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Buh-Buh-Buh-Buh-Barcelona!

For some reason I had the song “My Sharona” stuck in my head during the entire trip. Except the lyrics were “Buh-buh-buh-buh Barcelona” instead. I feel like I’ve heard this somewhere before, so please enlighten me if you know what I’m talking about. Perhaps it was just the genius of my subconscious. At any rate, it was such a good theme song that it also got stuck in Ryan’s head. We even made jokes that I would come up with a new song for every vacation. My next number one single? Marrakesh sung to the tune of the 80s hit “Maniac”.

On to the actual vacation….

I arrived late on a Thursday night and unfortunately didn’t have time to do anything. The next morning I was up early with a plan in mind; I made a beeline for the Chocolate Museum. As soon as I saw that the ticket was edible (a chocolate bar), I knew I had made the right decision. I learned about the history of Chocolate and saw some pretty amazing chocolate sculptures. The only other patrons in the museum were 4-year-olds on a preschool class field trip. I guess that’s what you get when you go to a chocolate museum at 9:00 am on a Friday.

A scene from Bambi made entirely of chocolate.

The rest of the day I spent wandering around the gothic quarter. I happened upon an antiques fair that only happens once a year. I wish I could have brought some things home, but these vendors really knew what their stuff was worth and that means it was out of my price range. To escape the rain, I ate lunch at a little tavern. I couldn’t understand the waitress at all, so I had no idea what I ordered. It turned out to be some kind of gazpacho soup and mystery meat with fries; I’m thinking lamb.

Tavern Mystery Soup

Tavern Mystery Meat

When the sun came out I headed to the docks and sprawled out on a bench drying my coat and flats. The water was so clear I could see big fish swimming amongst the sailboats. At this point, I was starting to wonder where Ryan was. I was pretty sure his flight arrived in the early afternoon. Back at the hostel, I still had no idea where he could be. Just as I was about to head out for the evening, he showed his face! Turns out he missed his flight out of Amsterdam. Figures. 🙂

So, Ryan and I in the company of two of our hostel-mates took some advice from a couchsurfer and made our way to JazzSi Club. The place was PACKED. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a place more packed than this. It was probably double or triple the fire code allowances (if there were any). People sitting on top of people, people standing in between chairs and tables, people sitting on the stairs and the loft. There is no way we could have made it to the bathrooms if we wanted to. But it was well worth it. We saw a live flamenco performance with a guitarist, singer and dancer. The singer embodied the ultimate stereotype. He wore a white linen suit with a red scarf in the pocket and his curly chest hair peaking out. The dancer was supreme. I wish my body would move like that. After seeing this show, I wanted nothing more than to take flamenco lessons.

Flamenco Dancer

Flamenco Singer

The next morning Ryan and I went on a hike to the top of a hill overlooking Barcelona. Although we were sweaty and getting sun burnt, we had some of the best views of the city. We rested there for a bit crawling on the graffiti and messing with our cameras.

The Destination of Hike #1

Then we climbed down the hill and back up the next one to enter Parc Güell, one of Gaudi’s magnificent creations. His art is so whimsical. Wandering around the park makes you feel as though you’re in a fantasy storybook. We listened to some acoustic reggae and watched the St. George festival parade from above. We paid our respects to the famous iguana before heading for the beach.

St. George Festival as seen from Parc Guell

Gaudiguana

Being exhausted from our hill-filled hike earlier in the day, our first stop in Barceloneta was at a restaurant. We ordered two large beers, some paella (a rice dish) and mixed seafood tapas. God, I love Spain. The beers came out first and since Ryan and I are both small people who hadn’t eaten much all day, we felt them. We laughed over how hard it is to eat paella and why “My Sharona” fits with Barcelona so well.

Then we stumbled out to the beach. Having forgotten our bathing suits, we could only admire from a far. In the heat we wandered back to the gothic quarter where the tall buildings provided a bit of shade. After a nap at the hostel, we took a passagiata (or whatever the Catalan equivalent for a leisurely stroll is) over to La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s unfinished church. The lights around the building make it shine like a mirage and the architecture is so unusual that you begin to think you’re imagining it. To confirm its reality, we returned the next morning in the daylight. This time La Sagrada Familia reminded me of a huge sandcastle. Inside there is an explanation of Gaudi’s plans for the architecture and everything is based on principles found in nature. Amazing.

La Sagrada Familia

Our next stop was the Picasso Museum, something which Ryan and I had been looking forward to. It did not disappoint. I know Picasso was quite prolific, but I had never seen this much of his work in one place. I guess it would make sense, he did live there and all. One of the coolest things about this museum was its comparison between Velázquez’s Las Meninas and Picasso’s 58 of interpretations of it. Although I’m not a fan of Picasso’s 1950s work, the display was effective and engaging.

Velasquez

Picasso

After Picasso it was time for tapas again. Chorizo! Gazpacho! Manchego! Mussels! Mushrooms! Potatoes! YUM.

Post-Picasso Tapas!

