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Flag of Spain  , Catalonia,
Saturday, May 21, 2011

In 2002 Valencia built a huge "City Center" area towards the end of the park were the river used to be.  It is a huge complex of museums, science centers, and stuff like that.  They are all in huge abstract buildings surrounded by pools and bridges.  We haven't seen too much modern stuff on our trip, so when we first caught sight of it, we were amazed.  The main reason we came to Valencia is to go to the aquarium that is part of it called L'Oceanografic.  It is the biggest aquarium in Europe, and is supposed to be one of the best in the world.  We walked along the park to get to the aquarium and the whole area is just amazing.  In the park there is a giant playground made to look like Guiliver from Guiliver's Travels with a million kids climbing all over him playing.  There is a small river going through the center, a shallow pool where people throw balls in the water and have there dogs chase after them, a cafe (where we had breakfast), and tons of plants, trees and flowers.  Once we got past the park, the buildings were even more amazing.  I don't know a good way to explain them, but they were huge and completely original.  You'll just have to see the pictures I guess.Surprisingly, the smallest building was the aquarium.  After waiting in line for our tickets we found that most of it is outside or underground.  It was an amazing aquarium, and absolutely worth the trip.  The tanks were gigantic and sparkling clean.  I've been to quite a few aquariums and zoos, but there were many things I have never seen before in my life.  Some of the exhibits were large underground rooms where the entire room is one large tank that wraps around, then follows down a tunnel to another room where it wound wrap completely around it, all completely open for the fish to go wherever they want.  One of these was filled with dozens of huge sharks, giant rays, morray eels, hundreds and hundreds of big fish in schools, and this one fish that had to have been about 4 feet tall but thin and goofy looking that I have never seen before.There were also beluga whales, walruses, seals, a couple kinds of penguins (warm and cold), you name it if it swims it was probably there.  At 3:30 there was a dolphin show that we decided would be a good way to end the day there.  One the way to the stadium a guy was standing with a huge hawk on his arm.  He had us stand in front of him and sent the bird of prey flying on top of a lightpost nearby.  Then he had Jacki and I hold both or our hands out together making a (small) circle between us.  Then he blew a whistle and the hawk dived off the post, flew through our arms, and back to the guy.  It was awesome.The dolphin show started with them playing Shakira and the whole crowd going nuts.  It was a great show too.  There where around 10 dolphins jumping and doing tricks everywhere, along with a some high divers imitating them.  Unfortunately after the show we had to take off and catch a train to Barcelona.  We took a cab to the train station, we've gotten lazy, but it turned out it was lucky we did, since it turns out there are two big train stations in town and the one we came in on would have been the wrong one.  We got on the train no problem, but unfortunately they only had a few seats left so we had to sit in separate cars.  It was a long 3 hour ride and it was packed full, but everyone around me was friendly and fun.  The guy sitting next to me was blasting M.C. Hammer on his headphones.  Like we said when we saw the Pope in Rome, Spainish speaking people are usually just fun and crazy.  After about two hours I walked back to visit Jacki and found that she had an open seat next to her the whole time.  She was reading her book and completely enthralled with it.  She also didn't realize that almost the entire time we have been traveling the ocean and beaches were out the right window (some times so close it seemed like we were on a boat), she just never looked up.  Her car was equally exciting.  Everyone was loud and a lady started signing opera and when she was done everyone clapped.Our first impression of Barcelona wasn't the best.  We were waiting to get on the metro train to take us into town from the train station.  Once the train pulled up a guy walked up to the door by us.  When the train opened he tried to let Jacki go through first, since he just kind of pushed his way up she made him go first, then he stopped right away and let her walk by.  From there he started pointing at this guy sitting down saying "Hey Carlos" (this guy definitely wasn't Carlos) but his arm was blocking my way to get on the train.  I could tell something weird was going on.  I ended up literally pushing the guy out of the way, and as I did out of the corner of my eye I saw a couple of guys approaching me fast.  As soon as I got on the train, all three of them jumped out of the car before it started moving.  Pickpockets.  We didn't really realize it until after the fact.  They picked pretty bad targets though, because it would have been almost impossible for them to get anything, we're still pretty pickpocket proof, although we had let our guard down.
Barcelona is a huge city of around 2 million people.  The main tourist part of town is called the Ramblas, which is a long wide street that has a walking path down the middle.  When we got there tonight (Saturday) it was absolutely packed.  Right from the metro stop there were a bunch of guys selling fake purses and just thousands of people strolling down the street in both directions.  This is our last stop before going home, and we had booked this hotel before leaving.  The hotel is in the Gothic quarter, which is a really cool area with old buildings and dark streets that cars can't go down.  The problem was that when we booked this hotel we must have thought we'd never actually make it this far in our trip, because we didn't save any direction or maps.  All we knew was that it was near the cathedral.  We squeezed our way through all the people and found signs for the cathedral and headed that way.  Standing outside the cathedral, it was around 9:30pm, we had no idea where to go.  Then I saw it right on the corner.  I couldn't believe we found it so easy.  We went inside, and found out it wasn't the right hotel, just one with a similar name.  Either way, they directed us to our hotel which was right around the corner (but not quite as nice.)  Our luck is catching up to us.  
For dinner we wandered around, not sure what we wanted to do.  We've done Spanish food almost every day, so when we found an Indian restaurant we decided to mix it up.  It was a good choice.  
Besides our first near robbing, Barcelona looks like it is going to be a fun town.
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