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Swing And A Miss: Strike 1

What is fun? I’ll tell you. Fun is waiting in line for 2 hours at the Barcelona train station trying to get tickets for the train to Madrid. Apparently there was an employee strike of some sort, and only 1 of the 8 ticket windows was open.

Here’s a high speed video of the clock at the train station. No, really… time was moving THAT fast. I kid you not.

During the course of the wait, one TV news film crew interviewed me, another tried to (but only wanted Spanish speakers) and another filmed me for some b-roll (not sure if it was used or not).

Once we finally got the tickets, I was so beyond caring about anything that I actually stooped so low as to eat at McDonalds! The first time in over 4 years I consumed something from Mickey D’s. Damn unions!

Anywho… we’re now in Madrid.

Absinthe Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

It also makes the heart skip beats, and singes your nose hairs, and makes your eyes water, and looks like cloudy urine, and tastes like black licorice.

But hey, when in Rome (or Spain as the case may be), do as the Spaniards and just do stuff you can’t legally do in the US.

The New York Times told us to do it. And they were right about Bar Marsella:

…with its ceiling stained caramel from centuries of cigarette smoke, and the feeble light that shimmers from its ridiculously ornate electric chandeliers, this nearly 200-year-old bar— reputedly the oldest in Barcelona — feels more late-night than most.

And I tell ya, I don’t think they have painted the place once since then. It’s quite an antique.

The Majestic Montserrat Mountain

About 60km northwest of Barcelona lies a small village called Monistrol de Montserrat. Perched high up in the mountains (and I do mean high up) is Santa Maria de Montserrat, a Benedictine abbey.

It offers some spectacular views once you get up there. Just how you get up there is up to you. You could take one of the tour buses (lame) or you could take a cable car (sweet). Since we are awesome, we took a cable car.

Here’s a view on the way up of the village below.

Still ascending…

Once you’ve completed the ascent, 4055 feet up, you can walk even further up some stairs to the main plaza where you will find “La Moreneta” (the black virgin), which is Catalonia’s favorite saint. Rumor has it, it’s also the location of the Holy Grail as well! The queue to see the virgin was way too long so we roamed the grounds instead in an attempt to find the Holy Grail.

We didn’t see it anywhere down there…

So we rearranged some of the stones in this statue to get a better view…

Our efforts proved to be fruitless, so we just went to the cafeteria and ordered some fruit instead, and ate it while dangling on the edge of the world…

That’s when we got the idea that we just weren’t high enough yet, and needed more elevation (elevation: not to be confused with cow bells). It just so happens I am a funicular fanatic, and just my luck they had not one, but TWO funiculars. Funicular de Sant Joan climbs up the side of the mountain at a maximum steepness of 65%!! These nuns really know how to put the fun in FUNicular!

How’s this for a stunning view!?

Still not satisfied, we made the adventuorus decision to hike up EVEN FURTHER where there are various abandoned hovels in the cliff faces that were previously the abodes of reclusive monks.

And abandoned shrines high atop the cliffs.

REALLY high up.

Incidentally “Montserrat” literally means “jagged (serrated) mountain” in Catalan, and here you can see where it gets it’s name.

Despite our best efforts to find the Holy Grail, we had to call it a day as the last funicular of the day was leaving, and even though there were plenty of caves in the side of the mountain to provide shelter, we forgot our flint at home. So it was back down, down, down…

Falling In Love

Barcelona is amazing, I think I’m in love with her. After tonight, she has officially taken over the top spot as my favorite city in the world (previously held by Edinburgh Scotland). The day was spent on the blue line of the ‘bus turistic’, which took us by many of the sites of the 1992 Summer Olympic games. One of the stops where we got off was Plaza España which is a major artery of the city. In the center is a huge monument…

…and at night, a flame ignites at the top of the statue and burns for several hours. There is a road leading up to the statue…

…that is flanked by two giant towers…

Farther up the road was a rather large defunct water fountain (but we’ll get to that in a minute).

And if you walk even farther up several flights of stairs, you will reach Montjuïc (translated as Hill of the Jews) which is home of Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (The National Art Museum of Catalonia). From it’s vantage point you can get a great view of the city.

We popped into the museum for a quick look at a few Picasso’s…

And of course there were several pieces from Mr. Gaudí as well. One could easily spend an entire day in here as the place is massive.

After about an hour or so we decided to hop back on the bus to see the remainder of the sites..

…including man-made beaches that were constructed for the Olympics along with the boat harbor where men walk their purses on leashes.

Now then… back to that defunct fountain I mentioned.

Every Friday and Saturday between 7 and 9pm in the winter and Thursday to Sunday 8pm – midnight between June and September, the fountain comes alive in a fantastic water and light display.

In fact the entire plaza is transformed into something straight out of Fantasia. I can’t even begin to describe how amazing the site is. Photos and videos just wouldn’t do it justice. It’s truly something you have to see with your own eyes to appreciated. This fountain show puts The Bellagio’s water show to shame. It’s just that good. Here’s a video to wet your appetite (no pun intended) but seriously… do yourself a huge favor and come see this for yourself. This moment alone catapulted Barcelona into the #1 spot.

The 4 Food Groups

Fruit & Vegetables.



As seen at Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria (a.k.a. La Boqueria)

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