Saturday, November 21, 2009

Day 41 - All Roads Lead To Rome - Except That One That Goes To Florence

Hey Team,

After my brief taste of Rome, I hopped an early train to Florence, Italy, to check out where the Renaissance really took off.  Even though they are both very famous Italian cities, Florence and Rome couldn't be any different.  You can walk across the heart of Florence in 20 minutes.  You couldn't do that in Rome on the Metro.  Rome roars with people and activities while Florence, while flooded with tourists, is slower paced and calm.  Picking between the two is tough, but regardless, I would definitely do Florence again.

After I dropped my stuff at the hostel (best hostel, amenity-wise on the trip), I took off for the middle of town, which when done properly is 10 minutes away.  When done with me navigating, it's 30 (although I did get to see a lovely highway leaving the city. . .Don't ask).  I finally found it however, and my first stop was this humongous thing, the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, or as it's called by everyone, The Duomo.  Duomo is the generic term in Italian for Cathedral Church, but this is the grand daddy of them all.  Depending on who you talk to, this is considered the first building of the Renaissance.  At the forefront is the baptistery building and the famous dome is in the back.

Because it's so big, I couldn't get the whole thing in one click of the camera, so here's a shot of a model of the building as a whole.  The dome was built and completed by Filippo Brunelleschi in 1436, and it's still the largest brick dome ever constructed.

This is my weak attempt to show you what the dome looks like from the inside.  As you can see, they basically got a bunch of kids and some chalk and told them to go nuts.

There's a really nice museum at the back of the Duomo.  One of their big ticket items is The Deposition, also called the Florence Pieta, by Michelangelo.  A pieta is a sculpture depicting Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus after he is brought down from the cross.  The guy in the back is supposed to be Nicodemus and is actually a self portrait of Michelangelo in his older years.  We'll see the more famous one later when I go to St. Peter's in Rome.

After that, I went to another famous museum in town, the National Museum of Bargello.  This was another place that didn't allow pictures, so here's a shot of one of my favorites, Ganymede by Benvenuto Cellini, which depicts that everyday situation I'm sure we've all found ourselves in at one point or another:  Flying naked on an eagle without a seat belt.

After that, I headed to find one of the most famous sculptures in the world, The David by Michelangelo. As it turns out, I had a very difficult time locating the museum, The Accademia.  Now this in itself isn't all that surprising, as again, I'm not exactly the guy that someone with a treasure map is going to seek out for help, but this time, it had nothing to do with being lost.  I literally walked right by the entrance.  Why?  Because here's the front door.  Budapest has a public bath house that looks like some of our State Capitols, but one of the most visited statues in the world is located in a building that looks like some rundown apartment complex on the wrong side of town.  Notice the lovely artwork to the left.  Go figure. . .

So here he is.  I was really surprised how much I reacted to it.  Like everyone else, I've seen this sculpture a million times in pictures, so I wasn't expecting some really cool experience in person, but as I came up on it, it really blew me away.  I actually went back to look at it again, I liked it so much.  First off, this sucker is 14 feet tall so it's not like he's some decoration for the dinner table.  For me, the facial features were the most impressive.  You can tell exactly what he's thinking just by looking at his face.

Notice the right hand of the sculpture.  It's over sized compared to the rest of his body.  This is symbolic of God guiding David right before he slings a rock into Goliath's face.  It was also symbolic for Florence itself, as the small undersized city state taking on the rest of the world used it as a mascot of sorts.  Having now been in person, I can see why it is so highly thought of.  If you ever make it to Florence, this is a must see.

As the day wound down, I decided to head to a hill just outside of town that is famous for it's views of the city.  This is a shot of the Arno River, which I had to cross to get to the spot.  It was so pretty, it almost made me want to go rowing too, but then I remembered that rowing blows.  Have you ever done it?  I'd rather run 400's for an hour. Ask my Dad, this means I really really don't like rowing (FYI:  Don't bring up junior high track when you discuss this with him.  It will not end well.).

