21 – Barcelona, Pisa

Barcelona, Espana – 14th – 16th Novembre 2008 – “Friends in Europe!!!! Doug & KK move East – their adventures of Catalania!”

Barcelona; what a city – the Catalan home – finely aged with its Bari gothic architecture; epitomizing its bursting history, however entwined with an eclectic mix of dynamic lifestyles that have created this radically renewed modern urban landscape. Very similar to a European interpretation of California – but without the Spanish speakers; in Barcelona they speak their own language – Catalan; a mix of French, German, and Spanish including a huge lisp, quite odd. This weekend I visited Barcelona, Spain and two of my college friends; my current heroes of independence, tenacity and adventure, Dough and KK. Doug was a teammate of mine on my collegiate swim team, while KK and I came to know each other through mutual friend, Anna Fiser. This is was such a cool experience for me; instead of upon arrival seeking out the address of my hostel – I got to call someone and say “Hey, how do I get to your HOUSE?” So cool – it made me really feel like a European, lol.”My trip here was another interesting one – I missed my plane because of “un bloccatto del binary” – a blockage on the tracks? What!!!! The only train going to the airport had a blockage on the tracks. After inquiring why – I finally got the answer; “non lo so, quest’e’ Italia, capisci” – “I don’t know, this is Italy, you understand. So after buying another flight (it was only 35 Euros) and arriving the next day in Barcelona I have made it……to Girona, Spain – about an hour outside Barcelona very near the Pyrenees. This is very common for the low fare airlines. So imagining a beachside city I jump off the plane ready for sun – to find a blizzard of wind and snow-capped mountains; lol. Not what I had envisioned but beautiful nonetheless. I took a base to downtown “Barce” and then caught the metro to Barcelonetta where Doug & KK live. They had such a cool house – up 5 flights in a very narrow staircase; completely decorated from IKEA. Literally everything was IKEA – which I’m finding is the only possible furniture in Europe; because with stairwells as narrow as your shoulders all interior decorations must be able to be dissembled and then reassumed. I really loved their apartment though; really cozy with an awesome kitchen. We spent the morning chatting over coffee, from my cafeteria – which was nice to not cook up on an iron. It was so nice to actually have a living space to hang out in than the dorm life of Santa Chiara in Castiglion where I have been studying. I forgot how great and enjoyable the kitchen is for congregation.

Bryan also came along with his sister, Haley who has been visiting Europe for the last week or so. We spent the first day touring the Olympic sites; as Barcelona has one of the most famous venues for diving with the city as an unbelievable back-drop. For me this was really special obviously – but also because Barcelona was the last time the U.S. had a good Olympics in Diving, and was the end of the era of absolute diving domination and the beginning of China’s take over. The U.S. took a gold, two silvers, and a bronze in the four events that were just competed at the time; with the great Mark Lenzi taking gold on men’s 3-meter doing a reverse 3-1/2 for straight 10’s – a feat still rarely done today. It also marked the beginning of the era of Dmitry Sautin – the legend of my time in the sport. We toured the rest of the hill overlooking the city, did the Olympic stadium and swimming pool and continued onward into the city. Just walking the promenades, doing the classic Euro activity – window shopping. That evening for dinner we went to the market and picked up food to prepare – of course we did my favorite; olives, meats, cheeses and bread as well as some of the best but also cheapest vino I’ve had yet – only 1.5 Euro. Spain is great because its so much cheaper than the rest of Europe. I got this enormous bag of fresh olives that we snacked on for 3 days (all 5 of us) for only 2 Euro 50. Later than evening I met up with another friend of mine who is studying Landscape Architecture in Barcelona, Mike Volpe. We went to school together at Webster High School. We met him at this tiny little pub for College Nite no less – serving 1€ beers/wine. Freak’n amazing – I have completely forgot what the meaning of drink specials as their idea in Europe is quite different. They just have expensive, and then the special….a smaller glass….for a smaller price, or possibly same glass…..lots of ice. Not really my idea of the so-called bargain, haha.

The next day we spent the morning chatting in the kitchen – my favorite activity; I do this all the time at home. The afternoon we hit all the Gaudi sites like Famiglia Sangrada and xx & xx. These were amazing – Gaudi was so far ahead of his time; so abstract and creative in comparison to his colleagues at the time. It was also really interesting because I didn’t realize how much color Gaudi liked to use – it’s almost like going to Candyland the way he uses it. It almost looks like a strange drug trip. We kept walking around and toured the Bari Gothic area of the city (the historic center) and also where all the street performers were. I shot a video and placed it below. Really impressive these one – very gymnastic with their break-dancing. This night we also did the classic Spanish activity – Tapas. These were unbelievable; I can’t wait to try out some of these dishes when I get home. I also had some Spanish cider – quite different and very bitter, but I really liked it. For dinner we did the same snacks again at Dough’s & KK’s and then met up with a girl who swam at UGA that was in my graduating class – she’s Au Pairing for a family here. It cracked me up – Barcelona was like a huge reunion for me.  Funny enough, next weekend Kelly, from UGA, had Kara Lynn Joyce visiting her, who also went to my High School and swam at UGA. Unfortunately we missed each other by a week. I had a great time here and have put two videos – one of a new band I heard and is my new favorite but another of a new song that really sums up the vibe of the town. Check-em out!

Breaking Dancing on the Streets of Barcelona!

Pisa, Italia – 16th Novembre 2008 – “I can’t hold it any longer!”

Sadly, we had to wrap up the weekend and head back to Barcelona to wrap up our project and do our presentation for the commune; but not without one more stop. We conveniently made our flight reservations to go through Pisa, Italy so that we could visit the famous Leaning Tower. It was perfect as we had heard that Pisa really isn’t a destination to stay; just to roll-through – see the Lawn of Miracles and go; and they were right. The town is extremely small, the airport was literally a 5 minute train ride from the center and the lawn only a few blocks waling. While the town may be small, the tower, church and baptistery were huge. I really enjoyed them; very different architecture for Italy built circa 1000 AD. The Chiesa has a really unique colonnaded façade and next to it I think the largest baptistery I’ve ever seen. Then what really make it special are their blue shingled roofs which were a great contrast with the extremely glossy white structures. Of course we took the classic photo of us trying to hold up the tower  – but what was even better was watching other people do this; look back from the tower the lawn seemed to be a festival of mimes. Haha. We spent about an hour there and then caught the trains to go back to Castiglion so that we would make dinner. It was a great weekend! I have only four more days at the center before I ship of for a weekend skiing on a glacier in Austria, then London for a week, a marathon in Florence (where my friend from Webster will visit me and watch the race while visiting the sites), then Copenhagen, Sweden, Budapest, Torino and then home. One big rush of events before I hit home. Also have a finance exam in a week which I hope goes better than the 1st. It’s a funny switch; I need to learn what mistakes to look out for – I’m so accustomed to common errors in algebraic math and calculus but with these finance numbers I have yet to learn what to watch for and always to check. I guess I’ll learn one way or another. Peace!

NEW; SONG OF THE WEEK – HERE IS THE NEW “HIT” THAT I ROCKED TO ALL WEEK, THE BAND IS CALLED MGMT AND THE SONG NAME IS ELECTRIC FEEL! I keep letting you know what’s rocking here on the other side of the pond. Keep tuned as life keeps turning!

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