was also the night of the giant plate of paella and the best sangría in the world. They took almost literally every alcohol in the place and poured it into a giant jug.

(Dylan makes the best faces).
Watching it being made, we all started mumbling under our collective breath about how trashed we were going to be after drinking it. So much alcohol. Geez. Once it was finished, we commented to the old Catalán man who made our sangría that it was crazy delicious, to which he replied, "Of course it's good, it's catalán."

 Then we found the cheapest freaking drinks in Barcelona, as evidenced by the couple across from our table who had at least sixteen empty bottles on their table. Everyone ended up staying out all night; I was ridiculously sleep deprived and opted for a 2am bed time.

 The next day was kind of uneventful. We were all heading to different places in a few days, but none of us had concrete plans. We woke up late, went down to the market for some more food, and then spent far too much time investigating train schedules and prices for return plane tickets, and buses, and all that fun stuff. It took all freaking day and it made us all grumpy and tired. After a few hours of this, Dylan suggested we try the beach again. I had read about a beach much further down from the one we'd gone to the day before that was supposed to be less tourist infested, and much nicer. We hopped on a bus near the Christopher Columbus statue and ended up in roughly the same exact spot we'd been in the day before, whereupon we all bitched at Dylan about it all day long, just to make him feel bad, even though nobody really cared. We all paid two euros for that bus ride!
Intense travel planning.
So, we walked back toward the hostel, back toward Las Ramblas on our now usual path. I bought some watermelon shoes (had no idea how to ask the girl behind the counter about this. In spanish, I asked for 'the shoes that seem like watermelons' which made her laugh), and we watched a guy in an alleyway crouched over an unconscious girl who was being swarmed by paramedics.
Just off this alleyway was the cat statue, which was our main landmark while we were there, guiding us back in the right direction whenever we were turned around.
Having spent so much time raving about our amazing sangrías the night before, everyone was in the mood for some this evening. We walked through some dark alleyways until we happened upon this little food cart  bar, tucked between two buildings. We got giant cups of sangría and Kate wandered onto Las Ramblas to have her portrait drawn by one of the street artists. We decided to be annoying and interrupt her concentration face.
 Dylan wanted to meet up with a girl (from Salem, Oregon, of all places. The world is really so small) he had met the night before, so we found a lovely bar in a big, open courtyard with beers that were far too expensive, and sat for a good long while. It was fantastic. There was Spanish and French conversation going on in all directions, and our big, loud English table, and beer, and a nice breeze, and everything was good in the world.
Continuing in the theme of needing to climb everything, we walked back in the general direction of the hostel. There were some brick walls with super tiny crevices in between each brick, and I scaled that thing until everyone (see: Noah) started complaining that I was probably going to fall because a) I was wearing some crappy shoes I had bought in Scotland that didn't exactly have any grip and b) I was partially drunk. Then Will climbed some even more ridiculous wall and we were all pretty well convinced he was never going to get down. It was kind of a hairy landing, but he made it in one piece. So, all of us still alive, we ended up at the Christopher Columbus statue again, and had to climb that too, of course, until some cops drove by, ruining our fun.

The next morning was the last official morning in Spain. The original plan was to fly out of Spain the following evening, and have most of the day to check out the list of things I had planned on seeing in Barcelona. But, neither mine nor Noah's credit cards would work on the Ryanair website, so Dylan was kind enough to book the flights - and booked the wrong ones. Now we'd have to be up by 4am to be on a 630 flight to Paris - way too freaking early, and cutting out a whole day of Spain, along with any chance I had of completing the original plan (which was rock climbing in Mallorca). So, the new plan was to find somewhere to go climbing in the city.
Everyone was sleeping late though, so Noah and I wandered out for food and to see the Arc, which was the one thing I wasn't going to miss while we were here. There was this amazing falafel place I'd found the second night there, Maoz, which was almost all vegan and freaking delicious. We went there for breakfast. I ended up eating there 4 times in 2 days. It was so good, and I was so excited to have a full meal with real food! Will and Kate ran out to a market and then a sporting good shop to grab some climbing gear that had been stolen from Kate, and we were all supposed to meet back at the hostel. We all took much longer than we'd meant to. It's just that there was so much of Barcelona I hadn't explored yet!
There was a car show, tons of awesome old cars, and this dude was drawing them.

Fluffy puppy!!

The Arc!

See? Everyone climbs everything in Europe.

I liked this guy.

Freaking mountain of backpacks. Not sure why this girl was left to guard them. If someone wanted to steal them all, there's nothing she could have done!
Let's go alreaaadyyy

Will checked out some website and found a spot near Montjuïc castle which was supposed to be easy to get to, so he strapped on his thousand pound backpack full of climbing gear, and we started walking.
We walked for a long time. Like, a really long time. A few hours. Uphill. Towards this castle that we were beginning to think didn't exist. We found a crazy cactus garden with a maze of footpaths through it, leading up into the hills but not providing any outlet toward anything. A man yelled at me in Spanish that the road we were on didn't go anywhere, and the road to where we wanted to go was closed. I relayed the information, and we all gathered around a map of the park to figure out where we were. Eventually, we realized we weren't up high enough and walked through a tunnel which was clearly marked with 'No Pedestrian' signs, and ended up on the edge of a cliff with the most amazing view of Barcelona, ever.

