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Michael’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 04 Jul 2006

Location: Barcelona, Spain

MapEntry 45 - Barcelona (29th June - 3rd July)

First, the last paraglide video has finally loaded (dunno why it took so long) so if you want to watch it, go back to entry 42 (Interlarken) and hit the 4th link in the paraglide section.

Next, I love this town. Earlier this year, or perhaps last year, Barcelona was voted the 4th best place in the world to visit (behind Paris - maybe will let you knwo in a few weeks; New York - that city rocks; and Sydney - are you people gay and on drugs, that make you love one way streets?). In any case, I can see why, as this is the liveliest, but dirtiest and grimy city I think I have visited.

We got in late in the afternoon, after turning off the freeway at about the 20th ´Barcelona´stop, only to figure we were headed in the wrong direction. It didn´t help that I was trashed after a 3 hour stint driving, and Clint´s eyes have enough trouble seeing the car in front of him, let alone the road signs, so my falling asleep didn´t help. We made it into town eventually, and again were faced with one-way streets, no labelled in the road map we have... damn. We were also stupid enough to not write down the address for the hostel we had booked, so ended up parking the car, and wandering around La Rambla looking for a net cafe... hard to find (except when you realise that there a million and one about a block off the main drag). With the address in hand, we realised we were only a couple blocks away and walked to the hostel.

After checking in (Barcelona Mar, €22 inc. breakfast, internet, lockers etc. pretty cool), we asked where there was cheap parking and were shown a map with an area circled, which apparently was free on street parking. When we got there in the car, we realised we were seriously in the Spanish ghetto, so rather than park elsewhere, we just took all of the valuable stuff out of the car, and hoped it wouldn´t be on blocks when we got back. It also was free parking between 8pm-8am, with what we thought was 2 hours maximum during the day... so we were sweet till 10am. Worry about the rest later, we had it parked for the night.

Being another long drive day, and a killer hto night, we had a few drinks, wandered along La Rambla (the main street which is PACKED 24/7). We found a pizza joint (damn this is scary, just realised we had pizza 4 nights in a row...) and split a pizza. Had the worst tasting beer I have ever tasted in my life (Estralla, spanish) and chatted with some of teh happy folk back at the hostel. After sitting around, talking crap for a while, headed off to bed around 1am.

Next morning, after having our dodgy free breakfast, we headed off to move our car. When we got there at 9am, there was a ticket on the window.... DAMN. Apparently there is a ticket machine somewhere on the street, and it was 2hr maximum, with a ticket between 8am and 8pm... It was in Spanish, so we had no idea! We drove around and found another park on the street, closer to the hostel, but when we went to put money in (€1 for 5 days!) we realised it was residents only... damn again. Finally we conceeded that we were going to have to head for another park house. The first one we pulled into (and it was about now we realised that no-one speaks any English) wanted to charge €36 a night.. no way. We lucked onto a second one, and after Clint basically offered to pay twice as much as he was asking (communication error) we parked the car for €14 a day... not bad at all.

We wandered around the city heading back to the hostel (ie. we got lost) and eventually made it back, effectively killing half of the day in trying to sort out the car. Back at the hostel, we found out that the ticket was in fact a warning, letting us know the car was now on the computer, and if parked illegally again in Barcelona, we´d cop a €180 fine! Woo hoo, that saved some money!

Back at the hostel, we decided to scope out the beach in Barcelona, so kitted up and caught the tram across (after an awesome kebab in flatbrott for lunch). The beach was again a poor excuse, and the ´sand´ was in fact very fine crushed up gravel, at least that is how it appeared. All of the beaches were man made, and packed. It seemed like all 1.5 million people of Barcelona were there, as well as most of the tourists, and again the order of the day were topless bathers, even if you were an 80 year woman, with sagging brown leather skin - pretty ugly.

The beach was more of the Meditteranean same, temperature and salt content. We stayed for a few hours, then caught the tram back to the hostel. After showering we grabbed a pizza from a different pizza joint, one that had a kebab pizza... this would be our staple dinner for the next three nights, costing us €4 each for half a pizza and a coke... and the pizza was great! As the kebab/pizza joint had a TV on, everybody was standing on the nature strip watching the soccer. People were even stopping their cars on the road, putting teh hazards on, and getting out and watching the shoot out. Rediculous!

