Also a highlight was a shot bar called chupitos. You walk into this dark desolate environment to see a list of over 200 shots of death listed on the walls. Each involves a process before drinking it such as lighting it on fire, roasting marshmallows in the flames, or drinking it without using your hands. It’s great fun to drink a still smoldering liquid beverage, not knowing if your insides will combust in front of a drunken crowd. It’s not a place to be mingling with locals since it’s full of mostly loud drunk tourists, but you can spectate the notorious ‘Monica Lewinsky’ shot if you’re up for a real treat. It’s great fun if you’re not the one being violated!
The residents of our room had no bags, no jackets, and plenty of nice techie equipment lying about. They were nowhere to be seen, and obviously had no concerns for the safety of their few possessions. Spanish thieves you say? That’s what I thought too, until we met them in the wee hours of the morning.
Turns out our new friends were businessmen from Italy who stumbled in at 2am rambling and raving about a 50 Euro bottle of wine they’d just discovered. They were on business with the hostel and it was the first time they’d stayed in one. They talked wildly and passionately about food for hours, and gave us a great welcome to the Mediterranean.
Adding to the observation of Southern passion, J and I went out to the bars to watch ‘Copa del Rey’. This is also known as ‘Cup of the King’ and is a sworn by national football tournament in Spain that decides the reining champions of the nation. This particular game was Barcelona plays Real Madrid – the two heavy hitters! After un litro o Sangria we were ready to join the parading masses in yelling at screens around the nation. Bars were overcrowded and seats were a rare gem (in which we were lacking). Various praises and obscenities were hurled and I just dreamed of a day when I’m fluent enough to understand them.
The following morning we hiked a mountain where Jamie got way too excited about the old Barcelona Olympic stadium. This guy loves stadiums, and every town we go to, it’s the first thing he’s hunting. Check out this excited-ness!!!!!
The stadium was built in 1929 to host an anti-fascist Olympics, alternative to the Berlin games in 1936. However the Spanish Civil War broke out and cancelled these plans. It then served home of the ‘Espanyol’ football team, which got Jamie wound up. However it did finally see the Olympics in 1992 and hosted the athletic events. Seeing the stadium made me feel motivated to do a bit more exercise after the copious amounts of eating and drinking I’ve been doing, but this will have to wait until I get back to Wellington…
We decided to take an adventure outside of Barcelona on the second day there. Seeing city after city after city can become somewhat monotonous after 8 weeks. We’d been recommended to go to an Old Spanish village called Tarragona, which is one hour south of Barcelona via train. This town is arguably one of the most influential Roman cities in Spain. The ruins of Tarraco (the Roman city at the time) have been made a designated World Heritage Site, and were a military camp around 200 B.C (how they know this I have no idea)!! Getting to Tarragona was a war for us. I wont go into details but we ALWAYS fail at train stations and this journey was no different. No running this time, but we just sat and watched our train pass us by. Frustration Station! When we arrived in Tarragona we enjoyed a wee packed lunch and Jamie made friends with some pigeons. The locals were staring at us rudely and giving us the whole ‘Mumma Mia’ (WTF) expressions due to our appropriate Spanish winter attire. We donned our jandals, shorts, and t-shirts since it was a balmy 20 degrees, and the warmest weather I’d felt in 3 months; but the Spaniards were NOT impressed. Needless to say it singled us out as weird tourists. The town itself is stunning and worth a visit. I’m not sure why I’d never heard about it before but it’s REAL! By real I mean one of those towns that hasn’t lost its culture or spirit. It feels homey, it’s clean, and the people still respect the town – unlike some of the more famous tourist traps I’ve visited…
Back to Barcelona and what can I say? Back to the weird and the wonderful. This city is one of the most vibrant and fun places I have experienced. We’ve witnessed protests (about laying people off in the hideous economic climate over here), seen animals sold in the streets, spotted the biggest vending machine you will ever see, and been to the strangest and scariest flea market ever (they’ll rob you clean and then try to sell it straight back to you at one of the stalls). This market sold swords, porn, and casual household items. We also had people in the streets offer us “beer, marijuana, hash, Ch Ch (cocaine I presume). These people walk past you and casually mutter these words on their merry way. Even when we spent a day lounging the beach with Millie and Sarah they would blatantly come up to us (not even lying – every 5 minutes a new person would arrive) and try to sell us drugs. It got to the point where we’d all just lie on the sand and pretend we were sleeping so they wouldn’t try to engage us in conversation.
My favorite place to visit wasn’t La Sagrada Familia (the most visited attraction in Barcelona) although it was very impressive – but the food markets! The food was so fresh half of it was still moving, and the food was to die for. I indulged daily in fresh fruit smoothies of many varieties, and ate my fair share of delicious jamon and rich cheeses. I was also intrigued by these felic shaped pasties, although was too modest to sample the goods.
After Barcelona we rented a car and decided to road trip to San Sebastion. This was cheaper than flying and seemed far more fun. The countryside was engaging and there was never a dull moment. The one obstacle on this adventure was finding lunch during siesta. We stopped in what appeared to be a ghost town, starving and in search of vital refreshments. Not a soul was in site. Phones were ringing unanswered, dogs roamed the streets aimlessly, doors and windows were locked up, and our prayers were unanswered. This was made more theatric by the afternoon booming of the gothic cathedral bells.
We arrived in San Sebastion to wild weather that reminded me of home, and it was refreshing after the long journey. We got rinsed of our precious dollars by purchasing these delicious ‘pintxos’, which are the Basque country’s version of Spanish tapas. At a mere 18 Euros for some meager club sandwiches we can say we’ve done it, but won’t be participating again in a hurry. Here is some parting wild weather for you. Next update from ‘El Carnaval’ in Vitoria. x