Sunday, November 3, 2013
2013 Europe Trip - Day 14: Back to Barcelona
New year, new travels. These stories are entries from my journal of my trip to Europe from June 8-24, 2013.
Saturday was my second-to-last full day in Europe. Time for a train ride to my last stop: Barcelona. I hopped on an early-morning train from Arles to Nîmes. Nîmes seems like an interesting town, but, as in Antibes, I had my suitcase but no place to store it. I hung around the train station and had some orange juice and a croissant for breakfast. It was my last stop in France, after all. Then it was on to Spain.
My train from Nîmes to Figueres, Spain was a TGV, though not as fast as the one I rode from Luxembourg to Paris. I arrived in Figueres at around noon. The TGV arrives there at sort of a "provisional" station, which is unfortunately way out on the edge of town. I tried to store my suitcase there with no luck. Maybe that's just a Germany thing.
My Spanish skills came back to me as I purchased a ticket to Barcelona for later that afternoon. I gave myself a couple hours to go into town and hopefully see its famous Dalí museum. After dragging my suitcase about a mile, I realized my couple hours wasn't enough. I arrived at the museum with about 90 minutes to go and about a 20-minute walk back to the station. Plus, there was a line out the door. I called an audible. I walked around the outside of the museum and took some photos of its Dalí-fitting eccentricity. It really surprised me how centrally-located the building is, considering how weird it is.
I had lunch at a sandwich place next to the museum and sat outside, as was becoming the custom for the trip. I was excited: I had a bocadillo and a Fanta naranja—my go-to Spanish meal. I think the bocadillo (a sandwich on a lightly-toasted baguette) was made with some Catalan sausage or pork loin. After that, it was time to drag my big rolling suitcase back to the train station.
Traveling on Spain's rail system, Renfe, felt the most like flying, in terms of security and check-in process. They didn't open the platform until 20 minutes before the train left, bags had to go through an X-ray machine, and the seats were assigned. At least the coaches were nice.
I arrived in Barcelona about an hour later, in the middle of the afternoon. I had a room reserved at the Mambo Tango, a hostel where I stayed in 2009 and enjoyed my time. It seems like they might've expanded, but the place was familiar: a pretty laid-back attitude and a medium size that I liked.
Other than the desk guy, the first person I met was one of my roommates: a Canadian guy named Spencer. He was from Calgary (I think) and had been in town a few days already. When his cousin Trevor returned, the three of us went out for some afternoon beers and a snack. I think they were doing sort of an after-college trip. I was excited to share some of my Spain wisdom.
After we went back to the hostel, Spencer and Trevor took off, and I went for a hike. There's a big hill called Montjuïc near the hostel, and I heard good things. It was about a 30-minute hike to the top (I skipped the gondola and opted to exercise). I worked up a bit of a sweat, but the reward was worth it. At the top was a castle and some great views of the city. The weather and my timing were pretty great, too—probably about an hour before sunset. I could see the Sagrada Familia, the coast, the port, and that one building shaped like...an egg. I started to remember why Barcelona's one of my favorite cities in the world. There were some pretty sweet cannons, too.
I made the long walk back down and stopped for my second bocadillo of the day. This one was a "tortilla" bocadillo—sort of a potato omelette sandwich. Then back to the hostel, where I ran into another roommate named Jordan. She was a teacher from Tacoma, a city near Seattle. She was excited to get to use her summer break to make a 7-week trip around Europe. Must be nice.
Later, I met up with a group downstairs for a walk to Barcelona's "Magic Fountains." They're one of my favorite things in Barcelona. Huge fountains with lights that rotate and dance around to music. Kind of like the Bellagio, but maybe bigger. This was the third time I had seen the show, but it was cool to be there with some folks who hadn't seen it. And it's a show worth seeing more than once anyway.
Our "tour guide" was an Australian named Remy, who had only been in town three weeks and actually hadn't seen the fountain before. He was spending the summer in Barcelona with a job running pub crawls.
After the show, we stopped back at the hostel for a few minutes and then headed out on a pub crawl. We were going to meet up with people from a few other hostels and then go out. Several dozen obnoxious tourists—what could go wrong?
I met a guy named Ricky who was serving in the US Air Force at Rammstein Air Base in Germany. He thought he knew where we were going, but we ended up getting off the subway at the wrong stop and separated from the group. After about 30 minutes wandering around, we called off the search and caught the Metro back to the hostel.
The night ended well, though, thanks to the night desk guy. He saw I was kind of annoyed and poured me a couple beers. He was originally from Catalunya (the region where Barcelona is located), which is sort of known for its spirit of independence and desire to secede. He told me how the younger Spanish folks are getting annoyed with the EU—it seems like the rich countries (mostly Germany) get richer while the poor countries (e.g. Spain) get poorer. He said the under-30 population in Spain now has a 50% unemployment rate, and Catalunya really just want to control their own destiny and make their own decisions.
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