This is the hill I was talking about, the Piazzale Michelangelo.  It took me a good 30 minutes to get out there, a lot of it going up, but wow, was it worth it.  The Duomo is to the right and the Arno is there on the middle left.  Doesn't hurt that I had about as close to a perfect night as you could ask for either.  The half hour up here was one of the highlights of the trip. Very beautiful and very peaceful.

This is a shot of a replica of The David at the Piazzale Michelangelo.  I thought it was a great silhouette shot at dusk, so I included it here.  Trust me, go to Florence.  You won't be disappointed.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Day 40 - A Roman Appetizer

Hey Team,

Took my last night train from Nice to Rome.  At this point, I had two destinations to go before coming back home, Rome and Florence.  Ideally I would have done my two days in Florence first, and ended it at Rome, which is where I am flying out.  However, as I said earlier, the train schedules put me in a bit of a spot so I had to make the unorthodox decision to go straight from Nice to Rome first (or lose a day traveling), go to Florence the next day (which is only an hour and a half from Rome), and then back to Rome a couple of days later.  Not ideal, but as you'll see, as has been the case the entire trip, it worked out really well.

I only had the one day in Rome before heading out to Florence, so I decided to knock a couple of museums out rather than the so called "Biggies" like the Colosseum and Vatican City.  First stop was right next to the Termini Train Station where I arrived and near where my hostel was, The National Museum of Rome.

This museum houses one of the most complete collections of ancient Roman (and some Greek) sculpture in the world.  This is a complete ancient Roman copy of the famous Greek sculpture, The Discus Thrower by Myron.  

In Arles, I was talking about all of the cool mosaics (like four of 'em) they had.  Turns out they might have a couple of more here.  There was a whole wing devoted to this type of art, whether it be geometric shapes, home life scenes, or the beating the crap out of someone still life's you see here.

I thought this was really cool.  This is a frieze off of a sarcophagus of some Roman General.  The detail is probably too small to see but this basically depicts a battle scene between a Roman Legion and the Barbarian Horde with the Romans, of course, literally riding roughshod over the enemy (see the cavalry in the middle).

What you see here is arguably the most well preserved ancient building in the Western World.  This is the Pantheon.  It has been in continuous use since it's inception nearly 2000 years ago.  Many ancient buildings were either destroyed due to their pagan origins after Christianity became the official religion of the realm or were plundered for their building materials, but this building was converted into a Catholic Church in the 7th century so it was spared.    When I walked up on it, I was admittedly unimpressed with the backside.  I thought it looked like a barn silo.  Turns out you shouldn't judge a book by its cover.

I have no idea if this is what Roman monuments and buildings looked like during the height of their empire, but I'm going to assume it was.  One shot won't do justice to this place, but it's basically a big circle with a huge dome covering it that is open in the middle (and I do mean open).  So, I think it's fair to say the barn silo is holding a bit more than hay in here.  The artist, Raphael is entombed here as is the first king of the unified Italy.

This is the dome.  The hole on top is not covered.  I came back here a couple of days later when it was raining.  While I was wondering around I noticed they had the entire middle of the building roped off.  I thought it was because there was some church ceremony that would be going on later, but no, it was because it was raining and the floor was soaked.  2000 years later and we still have no idea how they built this.  We can reproduce it, but they don't know how they did it.  It is still the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world..

Notice the small, dark square in the lower left of the picture.  In the 1400's, at the start of the Renaissance, the church allowed  Filippo Brunelleschi to cut this out of the dome to study the cross section of the design so he could build the first dome in a 1000 years, The Duomo in Florence, which we'll see tomorrow. 

With the Pantheon we began the game, "Let's randomly start walking into churches in Rome that will completely blow your mind".  In Rome and Florence, I went to close to 10 different places of worship, and I must say, they spent a little more time decorating than we do.  This is St. Ignatius, which is literally a 5 minute walk from the Pantheon.  That's the ceiling up top.  The whole thing is one huge fresco.