Wait, where are we? Will and Noah were in charge of the map.
We walked up this crazy winding road, we passed an olympic size swimming pool in the middle of a stadium (with, again, the most amazing view), and finally, finally, got to the top of this mountain and saw the walls of the castle...and a bus stop. And an aerial tram. There were so many ways to get up there, it was ridiculous. And we'd walked. So. Dumb.
We walked around one side of the castle walls, with a beautiful view of the sea and the big harbor, and the city off in the distance. It was incredible. We consulted the map, trying to figure out where we were in relation to the climbing area. I look up at the giant castle walls, the bricks, all the little potential handholds and say, "Too bad we can't just climb the castle." Everybody turns to look at it, and we slowly realize, one by one, that there are bolts in the wall. The castle wall was actually set up to be climbed.
We can climb the castle!! We walk down the length of the wall, around the corner, seeing bolts everywhere, but they all look pretty old. And some of them start really far off the ground. After much arguing, it's agreed that the middle of the wall will be safest, where the bolts look newer and less rusted. Will goes up first to get us set up.

Dylan goes next, wearing his converse because we only have one pair of climbing shoes, and they're Will's. He got the Elvis legs near the top and comes back down. At this point, people wandering the top of the castle and walking the path behind us have started snapping photos. Everyone is wondering what the hell we're doing. We're too busy trying to keep the black ants the size of small housecats out of our food and off of our clothes, so we just ignore the gaping tourists. And after Dylan, I go. I try on Will's shoes, which are ridiculously huge, and there's no way I'm climbing in my sandals, so I decide to try it barefoot. I climbed a castle in Spain barefoot. I feel like such a badass.

back down!
Then Noah went up, although he'd been super hesitant about the whole thing, namely the fact that we were climbing a castle. He realized at the last minute that this was probably a kind of neat opportunity, and it was maybe a good idea to stop being such a scaredy cat. Will's shoes actually fit him, so he had a bit of an easier time of it.
It was just as he was coming down that we hear a whistle start blowing. And walking back to see around the corner of the main wall, we see two security guards, waving their arms and shouting in Spanish, and everyone turns and looks at me. Yay, I get to go talk to security guards! Feeling kind of like we might get arrested, I walk over with Dylan to the other wall where they've stopped and are yelling at us in rapid Spanish. I explain that we read online that we could climb here, and there were things in the wall for us to use. They just keep saying no. One of the guys has disappeared, which is making me exceedingly nervous, since the other one seems to just be trying to keep me here, yelling the same thing over and over again. I tell him we're very sorry, and we'll leave, and he tells me what we're doing is 'very illegal'. Oops. I ask if we can climb up one more time to get our stuff out of the wall, to which he replies, 'You put stuff in the wall?!" I hurriedly backtrack, trying to explain we have our ropes attached to what was already in the wall, and we need to go up and get them and our quickdraws (which I don't know the Spanish word for, which doesn't help), and he keeps saying no, we just have to leave. Dylan's started yelling almost the same things I'm saying at him, but in English, which is also not helping. He finally agrees to us leaving, and we walk back over to everyone else. Kate asks if we can get our stuff, and I tell her he said no. The other security guard has appeared at the top of the wall now, sitting on the edge and looking down at us. She yells in English, "Can we get our stuff??" and I translate, and he looks down and sees the ropes and says yes, we can climb up to get it down.
At this point, we've attracted a huge crowd. All the scattered people that have been wandering the grounds have stopped to watch the spectacle, leaning over the edge of the turret, around the security guard at the top of the wall, and we have a handful of folk on the path behind us, all snapping photos and murmuring as Kate gets in the harness to go up for our stuff. So, her turn up the wall is with an audience, and probably pretty nervewracking. She gets to the top and is unhooking everything, and it would have been such an awesome photo. She's just a few feet away from the security guard, leaning over the edge, and a row of people down the other side, all with their cameras out. But I was afraid the security guard would freak out if I started taking pictures, so we just watched. It took a long time, but she finally got everything down, and when we were all on the ground again, the security guard disappeared. Another younger guy came walking up as we were packing up our stuff. Oh god, they're going to arrest us after all! But he was really nice, and explained that you can climb there, but it's unsafe at the moment, and you have to get permits and permission from all these different places, and we can't just come in and do whatever we like. I apologized profusely and he shook his head and said it was fine, and told us to have a nice day. I like not getting arrested.
It was still unfortunate though, because we'd been looking forward to a full day of climbing, and we all only got one climb in. Oh, well. We still got to climb a freaking castle! And, having learned our lesson about trying to walk anywhere, Dylan and Will offer to pay for the aerial tram back down to the bottom of the hill.

Blocking Kate!
We thought this particular tram went all the way down to the beach, but find out a little late that it only takes us down to the bottom of the hill. We have to walk through the stupid cactus garden again to get back to the hostel.

The three of them had to leave in an few hours to catch the ferry out to Mallorca, so we get changed and dump our stuff, and then wander out to find food. We end up back at Maoz and grab some falafel before saying our goodbyes. It was very sad to see them all go. Spain was so much fun with lots of company. Noah and I wander back to the square where the car show had been earlier in the day, and eat our falafel on a planter, listening to the lovely live accordian music provided by a nearby restaurant. The sun goes down, and we wander around until bedtime, finding another Juicy Jones and some delicious crema catalana, and a popsicle stand (literally!), where they had vegan options (!!!) and they dipped the popsicles in chocolate. Oh my god, it was so good. Then it was back to the hostel, reserving a spot in the airport shuttle for the next morning, and setting our alarms for 330am, and Paris.

Tofu leapfrog.

To be continued...

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