Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Voulez vous coucher avec moi

The sun had just come up in Barcelona when my roomates and I rolled out of bed and made our way to the metro. We took the metro to the regional rail and made it to the airport (BCN) right on time. I slept on the airplane, knowing that I would need all the energy I could possibly get.
We landed in Paris. First thoughts:
1. I don´t know any French.
2. Where the hell is my hostel?
3. What are we going to do?
We managed to find the train to Paris, and got off at the stop that said, Notre Dame. First thing we did was stop in a cafe to get some food and drink. I ordered a coffee and a French Onion soup. It was so good. With our bags on our backs, we walked infront of the towering church at Notre Dame. It was a strange feeling, knowing that a few years back, when I was 14, I stood in the same place, looking at the same church. It felt different this time.
After going in the church, we decided that we should go to our hostel and drop our bags off. We had no idea how to get to our hostel. We took a cab.
Aloha Hostel. It was my first time in a hostel and I really liked it. So many young people from all over the world, with the same desire, to experience life to the fullest, and see all that we can see. After dropping off our bags we went downstairs and asked the girl behind the desk for all the important info we would need to make our experience the best it could be. Metro map, tourist map, walking tour options, ect. After our talk with the girl, we were more prepared for our stay. We now had the tools for success.
We walked to the Eiffel Tower. Took the elevator to the second landing and saw Paris at night. It was a very spiritual moment, and memories of my grandmother Rhoda became prevalent in my mind. I knew that while I stood at the top of the Eiffel Tower and looked at the city of lights and love, my grandmother was smiling down on me, happy that I finally was in Paris doing the things she wanted me to do, ie, not in a hotel taking care of her broken arm.
(For those of you who don´t know, my grandmother took me to Paris and London when I was 14, but on the second night of the trip she fell and broke her arm. It made the trip difficult, to say the least. We were going to come home, but she wouldn´t let that happen. We made the best of the rest of our time, but it really put a damper on the sightseeing)
That night we ate at a really nice resturant next to the Eiffel Tower, and then went to the Red Light District and saw the Mulan Rouge. We walked around, very seedy, very gritty, very interesting. Klee and I met up with our friend from camp Laurie Budman and her roommate for drinks and then went back at midnight knowing that tomorrow was going to be a long day of sightseeing.
Woke up at 9 for free breakfast at the hostel. Cereal, a piece of bread, coffee, and OJ. We met in the Latin Quarter for the walking tour.
What we saw:
1. Latin Quater
2. Nortre Dame
3. The court house
4. Statue of Henry the Fourth
5. Walked down the river
6. Luvre
6. The beautiful park that goes from the Luvre to the beginning of the Champes
7. The expo center (big and little) (they are next to eachother)
8. The fanciest hotel in Paris
9. Arc de Triumph

After the walking tour I went to the Luvre to walk around for a bit. After the luvre I went back to the hostel, and that night we went out to the Bastille area for dinner and drinks. I ordered the first thing I saw on the menu..... big mistake. It ended up being raw meat with mayo and onions, with French Fries. What the fuck. We made it back to our hostel early again... knowing that the next day would be another long one.

Sunday.... Sacre Cuer, Latin Quarter.....
Dinner in ChinaTown (kimchi noodles)
Went to the airport at 11 and just tooled around till our flight in the morning. The metro stops at midnight. I didn't want to wait till 5:30am for the metro to start again because I was afraid I would miss my flight if anything went wrong. The airport was boring but it was less stressful than not knowing if I would be able to make my flight. I was proud of myself for being responsible.

Paris is more ascetically beautiful than Barcelona, but I like the atmosphere and lifestyle better here. Everyone knows the French stereotypes, and I saw some of them here and there, but all in all the French are very nice and helpful if approached with manners.
I learned alot from my weekend trip. I will be more prepared next time I go away for the weekend with everything I learned.
I'm going to taco tuesday with my roomates now to talk about spring break.... Greece anyone?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

It's Bigger Than Hip-Hop

I was walking around the city, in my neighborhood, and was forced to stop when I saw on one of the walls a very strange piece of graffiti art.  I read the words on the wall aloud, "I am a conventional human-being"....
I just smiled at the irony.  