Three minutes from St. Ignatius is Santa Maria sopra Minerva.  I liked the interior of this church more than the previous one, but I'm not going to even bother with a shot of the nave here.  Right next to the alter is this masterpiece by Michelangelo, Christ the Redeemer.

This is the Victor Emmanuel II Monument.  He was the first king of a unified Italy (same guy entombed in The Pantheon).  It's an impressive monument that also holds the Italian Tomb of The Unknown Soldier, but Italians can't stand it.  They call it The Wedding Cake or The Typewriter.  I thought it looked pretty cool but then again, anything that was built before 1900 or is more significant than the Galleria gets me excited, so perhaps I'm not the best person to be judging here.

To end the day, I went to the Borghese Gardens (Rome's Central Park (promise that's the last time I'll use that phrase) (asterisks are fun!))), and checked out the famous Borghese Galleries.  This was built back in the day when the Church Hierarchy was a little less concerned with living like the meek of the earth and more about wielding their considerable political and social clout.  This is the former mansion of Cardinal Borghese who assembled one of the most impressive private collections of art in Europe.  One floor is devoted to sculpture while the second floor is for paintings.  I could have just seen the first floor and been satisfied, it was that good.  This is another one of those buildings that doesn't actually need art put in it either.  The walls and ceilings were as beautiful as any single piece on display.  Unfortunately there were no cameras allowed (this will be a reoccurring theme from here on out) so I'll just show you pictures of the best three sculptures I saw.

All three of these pieces I'm going to show you are by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.  After this trip, I'm convinced this guy is the most underrated artist of the Renaissance.  Here's what he did:  designed St. Peter's Square, did the four famous fountains in Rome, did all of these works at the Borghese, designed St. Peter's baldachin (single most impressive piece of art I saw the whole trip, just wait), etc. etc.  This is David and it was my favorite piece of the Gallery.  You almost feel like he's about to knock Goliath on his butt right here.

This is Apollo and Daphne.  The story goes that Apollo chased after the wood nymph Daphne, but she wasn't exactly down for the Sun God.  So right before he takes matters into his own hands, she cries out to the gods to save her.  And they do, by turning her into a laurel tree.  This is as she is in mid-metamorphoses.  The detail of the leaves and her feet (they are delicately sprouting roots) was amazing

This is a detail shot of the Rape of Proserpina.  It is the story of Pluto (god of the underworld) abducting Proserpina.  Proserpina's Mom was Ceres, the goddess of agriculture and crops.  When Ceres couldn't find her daughter, she basically said to heck with her day job and stopped letting the earth grow stuff.  This of course was not good news for the planet, so they worked out a deal that for 6 months Proserpina stayed with her new "friend" Pluto, and the other 6 above ground with Mom.  This is both the origin of how we got springtime as well as meddlesome in-laws.

Notice Pluto's hand on Proserpina's left leg.  You can actually see how he made it look like her skin was being pushed in by his fingers.  Not bad for a piece of rock.

Really productive day here in Rome.  Tomorrow I'm up bright and early and on my way to Florence.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Day 39 - Nice's Beaches or How I Wandered Into Some Weird Alternate Universe

Hey everyone,
After my wild evening of playing quarter euro slots for 5 minutes, I was in bad need of a little R&R.  Luckily for me, I happened to be a 10 minute walk from one of the most famous beaches in the world. So  I rolled out of bed and headed to the water to see what all the fuss about this French Riviera thing was about.

As you can see, this is not a bad venue for getting a bit of sun.  I'm really regretting wasting my digs at some of our less than ideal beaches in the Gulf area in previous posts.  This is going to severely hamper the arsenal I'm going to have at my disposal to be my usual hilarious self (crickets heard in background here. . .).

It wasn't all beaches and babes though.  Old Town Nice was very nice (get it. . . Man I am on a roll today).  Again, we see the usual characteristics of a medieval quarter with the closely grouped buildings and narrow streets.  I wandered around here for an hour or two.

