BootsnAll Travel Network

Josh and Jenny’s European Adventure 2009 – Day 2 Barcelona, Spain

After leaving an hour early, we actually arrived pretty close to being on time.  We must have picked up time in the air.  We landed in Schipol International Airport in Amsterdam at approximately 7AM.  Oh yea I didn’t have a direct flight, but a connecting one, even though I found my mother a direct flight on American ten days before she left in March for cheaper then what I had paid for my ticket in January, go figure.

Anyway, once we landed in Schipol (technically my fourth time in Amsterdam), I had about an hour and a half to kill but knew that I had to go through customs since this was my first port in the European Union, I needed to get stamped in.  I took my time walking through this massive airport.  An interesting note about Schipol is that the runways are extremely spread out that you actually taxi for as long as ten minutes.  There is something like an airplane highway that some planes have to maneuver along.  It is actually genius, because Amsterdam has now become a huge gateway to the rest of the world since it had the runway capacity to hold hundreds of flights per day.  I am guessing in terms of air traffic per day it is probably top five to ten in the world (Leonard will probably fact check this for me).

So after I hit up the duty free shop to pick up the essentials that I can’t get in America (Cuban cigars), I made my way to the gate.  It took about thirty minutes to walk to the gate including security.  Man this airport is so big and spread out.  You know when an airport is big when they approximate how long it will take to get to the gate next to the gate letters and numbers.  Mine said 13-21 minutes, but they sign lied!

Unfortunately on this flight I had a window seat.  Luckily the flight would only take about 1.5 hours.  Still I felt cramped, but I got to look out of the window and man it was a great view.  The weather was perfect and when we approached Barcelona over the ocean, I saw the entire city and it was fabulous.  Of course I didn’t have my camera with me but I took mental pictures instead.  When I landed in Barcelona I gathered my luggage which was like the tenth bag off the belt (great luck), I put my backpack covered in my protective bag on a FREE trolley (trolley’s are NEVER free in America and it pisses me off every time I come home since every single airport I have ever been too in the world provides FREE trolleys for your luggage except America.  When I got through customs, which was nothing more than a few police officers standing by the doors chatting with each other, paying no attention to who was walking through the doors I immediately scanned the people waiting in arrivals for Jenny.  She had told me that she would be meeting me at the airport.  I saw her before she saw me and once I got past the gated area I dropped my stuff and gave her a big hug.  After the salutations I stripped my backpack of my protective bag (used to protect the straps from getting ripped off), I put the backpack on and Jenny said we were going to take the airport bus home.

When we got to the A1 airport bus there was a massive queue (line).  We actually had to wait for the second bus to come and when we approached the extremely grumpy driver.  The driver asked us how many of us there were in Spanish.  Jenny and I responded with “dos,” but some other lady with her friends tried to big time us and say that they were “tres” and screw us over.  After the bus driver made some comments in Spanish that Jenny and I both could not understand we all stormed onto the bus and found seats.  The crazy thing is that the bus was like half full and for some strange reason the bus driver was trying to drive a half full bus.  I turned to Jenny in disgust and she simply said “Welcome to Spain, nothing makes sense.”  After this point I immediately learned that Spain is an extremely inefficient country.

The bus ride would take approximately forty minutes.  Longer than usual since the bus appeared to stop much longer than it normally did according to Jenny.  This would be the same bus system Jenny and I were going to take on Sunday when we fly to Copenhagen.  When we got off the bus Jenny said we needed to take a short taxi ride to the apartment.  She felt that since I had my backpack that we should take the taxi as opposed to walking even though we could have walked.  After taking two planes and a bus to get to this point I was all about taking a taxi for the few euros it would be.  So we did.  We arrived at the storied landmark of Hotel Casa Fuster.  It is the closest known landmark to where Jenny lives, so she just tells all of the taxi drivers to take her to Hotel Casa Fuster and then directs them a little bit further down the road closer to her street.

Jenny lives in a very nice building a few side streets away from where Hotel Casa Fuster is.  She lives on the fourth floor officially and the best part is that there is no elevator in this building and it is 110 steps up to her apartment.  When she first told me this before we got into the building I didn’t think it would be that hard but after carrying a pack on my back, walking up to her apartment was like my workout for the day.  Very grueling and not fun at all.  It is amazing she has not dropped dead yet from going up and down all of those stairs.

Her apartment is two bedrooms (2 people in each room), a huge living room/ dining room, full kitchen, 1.5 bathrooms, plenty of storage space, a balcony with a pretty good view, and a washer!  If you factor in how great her location is and the neighborhood she lives in, this was a rather remarkable apartment.

Once I threw my stuff down and was shown where I would be sleeping for the next three nights I chatted with Jenny and the only roommate left in the apartment (the other two were on spring break), I relaxed for a bit and then it was time to hit the street of Barcelona.  The weather was pretty good.  It was cool but there was a slight overcast.  I changed out of my sweater/underneath button down shirt look and went for the polo style shirt and light hooded jacket instead with jeans.  I put some things in a backpack and then Jenny, Mallory (her roommate and good friend from Maryland) were off.

