La Sangria Familia

“We crossed spacious streets, with buildings resembling palaces, in La Rambla promenade; the shops were well illuminated and there was movement and life…I did not decide to go to sleep, even though I wished to, so I could rise early and contemplate, in daylight, this city, unknown to me: Barcelona, Capital of Catalonia”–Hans Christian Andersen, 1862


I was once told that, when traveling to new a city, I should ask myself, “what do they do in this city better than any other place in the world?”  When this question was applied to Barcelona, the answer was easy, “partying, sports, and architecture”.
My 4 days in Barcelona consisted of heavy portions of partying and attending sporting events and when I wasn’t too tired from the first two, I was able to see some of Barca’s famous buildings.  Almost all of them built or designed by one man, Antoni Gaudi.
If I were to describe Barca in terms of comparing it with other cities I’d say it’s a sort of mix between Rome and Paris.  The colors, atmosphere and food are all reminiscent of Rome and Barcelona’s wide avenues and public parks instantly brought back memories of Paris.  Of course Barcelona is its own city though.  The languages (Catalan and Spanish) both ring throughout the city’s shops and cafes with a distinct twang that is otherwise lacking in Italian and French.  Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of Barcelona, particularly when comparing and contrasting it with Rome and Paris is that Barca is blessed with a beautiful beach on the Mediterranean.
Moving away from the descriptions of Barcelona and turning towards what I actually did in Barca is a bit more entertaining.  The first thing to say about it is that I had a lot of fun.
I arrived at my hostel (Sant Jordi Arago) Thursday night around 9 pm.  Normally, in most cities of Europe that I’ve visited, hostels at this hour are marked with frantic college sophomores trying to down their last vodka shots before they go out.  This wasn’t the case in Barca.  The old tradition of everything starting later in Spain was certainly true and 9 pm at the hostel simply meant it was dinner time.  Really nights in Barcelona (and from what I hear throughout Spain) do not begin until 12 am at the earliest.
Having realized that my night was still way ahead of me, I threw my bags in my locker, grabbed a quick shower and went into the kitchen to see what everyone was up to.  Apparently Sant Jordi is actually a pseudo-franchise of hostels in Barcelona and part of their appeal is that they lead bar/night club crawls throughout Barca every night of the week.  Admission to some of Barcelona’s nicest and most exclusive clubs is free when you partake in one of these outings and they have obviously become very popular.  Not wanting to miss out on the legendary Barca nightlife I joined the crawl and there I quickly met some people that I would end up spending the remainder of my stay with.  The night out was a lot of fun though I have to admit that I felt a little out of place.  I suppose I’ve kind of outgrown the mega-clubs and man was that a depressing realization.
Late the next morning, I was reacquainted with the people I had met the night before.  There were the Matts from Australia, Gus from Colombia and Erica from New York.  Some other people from the hostel came in and out of our plans but for the most part there were the five of us (at least for my stay).  We had heard that the X Games were in Barcelona and decided to get tickets because hey, why not?
Tickets were relatively cheap for a big event and we spent my first full day in Barca at the X Games and basically grabbed quite a few cerveza grandes and took in the street skateboarding, Motor Cross and skateboarding big air finals.  It was kind of nice to be able to cross that off of the bucket list.
I have to say that most of my time in Barcelona is a bit of a blur.  There weren’t too many hours marked by sobriety.  But I suppose that’s the sign of a good vacation.  The second day in Barcelona exemplified this fact pretty well.  We started the day around 1 pm and were determined to rent bikes to cruise around Barca and to go visit Parc Guell and other parts of the city.  This never happened.  What instead happened was we went out to get lunch, had a ton of sangria (hence the name of this entry), went to the grocery store and bought some beers, drank those beers and then we attempted to visit the Picasso Museum.  On our way to Picasso we got the thought about buying ping pong balls and solo cups so we could play beer pong before we went out later.  We just so happened to bump into one of the guys who works at hostel, though he was off-duty, and he volunteered to show us where we could find our supplies.  After our requisite materials were purchases, the guy from the hostel offered to show us how to walk to the Picasso Museum.  On the way, he had an intriguing suggestion, “hey you know there’s a really cool bar on the way to the museum!”  So to the bar we went.  And then we went to a park and drank some mas cerveza.  The point of all of this was that alcohol prevented us from really doing anything that day, though I’d hardly consider it a lost day.  Definitely one of the more enjoyable days, and later, nights that I’ve had in a while.
No trip to Barcelona would be complete without a visit to La Sagrada Familia.  Gaudi’s magnus opem is actually still unfinished (construction on the basilica was ongoing during my visit) but it is easily one of the most impressive churches I’ve ever seen.  Neither Notre Dame or Sacre Coeur hold a candle to La Sagrada Familia and when you take into consideration that it’s only a little over half-completed; simply stunning.
The last major event that was in store for me was of course a trip to Camp Nou.  For the uninitiated, Camp Nou is the legendary home of one of soccer’s finest clubs, FC Barcelona.  Around the same time we learned of the X-Games happening in Barca, we also learned that FCB was playing a La Liga match in the city and that tickets were relatively affordable!  I had to go.
Matt, Erica, Gus and I bought tickets and some other people from the hostel later bought a few as well. Truthfully, the game wasn’t very eventful (Barcelona won 2-1) and the weather was miserable.  It rained throughout the game and the temperature was less than hospitable.  I never thought I could be that cold in Barcelona.  The silver lining was of course that it was FCB’s first home game since clinching their 22nd La Liga title and therefore, there was a trophy presentation ceremony/extravaganza after their thumping over Valladolid.  It was really cool to see Camp Nou lit up with fireworks and with light glimmering off of the confetti that had been shot high into the air.  Pretty cool.
Despite all of the fun I had and all of the sights I saw in Barcelona, there still remains a lot I didn’t get to.  I suppose the only remedy is another trip to what is really a remarkable city.  Not now but not in the too distant future.

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