Ryan and I bid farewell to Chris at the Les Gobelins train station Monday night and were off to Barcelona. The aforementioned Paris Metro stop became “trip-infamous” during our first day in Paris when I butchered the name of the station while asking for information. I had greeted the ticket agent with pretty decent French, saying hello and asking if she spoke any English. But then I decided to ask how to get to the “Lay GOB-lins” Metro stop with visions of Halloween creatures inspiring my pathetic pronunciation. She almost physically convulsed when she heard this and then when she gathered herself, we used the map and both figured out how to get Chris and I there.
The overnight train sailed the rails smoothly allowing us both to get some quality sleep. Ryan upgraded to a sleeper cabin, and got lucky by being the only person in his room. I spent a little time chatting with a French freelance sports journalist who was returning from Istanbul where he covered the World Basketball Championships. We arrived in Barcelona and made to the Barcelona Urbany hostel after a little bit of a street trek. Ryan’s buddy from Cleveland and UD alum Bryan met us here and will be traveling with us until Oktoberfest. We all headed over to La Sagrada Familia so Ryan could check it out, and then tracked down a couple neighborhood tapas bars. Barcelona Urbany is located a little out from the main tourist center of Barcelona, and while some may see that as a drawback I absolutely loved that it gave us more of a local flavor.
It was then time to ride the Metro to Camp Nou, the world famous home pitch of FC Barcelona, one of the most popular teams on the planet. We didn’t have tickets, our plan was to buy they at the window or engage in some savvy Spanish scalping. The tickets were being offered at the window for a little more than we wanted to spend, yet we were prepared to purchase when a guy came up to us and offered us three “best tickets” for a deal that seemed too good to be true. Naturally, we were skeptical and sort of brushed him off a couple times. As game time approached though, the price dropped a few Euros and was right in our price range. Finally, mere minutes from kickoff, I told him “Here is our price, and we‘ll buy them now”. To our surprise, he took the newly-offered, even lower deal. The real shock was to come when we entered the stadium. He told us they were the “best seats”, but of course we just chalked that up to his salesmanship. We followed him into Camp Nou, scurrying through stadium security trying to keep up with him and keep one eye on the field for the pre game theatrics. By time we looked up, we had been led to second row seats right in the middle of the stadium! We couldn’t believe our luck. We were so close when the players would head the ball, you could see the perspiration bouncing off. We were sitting just a few feet from Messi (arguably the best soccer player in the world) for about what I have paid to sit upstairs at a Blues game just a few feet from the Towel Man.
Wednesday, we literally biked all over Barcelona. We started at the hostel, then headed down to La Rambla to one of the most famous markets in Europe, La Boqueria. We meandered the maze of food stalls selling their wares. There is one café there, La Pinotxo that has a famous older gentleman who I have seen on a ton of travel shows, so I decided to grab lunch there. I had seen a girl who worked there sitting at the bar on break eating what looked like short ribs of some sort, and when my order was taken, I asked the waiter for the same thing. The girl eating it was actually his sister, and she was enjoying ox tail. He said it wasn’t really on the menu, just a family kind of thing, but he would arrange it for me. So, of course I was loving that whole situation and I ended up enjoying the ox tail too! From there it was more of where we didn’t go in Barcelona, honestly. The Beach, Parc Guell, The Gracia neighborhood for a great dinner in a courtyard watching locals socialize and kids play soccer, were all on the route.
Now, it’s off to Florence to keep up the momentum I picked up with the shirt sales in Paris. I didn’t really sell any in Barcelona. I think we may have been the only non-Europeans at the hostel, so a little bad luck there. Oh well, only about halfway through the trip though.
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Scott Thursday, September 16, 2010