Tag Archives: Stupid American Moment

No habla español.

20 Sep

Two and a half days, 5 French-speaking girls, 1 very large Spanish city = jam-packed site seeing and no communication skills whatsoever, unfortunately making us the ultimate American tourists.

And making us realize and appreciate how much French we know.  We realized we were in trouble–and back to not even square one, but probably negative five–when Mari and I went to get breakfast, and we walked up to the counter and realized we had no idea how to even order a simple meal.  We had lost the edge.

But, that was just a side note to a great/interesting weekend in Barcelona.

To start off with, though, the bus ride there was hellish.  We were picked up en route at 9 PM, and the next five and a half hours turned out to be a horrible start to an otherwise great trip.  The bus was full of only Catalan-speakers, which is fine, but the area we were in was full of middle-aged men who had no consideration for anyone else.  They talked very loudly while everyone else was trying to sleep, one guy was flicking his cigarette lighter very close to Liz’s hair for a long time, another guy just straight up stole mine and Mari’s seats after a rest stop break forcing us to sit on the bench in the back with no support for sleeping except for each other’s backs, and he even called us all “the four whores”.  Very little sleep, cricks in the neck, a toddler having a tantrum, 3rd-grade budging in line at the bathroom and stealing seats, sweating in the sauna (I mean bus), and classy name-calling.  Great intro to Barcelona.

The only highlights of the bus ride: Mari and I watching The Hangover on my iPod and so slaphappy at the absurdity of the bus ride (at least at first) that everything in the movie was hysterical; and me half-way walking up, searching for my shoe with my foot, finding my shoe, groping at it to pull it toward me, and realizing too late that I was stroking the foot of the guy sleeping next to me.  But if you pretend you’re still sleeping and that it never happened, it’s okay…..right?

Once there, we were dropped off at the outdoor bus station before the train station opened leaving us to try to get some sleep on the cement platform and fend off a huge cockroach.  Fortunately an older security guard took us under his wing, found us a better spot to sleep–the ticket office stoop–gave us water, and patrolled us while we slept.  He definitely made up for the jerks on the bus.

After a short sleep on the bus station floor–ending with a swift kick to the foot by a gruff security guard–we headed to the hostels and started the trip!

Wow.  Barcelona is an architect’s (and architecture lover’s) dream.  Passeig de Gràcia alone has so many impressive, but mismatched, buildings all mixed together.

Long story short, Gaudí is a crazy genius.  Crazy.  But wicked genius.  His presence in the city combined with the rich historical setting is really incredible.  La Sagrada Familia is beyond amazing.  To think that’s it’s not even finished and is going to be so much bigger and taller (only 8 of the 18 planned towers have been built) is incredible.  There is so much to look at, so much going on, and SO many contrasting and varying styles of art; I could have stayed and taken pictures all day.

Another one of Gaudí’s, Casa Batllò, was fantastic.  It was an apartment built for one family (which is shocking in itself since it’s so big) that he created to look like the ocean.  Inside and out, Gaudí didn’t miss any opportunity to make it his own.  There were no linear lines anywhere.  Curved everything, foggy “under water” glass, incredible tile work, and impressive innovations.  However, we were told by the audio guide that we were going to use all 5 senses up in the backyard…..we’re still not sure what we were supposed to taste…

The last Gaudí site we visited was Park Güell our last morning–and, luckily, the first blue sky and sun we had.  Basically an extension of all of Gaudí’s works thrown in one park, I found it so weird how one artist could have so many styles that were so different, yet you could tell that they were his.  The view was spectacular–only to be rivaled by the view from the Montjuic Castle on top of another hill/mountain closer to the sea.

In addition, we explored the medieval part of the city, visited the roman ruins directly underground the city, listened to some great street music (playing the hang), walked a TON trying to find our way up to Montjuic, and ended with an impressive show at the Magic Fountain.

