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Ok, I still haven’t finished the Europe posts, but I’m working on it. We had a big moment today…we picked our first zucchini! We don’t know if it was really time to pick them, but they were so big, we couldn’t help it. We’ve picked some lettuce a few times, but this just seemed like a big deal. Sadly, something seems to have “gotten” one of our squash plants, and the leaves are all droopy today. Tenopardgyse We found some little eggs on some of the leaves of all the squash plants and got them off, but I don’t know if that will do it. For now though, the zucchini are going strong!
Regarding our accommodations, we are happy to say that Barcelona was the only place we paid to stay – 3 nights of the whole trip! I’ll tell a little more about where we stayed below.
In Barcelona, we hit the major Gaudí sites, like Parc Guëll, Casa Milá, and La Sagrada Família. Gaudí had quite the vision – I think La Sagrada Família is a little shocking the first time you see it. It’s hard to imagine how huge it is! It’s been under construction since 1882, and we’ll be lucky if it’s finished in our lifetimes.
The next day, we hit Las Ramblas, the “main street” in Barcelona. There are tons and tons of living statues interspersed among tourist kiosks, bird vendors, cafes, and flower vendors. It is a very lively street! Perhaps the most wonderful part of Las Ramblas (and let’s be honest, it’s not all wonderful) is La Boqueria. It’s a vibrant, bustling, grocery-type market just off of Las Ramblas. It seems you can find anything there, from exotic fruit, to sheep’s head at the meat counter, to cheeses you can’t pronounce. It really is amazing, and we would give anything to have it here!
Later, we went down by the ocean and strolled around a bit. We made the (possibly poor) choice to skip the Picasso museum because I wanted to go to…the Chocolate Museum! It shows the history of chocolate, along with some chocolate sculptures (see some pictures on our photo site). I enjoyed it, but I’m sure how into it Joel was.
And finally…the main event. My friend Hitoshi at work informed me about a super huge soccer game that was to take place while we were there. I didn’t really understand the magnitude of this until we were there. The game was essentially the European championship for club teams, which I surmise must be very important in Barcelona considering their Catalan identity. Anyway, Barcelona played Manchester United in Rome, and Barca won with no problem. We went to watch part of the game in the main square, and it wasn’t as wild as we expected. Apparently all the wild folks were in the bars, and they came out in full force afterward!
As we walked to our hotel, the scene became progressively louder and crazier. Car horns, air horns, fireworks, yelling, drums, sirens, etc. Peta satelit dunia . Our hotel room faced one of the main city thoroughfares, through which thousands and thousands of Barcelonans paraded. This was fun for a while, until it was 2am with no sign of anything stopping. We found out later that riots erupted, many people were arrested and/or injured, and some even required hospitalization. It was quite an experience…one that could not be created in many cultures. Leave it to the Spaniards…oops, I mean the Catalans!
See a video of the post-football craziness here. Disclaimer – we did not see anything this bad. I think it was after everyone was fully drunk, and we were safely in our hotel room, a few blocks up the street from this area.
See our pictures here.
I should start by explaining Couchsurfing, as it comes up twice on our trip. Our friends Joshua and Tiffany introduced us to the concept, and now we’re semi-pro. Really. Anyway, couchsurfing is a hospitality network where you can ask to stay with people while you’re traveling, and people can ask to stay with you while they’re traveling. Tenopardgyse . Don’t worry – you have a profile with pictures and info about you, and others write references for people, so it’s at least moderately safe.
We began our trip in Madrid, right in the middle of Spain, with our first experience as ‘surfers’ (we’ve been hosts once). We couldn’t have asked for better hosts, as ours took us all around Madrid, showing us their favorite things, and we even went out for tapas together. Here’s a picture of me with them as we perused the map at “kilómetro cero” at Puerta del Sol, the point from which all distances in Spain are measured (this appeals to my nerdy side with my love of geography and maps). Other highlights included the Plaza Mayor, the city’s main square; the royal palace, El Rastro flea market, which made me very uncomfortable due to the moving crowds; Retiro Park; and the Almudena Cathedral, which oddly enough, wasn’t completed until 1993!
As for museums, we visited the Prado and the Reina Sofia. The Prado is huge, and due to our jet lag and foot fatigue, we did not really make the most of our time there. However, we visited the Reina Sofia museum the next day, and we really enjoyed it. It’s the modern art museum, so it had some more unusal things than what we’re typically used to. The most famous work in the museum is Picasso’s Guernica, which depcits the bombing of the town called Guernica during the Spanish Civil War in 1937. It’s become a famous symbol of peace, so it was cool to see (not cool were the loud masses of Spaniards and school children surrounding it!).
In closing, here are two observations about Madrid and/or Spain: They love ham. Seriously. They also like to eat really late and stay up really late, which actually worked fine with our vacation schedule.
See more pictures here.
We’re back, and in some ways it feels like we never left. I guess that’s how things are when you face the daily monotony of office jobs (which we are thankful for of course). Anyway, we had a great time! Excluding my terrible trials with allergies, the trip went really well. We’re still going through our pictures, so I want to make some posts about where we went when we’ve made it through them.
For now, I have two recommendations:
1. Serve God, Save the Planet: A Christian Call to Action. Cheesy name maybe? I read it on our trip home and really enjoyed it. It’s essentially a Christian doctor’s story of how his family made changes in their lives to care for creation. Our library doesn’t have it, so you might have to buy it here.
2. Nashville Originals. This group of Nashville restaurants has gift certificates going on sale in the morning for 40% off. Sshh…I called, and they said it should be a little before 7am. Buy them here.