Monday, 3 March 2008
barcelona mi amor
After getting up at 3:30 a.m., taking a night bus to Clapham Junction, taking a train to London Victoria, and boarding a plane departing for Barcelona, Spain, I realized I knew nothing about this destination. Both the time I went to Dublin and the time I went to Barcelona I made few plans ahead of time and did not get too excited beforehand. On the way there, we flew over the snow-capped Pyrenees in France and it was breathtaking. I literally felt that it was so beautiful it could not be real.
Upon arrival, Alex, Lauren and I navigated our way to Catalunya Plaza to meet Alex's friend Grace. Grace is from West Hartford, Connecticut and she is studying and working in Barcelona. Her name fits her perfectly. We stayed in a hostel on Las Ramblas called Hostal Maritima. It was a ten-person room, but it was only ten Euro a night. On top of that, we had a balcony which overlooked street performers, mopeds, horse-drawn carriages, and the statue of Christopher Columbus. There were Moroccan dancers who were in perfect physical condition and did all kinds of acrobatics. There was a Michael Jackson impersonator who actually danced quite well. Barcelona is said to be the number one pick-pocketing city in the world, but we just watched our purses and we were fine.
I met a French girl at the hostel named Manue, short for Immanuelle. She spoke little English, so I tried to talk to her in French. A lot of it ended up being Frenglish, and speaking French in a real conversation was harder than I thought it would be. But, as we continued to converse, I got better at it and I think we really connected. I also met three Israeli girls who were on the tail end of a six-month vacation in South America to celebrate the end of their three years serving in the army. They are from Beersheba. I pretty much freaked out when I found that out because that is the place that Moses made and an oath with God and named it Beersheba (pronounced Bell-sheh-vuh). We talked about old testament stories, and they explained that at Passover in Israel, Elijah is like Santa Claus. They leave wine and unleavened bread for him overnight, which the father usually eats and pretends that Elijah ate it.
Grace took us under her wing, so to speak, and showed us the best places to go. She was very helpful since she is fluent in Spanish. I went to the market and had homemade coconut and ferraro rocher gelato and a fresh kiwi coconut pineapple smoothie. I had several "bikinis," which are sandwiches (bocadillos) with jamon y queso. In the mornings we had cafe con leche, and on a couple of different nights we had paiella and tapas. Paiella is a typical Spanish dish with rice and usually seafood. I ate a little creature that I had not ever seen before. I had to peel the shell off, and he still had his legs and eyes, but I just kept telling myself that it was similar to lobster. Tapas are just little appetizers.
We made good friends with a Brazilian guy named Felipe who is friends with Grace and works at the hostel. On the last day he took us to a Brazilian restaurant where I tried all kinds of fruit juices and ate a fish and rice platter with vegetables and coconut sauce. Afterwards, he secretly bought us this coconut candy and gave it to us upon our departure. It was amazing and similar to the kind of candy that my sister, Kimberly brought us years ago from the Dominic Republic.
We went to a few bars, one of which was called the Black Sheep. I really liked it there because they gave out free popcorn and it was a relaxed environment. Girls in Spain didn't look like they tried as hard to primp themselves and wear hardly anything like they do in England and the United States. Another bar we went to had fake trees, rocks, faces in the trees, a fountain and stars on the inside. Grace had explained in the beginning that sangria flowed "like water" there, and it was true. Sangria was everywhere, and having a glass with most dinners was a tasty treat.
We went to Park Guell, where we saw the Gaudi bench and lizard, as well as a view of the entire city. The way up reminded me of San Francisco because the streets were winding and steep. We went to Sagrada Familia, a cathedral also designed by Gaudi. It was the most massive and unique cathedral I have ever seen, with a sculpture of a green tree with doves right on the front and center. We went to the top and looked out over the city.
Friday, we went to the beach and admired the sights and sounds of the Mediterranean Sea. We walked along the shore and collected seashells as well.
Lauren danced in the streets with strangers.
Alex slept with three stuffed bears: "Ted covers my eyes, like a sleep mask..."
On the last night, Alex, Lauren and I sat on the balcony and breathed in the culture of Barcelona. Coke dealers stood on the streets with cans of beer yelling, "La cerveza!" Apparently, they sell beer, but if people ask, they sell cocaine. We saw prostitutes as well, and we saw government workers washing the sidewalk clean. Las Ramblas is the most famous street for tourists, and the day is much different from the night. Life was good. Life continues to be good. And I know that this is experience is beyond these feeble words.