Friday, 29 October 2010

Barcelona (Fall Break Part 2 of 5)

October 14 - October 16

As predicted, I woke up feeling like crap.

We arrived at our hotel (not hostel), and put our valuables in a secure room. We did not even get to go to our rooms before embarking to the meeting for the first tour. Right before we left, however, we had a big meeting about pickpockets. Our host explained to us that Barcelona pickpockets are "5-star pickpockets" (direct quote) and essentially that pickpockets in other cities like London are "3-star pickpockets" (direct quote). We got on the Barcelona metro, which is considerably less vicious than the Paris metro, though again, pickpockets could be a problem. We met our tour guide and began the tour of I-don't-know-what because I was still essentially asleep. I remember 2 things about the tour. One, there was a castle-looking thing was actually a cathedral. See below.
I shall call it either Castle Ambiguous or Ambiguous Cathedral.
Second, there was a Jewish Quarter, upon the mentioning of which, I thought, "she has exactly 7 seconds before she tells us that they were slaughtered". 9 seconds later, she told us that they were slaughtered. Aside from that useful tidbit of information, our tour guide sucked. She just told us stories about the town that she acknowledged beforehand were almost certainly not true. Because of this, I tuned out for the rest of the tour and couldn't tell you a damn thing about it. Afterward Steve, Michelle, and I walked around some shops because our room keys would not be ready for an hour. We found some neat shops, the best of which was a sweets shop that had pastries in the shape of fish (very detailed fish). Because I am human, I have to go to the bathroom every so often but was dismayed to discover that apparently in Barcelona, it is customary to not have a toilet seat. We checked 3 different shops so I'm pretty sure it was not a rogue incident. After that little adventure, we returned to the hotel, and our room was awesome.
Something had Steve's attention, but I cannot remember what it was.
After we put our stuff away, we walked literally only 2 blocks to the beach. I did not have a swimsuit and only had one pair of pants, so water was not an option for me. I still put my feet in the water only to find that the beautiful blue-green water was deceptively cold (though not unbearably cold). Anyway, I hung out with some friends on the beach, and on two separate occasions, a random stranger came up to me and asked if I wanted a massage for €10. I declined for two reasons. 1) Unless it is 30 minutes long, €10 is steep. 2) Strangers are creepy. After the beach, I had a nice siesta (regardless of time of day, all naps are siestas for me so long as I am within the boundaries of Spain). Then it was time to go to dinner. For €17, this is what I got (all were in plate-fulls for the whole table and the parentheses dictate how much I ate):

Bread with tomato stuff on it (2 large slices)
Salad (1 plate)
Large fried calamari (about 12 of them)
Half-fist-sized mussels (about 15 of them)
80% complete mussel graveyard
Sirloin steak (1 of them, probably 9 oz.)
Little desert breads (maybe 4)
Chocolate mousse cake (1 slice)
After dinner drinks: disgusting yellow crap (quarter shot)
After dinner drinks: borderline tasty peach stuff (half shot)

All of that was for €17, €20 if you include the tip we all put in. Needless to say, afterward I felt fat. After dinner I went to a hookah bar with some friends (no, I do not do hookah) that was part of a nightclub. This was a strange nightclub. There was some random shirtless muscly guy dancing on the stage (though his legs could have belonged to a 13-year old girl, I wouldn't have noticed if it didn't look like they were going to break in half; I'm not kidding, it was weird looking). I got bored quickly and left, sleeping as soon as I got back to the hotel.

Despite the almost 75% of a normal night's sleep that I got, I felt uncommonly dead today. I mean, I could barely walk. Our first order of business today is... let's see here... a lecture. Crap. That's okay, I'll just sit in the front like I always do; I rarely get fully unconscious in the front row. All taken. Crap. Well, second row is usually- crap. Oh god. The only seat is in the back row. Well at least this seat isn- zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz... Lecture over. I was DEAD asleep through the whole thing, and if I follow Murphy's Law, I will also assume that I snored, drooled, talked in my sleep, flailed, and had a night (err... day) terror.

Anyway, we then began our tour around the developed area near the Olympic Village. This area has truly seen a revival especially considering it was a hellhole before the Olympics. It has...

... tall buildings...
External structure, mother f*er.
... ... ... ... ... ... ... interesting(?) artwork...
Eccentric man trapped in doorframe.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you... paper face!... with legs...
you know, bendy legs... anybody?
This is Frank Gehry's fish. I actually like this one.
... a marina...
... and some beaches.
That street lamp really killed my shot.
Next, we got on a light rail line, which took us up a mountain, where we found the area with the main venues for the Olympic games. However, the first thing we did at the top of the mountain was look at the city of Barcelona through an unused stadium. Barcelona is super-dense (4 times as dense as NYC).