This is just a shot to show you how clear the water actually is.  The whole body of water is this beautiful blue and you can see all the way to the bottom.

This is a good time to discuss the issues I have with Nice.  As I'm sure most of you are aware, European dress codes at the beach, especially at this beach, are a bit more "liberal".  As I did not want to offend my gracious hosts (I am a representative of our country after all), I had no choice but to be ok with this.  So, much as I hated to, I forced myself be excited about hanging out on a topless beach.  And, indeed, there were many many ladies running about free of the chains that modern man has previously placed upon them.  Here's the thing though:  every single one of them (Every. . .Single. . .One) have someone in their life who has used the following phrase:  "I love you (Great) Grandma.  You're the best (Great) Grandma in the world".  Raise your hand if you thought I'd be shaking my head at all the 20 year old girls at the French Riviera because they were wearing too many clothes.  What is the world coming to?  I think I need to sit down. . .

In the 19th century, a bunch of rich British folks decided they needed a nice place to walk in Nice.  So they built the Promenade des Anglais that runs up and down the length of the coast.  It's really a very good idea because. . .

This is what you would be walking on otherwise.  Yes the water is beautiful, the weather is perfect, and the sun is shining, but these rocks are not made of dead sponges or anything.  And lest you think these are mere pebbles, I used one as a "pillow" when I took a seat at this spot.  Sunbathing is possible, but only if you have a cot.  Still really pretty, but needless to say, beach volleyball was not in the cards.

As far as scenery goes, Nice lived up to the billing and more.  I'm not much of a beach bum, but even I thought this was worth the day and a half to check it out.  You just can't get scenery like this anywhere.

After leaving all the pretty people, I headed back to get ready for my train out to my last country of the trip, Italy.  Hate doing this, but I'm going to have to end this one on a rather sad note.  What you see here to the left is my last crepe.  I don't really know how this manna from God has slipped by the people of North America, but I can assure you, I will do everything in my power to get the word out of the awesomeness that is this nutella filled bit of goodness. . . that and the  Traditional Bavarian Dresses from Oktoberfest of course.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Day 38 - "High Roll" Homann Goes To Monte Carlo

Hey Team,

After a rather lengthy train ride (I left Barcelona at 4 PM), I rolled into Nice, France and the beautiful Cote d'Azur of the French Riviera around 9 AM the next morning.  After checking in to my hostel and cleaning up (a very necessary step after 15 hrs on a train) I strolled about Nice in search of some food.  After that I was in bad need of a nap due to my overnight train showing up 100 minutes behind schedule (How is a train over an hour and a half late?).  Normally this is just annoying, but this time it meant that instead of going to sleep a little after midnight, I got to sit in the 40 degree weather until after 2 am.

So I went back to my hostel, recharged the batteries, and decided today would be the perfect time to hit the Principality of Monaco 25 minutes away and its world famous municipality, Monte Carlo.  Monaco is the 2nd smallest country in the world and and also the most densely populated one as well.  Obviously known for it's casinos, beaches, tax shelters, and of course Princess Grace Kelly, this is a beautiful yet expensive part of the world

Here's a shot of  Monaco Bay (or whatever it's called).

Are you rich?  Do you own a yacht?  Well come on down!  You're the next contestant on the Price Is Ridiculous.   Many of these behemoths dwarfed a 2000 square foot home.

This is the Prince's Palace of Monaco which is found on a huge cliff called the Rock of Monaco.  It was founded in the 10th century.  I don't have a shot of it here, but I found the decorum around here a bit odd.
They're military guards, old time cannons and cannon balls, and a whole lot of other stuff that would indicate a militaristic characteristic to the country.  Funny thing is, their military protection is provided by France.  Hmm. .

Here's another shot of the castle against the backdrop of these beautiful mountains.

