From Barcelona to Paris

Where did I last leave you all?

Ah, yes. I was leaving for Barcelona.

Well, in a nutshell, Barcelona was fun, but the visit was too short to make sense of all the sights/sites. We took a 13-hour train trip from Cadiz to Barcelona, departing on Sunday evening and arriving early Monday morning. I discovered that couchette are not friendly to stomach/side sleepers such as myself; at one point, I curled up into a tiny ball, and shoved my head between the armrest and window. My spine hated me about twenty minutes later.

In Barcelona, The Pirate King and I checked into our youth hostel. We stayed at Center Ramblas, which is in a fairly good location, right off the Ramblas, which is a stretch filled with shops, cafes, and street vendors. After a much-needed nap and some laundry, we went wandering with another person who was staying at the hostel. We saw some of Antoni Gaudi’s casas, as well as the Sagrada Familia, which is a Christian temple. The temple has been under construction since the 1800’s, and it is still not finished. From what I can tell, I am going to want to visit once it’s closer to completion; it’s already stunning.

The next day was full of more wandering, although we got a late start. We checked out the maritime museum. It was alright, but it was free, which made it all the better. I had an awful allergy attack in one of the boat rooms, probably due to all the dust– the museum is also under construction. Go figure. However, I was intrigued by the submersion exhibit, which chronicles the development of deep sea exploration. That’s where we spent most of our time.

Food-wise, we ate a lot of tapas, as well as some paella. I had spinach croquetas for the first time, and they were a nice departure from the ham or chicken croquetas I have been eating in the past several weeks. I did burn my mouth on them, though, so always use common sense when eating hot food. (Grr.) The paella we had the last night in Barcelona was good, although I have only had paella twice now, so I can’t tell you if it was amazing or not. I will tell you that I ate way too much and woke up full the next morning. Yuuuuuck.

After Barcelona, it was time to venture to Paris. Again, we took the train. Barcelona’s train station was easy to get to; we took the Metro into the station. We did also go the wrong way on the Metro right off the bat, which was embarrassing because that’s the first time I’ve done that in Spain. But, regardless, we made it, got on the train, and went on to Paris.

This train ride was a bit less enjoyable than my other Spanish train rides, as they stuck us on a vehicle that was probably from the 1980’s. Our seats actually came partially unhinged at some point, causing the seats to swivel awkwardly when the train went around a curve. Also, the W.C. (i.e., bathroom) left a lot to be desired. Instead of having a flush mechanism, the toilet bowl was inclined, causing any, uh, waste to drain backwards. It also caused said waste to splash all over the floor. Definite gross-out factor, especially when you’re a chick.

Paris did not impress me upon arrival. I found the train station to be dirty, with pigeons and their poop all over the place. Furthermore, their so-called wi-fi system screwed me out of 8 euros and some conversion fees when I was able to pay for access yet not complete the log-in process due to a “404 Error.” The information desk pointed my friend and I in the direction of an internet cafe, which we gladly trudged towards, since the person we were staying with would not be at the station for several hours.

When you are meeting someone at a train station in a foreign city, it is crucial to be as detailed as possible. You know where this is going.

We spent hours on pay phones, walking back and forth through the dirty station, wandering up and down side streets, and draining my UK phone of minutes. We finally made contact with our host, who got us on a bus into the Saint Michel area, where she had booked a hotel room for us. She was kind enough to get us a place at the Hotel Esmeralda, which is an old place, dating back to 1640. It is conveniently located across the road from Notre Dame, around the corner from an English-language bookstore called Shakespeare & Company, and near other touristy locations (and restaurants). Our first day came to a quick close because only had time for a quick meal and a few drinks before I needed to get to bed.

Thursday, we spent all day cruising Paris. There were the obligatory trips to Notre Dame, the Louvre, and the Eifel Tower. In-between, there was time for Indian food for lunch and ice cream.

Notre Dame was gorgeous, of course, but after visiting numerous cathedrals in Germany, I was not a fan of the huge crowds. The line to go up the tower was immense, and we stood in line for close to an hour. Also, word to the wise, there are a lot of steps up to the top. A LOT. Be aware of that. Otherwise, though, I enjoyed my venture into the famous church. There is a lot to see, and a lot of great photo opportunities.

The Louvre provided me with the same crowding problems, at least in the main painting rooms. I did, however, get a glimpse of the Mona Lisa, so that was nice. There were other paintings that caught my eye long enough to warrant a photo, but my favorite areas were the wings showcasing art from civilizations in Africa, Asia, the Americas, and so on. In addition to that, I really enjoyed the Egyptian antiquities, as well as the Near Eastern antiquities.

After the Louvre closed for the day, we walked (yes, walked) all the way to the Eifel Tower, just to stand under it. No sense paying to go up to the top, especially since we had already seen Paris from above the Notre Dame. The Tower was impressive, but it made me miss the good ol’ Space Needle, I’ll be honest.

Dinner was an informal deal, but you will never guess where we ate. Any of you who are familiar with the show, How I Met Your Mother, should also be familiar with the episode where Marshall takes Robin to a “Minnesota pub.” Well, watch the episode and you’ll understand why Pirate King and I were thrilled to find The Great Canadian Pub. Hockey, poutine, and beers to round out a day of French culture? Yes, please.

Now, I would rather forget the French train station fiasco of this morning. I will just say it involved a cranky, sleepy, hungry ‘Dith, malfunctioning e-ticket kiosks, and French customer service. Nothing a friendly Italian cab driver couldn’t make me forget once we got to Torino, though.

That’s all I have for you today. We’ll see where the adventures take me next.

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