After our feed we headed out for a Flamenco and Tapas night. We saw a live Flamenco dancing show, which only lasted maybe 30 minutes, and was at best, alright. Afterwards we went to two different places to have tapas... which is spanish for small food, big cost. Apparently the story goes that in some spanish town, the wind was blowing sand into drinks. To stop it, they put a piece of bread over the drink, a Tapa. When the king visited the town and saw it, he made it law for all palces serving wine to provide a free small piece of food to eat, all over Spain... well that´s what we were told. Doesn´t happen anymore, except in the south.

We sampled a few different Tapas, thankfully having eaten pizza already we didn´t have to fork out and buy any extra plates of small food. We also had some sangria at the second place, and a couple of extra beers. After we left the second tapas place, some time after midnight, we wandered up to the night club City Hall... and we were the only ones in there. We were promised it would get busier, and by 2am, the palce was packed. At €6 a Budwiser (cheapest bottled beer), €8 a vodka, we didn´t drink too much, but did have a few non the less. We all sat in the terrace outside waiting for the place to get busier, and eventually it did, with house music being played downstairs and old school (okay not that old) being played upstairs. I found myself up stairs listening to Jurassic 5, Jungle Brothers, and stuff that doesn´t usually get played. I heard 3 different Warren G songs (Annie Mae, What´s Love Got To Do With It, Regulate), Nate Dogg, crazy obscure 2Pac (All Eyez on Me) and so much stuff that I haven´t heard in ages, I found myself there by myself (everyone on the tapas tour had left) at 330am, with the club shutting at 4am.

I left, and enjoyed the walk home... ha. I walked directly down La Rambla, still packed, and was asked on so many occasssion if I wanted Charlie, Horse, Coke, Weed, and stuff I´d never heard of. Then guys come up with cold six-packs of beer, offering a can at €1 a pop (note, you get the same fine as they do if the police catch you buying one of one of the mobile ´salesmen´, not sure how much it is though). Finally, for the second time, I was accosted by an asian prostitue (this one was chunky) who asked ´sucki sucki, €20 f--ki f--ki´ to which I asked if she was paying me, shook my arm loose and walked off.

Next morning, we headed off to do our bike tour of Barcelona. We rode around town, visiting many of sites of Barcelona, the most impressive probably being the La Famalia church designed by Antoni Gaudii, and has been in construction for th elastt 100 years (more?) and is hoped to be completed by 2026... it was impressive. Also cool was the park we rode through that contained a fountain ´The Birth of Venus´ which Gaudi also had a hand in. The highlight of tour had to be me blowing the rear tyre trying to hope the gutter, and the guy following me do the exact same 5 seconds later! We spent probably 30 minutes in the blistering heat, trying to change the tyres (the guide had never had a flat tyre before, and only had one spare inner tube...). Finally we got them changed, and headed to the beach for lunch. Clint and I walked on eblock back and paid €4.3 for a half chicken and roast potatoes, when people were paying €6 for a sandwhich at the beach cafe!

When we finished the tour, we headed back to the hostel, had a bit of a rest, and grabbed another kebab pizza. That night we sat around till 9pm, contemplating going on the pub crawl, and eventually at 920pm (when it left at 915pm) Clint said we´d go, and we went... me in torn up denim shorts and thongs, definitely looking my best! The fisrt pub had free beer and sangria from 930 -1030 and everybody was liquored up by the end, the Canadians celebrating Canada Day well and truly gone before we started. The second bar was Kentucky, an old American sailor hang out, and still sports hookers working for a buck later in the night. A free shot, and the highlight being the Victorian ´Garden State´ number plate in amongst all of the yankee number plates... go figure. The third bar was around the corner from the second, another free shot, one hook-up already shagging in the dunnys, and Clint and I talking dirty to Bill Gates 19 year old second niece, just cos we could! The highlight there had to be the TV showing the Happy Tree Freinds... crazy cartoons... check the website:

http://mondo.happytreefriends.com/

The third bar was too full to get in, so to get our free shot we all lined up in front of the door while the bar man free-poured Vodka directly into our mouths, I went back for a second hit and he doubled up with two bottles pouring at once... that could have been the one that did the damage.

The final destination was a night club down on the marina, and it was actually quite cool. A free beer, and by now I was well and truly sure I didn´t need any more, and when I went up to buy 2 waters (one for Clint) I was handed two Hinekens... go figure. We stayed there for a while, Clint actually saying he was having a good time, and eventually went to leave. Easier said than done. Neither of us could figure how to get out, and found ourselves in another club in the marina! There for 10 minutes, we finally made our way out of the marina, and mission 40 minutes back to the hostel for a very deep sleep.

