Jan 20 2008

Barcelona Finale

Published by at 3:19 pm under Barcelona,Spain

After everything that had happened during their stay in Bacelona, when it finally came time for my family to head back home, I wasn’t sure if they were sorry to go, or simply relieved to be departing in one piece. Well, I can say with some certainty that my sister would have remained longer if possible, having fallen in love with 1. the metro system (she hates to drive), 2. Barcelona’s flirtatious waiters, and 3. a culture that encourages her to focus most of her day’s energies on a multi-hour meal. I think my mom may have even liked the excitement surrounding our misadventures, but I can say with confidence that my dad is happy to have his brood back out of the reach of un-instigated police brutality. (On a happier side note: two weeks have passed since my beating, and I’m almost able to walk again.)

We saw my family off in an airport-bound taxi, and then decided it was probably time to think about what we should do next. We had no place to stay, very little cash, and now, no debit card with which to withdraw more (see Brittany’s previous entry). With no alternative in sight, we spent all our cash on booze, slept in the street because we couldn’t afford a hostel, and got robbed killed abducted by gypsies. Or we WOULD have, if it weren’t for Couch Surfing coming to our rescue once more. Although, gypsy abduction/lifestyle indoctrination seems to happen a lot in my stories – maybe I have some strange fascination with them? I blame it on watching too much Follow That Bird as a child. The vagrants who stole Big Bird and painted him blue might not have been gypsies in the ethnic sense of the word, but they do have something in common with the scourge of Europe, which is that I want both to stay far away from me. So why am I about to head into southern Spain, the very heart of gypsy territory? And more importantly, what does this stream of consciousness have to do with Couch Surfing?

Eating the best tapas in BarcelonaBack to the point. Through the Couch Surfing network, we were lucky enough to find a couple willing to host us for a few nights in the heart of Barcelona. Two musicians from Long Island, Jackie and Michael are in Barcelona to study Spanish and teach English. We arrived at their apartment to find that they were also hosting two more musicians from Minnesota. Which made us, officially, the un-cool kids. But despite our insufferable nerdiness, Jackie and Michael told us we could stay at their place as long as we needed. This was actually a huge windfall for us, since it gave us an address we could have our replacement debit card mailed, without having to spend our limited cash on hostel stays in the meantime. We ended up staying with Jackie and Michael for five nights or so, and during that time, met a parade of characters through Jackie and Michael’s revolving door of traveler hospitality.

James – hipster street musician from Minnesota
Ana – accompanying hipster street musician from Minnesota/Russia
Sven – gigantic viking, who specializes in IT, and lives in Germany. Also, he snores. Loudly.
Nisa – Indonesian girl who probably gets annoyed when people she meets fail to realize that her name isn’t “Lisa” until after she’s already gone back home. Sorry!
2 French Canadian snowboarders whose names I never did understand, but who gave us some of their camp soap, which I still use as shampoo. Thanks dudes!

We had originally planned on leaving Barcelona right after my parents, but since we now had time on our hands while we waited for our new debit card to arrive, we spent our days indulging in some Barcelona activities that we otherwise might not have had time for…

  • He spits waterExploring Gaudi’s Parc Guell. Just as tripped out as Gaudi’s buildings throughout the city center. Maybe even more so, since this time, he had a whole public park to work with. A favorite for local families on Sunday afternoons, and giant, ceramically tiled lizards.
  • Finding the best tapas in Barcelona. Jackie and Michael introduced us to a tapas restaurant near the harbor that’s packed with the in-the-know locals. Why? Easy: fried scallops, fried zucchini, fried eggplant, fried potatoes with spicy brava sauce. Oh, and it’s super cheap. I almost feel guilty not keeping this place a secret, but since my instructions for finding it are terrible, and nobody reads this blog anyway, what’s the harm? Its name is BAR JAJ-CA TAPES, and it’s in the neighborhood called Barceloneta. That’s all I know, but if you accept the quest for amazing tapas, your stomach will thank you.
  • Barcelona Magic Fountain from afarWitnessing the Magic Fountain. Said fountain, atop the hill known as Montjuic, truly deserves its given name. Verily, the fountain must be under some mystical enchantment, for ev’ry evening at sundown, it begins to spray water into the air, though it be under the influence of neither man nor beast. What unseen power compels it thusly? No mortal may say, but I bear witness to the fact that if one arrives on the night of the Jewish or Christian Sabbath, he shall see a display of sorcery that incorporates lights, colors, and music. Such magics my eye hath never ere beheld! Fountain operates daily, weekend showings throughout winter begin at 7:00PM.
  • Outside the Dali MuseumVisiting the Salvador Dali Museum. Dali’s personal museum isn’t even in Barcelona, but Jackie and Michael insisted that it’s worth the 2 hour train ride to the town of Figueres. It’s obvious upon your arrival in Figueres that the Dali Museum is just about all they’ve got going for themselves in this town. From the moment you exit the train station, signs posted every few steps lead you all the way to the museum’s front door. As part of his carefully coordinated lifelong effort to propagate his own fame, Dali designed the museum himself, and saw it completed in his own lifetime. Which explains why you find yourself passing through giant mouths between museum hallways, and why the roof of the building is covered with eggs. The museum proclaims itself to be the largest surrealist object in the world, and the journey through Dali’s art is a fantastically disorientating experience. Also, Dali may have been a little too obsessed with his own fame, which thankfully allows for additional patron entertainment. To get the most bang for your buck, be sure to stop and read the signs Dali placed throughout the museum, which convey such modest messages as, “My art is taught as a prophecy in the United States.”
  • Eating the best ham sandwich IN THE WORLD. Or so proclaimed the New York Times, when they visited Barcelona’s Café Vienna in 2006. It’s certainly not the cheapest ham sandwich IN THE WORLD – after the dollar-euro conversion, a rather small sandwich set me back $9.00. But this is due to the ham being purely of the esteemed “Iberico” variety, which means that it comes from special pigs, notable for being raised somewhere in rural Spain on a diet of nothing but acorns. The sandwich is indeed a thing of wonder when compared the type of ham we get in the United States (and I’m from Virginia!), but when compared to the regular old non-acorn ham eaten across the rest of Europe on a daily basis, it’s really not that different. Crap, now I sound like one of those jerks who’s all like, “Well, when I was in Europe…” I take it all back! Fried chicken and apple pie forever!*
  • Getting revenge. Dear d-bag who stole our debit card number: you think this is over? Maybe you think you’re slick with your fake name and address, but you picked on two people who like only one thing more than hoarding our money: sweet, sweet revenge. Your e-mails lie, but your IP address doesn’t, and when the investigators come knocking on your door, I’ll be paying them extra to bring along a couple of the super-sized mutant cops, outfitted with webcams so we can watch the whole thing live from Portugal. Oh yeah, and before I forget: no one do business with ALEXANDER NAVA, with the SOUTH STAR REALTY COMPANY, who is a GIANT THIEF and probably [censored by Brittany].