La Sagrada Familia under super ultra sexy construction.
Architects need to stop being so obsessed with their dicks.
Either this one was obsessed with his junk or he was obsessed with the
penis of whoever designed the Gherkin. This is not okay anymore.
Then we got to go to the Olympic Stadium. The stadium has an older exterior and a 1992 brand new interior. It is a fairly low capacity stadium, seating about 56,000. We stopped off to have lunch inside the stadium. There was a starving (but cute) cat that kept meowing for food, and I eventually caved in and gave him ham. The bathrooms there were weird. The men's and women's room were the same room, separated only by a wall. So if you missed the not too obvious sign of which side of the wall was yours, you were in trouble. Anyway, here is the stadium.
The Olympic Torch. To see the ultimate display of badassery, see the lighting of the Barcelona Olympic Flame.
They are guarding something very valuable. I know it's valuable
because it has stealth capabilities.
We then went outside and behind the stadium. Here we saw Palau Sant Jordi, an indoor stadium that is now used for EVERYTHING (concerts, sailing competitions, normal sports, etc.). It is also the only even moderately efficient building in the Olympics, as the Barcelona Olympics were known for being not green.
In the same area is the telecommunications tower that they built for the Olympics. It is supposed to be an athlete throwing a javelin.
But any idiot knows that throwing a javelin perfectly
straight into the air is a surefire way to get impaled by said javelin.
Then we headed down the mountain toward the city. Along the way we passed this unusually huge museum.

This part of the city looked much more busy than where our hotel was (where apparently, we were the only people). We were told the interesting fate of the bullfighting arena. You see, the people in Catalonia hate bullfighting, so it was outlawed. However, now they had this big arena and nothing to do with it, so what they are now doing is converting it into a shopping center. However, the exterior is badass, so they wanted to keep it, and here is what they are doing at this very moment. They are using cranes and what are essentially giant car jacks to slowly pick up the entire exterior of the arena and then they are building the wall beneath it. Let's try to imagine how that conversation would go in Barcelona and in the US:


Engineer 1: What are we going to do about this?
Engineer 2: I've got an idea! We use cranes and giant car jacks to lift the entire building! What do you think?
Engineer 3: Brilliant!

United States:

Engineer 1: What are we going to do about this?
Engineer 2: I've got an idea! We use cranes and giant car jacks to lift the entire building! What do you think?
Engineer 3: Go f* yourself.

I thought you could see the arena when I took this picture, but you really cant.
Along the way, we past a major fountain...
... that was broken. Just for a size comparison, that is not a garbage can, it's a person.
We then headed toward a- hey an upside-down elephant!
Anyway, we went to an industrial plant that was converted into a cultural center. It had a really cool roof.
Afterward, we went to this really secluded restaurant, where you could have bull tail. Honestly, that sounded tasty, but I was not that hungry, and ordered skewered kebab, which is really difficult to overeat.

On the metro, there was a pickpocket attempt on our group, specifically Professor McGinnis' wife, Miranda. Let me make this clear, anyone that tries to pickpocket someone like Mrs. McGinnis has neither a soul nor a conscience. This upset all of us and made us realized that these pickpockets really are ruthless.

The last noteworthy event was food shopping. I got some bread and a chocolate thingy. When I went to the register, the cashier spoke in Catalan. She saw I spoke English and got an English-speaking to translate. He said, "You need to weigh it". He was talking about the chocolate thingy... ... ... which was packaged. After arguing for a bit, I gave up trying to convince them that the "60 grams" on the package solved all of our problems. Anyway, I just let them keep the chocolate thingy and left a bit frustrated. I went to sleep after that.

