It's not Spain, it's Catalunya!

Trip Start Sep 08, 2009
Trip End Nov 24, 2009

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Hostal Malda

Flag of Spain and Canary Islands  , Catalonia,
Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hello everyone!

We made it to Barcelona yesterday morning! We took the night train from Granada. It was kind of grueling. We were in seats that hardly recline for almost 12 hours. It was hard to sleep and when you do finally fall asleep you wake up with a sore neck because your head always has to go on one side while you're sleeping. And we were by the door between train cars so everytime someone went through one it was kind of loud. But we finally made it!

We didn’t know where we were going to stay because no couchsurfer people had gotten back to us yet so that was our mission. From the train station we took a metro to a stop near a hostel we’d read about in our Rick Steves guidebook- a place that takes no reservations, only walk-ins. We found the hostel in the center of the old Barri Gotic neighborhood, in a busy shopping alley. They had a room for us, in a quiet retirement community-like hostel. When you enter you see old furniture and a cat (later Michelle found out her name is Michi!). It’s crazy how loud it is downstairs with all the people everywhere but up at our hostel it’s totally quiet and peaceful.

We spent the first day going on a walk down the famous Ramblas street. It’s packed full of people (tourists and locals alike) with no cars at all because it’s purely pedestrians. The Ramblas divides the old and new town because it’s where the old city walls used to be. There’s a ton of bizarre street performers, sketchy ethnic single men standing on corners waiting to pick pockets and prey on absent-minded tourists, and kiosks with things from flowers to live chickens (and turtles). The street is also lined with concert halls, opera houses, old Baroque churches, restaurants, and some more modern buildings. At the end of the Ramblas is the harbor and a huge 200 foot Christopher Columbus monument (where apparently King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel welcomed Columbus home from his voyage to the New World). On our Ramblas walk we stopped at a famous family-run dessert, cheese, and light meal eatery. We finally had Spanish flan (Michelle’s been wanting flan for weeks) and real dark hot chocolate. It was straight melted dark chocolate (lightly sweetened) in a fancy cup. I don’t know if we wrote this in our blog last year, but when we were in Paris we went to a famous restaurant that serves straight up hot chocolate (our friend B. Trem recommended it to us) and it was the best hot chocolate we’d ever had. This place here in Barcelona was pretty close to being as good.

Today we did a walk from a main plaza called Catalunya (this is the capital for 7 million Catalunyans- meaning it is the spot for Spanish people from this region in Spain- called Catalunyans) to the big Barcelona Cathedral. It is a huge, Catalunyan gothic style church. We went during a free entry time so it was beyond crowded, but still really cool. Below the main altar there is a crypt holding the sarcophagus of a patron saint of Barcelona: a 13-year-old girl who was tortured 13 times by Romans for her faith. She was finally crucified on a cross by the Romans. It is really sad to think about and sad to see her sarcophagus (which had detailed etchings of what happened to her).

We also went to a city history museum that had an excavated part of the Roman days in Barcelona. It was founded before Christ. It was a huge area of ruins (right underneath the modern part of the building). We got to take an elevator down to that level and walk around the underground Roman city on a bridge that was the level to it all, but not touching anything (they want to preserve it of course). We saw laundry areas, fish salting areas, wine-making areas, etc. It was all extremely old stone and you could see carvings that were fully preserved. It was pretty amazing seeing all of that underground. It only makes you imagine how much is still undiscovered underground all over the city.

A funny thing we saw today was when we were walking down a street, through a crowd, and this little boy came riding by us on a bicycle. He was wobbling all around because he was obviously very new to bike-riding and he got stuck behind a slow moving couple. He didn’t know what to do because he was wobbling so much that if he went any slower he’d tip over and he was holding on to the handle bars so tight (out of fear for falling) that he couldn’t reach over to ring the bell on the bike, so to alert the couple in front of him, he said, "Ring Ring!" All the while almost running into them and getting scolded for it by the gestures of the old angry Spaniard. We had a good laugh as the cute little boy rode off, wobbling down the street.

We have yet to see any real Goudi but we will have our fill soon enough. Tomorrow we are heading to the beach but the day after we are going to see some Goudi sites and his famous La Segrada de Familia.

-Andre and Michelle-
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