Monday, December 10, 2007
Oh, man. Where to begin. Barcelona: still amazing. Being with Danny: even more amazing. I really don't know what else to say. Except maybe, DO NOT try to stay in a hostel with your boyfriend and 6 strangers. It's just awkward.
Ok, I can't ACTUALLY leave it at that. We ducked out of class early Thursday afternoon to catch our lovely RyanAir flight. (Another FYI: RyanAir's no-assigned-seating policy is totally fine for single flyers. For two or more, it is MISERABLE. You run to get in line, which doesn't matter anyway since everyone cuts you, only to stand there for 30 minutes in order to get on a tram that takes you to the plane. Meaning, your place in line did not matter AT ALL. Meaning, you could have been sitting down comfortably, waiting for your seat like a civilized person. Guess no one told the Italians that...) But once we arrive at hour-out-of-the-way Girona airport, it was relatively smooth sailing; we got to snuggle into a comfy bus, and could walk to our hostel, Kabul (apparently famous, although I found it pretty damn grimy in comparison to the glorious Wombats in Vienna), in Plaça Reial.
After checking in, I led Danny immediately to the heavenly Buen Bocado for a revisit to the fabled spicy-falafel-with-mint. Just as good as I remembered. We hobbled our stuffed selves over to nearby Oviso for some killer mojitos and called it a night after a couple of hours.
Friday was awesome: after essentially a hunk of bread and some butter and a little coffee sludge at the hostel (oh, how I missed the chocolate coffee and peanut butter of yore...), we wandered over to the Boqueria marketplace and found a stall bursting with color and fruity fragrance - it was a juice vendor, who sold a cup of inconceivably fresh, pure fruit juice for €1, in TONS of flavors - mango, strawberry, orange, kiwi, pineapple, coconut... We finally settled on a raspberry and a kiwi and were endlessly happy with our dirt-cheap breakfasts. We stopped at Richard Meier's sleek MACBA building for some sketching/photo-shooting on our way to Danny's first encounter with the famed Barcelona Pavilion. He was, to say the least, awed, and so psyched to be there - it made me appreciate it all over again. After hiding from the cold in the cozy book shop for probably longer than is culturally acceptable, we set out in search of La Champañería, a boisterous cava-and-tapas bar in Barceloneta which was recommended to me by Arielle's Spanish roommate Paola. All I have to say is : THANK YOU, PAOLA.
I must admit the place was COMPLETELY overwhelming upon first glance - the crowd was spilling out onto the street and there wasn't an inch to move once inside; you had to push and elbow your way to the bar for a good 15 minutes before you could even find a square foot to get an order in. But once we found our little spot, wedged between our neighbors, we managed to order a greasy, sloppy bocadillo stuffed with jamón serrano, queso manchego, pimiento (a giant grilled green pepper) and cipolla (grilled onion), a plate of glistening chorizo hunks, and the house specialty, a €3 bottle of cava rosada, or pink champagne. The chorizo - greasy, snappy, all around phenomenal. The sandwich - I mean, just read the ingredients. HEAVEN. And the cava was so delicious that we promptly bought two more bottles to go, and I FULLY intend to order a case of it back to LA when I get home. It was THAT good.
Buzzed, stuffed, yet determined to go on, we took a lengthy stroll along the coast, stopping to watch the sunset and again to admire Frank Gehry's enormous fish sculpture. Finally, we headed back to the Barri Gòtic, stopping at a teeny charming bar, who's cozy atmosphere ALMOST made up for the too-sour, made-from-a-powder-mix mojitos. Hey, you win some, you lose some, right?
Saturday was architcture overload: having never seen any Gaudí before, Danny set off to see the Sagrada Família, as well as the Fòrum, a modern building housing hundreds of models of the city of Barcelona, as it is now and as imagined by different architects, while I opted out of the architectural biznass in favor of some good, old-fashioned self indulgence: a trip to the major flea market, Mercat del Encants, followed by some clothing- and chocolate-shopping in the Barri Gòtic. After some near-perilous loss of communication (the map-less Danny's phone died, leaving me to basically panic, imagining him dead in a gutter), we were happily reunited at Gaudí's famous Parc Güell (SO exciting for me, as I'd missed it on BOTH of my previous visits to Barcelona), where we shared on of our precious bottles of cava rosada while overlooking the entire city and coastline of Barcelona, iced in pink frosting due to the unusually spectacular sunset. The city was sure showing off for us...
We headed back to the hostel to recharge and get primped before a balls-out evening of authentic tapas - tortilla española, champiñones, pimientos, gambas al ajillo (or garlic shrimp), chorizo (far inferior to La Champañería's) pan con tomate, and a pitcher of sangría, to be specific - followed by Danny's virgin voyage into the magical world of absinthe, experienced nowhere other than Marsella, of course. We managed to snag a table and by the time it was sufficiently crammed with people and laced with tobacco smoke, we had mutilated enough sugar cubes for one night and headed to bed.
Sunday turned out to be a longer day than expected - we didn't realize that our plane didn't depart until around 9pm, so we got a full extra day of sightseeing in. We packed up in the morning and grabbed a strawberry-banana-mango-pineapple-orange juice at my old standby from fall break, La Bordinys, on our way to check out the wavy, technicolor roof of the Mercat d'Santa Caterina. Next we wandered past the Gaudí housing projects, the Casa Battló and La Pedrera, and by the time we made it back to the Barri Gòtic, we had worked up enough of an appetite to inhale probably one of the richest street foods you can find, who's saccharine aroma had been beckoning us the whole weekend - a belgian waffle (but a REAL one, the kind that are small but super-dense and buttery) topped with chocolate sauce, a sprinkling of candied hazelnuts, and a giant scoop of dulce de leche gelato, the one flavor that the Italians refuse to tackle. You'd think we would stop there, but oh no, we made a special trip down to Buen Bocado to grab two MORE falafel to go, to eat later at Parc de la Ciutadella.
After a substantial amount of bench-parking and rampant gluttony, we still had a good couple of hours to kill, so Danny decided to take me back to the Fòrum, becuase he couldn't stop talking about it and was dying for me to see it. And boy, was I glad I did - that place was SO amazing. The building itself was so inventive, and the interior was basically an ode to the awesomeness of Barcelona - countless models of different plazas and proposed building projects throughout the city, including one expansive model of the ENTIRE city, from mountains to sea, from river to river, which occupied an entire ROOM. Plus, there was this awesome project called 24-Hour Barcelona, in which cameras were set up in ten major locations throughout the city (for instance, there was one filming the Plaça Reial, one filming the Boquería market, one filming the turnstyles in a major Metro stop, etc etc) and the footage was sped up so that one 24-hour cycle could be viewed in one minute - SUCH an innovative way to look at the rhythms of a city. One second it would be dark and empty, then suddenly the sunrise would come splashing across the screen, along with floods of people, only to taper down after the flash of sunset until a moment of stillness the moment before the sun rose again. It really was quite beautiful.
But alas, it was time to go pick up our bags and head back to the reality of midterms, packing, and saying goodbye. But what a fantastic memory to have and experience to have shared with such a great companion. Adios, Barcelona - until we meet again!