Chillaxin’ Ventures in Barcelona

Our last few days in Barcelona continued their chillin’ theme. It wasn’t that way the while leaving time however. The frumps set in and somehow we had to deal with it. The plan yesterday was to go on a gondola ride to Montjuïc a hill that overlooks the city. It was our activity for the day. 


It’s funny how quickly one develops relationships with the places around you. Downstairs from our hostel. There is this little place that has tables outside selling coffee. For me it was heaven. I sat there in the mornings for a while and in the evenings too. I learned to order a coffee and latte from them in Spanish. 

“Une caffè con leche por favor.”


Maybe my phrasing of pronounciation wasn’t quite right but they always served me with a smile. The same goes for the place that we had breakfast in every morning. The woman server kept forgetting about us but we had a liking for their breakfast omlettes. The filling was palatable to the both of us. It was the proximity to our hotel room that really appealed to us. We took the elevator one floor down and walked twenty yards to get to it. Outside we always managed to get a seat. There was always someone there sometimes even having a beer at nine in the morning. 


Chrl was feeling a bit of the pressure to finish up her work. Somehow there were a few things that she had overlooked and a few things that needed a bit more attention so that the final projects morphed into something bigger than she anticipated. On Wednesday in the morning instead of sitting there writing I went to find one of the Gaudí buildings. I went to the Güell Palace that is located just west of La Rambla. I had about an hour and a half before Chrl and I woke be going for that gondola ride. 


As I walked the streets I always found a few things to check out along the way. The narrow passageways between the buildings his hidden street art gems. These stickers or stencils and sometimes even graffiti was striking and good. I’ve been a big fan of the things that are put on buildings by people. It’s a shame that these things are written on the doors. The old wooden doors are mostly used to hide and protect windows. Every single opening has a shutter located in front of a window. It must be for times when people get out of hand and start smashing things. It is mostly a security feature to prevent opportunistic theft of the valuables inside. 


Many of the themes contained within these artistic pieces deal with political and cultural issues. Some are abstract and I’m not talking about the tags that are everywhere. Those I’ve learned to kind of ignore. It’s the little stickers with an image on them or a stencil or a poster attached to the wall. Those are the things I seek. There are many examples of these and as I walk along towards some destination taking a meandering path I find gems around each corner or little alley. 


When I finally got to Güell Palace I took a customary picture and walked back. It was time to meet with Chrl for our little excursion. We need to walk to the waterfront in order to get the gondola ride to our destination. The Transbordador Aeri del Port whisks you on a ride high up in the air accross the harbor giving you a spectacular view of the city. I’ve done this ride before and thought it would be a good one for us to do. It has that thrilling aspect of being high up in the air and getting us to a neat place to explore for a while. When we got to the bottom of the tower we realized the length of the line up. It was going to take 80 min to get up there. 


We both soured on the idea of waiting that long. We arrived here a bit later than I expected. When I returned to the hotel I faffed a bit getting ready and then we stopped for lunch at this kabab place and had a delicious meal. As we walked to the tower we meandered a bit as different things piqued our attention. It was a time for us to talk as we were both suffering with the frumps. 


We didn’t fret too much about missing out on this gondola ride. Chrl was happy just to stroll around the area we were in close to the beach. She has been feeling a bit stressed because of her work. It’s the final push towards the end of her program. She has been at it for years. It would be kind of foolish to just give up on doing a decent job at the very end when it’s the most important. She is actually quite into her work. She constantly tells me about some new things that she finds or realizes. She doesn’t want to ruin the trip by not doing anything with me but at the same time she doesn’t want to ruin what she has worked on for a long time either. 


The result of this subconscious feeling have been the “frumps” a Stokie-ism that I picked up during my time there. It means just having a bit of an off day. A day where something just doesn’t sit well that isn’t easily identified. What it is is that we have been on the road now for about two weeks and have been together for almost three. At some point a feeling comes up during travel that isn’t in line with the wonderful time one should be having and expressing. We are both happy and are enjoying our time but today we have hit a bump called the frumps. 


We sat along the promenade connecting the beach area with the rest of the city. We talked about our feelings but we somehow came up with a game. As people walked by we tried to come up with a back story or a first impression. A couple of young guys walked past strutin’ with a somewhat serious look on their face. 

