Juice, gypsies and cheap booze

Trip Start Aug 09, 2009
Trip End Oct 28, 2009

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Flag of Spain  , Catalonia,
Monday, August 24, 2009

Barcelona – Day 1 – Monday 24th August – Took off for Barcelona today, driving through the Pyrenees Mountains and making a stop in Andorra for some duty free shopping on the way.

Andorra is the capital of the small country of Andorra in the Pyrenees where people go to duty free shop or to ski. It is about 2 ˝ hours from Barcelona.

We wandered around the shops of Andorra checking out the prices of all the duty free items. We found that most things weren’t all that much cheaper than at home, except for alcohol and cigarettes. By the way, it is amazing how many people smoke in Europe!

We left Andorra with our hands full, we bought 700ml bottle of Glayva, 700ml bottle of Frangelico, 1 litre of White Port and a 1 litre bottle of Cointreau and the lot cost us about $60 Australian!! Bargain.

It was beautiful driving through the mountains on the way to Barcelona, the scenery was so pretty and full of those little storybook houses.

We arrived in Barcelona about 4:30pm and went on a driving tour around the city. We saw Gaudi’s La Familia, the church that was started in the late 1800’s and they don’t expect to finish for at least another 40 years. We also went up to the Olympic stadium where there are amazing views over the city.

We checked into our hotel after that and it was so nice! The rooms were really modern and so big! We were all a bit excited!

After dinner that night we were all planning a bit of a big night, but first we had to do our laundry. Witek, Toby, Dawn and I found a Laundromat online that was about 4.5km away so we all shared a cab there. It was tucked away down this laneway full of dingy looking shops and I was honestly a little wary walking down there. While we were waiting for our laundry we got talking to a couple of locals who had the most beautiful little 6 month old girl! She had these gorgeous big brown eyes and olive skin, so cute!!

We went back to our hotel and got showered and changed for our night out then headed off to meet the rest of the group. We were meeting at midnight and our tour leader was going to take us to a local club she knew.

The club was at the top of a few flights of stairs and had a good crowd. The drinks were expensive but the spirits were free pours. I ordered a vodka and lemonade and the girl almost filled the glass with vodka! I had two of those and I was feeling a bit cheery! Everyone got a bit merry that night and let their hair down and it was good to see people who were normally a bit quiet come out of their shell. Most people headed home around 3am and were a bit slow to rise in the morning!

Day 2 – Tuesday 25th August – We were supposed to get up and meet Dawn and Toby for breakfast at 8.30am before heading off to do the Fat Tire Bike Tour of Barcelona. Unfortunately (partially thanks to those vodkas!) we slept through our alarm and awoke to a knock on our door. Witek got up to check and there was no one there but we discovered it was 9am! We quickly threw on some clothes and rushed downstairs to see if Dawn and Toby were still there, fortunately they were. It was them that knocked on our door as a joke cos they thought we would be downstairs waiting for them! I was glad we weren’t the only ones to oversleep!

The Fat Tire Bike Tour in Barcelona was just as good as the other two. This one was taken by an Aussie guy called Buddha – true story! He also had a gorgeous pet dingo named Stretch who he had found as a stray when he was a pup. Beautiful dog but was very timid, a bit like Kelsie.

The tour took us to lots of historical sites around Barcelona and showed us some of the amazing architecture. Barcelona is full of beautiful buildings and monuments. I particularly liked the fountain we saw in the park, really beautiful. Apparently Gaudi was an apprentice working on the fountain before he made a name for himself.

We stopped for lunch on the man made beach they put together when they hosted the Olympics in 1992. There is a little café there that Buddha takes his tours to. This was where we had our first Sangria in Spain! It was really refreshing and cool after a day of bike riding.

When we got back to the bike tour office Buddha gave us some tips of things to see and do, but first we had to go on a hunt for the ’24 Hour Shoes’. Dawn’s friend had a pair of these shoes and apparently they are designed to be so comfortable they feel like slippers. I kinda liked the sound of that so I was happy to join the hunt! The boys perhaps weren’t as keen, but were happy to tag along for a little while.

We headed for the shopping district Buddha had told us about and started venturing into shoe shops. This was my time to shine with my Year 9 Spanish skills!

