Thursday, April 30, 2009

29/4/09 Barcelona, Figueres

I got up around 8:30 and had a quick breakfast and checked out before getting on the train to Figueres. We got there with a good amount of time to spare.

The train ride was good, I slept nearly the entire way listening to my Spanish music. When we got off the train Dr. Schmidt and Monika were waiting for us at the top of the stairs. They both called me Steve and I felt too awkward to correct them.

We got in their Mercedes and we drove to the Dali Museum, where Dr. Schmidt came with us and Monika went somewhere else, parking the car or something, but first he bought himself and I an International Herald, like he would in Budapest.

The Dali Museum was terrific.There is just artwork after artwork from Dali, in all sorts of styles. It's incredible to see it all in one place and to think that one man made all of it.

But as Dr. Schimidt said, "I think he was a little crazy." And he was. I have no idea how he thought up many of the things he did. They were more than just bizarre, but absurd, such as the face made out of various huge parts in a room.

But there was a lot of good too, ranging from more classical sculpture and painting to the face of Abraham Lincoln made out of number other parts.

We spent maybe an hour there and came then he took us to meet Monika at Dali's favorite restaurant, with his drawings and such all over the place, given to the restaurant.

I was very nervous for this part, especially after last year when I had to pull a 'Seinfeld' when I ate with Dr. Schimdt at the fancy Hungarian place and he ordered meat.

We sat down and Monika asked us if there were foods we didn't like. I said meat. She said something about how the meats here are very different and I should try them and ordered something in Spanish. I figured I was in trouble again.

The first dish that was brought out was a tiny plate with some meat on it. Not a big deal, I popped some in my mouth and spit it out in my napkin.

The second thing that came out looked like a brownie, I was pumped. Not a brownie, definitely more meat, so I did the spit out routine agian.

After six courses of meat, and me spitting into the napkin as well as chipmunking meat in my cheek (at one point I pretended I forgot my camera in the bathroom and spat it out there, another I just excused myself to use the restroom, terrible) finally a desert came.

It was nice to see them, Dr. Schmidt was a little quiet, I talked to Monika much more. He seemed to be moving slower as well, but still was very sharp. We talked about travelling and the economy, he asked about General Motors at one point. He was also impressed that I worked for the Tribune, saying that Sunday in Chicago used to be the Tribune. It could have easily been because I hadn't seen him in a year (and I remember him taking a while to warm up to me at first back then) but he was noticably quieter than I remembered. But also last time I was basically getting him to talk to me for 20 hours, so it would be easy for him to be quieter.

They drove us to the train station and I slept the way back too.

We went out to get some food for me, two pastries, the chocolate one particularly good. We went into one of the parks which had a big Miro statue.

From there we climbed up a ton of stairs to the top of their castle thing which had a great view of the city. A guy was playing Spanish guitar up there, he was really good. We stayed there for a while and hung out before going around the back to the Olympic Stadium from 1992 (which was built for the 1936 Olympics but was canceled because of the civil war).

We went back to the hostel and changed since it was getting chilly and then started out on a walk to nowhere really. We had to find a Barclays for me to get money out and it turns out the closest one was right next to Casa Batlla. At ngiht, it is a completely different building. The colors on the facade are much more visible, as well and the coloring of the stained glass. They have it lit up very well. We sat on a bench in front of it for a while and just looked it it. It's probably my favorite building in the world.

We then went to the other Gaudis, not nearly as impressive as the Casa Batlla. On the way to the Sagrada Familia we stopped for dinner. We had tapas (I had potatoes with garlic sauce and Greek salad) and we split a four cheese pizza because Heidi wanted to try the fancy French cheese on it. It was all good. But the most interesting part was the hot chocolate. I had a chocolate with coconut. It was basically like drinking pudding, pretty great.

The Sagrada Familia was different at night, but since the facade was mostly uncolored, it wasn't that much different, but still worth seeing at night.

We then just walked back to the hostel, exhausted, and waited around until it was time to leave for the bus to the airport.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

28/4/09 Barcelona

After a very meger breakfast, we went down to the Barcelona history museum. A couple cool things about it. First being that it is build on top of the most extensive underground Roman ruins in the world. There is basically a whole city beneath the museum, much of which you can see. The extent that they covered was amazing and rather unexpected. It was interesting, not quite Rome, but well done.

The other interesting part is that the museum incorporates some of the ruins of an old palace there. Most notably, the room where Columbus was revieced by the king and queen after returning from America. Unfortunately, they have some giant lame project about being an immigrant in there for some reason. Bummer.

We went out to the Cathedral, a massive building started in the 13th century. Again, there is the Columbus connection, with the six natives he brought back from America baptised there. We could only stay about 10 minutes before the church closed down for the afternoon, but it was an impressive interior.

Outside there was a gelato stand that gave huge servings, so I got a white chocolate, mint chocolate, and cheesecake cone. Good, but not Italy good.

