Since I couldn’t see Poble Espanyol the night before, I began the day there. Before doing so, I made a side trip to a mall that looks exactly like a bullring from the outside. As for the village, I didn’t want to pay for something that could be overly touristy but I figured it was my only opportunity to get a feel for what Spanish villages from all the different regions of the country would look like. Every region of Spain was covered with each having their own distinct appearance. I wandered through the side streets exploring and admiring the uniqueness of Spanish architecture. With the lunch bell ringing loudly, I still wanted to hold off for a recommended paella restaurant but I wouldn’t be there for another two hours at least after all the walking. A sign advertised a free paella tasting which intrigued me enough to look at the menu. The whole setup was very touristy but the paella was so good and the host offered salad, tapas, cava, and a dessert to go along with it so how could I pass that up. It wasn’t cheap but considering I had paid the same amount for the meager tapas from yesterday I knew I had to go for it. To begin, I was served a glass of cava which is basically champagne. I felt classy for a moment until going back to my reality of backpacks and sweat dripping down my face. After eating some all too rare fresh vegetables, I dug into some tapas composed of fried calamari, cod fritters, and double ham croquettes which were all delicious yet the main course still awaited. The paella came served on its own individual scalding hot skillet. This paella was composed of black rice (I’m assuming the color comes from squid ink), peppers, shrimp, mussels, and a mixture of other seafood. I savored each and every bite while continuously wondering why I had never experienced this food before. Paella is now on my bucket list of foods I have to cook. To finish the meal quite nicely, I ate dessert. Their house cake had a thin crusty exterior while a heavenly creamy custard awaited within; along with fresh berries and a fruity sauce draped over the edges of the cake, I couldn’t have envisioned a better finish to the meal. After paying and walking away, I felt I could have went for round two if I really put my mind to the task. Instead I hiked up to Castle Montjuic which according to my guidebook offered a free view of the entire city of Barcelona including the beaches and harbor. 500 meters into the hike the fear that I would give birth at any moment set in. All that food had now settled into my stomach; the only respite would be a much needed siesta. As people continued to pass me, I tried to retain whatever little composure I had left in me. All the constant walking up the steep incline and heat gave me a powerful shot to the gut. After awhile I came to, but the journey wasn’t pretty until I walked onto the public park grounds of the Olympics ’92. I hadn’t thought about it before but I have been to several Olympic cities including Paris, London, Berlin, Munich, Rome, and now Barcelona. The complex was expansive although not to the same breadth as that of Munich. I got the opportunity to see ways the cities chose to project themselves to the world through these structures. These buildings consumed countless time, money, and energy for these prominent cities to be featured on the world stage and gave a glimpse into the culture. I figured I would be at the Castle by then but the climb continued. Finally after much blood, sweat, and tears, I made it to the top (just kidding about the blood and tears). Again the guidebook failed me when I found out it cost to enter. I wasn’t having any of that so I just enjoyed the view outside the castle walls. The castle itself was beautiful by having not been overly commercialized. Even the moat was worth looking at with its well maintained gardens that reminded me a little bit of the palaces from Vienna. I noticed I could have taken a cable car up but then I realized I was too cheap to use it. Before recommencing my walk, I noticed a small stone statue of Spaniards dancing in a circle just like what I witnessed outside the cathedral the evening before. If I hadn’t seen those people dancing to the music, the statue would have meant nothing to me. In moments like this, I have taken the time to appreciate where I am and where I have come from to get here. With the beach in my sights, I swerved back and forth down the hill to street level before coming across the Columbus Monument. Atop the monument, Columbus points his finger into the distance not to the Americas but to his hometown of Genoa, Italy. Once at the beach, I could not find where the sand was since the beach was practically covered inch by inch by people on their towels or under their umbrellas. Since the cool seawater sounded too good, I weaved through the multitude of people searching escape into the water. Along the way, I was pleasantly surprised that I was in the midst of a topless beach with all the beautiful young Spanish women sunbathing. Not long after that I realized the situation was a two-sided coin as the wrinkles of the not so young and beautiful displayed their bodies quite proudly. Despite being blinded by that awful sight, I still managed to find my way to the water’s edge. From all the hot and sweaty days of walking through these big cities, I’ve turned into a water person be it lake, sea, or ocean as the perfect way to cool down. Before going back to the hostel to get rid of my daypack for the upcoming bus ride to Pamplona, I took a tour of the churches nearby. The two largest churches had a long and narrow open space leading to the altar with high arched ceilings but little else to look at as far as stained glass windows go. In Santa Maria del Mar, I watched a Spanish wedding from afar, while in the cathedral of Barri Gottic, I found 28 chapels rapped around the church. The center of the cathedral reminded me of Westminster Abbey in London with a long wooden seating platform that seemed only fit for royalty. After all the sightseeing, it was time to get back to the hostel to prepare for my bus trip to Pamplona. I left everything back at the hostel except for my contacts, glasses, and sleeping neck rest. Onto the bus I went, not knowing what to except but hoping for the best.
Day 46: A Spanish Feast