This is a shot of the interior of St. Nicholas Cathedral.  This is where Grace Kelly was married and buried.  I don't know if the country still has a love affair with her or if they play it up for the tourists, but there are signs and information about her time as the Princess of Monaco all over the place.

Here's a shot of the Oceanographic Museum.  It's basically an aquarium but it was well worth the 9 bucks or so.

Just keep swimming, Just keep swimming. . . .

Unlike Barcelona, these guys know how to play up a perfect Mediterranean sunset.  How cool are shots of the ocean where you aren't completely sure where the water ends and the sky begins?

I can't even begin to imagine how difficult it must be to live here and have to look at this every single night.

After the sun went down, it was time to get down to business.  If you go to Monaco, you also have to go to Monte Carlo for the casinos.  Things are a little different over here than say Lake Charles.  No neon lights and no all you can eat chicken wings at the buffet next to the slots.  No, it's scotch, British accents, and black tie over here.  Classy all the way.

Here's the shot of the front of the world famous Monte Carlo casino.  I hadn't lost an inordinate amount of money gambling since Prague, so I figured I was due for another round of effortlessly donating half a day's budget in a matter of minutes.  So I sauntered up through the door, checked my bag, and prepared to show everyone how to inexplicably draw a 20 four straight times in Blackjack and lose.

As it turns out, there is another difference between casinos over here compared to back home.  Apparently there is a cover charge before they allow you the privilege of giving them the rest of your cash.  10 euro just to walk through the door!  I decided this wasn't worth the time so I turned around and found a dinky (i.e. free) slot machine room in the building and promptly lost what would have been my entry fee.  This actually might have been the break of the evening for me because if I would have made it into the real part of the casino, I would have been down much more than a 10 spot.

After my time in Monaco, I went back to Nice in search of some grub.  I found a recommended restaurant and took a seat.  After perusing the menu, I decided I'd try "beef carpaccio".  I didn't know what the carpaccio part meant but I knew i liked cow, so I figured I was safe.

I quickly learned that "carpaccio" must be Italian for "right before we started to cook your meal, the oven exploded".  I don't mind my beef red; I'm definitely a medium kind of guy, but this was a bit much.  To my credit I got 2/3's of it down and only almost threw up once.  Jonas "If it ain't mooing, we ain't eating" Fontenot will be so proud.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Day 36 and 37 - Barca!, Barca!, Barca!

Greetings from Spain (for real this time)!

This was my one full day in Barcelona, so I had a good bit of ground to cover to get everything I wanted in.  Happy to say I did but due to another early train, I had to bail early on the following day, so this is a combo of Day 36-37.  I got up bright and early and was on the move.  First stop, back to the main drag, Las Ramblas:

Barcelona is essentially in the extreme Northeast corner of Spain right on the Mediterranean Sea.  It has a very busy shipping industry and has always been heavily involved with sailing and boating going back well past the New World Explorations.  This is the Christopher Columbus Monument to the left which is within a couple of hundred yards of the sea.

Here's a shot of Montjuic, which in Catalan (more on that in a sec) translates as the "Hill of the Jews".  This is close to where the 1992 Summer Olympics were staged.

So a quick word about this Catalan thing.  This whole trip I've been in countries where I don't speak a word of the language except "Hi", "Please", "Excuse Me", and "Sorry, I don't speak (insert local dialect here)".  It has only been the fact that English is prevalent over here that I have not been some sad little thing sitting on the corner of a random street even more lost than I normally have been. So when I decided to side trip to Spain, I was muy (see) excited.  I'm definitely not saying I'm bilingual (not even close), but after 3 years in high school and 2 semesters in college, I'm fluent enough to have a simple conversation with a native.  So what do I find out?  Barcelona speaks Catalan and not Spanish.  Fortunately, their Spanish is fine, but once again, I was unable to "blend in" with the locals.  And to think, I had such a good chance with this country too, what with my dark Latin features and all.

Here's a shot of some of the art work that decorates the main square in Barcelona, Placa de Catalunya.  This is just a brief taste of some of the art and style you can see in Barcelona.

