Monday, March 16, 2009


Being the wonderful girlfriend I am, I booked Coop and I a cheap round trip flight to Barcelona for this weekend….however, both flights left at 6:30 a.m. Based on the look on Coop’s face this morning at 5:00 on the bus shuttle to the Barcelona airport, I don’t think he’ll ever forgive me.

We left at 5:30 a.m. on Friday to go to the Sevilla airport. The flight was quick, about an hour and half, and went smoothly. Only problem was that the woman at the security checkpoint confiscated my lotion and conditioner. I think she had it out for me. Although I must say, I’ve been stopped at almost every security checkpoint for every flight I’ve taken….at my 5”1 stature, I’m quite the threat apparently. It was kinda funny though because they took the conditioner while staring right at my razor. ????

Took the metro into the city and called the apartment place for the key. For Barcelona, I chose a place called Casa Diagonal (located in the richer section of town called L-Eixample) in which travelers share an apartment with a kitchen, a living room, etc. It was very nice! A little hard to find though—I called the man on his phone and he’s spelling out Catalon street names (they speak Catalon in Barcelona—about as different from Spanish as French or Italian; however, everyone there also speaks Castellano, the normal Spanish we know so it wasn’t really a problem) on a bad cell phone. Anyhow, it was worth the trouble. Not too expensive and we were able to do a lot of eating in the house instead of spending money to go out to eat. Barcelona may be the culinary capital of the world right now but not for starving college students.  On the note of expenses, Barcelona is supposed to be much more expensive than any other city in Spain but I didn’t find it to be that different. Perhaps because we didn’t really go out to eat. ????

After we dropped our stuff off and ate our bocadillo sandwiches that our senoras packed for us and Coop made some terrible coffee, we headed out for Gaudi’s Parc Guell. Gaudi is my hero. I’m not very artsy like the majority of my friends (now thinking about it, most of my friends are either musicians or artists of some type), I really appreciated Gaudi’s melting ice cream designs. He was an absolute genius.
Side note: I have to brag that my sense of direction is improving immensely in the cities of Spain and that out of the two of us, I’m definitely the navigator. NEVER saw that coming.

We finally make it up to Parc Guell in the heat of the day trekking up a very steep incline. Parc Guell was supposed to be a 60-acre gated community in the early 1900s. However, Gaudi was way ahead of his time and it was a major flop. Instead the government bought it and now it’s a public park—full of screaming kids on field trips on Fridays. Also full of talented artists. Coop almost peed his pants when he saw a man playing the sitar. I recorded a woman playing Asian music on some instrument…Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