“Those guys are on a mission to find some women.” 

“Oh yeah? What makes you say that?”

“Just the look on their face. They looked like they had a purpose, they’re psyched!”


We judged couples on how long they have been together based on wheather or not they were holding hands. The older couples tended not to. As two older ladies walked by we wondered if one took the other on a trip in order for her to find a man. A man just for a while to make her forget of some painful experience. A disasterous relationship. It was all conjecture, an excercise to have some fun imagining some outlandish story. We saw the classic boyfriend takes picture of girlfriend scenario. The woman had some good poses though moving through a variety of arm positions with the harbor as a backdrop. 


It’s nice to know that Chrl is happy just chillin’ by my side. She is content that we are here in this city together having this time. Whatever we don’t see we will add to our “next time” list that keeps growing. Traveling is a fine balance between seeing everything and just relaxing by not doing much at all. As we walked back to the hotel as the night was slowly approaching. Chrl was going to do some more work for a couple of hours while I sat at the coffee place downstairs writing about our adventure to the Sagrada Familia. The process was a bit long but the gist of what we experienced came out. Some of the frustration came out while writing. It helped me to understand what was happening.


Since we are going away the next day it was wise for us to begin packing. Somehow I have the bigger suitcase and because of that the things that have been accumulated during our journey needed to be packed into it. It’s becoming harder to do that but somehow I’m managing. The hard shell of the suitcase becomes more of a challenge than it was when traveling with a backpack. No matter I am up to the task and as I’m writing this have thought of a new way of packing the next time we have to pack. 


Packing always takes longer than expected. At one point when all the things were out and arranged in their little groupings I expressed jokingly that I felt overwhelmed. It isn’t that bad. We have relatively few things between us and when it’s all packed up it is manageable. Packing techniques greatly increase the amount of things one can take with them. Chrl came with essentially a carry on suitcase. I’m the one with a lot of stuff  😯.


The next morning we woke up feeling much better. Chrl wanted to do some work before we had to check out. We got ready and went for breakfast at our favorite place. The lady however forgot about us because she got distracted by some ladies with adorable kids that were also there. Chrl went to do her work while I decided to go and visit a couple more buildings designed by Gaudí. They were about twenty minutes away giving me just enough time to get back and meet up with Chrl to check out by eleven. 


The writing and all that could wait for the ferry. We will be on that ship for twenty hours and I’ve found writing to be a great activity to do to whittle away the time. The two buildings I was going to see were located along Passeig de Gràcia which is essentially an extension north of La Rambla. This area of the city is essentially the high end high street where all the big brands have their shops. The buildings are a lot more grandiose and the street itself is much wider with a variety of lanes to support different kinds of traffic. 


I kept looking at the time and adjusting my pace depending on what I judged the time to with respect to my return. The buildings themselves still have a wonderful appeal to them. Having seen five examples of Gaudí’s work the progression toward whimsical is evident in the architecture. Gaudí has from the beginning been quite the ornate architect. He enjoyed adding a flourish to the buildings through the detail he incorporated into the design of accents that also served a functional role. These pieces like the door or a balcony give the buildings character. His later designs became much more fluid looking. His inspiration came from the natural shapes found in nature. He sought ways of incorporating the strength of natural shapes into his buildings. The Sangrada Familia for example was designed using an upside down technique. Strings were hung from a ceiling and little bags of sand were attached to them. Where the point was created by the equilibriation of forces acting on the string itself corresponded to a top of the arch. By following up with the design of the pillars using this technique the height of the church was achieved. There are many other such elements taken from nature inside this building. Hence the way it looks and feels. 


When I finally returned Chrl met me downstairs as I was sipping a coffee. We went back up and collected our things making sure that we didn’t leave anything behind. The hostel was happy to hold on to our luggage for the day as we wanted to go to the beach and maybe do the gondola ride. We meandered our way to the beach stopping to check out anything of interest. There is always some street art or shop that has something cool to look at. We chatted as we made our way closer and closer to the beach. The closer we got the less likely we were going to be going on that gondola ride. Chrl was becoming more and more excited about the beach. 


