Barca aka Barcelona aka BCN.. and what a futball team.. I am back baby, I’m back! Paella, wine, jamon, sangria, beaches and Spaniards

So, before I begin into the usual day to day experience, I think a little more heart felt detail should be thrown in here. When most people travel with one other person as opposed to a group, it is a special dynamic. We all have different moods during certain circumstances. I’m sure you all agree.

Stacie and I went thru this a few times. Nothing crazy but we are both stubborn people when it comes to arguments. In the end, who really cares? As the trip progressed, we rarely had any spats. And this is no different if it would have been a guy traveling with me and not a female. Arguments will arise because people are people. That’s how we were built. You just have to know when to say “What are we even talking about – we are in Europe!”. What are we, the 2 stooges?

I guess my point is, if you have never traveled to another country with someone, make sure it is someone that has your back and will talk thru things if there are issues that arise. Your co worker that you may have had drinks with a few times may not be the best go-to person for a 2 week backpacking trip to Europe or Asia. Maybe take baby steps and go to Cancun first. Cancun is like going to Miami – people from the states or Britain are the tourists. Couldn’t be any easier of a place to start off with. Your trip is only as fun as the people you are with. Now for me that is a little different as I have traveled many times solo. People often ask me, “how do you travel by yourself?”. This question often stumps me as I cannot understand the question. Do I not have 2 working arms and 2 functioning legs? My passport is still valid – no reason not to travel.

Please remember that you can click on the pics to enlarge them. 

My solo travels have allowed me to meet so many amazing people around the globe for whom some I visit every year and talk to every week. They are what really opened my eyes and broke my “USA is the best” shell. From my buddy Nyoman in Bali –

WP_20140507_001

to my friend Carshina and her brother in St Lucia –

DSCF1691

or my Italian friends Vito and Laura whom I lived with last year in Barca –

WP_20140620_003

and we can’t leave out the boys of summer from Erlaboom, Germany –

WP_20150808_18_35_56_Pro__highres

and Eivand the Great from Norway –

WP_20140701_001

You are all what makes traveling such a spectacular and needed part of life. Bless you all! I love you….

Now enough of the mushy stuff and on to Barca for some jam packed beaches and the most cosmopolitan city of Europe!

As many of you know, this is now my 3rd trip here and last year I lived in a flat for a few months. This city never gets boring nor can you see or do everything in a month – hell I was there for 60 days last year and didn’t even see half of the major sites including the amusement park atop the mountain or see the amazing Museu Picasso. There is so much to this city and I am only here for 4 days.

WP_20150720_12_59_27_Pro

We got to the airport in Rome and waited for the Ryanair counter to open as we could not check in online – some weird international thing. Once the counter opened they looked at our itinerary and told us we were at the wrong f$cking airport!…. What? Turns out they were right. The taxi took us to FCO and our flight was out of CIA. So we paid the fee and took a flight out of FCO. While we waited….hhhmmm.. let’s get a drink.

We sat down in the not really a bar and I ordered a whiskey coke and Stacie a vodka soda. After 15 min or so as my mouth profusely started to dry up, the waitress came and told us they didn’t have whiskey. I looked at her and said “really?” as I glanced at the whiskey bottle on the shelf behind the bar. So I walked over with her and pointed it out to the bartender. You see, in most of Europe, the bars will serve you a glass with whiskey and a bottle of Coke. They will rarely mix it for you. I assume that is where the confusion lie.

WP_20150720_17_22_13_Pro Stacie talking shop. Turns out her parent company manages many airport bars in Europe. Do I hear a transfer in the future? 

Is this for real? – McLobster? God help us.

WP_20150720_17_28_48_Pro

We slowly tanked our super gasoline premium strength drinks and headed to the plane. It seemed very interesting to me as we always seemed to be taking a shuttle out to the plane and boarding up air stairs on the tarmac. I guess Ryanair and Easyjet got the shaft when it came to getting a jetbridge. It did make the boarding faster once we got to the aircraft or maybe the buzz from the drinks made it seem like that. Either way most of our flights we sat in the rear of the plane.

WP_20150720_012

The flight was short and Stacie zoned out to her music while I while I watched some music vids and had some vino. We arrived in Barcelona around 8pm and took a cab to the apartment. I had found us a flat for 80USD/nt. Located pretty central to Plaza Espania and Catalunya. By this time we were ready to unwind a little and maybe walk the city a bit. The flat was nice and roomy. Very similar to the flats in Roma. Pretty amazing to think you got a kitchen included. Full suites for this price!