After we strolled through Parc Guell, we made it down to near where we lived to find Casa Mila, another work by Gaudi. We debated on whether to go in because it was a bit pricey, about 10 euros, but I’m so glad we followed Rick’s advice to go in. It’s a modernista flat that Gaudi designed for a rich couple . I would hire Gaudi too. Not only does he make everything look cool, but he was so innovative in using architecture to solve problems like ventilation, etc. I wasn’t aware but Coop was bored. Oh well. We saw a lot of the models that Gaudi made for his buildings, learned about his life, the rooms in the apartment and then….headed out to the amazinggggg rooftop. Quite impressive—just look at these pictures!!!!
So we decided we were done with art for the day and went off to Las Ramblas, the main social spot off of Plaza Catalunya. There’s everything on Las Ramblas from tourist shops to exotic pet shop stands to hookers (only at night) to fresh markets. Coop and I actually saw several men purchasing hookers at night. It was shocking to say the least. Also, speaking of exotic pet shops, we saw so many ferrets on walks with their owners. Coop has decided he’s getting one. It’s funny because we’ve both noticed that once he gets stuck on something, he gets really into it. Like this past weekend, it was ferrets and coke in a bottle. In Sevilla, the ham legs hanging from the walls. In his defense though, the ferrets were awesome. Side note: there was a dog wandering away from its owner towards the street and I seriously screaming because I thought it was about to get hit about a car. And then I realized it was a parked car…..
For lunch, we went to La Boqueria, a fresh market with fish, meats, cheeses and best of all, FRUITS! Coop and I spent 5 euros on a loaf of bread, some cheese and some fruit and went for a picnic. Lovely  Barcelona actually turned out to be a pretty romantic city with the sea and the fountains at night, etc. At the end of Las Ramblas, we saw the Mediterranean Sea and the pier with tons of beautiful sailboats and yachts. $$$$ We headed back towards the apartment but stopped on the way back to pick up 2 mini frozen pizzas, strawberries and some 1 euros Don Simon red wine (impressive cardboard carton of wine) Somehow, this minimal amount of food lasted us for like 3 meals.
After grocery shopping, we thought we would “swing by” the magic fountains before heading home. This turned out to be an adventure. I don’t know how far we walked but after walking the city all day on 4 hours of sleep with two grocery bags in tote, it was miserable. However, the fountains were worth the trouble. See this video! I hope you can hear the Mariah Carey music that the fountains are “choreographed” with in the background. Good part about bringing the groceries is that we got to eat some of the strawberries in front of the fountains. I like to think that Coop schemed all of this. It was really perfect.
Headed home on the Metro—absolutely exhausted. We ate and knew that there was no way we were leaving the apartment that night. But we did get to meet some of the other people living/staying there which was nice.
Day 2
Started the day at a very nice breakfast place in which I discovered a new Spanish breakfast item I love. Pan tostado con queso manchego. It reminds me of the tomato sandwiches my Grandma used to make. Minus the oregano and instead of the whole tomato, just tomato spread (not ketchup, sorta the juice from the tomato). Again, Coop and I thought we had found a perfect little UNIQUE breakfast spot but then we realized 10 minutes after leaving that it’s a chain. Oh well. We can’t escape globalization.
Off to Sagrada Familia. I think it speaks for itself. Our friends told us it wasn’t worth going in because it’s under construction. I kept thinking how nervous I would be if I was handling one of the cranes because everyone would hate you if you knocked something over. Interesting fact: Gaudi worked on La Sagrada Familia from 1883 to 1926. The church is still not expected to be completed for another 50 years. Gaudi’s famous quote, “My client (God) is in no hurry.” Coop said this to me and I was very impressed until I realized it was in Rick Steve’s description.
From far away we saw a big dome building and decided to walk towards it. Turns out its called Torre Agbar and has no historic significance whatsoever. But it was cool. Looks like a big metal finger. Saturday we seriously walked through every neighborhood in Barcelona. Found Park Ciutadel (biggest, greenest park in Barcelona), the chocolate museum (only regret from Barcelona was not going in the choc. Museum), the arc de triumf, the Cathedral (I’m so done with cathedrals though), Barri Gotica,…..
Barceloneta -the beach all of the young people go to.
We got some Calamari sandwiches at a local place and then laid in the sand eavesdropping some Americans and some Frenchies. Pretty much the Frenchies making fun of the Americans (football? You don’t even use your foot in American football…) The Americans were pretty cool except that they aren’t even taking their classes in Spanish in Barcelona. To me, it’s kinda like what’s the point? Anyhow, we’re listening to the Americans when one of the many Asian women who are offering beach massages agrees to give one of the guys a massage for 3 euros. Now I know this sounds creepy but I actually think it’s a good idea. And when she was done giving him a 25 minute massage for 3 euros, I decided, what the heck and bargained for the same deal. best massage ever. It was so long and I smelled like cinnamon afterwards and felt so relaxed. I highly recommend it……
Started the day off badly with an expensive and not that great breakfast. Improved the day greatly with a GOFRE! A waffle with chocolate and whipped cream. We went to Park Ciutadel, which was my favorite part of the whole trip. It was jam-packed full of happy picnickers, families and SWING DANCERS. There was a gazebo full of very talented swing dancers and then we continued on to find ROWBOATS! I loved this little charming park. It reminded me of Mary Poppins. Video of the rowboats!!!
Those are most of the highlights from the trip!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Madrid Pictures...Post later...



Madrid was so fun. It was a really last minute decision to go for Coop's birthday but I bought our bus tickets online and off we went. We got out of class at one Friday, headed off to the bus stop and then proceeded to ride a bus for six hours to Madrid. Arrived at 8:30. Poor Coop can never sleep on the bus and I can generally sleep forever.

On the bus, we sat next to some really interesting people with variations of dredlocks, shaved heads and long hair. Really weird. They weren't speaking Spanish so we think they were from the Basque region or Portugal. Anyhow, for all the Harry Potter lovers, one of them was reading HP and the cover was different and way cooler. FYI.

Once we arrived, we took the metro to our hostel which was very easy to find but once we walked in, it seriously looked like a construction site. We cautiously climbed the collapsing steps to see what kind of place I had booked. Turns out it was pretty nice after you get over the entrance. The room was tinyyyyyy but it had a sink and a closet and the communal bathroom was pretty nice as well. I'm interested to see how it compares with the other hostels.

Anyhow, dropped our stuff off and headed off for food because I refused to eat any more of the chorizo or ham sandwiches my senora packs for me every trip. I know I'm a snob but I never feel well afterwards. Anyhow, I ordered a hamburger and other than the shortage of ketchup and Coop's disapproving eyes of my lack of appreciation of a new culture, it was AWESOME.

We walked through the city through Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor and settled on a little place and ordered a mojito and a beer. Unfortunate that we didn't look at the prices beforehand but oh well. It was Coop's birthday wknd! We did some more bar hopping and people watching but decided around 1 to head back so we could get up early for Saturday....

