Sagrada Familia, getting Gaudi in Barcelona

If I ever make a bucket list, mass in a completed Sagrada Familia will be up near the top.  I have been inside twice, and the second time was just as breathtaking as the first.  In terms of photography it has been overshot but that does not take away why it is one of the biggest tourist draws to the city of Barcelona.

While on a bike tour of Barcelona I talked about the church so much that it changed the plans of a few people that were on the tour.  If you are ever in Barcelona, this church is a priority of awesome touristy things you will talk about after your trip is over.

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RazzMatazz… The best worst club I have ever been too

The saying “best club in Europe” gets thrown around a lot when you are traveling for a month.  It seems that every city has the well known clubs with the huge covers, huge lines, and way to many other Americans.

Razzmatazz was supposed to be the anti-tourist spot during our time in Barcelona.  An authentic Spanish night club loved by locals but not frequented by the endless sea of tourists that flock to Barcelona.  While discussing plans we heard things like “3 separate DJ’s, Crazy rooftop bar, cheap drinks”.  We went 0 for 3 in those categories.  Spirits were high on the line as we were walking in because no one was speaking English.  As we walked in a very eccentric DJ was on the main booth playing of all things a Miley Cyrus song (a guilty pleasure of mine when out) I thought of this as the best possible start.   We figured lets do a lap around the whole place before we settled in the first room, because there should be 3 DJs…  As we walked through the entire complex there were 0 DJ’s, and when we reached the rooftop section it was nothing more than a glorified smoking area with a halfway decent view.

At this point we are still good to go, I mean the first song was “Party in the USA”.  It’s the forth of July, things are good.  As we ordered our 9 Euro drinks (cheaper than the 10 Euro drinks from the night before) I had to laugh to myself, as I started to realize that the choice was not a wise one to leave the touristy bars that I love so much.  As we hit the dance floor we realize the DJ is a maniac.  He is rocking cut up skinny jeans, a tight tank top, a 5 o’clock shadow, and a perm.  He had a Mac and a huge fan directly in front of him.  His set would have made an amazing soundtrack for a 2006 chick flick, with hits from Katie Perry, Miley, and any other top 40 pop rock from the last 7-8 years.

The entire night he would pick a song from his seemingly female driven, yet impressive iTunes playlist, let the song play out as he danced in front of the fan that was next to his computer. He was clearly having the best time out of anyone in the club.  His hair was blowing the entire night.  After a few hours of nonsense, his dancing could no longer hold my astonishment and attention, and we had to try to get out of there.  Luckily before we started leaving the club had a forth of July celebration, where a bunch of 18 year old Spanish people were dressed in American flags and the entire club sang the national anthem, all to a permed backup dancer…

Lessons from this night:

1) I will never, ever have a perm

2) Someday, I might be able to use my impeccable party playlists to make it to the big show

3) Not even a great Gin and Tonic can fix some nights.

Loud, Obnoxious, & American… 4th of July in Barcelona

This trip to Barcelona was a much different experience than my trip last November, primarily because it was summer.  We spent the 4th of July on La Barceloneta, trying to be as American as possible.  It seemed that everyone there was holding something that was red, white, and blue.  One student from Texas thought well ahead when he packed for his study abroad program and had a 3′ X 4′ American flag.  He ran up and down the beach enough times to get a group of British travelers next to us screaming out lines from Team America.

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On the beach we sat next to a group of girls who were studying abroad.  Every 5 minutes or so 1 or 2 people would walk up to them, trying to sell them tickets to one of the many beach clubs or events that was going on.  My patience wore thin as one “beard growing, ripped pant wearing, guitar playing, spending mom and dad’s money to do nothing for a few months” moron was pitching how they shouldn’t be spending the 4th of July with Spanish people and that he knew of a party on a secluded beach that would be with a “bunch of cool, down to earth people, no bros or assholes”.  After sitting down and talking with them for a few minutes he said thanks and left them his Facebook email.  As he walked away he had some serious pep in his step and most likely gave himself an inner high five for how cool he was.

After about 2 minutes of planning in my head, I grabbed a beer and walked over to the girls, ready to throw them the best pitch they heard all day.  As I stopped I excused and introduced myself as a failed study abroad student who was now living the dream in Barcelona.  I immediately gained respect for the bearded kid from a few minutes ago, from a few towels over these girls seemed cool and collected, but I felt like I was about to get something thrown at me.  I talked for a few  minutes how my best friend (pointing at Joe) laying down a few towels over was a struggling artist but he was really good, and how we were putting together a beach stage for him later that day.  I stood strong for as long as I could before starting to crack up and tell them that I was kidding.  Luckily they started  laughing and I told them that they were actually making me feel bad about my beach body, because no one had invited me to any secret hidden beach parties all day.  I made a request that they throw some parkas on, and that might let them sleep on the beach in peace, although the tan lines would look weird.

As I walked back to my Midget sized, hostel beach towel, my sister had that look that I have come to love, the “What the hell is wrong with you” look.  I love you Barcelona, see you soon…

Good food, good cider, good weather?!?

London was filled with pleasant surprises.  None of which had to do with the exchange rate.  I can see spending a lot of time in London on another currency being a bad idea for the ole’ bank account but for a few days was well worth the 13:1 DIrham to Sterling rate.  London became 3 days of extensive sunshine and walking, the city is huge. To get a visual, lets just say a few centimeters on a London hostel map is not the same as a few centimeters on a Barcelona hostel map.  We walked more than anyone should have to walk to simply get to a walking tour, and after a very informative 3 hour walking tour we were ready for a nap of epic proportions.  There is a lot to see in London, and for a city that is so rich in history it still has a very modern feel to it, even in the most touristy of places.

