I left Barcelona yesterday and already miss it. Funky cool architecture by Antoni Gaudi and his contemporaries, tropical weather, and fun people. Time is going by too fast.
I lucked out and got free dinner my first night in my hostel (Itaca Hostel, recommended). A Swiss skateboard team and some German physics students were cooking pots of pasta. They had enough left over to feed the whole floor.
Later, a couple of us went to Maremagnum, a shopping/clubbing complex on the sea. We got to a club called Fiesta at 11pm. I think that's early for Spain because we had the club to ourselves until 12:30am.
I was impressed with the variety of street performers. The best ones I saw congregated around the Gothic Cathedral and the Portal del Angel. There was an awesome string octet playing classical music. A girl walked around the crowd selling their CD. The cover revealed they were from Moscow. Around the corner was a folk music band. One time I even saw breakdancers. They might have been too good, because they attracted a crowd that clogged the street. The policia showed up, and the breakdancers broke up fast.
One poster claims that La Rambla is "The World's Most Exciting Street." It's a long pedestrian thoroughfare that cuts through the city almost to the sea. Start at the opposite end of the coast and you'll pass bird sellers, florists, and portrait artists. Human statues and shell-game operators also work the tourists. Sidewalk restaurants line both sides of the street, affording the opportunity for rest, refueling, and excellent people-watching.
Food in a foreign country always presents a moral dilemma: do I go with what's familiar and safe (American food) or sample the local cuisine and risk an emergency appointment with Dr. Immodium, AD? This came to a crisis point because many bars served paella and pizza. I called up the courage to try paella. I opened up the menu and watched my 1.5 years of college Spanish go down the drain. When the waiter took my order, I simply pointed to the only paella that had ingredients I recognized. It was a Paella de Carne, with chicken and sausages. A tasty sauce covered the rice and there were chopped red and green peppers to keep my mouth from getting bored.
I was fortunate to have a friend studying abroad in Barcelona. It was great to see someone from University of Redlands. Jennifer knew the language, knew what places to go, and knew cool people. I wondered how I made it so far without her. She took me to Parc Guell, which was designed by Gaudi. Jennifer aptly described it as "Dr.Seuss on crack." Two gingerbread-looking houses with roofs like frosting frame the entrance. Then there's a huge white stairway split down the middle in curves. Jennifer took a picture of me on the stairs with the famous multicolored lizard.
Jennifer kindly invited me to join her and her friend Angel for a night of dancing at the Buena Vista Club. The scary part: salsa dancing. I'm reasonably competent at hip-hop, hula, skanking, and the most basic breakdancing. Salsa was totally foreign to my feet. Angel pulled me onto the floor and showed me the elementary steps. Then an instructor bounded onto the stage and led the group in two salsa routines. I tried hard, but I couldn't summon the Spider Man-like agility to match his pace. He moved like lightning, shouting "Uno!" "Mira!" and "Agua!" Afterwards, I ran into him outside the bathroom. He smiled and patted me on the back. So maybe I didn't suck!
On my last night Jennifer took me and her friends to The Black Sheep, an obscure beer hall off the Ramblas. I would have missed it because it's on a small side street and has an unlit door. It looked closed. Inside, there were a boatload of students talking loudly and cramming the ancient wooden benches. We got a pitcher of sangria. Sangria tastes sweet and we used small glassas, so I had the illusion I wasn't drinking so much. I got dizzy, but I prefer to think I was drunk on Spain.