It wasnt until I got off the plane and on to the bus to take us into the city center that I remembered how much I love this place. A beautiful city. A beautiful country. A beautiful people. But one fact remains most obvious after our first full day in Barcelona: the devil still lives in Barcelona. That saying is a running joke among the handful of us who came here two and a half years ago used to describe the grit and grime and sweet temptation that lives behind it’s beautiful facade.
After much unanticipated drinking on the first night, our second day was much more productive. Fighting through our hangovers, we began the day the same way we started the last one, at the open air market to find some sustenance to soak up the remaining alcohol in our system. With a fresh coating of grease in our veins, priority number one was to go to the train station, activate our Eurail Passes, and reserve the first leg of our trip, from Barcelona to Marseille.
With business out of the way, the real fun could begin, starting with a visit to the exquisite Sagrada Familia. The unbelievable intricacies within each of its different naturalistic designs are astounding. Though not as large or even close to as old as la Catedral de Sevilla, la Sagrada Familia is a wonder in a way that compares with no other. Wholly unique while equally as impressive, it is truly an architectural achievement beyond anything I have seen.
Tired of standing in lines (though the worst was yet to come), we decided it was time to hit the beach and relax along the sands of the blue and beautiful Barceloneta Beach. Crowded and crawling with people trying to sell you stuff, it was still a magnificent feeling sitting on the European beach and enjoying the sound of the waves (while enjoying a few other European beach pleasures).
After a mojito or two and a dusting off, and it was on to the next adventure, or in this case, a long line. We decided it would be something special to take the gondola up to the top of the hill and find the cactus that our friends found and carved a Double T (a symbol of our alma mater, Texas Tech) into at the old castle/small fortress at the top of said hill. While the base of the gondola said the estimated wait time was 45 minutes, and the round trip price was 16.50 euros, we thought this time the challenge of hiking up to the scenic castle and finding the cactus would be worth the time and money. Waiting in line for about an hour and a half (all the while having to listen to some rich pompous American jackass talk to random tourists about him and his buddies annual world golf tournament) only to be ferried by air to a quite useless and anticlimactic position of the hill we want to be on, this was beginning to be more than we bargained for.
Amidst thoughts of turning back, we doubled our resolve to make it to the top of that hill, and find that cactus if it was the last thing we did (or at least until the sun went down). After an aimless hike up the hill, and another expensive and arbitrary gondola later, we finally reached our destination atop the hill and at the castle. It took much longer than we expected to find the cactus, but just when we were about to give up, we found what was obviously it. A massive cactus carved with an innumerable about of names, letters and symbols. But, while we found our treasure chest, we couldnt find the Double T, probably grown over or most likely carved over. 55 Euros gone with sore feet and sour grapes, the adventure was alas a waste of a great deal of time and money that in hindsight probably could have been used for something just as memorable at a fraction of the cost.
Exhaustion wearing us thin, we fought our way back over to Las Ramblas and our hostel, desperate for a meal and a beverage. After another round of free dinner with the purchase of a drink, lying down for a nap was the only thing we had on our mind. A long and successful day had left us tired and dehydrated but satisfied nonetheless. With night upon us, it was time to check off the last two things off our list: meet up with my old friend Mason Lytal and go downtown to Plaza de Espana to see the giant fountain and the Museu National D’Art de Catalunya. A spectacular sight during the day and even more so at night, seeing the museum one last time has been on my list since before I left Barcelona the first time. Unfortunately, we either arrived too late or they just dont do it during the week, the experience for Kelly, Mason, and his friend wasnt the same as my own the first time: with bright lights and colors lighting up the night sky while the massive fountain dances spectacularly to music. Despite this, the trip to see the museum was still well worth it and recommended to any and all that has even a moment of spare time in Barcelona.
With everything on our wish list checked off and an early train awaiting us in the morning, it was time to say goodbye to mason and goodnight to barcelona to get some rest before we begin the real challenge of our trip: everywhere else. Up to this point, this trip has been a relative walk in the park as we have so far arrived in a city we have visited before and were familiar with its customs, culture and could speak the language. However, as we journey on to our many other destinations, we will be encountering people places and cultures we are unfamiliar with, unable to speak the native language. While it wont be easy, that is half the fun in itself. We are arriving in France with cautious optimism ready to take on the second of nine countries! We look forward to what is ahead and hope to keep you updated as we continue along our journey across Europe.
I’m finally posting this from a random McDonald’s in Montpellier waiting for our connecting train to Marseilles.