Herbalife has invaded Barcelona!

It is amazing to me that everyone smokes, everywhere there is smoke, the mom pushing her child down the street while it rides on the back of the stroller smokes, the server who is cleaning up the table to make it nicey-nice for new guests smokes, the couple next door to me who have now decided to switch up their karaoke renditions from Bon Jovi to Van Halen (with David Lee Roth) smoke, the guy who is riding his street bike all geared up for a race smokes, even the priests smoke.

2e384-smokingpriests

There is a huge sculpture of matches near the jail.  Maybe it is a sign of resolve to keep the tobacco industry alive and well here in Barcelona?  WTF else do you create a giant sculpture of matches and display it in the middle of a city? Ooooooorrrrrr – maybe they just really love The Doors!

37864-lightmyfire

Ironically, Herbalife chose Barcelona for its annual hoorah this year.  Mystery solved as to why all of the hotels were booked up and why I ended up in the Catholic jail in the first place.  Seeing as how they have over taken the city, to spread their message of health, proper nutrition and weight management, I think my stay here is over.  The Metro station agreed, as my subway pass had expired yesterday and I was SOL to get transport to the bus station this morning. You see I still had no euros to pay for a single pass, nor was there a money exchange open nearby, and the ticket machines all required me to input a PIN number when paying by Credit Card.  Normally, I would appreciate this added layer of security, since pick pockets and identity theft run rampant in Europe, but today I was in a state of panic.  After running around the Metro trying to find a way to get some euros, I was left with only an hour-and-a-half to make the bus to Marseille.

I BEGGED the attendant to let me pass and he finally relented since my pass had only expired a few hours before my departure. “But”, he cautioned, “if you get caught by security, then I know nothing, you agree?”  Hell yea I agree, I got your back dude!  So, he let me through and I arrived at the bus station a half-an-hour before my departure time.  I did my penance on the train by sitting across from a guy with ripped jeans, carrying a fanny pack around hi spare tire, and hawking loogies through his overgrown goatee.  His shirt with stains left on it from 1972, covered by a vest that could have passed as a life preserver screamed that he was a serial killer – or maybe it was the way he leered at the women in the lingerie catalog as he flipped through the pages?  I was relieved when he blew boogers into his hand and wiped them on his jeans though – he is no serial killer, I thought – it’s PAT!  Needless to say a 30 minute train ride with him and I feel like I need a shower and my karma has hopefully been renewed. (Since I got a scolding about the poster of the gay sex club, I will spare you the pic of the Subway Stalker.)

I arrived at a big ass train station at 12:30pm, with enough time to hopefully find a place to exchange for more euros there….nada!  First, I had to collect my bus ticket – which meant going to one counter to get the receipt showing I had bought the ticket online, then I had to wait at a different counter to receive the actual ticket, then another for my boarding pass, and finally one more to check my back pack – there seriously has to be someone following me around with a video camera and I am going to end up on MTV’s Jackass, I just know it.

So here I am, on a bus to Marseille with no euros and no effing clue where my hotel is that I booked, but I have 7 hours to figure it out before we arrive, buena suerte!

PS – last of the pics of Barcelona are up as well!

Advertisements

Montserrat

I went off to find Montserrat yesterday, since the stupid tour I booked was oversold. I was really looking forward to riding a bus to tour a holy place, do some shopping and then head down the mountain to drink some wine – what better way to praise Jesus than by drinking wine? (The “residents” in Jacksonville would agree, and that is why they do it every day – because they love praising Jesus.) After I had breakfast in the jail cafeteria, a croissant loaded with butter and jam, plus some caffeine I figured I could find this holy place on my own! After doing some quick research, I learned that I could take the Metro down to Placo Espanya and catch a train that leaves every hour, instead of once a day, and round trip was a quarter of the price of that dumb ol’ bus tour anyway – now who is the smarty pants, huh?