Its been awhile since I've written, so I will do my best to rehash everything without it sounding like an itinerary.  Where we left off..... a weekend of Gaudi sightseeing.
After that weekend I went back to school, my mind preoccupied by Gaudi's madness.  I cursed the fact that I had to sit in a classroom learning about Paleolithic Cave paintings... when I could as easily get on a train, go two hours north, and see the cave paintings in real life.  Don't get me wrong, I love academia.....but.... I went from taking 1000 level philosophy classes at the University of Pittsburgh (the second best PHIL school in the United States), to a classroom where the professor is asking me whether Plato is Greek or Roman!  It is the case that the program is designed so that the students don't feel like they need to lock themselves in the library and bury themselves in books, but come on now.  I need some intellectual stimulation here.
The weekdays are nice... I wake up and take the metro to my university.  I always go an hour early so that I can sit in the cafe near the school and have a cafe con leche and an orange juice.  There is an old man smoking cigarettes next me, looking at the wall.  There are students sitting at the table behind me, Spanish students who go to the university full time here.  They are speaking fast, moving their hands as they talk.  Two middle-aged woman are chatting at the table next to the students.  Xavi, the barista says "Bon Dia" and I order my morning pick-me-up.  I sit there, on my stool, normally doing Spanish homework, or remembering how crazy the previous night was.  How the hell did I manage to get out of bed this morning? That thought regularly crosses my mind.    
I like my Spanish class.  I really feel my Spanish improving and I like my teacher.  The other classes are dull and repetitive, as I stated before.  
Some highlights from last week....
Dorothy and I got together on Thursday night.  There is this really awesome cultural calendar magazine here called Le Cool, and they have a list of all the 'cool' stuff to do in the city every night, from art exhibits, poetry readings, restaurant openings, and concerts.  We found a free concert that was starting at 9 at a little bar off Las Ramblas.  We met up and walked around the alleyways of the Gothic Quarter, our footsteps echoing off the stone walls.  The street shines from the light of the lamps, and at a little after nine you can start to feel the night come alive.  
We find the bar, go in, and we are surrounded by Spanish indie-kids.  It was a quaint acoustic show, very intimate. It felt like everyone there knew each other besides Dorothy and I.  The show ended at around 11:30.  The night was young so we decided to walk around a bit.  I grabbed a falafel, and after we found this exciting bar in  Plaza de Trippy.  Dorothy was told by her home-stay mom that that particular plaza was a great place to go out, so we took her advice and went into the most exciting looking place we could find.  It was so much fun.  We made friends with this fucking nut.  He told us his life story, it went something like this...
Keep in mind... the guy must have been 70 years old, army jacket, big beard and round reading glasses:
Yea man... I grew up in a nice Jewish family in the USA, but man... the war started and I couldn't live there anymore.  You know man... the Dalai Lama...Buddha, peace and love. 
This guy couldn't have been more of a stereotype, but he really seemed sincere.  He had been traveling the world since he was 16, and you could tell.  This town attracts some interesting people.  Isn't it ironic we met him in Plaza de Trippy?  I don't think this guy needs anymore 'trippy' in his life if you know what I'm saying.  My God, it was like Allen Ginsburg, Chec and Chong and John Lennon combined into one person. Hari Krishna! Hai Krishna! Krishna, Krishna! What the fuck.  
On the table we were sitting, we found two promotional tickets to Salsa Apolo, a really popular Spanish discoteca.  It was like a sign from some higher power, Go to this club, You won't regret it.  Best club I've been too so far. 
Differences between Tourist Clubs (all the clubs I had been going to/minus Otto Zutts) and Local Clubs:
Tourist Clubs:
1. Ten euro for a fucking beer
2. So-so music, mostly pop you would hear on Q102 (Philly) or Z100 (NYC)
3. All American people
4. Type of dancing: bump and grind (Definition: public dry humping)
Local Clubs:
1. 2.50 for a beer
2.  Bad-ass themed nights, dico, hip-hop, soul/r&b, salsa
3.  People from all over the world
4. Type of dancing: be yourself, dry-hump if you want, or do your own thing
In one night I head, Blackstar, Jurassic 5, Nas, some Michael, real cool Dub-reggae, and of course JAMES BROWN.... I danced from 2:30 to 5:00 in the morning. Insane.
That weekend I visited the Olympic Village (kind of interesting, not really), Tibidabo ( amazing view from the top of a mountain.  Got drinks at this swanky yet reasonably priced restaurant for Klee's birthday, over-looking the whole city.  There is a church at the top of the mountain but the lift was closed for some reason. For his birthday we got a table and two free bottles at this amazing club, Oshem.  Due to the fact that Kleeman is helping out the club promoter here, we really get hooked up.  If we were to do a similar type of night in NYC, it would have easily cost a couple Gs.  Like I said before, God bless Kleeman. I'm so glad I came here with him. 
Sunday I went to the Picasso museum.  It was interesting to see his work from beginning to end.  He started off with conventional portraits and landscapes, and then ended up inventing a new form of artistic expression, Cubism.  I wonder what Picasso would have thought of the grafitti near my apartment.    
The week went by.  Did some site seeing on Monday, Montjuic (a castle at the top of a mountain overlooking the Mediterranean coastline).  Wednesday, walked around Ramblas.  
Last night....
Met up with Xavi and Andrea and two of their friends for dinner and drinks.  Xavi was my boss two summers ago at Camp Canadensis.  He is an ex-tennis pro and lives here in Catalunya.  Andrea is a girl who taught tennis beside us at Canadensis who also lives here.  After eating we went to Oveja Negro and socialized.  The atmosphere is great there.  I ended up talking to these girls from Brazil for most of the night.  I didn't know it was possible, but I spoke fluent Spanish to these girls.  Ok..... I wasn't fluent, but they told me they were impressed with my Spanish with how little I've studied.  I don't know how I spoke to people who don't understand a word of English for over an hour.  Best night thus far.     
Things I forgot to mention:
1. Pre-Columbian Museum (no idea why its in Barcelona, but really badass artifacts from South America)
2.  Fashion Museum (an exhibit on fashion photography)
3.  An evening walk with Dorothy where we found a street jazz-band... no words to describe my emotions from that evening
4. Taco Tuesdays (3 euros= two tacos, 1 euro beers)

