When we got to the airport in Barrrrrthelona (the only way I allowed myself to pronounce the city's name while we were there...), the sun said, "Bienvenidos!" Sunshine might not seem like a big deal to anyone back home, but it has been rare in gray gray France, so when we finally saw some in Spain, it was miraculous. And methinks a good omen! We all sang and danced a little jig. Everyone instinctively knows we're American anyway-- no harm in drawing more attention, right?
After lugging our stuff to the shuttle bus stop, we paid a whopping 4.25 Euros to get to Placa Catalunya (that's as far as the bus would go) and at that lovely pigeon-filled square, we got incredibly lost for a ridiculous amount of time. We tried for several minutes to figure out the maps of all the bus routes, but they made absolutely no sense. I'm convinced that you have to channel Einstein to read bus maps and schedules. Especially in Barcelona. We ended up asking an info desk for tourists (twice) how to get to our hostel. They told us to take the metro. Ahhh, the metro. How you have become my friend in so many cities! It's cheaper in both Barcelona and Madrid to ride the metro than it is in Paris. In fact, everything was cheaper in Spain...friggin' Frenchies...
So, we take the metro to Barceloneta—a little peninsula of restaurants and super meerkats (haha- a.k.a. supermarkets in Catalan- 'supermercat')--that eventually leads to the beach where our hostel is. At this point I was really sick of pulling my stupid suitcase around and carrying my messenger bag that felt a lot heavier than when I left Orleans (I didn't really buy much in Amsterdam...), and I was definitely regretting not having a backpack like the other girls. Stupid me. I am the worst packer ever. I truly brought the most idiotic junk possible to France. I have so much advice to give future study abroad students.
Anyway, we fiiiinally get to Sea Point Hostel. As the name suggests, it's right on the beach!!! Sweet! The inside is wonderfully light and airy- lots of pale blues and yellows. In the little room next to the reception desk, there are a couple of couches and three computers with free internet! That was a definitely a comfort to have while we were there. Especially because they're open 24-hours. There are also some little sea-related paintings on the walls of the hostel, but my favorite part of the decor---Alice in Wonderland quotes pasted on the walls! So quirky and adorable. Love love.
We asked for some advice from the nice reception desk lady (I definitely called her the 'front lady desk' at some point while we were there...as my foreign language skills improve, my English deteriorates), and she told us that the Magic Fountain (the one place you told me to go, Mom) was closed and kind of lame and she pointed out all the major shopping districts, sketchy areas, and tourist sights. Very helpful. This hostel seemed a lot more laid-back and personable than the Bull Dog in Amsterdam. Well, the Bull Dog was definitely laid-back, but in a...stoned way, not in an I-live-on-the-beach-because-I-take-life-easy way.
Starving, and after learning that all of the restaurants on Barceloneta were pretty much the same, we finally just picked one at random and sat down--outside! It was lovely! Although, I'll confess that my toes did start to freeze because I was wearing flip flops (Kelley and I wanted to put our feet in the sand as we were heading to the restaurant). Well my friends, sunshine does not = warmth. Blast. But lunch was tasty and expensive. I ordered pollo (that sounds more exciting and Spanish than if I had just written "chicken") and a coke (I had learned by this time that there is no point in ordering water if it costs the same as a coke! That's at least one thing France has over the rest of Europe- free water- woo). During our first Spanish meal, I had already managed to horrify our waitress with my grossly inept use of her language and I even found time to embarrass myself by cracking up a British couple next to us with my loud American antics (I was reading an informational map about Barcelona and when I read that Gaudi died by getting run over by the tram, I might have shouted, "HOW DO YOU GET RUN OVER BY THE TRAM?")...
After lunch, Kelley and I went out exploring by the beach. We took a walk along the boardwalk (oh yes, we sang the song) and on the street-side, we saw that a (possibly flamenco?) dance class was in session! So cool! We saw them dancing twice in that building while we were there (the second time looked like a hip hop class)- I wish we could have joined them! I want to take so many dance classes when I get back home. I've probably been watching too many So You Think You Can Dance youtube clips lately...That show is intense.