We had a few snacks and got some more after we got ourselves two chairs and an umbrella. At ten euros for each item for the day the price is a bit steep but it affords us a place of our own to just chill. Chrl was really happy with being so close to the ocean and just relaxing here. She was going to do some reading as she sun tanned a bit. As we undressed into our beach look we commented at the pasty white appearance of our skin. We haven’t really had the time to gain any color on this trip. We also didn’t want to sunburn ourselves either. It’s a good thing we had the umbrella. I’m not much of a sun tanner and the last time I was out on the beach like this in South Africa I burnt pretty bad. It didn’t hurt but my face peeled. I like to say I have a new face since that happened. 


We jumped into the cold water of the Mediterranian. The coldness was refreshing but the saltiness of the water wasn’t. Bobbing up an down in the sea felt great. We cooled off in the water and dryer ourselves off in the sun. What more could we ask for? I never realized how much Chrl enjoys spending time like this in a place like this. We talked about future trips to sunny locales. It’s something we will want to do as we will be in a cold place during the winter months. We will become snow birds as they are referred to back home. 


I took a walk to get some photos of this gleaming roof located further down the beach. I’m more of an explorer than Chrl is especially at this point. We had a few extra bags with us since we no longer had a room. Chrl didn’t want to walk endlessly behind me as I went on my little excursion. I kind of need some activity as it will tire me out a bit allowing me to have a good sleep. Who knows what the ferry will hold in store for us. 


The beach in Barcelona is long. I must have walked for twenty or more minutes before finally getting to this artistic stylized fish shaped roof at the end of the beach. This is where all the big ass clubs are located. The street level hides the revelry that goes on underneath as you descend to the club level. That level coincides with the level of the beach. The people running the clubs are already hustling giving girls free entry. It’s an age old tactic that brings in the boys right behind paying cover to be amongst all the women who took up the offer. One club was celebrating 20 years of existence. 


The roof was difficult to capture correctly or as I would like too. It didn’t look as impressive underneath as it did from afar. It did however provide me with a cool architectural subject to try to shoot. I needed to drain my bladder and with that thought I felt like I had to go back. What if Chrl had to go and was anxiously waiting for me to get back? I sped up my pace a little. There were a few buildings that I wanted to take a picture of on my way back. 


The first looked kind of eerie with its dark wood cladding and emptiness surrounding it. It looked like some kind of official building. Like a school of some sort but I wasn’t sure because of all the balconies all around it within the cladding. That cladding provided some kind of shade for the building. 


The other structure was this ornately decorated tower. It seemed like it was built a long time ago and it likely served as some sort of a light house or observation tower keeping track of all the ships that came into this harbor. This is an old city that has been around since the Roman times. We walked by the remnants of Roman fortifications that were still standing in the old part of the city. 


As I approached the tower there was an abandoned playground there and a basketball court framed in an old metal frame from an old abandoned tank. There were two guys shooting hoops inside of it enjoying the relative quiet of the area. It was eerily quiet on the playground. It must have something to do with the time of day at this moment. It’s too hot for kids to be playing out here. The sun is pretty hot right now. The temperature probably close to thirty. 


It felt like I’ve been walking for a while and I’m still not as close as I would have thought after all this time. I meandered a bit so that I could finish off a special dart. The question is will I be able to find her again? I collected myself having a short caffe con letche. The environment lent itself to enjoyment of this beverage but my impulse was to down it quickly. 


The area started to become more and more familiar. I was looking for particular characters that were sitting near us as well as the t shirts that the people at the restaurant wore. I looked around and found the spot where she should be. There she is and as our eyes looked I was distracted by something. The beach has a top optional policy. Chrl looked up at me giddy with the opportunity to experience and take advantage of this fact. I had to laugh. I’m slowly learning these little details about her preferences. We are both learning. After laying there for a bit more we decided that it was time to go. We had to go and pick up our luggage and then make it to the ferry. We had plenty of time to do that and with all that time we could go at a leisurely pace through all these tasks. 


We took a different route back through some other shaded alleys and paths in the center of the city. We stopped for coffee and had a good meal at the kabab place near the hotel. We could have gone to another place but the food was really good there. Once we had the bags we walked to a Metro Station that will take us to the bus that will take us to the ferry. It is actually really close to get to it. We could have walked to the ferry terminal I joked with Chrl. I just got a look in response. 

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