The following morning, we slept thru, and after lunch we caught the bus to Guell Parc, a park designed essentially by Antoni Gaudi. You could almost call it park-itecture. The gardens were cool, and there were a few buildings in there that we typical Gaudi, very distinctive. The park was world heritage listed in 1984. We wandered the paths, and eventually ended at the top of the park, at a monumnet, looking over the whole of Barcelona, towards the sea. It was quite an impressive view. We wandered back around the park to the entrance, slowly, due to the heat and feeling like crap from the night before.

Back at the hostel, we arranged with Michael Finch, Queensland guy to head to Valencia with us. Any empty seat in the car is costing us money, so the extra € pitched in was warmly welcomed. There was talk around the hostel from a number of spanish sources that there was a huge beach party taking place on laet Sunday evening, starting between 8 and 9pm. Clint, and others I later found out, had seen a video from one the previous Sunday with what looked to be 1000 people partying on the beach... why not give it a look.

We headed off, with a Canadian brother and sister combination, and set off for the beach. We got off the bus where we were told to, and walked for half an hour... finally giving up (we were told it was a 15 minute walk, and you´d be able to hear the music). Feeling dejected, we turned around and called it a write off. There were a number of cafes open on the beach that were all playing different music, hip-hop, new world, chill, house, that were all relatively busy, but nothing like what was supposedly in the video. I think the others ahd hoped for more, and in the end, we caught the last bus home at 1130pm, so didn´t bother with any of the cafes on the beach. An early night, with out first passenger in the car the following morning!

After a rough sleep, with the noisiest people ever in theroom next door, the three of (with Mike now) missioned across Barcelona for the car garage. We filled the car up with juice and headed out of Barcelona, doing one last lap of La Ranmbla on the way out (by accident, damn one way streets!). Eventually we found the road we were looking for and headed south to Valencia, with just a brief stop on the way for an overpriced, low quality truck stop lunch.

Pulling into Valencia around 2pm, we hit gridlock. At this stage I was still driving, and Clint was providing no navigational guidance at all, already having taken the wrong fork in the road! Thankfully the gridlock allowed me to get out and trade places with Clint, Mike looking on amused from the rear! As it turned out, we sat almost motionles (okay, maybe crawling a few car lengths a minute) for at least an hour, and didn´t actually get off the freeway until after 330pm. The police had blocked off a number of roads in town because of the Valencia train derailment that killed 41 people, and that resulted in the jam up all the way back down the freeway. How were we to know?

Once in town, it got even harder, with a pissy Lonely Planet guide book map to guide us, through another town of one way streets, and streets that appear to have no order what so ever. Eventually we found a car park in the area near the hostel we were looking for and parked the car and walked over. We were told it was booked up, and to try one up the road, run by the same group. We found it, booked in (Home Backpackers, €15), and went back to pay the car park dude for two nights - €6, sweet!

After some rest, we wandered around town looking for a place to eat. We came across the Plaza of the Virgin, which was swarming with activity, and decided to have Paella for dinner there. It was later we realised we were in the middle of the biggest Christian buzz-fest to hit Valencia, maybe ever. The pope is in town on the 8th and 9th July, and the city is going stark raving mad... thank god we wont be here!

After a few drink on the rooftop terrace, we headed out with a largish crowd to the Radio City pub for a few drinks around midnight, including a free sangria. After a couple hours there, Clint and I crashed (damn driving is too hard!) and headed back to the hostel.

After a decent sleep, we got up and made our way uinto town with a French Canadian who´d just arrived in town, but spoke Spanish, and acted as our translator. By the end of our wanderings, we´d had a late maccas breakfast, bought a new pair of denim shorts to replace my destroyed pair, a beard trimmer to give each other touch up haircuts (it´s been a while since my hair has seen any attention) and a massive amount of vegies for a pasta dinner.

Clint and I headed to the beach for the afternoon, figuring we had better see it... thankfully we did. It was a fair mission, 10 minute walk to the tram, and then a 20 minute ride, but finally a beach with real sand! Thank god. And the water was warmer than everywhere else we had been, not that it was ever really cold.

After a swim, we headed back, and got down to business for the next stage of the trip... Pamps (sorry bout the lack of color in the video)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_90krZjusHA

We have secured three people for the ride out of here (8am on the 5th, 6 hours from now) and are psyched up. The diary is now complete and up to date to the minute... photos are still lacking.

I will be sensible in Pamps, as much as I can.

Love you all, will update after pamps asasp!