Where are we?: Germany
countries Visited: 9
Days on the Road: 111

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Paris : we are ready for you!

The bus ride from Barcelona to Paris was awful! Fifteen hours over night, and neither of us slept a wink. We couldn’t get seat beside each other, and both of us felt pretty awkward sleeping beside strangers, not that they minded, the guy beside me was practically on my lap, and so was the lady beside Kristen. It also didn’t help that our bus driver seemed to have a small bladder, and stopped every hour and a half, kicking us off the bus when he did, to stand in the pouring rain to wait for him.
     We arrive in Paris at 10 or 11 in the morning to notice that Paris is not very wheel chair accessible. This becomes apparent when we have to lug my giant hockey bag I am using for luggage (we have now lovingly dubbed it the Beast) up many flights of stairs to get out. Next problem, we need internet, BADLY! We are meeting up with a friend of Kristen’s, Emmanuel, after he gets of work, and since our phones only work with internet...well. So we set off with Beast in tow walking almost 12 blocks of streets you would not want to find yourself at night, until we find one. I should add that when we returned to the bus station almost a week later to depart, we saw the commercial center right beside it.
    So we find our cafe, and sit to enjoy our first cappuccinos in Paris, and since we have several hours to kill, our first half liter of wine. The server was friendly, the day was beautiful, we were way to over tired to be tired at this point, so there we stayed. Finally hearing from Emmanuel, we chugged our way back to the subway to meet him at a more downtown location, and this is when the real fun begins. I am one of those people that people randomly approach and talk to on the street. I am friendly by nature so no big deal right? Wrong! The people that want to randomly talk to you on the street are generally people you do not want to talk to. Years ago I developed a defense for this; don’t make eye contact, and just walk a bit faster. Unfortunately for Kristen though, my method leaves her to deal with them. So for 12 blocks we had some guy following along, getting so desperate for Kristen’s attentions that he offered to buy her a car if she simply took him back to Canada, sounds fair.
    We get to Opera station and the same problem persists, we need internet. But we find a Pizza Hut, yes a Pizza Hut, in our defense there was a McDonald`s across the road. We get our free internet, and pizza, and wait until around 5 when Emmanuel picks us up, and to our delighted surprise...he`s got a car!
        He takes us on a short tour around, which is where we learned that the traffic in Paris is insane, and we make several stops to get the necessities; cheese and wine. But upon returning to the car, we find the keys locked in. Just to show you how much patients and humility we have learned on this trip, because we did not sit down and cry like you were all expecting, we went for beer. An hour and a half later, we were showered, relaxed, had a glass of wine in hand, and a giant plate of cheese. Ok Paris, we are ready for you!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Catalonia - the end of our visit to Barcelona!

We all know Barcelona as Spain, but in fact it once was not part of Spain at all. It was, and many say still is the capital of Catalonia, which was founded in the year 800 and includes; Gerona, Ampurias, and Sardagne. It later became part of Spain during the Spanish war in the early 1700’s. Today the fight wages on for the independence of Catalonia, Kristen and I don’t take sides, so instead I will tell you a little of what we learned about the Catalan traditions.
   First we learned the story behind the flag. The flag has 5 horizontal red strips on a back ground of gold that is said to stand for blood on a golden shield. The story we were told by or travel guide, is that after the battle againt the Muslims in the 800, a mortally wounded soldier returning victorious was granted a finally wish from the king. The soldier wanted nothing more than a flag to commemorate their victory. The King put his hand inside the soldiers wound, and with bloody fingers, made the 5 red strips thus creating the flag. Is there truth to this? Probably not, but it is the story.
   Next we learned of a very remarkable Catalan Christmas tradition “Cagatio” or the pooping log is a must have for families at Xmas. They take a log, and draw a face on one side, they put a blanket over top of it. Children feed the log cookies and milk for the 24 days leading up to Xmas. On Xmas eve the real fun begins, the children beat the log with sticks while screaming and yelling for it to...well poop. They remove the blanket to find treats and presents that their parents insist their log has pooped.

   Ok, but if that wasn’t fun enough, for many years there is yet another pooping figure in the Catalan Christmas traditions; Caganer or The Pooper, is a figure added to their nativity scenes of a pooping farmer. No I am not kidding. Some people hide Caganer in the back, sort of like a “Where’s Waldo?” type deal, and some place him right at the front. Caganer was added to represent farmers, and down to earth people, and to remind them that everybody poops. Today you can buy Caganer, and much more. Figures including the Queen, the Pope, the entire Barcelona Football team, and our favorite Sponge Bob Square Pants, because even he has to go eventually!