After 5 shops and a department store we finally found them in the second department store we ventured into. There were many designs but unfortunately for us they were all very ugly! Bit of a disappointment since Dawn had been talking about these shoes for days, but there wasn’t much we could do about it.

We then went to La Ramblas, the main tourist street in Barcelona which is full of street performers, shops, souvenirs and pick pocketers. Witek got very tired of me repeatedly asking him to make sure he had his hand on our bag at all times!

There is a middle strip in the street where a lot of kiosk type shops are set up and most people walk down. It was a fascinating place, there were plenty of those buskers that dress up as statues and sit there trying not to move. There were also heaps of outdoor pet shops! They were selling some strange pets, we saw hamsters, goldfish, turtles, chinchillas, chameleons, iguanas, squirrels and so many more!

About halfway down there is a food market that Buddha had told us to visit, which I thought was a bit weird. Why would we be interested in a food market? But whatever, we went to check it out and it was amazing!!! The fruit was all arranged in such a bright and colourful way! There were butcher shops selling tripe, cow heads, kidneys and all sorts of other things that made me scrunch up my nose! The seafood was so fresh and colourful, the cockles did bother me a little when Witek and I realized they were still alive and moving though – yuck! There were lolly shops selling the most interesting lollies and again, all arranged so beautifully! There was marzipan fruit, dried fruit, fresh fruit every type of fruit!

Most of the fruit stalls also sold cups of fresh juice in different combinations such as strawberry and banana, mango and coconut, raspberry and apple….the combinations were endless and you could find new ones at each stall. They were only a euro each so we all tried a couple and they were delicious! They looked great all lined up in the ice ready for sale too.

By now it was after 5pm and we were supposed to meet for a flamenco show at 8:45pm and we wanted to have dinner first. We were originally planning on dinner afterwards but when we found out the show wasn’t until late we decided to go before. Problem was that we needed to tell Tony and Narelle and somebody (ok, me) had forgotten their room number after those vodkas last night! I was sure they were on the 8th floor though, so we went up there to have a wander around and see if we could find them.

I walked up and down the hall calling their names in the hope they were in their room and would hear me, but no such luck. I also knocked on a couple of doors I thought were right, but no luck!

We had to give up cos we were running out of time, so we went back to our rooms to get ready and agreed to knock on each others door when we were ready.

We had also seen Dan at lunchtime and invited him to dinner but we didn’t know which room he was in either so we had to let it go.

We were ready first and Witek went to knock on Toby and Dawn’s door while I checked our bank balance online. When he came back he told me he had seen Tony and Narelle in the hall! They were literally staying halfway between our room and Toby and Dawn’s! Couldn’t believe it.

I ran down to their room to apologize for forgetting their room number and just to say hello. At least we found them though and they could come to dinner!

On the way back to our room who should I see but Dan! He was practically opposite Tony and Narelle’s room! So I told him what was going on and we all got organized and headed out to dinner.

We went to a place just off La Ramblas that Toby’s boss had recommended. When we were talking to Buddha earlier that day he had told us that it was the restaurant where a lot of the chefs would go after they had finished training so the food was really good but not too expensive.

I guess we weren’t the only ones to find out about this place as when we got there it was just about to open and there was a line of about 50 people out the front waiting to get in! We were able to get a table for the seven of us though and say down to enjoy a great meal. 6 of us ordered the Paella and it came out on a huge pan  in the middle of the table for us to share and it tasted great! Full of fresh seafood and meats, yum!

After dinner we went and met the rest of our tour group to see a flamenco show. It was in a small club just around the corner from the restaurant so we were there in no time.

The show was great, the dancing was at the beginning and then in the middle the band performed on their own and the dancers came back out at the end. The dancers were amazing, they had so much passion! Really enjoyed it, Witek and I are even thinking about doing flamenco lessons when we get back!

One of the band members had a little boy who almost stole the show. He was near the stage in front of some of our group and had a lot to say during the performance! He was dancing around and singing and playing with his matchbox cars. We were all having a bit of a giggle, so cute!

After the show most of us went out for tapas. I know we had already eaten, but this was our last night in Spain and we hadn’t had tapas yet! So we found a place on La Ramblas and went in for sangria and tapas. I was a bit disappointed as I think we had unwittingly entered a chain restaurant so the food wasn’t that great.

It was time for bed after that so we wandered down the street to get a cab, stopping for gelati on the way. So much gelati has been consumed on this trip!
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