Our first stop was this famous department store, where we ate from the top floor off in this nice restaurant/cafeteria type place.  I ordered some chicken fingers and a coke light (like diet coke).  I needed caffeine since I had virtually been up for a day and half, if you include the time difference I got no sleep on the plane.  After lunch Jenny took me to this pigeon park which immediately reminded me of San Marco square in Venice where hundreds of pigeons are fed by thousands of tourists everyday.  Even though it was absurdly overpriced (3 Euros), I had to buy a bag of bird seed to throw at the pigeons.  It made for great photos and videos and it was a wonderful time had by all, well maybe except for Mallory aka Mal aka Kwitter aka Kwit aka Kwitterstone.

From the Pigeon park we strolled down to La Rambla, probably the most famous street in all of Barcelona.  It is a pedestrian only street lined with hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops and street performers.  I have never seen so many street performers in my life.  These are the street performers that dress up and don’t move unless you put money in their box.  These are also the street performers that get very mad if you take a photo of them without putting money in their box.  Now some people would not care about taking a photo of them regardless of whether or not money was put in their box but for some reason I cannot bring myself to photograph them without putting money in their box and since I don’t want to put money in their box I don’t take photos of them, go figure.

La Rambla is also the street known for slashing of bags and pick pocketing.  Walking along this street people must be extremely careful as gypsies operate swiftly and stealthily.  Once you notice that your stuff is gone it is beyond too late.  While walking down La Rambla I noticed a covered side street with interesting colors and designs on the roof.  I asked Jenny what it was and she explained that it was this really cool indoor market of food.  The market had fresh vegetables, fish, squeezed juices, candy, dried fruits and everything else.  After meandering around for a little while we found our way back to La Rambla and continued walking down the street.

At the end of La Rambla is the marina.  Cruise ships and large yachts are docked in this area.  Also in this area is a very interesting draw bridge that the three of all walked across.  Once across and after snapping several photos I decided it was time to sit on a bench, on the water and enjoy the scenery, so I did.  We ended up sitting on this bench for about a half an hour.  During this time we people watched and also watched the street vendors run from place to place away from the police trying to catch them selling fake prada, Gucci and other designer bags and other merchandise.  These vendors have designed a very good system.  Basically they tie a sturdy rope to a bed sheet.  They then drape the rope around each of the items of merchandise and as soon as the spotter informs the group that the Policia are approaching the vendors lift up the rope and all of the bags come up with the rope and the sheet becomes a bundle that they swing on their backs and run like the wind.  We must have seen this happen at least five times in the half an hour we were sitting on this bench, quite humorous if you ask me.

After sitting on the bench we decided to walk back to the metro and go home.  I was really tired at this point and could not stay awake.  In fact after we walked over the draw bridge, which we got to see spin open for a boat to pass through.  It actually didn’t lift but spin on a massive swivel, I fell asleep on the metro.  Thank g-d I was with Jenny and Kwitter, otherwise I would have probably been pick pocketed of all of my stuff.

As soon as we got back to the apartment, within thirty seconds or less of me hitting the pillow I was asleep, and would not wake up for four hours.  For someone who never takes naps this was certainly an impressive nap for myself.  I napped from 4-8PM.  At that point we decided to get dressed and ready to go to dinner and out for the night.  We ended up taking the metro to the gothic quarter to a restaurant the girls had found during their three months in Barcelona.  It was a very nice Japanese restaurant.  One thing I noticed immediately is that locals eat extremely late in this city.  We got to the restaurant at around 930PM and it was barely half full.  By the time we left at around 11 or so it was completely full and more people were coming in every minute.  I was baffled by how late people were eating in Barcelona.  This reminded me of India and how late the locals ate in Mumbai and all of India really.

I got some rolls of sushi including a roasted duck breast roll and an amazing spicy tuna roll which included a slice of mango in each piece.  That was something I had never had before and wished that rolls back home included fruit.  The balance between the spiciness of the wasabi, the saltiness of the fish and soy sauce and the sweetness of the fruit made for an incredible combination of flavors that busted in your mouth in one delicious bite.  Dinner was capped off with a shared bowl of fried ice cream.  When Kwitter and Jenny both had mentioned that fried ice cream was on the menu I immediately had to get it since I had always wanted fried ice cream and believe it or not I had never had fried ice cream until this night.  Now either this particular fried ice cream was especially amazing or fried ice cream is just amazing in general but either way I thoroughly enjoyed the shared bowl and it was a great end to the dinner.

After dinner Jenny led the way to a place called Tree Bar where the bar basically had fake trees where the trunks were made out of unique faces and people similar to the tree people in Lord of the Rings.  It was a really cool bar with exceptional Sangria, but the only problem was that the place did not play music, which was very disappointing.  Once the jug of Sangria was consumed it was time to jump in a taxi for our final stop of the night, Pippermints.  This place is known by locals and study abroad students as the place with the gynourmous drinks.  They sell mixed drinks, beer or Sangria in 1, 2, 6 or 13 liter glasses.  I happen to see two different sets of people get the 13 liter glass of mixed drink and it was a sight to see.  I ended up getting a 1 liter glass of whiskey and coke light.  It took me at least an hour or more to consume this drink and after traveling and walking around all day, at around 2AM it was time to call it a night and so all three of us took a taxi back home.

Again, as soon as we got home, I got undressed and into my shorts I was asleep within thirty seconds of hitting the pillow.  It was a great first full day in Barcelona, I was excited to see what tomorrow would bring.


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