I joined the walking tour again today since yesterday’s was so great. It was in a different area too, called Graçia. We visited more of Gaudí’s work such as La Pedrera and Casa Batlló, which was equally impressive and always had interesting facts behind it. We also walked along the Passeig de Graçia (full of all of the fancy shopping) and learned the history behind it as well. Our guide, Alberto, would often have us act out scenes that took place in history which made it fun. He also compared historical figures to who they might be like today, for example, one family was so wealthy, pretty and popular that they would have been the Kardashians of back then.
Next, we went inside the “chocolate house” which looked nothing like chocolate, but they made it there. Along the way he pointed out the requirements to build during the Catalan Art Nouveau (modernism) which were including: nature, color and iron. These houses definitely stood out from the others, and one of them was even decorated in roses in preparation for Sant Jordi day where women get a rose and men get a book (ahhh the pre-tinder days, so romantic)…I leave that day 😦
Lastly, we went to an old theater which was converted into a couple restaurants, the design of it was super trendy, yet included many antiques, including the original bathroom.
While everything is interesting and beautiful to look at, understanding the reasoning behind them is so much better. After the tour ended, I went and did my inside tour of the Segrada Familia (did you know that Darth Vaders helmet was inspired by the helmets used on the soldiers on this church?). I did the audio portion which was not only informative, but set to music and made the experience so much more emotional and impactful.
I rested for a bit before heading over to the coast to check out the beach. I stopped for dinner (a salad, finally) and then met up with Wilbert and Joris to watch a Castell being built (human tower). We circled around trying to find it when we realized that it was indoors and a private, media only event. Instead, we walked to the beach and sat with some wine until the sun went down and it was too cold to stay any longer. The group was going to eat at La Pepita, but by the time I made it back to the hostel I was too tired to go out again and not hungry anyway.
I landed in Barcelona and took the metro to my hostel which was super easy. I really like the area I’m in and my first impression is that I like Barcelona better than Madrid. I dropped my bags off and actually went to go find a manicure because my nails were awful (I peeled the polish off while waiting for my bag to come out, it was last.. I walked around some more and then came back to join the communal dinner. I sat with a guy from Belgium, another from Holland and a girl from New York. After dinner we continued to play cards with some others before we all went on the night tour (a fancy way of saying bar crawl). I enjoyed the group I was with, but I didn’t really like the first bar. The second one was okay because we could play foosball, and the third we skipped out on because we were tired and had a big day tomorrow. My favorite question of the night was from Joris, who asked why so many of the girls were just wearing big bras out (they had crop tops on). LOL. Before going home, we stopped at McDonalds because Danielle compares McDonalds in every country she visits. We had fun hearing the Dutch say hamburger and laughing at drunk people trying to get into the bathroom that needed a code.
This morning I met the Australians and my new roommate from China for breakfast (the hostel breakfast was decent, cheap and mostly easy, but I really wish it had eggs). Orignally, the group from yesterday was going to do Toledo today, but everyone kind of decided against it and instead we made plans to meet up at Buen Retiro Park.
I knew the park was huge, but I didn’t expect it to be SO huge. I could have been lost (good lost) in there for days. It also was well maintained and clean. We basically just took a slow pace stroll around the park. Stopping at the lake to watch people paddle boat, stopping for a cafe, stopping to look at beautiful greenery, stopping at the crystal palace (not impressed) and then stopping at what was my favorite part…the park with peacocks!!
The peacocks were everyone and roamed around freely! We spent the next 30 minutes there taking pictures of them (and the baby ducks) leveraging Michaels iPhone with portrait mode. Finally, we made our way out and then I discovered my next favorite place, a road lined with little vendors selling used books. They were mostly in Spanish, but I still could have browsed through for hours.
Yet, we were starving so kept going trying to find the Mercado. The local one was closed, so we went to the touristy one. I was not disappointed! It was like being at a food and wine festival, a building filled with booths of small tastes of the most delicious bites to eat and beverages to go alongside. I started with a Vermouth on the rocks and some olives. Next, had a bread topped with soft cheese, pesto and tomato. Then, a mushroom fritter. Finally, more bread and cheese paired with red wine. We surprisingly were full so we called that lunch (it was 3:30pm by now) and then walked back to relax in our hostels.
