Platja.

After our (almost) excessive amount of splore on Monday, we were looking for a chilled out day to rest and recuperate. The first stop would be in town to sort out another travel card. As great as my T70/30 was, after nearly a month of use the little paper card had developed a small rip in the corner. One day when we were using the metro, the machine ate half of the card and spat out the rest, leaving me with only about 60% of what went in. After an uncertain conversation with the very suspicious transport worker, I was sorted with a replacement which still had about 20 journeys left – time to go to the beach.

Castelldefels is the first nice and natural beach outside of the city, and is easy enough to reach on the bus in just under an hour. Niall has perfected the ability to instantly nod off to sleep as soon as we sit down on any transport, so I enjoyed the view as we rounded the airport and left Barcelona. Almost as if we were being rewarded for everything that had transpired in the past 48 hours, the beach was just perfect. The sun was out and shining and the temperature was reading a toasty 29 degrees, but with just enough wind to take the edge off. We lazed about on the beach and caught up on some much needed rest, before heading into the sea for a swim. The water was the perfect temperature, and we ended up bobbing in the waves for at least an hour. Before heading home, I threw the drone up to get a bit of beach footage. Although some of the video looks amazing, I didn’t really get to focus on the filming all that much due to all the interest I gathered. During the 20 minute flight I must have spoken to about 15 different people who came over to see what was going on and inquire about various things to do with the drone. Always happy to chat about these things – especially in Spanish – I answered their questions, but sometimes it would be nice to just fly and focus on the images without getting so distracted!

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Our plan for the evening was executed perfectly from start to finish. In the morning we had gone shopping and bought everything we could possibly need for a smashing barbecue. Upon arriving home from the beach, I lit up the coals and cooked us some good food, whilst Niall applied his expert burger making skills from working in McDonalds to construct said food. We smashed down some incredible burgers, along with some nice Spanish skewers and prawns dipped in tartar sauce – yum.

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Aventura.

Monday would be a complete change of pace for us. Instead of getting into the city to do some exploring, we would instead be catching a train out of Barcelona and down the coast. Our destination was PortAventura, which is a huge theme park just a short drive from Salou (remember that).

At the station I thanked myself for every weight I had ever lifted in my life. Spanish people simply do not understand how to queue correctly, and as a result when the doors opened a scene resembling something from the Battle of the Bastards soon developed, which required some serious strength to overcome and find a seat. After muscling our way onto a crowded Renfe carriage, it was only about an hour or so until we hit our stop. With our return tickets we would finish up at the park in the evening and catch the train back along with the other thrill-seekers. Niall had been to PortAventura years ago and assured me they have a very impressive fireworks show at the end of each day, so that would be a must.

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From there, the day was a huge success:

  1. The queues weren’t too big as it was mid-week
  2. I didn’t throw up once (although came close in the Chinese section – I jumped on a small dragon ride which looked innocent and possibly even cute, but turned out to closely resemble some sort of vomit comet NASA astronaut training equipment)
  3. We managed to hit dabs at almost every camera flash point on the rides, resulting in some fantastic photos – especially on the log flume. This wasn’t easy on some of the more extreme rides, but as Niall wisely said ‘if it was easy everybody would do it’

However, the greatest success by far was getting Betty Boop to dab for us. That’s right, she was driving through the park on the back of an open top car, waving to the parade as she goes and accompanied by a number of dancing men in tuxedos. As she approached, we shouted ‘BETTY…. DO A DAB’ and she looked at us square in the eyes with her huge cartoon-y head and hit a savage dab. We went absolutely berserk.

(For all of you who do not live on the internet, please educate yourself on the origins of this whole ‘dab’ craze and how it became so popular. Search for the video that started it all called ‘squidward hits a dab’ on YouTube and notice the enormous similarity in these two situations)

At this point you might be thinking this day ended up being one of our most successful… I wish. After watching the fireworks at midnight we walked back to the train station ready to catch a train. Of course, there were no trains. I looked on my phone for the next train, which would be in 7 hours – it was time to make a plan. In the dead of night, Niall and I walked 35 minutes from PortAventura to Salou. Arriving in Salou was a surreal experience for me, having previously visited the town for rugby tour last year and spent 4 days punishing my liver by the beach. Much to our relief, there were still signs of life in the town, and we even managed to grab a couple of cold and refreshing G&T’s on the beach before the bars closed up for the night. From here we picked up a few more beers from the shop, and looked for a place to set up for the night. After walking a long way down the beach, we eventually settled for a small wooden pirate ship which was part of a children’s play area in the sand. That night, under the stars on Salou beach, we were two grown men lying on the top deck of a small wooden pirate ship, drinking beers and talking the night away.