As soon as we were well-fed, we decided it was time to take on La Rambla, but that doesn’t mean we were done eating. We found the pastisserie recommended to me by my co-worker, Laura. Apparently it is the oldest one in Barcelona! Everything was beautiful. Everything was edible. Everything was delicious. I ordered a mix of cookies and Orxata and Ryan had a fruit tart.  Aside from these goodies, La Rambla is famous for its “pet shop” stand and the sales person got me hooked on the bunnies. If only i could have taken one home! Ryan rolled his eyes and reluctantly took photos of the event. Thanks, Ry!

Rambla Rabbit

The last unexplored district of Barcelona was the Parc de Montjuic, another recommendation of Laura’s. We were hoping to get the the Mirò museum, but it closes early on Sundays. So, we settled for exploring the gardens and ordering drinks on the patio of the National Museum of Art. I can’t recall the name, but I drank a kind of lemonade slushy with beer in it. I think of it as the Spanish version of a Radler, but not nearly as good. As the night cooled off, we took the gondola up the hill to the castle overlooking the ocean. We sat next to a canon and enjoyed the view. We were back down the hill in time to see the disappointing fountain show. It was just a few lights and some water. People told us that it gets better, but we didn’t stick around to find out. I had to wake up at 4:00 am to catch my flight the following day.

The Gondola at Parc Montjuic

All in all it was jam-packed, but without a specific itinerary. It felt good to stroll the streets and soak up the city with an orxata in hand. I definitely, definitely want to come back to Spain. It was simply captivating (and delicious).

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Dana in the Land of Pizza

The Campidoglio at sunset

The Campidoglio at sunset

Dana came to visit Leisha and me this past week. She was a nanny in Spain, but it didn’t work out, so she did a “nanny and dash” and headed to Rome. She arrived on Wednesday night and we took her to all the sights in the neighborhood: the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, and the Trevi Fountain.

On Thursday morning while Leisha and I were at work, Dana and Joey bonded while visiting the Vatican Museums together. As I suspected Joey’s favorite part was the map room. I suppose getting kicked out of the Sistine Chapel was pretty memorable as well! That night we went back to the bar in Trastevere and had another giraffa of beer together.

Day of Morbidity: Jenn, Dana, Joey and I in front of the Capuchin Crypt

Day of Morbidity: Jenn, Dana, Joey and I in front of the Capuchin Crypt

Joey designated Friday as the “Day of Morbidity” and forced us all to dress in black. Then he took us on a surprise adventure to Parrochia Sacro Cuore in Prati, a small Neo-Gothic church near Castel Sant’ Angelo. There is a small Purgatory Museum here with objects marked by people stuck in purgatory. They burn hand prints into bibles so that people will pray for their souls. The creepiest one was an altar that caught on fire and a face was charred into the frame.

Capuchin Crypt

Capuchin Crypt

That evening Joey and I escorted Dana and Jenn to yet another surprise location to bring an end to the day of creepiness. We took them to the Capuchin crypt where bones are arranged decoratively. The sign in the final room reads, “What you are now, we were once. What we are now, you will be.” To lighten up the mood a little, we visited the Spanish steps and Piazza del Popolo.

Saturday was Leisha’s last day of work so Jenn, Joey and I met Leisha and Dana down at the Colosseum. We walked along the forum and up to the Campidoglio before having dinner at the worst Irish pub ever.

Joey, Dana and Leisha at the Colosseum

Joey, Dana and Leisha at the Colosseum

On Sunday Dana and I woke up at the crack of dawn to experience St. Peter’s before mass started, before the hour of tourists dawned and before the heat set in. It was wonderful to get there so early because it seemed like the basilica was ours alone. We even saw the Pietá without having to elbow through the crowd. After seeing the church from the ground level, we climbed the hundreds of stairs up the cupola. Dana kept saying, “Slow and steady wins the race.” And sure enough, we made it. First we walked along the inside of the dome where we saw the mosaics up close and personal and heard the Sunday sermon echo through the building. After a few more stairs we were on top of the dome enjoying the view of city and examining our sweat stains. Dana won.

View of Piazza San Pietro from the top of the Dome

View of Piazza San Pietro from the top of the Dome

After the church I went with Joey and Jenn to the Porta Portese flea market. It is here that I was swindled. There was a pet store booth selling bunnies, guinea pigs, love birds and all sorts of furry friends. Being me, I naturally bought a companion for my year here in Rome. He is a miniature turtle about the size of a silver dollar. When we got back to the apartment, I was excited and began looking up information about caring for my new pet. I quickly found a website with some sobering news. “There is no such thing as a miniature turtle. If you were sold a turtle under this pretense, then you have been fooled. Your turtle is a baby and it will grow.” UH OH. In other news, my soon-to-be-gigantic turtle still has no name. Please vote below to help me choose one for my friend.

Turtle without a name

Turtle without a name


After the market, Leisha met up with us and we all watched Amelie on the big screen lying on my mattress in the middle of the conference room underneath the air conditioner. Afterwards we shared a few beers in the Campo before saying goodbye to Leisha and Dana. They will be traveling in Italy and Spain together for two weeks. Then Dana will fly home and Leisha will become my roommate.

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