I am a bad tourist.  Yet another shot of something that I don't know what it is but thought looked cool.  Again, I just think the architecture is unique here, so I thought I'd give you another example.

Nothing says come live in our city more than palm trees outside a government building and 75 degree weather at the end of October.

Here's a shot of my favorite part of Barcelona:  La Ribera.  It's also the location of Classic Kenny Moment #6.  Ever have one of those times where you independently make some profound discovery only to find out that everyone else already knew it.  Previous to today, this had only happened to me once.  I was in 9th grade and taking geometry when I realized that "Side-Angle-Side" thing was true for triangles.  I was so impressed with myself.  Two days later I learned that Euclid or some other really ancient dead person figured this out a couple of thousand years ago.  You can imagine my dismay to learn that I was not going to be mentioned in the next edition of the textbook.  Well, I had the same experience today.  As I walked through this neighborhood, I thought, "This is the hidden gem of Barcelona.  I would totally live here. I bet no one realizes how awesome this place is." I don't really know how a 30 year old could possess the necessary amount of naivete to genuinely believe that he had independently discovered an unknown quantity in a thousand year old city, but be sure I made the impossible happen.  Oh and by the way, this neighborhood is the hottest real estate going in Barcelona.

Say hello to the Mediterranean Sea everyone.  Unfortunately, this was the best shot I got of it as the entire thing seems consumed with the shipping industry.  Such a pity. . . but fear not!!  Soon we will have nothing but picture after picture of pristine ocean views.

I went up to Montjuic to get some nice views of the city.  This is a shot of the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya.  In the foreground is the Olympic Stadium. Later on, I walked down to the other side of the building to get a better shot, but silly me, I forgot that all of the historical buildings on this continent signed some kind of document stating that no less than 50% of its edifice had to be covered by scaffolding or big huge sheets over the duration of my trip.

Here's an elevated view of the city.  The best way for me to describe this place is LA mixed with New York. As you can see, the city sprawls like LA not to mention has similar geography (water surrounded by mountains) and weather (wonderful coastal temperatures with a nice breeze), but the way the  people interact with the city and the neighborhoods around town remind me more of New York.  Feel free to disagree (You'll be wrong of course, but I don't want to suppress your right to give an opinion).

So after the trip up the mountain via a lift, I made the very wise decision to walk back down.  For only the 50th time on this trip (please note the number of days I've been traveling at this point) I somehow got a little "disoriented" and found myself amongst a lot of buildings like this.  As I said, this is the capital of Catalan and there's what seems like a full 5 city blocks of museums and halls dedicated to the culture.  My inclination is that some of these building were constructed for the Olympics and then converted after the fact, but as you can tell, they are just beautiful pieces of architecture.  And a good thing too, because I would spend the next hour looking at them as I tried to find my way back to town.

Which leads us to the coolest looking church I saw on the whole trip:  La Sagrada Familia (The Holy Family).  If you have to associate one name with Barcelona it is Antoni Guadi, who was a turn of the 20th century architect.  He designed this place as well as a whole truck load of important landmarks in Barcelona.  A devout Catholic and Catalan, this was considered his masterpiece. Funny thing about this is that construction started on it around 1900, but it is projected to not be done for another 50 years or so.  Even half done though, the place is unlike any other building I've ever seen.  Wait'll you see the detail shots.

Gaudi was big on incorporating nature into his work.  This is an interior shot of the nave of the church.  If you'll notice, the pillars holding up the ceiling and the surrounding structures resemble the canopy of a rain forest.

Here's the back (or is it the front?) of the church.  Notice the difference between this side and the first picture.  This is nice and smooth while the other side is messy and discombobulated. Another thing, those big pillars going up are not the same as on the front side.  This place is huge.

Detail shot of some of the sculptures on the smooth backside of the church.

