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Place Clichy

On our last night in Europe we took a long stroll to do some shopping and have a final taste of cafe culture.  We ended up back in Pigalle.  This is “supposed” to be a red light district, but I think it’s more like a caricature of a red light district.  To start, there aren’t any “ladies”.  And the only traffic is from tourists in rented Benzes or in Norwegian Grey Line buses.  This is also where Moulin Rouge is at, as well as a few other similar places with floor shows.  We didn’t set out to come here, but it was a good place to end up because of the cafes and the show on the road.

Random thoughts…

Names: The Catalan language is something unlike we’ve ever heard before. From what we can decipher, it’s a hybrid of Spanish and French, with an awesome lisp on various letters. That said, we decided to take on psuedo-names for the trip. Miguel’s Castelonian name is “Sergio Sebastian de Barcelona,” pronounced “theregio thebathian of Barthelona” and mine is “Vicky Christina de Barcelona,” pronounced “vicky chrithina of Barthelona.” Evidently Vicky Christina Barcelona is actually a movie title that we’ve now added to our Netflix as I’m sure it will provide some post travel entertainment. Yeah, we’re silly, but adds to our entertainment when we hear people pronounce various words in the city.

Architecture: We spent a day touring various Gaudi architectural wonders including the Sagrada Familia and Casa Batlló. The Sagrada Familia is a church that started construction in 1882 and still isn’t finished. Currently it’s estimated to be complete in 2030. Definitely some amazing architecture, but I couldn’t help feeling a bit swindled when they charged us 13 Euro to enter a church that isn’t complete. And by not complete, I mean the entire inside of the church is blocked off with raw materials (marble/concrete, etc) on the ground and the exterior has 4 cranes. What I couldn’t understand is that we were one of a few thousand people paying entry, so I’m not sure why this thing isn’t finished yet. Mike said I was full of sour grapes.

The Casa Batlló was far more impressive, and completed. Gaudi was commissioned by Josep Batlló i Casanovas to convert an existing building, and WOW: I’ve never seen anything like it before. It was somewhat mythological while also very aquatic. Miguel took a whole lot of photos of this, which will describe it better, but we definitely enjoyed it.

Cigarettes: One of the best things about Europe is that you can smoke virtually anywhere. I mean, I’ve seen mother’s smoking with their kids sitting next to them (taboo in the U.S.) and pregnant women sitting at a table full of smokers (also taboo in the U.S.) I think I read somewhere that the life expectancy of Europeans far exceeds the U.S., but you’d never guess when you see how many people smoke here. Anyhow, we finally ran out of our last carton of U.S. smokes, so we had to go on a quest to determine which non-U.S. cigarettes were suitable. We started with Habanos (too much like a cigar), tried the French brand, Gauloises (not bad), but found our preferred brand is John Player Special White. Very smooth and comparable to U.S. carton prices.

Nigerian Prada Kings: All around Spain, at least in the cities we’ve been to, you see African men wandering around with big white bundles. These bundles are full of Prada and Vuitton knock offs, and not very good ones at that. Anyhow, the bundles, when on the ground, form a sheet where they can display their various bags for people to buy. Of course this is frowned upon by the Policia here. So to solve for this there is a string tied to each corner, and if you watch these guys they are constantly looking over their shoulders. When they see the Policia coming, in one quick pull of the string, their sheet pulls in all 20-30 bags and they are off and running. They also travel in packs, so when they come running, it’s about 20 guys coming at you at full speed. Pretty entertaining sight to see, I’m just disappointed I didn’t get it on video :)

That’s all for now. We loved our time in Barcelona, but it’s time to head to the French Wine Country :)

La Palacete de Roses

This image was taken outside a cute little park in Madrid.  In the park is the Temple of Debod, a real Egyptian temple given to the Spanish government in thanks for helping to catalog the artifacts in the Nile valley above the Aswan dam before it was flooded. The temple is amazing in this setting, perched on the top of the highest hill in Madrid, adjacent to the Palacio Real (the Spanish White House).

The cafe was extremely chill, and it’s also where we first discovered the joys of the Cuba Libre (rum and coke) made with Havana Club. We both wanted something cold since it was so hot, but we also wanted to get our groove on. Beer didn’t sound nice at the time, and it didn’t seem like the right environment for Jerez. Then I remembered that we could get Cuban rum here legally! This instantly became the default drink for the remainder of the trip, even after we got back to France.