You want to know who is smart – Jesus is. He had no problem bitch slapping me for my comment earlier when my no so smart-ass thought I could buy the ticket with a credit card, but only cash was accepted for the trains. Not only that, but I missed the train I intended to catch at 12:30pm because I couldn’t find the train station (despite having planned extra time for this because I was heeding the warnings from fellow travelers that the station was indeed hard to find). Fortunately, I had enough euros to get a ticket to Montserrat (and take the cable car to the top, wheeeee!) but not enough for the return ticket. Being the logical, know-it-all that I am, I figured I could either exchange the dollars I had with me for euros, or use the next hour I had to waste until the new train arrived hunting down a banco near the train station, or use my credit card to get cash.

My hunting around found me more pictures of some of the well-visited sites of Barcelona, but came up with zip for a Banco that was able to complete an exchange. I had to hope for the best once I reached the top of the mountain, so I sat back and snoozed on the train ride. I woke up once when I heard the high school girls sitting next to me giggle because I had my mouth gaping wide open and I think I may have been breathing heavy (aka I snored, but just a little bit, okay?!) I mad dogged them, then went back to sleep again and a short time later my mouth was wide open (I most certainly eat more than my fair share of spiders , so you can rest easy that you are eating less).

After an unbelievably fun ride from the train to the top of Montserrat via cable car the first order of business when I got to the top was to find a bank, then lunch. I will pause here to iterate the common theme in all of my traveling thus far is to 1.) find transport; 2.) secure hotel; 3.) find food – everything else just enhances the experience of these scavenger hunts. The bank was quite easy to find, it was the only business closed in the middle of the day, their business hours are from Noon-2pm. (I submitted my application for employment.) This meant no money exchange, so no ticket back to Barcelona – we’ll get to that later, for now I needed food.

Lunch consisted of a wonderful Sea Bass swimming in butter and I ate every last morsel, except the bones – I am not that desperate yet. Even more wonderful was the fact that I was able to pay with my credit card. After lunch I spent time touring the city and the national park that surrounds the Basillica, which also serves as a cemetery for many of the saints, monks, and nuns that inhabited the abbey throughout history. After that, I toured the interior of the abbey. The design and detail of the interior of the building was quite elaborate compared to the simplicity of the exterior. Then, I stood in line for quite some time to check out what the kissing of the Virgin Mary was all about, the Basillica was built around one of the few black Madonnas in Europe – as it was too heavy for the Monks to move at the time of the abbey’s construction. I was honored to bear witness to the pensiveness the couple in front of me displayed while waiting in line. They were probably in their late 70s and she was already weeping at the opportunity to kiss the statue for probably the first, maybe only time in her life. Then, along came the group of four douchebags to stand in line behind us, who were either illiterate, or didn’t speak one of the 20 languages that the sign “Silence for Prayer Please” was posted in.

Now, I know I traveled over here with grand ideas about learning to speak Spanish better, most of which were dashed in my first day in Madrid. In fact, most days I feel like the “Idiot Abroad” (show on BBC, look it up) because I speak lame Spanish, worse French, and very poor English. However, I am excellent at understanding non-verbal communication and I could immediately see a dramatic shift in the woman’s posture when the DB’s didn’t shut their pie-holes. Not wanting to have an experience that was of great importance to them soiled by the ‘tard boys behind me, I spun around on one heel, shot them the “mom look”, and said in my very authoritative, Angry Black Woman voice (currently an Angry Spanish Woman voice), “Silencio, Por Favor!” I continued to glare at them and did not turn around until each of them were completely, utterly silent. Then, I stuck my nose up in the air, all Cruella D’Ville style, spun back around on the other heel (for balance’s sake), and winked at the woman. She smiled and nodded in gratitude and I was happy to have made a meaningful connection without speaking one word to this woman.

So I get to the top of the stairs where the statue is displayed and I kiss the hand of the Virgin Mary and then guess what happened? I cried….again….WTF?  Let’s just say I had an overwhelming, deep appreciation for the sacrifices made to maintain the history stored in this place (rumor has it the Holy Grail is housed in Montserrat as well, though no one is allowed to view it). I spent awhile in the crypt, gathering myself together, and then walked along the prayer hall, beautifully lit with candles symbolizing people’s various prayers, dreams, hopes, and wishes.

