She lives!!! Barcelona Part 1

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking. I haven’t posted in like two weeks. There were a couple of times I was going to because, let me just tell you, some weird freaking stuff happened in Dublin. Some of the highlights include a drunk rugby team singing Amy Winehouse on a city bus, Sarah laying claim to me while Ceili dancing, and Jess leaving us for a weekend (which was only weird because we had to entertain ourselves without her in apartment 29). But, you know, midterms and life and procrastination got in the way. Luckily, all of this and more you can read about on Sarah’s and Jess’s blogs because I have more important things to discuss.

My first view of Dublin when I returned yesterday

And while it is true that I went to a couple cafés in Dublin, we’re going to skip over that and I’ll just mention that I finally found a place to get matcha lattes at a little café on the way to the academic center called Toasted. Why are we skipping the usual weekly rundown and café roundup? Because yesterday I got back from Spring break in BARCELONA. As in SPAIN. As in OMG DREAM COME TRUE. So let’s talk about that instead.

Day 1 and 2: Montserrat and Exploring

Waiting for the cable car to take us up that cliff side

I arrived in Barcelona late last Friday night and after a small two hour mishap at the airport because BCN wi-fi is as reliable as my dog’s bladder (read: not reliable at all, he wears diapers), I finally met up with Gare whose flight had arrived two hours before mine. And then we made it to our Airbnb where our hosts were extremely kind and gracious about our late check-in at 10pm and also had not one, but TWO cats. BUT ANYWAY.

The next morning we met up with Gare’s sister, who has been an au pair in Nimes, France since September, and we hopped on the metro for an hour train ride to Montserrat. Montserrat is this old monastery on a mountain out in the Spanish countryside on the outskirts of Barcelona that has more or less been turned into a resort complete with hotel, cafeteria, gift shop, and a cable car to bring you up the rocky incline from below. We spent the day exploring the mountain and seeing some of the monuments and churches, but the highlight of the mountain–aside from the stunning views–was the cats. Cats everywhere. They just roamed around and stared at you until you came toward them and they ran away. I don’t know how they all got up there, but I’m so glad they did because my life has been severely lacking in cat-to-Abbie interaction in Dublin.

Some of the myriad cats roaming the grounds of Montserrat

Some of the myriad cats roaming the grounds of Montserrat

Anyway, we were out until nightfall when we made it back to our hotel room. Gare and his sister decided to wake up at Balls AM to see the sunrise over the valley which I had also intended to do but then, uh, maybe might have completely slept through a little bit. Anyway, I met back up with them for breakfast and then we went out separate ways so they could go on another trail and I could hit up the museum because Europe has turned me into an art slut. Well, Europe and Angela. Only, the museum opened an hour later than I thought so I explored another trail near where a gang of cats was hanging out. By the time I made it back to the museum for it to open, Gare and his sister were there as well. Apparently–and understandably–they were too tired for the two hour hike they had planned and so they came into the museum with me.

In the courtyard of the church at Montserrat

The museum had advertised that it contained Dalis, which it did, but it also had some Monets (my favorite!) and Picassos and a plethora of other well-known and lesser-known artists, many of which were of Spanish origin. By the time I made it all the way through the museum it was 11 o’clock and time to check out so we could head back to the city and Gare’s sister could catch her train back to Nimes later in the day.

With a few hours to spare before her train, we stopped by the Sagrada Familia, a huge basilica designed by the architect Gaudi, who was a super weird guide–at least when it came to architecture. He was always pushing the boundaries of modernism and creating stuff that people didn’t really understand at the time but we marvel at today. He was heavily inspired by nature and so rarely used straight lines in his designs since he said they didn’t tend to exist in nature. Because of that, his ambitious design for the Sagrada and some destruction of his original models during the Spanish civil war, it is still being built today. We didn’t go inside but it is one of Barcelona’s top tourist destinations so it was even crowded outside.

