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Xampañería

For several days in Barcelona, we had been lamenting the fact that it would be a long time before we could walk down a street and see a familiar face. Alicia said, “I just want to run into someone I know today. Anyone. Wouldn’t that be so nice?” Late in the afternoon of this particular day we were tired and getting a little cranky. After walking way too far to check out the zoo, which ended up being more than we wanted to pay for “maybe this will be cool” late afternoon entertainment, the decision was made to just go back to our hostel on the opposite end of the city.

The closest metro stop was a few blocks away at Barceloneta. We walked less than a block and a familiar face showed up! That lightly bearded face belonged to Kristian who works at our hostel. When you meet him you feel like you’ve known him for years. Case in point – he immediately introduces us to Michael and Panos, whom I assumed were old buddies of his, but it turned out that he just met them at a Greek restaurant earlier that day. He was taking them to his favorite place, which he only referred to as the xampañería and invited us to come along. I had no idea what a xampañería was, but it sounded like a place where they serve champagne… so yes, let’s go there.

Five minutes away from where we met, he took us down a quiet, seemingly unused block to an unmarked bar with people literally spilling out the front. Kristian dives right into the crowd and forms a channel for us to push our way to the back and find a counter to lean against. The interior is unpretentious. A few cured whole hams hang from the ceiling among the industrial light fixtures and a large wooden sign revealing the name of the mystery bar – Can Paixano.

His xampañería turns out to be a cava bar. Cava is Catalonian champagne. It is pink, bubbly, delicious, costs about €1 per glass, and it’s the only thing served at Can Paixano other than the small plates of cheese and hot sausages they pair it with. Michael brought us up to speed with Greek politics. Kristian told us about leaving his home country of Cyprus in search of adventure elsewhere, which currently finds him in Barcelona. We told him a relatable story.

12
Jun 2012
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Barcelona: Streets and People

A collection of people and street scenes in Barcelona, including a minor peaceful protest we encountered and a huge banner demanding that a leader of the protests be freed from jail. We loved the city and all of the unexpected beauty around every corner.

06
Jun 2012
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Edible Barcelona

Most of these pictures are from Mercat St. Josep. You’ll see our favorite cheese (tetilla gallegago look up the translation if you want to learn a fun new Spanish word), bountiful produce and seafood, racy chocolates, “our” neighborhood bakery, and the harsh reality of delicious animal products. For our veg/vegan friends, we included two shots of some graffitti you might like.

05
Jun 2012
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Beach and Paella

We only had a few days left in Spain and still had not eaten any paella. So we spent a day walking the beach and picked a nearby paella restaurant at random. Alicia is not a big fan of invertebrates, but we both definitely found the pile of rice and tentacles and shells and tails and legs the be among our most delicious experiences to date.

05
Jun 2012
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Parc Güell

We visited Antoni Gaudi’s Parc Güell one evening. We started at the top of a very large hill (a series of escalators were very helpful in getting us there) and watched the sun set, then wound our way down to the main terrace. It was a fun end to a long day.

05
Jun 2012
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Sagrada Família

Sagrada Família was one of the places we knew we had to visit this year, even before we had any sort of an idea where were going or when. After a good night’s sleep, we headed down to the center of the city and planned to do nothing else that day.

It was gorgeous. We spent the entire afternoon with our necks craned back, staring at the column forest, the impossibly complex facades, and the tiny details of the relief carvings in the doors.

Sagrada Família has been under construction since 1882 and is scheduled to be completed in 2026. We’re thinking it would be worth a trip back to see it.

02
Jun 2012
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Parc y Jardin

We visited two different gardens in Barcelona. The first, Parc del Laberint d’Horta, was near our hostel. While we were in the labyrinth, there was a group of developmentally disabled adults who were thoroughly enjoying their outing. There was also a large group of school children. From their vantage point above, the kids shouted to us (in English!) which directions we should turn. We pretended not to be able to hear them well and took many wrong turns, which resulted in shrieks of dismay.

The second garden was on the coast, overlooking the cruise ship docks and was called Jardins de Mossèn Costa i Llobera. It was full of cacti and palm trees and exotic (to us) flowers. We stumbled across it by accident while looking for the way to a funicular.

The last picture in this series was an accident, but we liked it a lot.

31
May 2012
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Views from Above: Barcelona

Views of Barcelona from Park Güell and Sagrada Familia.

31
May 2012
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Feet Up Hostel, Barcelona

We arrived in Barcelona on the overnight train. The bunks were sold out, so we were sentenced to sit upright for the eight hour journey. We watched a golden sunrise over fields, palm trees and the Mediterranean as the train crawled the last leg along the coast towards the city. A few photos were attempted, but it was quickly abandoned in favor of soaking up the beauty of this new place. We had only traveled 300 miles, but Madrid felt just as far away as Iowa.

Our hostel was on the northwestern edge of Barcelona. It had good reviews on hostelworld.com and was priced a few Euros less than the massive party hostels closer to the center. Plus, it was called Feet Up Hostel and they had a hammock. So, clearly, this was where we were going to stay.

We spent six days there and it was truly a home away from home. We met some wonderful people, had great late night conversations in the courtyard, cooked dinner most evenings in the kitchen and ate it on the rooftop, and had coffee and pastries at “our” neighborhood bakery every morning on our way to the metro.

30
May 2012
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