I bought a prayer card for 20-cents in the Basillica, as I figured I needed all the help I could get at this point. This left me with exactly 4.70 left in euros. I now had to face the challenge of figuring out how I was going to get back to Barcelona because a return ticket cost 8.75. Fortunately, there was an attendant at the station who spoke English fairly well, so I was able to explain my predicament. His solution, may the Lord bless him and keep him, was to buy a ticket on the train that went to the bottom of the mountain, then he told me to sneak onto the train that transferred into Barcelona, but if I got caught, I was not to tell anyone that he had advised me to do so. Amen, brother – I got your back and I got back with no hassle. Not wanting to press my luck any farther, I again hunted for an exchange office upon my arrival in Barcelona. Unfortunately, I did not find one and seeing that it was dark and pushing 10pm, I jumped on the subway to get back to my jail. If you are on house arrest, you aren’t supposed to be out that late, and I didn’t want any more trouble, you know!

Ding Dong the Bells!

The frickity frackin bells start ringing around here at 6 bloody AM! While I do realize this place used to be a seminary, key word is USED to, so must they really keep up with ringing the damn bells? Reluctantly, I admit that this little annoyance is a bit of a blessing in disguise though. Since I am only spending a few days in Barcelona, I need to take advantage of as many hours of daylight as I can. Thus, I got my whiny butt up, dressed myself enough to stumble down to the cafeteria and have breakfast (and no, I didn’t brush my teeth yet either). To further prove that I am staying in jail, I arrived at the cafeteria, stood in line to my plastic tray, silverware and napkin (jail, or sort of like we used to do for school lunches). I sidestepped through the line to receive each item of food they had ready for us.

While the atmosphere of the cafeteria was bleak and sorrowful, the food (most especially the coffee) was quite delicious. Now with a full belly I am ready to tackle Parc Gruell and Sagrada Familia today. Before heading out on the town, I decided to take some pictures of the grounds of the hostal because they really are quite lovely, despite the dismal rooms. They also have a pond FULL of little, baby turtles who poke their heads out of their shells when you stand near the pond (just in case you want to feed them, they are ready). I am pretty sure the turtles are staged so that you will forgive them for there not being any hot water for a shower last night (DUH – you don’t get luxuries like hot water in jail, ding dong). Of course, I was too effing hot and way too dirty after travelling every which way but loose from Lisbon to care last night what temp of the water was anyway.

It is amazing what one can see in a day when you have had breakfast and are on the subway heading towards downtown by 10am! Upon my arrival at Parc Guell at around 10:30am, I was met by a mob of tourists who must have also been staying in a jail similar to mine, but their bells went off at 5am – jerks. I truly appreciate that Cataluyans, or rather Antoni Gaudi, know how to do parcs right! The city of Barcelona may look like somebody tried to shove 10-pounds of poo into a 5-pound sack, but they have at least made space for some spectacular parcs. (That must be why they needed the extra 5 pounds of poo….) Needless to say, I wondered around gazing at the creative architecture and perfectly pruned grounds until about 1:30pm. (The newly found picture taking whore in me has posted these pictures as well to enjoy at your leisure.)

After hiking around and enjoying the music of Michael Franti’s Pops, I was famished and thought it best to find some lunch before attempting to tackle Sagrada Familia.

I walked down a ridiculous hill, which I am still thanking GAWD I did not have to hike up, but was lucky enough to find the easy access entrance to the Parc, and jumped on the Metro to the stop for Sagrada Familia. As face hit the sunlight, I noticed the rather long line of people also waiting to view the ginormous church that has been under construction since 1866 (and still has an estimated 100 years more of work to do before completion). The view looking upwards was so tremendous that I completely forgot about my hunger and wandered to the end of the line – smacking into at least 8 people on the way because there was no way I was going to watch where I was going when I had such spectacular views to see by getting a massive kink in my neck. Fortunately, the line moved quickly and it did not take long to get to the entrance. Just as I was going to buy my tickets – a man came up and asked the couple behind me if they wanted to use their tickets because they had run out of time and needed to catch their flight.