Anyway, after strolling down the boardwalk some more and wishing we had bicycles like the rest of Europe, we then stepped down to the beach where a group of nifty-looking lounge chairs and a small space of exercise equipment (where some Spanish guy doing chin-ups was definitely trying to impress Kelley and me) led to a large, rocky platform. At the start of the platform there was a no-people sign. On my first day in Barcelona, I broke the law. Somebody else was already out on that platform anyway and as we walked across it, all of the large rocks and cement blocks were painted or sculpted with various animals, skulls, etc. Clearly that platform was made for people to see! It was an exhibition! Silly signs...silly laws...je suis francais maintenant! Vive la revolution!
We sat by the rocks, watching the loverly sunset, and then we went back to the boardwalk-- all the way down to the harbor. Oh the splendiferous architecture we saw along the way! And not just Gaudi's either. Just along the beach, there are several interesting buildings like this ginormous copper fish (constructed for the 1992 Olympics), a big face sculpture (titled "David and Goliath"), a colorful statue from the Paralympics and a neato tower/memorial whose plaque I could not understand (Catalan is even more difficult to read than Spanish). We also found a cute little shopping area in the ritzy part of town whose third floor provides a nice view of the harbor. Since it had gotten dark, we went back to the hostel to meet up with Laura.
At the hostel, we made some new friends! Americans! New Yorkers! They were also on break from school in Paris. Veronica and Gary. Gary said his name was easy to remember because all one need do is think of the snail in SpongeBob. :) Anyway, they had already been in Barcelona for a little while and they told us to come with them to Tarantos for our first night- it's a flamenco dance show popular with tourists (flamenco dance definitely didn't come from Barcelona...haha). And it was only 6 Euros! So, of course we agreed and went with the Yankees to Tarantos! ;)
On the way there, we saw the famous Columbus monument. Too bad it was already dark- I couldn't even see the top of the statue. Despite the poor lighting, we decided it would be classy to take lots of pictures sitting on top of the lions around the monument. The flamenco show wasn't scheduled to start for a while, so we probably spent way too long doing our sassy little photo shoot, but what can you do? We are American tourists. Ooh- that reminds me- I found this written along Port Vell one night---
I found out later that written right next to "tourist terrorist", somebody wrote, "Do you not know how the economy works?" BAHAHAHAHA
Show time! Although we were early getting to Tarantos, we got distracted and ended up getting in line to buy tickets kind of late, so we had some semi-crappy seats to the left of the stage where the 10-foot band member who plays a box (he beats it with his hands and feet) blocked my view half the time. Alas.
First, the band- consisting of a wicked cool singer, an amazing guitar player, a bluesy bass player and the box guy- played some awesome songs (you can listen to them here: http://www.masimas.com/tarantos/0_0/INI/default.htm) and then the first dancer finally came. She. Was. So. Intense. In flamenco, you're supposed to feel the music, and boy howdy, you could tell she was dancing from her soul. I'm surprised the floor held up with how fast and hard she and the others stomped on it. I took some mini-videos of her, but they turned out kind of cruddy because I just wanted to watch. Maybe I'll try posting them when my internet is working better.
Then. Then then then. The love of my life came on stage. Oh goodness- I didn't know men could dance like that- and in a suit no less! This guy could make any woman "flood" the room, as Laura would say. Hahahahaha- so many inappropriate jokes. Love-of-my life liked to do this move where he would quickly remove part of his jacket from his shoulder on one or both sides and then he would put it back immediately--it was incredibly attractive, but difficult to describe. At one point during this heartthrob move, Laura, who was sitting in front of me, turned around at the same time I was reaching over to her because we were both going to tell each other, "Cause of death", but we ended up bumping heads. Haha- "cause of death" is another inside joke that's probably best not to explain here...
Oh goodness- I seriously would have done lots of really horrible/immoral things to dance with love-of-my-life, but as fate would have it, he was wearing a wedding ring. Slash...he was kind of old. But dude. He made me literally weak in the knees. Haha
To finish it off, a little girl danced flamenco so well, it should be humanly impossible. She was probably 4 or 5-years-old. My life has no meaning.
We all floated back to the hostel on a cloud, getting some goodies at the grocery store nearby before going to bed. I bought clementines, Spanish pastries and chocolate milk. I have some serious health issues.
J'ai fini day one of Barcelona. Geez. This is going to have to come in installments.