Tour of Barcelona, Naked Man on a Bike, Intercambio and my 1st Successful Spanish Conversation – All in one day!

One of the best ways to see this beautiful city is by foot.  I’ve been exploring since day 1.  Almost every day, weather pending, Liam and I walk somewhere – anywhere.  I have yet to go into any of the museums I’ve heard so much about, mainly because I think it will be difficult with Liam who will have no interest and be stroller bound – I may need to leave those for the fall when he heads off to school with Aidan.  But we explore the sights around us – visits to the beach, to interesting neighborhoods, parks, etc.  This past week we met up with my friend Jami who lives down on the Raval near La Rambla.  She’s not that far from the beach and in a very historic area which she kindly gave me a tour of.  My descriptions are probably not completely accurate and I tried to google some of these items but had no luck.  So I’m going to trust my memory and go with the flow…

First, a little history.  Barcelona was actually founded about 2000 years ago.  Yes, it’s that old.  It wasn’t always called Barcelona but Barkeno.  It’s city limits were not the same as they are today but contained more to the old city that we now call The Born, Barri Gotic, Ciutadella and the Raval.  I believe there may be more in there, but those are the ones that I know.  Feel free to add or make corrections.  For an actual history check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Barcelona.  The city had a wall built around it, the use of which was obviously to keep enemies out.  As the city expanded the wall was taken down in many areas, however, parts of it still exist.

These pictures are of actual crypts that date back upwards of 2000 years old.  From what I was told they ran along the road on the outskirts of the city as a bit of a warning to those who may dare to invade Barcelona – this may happen to you!  The bricks are obviously new, but they just renovated this area into a park of sorts.  Notice in the 2nd picture that they actually go under the building – parts of the city were built over the old crypts.
On the left is what is supposed to be the oldest stone in Barcelona.  How do we know this?  I have absolutely no idea but this is what I was told.  I googled “oldest stone in Barcelona” and came up with squat.  If you can find more, please send it along.  It is actually the center stone, not the entire thing.  And notice that part of the stone is actually broken which apparently happened in the last few years.  You can walk all over this stone – this is not like Plymouth Rock where there are barriers all around it.  It is on the street and you walk over it in order to get into the Temple listed on the right.  This building contains columns from the end of the 1st century BC – yes, over 2000 years old.
The sign outside the door where the oldest stone is – has a little bit of history on it.  And the columns shown are the ones from the 1st century BC.  I will saw I was absolutely in awe getting to see something so old where the construction has literally lasted over 2000 years.  Absolutely amazing! 
As I mentioned above, this historic area is also home to some of the original wall that surrounded the city centuries ago.  You can see that newer buildings have been built upon the old walls.
More walls that surrounded the city.  On the left you can see that very little of this original wall still exists but the city does it’s best to incorporate it into the buildings of today.  Look at the detail at the very bottom.  On the right, the area with all the trees is part of the wall.
After dropping Jami off at home, Liam and I continued our walk down to Barceloneta beach.  There we were thrilled to see that spring is here and sand sculptors are out!  He was absolutely fascinated by the artwork they created in the sand.
He was so fascinated that he had to get his bucket and shovel out to try to create his own sculpture.  I think he may have a way to go but great try Liam!
                       
We spent a few minutes digging our sand castle and then decided to head towards Villa Olimpica figuring perhaps we would take the train home from there (we actually walked the entire way home instead – probably walking at least 4 miles that day).  While walking along the boardwalk I will admit to being a bit shocked at seeing a naked old man riding his bike.  Now as I’ve said before, public nudity is allowed here in Barcelona as long as you have a permit.  But I guess I figured the odds of me seeing the 1/2 dozen people who actually do it outside laying on the beach were relatively low…not to mention it was only perhaps a balmy 50 degrees out (notice Liam is wearing a fleece), not exactly naked bike riding weather if you ask me.  Anyways, I wish I could have gotten a picture to share with you all but alas, I was in such shock that I couldn’t whip my camera out fast enough.  Not to mention, while the man is obviously an exhibitionist, I still would have felt like I was violating him in some way by taking his picture.  But let’s just say he was naked, he was old and he was riding a bike – ewwww times 3!
Liam must have wanted to shield his eyes after that because he stuck the bucket on his head right after that.  Just kidding – he actually said he was Darth Vadar and started to run around the boardwalk like this – he never even noticed the naked guy.  The bad part being that the kid couldn’t see anything and kept bumping into people left and right – I must have said lo siento (I’m sorry) a hundred times!
                                                    
As we made our way home fromVilla Olimpica we came across this building which to me looks like a stadium of some kind.  Someone told me they think it was designed by Dali.  I have no idea.  Feel free to add some input if you know what it is.  I just thought it was absolutely beautiful and the eggs on top had so much detail that just couldn’t be captured by my camera.
                                                   
So that was just my DAY on Thursday and it’s already been a fun and interesting time!!  Thursday night I finally made it to my friend Kara’s bar for English intercambio.  Kara, I’m putting your name in the blog – you told me to let you know when I do it… I’m doing it!  Anyways, Kara’s bar (O-Bar … giving you a plug too!) does this English intercambio – an intercambio is when a group of people get together to improve upon their language skills of the given session.  As above in this case, English.  However, every now and again they would revert back to Spanish or their given language so while it wasn’t a huge skill building session for me since I got to primarily speak English it was a great chance to meet some very nice people and hear all about how they ended up here in Barcelona as well.
My goal is usually to make it to the train by midnight (the last train during the week) but I was having so much fun that I didn’t make it in time.  So I grabbed a cab.  I gave him the intersecting address closest to us since our street is so small and obscure it usually requires them taking out a map, etc etc.  He was a very nice driver and when he asked me a question I had to tell him that my Spanish was not so good but that I was studying and practicing.  Well, he gave me a great opportunity – he was the nicest cab driver EVER!  This little old man totally spoke slowly to me (as you probably know the Spanish speak quite rapidly which can make it a little hard to understand) and asked me very simple questions (how many children do you have? why are you here in Barcelona? how long have you been here?  etc etc) and I was able to answer all of them plus chat a little bit about the economy (amazing) and travel.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I screwed up a lot of my words, pronounciation and tenses, but he understood me and we were able to go back and forth the entire cab ride.  This is the moment I have been waiting for since we arrived and with it came such a feeling of accomplishment.  I know there is still A LOT of work ahead of me as far as my language skills go, but I also know that this is a sign that I can do it and that I will be able to communicate here in time.  I feel like I have now gotten on the right path and I need to continue along this way.  I hear three months is a turning point here where things become less of a struggle every day – that’s not to say I won’t have days of struggle, but more that there will hopefully be more normalcy in my every day life.  I feel like this past week was definitely that turning point.  I’m making progress and that’s all I can do… as they say here in Barcelona, poco a poco… little by little.  It will happen, all in good time.
Julie

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