Paris in 4 hours....  

"I am a conventional human-being" 

I hope not. 

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Bale Life

this place is very romantic... very hip. my favorite part about it is the time schedule. in Spain the nightlife starts at around midnight. that's when people eat. then they go to a bar, and then go to a club. the clubs open at two here. crazy right? We stay out until around 5 o'clock. it really is the best way to party because your batteries charge between school or work (school in my case, and sight seeing) and the evening. Yesterday I went to La Segrada Familia. Google it. Its a crazy looking church. It was done by the same guy who did Parque Guell. Google it. I was there two days ago and had a holy moment overlooking the city from the top of a mountain.

Everyone says that going abroad will change your life and this and that and best experience ever and blah fucking blah. But, all that shit that I had to hear over and over again since college started is so true. I can't think of anything truer. Most people, when they talk about an experience that made them 'stronger' it is something like a death in the family, or an accident, or something bad. I normally attribute my strength as a person to the hardships I've endured, but this is one experience that is making me strong and is 100% positive!
I'm laying in bed, its 3. I just woke up. Last night we went to the bar downstairs for a drink, then to chipitos, an awesome shot bar. it was too fucking crowded. then we went to tiffany's. Klee hooked it up again. Two nights ago, my roommate Kevin and I went down the street and played some pool and relaxed because Thursday night was alittle over the top. I finished The Sun Also Rises. It was a great book to accompany my first two weeks here. Two weeks! Wow. Has it been that long already?

