Wednesday, February 26, 2014

New Year Travel Log: Part Two


Day One: 

It was night time when we got to our apartment, possibly some time after 9. We were staying at this Airbnb apartment at Las Ramblas, which is this super happening place! I mean like there were so many restaurants and bars open till late night, and I was beyond excited! 

Places stay open till late back home in Malaysia, and it sucked when you wanted to head out at night in UK but everywhere closed at bloody 5pm. So it was such a welcome change when we got to Spain and found so many people still going about at night! 

(We later found out that because of its popularity, Las Ramblas is actually a really dangerous, dodgy area crawling with pickpockets and the like. Thank God we were all safe from everything all throughout the trip!)

Went grocery shopping and bought cookies! Basically just grabbed whatever caught our eye that we knew we couldn't get back in the UK, and had what Natalie termed a Fat Night. Life is good when you find yourself freely eating junk food without a care in the world!


Day Two: 

Our first stop early in the morning was the beautiful Casa Battlo (pronouned bai-yo).

I really don't know what adjectives to use to describe the exterior of this place; it is just so amazingly gorgeous I want to squeal everytime I see it! I don't know anything about architectural classifications, but to me the design is just so romantic, it sucks you back to a balcony atop flower gardens at midnight with a masked gentleman you've been tangoing with at the masquerade party at the manor...

I absolutely loved it. So, so much I couldn't wait to get inside and see what other lovely surprises would await!

...But umm, it was pretty disappointing. Most of the rooms were closed off, and what was left wasn't very impressive. It seems like way too much effort was spent designing the outside, that there wasn't any good ideas, or even matching ideas to fill up the inside space.

There was nothing remotely romantic about the interior. Instead, the design seemed kind of quirky, with lots of swirls and curvy lines and the color blue.

Like this ceiling.

And this skylight at the winding staircase we kept having to climb.

And the unimpressive rooftop.

It is such a shame that the inside couldn't match up with the beauty of the outside. This place could have been so much more amazing if that happened. With a touch of baroque, perhaps?

So anyway, leaving behind our first Gaudi experience, we moved on to the next one!

Say hello to Casa Mila/La Padrera!

It's just a short walk away from Casa Batllo, but we still had difficulties finding it, because for some reason we were told it was called "Casa Milano" and ended up walking right past it when randomly asking people for directions in my uber broken basic Spanish.

Conquered La Padrera alone! (Hurr dramatic backstory which noone needs to know.)

Visiting a tourist site alone turned out to be an interesting new experience. You don't have anyone to talk to about what you're looking at, so you just end up restless and buzzing with creative energy, with noone to direct it towards. You also end up taking a lot of pictures of everything, for want of something to do.

But the roof of La Padrera was beautiful! I spent almost an hour making sure I could view every inch of it, and the city far below, from every possible angle.

La Sagrada Familia in the distance!

So after that, I headed downstairs to check out the displays. And it honestly wasn't that great. They were displaying "olden" furniture during Gaudi's time. So basically you would have a look at the small bedroom, sewing room, kitchen etc.

Like this. Not particularly inspiring or interesting to me.

Anyway after my solo tour, it was time for lunch! We walked around for a bit, then decided to head into this unassuming place because the owner was enthusiastically promoting his "menu del dia" (menu of the day) and it looked cheap and good! 

Ended up ordering a marinara octopus dish, and it was insanely delicious! LOOK AT THAT MOUNTAIN OF FOOD PLEASE! It was soooo so good and only cost 8 euros! Impossibly affordable find omgosh I wish there was such a place back here in Reading.

It didn't hurt that I hadn't eaten any vegetables on the trip yet, and now I had a mountain of raw veggies sans dressing to devour! Became a very happy little rabbit after that!

We all ordered different things and everything turned out to be good! It was an excellent way to start out our Spanish eating adventure; made me super excited to try out more random unassuming Spanish places!

And I've just realised that every single sentence above has been punctuated with an exclamation mark. But what better to get excited over than good food?

After lunch, we just did some shopping around. Zara and MNG are about 10% cheaper in Spain than in UK! But we didn't end up buying much, possibly because of our already precarious baggage situation. And than it was back to our casa for an early night in.

Oh but I did buy marble cake from Carrefour! (Yes there is Carrefour in Spain! Made me so happy to see that little element of home!)

