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.