Next we decided to decicate the day to Antoni Gaudi and tried to go to all his buildings. Unfortunately Heidi forgot her student card and they all offered discounts, so we went back and got that. When I went back, I called Dr. Schmidt and got a hold of Monika finally. She was very nice and seemed happy to hear from me. We are going to meet them in Figueres tomorrow (Salvador Dali´s hometown), about a two hour train ride. I have no idea what they have planned for us, I think we´ll end up at their place for a while. I´m nervous, but it should be interesting.

After stopping by the market for another fruit drink (I had mango coconut today) we went first to Casa Bastlla, which looks like a giant dragon. The auidoguide was pretty hilarious, saying things how Gaudi was the greatest mind ever and the room you are about to enter is the most important in the world, stuff along those lines.

That said, it was probably the most incredible building I´ve been in. Every room was just completely radical, no straight lines, like a real Cheesecake Factory. The interior was supposed to be very water influenced, and it was apparent throughout. We got to go up on the roof where the dragon´s back scales are. It´s just fascinating, especially in the way that his work is about 100 years old and not at all like anything else anywhere.

Next up was La Familia Segurda, which is Gaudi´s unfinished masterpiece. It´s a huge church and Gaudi spent the last 14 years of his life holed up in there, only to be killed by a tram. They hope to have it finished by 2026, but I can´t imagine it being anywhere near done by then. The architecture is incredible in it, the outside´s carvings tell Biblical stories while the inside is remarkable, espeically the stained glass windows.

Finally we went to Casa Mila, an apartment building designed by Gaudi. The interior wasn´t all that radical, but the exterior, with it´s curves and fancy balconies was. The best part was up on the roof, it was sort of like a playground with the architecture. The shapes in themselves were art, I don´t really know how else to describe it. His work is by far my favorite I´ve ever seen.

We went to get something to eat. After picking out a place my book suggested and finding that it wasn´t there, we just wandered around the old Gothic part of town and stumbled on a tapas place. It was worlds better than the night before. I had potatas bravas (they had a cheese sauce tonight, incredible), cheese in oil with raisins, and a salad with cheese, nuts, rasins, and honey vinagrette. All were very good. For the second night in a row they tried to screw us on the bill, but we caught it.

Heidi had a friend Felipe who goes to Loyola, is studying here, so we met up with him at a bar by the wax museum. On the inside they had fake trees and waterfalls in the main room, with wax figures and such in other parts. I was really tired and wanted to order a coffee but they stopped serving it. Felipe is a journalism major, so I talked about how I hated broadcast and PR people, both of which he defended. Oh well.

I´m interested to see how tomorrow will go. We were planning on staying in the airport, but now it looks like we´ll hang out in Barcelona and get a bus at 3:15. All sorts of surprises for tomorrow.

Monday, April 27, 2009

27/4/09 Barcelona

I didn´t get that much sleep, but slept on the bus a little, listening to the ´Vicky Christina Barcelona´soundtrack.

The flight was fine, I was asleep before takeoff. I woke up at one point convinced missiles were being fired at us as we fleew over the desert. Turns out I´m just crazy. At the Barcelona airport, they had the most ridiculous customs ever, just some dude standing letting people through. I got yelled at in Spanish when I tried to go through, but it was fine.

The bus was uneventful, I slept some more. We tried to take the train to the hostel, but the person there was confusing us and somehow wanted to charge us €7, so we just decided to walk it. We got lost for a while at what we through was the big Columbus monument, but it was a smaller one. We ended up finding the right one and it wasn´t so hard to get to the place.

Our room was nice, the people seemed really cool and nice, so we took our time trying to figure out a place to stay in Tangier, and my Hotel Continental was booked, so we tried another place, a 4 star hotel for about €36 a night, so very cool. We´ll find out if we get it or not soon.

We went down to the beach and hung out there for a while. It was a little chilly with the wind and when the sun went behind the clouds, but it was nice just to be outside on the beach. The Mediterreanian is incredibly blue. It just would have been a little nicer to have about five or ten degrees warmer.

Since we were freezing we went back to put on warmer clothes. We went to a pastry shop on the way, getting an awesome chocolate filled pastry. We decided to wander around La Rombla, the big street in the city, filled with trees and shops. We took it all the way down to the end and walked up Garcia, and passed a lot of Anotoni Gaudi buildings. His architecture is absolutely amazing, probably my favorite architect ever. The buildings, built around 1900, look like Disney buildings, like nothing I´ve ever seen anywhere else.

We walked down there until we just sort of decided to go down some other streets up in the more neighborhoody area. It was nice, gave us a much more real feel of the area. The streets are great here, much older feeling, close together and clothes hanging from the interesting balconies.

After wandering for quite a while, we decided to go try to find something to eat. We picked a place out of my book and tried to ge down there. We spent about an hour trying to figure out which way to go, before giving up and saying that we should just go to a place on the way. We went back to La Rambla and wandered around until we found a place. Finally a tapas place where you could get three for €10, so we tried it.