To me, this is the mark of an amazing artist.  This looks like somebody kind of threw up on the facade here (and I don't necessarily mean that in a bad way), but they have taken it and manipulated in such a way that it is beautiful.  I've done similar stuff with playdo before, but for some inexplicable reason, no one has declared my work a national monument. . .  Yet another example of The Man holding me down.

So after this fun filled day, I topped it off with one of the highlights of my trip, a soccer (excuse me. . . futbol) match between two 1st division professional teams.  While I never got to play, I have been a big fan of soccer ever since one of my best friends, Mike Foody, started making me watch it in high school (this coincided with the '94 World Cup btw).  This was the single most expensive event or purchase of the trip because I wanted to get good seats.  I didn't even scalp for tickets because I wanted to ensure I'd get great seats rather than run the risk of being the latest victim of "let's take advantage of the blondish haired foreign kid who doesn't speak the langauage" scam.  Here's what I got.  The only good thing I can say about these is that they were on the first level.

Undeterred, I decided to "adjust" my seat location.  This is a better shot of what I ended up seeing for the entire game with a little luck and the fact that the game didn't sell out.  And by sell out, I mean we only had around 75,000 show up instead of the capacity 100,000.  As you can see, I went to an FC Barcelona game which is one of the best teams in the Spanish 1st Division, La Liga, as well as the entire continent of Europe.  They were playing Real Zaragoza.

Just like football back home, the fans get into their futbol just as enthusiastically. Such a great environment to watch a game. Each team has their own chants and official songs. And they sing them at various parts of the match in it's entirety. The other thing I was impressed with, was that almost the entire crowd stayed the whole match even though this sucker was over by the half. I want to say it's because of their passion for the sport and Barca, but I'm afraid it's because they had to take out a second mortgage on their house in order to get tickets so they have no where else to go.

Somebody call Sports Illustrated, there's a new sheriff in town.  Turns out I'm even more of a superior photographer than I am international sex symbol to the European masses (and none of yall are over here to disprove it. . . it could be true).

It might be hard to tell, but this is a shot of Barca's first goal (it definitely would not be the last).  You can see the ball in net right after going off Keita's head (he had a hat trick on the night).

And here's our final score.  Regardless of the blowout, it was worth every penny.  This is why sports are so awesome.  I sat next to this older gentleman from Barcelona.  He spoke very little English but that didn't stop both of us from talking to each other throughout the game.  I didn't understand 90% of the words coming out of his mouth, but I guarantee you I understood every single thing he said to me.  Regardless of the sport, all you need to know to communicate with somebody is which side they are rooting for.  Just a great night.  Very few things in this world can bring people together like sports.

After my great night, I headed back to the hostel, and then started again the next morning.  It was a Monday, and I stumbled onto this market off Las Ramblas.  This is what all grocery stores aspire to be.  Every animal, fruit, vegetable, chocolate, or byproduct of all these things was here.  My blood sugar went up 100 points just hanging around this place.

So my last highlight of my time in Barcelona.  Aside from the squid, I hadn't really hit a tapas restaurant that wowed me.  As it turns out, I had talked the night before to the guy I mentioned earlier in the post, and he and his wife, Crystal, had gone to Barcelona for their honeymoon.  They told me to go to this place called Irati's.  The Foody's palate is a bit more refined than mine, so I was curious if it was going to be as amazing as they thought it was, but on this occasion, they were right on the money.  Look at this plate people.  Everyone of these is different.  There's salmon, cream cheese, shrimp, bacon, ham, cranberry sauce, cheese and basically pure sunshine on this plate. This, my friends, is a Tapas Bar.

I had a little bit of bad luck with a couple of the museums I wanted to hit, specifically the Picasso Museum (really long lines) and the Maritime Museum (closed for the winter starting the day I showed up of course), but my time in Barcelona was a huge success. To me the city was best experienced by walking around and experienced the atmosphere and not by wandering the halls of some exhibit. Great time and I highly recommend a stop there to everyone. At this point I hopped a train. The next stop: The French Riviera.

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