Day Seventy Six.. navigating Barcelona

Day Seventy Six (septuagesimo sexto dia)

Wednesday (Quarto-feira)

We slept in until around 10:00am Azorean time… which was noon in Barcelona. We were totally exhausted from our travels and lack of sleep the night before our trip. We got ready and headed out for the afternoon. We stopped at a cafe on the corner next to our hotel (el Fornet, which turned out to be a chain) for cappuccinos and pastries. Well, I had a chocolate croissant and John had a prosciutto baguette.

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I had snagged a self-walking map in our hotel lobby featuring three different routes to walk and see sights. We headed off for route three. There was not a cloud in the sky and the sun was shining. We walked toward the route, taking detours when we saw a pretty sight or street. We saw an enormous white-tented market (mercat) and decided to walk through. It was like Eataly but a hundred different vendors all vying for customers. There were fresh vegetables and fruits, cheeses and meats, and raw fish, and butcher stand upon butcher stand. We walked the length of it inside, and then walked back to the beginning on the outside where there were more vendors selling mostly clothing. There were also a few vendors selling books and other trinkets. We stopped at one and bought gloves. I saw a girl wearing a pair of knitted gloves at the Barcelona game the night before that had fingers in one color and the hand another color, with buttons and flowers. This vendor had a black pair with grey fingers and maple colored buttons.

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I snagged them and the vendor suggested that in Barcelona I keep my bag in front of me with my hand on it, which I had heard before. I hoped I wouldn’t get mugged. Just like back in Povoacao, we stuck out as foreigners.

We kept walking through the wide streets of Barcelona. While being in a big, gridded, city reminded us of New York, the amount of people (fewer) and the amount of space (more) made it clearly European. The city is beautiful and fairly easy to navigate (if you have any sense of direction, which I don’t—Thanks, mom). The only thing I find completely inefficient are the octagon-shaped intersections which force you to walk down, across, and back to your path rather than walking in a straight line.

IMG_1224This is the real Mercat De St. Antoni, but it was closed due to construction.

We saw another tented mercat near St. Antoni plaza and walked through—this one looks like how Canal Street used to look before the cops got better at their jobs. There are several vendors and half of them of were covered with white vinyl curtains that pulled down quickly. There were towel vendors and slipper vendors, and people selling sweaters and shoes. We meandered through. We stopped on aveniguda de parallel at a tapas restaurant. We ordered prawns, mussels, and pork kebab. Our waiter brought out bread (which he charged us for) and olives. If a waiter brings anything small (like bread and butter, or olives) to your table that you didn’t order, would you be surprised if they charged you? Now, the pan was only one euro, but I was still pissed that it was on our bill. Apparently this is common practice in Europe. The food was decent and reasonably priced (except for John’s soda, which just like the cafe in the Ponta Delgada airport felt it totally reasonable to charge 2.25 for 12oz.). We walked on.

Not long after that, we were in Placa Espanya. We saw a giant arena (Arena de Barcelona) and discussed what might go on there. It looked like a giant stadium, but it also looked like there were shops, or maybe restaurants at the bottom. Maybe those are open to the public, we said. We decided to go in. It was the biggest shopping mall we’d ever been to (five floors? Six?) complete with a movie theatre at the top. After stopping into several stores without buying anything, we went up to the top. The Hobbit was playing (which John has been dying to see). Maybe, we said, they play the movies in English with Spanish subtitles? John asked a woman working: No, she said, they are Spanish-speaking films. Because we’re in Spain. Ha. We walked around the roof, where you can see Fira de Barcelona and the Nacional Museum d’Art.

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We walked down to the bottom floor (or second to bottom-floor) which was below ground and housed the food-court. We got more cappuccinos and I got another chocolate croissant and John got a cheese baguette. We began to walk home. I saw Ofelia’s Hotel and thought of Ofelia from the FH. I texted her this picture and missed home.

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We left the mall going the wrong way and cut through a park to get back on track. There was a dog run with a small fence that Romeo would easily jump. While we were walking by, one of the dogs inside jumped over the fence, then just as quickly, jumped back in. And out again. Back in. His owner was unconcerned.

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We found a bunch of kids practicing futsol. We saw a bocce court. We found something my mom would loved: ping-pong tables set up for public use.

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Finally, we found the street we were looking for. We stopped at a supermercat on the way back to the hotel to get snacks: bananas, water, fitness bars, iced tea, cookies, Happy Hippos, chips, and crackers. When we got back to the hotel, I looked up a place to have dinner. We didn’t want to spend too much (and had heard—and now seen—that Barcelona is expensive) so I looked restaurants on TripAdvisor. I found a bar near La Sagrada Familia that was cheap and had a lot of good reviews from English speakers on vacation. After we showered and I did my burpees (#30burpees30days Day 29: 30 burpee SPLATS) we headed out toward the Metro. My parents emailed me this picture of their house today:

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When we went to Camp Nou the night before, I had seen Sagrada Familia‘s stop on our line. I thought it was in the same direction as the stadium (remember that lack-of sense of direction??), so after a tiny bit of confusion in the station we got in a train going toward Sagrada Familia, which was only three stops away (in the opposite direction of Camp Nou). However, when we exited the Metro we went the wrong way and it took about 20 minutes of walking (finally stopping in another McDonald’s to use WiFi) to find Chill Bar. It looked like an absolute dive, but we sat in a back corner bench on assorted pillows and watched a soccer game while listening to lots of (British) English speakers. John got a burger and I had a burrito (no queso) which were both delicious and cheap. They didn’t even serve Spanish beers so John had a Heineken and I had a Canadian beer. They had a picture on the wall, graffiti really, that matched a piece of street art John saw in Furnas the first time he went to Sao Miguel back in June (before we knew all about the crazy adventure that little trip would bring!). He had Instagrammed a picture of it, so even though I’d never seen it in Furnas, I recognized it right away. I pointed it out to John–it seemed like a good start to our vacation.

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We had no trouble finding our way home.

 

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