A few of us decided to do one final dinner all together. We tried to go to this cool rooftop, but it was full. Instead we walked around until we found this cool street food place. It was a big space with lots of different asian food booths inside and long tables to sit at. I had my favorite, pad thai! I was so hungry at that point, it was 9pm that I also split some marinated tofu. We talked about interesting fruit we’ve eaten (as we stuff our faces with fried noodles) and whether or not we wanted drinks. Surprisingly we couldn’t find any room for drinks or dessert so we said our final goodbyes and parted ways.
I signed up for the walking tour this morning because I did still want to meet people and because I wanted to learn more about the city, since I’ve just been observing. We had a large group, 17 of us, from 3 different hostels. I really enjoyed the walking tour and learning how how Sangria, Tapas and other cultural things began. It was also really nice to walk and talk with the others in my group. I didn’t really click with the people from the first night, but this group had some very awesome people. It was a mix of Americans, Australians, Canadians, Mexicans, a Grecian and a Columbian.
I had a continental breakfast at the hostel where I ran into someone from the first night. We decided to check out the Sunday Flea Market, El Gastro Flea Market. It took over the streets and drew a huge crowd. It had a lot of vintage clothes and other souvenir type things. It was fun to look around, but neither of us bought anything. There is something about going to a local flea market or farmers market that really makes you feel part of community. I planned on doing the walking tour afterwards, but when they say it’s everyday, that doesn’t include Sunday lol.
I left on Thursday and arrived in Spain on Friday. The good news was that I slept 7 of the 10 hours on the flight. After dropping my bags off at the hostel, I walked around a bit to get my bearings and to stop for coffee. I signed up for the dinner option at the hostel as a way to meet people. In true Spanish fashion, dinner wasn’t until 9pm. I had plenty of time to walk around some more and shower. My first impression of Madrid was that it is a big city, with lots of winding streets and people out and about.
I had no set plans today so I was a true wanderluster. After some time on the beach, I decided I needed some food and a coffee. While sitting at Zwarf Cafe, I ran into some of my Shaka friends who were walking around town. Of course, I tagged along with them because I missed them already! Eventually they dropped me back off at my hostel where I met my roommate.
We were on our way to meet up with a guy from Minnesota who was on her plane, but stopped at the Super Ronny for a canned mojito first. While inside, it began to storm like crazy. Then, everything went black. It was clear there would be no beach hangout, so instead, we ran to a nearby pizza joint hoping their stoves were wood fire and not gas. It was our lucky day and the ovens were working. We ordered pizza and wine and sat in the dark. Occasionally the electricity would go back on for 5 seconds and the whole place would cheer. However, it turned off 5 seconds after that and everyone would “awwww”. It went on like that the rest of the night.
We arrived back to the hostel, no lights, no A/C, no Wifi and no way to charge our phones. While it was a bit stressful, it was kind of funny and ironic. The rest of the night was spent in true sleepover mode. We stayed up talking about anything and everything, with the occasionally pause to cheer when the lights came back on temporarily. They went off for good around 10pm and didn’t go back on until 7am. Even the cell towers were down so if anyone was trying to reach us, it wasn’t happening.
On my last full day, I decided to join Helina for an afternoon surf. She had an instructor, but I decided to try it solo since I was on the same beach as last week, Playa Hermosa. It was my first time ever going surfing alone but I felt confident. The waves were still very choppy from the storm last night, coming from every which direction. The white water was pretty fun since it was so choppy but it was hard to surf a clean wave. Then, there was a sudden opening out to the green waves so I decided to take it. I paddled out and only minutes after getting out there a wave was coming my way. I took it and caught it! I rode just a short distance before it closed out on me and I came crashing down. It was then I realized I was very far out and in very deep water (low tide). The waves were so unpredictable that I got a little scared and ended up going back to shore.
I finished my last night with sushi, spicy margaritas, live music and of course laying in bed praying for the A/C to turn back on (power went out again).