Sunday, November 24, 2013
2013 Europe Trip - Day 15: An Amazing Last Day
New year, new travels. These stories are entries from my journal of my trip to Europe from June 8-24, 2013.
Sunday, the 23rd, was my last full day in Europe, so I made it count with a good combination of sightseeing, celebration, and fun times.
First on the agenda was a visit to the Sagrada Familia Basilica. It's another one of my favorite Barcelona sights, and I hadn't seen it since my first trip to Barcelona in 2007. There was a really good special on the construction on 60 Minutes recently, and my desire to see the church again was a big part of my decision to include Barcelona in this trip.
The return trip was definitely worthwhile. It was hard to believe how much progress has been made in the last six years. When I first visited, the sanctuary was full of scaffolding, and I think some of the main walls weren't even there yet. You kind of had to use your imagination to picture how it would be used as a church. Now, though, the interior of the sanctuary feels almost complete. In fact, they hold mass there a couple times each month. So much modern architecture is just about building big, practical office buildings, and it's amazing to see a contemporary project that's so artistic and intricate, and at the same time dedicated to God. Needless to say, it's beautiful.
After that visit to a church that will be completed in the future (and a break at a park), I took the subway over to a church that was built way in the past: the cathedral. It was built between the 13th and 15th centuries. I wasn't there for tourism, though; I attended mass. I made sure to pick a mass in Castellano ("regular" Spanish) and not Catalan, and I understood it pretty well. As it is in many cathedrals, the mass was pretty traditional and solemn. Kind of weird to have tourists taking video of you as you leave, though.
My plan was to go to Barcelona's famous market, the Boqueria, next, but after some wandering (and a quick stop for churros), I discovered it was closed. Should've known. But the day was about to take a turn for the better.
Nearby, I ran into my roommate Spencer, who was with his cousin Trevor and some others from the hostel. Apparently they all had the same idea to see the Boqueria. Instaed, we went over to Plaça Reial for a sangria break.
The sangria group included me, Spencer, Trevor, two girls named Tara and Gabrielle, from near Brisbane, Australia, and a guy named Michael, from America, who went to Texas Tech. We chatted about football, travel, and Barcelona while we went through a few pitchers of sangria. They were all planning to go on a sailboat cruise that evening, so when we finished, we walked down to the water and bought a ticket for me.
On the way back to the hostel, we stopped at a couple convenience stores and loaded up on some cheap sangria and rum for our later drinking needs.
After that, we took a break back at the hostel, and I played Uno with some Australian guys. Can't remember their names or which city they were from, but it was fun. We shared some travel stories.
Eventually, the others came down from their siestas, and we headed back toward the water.
In addition to the others from the midday sangria group, there was a Canadian girl whose name I can't remember. As we walked, it was raining and cloudy, and we had our fingers crossed that the boat trip would still happen. We waited around a bit, though, and it became clear that it wouldn't. The boat company gave us refunds, and we decided to use the money to have a fun night in spite of the weather.
We wandered back up into the Gothic Quarter and found a bar/restaurant to get some food and, of course, more sangria. The food was excellent—all the classic Spanish foods: paella (even though we weren't in Valencia, it was amazing), jamon serrano, some cheeses, some potatoes, and olives. It really hit the spot. As a side bonus, the Spanish national soccer team was playing on TV and doing well.
After that, we headed back toward the beach to join in the celebrations. It was the feast of St. Joan (Catalan spelling for John), and it's always a crazy night of fireworks and partying. The festival is also tightly associated with the summer solstice, so there's a lot of beachgoing, partying outside, and firecrackers. Maybe kind of like our Independence Day, but with much more drinking openly.
Once we got to the beach (it was a long hike), we stood around for a bit before our attention was captured by a pedal pub: one of those things where you sit around a bar and pedal, like on a bike, and drink, and the thing takes you...somewhere. For us, it was just a trip to the other end of the beach and back, but it was a fun time. It was a good way to see all the partiers and the fireworks on the beach. We stood around for a bit afterward before deciding to get some cabs back to the hostel. We split up, and I went with the Canadian girl, who graciously paid my half of the fare, since I had zero euros left.
The celebration didn't end with our trip back to the hostel, though. Several people were hanging out in the lobby, so we kind of just brought the party back with us. The Catalan guy was working the desk again, and he was attempting to show some girls how to play a Johnny Cash song on the guitar, so I joined him. Eventually, the others came back, and the party grew. The guitar was passed around, and we sang along to songs by Weezer, Dave Matthews Band, and the Beatles. Hooray for St. Joan!
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