On the second leg of our European tour, Jess and I left the UK and set out for Barcelona, in the Catalonia region of Spain. Nearly all of the 7 million people in Catalonia speak Catalan as their primary language, as well as Spanish. In Barcelona, the majority of people speak and understand some English, which was very helpful to us, since our Spanish was minimal and our Catalan non-existent. Most restaurants offered English menus. None of them offered tap water.
We arrived via Ryanair in Reus, a 90 minute bus ride from Barcelona. From the bus we hesitantly found our way, via subway and foot, to our hostel which, unsurprisingly, lacked air conditioning. It was a hot night. Even hotter for Jessica, because while I went to bed, she made friends with other wanderers and accompanied them to a local shot bar.
What you are seeing is alcohol spread across the bar, lit on fire, and patrons roasting marshmallows on the flames. Not pictured: people licking whipped cream from large rubber phalluses. Because that’s just not something we need to picture.
The next morning we headed out to meet up with Kevin and his travel companion Dmitry. Together we checked out La Rambla, the main tourist walk. Packed with tourists, tourist restaurants, caricature artists, and a whole mess of silly “living statues,” we quickly had enough. Then we found something far more amazing: La Boqueria.
This massive covered market, just off La Rambla, was a food paradise. Stand after stand of fresh produce, meats, nuts and berries, fish, and on and on. I just wanted to *cook* something, but sadly we lacked a kitchen. Here’s another picture. Above, Kevin is in meat heaven.
We spent much of the rest of the day wandering around more of the city. We tried to enter a local megachurch landmark, but were denied because the female in our party lacked a shoulder covering. We also tried to lunch at a restaurant, only to find that (typical around here) it did not open until 2pm. We went and saw Port Vell, a pier/shopping complex, for Kevin and Dmitry’s benefit, since Jess and I had explored it the day before. There we found a very good place to eat, and had our first of several means of tapas.
The tall statue in the rear of this photograph is a monument to Christopher Columbus, a genocidal villain whom many cultures attempt to claim as their own. When Shaina visited this city she took a picture of herself giving Columbus the raised middle finger in front of this very statue. We replicated the photo with Jessica, but it was spoiled by an utterly bewildered woman in the background gawking at this incongruity. Alas.
The ostensible instigator of this whole European misadventure is one Matthew Travis (err, not this one…). J and I rendezvoused with said Mr. T at his fancy hotel far away from the city center (and right next to Camp Nou, a large football stadium with a relevance to be explained shortly) and stole a key card to his room, where we would camp out in the lap of luxury on someone else’s decime (dime).
Here is the MT in question, admiring a very admirable vending machine.
But said vending machine admiration was yet to come, as Mat was whisked away by van early the next morning to continue preparation for his oh-so-mysterious event. Meanwhile we, fortified with a fancy hotel breakfast, were off for a day of Gaudí sightseeing. By which I mean Antoni Gaudí the famous architect and local hero, who created amazing things like this:
We began our Gaudí quest by traveling to Park Güell, in the north of the city. There we snacked on meats, cheeses, bread, and fruit that K&D picked up at La Boqueria that morning. Apparently the area where we feasted had previously hosted an America’s Next Top Model runway show. Go figure.
More photos from Park Güell:
Dmitry walks a lonely road – This is going to be the cover for his solo album
Resting on beautiful benches on the main terrace. They are shaped like a sea serpent.
Jess takes a turn on the dragon fountain
And of course there is always time for frisbee, even on a big crowded terrace at a famous park full of confused onlookers!
Next we took a very crowded bus down to see Casa Milà, a Gaudí apartment complex (pictured above). The building is both fanciful and super-functional: there are no load-bearing walls, so the tenants could rearrange rooms at will; every room in every apartment (with the exception of the maid’s bedroom) has ample natural light from outward-facing windows and interior courtyards; and the attic, composed of brick catenary arches, was built to accommodate equipment as well as provide ventilation and temperature control. (Here is me in the attic, and here is Kevin on the roof.) The interior courtyards look like this, viewed from the roof:
Out final Gaudí “questination” was his famous Sagrada Família, where we met up with Mat.
This massive and beautiful cathedral was to be Gaudí’s masterpiece, but he was killed before it could be completed. Construction began in 1882, and has continued, off and on, until present day. They expect to have it done in 20 years or so but, as Gaudí once remarked, "my client is not in a hurry." Here’s another view and here’s an interior shot.
Jessica got a shot of some wall scrawl in women’s restroom at the cathedral. It reads, “it is a beautiful design, but I wish it wasn’t a Catholic church. I wish it as a rock concert hall!”
Fitting, since that night, we went and saw a rock concert. It was in a soccer stadium, which was cool, but it would have been even cooler in a huge gothic cathedral.
Our final full day in Barcelona was Sunday, July 20th. On this day we visited the Picasso Museum (no pictures allowed), followed by a few hours relaxing on a well-used beach (no pictures with my camera, due to sand), where there was some more frisbee to be had in the surf. Interspersed was some gelato and some more tapas but, due to some overeagerness on the part of one of our travel companions, no paella by the beach, as previously planned. Alas, perhaps next time?
That evening we attended a *second* rock concert, because the first was just so awesome. But beforehand — you guessed it — more frisbee! Specifically, we all (including Mat) tossed a bit in the parking lot that housed the tour busses, trucks, and vans. One of which I accidentally hit. Whoops.
Then inside for the main event, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band! Our backstage passes got us into various backstage office-type areas, which really aren’t as exciting as some people might expect, and then into the front of the pit for the concert itself. I gather that the American venues, with a much larger contingent of backstage pass-holders, have a suitably more exciting backstage setup. Anyway, here’s what the audience looks like from near the stage.
And here is what our man Bruce looks like when he comes right out to us to mingle.
The Boss is taking song requests from the crowd, printed on cardboard signs. Later in the program he would deviate from the pre-planned set list to play some crowd favorites, with the band (and lighting guys) admirably keeping up with the ever-changing plan.
Jess and I bid adieu to Kevin, Dmitry, Mat, and Mat’s sister Keira before the encore so that we could get back to the hotel and get some sleep before our early flight out. Poor Mat had to stay behind to an ungodly hour doing load out so that the show could get back on the road. So of course we woke him up in the morning to say goodbye. And as we were getting our stuff together to leave, he passed out on the bed and stayed out. As was his right.