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When I awoke at sunrise, the combination of a hard floor and no pillow had taken its toll on my body. I stood up to stretch and take in the morning view, only to scare the living daylights out of a couple sat on a bench nearby. Clearly having no idea that I was asleep in there – a mere 10 metres away from where they were sat – they stared at me suspiciously as I waddled off down the beach for a wee. You can only imagine their reaction then when Niall also got up and spotted them. We walked in exhausted silence to the station in Salou and caught the first train back to Barcelona. When we finally made it back into the flat, both of us passed out and slept long into the afternoon…. Quite the adventure.

Ráfaga del mar.

On Sunday we headed out to Plaza Catalunya to start another day of splore. Without much of a real plan in mind, we dropped in to the cool rooftop bar/restaurant in the Gothic Quarter near Barcelona cathedral for a few beers and some smashing mozarella and chorizo toasties. Once again we walked the small and winding streets of this barrio, enjoying getting lost and discovering new hidden treasures within the city. We eventually found ourselves at the waterfront, and continued along the beach and marina. The ridiculous boat wasn’t parked there this week, however it had been replaced by an equally large boat which lacked in length but made up for it with width (depending on who was judging). 6 stories on a private yacht seems more than enough to me… no helicopter though, very disappointing.

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This is Plaza Catalunya – see if you can spot me.

Earlier in the week I had suggested the idea of renting some jetskis to razz around the harbour for a while, and of course Niall seemed keen. When we reached the end of the beach and saw people enjoying watersports we decided to hunt down the origin of these activities so that we could have a go. When we found the place, it was a very generous 100 euros for half an hour on a jetski… yeah I don’t think so. Instead, we very wisely opted for 20 minutes on the SeaBlast (this wasn’t the actual name but I can’t remember what the activity was called and we have subsequently named it SeaBlast). You basically lie down on a big lilo with handles at the front while a speedboat drags you along at terrifying speeds. After we managed to hold on through a lot of the intense turning and flying through the air in the first 5 minutes, it became apparent from the grins on the faces of our two boat drivers that they wouldn’t be letting us off easy. They spent the remaining 15 minutes trying their hardest to get us to fall off. Sadly we did, twice. The SeaBlast was great fun though, and now I know what it is like to be in a violent car crash (for a quarter of an hour).

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In the evening we did my tried and tested trip up to the Art Museum in Montjuic to catch the sunset and enjoy a beer by the fountains. We managed to earn some jealous looks from surrounding tourists as we kicked back with a Moritz each and took in the view. I also finally got to take Niall on our date to a restaurant on top of Las Arenas by Plaza Espanya – it was lovely, and we got into a very intense discussion about Game of Thrones which the table next to us seemed very interested in (maybe we spoiled it for them).

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This however could all be considered the ‘calm before the storm’ as what came the day after was nothing short of an epic adventure.

 

El banquete.

After a late one on Friday night, we decided to sleep in a little Saturday morning. Eventually surfacing, we grabbed an eCooltra over and powered our way to the Sagrada Familia to go check out what all the hype was about. The cathedral itself is absolutely stunning, but being there on a Saturday meant it was horribly busy. We essentially had to complete and obstacle course – ducking and diving all of the swinging selfie sticks – in order to take a walk around the church and surrounding garden. After about half an hour of taking it all in, we were sick of all the people so  we headed off in search of some fresh splore. I did get a photo, but of course it was to continue my dab-tour of the city.

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We very much got the idea that you weren’t supposed to go walking away from the Sagrada Familia as a tourist to discover things for yourself, and very quickly found ourselves in a nice quiet neighbourhood with plenty of little hidden gems to discover. Walking about, we discovered an amazing old building which turned out to be an old hospital, with a cool fountain out front. As the temperature hit a toasty 34 degrees, swimming in the fountain was looking more and more appealing by the minute. Instead, we opted for a couple of cold frosty beers in the shade of a local cafe.

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As the time had reached approximately half 3, we knew for certain that our incredible sandwich place would be open. We rode the metro over to las Ramblas and marched towards the gorgeous smell of cooking chicken. I’m not actually sure who was more excited: me, for whom this would be the third of these incredible sandwiches, or Niall who was getting his first taste in years. Nevertheless, we made a double order of rolls full to the brim with every topping they had, and sat down to tuck in. Not even the guy on the bench next to us trying to sell us weed could distract from this moment.