Overall a great trip, the weekend was filled to the brim and definitely worth the horrible trek there.  And as a bonus, on the day-time bus ride back, we went through a part of the Pyrenees with some beautiful rolling hills and mountains peaked with towers, abbeys, castles, fortresses, etc.  The internal fight between sleep and staring out the window was fierce.

And since I’ve been getting crap from various people for my lack of pictures with actual people in them, here ya go.  And I gave you a weird one, so there.  haha I’m sorry, I guess people take a backseat to art/architecture and nature for me :/

A Lesson In French

13 Sep

The word for “full” as in “full of” is plein (de)….which is unfortunately very close to a word used to say you’re pregnant, and therefore is not used in the sense to say that you are full after eating a meal.  I hope my friend’s host-mom understands that I’m not actually pregnant.

It’s important to check your surroundings when you first arrive somewhere, especially when that somewhere is your new bedroom….and there is no door.  Hm.  I probably should have caught that.  No worries, it was being painted and was put in a few days later.

The French have a sense of humor, too.  So, when your host-dad yells at your little brother and slaps him hard, and you see your brother fall behind the counter, don’t get freaked out and think it’s real.  They loved the trying-hard-to-be-polite-and-hide-the-shock face, though.  They’re a well-organized comedy duo.

Cigarettes (and the smell) are everywhere, but I’m getting used to it.  Bring on the second-hand smoke.  Non-smoking sections–not so much here (although it is illegal indoors, so, kudos France).

Avoid the grungy-looking guys with the big dogs and the chain accessories who just roam around–we’ve heard they just want to share their music with the world….yet I’ve never actually seen one with a musical instrument.

“Genie pants” (think Jasmine) are très chic.  And look comfortable, sooo we Americans here may be getting our hands on some soon.

It takes a long time to say “hi” to a group of your friends here.  Les bisous, the kisses on the cheek, would never fly in the US.  Although some of the “cool” guys here have adopted the fist bump, so you never know.

Apparently we Americans are relatively paranoid about being clean and germ-free, because there is rarely soap in the bathrooms here.  And also rarely a toilet seat.  Meh, oh well.

There are quite a few stores where they only sell white clothing.  Strange.

When one of your friends comments that she has hardly seen any PDA in Montpellier compared to in Paris, expect to see a ton of PDA in the following week.  It’s too much to handle at times.  For example, do you really need to go at it in the tram…directly in my line of view…while I awkwardly share a seat with a guy and we’re both trying to look out the window for refuge….and it gets heavier for a long time until your friend in the seat behind you finally hits you on the head to stop….but then you take a minute break and you’re right back at it again?  No, I really don’t think you do.  I need to learn to say the equivalent of “get a room” in French.

Pain au chocolat = death of me. Foie gras ≠ cheese.

8 Sep

Those are two things I’ve learned so far.  Very important to remember.

Pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant) is deadly to the core.  These pastries stare at  you from every which way, and there’s really no defense.  You’re beaten the moment you’ve past your third pâtisserie and you give it a second glance.  Down for the count.  And on top of that, Magnum ice cream bars–Grandpa, I wish I could bring some back to the states for you.  They are delicious, and since my Grandpa loves them and you can’t get them in the US, I feel compelled to have one, at least.

The French and their amazing food.  And those are just the sweets.  Let’s not get started on the bread, the wine, everything my host dad has cooked so far, just the gourmet everything (but seriously, kudos to my mom, there’s nothing here that you wouldn’t cook amazingly yourself at home; being such a great and gourmet cook, you’ve prepared me very well for the food here).

But I have to point out that foie gras is not cheese.  It may look like cheese as it’s sitting on the counter with a knife next to it before dinner, but one shouldn’t walk by, see it, and cut off a bit and try it thinking that it is cheese.  And then when one sits down for dinner and her host dad brings it to the table and asks if she would like some foie gras, she will realize her stupidity, but she should decline and save herself the upset stomach that was to commence after dinner.  And she should not let her dad serve her the foie gras, thus getting too much, and feel impolite to not eat it all.  Nope.  One should realize that foie gras is not cheese.