Wednesday, June 17, 2009

spain: day one (arrival in barcelona)

when we arrived in barcelona, it was raining. after grabbing some cash from the atm, we took a cab to our hotel on the passieg de gracia...we were both a little sleep-deprived and foggy and i don't even think we had realized that we were actually in spain. we weren't able to check into the hotel when we got there, so we dropped off our bags, borrowed an umbrella, and set out to do a little exploring.

first stop: breakfast. we stopped in a little chain coffee shop for coffee and croissants (they made hearts out of our coffee foam!).
after breakfast we walked up the street past gaudi's famous casa mila (la pedrera) and wandered the streets of barcelona, marvelling at the beauty and history of nearly every building we saw. even the lamp posts were lovely! the rain cleared up and the sun came out, so the bright colors of the city could be seen the way they were meant to be seen. we made it all the way up to avinguda diagonal before we realized that (a) we really didn't have a clue where we were, and (b) we were pretty much delirious from fatigue and hunger. so we headed back more or less the way we had come, and found a quick bite to eat in a quiet cafe. we made our way back to the hotel just in time for a nice long siesta...

four-and-a-half hours later, we got cleaned up and went up to the rooftop of the hotel for the most magnificent view of the city you could possibly imagine -- la sagrada familia, against a mountain backdrop and surrounded by its perpetual cranes, was there to greet us when we got off of the elevator; we turned to the right to see the beautiful mediterranean sea, and one more turn to the right took us to a view of montjuic; in between was gaudi's casa battlo... i'm fairly certain i got a little teary-eyed (and i'm fairly certain also that this was not the only time i got a little teary-eyed) -- i was seeing these amazing things that i had read about, studied, wanted to see, in college but also in high school -- it was too much. i am so blessed.
once we had taken it all in, we headed down to the hotel lounge for a couple of before-dinner drinks (it was only 9:00 or so, and i'd heard that nobody ate dinner before 11). i had my first glass of cava (catalan champagne), and i fell in love. it was only cava for me after that!

we were feeling adventurous, so we decided to try out a restaurant that i'd read about in my guidebook, taverna basca irati. it was hard to find, and we had to some scary turns down some dark and narrow streets, but eventually we found it. the place was long, narrow, and crow. ded. as soon as we walked in the door we got yelled at in catalan (of which i understand nothing), but we figured out that they were warning us to keep our belongings close to us in the crowded place. waiters were continually bringing out serving platters of pinchos (bite-sized servings of different foods on top of bread held together by toothpicks) and setting them down on the long bar. a not-so-nice barmaid gave us a plate and explained to us that we would eat what we wanted and then pay at the end of the night based on how many toothpicks were left on our plate. (honor system? what??) so we pushed our way through the crowd of locals to get a sampling of pinchos -- we didn't always know what it was that we were eating, but more often than not it was pretty delicious. it was loud, hot, and more or less insane in there, but it was the most fun!

after dinner we made our way to las ramblas, the super-touristy main drag of barcelona. we watched all the different people doing their different things; tourists and locals, street performers and vendors. we walked all the way down to the port, and saw the christopher columbus statue all lit up in the center of the plaza. on our way back to the hotel, we got some yummy ice cream for dessert. we wanted to go back to the rooftop, but it was closed, so, exhausted, we climbed into bed for some much-needed slumber!

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