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly on the Plain

Today I saw Parque Guell. What the fuck. Guidi’s style is so original and imaginative. If I were to describe this park, it would be something like Tim Burton - creepiness + beautiful mosaics + a view of all of Barcelona and the Mediterranean = Parque Guell. I kind of felt like Zach Braff in Garden State; I’m talking about the part when he stands on the edge of the quarry and cathartically screams. I didn’t end up screaming like Zach Braff, or get to make out with Natalie Portman, but I felt almost as if I had been purified or something, after seeing Barcelona from up there.
This morning I went to the Museum of the History of Catalonia with a friend of mine from Pitt who is on my program, Charlie, with a few of his friends. One of his friends gave me crash course lesson on the Spanish Revolution, which was very helpful. The museum, to be completely honest, was not that interesting, but it is located right next to the beach, so after leaving I walked around a bit before meeting other friends to go to the park.
Last night I got to hang out with my good friend Andrea, who is from Catalonia. She came over for drinks and then we went to Opium Mar, one of the big clubs here. It was great to see her, and she gave Andrew and I a lot of useful information on how to make the best of our experience here, places to go, food to eat, ect.
School has been fun, but I just wish I wasn’t in class every fucking week day, minus Friday, from 11 to 6 o’clock. I could be using that time more wisely, i.e. walking around and exploring, but class is important. Plus, the classes have given me a lot of useful information about the culture and history of Catalonia.
This place is very inspiring.
A few quick thoughts:
1. Waiters and waitresses are known to be rude here. I had my first experience today of a reluctant waitress. See, in the States that doesn’t happen because the servers are working for their tip.
2. The metro is unbelievably convenient and clean. It makes the city so accessible.
3. Crepes dipped in chocolate. Need is say more?
4. Looking forward to seeing Andrea again, and going to her favorite places.
5. I’ve been cooking a lot. It’s a nice change.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hey Ho, Listos!

So i guess the easiest thing to do is pick up where I left off. The night of my last post I was planning on going to the jazz club with my friend Dorothy. I am happy to have her here because she is interested in the same things as I am, and we are trying our hardest to go do all the things the Spaniards do before we leave. Like I said before, but not as directly, I think the key to this experience is total immersion in the culture.
Therefore.....I took the metro down to Las Ramblas, which in the evening is the place to be. There is a center walkway where vendors are set up, selling art and touristy things... they also sell strange pets, like squirrels. Who the fuck wants a pet squirrel?! I met Dorothy and her roommate on Las Ramblas, and we decided that since Barcelona had a match that evening that we should go watch it. We stopped in a Pub for about a half an hour to watch the game. It was very exciting. If you thought Americans are crazy about professional sports, you have no idea. Soccer in Europe is like religion, especially in Barcelona.
After watching the game for a bit we went to the jazz club, Jamboree. This place is supposedly the most important club for jazz in the city. We paid a cover charge to go in and see the band, but it was totally worth it. The club was small and smokey, and people of all ages were there. The jazz was incredible. MARC AYZA GROUP & CORE RHYTHM, check them out. Hip Hop influenced jazz, much like the Roots. Ironically, they played You Got Me, and even did some Tribe Called Quest. After the jazz club we went to this club, Club Elephant. I was fun, mostly Americans.
I rested all of Sunday. Strolled around in the evening. I needed to recharge.
Monday we woke up and went to the University to scope everything out for the first day of classes. After we went back to the apartment and did some more resting. I took 2 naps, and I am not a big napper. I didn´t know how tierd I really was. Ate dinner and relaxed some more, and then went to a club down the street from our house. It was fun but we didn´t stay long because we had class in the morning. Again, Klee got us VIP and free bottle service. I don´t know how the kid does it, but god bless him for it.
Today was my first day of class. I just got out of Spanish. Yo soy Ethan. Soy de Philadelphia. Eh, how bout that! I´m basically fluent already. But in all seriousness, I am getting better and by the time I get home I hope to be fluent. It is one of my goals.
Some interesting oberservations:
1. Beautiful women everywhere.
2. Alot of American music. I was coming home one night and heard Springsteen on the metro speakers. Wierd.
3. ñ Yep, they have a key for that on the keyboard.
4. Fresh orange juice everywhere. Before my class today I stopped in a cafe, had a cafe y leche (coffee and milk), and zoma (orange juice), and a crossient. It was so relaxing.
5. You can smoke indoors!

