Tourism Shenanigans

Shenanigans!  That’s what Jason and I are currently up to.  In the last 10 days, we’ve taken 700 photos.  HOLY CRAP.  Taking them is the easy part.  Trying to decide what to put on the blog… now that’s complicated.

So, to catch up, we spent another few days in Rodellar climbing, and had a few random happenings.  We took a day and visited 2 castles nearby.  They were very different, but extremely cool.  We took the audio tour of Loarre Castle, and the geek factor was so high you can almost see our pocket protectors and glasses in these photos.  We loved it, it was a total blast.

Sheep and 16th century church near Rodellar.

First castle in ruins

Cheesy posed photo.

Loarre castle.

Nerd alert.

The monastery portion of Loarre.

Stained glass!

Listening intently.

On the way back to Rodellar that afternoon, we stopped in Huesca for some food and a grocery stop.  After meandering through the streets totally randomly for a while (this is our preferred method for finding food in a town), we stopped in a bar for some pizza and a drink.  Spaniards don’t eat until late, so of course we were the only two people in the bar except for the employees.  However, about 10 minutes after we arrived, a guy and a young man showed up, and after hearing our accents, insisted on buying us a shot, showing us videos of flamenco and the Easter parade, and demanding that we return for the Flamenco show on Friday.  Apparently, there are still some people out there that love American tourists.  🙂

The only down side to this day was that as soon as we returned to our car, we realized we’d gotten a parking ticket.  The ticket said we owed 60 Euros!  Major bummer.  However, we looked at the bright side, and realized we’d get an opportunity to practice some serious cultural competence here…  navigating a foreign local government.  So we headed back to the hotel, packed up our stuff, and got ready for extra adventures.

It turns out paying a parking ticket in some podunk town is really easy.  After we found the office, which took a little bit of effort, as we had to wind our way through some maze-like city streets, we went through the metal detector, which went off.  Anticipating some issues with the security guard, I started to try to explain, empty my pockets… to show I really wasn’t attempting to break the law AGAIN… and he waved me through.  Jason beeped while going through, and was waved at.  The guy behind us beeped… and got the wave.  Government employees are the same the world over!  Anyway, we paid the ticket, which only ended up costing 30 Euros due to the early pay discount, and we were outta there.  Pfffftt.  This cultural competence thing is EASY.  Plus, this random government office had a total suit of ARMOR in one corner.  It was badass.

Mmmmkay, after THAT we drove to a small town called Margalef, again near a national park.  This town is cool because it really looks like it’s built into the rock!  I have no idea how long it has been there, but it’s cute.  There’s not a lot going on besides climbing, but we spent a few days in a hotel there that included breakfast and dinner in our lodging cost, and it was great.  The people were really nice, and the climbing was cool.  Here are some photos of the area:


Gotta read this very closely…  why is it so humorous when people mess up English?

Ermita de San Sebastian.

Hobbit?  Possibly.  My feet are not hairy, though.

From inside the Ermita.

Stone walls built to support fruit trees are everywhere, and are OLD!

Rock and town together.

One day during our stay in Margalef we took a day trip to a medieval city called Montblanc, and a monastery very close to it called ‘Monestir de Poblet’.  Both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and both were mind-blowing.  Extremely cool.  Montblanc is amazing because the center of the town itself is the tourist attraction.  The streets, buildings and walls are all rebuilt from the original medieval structures!  The town has a wall that goes all the way around it, and even the royal palace is still standing and in use today.

Street of Montblanc.

City wall!

I’ve got ups, you just never knew it.

Perhaps your hand would remember it’s strength better if it were to hold it’s sword…

About to spear a fighting uruk-hai.

Church facade.

Puts the game Rampart into a new perspective.

Monestir de Poblet was awesome as well– the monastery itself was built originally in the 1100s, and there are 30-some monks living there today.  It was uninhabited for about a hundred years sometime in it’s history, so it’s been in a constant state of renovation, but the building itself is fascinating.  There are 8 kings and 6 queens of Aragon buried there.  The church detail was astounding.  The museum attached to the monastery didn’t allow any photos to be taken, but this little place had one of the most amazing collections of religious art Jason and I had ever seen.  I would highly recommend a visit here!  We also got to listen to the monks sing and chant verses at the end of the tour… it was beautiful.  A really cool place.

Outside of the monastery.

On the tomb of a king.

Holy crap I still have so many pictures to post.  OK, so after Margalef, we came to Barcelona.  Jason found us a hotel room on the internet, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy about a hotel bed before… in the last month or so, we’ve been sleeping separately on twin beds, and in general the beds have been pretty dang firm.  The beds in Rodellar were pretty soft, but still twin beds– and you should know, putting the twin beds together and trying to pretend it’s a big bed just doesn’t work.  Somebody always ends up falling in the crack.  When we did finally get a ‘cama matrimoniale’ in Margalef, we were pretty excited…. but the bed only had one huge, long pillow.  We’re not very good at sharing blankets, much less pillows.  But we made it work.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that this bed is a king, it’s squishy, there are 4! amazing pillows, and you’ll have to pull me out of this thing (yes, I’m in it right now!) kicking and screaming when it’s time to leave.  I think I’m in love with this bed.  It’s like it hugs me every time I get back into it….

Anyway.  Bed diatribe aside, we rolled up, parked our car, checked in, and went on adventures.  We went into the gothic quarter of Barcelona and got lost, of course… and we also ended up finding this awesome restaurant.  We were really hungry– like dangerously, ‘Dunbar is about to implode’ hungry, and some guy was standing in the street trying to entice passers-by to the place.  Normally I don’t tend to trust restaurants that have to drum up business, but I was so hungry my brain had shut off, and if I hadn’t been directed, I’d probably have kept walking until I fell down.  So, we head into this place (they promised two free glasses of cava, which was BRILLIANT), and it turns out the food is fantastic!

