The city that never sleeps

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Today’s post is in memory of my trusty pair of sandals that drew compliments everywhere and were responsible for some very weird tan lines. The shoes finally just couldn’t make it another day, so when a strap broke after two years, it was time to throw them away. You will be missed, my beautiful sandals.

In lieu of flowers, donations for a new pair can be sent to me.

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R.I.P., my beauties. 

***

Clare and I started our morning in Madrid, desperately trying to be quiet because Emily and Dioniso were still sleeping. I contemplated snagging Jimi and taking him along with us, but I figured that would mean we would never be allowed back, and that thought made me incredibly sad. I can’t thank them enough for housing us and sharing their beautiful city with us.

After doing a pretty good job of hustling to get out the door to make a pretty early train, we got to the gate to find out it was full. But no real worries, another train to Barcelona

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Currently debating how my parents would feel about yet another pet.

left just over an hour later. We managed to find seats in the train station with Wi-Fi, which was AWESOME.

 

It wasn’t too bad of a train ride to Barcelona, and both Clare and I kept falling asleep on the way there. It did kind of suck to get off the train and realize that most of the signs were in Catalan, which, while similar to Spanish, is different enough that I wouldn’t be able to converse in the language. It was nice while it lasted!

The long days full of walking are really starting to take a toll, especially because I’m still stuck wearing my handy-dandy knee brace. It’s slowly been getting better, but I’m worried that the littlest thing will set it back.

After we got to the train station, it was just a brief metro ride to the hostel. It was about midday, so the metro wasn’t too bad, but because Clare and I had been warned about pickpockets, I backed myself into a corner so no one could get into my pack (not sure exactly who would want to steal my clothes or my toothbrush, but you never know) and held onto my purse like Lionel Messi wishes he could hold onto the World Cup trophy.

Of course, the first thing we saw when get got off our metro was Casa Batlló, one of

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I think we stood here staring for about 17 minutes.

Antoni Gaudí’s architectural masterpieces. We didn’t really have a chance to study him in AP Art History, so all I know about him comes from Wikipedia, but I love his whimsy style. Clare and I are planning to go to La Sagrada Familia tomorrow, so I’m excited to see how his design style will translate over to the design of a church.

 

We dropped our stuff off at the hostel, and man alive is it amazing. The people at the front desk gave us a map and pointed out some of the big attractions, helping us figure out how to get where we wanted to go. Then, they brought us up to our room (the whole theme of the hostel was rock music, so the walls were plastered with classic rock posters and lyrics), and Clare and I immediately wished we add another night to our stay here. We both got bottom bunks (about freaking time!), and the beds each had their own individual light as well as a plug. I’m telling you, it’s the little things.

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We tried to guess who the pickpockets were.

We then decided to check out the famous market in Barcelona, La Boqueria, which happens to be on Las Ramblas, the most notorious street in Barcelona for pickpockets.

 

The market was kind of innocuously located; even though it was on the main street and was busy, it was pushed back a ways. Inside, it felt like I was in some Candyland, only if instead of candy, it was fruit. (Have at it, Michelle Obama!) The place was so vibrant. You couldn’t turn your head without another, new color

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Still got that knee brace!

catching your eye.

 

I love the San Francisco Farmer’s Market (like, actually, I’m obsessed and might count it as my favorite place on Earth), so this place had a bit to live up to. It was different — but in a good way. This market was packed with bright fruits and sweets and fish (with their eyes still attached) and nuts and chocolates. The fruits somehow seemed more colorful than in my precious Bay Area, and they certainly were more tropical. I had my first coconut — tasted good but a bit dry — and my first pitahaya (dragon fruit), which actually wasn’t my favorite thing in the whole world, but was super fun to try.

Clare and I also sampled some more of the delights of the markets, like these colorful juices (she ordered strawberry (BORING!), and I ordered passion fruit), as well as jumbo cherries, chocolate, calamari and empanadas.

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Somewhere over the rainbow…

Pure gastronomical heaven.

It’s really great to be able to get a sense for a culture through the food. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I originally wanted to be an international reporter: I wanted to be able to travel and see other cultures as something beyond just a tourist.

Now, I want to be a sports reporter, so I guess I’ll be traveling on my own budget. Or, I’ll just know so much about Latin America that I can

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So. Much. Happening.

travel there for baseball and soccer (fútbol). And I guess I have Europe for hockey!