I had some really good potatoes bravas, cheese and tomato salad, and fried mushrooms. It was all very good, and our waiter didn´t really understand English so we managed our way through the dinner in Spanish, including me asking if a dish had meat in it. I was pretty pumped, all of my Spanish came back to me a little.

We walked back and I typed this up in the basement since I couldn´t get the wifi to work, while other people watched Superbad.


I spent the morning and early afternoon finishing up the blogs. That was a huge relief to get done.

My Dylan Dublin tickets didn't arrive, even though they were guaranteed to on Friday, which is sort of an issue since I'm leaving Monday and not getting back until after the shows. So I called ma and we worked on that. We couldn't really come up with a solution.

But I did get to book my flight back, I'm going to go to Dublin on June 13, and fly from there to Chicago, getting in at 8 PM. Kinda crazy, since I'll be graduating less than 10 hours later, but it should work well, and was only $267, really good price.

I left for Dylan around 2:30, stopping by Boots to get a photo of him to print out to sign. By the time I got there, a huge line was already there waiting to get in. I walked around and looked for the bus, or where the bus would go, and it would go in the back, behind a gate, so any chance of getting him to sign anything were pretty much non-existent.

I walked over to the entrance and held up my sign that simply said 'Need 1' and within about five minutes, a Scotish chap named McKenzie came over and offered me a ticket for face value. Insane. I went and got in line right away, he went off for a while and did whatever, but I was getting such a deal I didn't really care. I honestly thought it would be impossible to get in, there were only 2,000 tickets, and they could only be collected at the box office day of, and you needed to have your guest there to get a wristband, basically scaper (they call them touts here) proof.

I read the Madrid book and since it was a nice and sunny day, time went by fast. Heidi came by to basically be my secratary and print out a ton of stuff (which I felt bad about). I also made her stand in line while I went to the Dominos about 20 feet away and ordred a pizza. I was really craving American pizza, so I was excited. Unfortunately it was £9 for a medium, not really a deal. But it was good anyways.

McKenzie came back and he said I could go wander for a while and he would stand in line, so I went down to Camden Market, which was way closer than I expected. I walked around there for a while and picked up three doughnut for a pound. Not like wimpy doughnuts either, with fillings and frosting on top. I had a chocolate with chocolate cream, a chcoclate filled with apple on top, and another chocolate frotsed with nuts and chocolate filling one. I could only make it through two and a half, I wish I knew the market was so close or I wouldn't have ordered the pizza.

I also stopped in Starbucks for a Strawberries and Cream. The line was pretty long, partly because it had an awesome location on the Lock. I then walked back to the line and I didn't miss anything (I asked to make sure Dylan didn't come out or anything. He didn't.)

The last two hours in line flew by and soon we were inside. They let people into the venue in groups (smart, so that people who waited in line all day weren't bypassed my smarter, quicker, younger people like me) and I found a stop about for or five people deep right in front of his keyboard.

I was really close, I don't know if I've ever been actually that close to him for a show. You could see all his expressions and smirks, all his little gestures. It was fascinating. This was the first time I think that I saw him that I thought at times I was seeing the guy that used to be the real Bob Dylan. He definitely looks/sounds way older, but the features and swagger is still there.

The setlist was better than last night, the songs weren't all monotonous, plus he was in a much better mood, messing around with the audience at times. It's funny, whenever he looked at us, the crowd would cheer. He laughed at one point, something I've never heard him do. And after 'Rolling Stone' he did sort of a shuffle across the front of the stage, something I've definitely never seen him do. It was great watching him, definitely a good show, and you could feel how much more intimate it was.

I have to say I was a little disaspointed. This was an incredibly special show and he didn't do anything to make it feel special. None of his new songs (I downloaded the album last night, pretty great) no covers, nothing out of the ordinary. In that sense, it was a letdown. There was a rumor going around the show would be acoustic. That would have been awesome. But it was just a standard (good) Dylan show. Still nothing like Stockholm. That said, his voice has gotten so much better since I started seeing him (this was my 11th show). He doesn't do 'upsinging' anymore.

The set list was:

1. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
2. Don't Think Twice, It's All Right
3. Tangled Up in Blue
4. Million Miles
5. Rollin' And Tumblin'
6. Tryin' To Get To Heaven
7. Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum - Best song of the night, used to hate it, great though
8. Sugar Baby
9. High Water (for Charlie Patton)
10. I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met) - my favorite now, not that great
11. Po' Boy
12. Highway 61 Revisited - Good solo on keyboard from Bob
13. Ain't Talking
14. Summer Days
15. Like A Rolling Stone
16. All Along the Watchtower
17. Spirit on the Water
18. Blowin' In The Wind

I walked back from Warren Street and hung out with my hall for a while before printing off my bus ticket and packing up. I can't believe I'm going on another huge trip right away. Time is flying by here, and now that I have a ticket coming home, I realize it's going to end. I don't want it to.