Stay tune for our adventures in Paris France!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Park Guell - Barcelona

Its our last day in Barcelona and an overcast, damp kind of day to boot. So we decided to check out Guell Park first thing in the morning in order to beat out the rain. After navigating the much more complex metro system then back home in Toronto, we followed the signs for a rough 15 min walk down a very ordinary street. The next sign tells us "Park Guill Left" so we turned and standing before us is the crazy virtical hill we had been herd about that is the only way to get up into the Park! We push through and made it to the park entrance and boy was it worth it. Swimming with people, even in the off season, all there with the same intention standing there smiling or jaw dropped. Even on a cloudy day its really impossible to hide the talent and sheer awesomeness that is Mister Gaudi! Most of his work in the park is done in the style of Mosaic, small pieces of a material ( in his case ceramic or glass) pieced together to create art!

 We walked pretty much the whole park and took some wonderful pictures (its one of those places where its really hard to take a bad picture). and pretty much stayed silent for a couple hours to soak in the architectural beauty that was surrounding us at every turn!

The wind and rain were starting to pick up so we decided to make our way back to the metro and have some fun at an indoor activity, we headed over to the Barcelona Aquarium!

Side note, on our Free Walking Tour we got shown Antonio Gaudi's first public work of art in Barcelona...quite different from the wile and crazy buildings he is world famous for!

To read more about Park Guell or Mr Gaudi himself, click here!

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Travel Bar- Barcelona!


 When we first arrived in our hostel in Barcelona, we were presented with tickets for a free meal with the purchase of a drink, at the Travel Bar. Located just off La Rambla, so our maps told us, we eventually found it. For future reference, if you are headed towards the water, you make a left at the building decorated with the umbrellas.

   There was not much to the Travel Bar, it was a pub like any other, but all the servers spoke English, and well they gave us a free meal. The free meal however was just a bowl of pasta, with chicken and pesto, so after our pasta, we gave in and split on fish and chips, witch were surprisingly tasty, so far we have not been very impressed with what we call regular food in Spain.

   But now for the best part, the Travel Bar runs free walking tours, as well as Spanish cooking classes, and Flamingo Dancing tours for a price. I guess I don’t have to say that the next day we joined the free walking tour, but if I didn’t the next part may confuse you.


   At 11:00 am we set out to roam the streets of Barcelona and learn some history along the way. We were quite fortunate that day; we actually had 2 guides, because one had been late due to sickness. Like most cities in Europe, the history is vast, beautiful and horrifying. We visited at primary school that had been riddled with machine gun fire during an execution during the time of WW2, learned of great debates about religion and politics, and about Catalonia, and its true separation from Spain, which I will save for its own entry.

   The story I will tell you is about Santa Eulalia; a thirteen year old Christian virgin, subjected to 13 tortures, for her thirteen years during the persecution of Christians in the year 303. They say the first stripped her naked to shame her, but snow fell from the sky and covered her so she was not shamed. The next put her in a barrel with knives and glass, and rolled her down the hill, but she came out without a scratch, the cut her and burned her, and well I won’t go on, it’s pretty gruesome, you can google it, but let’s just say she became a Martyr and is worshiped for her cause. If you visit the Catedral de Barcelona, which we did next, you can see the crypt were it is said that her burned bones are kept.
   Now I won’t leave you with such awfulness, we went back to the Travel Bar after our 3 hour walk and split a burger. It may be because we have been burger deprived since coming to Europe, or that we were starving after our tour, but I tell you... that was the best burger I had ever had! It was juicy and cheesy, and only cooked until medium rare (which I love). I liked it so much in fact; we went back the next day so I could get another. If you are ever in Barcelona check it out!

The Travel Bar  

Thursday, March 21, 2013

ESLICE PIZZA - Barcelona

 Tucked in amongst the fruit vendors, fish mongers, butchers, restaurants and antique sellers is a little 6x4 foot pizza place that sells the best pizza we have had so far on our trip. 

The prep tables, ovens and sinks take up most of this space, and left is enough room for a solo pizza master to serve up the good stuff! 

ESLICE PIZZA makes all kinda of fresh slices from traditional mozzarella and basil to olives and anchovies and everything in between. We opted for the chorizo and cheddar, and the ham and Brie cheese slices, both of witch didn't disappoint in anyway shape or form! 

 Its one of those places that proves there is no kitchen to small, or worthy of an excuse for poor food! ESLICE is doing everything right! 