The marble cake was just okay though. The choc part tasted yummy but instead of vanilla, the yellow part was ginger. It wasn't bad, but it just wasn't what I expected.

Day Two: 

Rise and shine! It's La Sagrada Familia day!

We were unfortunate enough to be struck with crazy strong winds that day, of up to 50 mph! It was so bad and painful to be outdoors, but umm we kinda had no choice but to bear with it. Not worth passing up the chance to see the magnificence of Gaudi's unfinished masterpiece!

And it was one of the most amazing places I've ever visited in my life.

Every aspect of the architecture was breathtaking. The way the lines curve and meet along some dynamic fluid plane; no amount of amateur description could explain how much the building was brimming with its own unique character, that enveloped and welcomed you the moment you stepped in.

It was one of the most beautiful churches I'd ever seen. Totally worth every euro, despite that we couldn't go up to the tower due to strong winds.

If you could only pick one place to visit, make sure its the Sagrada!

We spent quite a bit of time in the Sagrada, so by the time we came out it was lunch time. We couldn't get very far due to the crazy wind, so we literally just ducked into one of the first places we saw. And then had what turned out to be the worst meal of the entire trip.

Pizza that was clearly from the freezer section of a food mart.

And tasteless "seafood" risotto that came with the most pitiful amount of ingredients I've ever seen.

We also had sangria, which was fine by my amateur tastebuds, and at any rate my non-existent alcohol tolerance meant I could only stomach a few sips before turning completely red all over and becoming dizzy/headachey. But the others said that the sangria wasn't as nice as the one we had the previous lunch.

Lunch obviously did not go down well. We were super unsatisfied and some even suggested we go for a second lunch, though thankfully we decided not to in the end.

Instead, we decided to head up to Parc Guell! Which is a gigantic national park up the mountain where you could get a bird's eye view of the city. Best part: free entry!

And I'm really not kidding when I say this place is gigantic.

See the bit in the middle where there's an area surrounded by palm trees? Okay no you can't because the picture is really small, but you can make out an area in the middle where there is a separating wall between the trees right?

It is literally on the other end of the sort of U-shaped hill. We just walked blindly without any idea of where we were headed, and winded up there anyway!

With of course a few YOLO acts along the way.

And ta-dah! The main attraction of Park Guell (other than the lizard bench) is this terrace where you get a beautiful backdrop of the city behind you.

But umm we don't have either of those pictures, because you needed to pay 6 euros for timed entry. Our logic was that we'd already covered practically the whole national park; we did not need to see a silly bench to feel any more satisfied with Park Guell anyway.

So then we had to take a long trek down the mountain to the train station.

...Which happened to have the biggest vending machine we'd ever seen! I have no idea why we found this so fascinating that we all had to take pictures with it wth. But fun fact, a few days later I saw pictures on Facebook of other friends that were in Barcelona posing with the same vending machine (before we posted any pictures online)! Malaysian minds think alike I guess.

After our long day spent walking and walking, we decided it was time for a well-deserved treat! So we headed to this little cafe near our place called Artisa, which I'd been dying to try since I saw it on TripAdvisor.

And we had our first ever churros con chocolat! It was sooooo good omgosh.

I LOVE Spanish hot chocolate! The way they make it is so thick and rich yet not overly sweet; exactly how a truly sinful drink should taste like! And I mean add a deep-fried dough stick covered in powdered sugar to that already delicious mix and you've got yourself a sure-fire winner!

The thing about our visit to the Magic Fountain: it sucked big time.

The music they played was Spanish classical instrumentals, which started out interesting, but got really boring and monotonous after they basically repeated the same song over and over. And the water didn't put on any kind of good show; it just kind of sprayed in almost the same way throughout the song. And don't get me started on how the lighting guy might as well have been a kid pushing random buttons.

Actually, if that had been the case, maybe there'd have been more variations and at least something interesting to see, rather than just a big fountain that changes colour. Huge letdown here! Nothing compared to the magic fountains I'd previously seen on my US trips.

Day Three:

We had a train to Madrid at 7+am in the morning, so it was byebye Barcelona really early!

Honestly, I think that Barcelona has so much to offer, and my short visit just wasn't enough to cover all the sights. And of course there was so much food I hadn't eaten! I would soon grow to regret my earlier penny-pinching ways, once we got to our later Spanish culinary experiences. Stay tuned! :) 

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