It remains to be determined if the couple didn’t speak English or if they thought that the man offering the tickets was a serial killer, but I piped up and said I would be more than happy to use one of them and it worked! Me likey when me no pay – so glad to be rid of the Catholic guilt around money they need to build giant churches. (Hey, I worked at CorePower, I did my penance for this lifetime, your lifetime and several more of our lifetimes – dummy mud faces). The pictures that I took can in no way do the structure justice. There is so much elaborate stone work, stained glass and sheer genius in design that I don’t think any words I try to use would ever do justice to the beauty, dedication, or passion for one man’s vision representing in one brilliant building. The best I can hope for is to imagine how beautiful it would be to hear the sounds of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Vienna Boys Choir, or the Abyssinian Baptist Choir fill all that glorious space. To top things off, I went up the spiral staircase to the top of one of the four steeples you can also see from the pictures, and was able to marvel at the massive size as I gazed upon the sun setting over the city.

The sun setting over the city…..CRAP! I needed food – it was 5pm and I hadn’t eaten since 9. I hightailed it down the spiral staircase and gave myself a nice little case of the spins to dance my way down the street with and land in a chair at the nearest sidewalk café where I finally had some traditional Spanish food for the first time since I arrived a week ago. Not only did I eat some yummy paella, but I had a big glass of wine while the owner talked my ear off (again thinking I could speak Catalonian). When a Russian family sat down to have lunch, he opted to get back to work. As they looked over the menus, two of the women from their party got up to use el bano. When they got back to the table, the whole family – all 8 or 12 of them – got up and left. While I may not speak Catalonian, I definitely understood the owner’s use of sign language to express his disgruntlement over their lack of respect for using his facilities without paying.

I am proud to say I learned a new word today….”gilipolles”, translating to one of my favorites in the English language……ASSHOLES!  YAY!

Arriving in Barcelona

It was an early morning start to get to the airport today. My flight wasn’t until 12:30pm, but the couple from Hungary also staying at the B&B generously offered me a ride to the airport.  They were visiting Portugal on vacation, but he also had to spend two days working in Lisbon at a convention.  After my taxi fiasco to/from Obidos, I happily accepted their offer in order to save me from spending another 50 euros and risk the taxi being late.  The Lisbon airport is a Charlie Foxtrot in the way it is set up, security takes forever, plus they bus you about a mile or two (excuse me 1-2 kilometers) to the planes.  Thus, it is imperative that you arrive no later than 2 hours prior to your flight. Thanks to my Hungarian friends, I arrived FOUR hours prior to my departure – something I am almost certain will never happen again – seeing as how I am notorious for being late (pretty much everywhere I go – one of the disadvantages to refusing to wear a watch – sorry).  It was an excellent opportunity to catch up on homework that I have been lagging behind on.

I found a little corner in the airport to hide from incessant noise, the people who pick their noses (aka everyone in Portugal are diggin’ for gold up there somewhere.  Hey – maybe they are so forgetful because they dug too far and gave themselves a damn lobotomy?!), and the mean old women who like to push their way ahead of you in line. No lie!  I have witnessed several people try to butt in front of each other in lines all over the place.  They are usually caught, then everyone in the line yells and makes obscene gestures at them, it is so much fun!  One woman in particular though she could prey on those of us who can’t fling obscenities in Portuguese (how is it even remotely possible I don’t know obscenities in Portuguese?!).  I also know cutting-in-line-Akido and found myself in a shoving contest with an older woman who tried to push past me.  I leveraged my big ass back pack to knock her ass backwards – Booyah!  (Oh, I probably should not be so proud of this fact should I?)