Eventually, our new debit card did arrive, which meant it was finally time to leave Barcelona. The only requirement for our next destination was that it needed to be westward, if we had any hope of ever making it to Portugal. During our time in Barcelona, we kept hearing from travelers that we needed to see Granada, and after consulting a map, it turns out that Granada is indeed west of Barcelona. That was enough for us, so the same day we got our debit card in the mail, we bought tickets on the overnight train to Granada. Onward to warmer weather and flamenco dancing! Oh yeah, and in terms of gypsy population concentration, the veritable heart of the beast. But who ever thinks about things like that?

*P.S. The bread on the best ham sandwich IN THE WORLD shreds the roof of your mouth. U.S.A.!

NEXT: Granada: Gypsy Flight and Flamenco Night »



7 responses so far

7 Responses to “Barcelona Finale”

  1. Don Duendeon 22 Jan 2008 at 12:16 pm

    Hola, your great stories have eaten my afternoon! Estupendo. Hope you’re enjoying Granada, some great places to visit and being foodies you’ll appreciate that “the tapas are free” Bien viaje.

  2. Marielon 04 Feb 2008 at 12:47 pm

    So I want to know more about your run in with the South Star Realty Company. I’m heading to BCN next month and amtrying to book an apartment to stay in. I found a place on LoQUO and got a response back from an Andrea at southstarcompany@gmail.com. Ring a bell?

  3. Benon 05 Feb 2008 at 8:40 am

    Mariel! Don’t give Andrea any of your information! South Star Company is a scam and they keep making up names to post new listings on LoQUO. There is no “Andrea” and they will clean out your credit card!!! Oooh that South Star Company…

  4. Joe Phillipson 16 Feb 2008 at 10:21 am

    I booked the apartment on the Loqou website with Andreas Nava of southstar company for my wife & three small children for three nights in Barcelona as she was due to have some medical treatment there. He kept insisting he had not received our bank transfer, right upto the night before we were due to fly out so I offerered to pay him cash on arrival. He only replied with a contact name & number:
    Catherine at
    Calle Aribau 155,2-3
    08036 Barcelona.
    Metro : Diagonal
    Tel: +34/ 934 100 037
    Cel: +34/ 606 969 197
    , and the address of the apartment:
    Calle Enric Granados, 135, 3º 1a
    08007, BARCELONA
    Both addresses are within yards of each other, coincidence? I went to the apartment address I had been given and someone called Andres, another coincidence?, said he lived there but it was a private apartment & not for rent. Also strangely the contact name & phone number were real, an apartment agency, ‘Booking – Barcelonaroom [booking@barcelonaroom.com]‘ Catherine there said she had never heard of him or the apartment. He had left us stranded with nowhere to stay in a foreign city. We did find somewhere to stay else through this contact but at twice the price we had already paid to Andres at southstar. We contacted Loquo on our return and they have removed his listings from their site, but I’m sure he’ll be back with some other bogus ads.

  5. Marielon 27 Feb 2008 at 2:11 pm

    UGH – Joe that is too bad, I went with another company called Apartment Ramblas and will be in Barcelona next week. Believe me though, Ben’s account of his ordeal has left me wary but so far everything seems in order. Crossing my fingers for the apartment in Barcelona and then one in Rome which I’ll be in the week after.
    It makes you wonder how many people this guy has scammed and there are no real consequences. How maddening!

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