Remember if you ever find yourself in Barcelona, be sure to check out La Boqueria and booth number 455 ESLICE PIZZA! YUMMMM

Saturday, March 16, 2013

La Boqueria - Barcelona


   During a day of wandering in Barcelona we came across “Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria”, or simply known as The Boqueria. It is a huge open market that dates back to 1217, when they set it up to sell livestock and fish in a separate market. It has come a long way since then!
   Much like other markets, there are fruit and vegetable stands, meat and fish, deli’s eateries, and so forth. What made this market unique from the many I have visited before are the eateries. First there are the many wonderful venders that sell food for convenience consumption. You could buy little boxes of sliced meats, cones filled with fried calamari, or other meats, with little baby fried eggs on top, empanadas, meat pies, and pizza, mmmmm Pizza!
   But the more interesting part was the sit down eateries. Set up like tiny bars that you can pull a stool up around, they had everything from sushi places, and noodle bars, to tapas and paella. You pull up your stool, (if you can find one) order a drink, yup fully functioning bar, and order some tasty food. The prices are reasonable, the food looked delicious, and your getting drunk...everybody is happy! We opted not to sit, but I won’t tell you what we got, I’ll give you a hint though; stall number 455. Read about our awesome food experience next.

Monday, March 11, 2013

La Rambla- Barcelona


 La Rambla in considered the most popular street in Barcelona. It stretches 1.2 km, from the Port, to what I would take as the city center. It is a lively street, with lots to see and do, attaches to many of the major attractions, and has a great night life as well. All this considered, it should be very easy to find, and it is; for most people.

   After a quick shower at or hostel, as exhausted as we were, we set off to make the best of the afternoon, and locate some of the things on our list to do. We had a map, but this did not seem to help. I myself have a pretty good inner compass, and Kristen and I have been doing very well at figuring our way around the many cities we have visited, but this day was not our day. We wandered here, there and everywhere, finally stopping at an information center to ask. We got another map, spun around in circles a few times, and low and behold, it was right there, across the street.

   So it is the most famous street in Barcelona, not only for it’s fun filled activities and many kiosks, but also for the huge amount of petty crime. Many have gotten their wallets, purses, and passports stolen, and you won’t even know until it’s too late! So with a firm grip on or bags, we continued along to the tiny souvenir shops, flower and jewelry stores, living sculptures and much, much more. We followed it down to the Port and back up, finding the theater, and the Boqueria Market, which we will leave for another day.

   We came back later that night, to find the Travel Bar for dinner, and the street was still alive, so much to see and do. If you are ever in Barcelona, definitely take a stroll down La Rambla, but remember to watch your bag!

Hip Karma Hostel- Barcelona

After a very long bus ride from Murcia we made it to our destination, BARCELONA! We got in at about 8:30 am so we high jacked a table at a little cafe (with free wifi) right by the bus station for about 3 hours to plan out our next step!

After a few coffees and some research had been complete we set out on foot to find Hip Karma Hostel. An easy task when you know where you are going and don't have luggage to drag with you! Sadly for us we had only a vague idea of the direction we were to go in and luggage to boot! We went down the wrong street and walked right passed he hostel but in the end we found it!

We squeeze our bags through the tiny door way and head up in the oldest elevator I have ever been in to the 2nd floor where the hostel is located!

Hip Karma Hostel is located far enough away from the busy tourist streets but close enough that its walking distance to pretty much all of down town Barcelona! 2 minutes away from the subway and just a half block from a DIA (grocery store).

When you walk inside the room is filled with bright/calming colours and wonderful paintings on the walls. You have full access to the kitchen, and the whole place is super clean. The rooms are all dormitory style but have privacy curtains and a reading light with every bed!

Now that we are all set up in our hostel its time to go and explore Barcelona! Make sure to come back and check up on our adventures !!

Hip Karma Hostel

Check it out and enjoy your stay!

Time to say good bye!

How to say Goodbye in San Javier Spain

   Well, our 2 months are up, and we are off to tour Europe. Our bags have been packed and re-packed, and we’ve even managed to store some stuff so we don’t have to drag it with us everywhere. Excitement is a given, but we also feel sadness. We have met some wonderful people in San Javier, who have taken us in, and shown us a good time, we will miss them greatly.

  So how do you say goodbye in San Javier? You throw a BBQ apparently. During our time there, we came to the realization that Spanish people love a fiesta, any excuse will do. So when Loly, owner of the Chealingea, (our local bar) found out we were leaving, she decided to throw us a BBQ.

   By noon, on a very beautiful Saturday afternoon, the flat top was set up outside, music was playing, and all our friends were gathered to send us off. They cooked off platter after platter of pork that was juicy, and served it with fresh bread that you just ripped pieces off of. Norden made some very tasty mini burgers, and “The Doctor” as we call him, brought some very nice wine.

   So the cerveza was flowing, the sun was shining and a good time was had by all, especially by Kristen, who was high jacked by an older gentlemen for a dance, and he just wouldn’t let her go. Ok well maybe she wasn’t having that good of a time, but everybody else was laughing to the point of tears, including myself. The day was so much fun in fact, that Loly said she would throw us another BBQ when we return in May. Like I said, any excuse for a fiesta!

  We are now starting our backpacking travels through Europe so be prepared for lots of great stories and adventure to come.

Love Sarah