WP_20150721_14_15_19_Pro__highres

WP_20150721_14_15_31_Pro__highres

My good friend Victor whom I had met last year in Barca was the head bartender at the Hard Rock Cafe and per tradition on this trip it was our first stop. There was no way that I wasn’t going to stop in and see one of the coolest guys in Spain. And so we did just that. While at the HRC, we met this really cool couple from Norway. And they happened to also know Victor from visiting last year. So we made plans for dinner the following night. Hey, the more the merrier. A few drinks and shots later and we were pretty wiped and ready to rest up for the next day – for tomorrow we were going to one of Victor’s favorite local restaurants. Amazing Paella and wine, sounds right up my alley.

Being back in Barcelona feels great and very comfortable. It is the one place in Europe that I really know the city and its layout. The subway is easy to navigate, the major sites easy to find and it is so international that you are never really an outsider. The appeal of a place like this is just that – international and open to all. The culture, Catalan, isn’t Spanish but it is. And who really gives a damn about the politics if it truly doesn’t effect me? This part of Spain has been wanting independence since the photograph was invented. Just like Texas…. Good luck guys!

The next day was a bit hazy at first. We slept in late and grabbed some sandwiches from a local quick food place across from the flat. Not anything to write home about but something to at least give my body some sort of sugar and energy to keep me going until we grab a beer and real food. I will admit that I felt pretty proud that I have not eaten at a Subway in years. And the chuckle I get inside myself whenever I see one never gets old. Who would ever truly believe in their gastrosoul that a 6 inch 3$ sandwich has any real value at all? Open your eyes people. When you are exploring a new city in Europe, why disrespect your body and soul in such a horrible fashion? I would rather eat jamon and cheese from the local supermercat.

We were meeting the Norwegians and Victor for dinner and I wanted to show Stacie around Plaza Espana and the Arenas.

plaza espania map

WP_20150722_002

It is basically just a large indoor mall transformed from an Arena. It is really a mind trip. Look at the picture.. You would never guess there are stores inside.WP_20150722_007

WP_20140625_005

WP_20140625_015

Barcelona is such a crazily spread out architectural stew. The buildings are old and you see some out of the ordinary structures that always make you ask questions or google them to ask “what the hell is that?”. And they really are out of know where. You turn a corner and bam!

One really out of sight aspect of the places I have visited in Europe is the lack of damaged cars driving the streets. In the USA I am used to seeing at least 3 or 4 cars a day with multi colored panels or missing parts on the car. Maybe the US likes to have banged up vehicles just as much as nicely washed and detailed cars. To be seen is to be seen? huh Who knows…

Dinner was at a local restaurant just a km or so away from the Plaza. Victor made the reservations as this spot was pretty well known for the paella.

WP_20150722_23_12_45_Pro

WP_20150722_23_08_12_Pro

The food was pretty stunning. I have eaten Paella many times in Spain but not like this. They serve it in large pots when the table is full as it was. Take a look at the shrimp. My God these are robustly huge and why don’t I ever have them on my plate back in the states? Do we really think the farm raised pre-cooked shrimp we eat is actually tasty? Maybe my travels have made me a food critic. Either way I am in shrimp heaven. After we drained the wine and took our last inhale of rice and shrimp, we headed back to our flat to indulge more nightcap beverages and just have fun.

WP_20150722_018

WP_20150723_003 1

Yes, we are using small espresso mugs for shots of rum. I had just met Ruben the night before and he was your typical young and funny Swed. He has the same cocky attitude we all did as young 20 somethings running around town. And it reminded me of how much older I am. Most of my friends are younger than me which makes life even more fun. The energy that I have usually comes with others that share the same passions and spontaneous events. Thank you for another amazing night and hasta luego to Ruben.

We only had a few days left and I was really needing some beach time and so was Stacie. Let’s do this! We took the very reliable and cheap metro line down to Plaza Catalunya and walked the rest of the way down Las Ramblas and thru some alleys of shopping heaven until we reached the harbor.

WP_20140522_17_38_44_Pro

IMG_0410

IMG_0236

Sailboats you say? My dream and someday you will see Capt. Dan at the helm. But for now I will have to just swim and enjoy the buoyant and crisp waters of the Med. A place with so much mystery and history and of course floods of bikinis and sun seekers crowding every inch of this picturesque oasis.