Anecdote Time: Abbie Gets Hit on at Barnes and Noble

The Sagrada Familia in all of its unfinished glory

The Sagrada Familia in all of its unfinished glory – you’ll see more of it later on…

Yeah, I worked at the Barnes and Noble cafe this summer and it is not fancy enough to deserve an accent on the E. Anyway, there was this one guy who came in a couple times and would ask for a large (read: venti) cup of water. And that was it. Because he had a hangover, he was not shy to tell me. The last time he came in, however, was a strangely slow day and I was on alone because my manager was in a meeting. The place was dead and I was just cleaning behind the counter until someone deigned to order some Starbucks coffee from my not-a-Starbucks cafe.

This gives us more time for pictures. This is the view from Montserrat at sunset

He ordered his huge cup of water but instead of roaming the store like he usually did, he just, like, stayed. Now, even though it was completely dead at this point, I had been working since open so this was the downtime between breakfast and lunch rushes. In any case, he was just talking to me while I absently cleaned the counters and baked some frozen cookies to refill the bake case. I didn’t really think anything of it because I was doing my job as Customer Service Introvert Pretending to be Extrovert for Tips (that’s my technical title).

Anyway, after telling me his entire life story about getting blown up in the army, married and subsequently divorced young (he was 24), and hit on by “slutty Saratoga women – no offense” at nightclubs, I guess he decided the way to a girl’s heart is not to say sexist stuff about other woman and your ex-wife while sitting on the counter I had just cleaned. So he asked me about myself, and my future studying abroad came up (the fact that I was four years younger than him, still in college, and completely unaware that I was being hit on did not deter him). And I mentioned wanting to go to Barcelona. He had been during his travels in the army and that’s where this anecdote becomes relevant.

Inside the church at Montserrat

“Do you know what the Sagrada Familia is?” he asked between sips of hangover water. No, dude, during my seven years in Spanish class and nearly majoring in Spanish to become a translator and my five year childhood obsession with the Cheetah Girls who went to Barcelona in the second movie and thus spurred my life long desire to go to Barcelona and become a Cheetah Girl, I have never heard of what is likely the number one tourist destination in one of Spain’s biggest cities.

“Yeah,” I said with my best bullshit customer service smile. “I have.”

Steve, as I would later find out was his name when he bought a cannoli and I looked up his Barnes and Noble membership, was surprised. “Really? Most people haven’t. I’m really impressed.” Wow Steve, now you got me. I live to impress sexist white guys who insult my intelligence while I clean the counter at my minimum wage job.

Long story short, then he asked me out for coffee by pulling out his phone and saying it was new and he didn’t know how to use it yet. “I don’t know,” I said, staring at his clunky-ass android. “I have an iPhone.” A true Rome and Juliet romance he was envisioning, I’m sure, between an android user and an iPhone user.

One of the hikes we took brought us across the mountain from the monastery

One of the hikes we took brought us across the mountain from the monastery

“You should put your number in and see if it works.”

I laughed. I actually laughed out loud because I thought he was joking. That was the cheesiest thing I’d ever heard. I just wanted to go home and take a nap. “I’m good.”

Again, I had shocked Steve. “You’re good?” Apparently he wasn’t used to being turned down by slutty Saratoga women. “I was going to ask if you wanted to grab a coffee when your shift is over.”

Still not getting it, as the oblivious and sassy girl that I am, I replied “Why, because I work at a coffee shop?”

Steve was taken aback. “Well not this one, obviously.”

A Madonna and Child statue located inside the Montserrat church

A Madonna and Child statue located inside the Montserrat church

“That’s okay,” I insisted, now feeling myself blush as I realized he was actually asking me out and I had just sassed his ass hard. “I have plans.” Plans for my mom to pick me up and take me home, since not only have I never been to war but I also don’t have my license. But I didn’t tell him that.

“You’re just going to turn me down like that?” he was still trying to laugh it off. We were both embarrassed. But even embarrassed, I’m still sassy.

“I guess.”

Bless the old man that then came over to order a coffee and thus urge Steve to get his butt off my counter. I never saw Steve again though I did see the Sagrada Familia last week.