One of my favorite parts of the trip (beyond the previously covered Borough Market) was the walk from Westminster down to the Tower Bridge along the River Thames.  It was filled with shops, cafes, bars, and the famous Southbank skate park which brought me back to my Tony Hawk Pro-skater years.  On the opposite side of the river, we stumbled across an old boat turned bar/club and had a Pimms pitcher that I wish never ended.

The Soho region got the best of us at night, with a special “screwing over dumb tourists” bonus to the underground for closing much earlier than we thought.  All I can say is that at 4am London cabs do not respond to the Moroccan way of getting a cab, or the New York way for that matter.

Open Air Goodness, The Borough Market

To compare London to the other cities I traveled to this summer would be an apples and oranges argument.  The city is huge, and consequently the map the hostel provided was huge, taking about two folds beyond the original presentation folding to fit into my pocket.  Smaller streets were not labeled, of course this made walking around a little sweat inducing at first, even with the english street signs.

When being in a city this big, I like to find a home base, whether it be a cafe or a square.  In London this “home base” was the Borough Market.  This open air market was filled with organic foods and drinks, ranging from truffles to homemade hard cider.  For an organic market, in the heart of London, it was fairly priced and we ate there a few times both to save a few pounds and because it was delicious (and the cider was 8%).

This place is big enough to find whatever kind of food you were looking for, but small enough to do a lap and go back to the dish that caught your eye.  That being said, I pulled the trigger on the first thing I saw when I stumbled into the market for the first time.  Indulging on a duck sandwich complete with homemade bread, drizzled with olive oil and some kind of spicy herb combo that complimented the greasy 5GBP sandwich to perfection.  Two Minutes after I purchased my duck sandwich, we turned the corner to find an artisan bread shop with thick cut salami sandwiches, which I rushed to the next day for lunch.

When asked by a fellow traveler who just arrived in London what my favorite part of the city was, I blurted out the Borough Market.  If you are ever in London be sure to make it there for lunch, and for a solid English speaking people watching session.

Live music and the perfect pour… Dublin

Truth be told, Dublin was not a priority for me when I started thinking about a loose agenda for my trip this summer, the choice was made by my best good friend Jose (or Joe, when I’m not talking with a spanish accent).  In the end, Dublin was a great time, filled with live music, good drinks, and great people.

Staying in the famed Temple Bar area we were right in the middle of classic Dublin.  Starting with a big touristy pit stop in the Guinness Storehouse we learned how to pour the perfect pint.  The respect I have for the black beer went through the roof on that 2 hour trip, a placebo effect of sorts, considering at my core I am not a stout man.  We even got a certificate that now may be hanging on top of, or next to my college degrees.  The honeymoon period of being a Guinness expert lasted about an hour because the first bar we went to after the tour the bartender took us right back to reality, pouring the beer in a way that said, I dont care, we’re crowded and your tourists.  I demanded satisfaction… from someone else… who did not want to get into it with a big irish bartender…  He’s lucky I did not want to get my certificate wet, because I would have thrown it right in his face.

The live music was amazing, with the same backbone of songs for every set, but even with the repetition it did not lose its flair.  We were also able to catch an irish dance battle, that was similar to the lord of the dance guy from the late 90’s.  I was also called out from a band at one of the bars, after I told them I lived in Casablanca, they asked me if I had ever been to the irish pub in Casa, when I told them yes, and that the pub did not have Guinness on tap the guitarist gave me an approving “Obama Meme” nod, so I gladly took the best sip of beer I have had in recent memory.

***Free, Interesting, True, Sidenote of the day: For everyone who watched The Wire.  I always knew the Character Walon (bubbles sponsor from the last season) was a musician, but never much more than that.  In real life his name is Steve Earle and he wrote the song Galway Girl, which was a staple in the live music scene in Dublin.

The North Remembers, a tour of Trinity College Dublin

For the first time in 7 months I could speak english to just about everyone, no matter how strong the accent I was about to live on easy street for the next few days.  Hello Dublin!

I am always a fan of the immediate walking tour of a city, it gives you both confidence and much needed bearings on where everything is in relation to your hostel and the public transportation.  Our walking tour guide in Dublin was a girl named Emer, a strong, passionate, sassy little story teller.  The tour consisted of a showing us an old layout of a viking village, a few important churches, and various places where Irish revolutions were fought (and primarily lost).   The most intriguing part of the tour had to be the stop at Trinity College, known for its old library.

To spice up the regular tour information she asked if anyone watched Game of Thrones, most of the tour did, so she went on to tell us that King Joffrey goes to Trinity.   She saw my face go from having a great time to pure anger.  She figured that telling us he was actually “a good person” and that meeting him would “not be as bad as one would think” would change the mood, it did not.  I decided that if I stumbled across Joffrey that he was getting punched right in the liver and I would raise a stark flag on top of the campanile (bell tower).  Sadly, or luckily depending on how you look at it, I never came across the king, and had to get back to normal vacation mode.

The next day we spent the few euros to see the inside of the library.  The place was amazing, and although I have left some photographic evidence of the college, it does not do it justice.