Okay, let’s all pretend I didn’t just write that then.  I must have been using my outside voice again because I was cranky since I was up at the BUTT crack of dawn to ride in a car, to catch a plane, so I could ride a bus, to get on a train, and then jump on the subway, to walk up the GIANT hill to Grandmother’s House we go. The karma from the taxi fiasco definitely caught up with me – because I had the pleasure of sitting directly in front of not one but two “JEFFERIES” on the flight from Lisbon to Barcelona.  If you are too young to know who Jeffrey is, or possibly too much of a Cracker-ass-Cracker (props to Chris Rock), then Google Bill Cosby (before he completely effed up his life by raping women).  Every time I get the tiniest of inklings to have children, the Universe sends a Jeffrey my way and I remember that I do not have the patience, nor the stamina to cope with one.

I guess that about covers offending everyone today, so onto Barcelona!  I arrived at my hostal close to dark, got checked in, then ran down to the Fontana area to grab some dinner (after being told on a number of occasions that I look Lebanese, I finally tried their food.  I can safely say I am not Lebanese – because the food I cook is waaaaaay better than the shite I had.  I ate it all though, because I was hungry enough to eat my own shoe by that point).  Back to the point – the hostal I am staying at used to a Catholic Seminary – and before that a zoo…..My mom also said she needed to take a moment to visualize this, so I will give you one as well………..have you got it yet?  No?!  Visualize Jail.  Surprisingly enough, I have never been, so I can’t truly say for sure, but some of you out there have, so will you let me know – how does my room compare to jail?

5a7f7-jail

I thought at first it was ironic that it looked like jail, but considering it was a Catholic Seminary, but then I though, no probably not – and don’t get your panties in a wad, I was raised Catholic (sort of) so I know that Catholics talk about worship and doing penance as one in the same (here is where I have to stop to appreciate the movie Dogma when it gets pointed out “Catholics do not celebrate their religion, they mourn it” – don’t think so?  Just wait until you see when I post a few more pics, homies).  Good thing I am not planning on spending much time at the hostal though, I have too much old shit and GIANT churches to go see! I want to finish by giving mad props to the couple next door for their serenades (think karaoke with a fat Asian man and his 13-year old prostitute) of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” to help put me to sleep tonight – what more could a girl ask for really?

Buenos Noches, Amigos!

Adios Madrid!

Really excited to report I actually woke up at a decent hour today – 11am. The first order of business was Desayunos!  Oh how I love the Spaniard’s idea of breakfast – a chocolate croissant and a café latte loaded with sugar, wheeee!  I got everything loaded up and checked out of the hostal at Noon, then journeyed to the Botanic Gardens and the Museo Thyssen before I had to be at the train station later.

I will spare you the 60 something pictures I took of the Gardens, but I know that some of you are total gardening geeks like me and will appreciate this kind of shite.  If so, please visit my photos page to check out the gorgeous array of botanicals they have been gardening this year.

The Thyssen also had an impressive display of more modern and abstract art – which was a breath of fresh air from all of the God striking down vengeance upon thee art at the Prado (but I still loved it all just the same).  As I was hunting down somewhere for lunch, I stopped to take some pics of how people who live in the city (with no yards) have garage sales.  They just sack all their worthless crap up into sheets, haul down to the sidewalk, and open it up for display in hopes someone will buy their one lonely tennis shoe and other random things they are trying to pawn off onto some pour tourist (aka sucker).

   

I ended up at an Italian café (in Spain) and sat next to a group of people at lunch who were discussing in half Spanish, half English why they don’t drink anymore, it makes them too slow and it is expensive – valid points, I will agree.  And yet, one of the men proceeded to then discuss for the next hour how to properly prepare THC brownies, cookies, etc.  He also mentioned how a vaporizer works and that he is buying one next week for 400 euros.  Me thinks someone may have a wee bit of a habit?  At 400 euros, I would argue that drinking might be cheaper dude.

 

Ah to be young (because I am truly a cranky old man disguised in a 30-something body), I just sighed, and headed back to the hostal to grab a few more moments of pink underwear and tight t-shirts before making my way to the train station.

 

Portugal, here I come! For more Madrid pics, click here.