A cute little bench I found on my solo hike

A cute little bench I found on my solo hike

Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Blogging

So I didn't actually take a picture of the Olympic torch, but here's the stadium located inside Montjuic Park

So I didn’t actually take a picture of the Olympic torch, but here’s the stadium located inside Montjuic Park

We stuck to just checking out the incredibly detailed exterior of the Sagrada Familia on Sunday before heading back in the direction of the train station. Not right to the train station, though, not just yet. First we made our way across Placa Espanya to Parc de Montjuic, a park behind the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (the national museum of Catalonia art). We were on the search for the Olympic flame because I guess that’s like cool and stuff. I don’t know. Sports.

The view of Barcelona from the MNAC

The view of Barcelona from the MNAC

It was too far into the park for Gare’s sister to stick around for it, but she did manage to see it at a distance before heading back to catch her train. Gare and I forged on, however, because he likes sports related things or whatever. It was cool though, the park was a sprawling green dotted with monuments and beautiful buildings and perched atop a mountain so that you could see for miles over the city no matter which direction you looked (there were escalators next the stairs leading up to the museum because how dare American tourists be expected to take the STAIRS that’s just PREPOSTEROUS).

The port we sat at for a couple minutes in Barceloneta

The port we sat at for a couple minutes in Barceloneta

After stopping back at our apartment to drop our stuff off and grab some food from the hole-in-the-wall Supermercat across the street for breakfast the next morning, Gare and I took the metro to Barceloneta. The beach. Barcelona is divided into neighborhoods since they used to all be separate villages back in the day before Barcelona stretched its wings and ate them all up. We stayed in the Eixample neighborhood and the beach is in the Barceloneta neighborhood.

Opinions about Columbus aside, the monument was cool

We just missed seeing the sunset, but we still managed to find a nice spot to sit on the pier and check out the harbor. We also found a massive shopping mall filled with American shops, from McDonalds to Starbucks. I had middle school mall rat flashbacks and we quickly made our escape back into the warm arms of Barcelona where we saw the Aquarium (we didn’t actually go in since it cost 20 euro per person and was complicating my vegetarian morals, but we did check out the gift shop of overpriced stuffed animals and ocean-themed candy) and the Maritime museum and the Columbus monument. And then we went back to our apartment after stopping for dinner at a bakery/fast food restaurant thing. The food was pretty good, too.

Day 3: Going to a Hospital when You Are 100% Well

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An old hospital, though. It used to be a sanitarium, but now it’s a museum. It’s the Hospital de Sant Pau designed by another modernist architect, Lluís Domènech. It’s in the same neighborhood as the Sagrada Familia so we already knew-ish where we were going. And the Hospital, though not as well known, turned out to be even cooler than the Sagrada if you ask me (have you been there, Steve? Probably not, you’re not a REAL Cheetah Girl).

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After that, we headed to Parc de la Ciutadella after a quick pit stop at the Arc de Triomphe just down the street from it. The fountain that I don’t actually know the name of, the botanical garden, and the statues of people and woolly mammoths dotted throughout the greenery were super cool, but what I remember most was the bandstand right next to the fountain. A plaque detailed how it was now a memorial to a transsexual woman, Sonia Rescalvo Zafra, who was brutally killed there for being who she was by a group of conservative men. It definitely added an extra layer of meaning to be standing in this idyllic park on a sunny day surrounded by fellow selfie-taking tourists and yelling geese knowing that dark event also happened. I felt you there, Sonia.

After again putting my morals in the line of fire for the zoo at the back of the park, we decided not to go in when it was just as expensive as the aquarium and instead to go back to the beach now that it was actually day time. And this time we actually went to the beach with sand and crashing Mediterranean waves and a Japanese woman trying to convince us to come to her massage parlor.

And then it was back to our apartment and its kitty inhabitants to get some sleep. Because the next day I would be going mano a mano con Barcelona. DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNNN

To Be Continued…

And here is Barceloneta Beach in the light of day

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