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With our stomachs full and craving satisfied, we made our way to the edge of Montjuic to catch the Teféfonic. To save from walking up the large hill in extreme heat, TMB offers a cable car service from the edge of the park right up to the castle at the top. As we rode this up we took in the views – me even more so as I was literally stood on the bench with my head against the roof to try and maximise the cooling airflow coming through the window. I probably got some strange looks from other passing cars as I flapped my open shirt in the breeze, but I didn’t care as it helped alleviate the constant sweating. At the top we explored the castle (which I have already covered in the blog) and took in the breathtaking views. Once again, in true style of documenting such great places with a beer, we perched on a wall and enjoyed a (mildly) cold one whilst looking over Barcelona’s shipping and industrial district.

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After all this strenuous splorin’ under the hot son, it was high time for a chilled evening in the house. Of course, I didn’t really feel like cooking so we investigated the takeaway situation. Within an hour we had a rather tired looking delivery man knocking on the door, almost keeling over under the enormous weight of our order. Seriously, this guy probably went away with biceps the size of Bournemouth after carrying all that food halfway up the building. Some might argue that 4 pizzas, fries, chicken nuggets, carbonara pasta and patatas bravas is too much food for 2 people… we clearly disagree. As always with me, the approach is to silence the critics through eating.

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La subida.

Thursday was an odd day at work. Through a mixture of hard work, combined with standing around taking advantage of the seemingly relaxed mood to chat to people, the day passed relatively quickly. Although I was keen to get home for some beers with the lad, I decided to hang around at the end of work to dish out plenty of donuts and cakes to the office. This was all part of my build up to the big question – I asked the boss if I could get my half day on Friday off. Despite refusing my bribery of sugary treats, he said yes and suddenly my holiday had begun! After a sad farewell to many people in the office, el Jefe sent me away with his number on a card and his best wishes for my future, and I was finally done with work… it was all rather emotional.

This wasn’t the end of seeing people from the office though, as a few of us were going out for dinner and drinks Thursday night to say farewell to Sansa who was moving onto another job (and a farewell to me, so they claimed) – and no she isn’t ginger or from the north. When we met with everyone at the restaurant, I had to practically scoop Niall’s jaw up off the ground as he couldn’t believe I had been working with such a fine lady all this time. We had a fantastic dinner at La Tagliatelle, followed by a short trip around the corner to Plaza Universitat for some drinks outside a bar – I even cracked out a celebratory cigar I had been saving to enjoy with whoever wanted. After we bid another farewell to everybody (except my three engineering lads who we will be meeting again), Niall and I headed down las Ramblas in search of another bar. After being offered weed and cocaine by a billion different immigrants, along with hundreds of promises for ‘the best club in Barcelona’ (this stuff is all very typical at night here) we dived into a small place for a few more frosty ones before the end of the night.

Friday marked our first full day of splore, and naturally the first port of call was the sandwich shop. However much to our dismay they seemed to be closed, despite me practically breaking into the store twice to ask the owner twice what was going on. Giving up on the idea we headed over to the Boqueria market for lunch instead, which wasn’t a bad alternative. From here we did plenty of stuff that I have already documented on this blog a few times – ramblas, gothic quarter, central park etc. When exploring the park we found a fantastic fountain and boating lake which, despite sitting by for some time, we unfortunately didn’t see any stupid tourists with selfie sticks fall in or capsize their boats.

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We then visited the arc d’triumf nearby, which was also very impressive. Similar to our idea to document adventures in the city through beers, I have also embarked on a project to dab in front of a number of places of interest throughout Barcelona. So without further ado, here is number one:

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Our final activity was going to be a favourite of mine. We hopped on a scooter and made our way to the north of the city, which is easier said than done. As I have already explained, these scooters are electric and extremely low-powered. As a result, heading up hill for a number of kilometres with both Niall and myself riding, we had some serious issues. Fortunately we just about made to the base of Parc de Guinardó having pissed off a great number of local motorists, and began the somewhat strenuous and sweaty climb to the top. But as I had found before, oh boy was it worth it. The view was just as good second time round, and this time I had a good friend and some beers to enjoy it with. We sat up on top of that mountain and enjoyed a few cold (ish) San Miguel, chatted away and took in the scenery. I also managed to send my drone up with should make for some smashing footage.

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All in all, this was a pretty awesome day of splorin’. By the end of the day we were pretty exhausted, so we cooked up a good Spanish eat and lay around on the sun bed drinking beers and chatting into the night. You can tell its too easy to talk to somebody when you think its 2.30am, only to check your phone and see it is actually 5.

Some amazing adventures have been had so far – stay tuned for more!

Calma.

Monday through Wednesday were days of calm and relaxation, preparing myself for the coming week. Much to the surprise of both of us, Laura actually managed to wake up and be out the house in time for her flight, without getting lost along the way. I came back from work fairly exhausted after a heavy weekend of walking and eating – my beer arm also needed a bit of rest.

