Buona sera tutti,
I continue my account of FB09 with the second leg of our journey: Spain. Before I start, things are good here. My friend Josh from SMC and his awesome girlfriend Ali were here Sunday to visit and today my friend and teammate Catie is coming! So nice to have SMC friends come visit. And in case I haven't mentioned it yet, we're going to Austria this weekend too. SO excited. Anyway...
I'm going to talk about Barcelona first, but my photo stream has pictures from Madrid first, so you all know. Barcelona was one of the places I really wanted to visit while here in Europe, but I wasn't quite sure why. I knew they had good food and great parties, but I severely underestimated the rich culture and amazing art and architecture. When we arrived, we headed to our hostel, stopping at the first Starbuck's we'd seen in months (Italians are snobby about their coffee, rightfully so). The Kabul Backpacker's Hostel was the most amazing hostel, to put it simply. It had a huge common area, cheap bar, and free breakfast and lunch. We had some interesting roommates, but we got over it. We spent our first half day lazily exploring the area, especially the gorgeous waterfront area. We returned for free dinner and spent the night relaxing in the hostel, prepping for a fun filled day.
We rose early on our only full day in the city and headed to the market building. This was perhaps the most amazing, though visually exhausting, place I've ever been. It was so bright and full of everything from meat, bread, cheese, and fish, to candies, chocolate, amazing fresh fruit smoothies, and an organic section. We spent some time there, bought treats for later, and set off up the metro to the Sagrada Familia (spelled without the normal Spanish G because in Barcelona they speak Catalan...that wasn't helpful). I've linked you to the wikipedia page for the cathedral, but here's some basic information. This massive, and jaw dropping, Catholic church was started in 1882 under the design of Antoni Gaudi, but so large scale that it's completion is not predicted until 2026. It has 3 major facades and is absolutely stunning, words and pictures don't do it justice. Neither does my video, but it might help capture the moment.
After the church, and a very long walk, we arrived at Parc Guell, a park designed by Gaudi as well. His art and architecture is unique and fun, and it was a great day in the park. We returned back to Kabul to shower, nap, and get some dinner before a fun night out. The Hostel has a party every day of the week, each at a different club in Barcelona. We went to an amazing beachfront club called Opium FOR FREE and danced the night away. And by night I mean early morning, because nothing starts in Barcelona until 1 and it goes until 6 or 7. Don't worry, we were home by 4 and in bed, resting up for another half day in the city before heading to Madrid. We filled this day will little local sightseeing like the Columbus Square and another church, plus a stroll or two down Las Ramblas, the winding street full of shopping and street performers. Then it was off to the nation's capital, Madrid!
We arrived in Madrid when it was already dark, settled into our hostel, and hit the sheets (we were exhausted). After breakfast in the morning, and some planning, we set out to explore. Our first stop was the Reina Sofia Museum, a modern art museum. It was a bit overwhelming for us, but we looked at a lot of cool stuff, including Picasso. Later that day we also saw the Palacio Real, a gorgeous palace, and the neighboring cathedral. We also visited Plaza Mayor and Plaza Sol, where the exact center of Spain lies, and is marked. By the way, we spent NO MONEY on any of these things, thanks to my trusty Europe Travel Book (thanks mom and dad).
Since we were making out like bandits, we figured we could splurge on a normal lunch instead of fruit and bread, so we consulted the book. However, the place we picked (named 100 sandwiches for obvious reasons) was having a special where everything was 1 euro. So 2 euro later we were lounging in Plaza mayor with a drink, chips, and a sandwich. Our second biggest expense of the day was also small change, 4 euro for delicious churros y chocolate at the city's most well know chocolatier (thanks again to the book). The day's, and the trip's, largest spent sum went to dinner that night at Casa Botin, THE WORLD'S OLDEST RESTAURANT. No big deal. I had roast suckling pig, their specialty, and it was amazing. The people were so nice and after closing they let us look at the wine cellar and the kitchen, which has the original oven from 1725 when the restaurant first opened. Needless to say, we went to bed happy campers. The next day we woke up, toured the important pieces at the Prado Museum, and were ready to head to our final stop, PARIS.
That's all for now. Paris post before the weekend. Ciao ciao!