El Mirador de Colom at night.

I heart the Metro.

Day 2 we headed into the center because we’d been told about traditional dances in the city square, as well as human pyramid building in a street nearby.  Both of these sound amazing to me.  Jason teases me about loving community events, but he secretly loves them more than I do.  An actual Jason quote: “I can’t wait till we have kids, because then you can take them to parades and I can stay at home!”  Ha.  He’s such a liar.

Anyway, we roll up into the city center and there is a small orchestra playing in front of the cathedral.  They play the same type of tune, very similar in beat, etc., several times over, and then miraculously groups of people start forming in this huge crowd of tourists.  Groups of friends, strangers, whatever, are getting together to do the Catalunyan national dance!  It was AWESOME.  There were circles of old people, circles of young people, circles of tourists trying to copy the people who actually knew what they were doing… totally great.  I loved it.

Next, we grabbed a bite and went to a side street where a tourist info lady had tipped us off about the human pyramid thing.  Check out for some detail… it’s pretty cool!  We’d heard about it when first arriving in Catalunya, but this was our first actual viewing of such crazy stunts.  It’s part of the Catalan national heritage, and apparently these folks take it pretty seriously.  Anyway, we witnessed a portion of a competition, I think… check out this photo:

And, if you haven’t seen it yet, check out the video Jason took of a castell going wrong!  Warning:  There is some drama happening here.  It’s CRAZY.  Video via facebook here.

By this point, it was like 2pm, and it had already been an action packed day.  We went to this cool ‘gothic’ market, which was really just like a bunch of booths selling second hand stuff that was pretty cool.

Stall at the gothic market.

Inside the Cathedral of Barcelona.

 And then we ended up in the Frederic Mares museum… there was practically no one in there, and we’d never heard of it, so we figured it’d be quick and easy.  WRONG.  This place is like some collector’s total wet dream.  It’s RIDICULOUS.  The upstairs floors are by far the best… there are CROSSBOWS.  And Spanish conquistador helmets… swords… hundreds of varieties of carved pipes… it’s ridiculous.  Out of control.  Potentially one of the most interesting museums we’ve visited.

Hundreds of years of Madonna and child in one place.

Ivory inlaid crossbow!

Dragon talons…

After the museum, we were parched.  We had a beer and some tapas, and then headed to the metro, and clearly got lost.  The gothic quarter of Barcelona is CONFUSING.  After we walked like 12 miles, we figured out we’d been going in circles, and got on the metro to see the famous houses Gaudi designed.  It was Sunday, so they were PACKED.  So we took pictures from the outside, and headed to see the ocean instead.

Clearly very thirsty.

Casa   Battlo.

La Perdera.

It was raining, but the ocean is COOL in the rain.  Oh the sea, such a fickle mistress.  Anyway, we ate calamari.  It was delicious.  And then we visited this monument built in 1888 called the Mirador de Colon.  They put an elevator in it and now you can see the city from the top!  Sound dangerous?  It felt like it.  Those of you in Knoxville, you know how you go to the Sunsphere and it’s this small circle to walk around and really all you’ve got is the view?  It was about 10 stories higher, and about 1/5 of the width.  Literally wide enough for one person, and they had as many people packed in together as could fit around.  AWESOME.  I’d had some wine, so the added element of danger was exhilarating.

Jason is quite the photographer.


Yup.  They just took the 1888 structure, and stuck an elevator in it. 

Barcelona harbor from above.

La Rambla into the city.

You can’t see it, but we’re in this tiny bubble…

Then we walked about a hundred more miles, or what felt like that many, caught the metro, and went back to the hotel.  This tourist stuff is exhausting.

Today was a little less fruitful in terms of awesome stuff, but mileage walked was about up to par.  We saw the Mercat de la Boqueria, which is this open air market selling food of all kinds all week.  It is COOL!  First of all, food and spices and nuts and fish of all kinds.  They are in stalls, all crammed together underneath this metal pavillion… it was great.  All the stalls have some version of to go food… food in plastic containers, food on sticks, small bites of food… it was genius.  We ate and walked and drank… tried a glass of wine… perfect morning, really.

Choosing your olives is a very important task.

Bulk spices.

Yes, they even sell ostrich eggs.

Into the market… not such a great picture….

Then we went to the Arc de Triomphe, which was also built in 1888 (a big year for Barcelona, apparently).  We didn’t know what we should be triumphant about, but Jason does a good job of faking it in this photo:

Then to the chocolate museum: the coolest parts of this were 1) the ticket is a bar of chocolate.  Now that’s a good idea.

2) Apparently in addition to being about the history of chocolate, it is also a repository for the works of people contending for the chocolate sculpture cup.  Or something like that.  Check these out:

Tilting at windmills… in chocolate.

La Sagrada Chocolate.

Though I may eat plenty of it, I am not in fact made of chocolate.

Yeah.  So then we visited a park, saw the Olympic Village here… it was cool.  We ate some dinner, did a little shopping, and then I had to pick my legs up off the ground and carry myself back to the hotel, cause DANG.  The WALKING. 

Jamon…. drool.  It’s so delicious.

1992 Olympic stadium, and potential gold medal winner?

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos, if we keep taking 700 pictures a week you’ll have another HUGE blog to read soon!  Next adventures will include the Sagrada Familia made of stone, Park Guell, another monestary, a Dali museum…. etc.  Miss you guys!

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