 

After the market, Clare and I walked around a little bit, and it felt nice to not really have a set agenda. Barcelona is absolutely amazing, but it doesn’t have the same kind of sites that a place like London or Paris has. It’s kind of nice to have a little more flexibility and not have something you have to see.

We wandered around a bit and got slightly lost in Barcelona’s Gothic corridor. Clare read somewhere that you can’t experience Barcelona without getting lost here once, so I guess that means we fit in! Yeah, let’s go with that. We saw beautiful buildings, narrow streets, kids with smiles bursting as bubbles were blown and couples in love.

Oh, yeah, and I saw Clare get turned down from the main cathedral because of her short shorts and tank top. Because we couldn’t go in, we just watched the plaza in front of the church as it came alive with couples performing some kind of dance where they tapped their feet and clapped their hands.

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Ha! While Bear was turned away, my outfit was deemed just fine 🙂

Because Spain eats late, Clare and I were able to wander a bit more, me lagging behind a bit because of my knee.

As a result, I watched as my sister got majorly hit on by a guy on the street. It was even better than it sounds. He walked up to her, looked her completely up and down and started speaking to her in rapid-fire Spanish. She raised her hands and managed out a “Sorry. English,” while I was behind her laughing my head off. As we got invited to a club on the beach with him and his friends, I felt it was my sisterly duty to step in and protect her.

After making our way around the city a bit more, we decided we wanted to check out these magic fountains that had been highly recommended to us by a few friends of mine as well as by the man at our hostel.

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The backdrop to our fountain-watching.

We made it over to the fountains (I tried to make Clare walk my pace) and were originally underwhelmed. The fountains were supposed to start at 10 p.m., but all that was happening then was a few miserable-looking squirts. Clare and I kept asking each other if we should leave.

 

Thankfully, we didn’t.

A burst of golden yellow was quickly followed by a jet of magenta. Then mandarin orange.

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I could easily watch this show every day.

Then lime green. Then blue. aThen the cycle was repeated and mixed up.

Clare and I sat there transfixed by what was happening in front of us. Or, we were once the people standing in front of us finally sat down.

The show was set to music (mostly American music, actually), which only made the ebbs and flows of the fountain’s streams seem that more impressive and intense. Speechless, we watched as burst after burst shot across the darkened sky. We couldn’t move. I guess there’s a reason they call it the magic fountain.

While we wanted to stick around for the next show because we loved the first one so much, we managed to pull ourselves away. The nearby streets were lined with street vendors who were there for a Harley-Davidson show, where a Spanish singer was rocking out on stage to country tracks, completely butchering Garth Brooks.

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We decided to walk over to the beach, largely because I’ve always loved the ocean and like seeing it as much as I can. The quote “I must be a mermaid for I have no fear of depth but a great fear of shallow living” has always resonated with me. Although, I must say, I’m okay without having the mermaid tail. It’d make getting around Berkeley

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One ugly photo — but a great memory.

decidedly difficult.

We grabbed some delicious food along the beach and even managed to catch the end of the Netherlands-Costa Rica soccer game. The whole meal was good, but the calamari was not to be believed. Unlike back in the States where calamari is relatively small, these pieces were huge. They looked more like onion rings than anything else. And they tasted amazing.

Even Clare, who is usually a bit wary of seafood like calamari, loved it. Score one for Shannon.

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Now THIS is how you do calamari.

The beach was amazing. Even at 12 a.m., the place was packed. Large groups of people had gathered together, and vendors walked up and down the beach trying to sell beer. Clare and I just sat there and marveled at the beauty of everything. The water had a blue sheen to it even in the dark, and the moon twinkled above us like it was mischievously grinning at the world. No matter where you go in the world, the moon is always the same.

After we tore ourselves away from the warm water and the rocky beach (and all the couples along it), we decided to take a metro back into the city. Good call. I’m not entirely sure how much longer I could have stayed standing. I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do when I get home and don’t have to walk to get everywhere. Maybe I’ll just start pacing up and down our hallways. I’m sure my mom would love that.

We’re going to try and hit a few sites like La Sagrada Familia tomorrow, which should be incredible.

Love looking at my face? Good. Here are more photos:

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