Today was the Gaudí tour. The tour guide made sure to halve our interest level by stating at the very beginning of the tour that we would not see the Sagrada Família. If there is one building that Gaudí is known for, it is the Sagrada Família. He just killed the whole point of the tour. However, as I am stuck on this tour for 2 hours, I might as well listen. Anyway, the first building we saw was not a Gaudí building but was still kind of neat.
However, next-door was Gaudí's Casa Batlló. This house depicts the slaying of the dragon by Saint George. I wish I lived in a house this welcoming.
Nothing says, "Come on in" like balconies that are supposed to resemble skulls.
Casa Milà was nearby, so we looked at that. It does not tell an awesome story, it just looks awesome. Gaudí is the man.
Then Gaudí apparently went on shrooms. Park Guell was a really cool place, except it looks like the Gingerbread Man's dream neighborhood.
There was this cool temple looking section (can see above too) that had a few good optical tricks, none of which I can actually remember.
But I remember the infuriating ones.
We then went into these rocky places.
Finally, we saw the only 2 actual pieces of property. I don't remember the first, but the second was where Gaudí himself stayed for a while.
After that, the tour was over, officially starting free time on fall break. We had a very tearful goodbye with friends, and by that, I mean they left us while we were waiting for a friend in the bathroom. Phil gave some nice goodbye hugs, though. From Park Guell, we went straight to Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família (or Sagrada Família for short). It is considered Antoni Gaudí's masterpiece, and as I found out, for very good reason. It is the most amazing building have ever seen, and just think, only a few decades before it will be finished. I will simply describe the exterior as impossibly detailed and the interior as impossibly mind-blowing. I am in a difficult position here: no amount of describing will convey haw amazing it is, and my pictures still don't do it justice. Anyway, I will simply shut up now and let you see for yourself.
Those pictures are a bit out of order because you enter and exit the building a few times before the end. In the crypt, we were presented the history of Gaudí and Sagrada Família. I really only care about how it was built, and that is shown below. Since Gaudí's preferred materials do not work when under tension, the whole structure needs to be in compression. He found out how to make an arrangement that would accomplish this by hanging weighted bags tied together with each little rope representing a structural member. When none of the ropes had slack, he was good. I found this fascinating but that's just me.
After Sagrada Família, we walked down the market place and encountered super huge doughnuts, though Steve had to leave afterward. I would not see him for a few days.
That is my hand next to them.
After Steve left, Michelle and I went to Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau (or Hospital de Sant Pau for short). It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it sucks balls. Granted, we went after touring hours, but a World Heritage Site should not be this creepy. Things started out okay we saw some pretty neat-looking buildings, which is what the hospital is known for in the first place.
As we progressed, the streets around the other buildings of the hospital became more and more deserted and unwelcoming. We finally got to a building where there was a helipad.
We debated if it was really a helipad, but that argument was resolved pretty quickly.
Never mind the fact that we were obviously in the part of the complex that is actually active, when we went a little further, sh* got real.
I don't think we're supposed to be here.
Yes, two unwitting tourists managed to walk right onto a (possibly former) construction site without anyone stopping us. At this point we are both pretty freaked out but played it cool by joking about the creepiness a lot. It was also at this time that we realized were being hunted... by a cat army. We spotted the leader/scout on a concrete block.
We then realized that was possibly possessed by Satan.
Then there was the cat ready to pounce on anyone who had committed sins within the last year (how he missed me is still uncertain).
There were also the foot soldiers, the rightmost of which is cleaning the blood from previous victims off his paws.
Heaven save us...
Finally, there was the slightly overweight cat, which was actually pretty chill.
The cats were present the whole time, but we headed toward what looked like a nice, not-crappy part of the hospital, only to find that it was blocked off. Oh well. We headed toward another end of the hospital that had cool buildings to look at, even though the atmosphere became more desolate the further in we went.
Finally, we reached a dead end. Right near here was a sign. Though it seemed to refer to a specific building, I am pretty sure it was talking to us.
We left after this.
Now, Michelle and I were on the same overnight train (semi-coincidentally) to Madrid tonight, making the train station the logical next stop after retrieving our bags from the hotel. We ate dinner there and simply waited for about an hour so we could start boarding. First of all, the security for this train was a joke. They check only your bags and not you. Michelle and I were not in the same car so we said we would meet on the platform when the train stopped in Madrid and would then part ways.

I found my seat after knocking some people down trying to get through. My seat was part of an 8-seat booth, and there were about 3 people already in there. The 2 seats across from me were empty, and I hoped they would stay empty so I could put my feet up. That idea was erased pretty quickly. I sense trouble on the two people the moment they entered. Now, they were not mean or anything, just a little inconsiderate. First of all, the woman took off her sweater to reveal the most bizarre article of clothing I have ever seen in person. It was a bra with sleeves, long sleeves to be exact. So I get you're feeling a bit warm. That's okay. Who am I to judge local attir- oh God, you guys are going to make out the whole 9-HOUR train ride, aren't you? They did exactly that. There was so much about this that revolted me, but it was when they started hitting my knees that I moved out into the food area.

Contrary to my unpleasant experience in there, I met some very cool people out here. I heard them speak English and asked if they were American.

"God, no! We're Australian."

Patrick (a little older than me), Phoebe (my age), and Clancy (11) were three siblings on a 4-month vacation with their parents. Why are they on this 4-month vacation, you ask? Well, because they can, that's why. Michelle coincidentally wandered in the room and we all had a nice talk. Clancy said the weirdest thing, though. She said she wished she had an American accent. I have never heard that before. Anyway, after I got tired, I wandered back to the booth. The PDA couple had simmered down, so I put on some music and slept.

No comments:

Post a Comment