DSCF2873

DSCF2872

DSCF2869

We didn’t actually even get to the beach until 330pm or so and I had to explain to Stacie why it doesn’t matter how late you arrive at la playa. Back in WII the King of Spain along with Mussolini and Hitler, agreed that the 3 countries would have the same time of day so that they could communicate without having the burden of daylight savings. This is the reason it doesn’t get dark until 10 pm during the summer months. This was the most confusing idea for me to grasp on my first trip here. So cool – stay at the beach all day and I mean all fracking day!

While the Pakistanis, who seemed to control the beverage sales on the beach, delightfully kept replenishing our mojitos, I basked at the sultry and sexy that today had to offer on this temperature perfect day. I find it intriguing that who much more comfortable Europeans are with their bodies – topless, small tiny bikinis. Why is the human body not considered as excepted as a sign of beauty in the USA? Who cares at this point, I’m on the beach – in Barcelona! More Mojitos please?

The swim was the best I had had so far on this trip. The beaches here are quite addicting – Pakistanis serving you bottomless mojitos while music plays EDM in the background, Europe sweet home. Good bye now playa, it’s time for us to part for now.

Once we woke up and left the flat, Stacie wanted to know what to see today. Sagrada Famiglia sounded like the perfect choice as it is and has always been the largest historical site in Barca. Such a perfectly sunny day – you decide for yourself.

WP_20150723_17_24_34_Pro__highres

Sagrada Famiglia is a cathedral or church designed by the famous Anton Gaudi. His work is infused all over the city. He has been dead for a while now. When asked before he died “If you die, how will you complete the building?” He responded “God will make sure it gets completed”. And today donations poor in from many investors – common people and wealthy. Maybe God does listen.

WP_20150723_17_18_29_Pro

WP_20150723_16_27_30_ProWP_20150723_16_41_28_Pro

IMG_0294

We didn’t take the tour and decided it was time to meet Vito and Laura, my old flat mates for something. I am not sure what the plans are – Vito said to be ready for anything. OK!

They met us at our flat for a quick drink and some cheese before heading out. I was so happy to see them. I had missed them. This was Vito – A guy who one year earlier was eating breakfast with Laura before work and in walked his flat mate with a broken hand and soaking wet. He didn’t hesitate to assist and grab a bag of ice. The next day he took the flat mate all around Barcelona to different doctors to get xrays done and the hand examined. One doctor was even sarcastic saying ” Yep, it’s broken” in Spanish to Vito who took offense and told the doctor that this wasn’t a funny situation. Finally Vito and his flat mate went to a hospital per doctor’s orders for further xrays. Unbelievably, the xrays did not show a break in the finger bad enough to require surgery or any form of dislocation. Vito was my hero that day and I was going to thank him again tonight for his selflessness. Yes, I was that flat mate.

WP_20150723_23_05_53_Pro

WP_20150723_22_04_57_Pro

We went to a festival in Poble de sec. This was so much fun! Bands playing on stages in alleys and there are these tapas style eats that were so diverse. Small bread slices with anything from smoked salmon and salsa to a burger with cheese to calamari with a pepper sauce to chocolate deserts. Even whole cooked shrimp. Remember what I told you about the fresh whole shrimp in Europe. It’s no joke here either!

WP_20150723_21_35_31_Pro

WP_20150723_21_32_28_ProWP_20150723_21_22_26_ProWP_20150723_21_32_39_Pro

My time in Barca was nothing short of passion. It is a true testament to life – people and culture are still what makes this world survive. Vito and Laura were among some of those that I truly wanted Stacie to meet. Stacie will never forget the pinchos – the small tapas in the pictures, and nor will I. Oh wait, I will be going back and eating those next summer or maybe sooner.

Vito and Laura are both from Italy and speak Italian, Spanish and English. They got lucky with the Spanish as it is similar to Italian. They have lived in Barca for many years now and still drive back home to get some home made Italian food and fresh spices. I had the privilege of eating the fresh dried oregano and pasta while I lived with them. It makes you wonder how restaurants like Olive Garden still exist. The cliche masses may need a wake up call of epic proportions. Who wouldn’t die for fresh hand made pasta and Grandma’s fresh dried herbs. Well, this is how it is in Spain and Italy. My heart beats a little faster when I breathe the air here.

I will miss you all..

Now it is off to Warsaw, Poland to see one of the greatest rock bands of all time – AC/DC.

ciao!

WP_20150724_06_45_00_Pro

IMG_0238

IMG_0240 IMG_0239

Above – farmers market daily on Las Ramblas

IMG_0312

Gaudi Park

IMG_0305

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s