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Country #7 – Spain

April 11, 2011

In front of La Sagrada Familia

Let’s just cut to the chase.  When we are talking about Spain, first are foremost we should be talking about food. From seafood paella to tapas, Spain is all about good food and we ate a lot of it!  Thinking back on the week, I believe there was only one bad meal, and that was because we made the mistake of eating at the hotel.  Other than that, place after place served up excellent bites to eat and since the main Spanish dish is tapas, we were able to try a wide variety foods.  We would also add sangria or a Spanish wine, or two, to the meal that just made it all the better.

Cured ham and another good restaurant

As you could probably tell from earlier posts, my mom and dad ventured across the Atlantic to meet us in Barcelona.  We had a great time with them and in the process got a little spoiled.  Going from staying in hostels or lower end hotels to having an entire rented out hotel apartment was a big change.  Naturally, we particularly loved the washer/dryer that was constantly used.  With my parents being in town, the daily amount of food that Jen and I consumed went up substantially.  I had lost weight on the trip until we got to Spain where I promptly gained it all back.  I don’t regret that by the way.  Plus they brought us a bag full of things we needed from razors and soap to treats like candy and new clothes.

Gaudi Lizard at Park Guell

After a short flight in from Marrakech for Jen and me and a long flight in from Dallas for my parents, we all met in the baggage claim at the Barcelona International Airport.  From there we piled into a cab that took us to the middle of Barcelona and our hotel.  The next several days were spent simply exploring the city.  My dad always got up and did an early morning walk for a few miles and would scope out places to visit.  The rest of us were fast asleep typically until he got back with fresh coffee in hand.  This changed the last few days in Spain when Jen and I actually woke up early and went walking too.

Probably the easiest way to get around Barcelona is on double decker tourist buses that run frequently at all the major sightseeing spots.  So, we acquired two day passes and would hop on and off at our leisure throughout the city.

Eating at Josephine in Barcelona

A big sight that we were able to take in was all of the Gaudi architecture.  Actually, we just had to step out onto our apartment balcony and look left to see a corner building that was designed by him.  Antoni Gaudi, a Spanish Catalan architect, is highly regarded throughout Spain and even has seven works that have been declared world heritage sites by UNESCO.  He was very passionate about architecture, nature, and religion and we were certainly able to experience all three in his work.  From visiting the world renowned La Sagrada Familia, his unfinished masterpiece (a church), to his Park Guell, where he once lived, it was all interesting and nothing like architecture that you are accustomed to seeing daily.  To give you a little more background about Gaudi:  Later in life he was hit by a train.  People passing by did little to help since they thought he was a vagrant judging from the condition of his clothes and ratty appearance.  He was finally taken to a hospital where he was eventually identified as the distinguished citizen but by that time it was too late, he passed away soon thereafter.

Paella in Barcelona

In Barcelona there is a street named La Rambla and it is certainly busy during the day but it truly comes alive at night.  From merchants selling fake purses and necklaces to street performers every 15 feet in the craziest costumes, it was packed.  This was where we also ventured into a huge market to buy fruit, wine, and cheese with the local Spanish. 

One evening we took to the beach of Barcelona.  After making a short pit stop in a casino where I lost two euro and my mom lost a heck of a lot more we meandered down the shoreline in search of food.  What we found instead was something that made the girls’ trip.  Strolling along without a care in the world was a stark naked Spanish man enjoying the evening.  Now, many of you might be thinking this is Europe and this is common.  Well, this was not a nude beach, no one else was naked, and all the other Spanish were whistling at him… and it was cold!  I am choosing not to post a picture on our blog but there is already one on Flickr.  You can find it by clicking to the right of this post – it is the picture that has already been viewed the most times.

Fresh cut ham

During the rest of our time in Barcelona we got to see where the 1992 Olympics took place, Jen and mom got to shop quite a bit, and best of all we got to eat some more delicious food!  Then, we took a couple of days and drove up to Southern France and stayed the night in a little town called Arles.  I will eventually recap this place in the France overview and you can read about it in the art post, but it was quite nice and relaxing.  Plus, the food was just as good and all the people were overtly nice.

Once we got back to Spain we flew to Madrid to take a few days and unwind.  With little planned to see and do we took in the common sights such as their congressional building and Puerta del Sol (which they compare to our Times Square).  We walked around Parque del Retiro quite a bit and even got to see the beginning of a city marathon, which we were very glad not to be participating in.  Also, we ate in the oldest restaurant in the world one night. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Sobrino del Botin was founded in 1725 and still serves up great roast suckling pig and lamb all day long.   It is just off of Plaza Mayor which was similar to La Rambla with entertainers everywhere and this is where we met the fattest spider man on record.

As you could have guessed, Spain was excellent, and as I said before, it all boils down to the food.  Plus, it was great having my parents in town and getting to experience a part of our big trip with them not just talking about it on Skype.  It was sad to see them leave but lucky for us their gate was just one down from ours in the huge Madrid airport.  So, we were able to savor every last minute of them being there – and then our flight was delayed.

Steven

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