Early Saturday we headed out for churros, chocolate and coffee. We sat outside and dipped our churros in the chocolate. Amazing. I think Madrid chocolate is better than in Sevilla but that's just my opinion. Then we took a short walk to the Prado!! The Prado, needless to say, is breathtaking. Obviously Europe's art museums are more impressive than in the U.S...My favorites were Goya, Dali and Rubens. I'm not really a big art person but they gave us a list of all the masterpieces and I was being pretty obsessive about seeing them all. But after Coop couldn't take anymore, we headed out and towards Plaza Mayor. Plaza Mayor is a huge square lined with restaurants and bars and full of people milling around watching the various entertainers including several winnie the poohs, an extremely overweight spiderman, magicians, dancers, etc. My person favorite was a person who had covered their body completely with sand. See pictures. We ate a so-so lunch and be proud, when they tried to rip off us *guerries (spanish word for foreigners)* I asked them to correct the bill. Needless to say, I was very proud. Afterwards, we made the long trek from Plaza Mayor to Plaza de Espana (where Coops bff Don Quixote has a statue). Before we came, I read about a nunnery that sold sweets and I was sooo excited about it. And of course after we looked for it forever and Coop almost peed his pants, we find it and the nuns say they have no cookies until Monday. We continued the stroll past the cathedral, the royal palace and the gardens. All of which were impressive. Of course I made Coop pose at pretty much every stop until he got fed up and clearly stated, "I'm not a monkey, I can't do this anymore. You do it." This is after I told him to climb up next to a statue and do the same pose. On the whole though, he was a good sport about taking touristy pics. So we finallly reach Plaza de Espana which I think was a highlight for Coop: 1)he had a cold beer and posed with his beloved Don Quijote. 2)we found Coop's role model. a man who we saw repeatedly on the streets drinking a 40 and carrying around a boombox. nice. we chilled there people watching for a long time until i could not longer feel my feet (its much colder in madrid than sevilla) and took the metro back to change for the night. Well a quick break turned into a 2 hour nap and Coop nearly flipped out when he realized that it was 10:00 and his birthday was almost over. Well I rebelled against my nature to continue napping and listened to the wise words of philly tilly: "go out like it's your last day in spain because pretty soon it will be." and then it was a great day.

mesones-bars that stay up very late filled with spaniards who sometimes break into song and/or dance. The list of mesones we hit up and the tapa we ate

Bar Valle de Tietar- the most amazing calamare sandwich ever. seriously. so good. and beer.

Meson tapa tapa- croquetas mixtas and beers. fried something. they were okay. we watched the bartender make "real sangria" and decided it was just a mixture of fruit juice, red wine and sugar.

Meson de Championes- the best place of the night by far. the best mushrooms ever. the bartender was so nice and explained how we were supposed to eat them and where he was from. and really great rioja red wine. i wish we had gone back the next day :(

Cervezas y Tapa de Belgica- Coop finally got to try Duff beer. the beer that Homer drinks on the Simpsons. i didn't like it but coop looked pleased. It's a pretty dark beer.

some other place- two glasses of wine that were okay...but i really enjoyed watching the bartender pour shots into edible shot glasses. they were made out of ice cream cone and covered in chocolate. yum!

irish bar: so we walked out and started talking about how much we've always wanted to try irish coffee. and then the next place we pass advertises, "real irish coffee." obviously it was a sign so we went in and it really was the best drink everrr. it was sort of coop's bday dessert because it was so sweet and topped with real whipped cream.

we finally started to head back because unfortunately, the bars were beginning to close. we hit up one more bar and i think that was plenty for Coop's 21st bday as a)we still had the next day to visit madrid and b) he was done for the night.

Goodnight madrid!!!

the next day was cool but i'm sick of blogging so i'll make it quick.

Museo de Reina Sofia
-modern art is not impressive
-Guernica is unreal and awesome

Retiro Park
-i was hungry so we left early and I don't think Coop will ever forgive me. Him and his nature.

Plaza Mayor
-flamenco dancing!!!
-pics with the famous Madrid bulls (art, not real bulls)
-catman and the angel ARE friends. They are ridiculous.

Museo de Jamon
-this is not a real museum as we found out. its just a bunch of ham. still exciting though for Coop. He bought a bag lunch.

We finished the day up with tourist shopping. I got a plate and Coop got a wineskin. I'm still trying to figure out what to collect. Coop has informed me that snowglobes are tacky. Anyhow we took the metro to Lavapies which was supposed to be a good place to eat ethnic food. But we found a gyro place too soon with a great deal and ate even though we weren't really hungry. Found our way to the bus station at 10. got on the bus at 11. got to sevilla at 5:30. worst. bus. ride. ever. but i survived. and now i'm going to lisbon this weekend by what means of transportation? BUS! :)