Tuesday at work was a mixed one. I had plenty of things to be getting on with, but my mind kept reaching for the next day and the arrival of my buddy. But first, I had some secret agent work to complete. A couple of big bosses from the company’s base in Coventry had come to check out one of the lines and the quality of product being produced. As I joined the group of Spanish engineers and the two English lads, I decided not to take my usual approach of rushing in and greeting them as a fellow countryman. Instead, I struck up conversation with the Spanish lot and asked a few questions – basically chatting away and making conversation. From here, I positioned myself close to the Englishmen and basically eavesdropped on their conversation as they discussed in hushed mutterings what they thought of the plant. Although most of the workers here speak decent English, this would be stuff they wouldn’t understand and hence the bosses were happy to discuss more secret matters in close proximity. I then proceeded to spend the rest of the 20 minute meeting secretly translating and subtly explaining all of their comments to the group, much to the amusement of my colleagues. I believe the words ‘doble-cero siete’ were thrown about. At lunchtime, they seemed very surprised when I sat down and greeted them in perfect English – this was my first real taste of fucking with someone using my language skills and I absolutely loved it.

When Wednesday finally rolled around, I jumped out of bed ready for the day to start. Hiding my keys near the door for Niall to find, I headed out keen to get the day done and out the way. Although I have really enjoyed my time working here, Wednesday was largely a day of hiding in the office and doing admin bits/ watching YouTube and keeping an eye on the clock. Finally 5pm came and I was out the door in flash on my way home. I had spoken in detail to Niall the day before on Skype, so was happy everything had been arranged and he would be in the flat when I arrived back.

I can’t fully explain what the reunion was like, but having only seen one of my best friends in the world 2 times in the last 2 years, I’m sure you can imagine it was emotional (no homo tho). As we kicked back with some beers and a fine bowl of Spanish food, we had a good old catch up and the night flew by. Now I just had to finish off work and the splorin’ would get underway – bring it on!

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Animales!

After a hard day of splorin, we both needed another lie on Sunday morning. Apparently me so more than Laura, as she had to wake me up by the time we reached the afternoon. Once eventually up and out, we headed to the Gothic quarter to go and check out some of the nice churches and buildings. Unfortunately, I had overlooked the fact that it was Sunday and all the of Catholic folk were busy praying. This meant two things: one that we would have to pay money to enter, as the Catholic church continues to struggle through hard economic times, and two as we were heathens and sinners, we both had exposed shoulders which meant no entry anyway – how dare we insult their God with our slatternly appearance.

As a result we canned the idea of church-going and instead went in search of a drink. We soon found a fantastic little 2nd floor restaurant overlooking the square, and they had a great bar selection. I found myself thinking

This is where I belong. This is my place of worship. The great Lord of alcohol has bestowed unto me this holy gift of salvation, and it do cometh in the form of Sangria.

 Ben 5:2

Fuelled by chorizo toasties and nice beverages, we headed through the Gothic quarter in search of the nearest park. We got there to find loads of people running around playing Pokemon, and it became clear that this area was a bit of a hostpot. We, however, had some real creatures to find. We were going to the zoo.

Barcelona zoo is actually surprisingly good, with a wide variety of animals including lions, tigers and bears (oh no). There was a great Gorilla exhibit, strangely enough without any small children inside. Lots of the exhibits did make me sad, having learnt so much about wildlife and seeing these animals in such confined spaces… and the impala enclosure only made me hungry. I also got to ride a komodo dragon.

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I did originally dab for the photo but Laura missed it.

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This photo sparked a lot of debate… I’m not sure she is taller than a penguin. Higher than a penguin? Well that is a different matter entirely, but there is a lot of weed in Barcelona.

Upon leaving the zoo we chanced upon one of the most surreal scenes I have ever witnessed. Directly outside the entrance to the zoo, there were literally (yes literally) more than 300 people sat down on their phones. Everybody in a huge group, sat on the ground together, using their phones. And every single last one was playing Pokemon Go. Walking through the crowd in order to leave the park, I felt for the first time like one of those old people who just isn’t up to date with technology.

We finished up our weekend in Barcelona with another visit to the beachfront bar, just as the last of the sun faded away. I had to work in the morning, and Laura had a flight at 3, so this was our last chance to enjoy the short but memorable weekend. Not a bad spot for a beer either.

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Cheers for coming to stay Laura! Niall arrives on Wednesday (he has already turned up seeing as I am 3 days behind on the blogs) which can only mean lots of trouble and even more splore.