I slept in a little and got up with less time than I wanted and made my way down to the cathedral by noon. I was actually looking for a different coffee shop I had read about but when I saw the cathedral and I figured I should at least go there first to see where I was supposedly heading. And it ended up being perfect timing. When I came into the square, the massive cathedral rose up in front of me, and people were milling about or taking shelter in the shade.
I saw the musicians on the steps under the umbrella warming up, but in the square it was difficult to tell the tourists from the dancers, and even tho it was still a quarter to noon, all of a sudden the musicians on the steps started playing.
It was adorable to see people seemingly out of nowhere join hands and start dancing. Younger people in the crowd would do the steps alone, but not join in. Smaller off shoot circles started in the shade, and a couple times I saw a few locals try and teach willing tourists. They would take breaks (it must have been so stupid hot) and then start again.
I left around 12:30 but they seemed to be still going!
I wandered around the narrow brick alleyways of the Old Gothic neighborhood, looking for two shops I’d read about in the area, one supporting Catalonian artisans (found it- too $$$) and the other a traditional shoe store that still sold espadrilles made in the traditional fashion (found it- closed). It was fun to explore the Old Gothic neighborhood and I felt like now had seen several aspects of Barcelona and different neighborhoods’ personalities. I was thinking about stopping by the market on the way back to the hostal for either lunch or beach snacks…or whatever, but reality set in: it was Sunday and it was closed. In fact, it turned out my restaurant ideas for dinner later were closed too. I was going to see the Magic Fountain show on the 1992 Olympic Fair grounds that were slightly more east of the city center and had had only one place mind to eat that was in the area, Quimet & Quimet, that it turned out Anthony Bourdain had also frequented. You might be able to tell I like to plan my meals in advance when I travel. Without a meal plan I felt almost paralyzed!
I decided to worry about that more after some beach time. I took the metro this time and then still had to walk a ways. Although a similar time frame, it was even more crowded than when I was here before- I guess maybe because it was a Sunday?
I even got to go for a short dip in Mediterranean. My plan had been to maybe set up next to another solo sunbather and suggest a “I’ll watch your stuff if you watch mine” arrangement but that didn’t work out. So I gestured to some young tourist girls to maybe please watch my stuff and still brought my phone with me, (which was the only valuable I’d brought), so I didn’t go *swimming* per se. But it was a refreshing wade….
I made my way back to the hostel and asked my hosts for dinner recommendation, but she immediately tried to sync me up with other travelers who were also going to the magic foundation. I had still to pack tonight since I left tomorrow early and I wasn’t sure my plan….so I said I would maybe see them there…. Dodge dodge…
I found a “good enough” spot, I wasn’t trying to push in to get close, and settled in for the next show to start in 5 minutes. I’m not sure what I was expecting but somehow, Disney songs in Spanish blaring through loud speakers while the lights and water danced was not quite it. “El el Circulo de Viiiiiida”
But I guess it was pretty. And then I just went back to the hostel, after all that, with a simple market meal of chorizo, cheese and crackers. I was suppose to pack but I just fell into bed.
Day 18: Barcelona to Madrid!
The next morning I got up and packed and had to check out by 10. My plan was to go back to the market, that was no open!, for breakfast/lunch & train snacks. I got papaya and an empanada for breakfast and a croissant for the next day. It sounds silly, but I’ve started buying pastries for my following breakfast the day before. I’ve found that breakfast is a challenging meal for me here….because by the time I want it, around 10 or 11, other places are starting to serve tapas or lunch. Plus, there are times when I’ve even woken up hungry and so by the time I’m ready to go, I’m so starving I need to eat something before I even leave the hostal. And a day old pastry is better than nothing.
After eating my breakfast while wandering around and acquiring other train goodies, I sat and had a coffee at a cafe before I had to head back to the hostal to get my luggage and go to the train station. I swear I was only here for coffee but with this spread in front of me it was hard to resist eating.
Thankfully I was already stuffed from my other market goodies.
I headed back, picked up my luggage and made my way to the train station. Honestly, I feel like here’s where the real travel begins. Getting dropped off at the airport by your aunt for three days in Barcelona was like a weekend trip. But leaving your hostal, making your way to the train station, finding the right track, then car & seat, then getting off at a new train station in an entirely new city, finding the metro, and finding your hostal… Well, that felt like a slightly different story. (I had googled how to get to the hostal from the train station and screen shot it. You guys, screen shots are my best friends. I enter a couple of my stops for the day into my maps before I leave the free wifi of my hostal, screen shot the directions, and then also have a map for any detours.)
The train trip went quickly; I mean, after all, I was speeding into the heart of Madrid at 300km/hour.
I read almost the whole section of my guide book about Madrid, so I felt more comfortable with the lay out of the city going into it. My hostal was kind of on the border between an “up and coming” trendy neighborhood (also considered the gay neighborhood), and a more…. colorful neighborhood. Prostitution was legal in Madrid, and the street adjacent to my hostel was considered the go to area for women who, most of whom were foreigners, felt they needed to go into that line of work.
I got there in the late afternoon and wasn’t sure my plans. I realized that evening that I have a lot of pressure and expectations, on myself, about this trip: about finding the right experience or the right meal.
It was around 10pm and I opened my balcony windows to hear the sounds of the city, and it sounded inviting. “Ok, I will take a walk,” I told myself. “It’s just a walk… so whatever happens is fine.” (Ps. froyo for dinner is what happened. Just to keep it real with you.)
I went out into the heat, and with the wide walkways streaming with people, I was reminded of Las Vegas. Not really by the city, but it’s 100+ degrees, and all these people are outside at 10pm just getting their night started. The buildings are lite so beautifully, it makes you wonder what is that special building that must be worth showcasing
and then you realize it’s a bank or hotel or casino. I walked up and back the Gran Via, a main thoroughfare near my hostel, and felt satisfied with my introduction to Madrid. I returned to my building and up the three flights of stairs to my room.
Tomorrow would be my *real* Madrid day and I was ready.