I have been reading Hemingway´s novel The Sun Also Rises. Here is a passage I liked....

¨You´re an expatriate. You´ve lost touch with the soil. You get precious. Fake European standards have ruined you. You drink yourself to death. You become obsessed with sex. You spend all your time talking, not working. You are an expatriate, see? You hang around cafes.¨

Am I an expatriate? Not yet, I´m still a tourist, but hopefully not for too much longer.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

21st Century Vespa Girl

So last night was another awsome, crazy, wild, Barcelona night. We went to this club shoko, and then to catwalk. We went with everyone from our building. Last night is going to be my last night out at the clubs for awhile. I need a break.... and its been really expensive.
I woke up today at 4 oclock and then went out to eat with some of the girls. Can't believe I got home at 5 oclock again last night.
As everyday goes by I get more comfortable with the city and feel more at home. There is nothing like putting in my ipod earphones and walking down the city streets. I finally have some pictures on my facebook, so check them out.
Tonight I am planning on meeting up with Dorothy to go to a jazz club, and I'm going to try and spend as little money as possible, and also not stay out till 5. It'll be easier tonight because the metro runs all night, so you don't have to wait to 5 to catch the metro.
Miss you guys, love you guys.

Those are the clubs we have been going to. They are really nice, but too expensive.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Day in the Life (of an American 20 year old in Barcelona)

I think the last time I stayed up that late was my senior year lock-up after prom.
Things have been amazing. Two nights ago we went to the Black Sheep, a really cool bar that is hidden in an alley off of Las Ramblas (the most popular street in Barcelona). I woke up the next day, and decided to go explore the city. I walked as far as my feet could take me. When I tried to stop and turn around, my feet kept moving forward. I got lost. I think I actually was planning on getting lost....
Last night was my first European Club experience. We all went to Opium. Kleeman got us in VIP and my roomates and neighbors were there at the club till 4:30 in the morning. It was wild. I got to see alot of people from HS and college that I knew were going to be in Barcelona. For better or for worse, it was mostly Americans, but it was still great. We took the train back to the apartment at 5 in the morning (when the trains start in the mornings). The club was seriously high-scale (expensive). The DJ was really talented so I mostly danced all night with new friends from my apartment.
Got to sleep at 6, woke up at 9 for a bike tour. The funny thing was I wasnt tierd at all. The excitement of the trip over-powers the fatigue. Finally got a guided tour of the city and saw some of the historic sites. Got to see the beach for the first time. It is surreal. Looking forward to the nice weather.
After the bike tour I got together with my friend from school, Dorothy, and enjoyed the city with her. We went to a big food market and got treats (I got asparugus and she got a potatoe dish that is a local thing. Then we went to a park and tried to act like we were from Spain.
That is one of my goals for this trip, eventually I don't want to feel like a tourist.
From the park, I took the metro by myself for the first time. So much better than walking, and it was so easy.
Tonight we are most likely going to have another club night. My legs need a rest so I think I'll do less dancing tonight. All the walking, dancing, plus the bike tour! I can't believe I'm going to out till 5 again tonight. I'm still adjusting to the Barcelona schedual.
My roomates are legit, my neighbors are legit. I couldn't be more content. Just walking down the street makes me smile, knowing that I'm so lucky to be here and experience all of this.
I do miss school a bit, but don't really have that much time to even think about it with all the running around I'm doing.
I'm off to make dinner and rest and get ready for tonight. Pictures will be up soon.
Thanks for keeping up with my travels, I'm enjoying writing it all down so thanks for being a part of that.
Miss you guys.