Monday, March 2, 2009

XXIV: Conquest

More than 11,000 people ran in the Barcelona Marathon yesterday.

I sort of wish I could say I was one of these people... because that would be quite impressive. But as we all know, I am neither fit enough to run a 26.2-mile race, nor am I excessively desirous to be capable of such a thing. I'd much rather sit on the sidewalk and play my guitar while these specimens of ideal human endurance run past me, than exhaust myself within the first 30 seconds of my lame power-walking attempts.

I don't have a single athletic bone in my body. Which is why the only sport I can take up is snowboarding, where I can just slide down a hill strapped to a piece of wood without ever separating my feet from the ground.

So why even mention it, you ask? Well, because this marathon was precisely the excuse I had for a weekend trip to Spain. Obviously, I didn't run. But my friends Allison and Krysten did. And they both came in with times of 4:26 and 5:06 (hours), respectively. They're amazing... no doubt about it.

The most participation I had was to pin nametags on their backs before the race, take pictures and cheer them on from various parts of the route. I also jogged with Allison for about 20 feet at mile 23 for some moral support. But I was out of breath before she could even break her first sweat.

I guess that means becoming a conquistador is out of the question.

Oh well, at least I got a trip to Barcelona out of it. A whole group of us (4 Americans, an Irishman and 2 Aussies) rented out a 3-bedroom condo right smack in the middle of the city, which was a nice departure from the usual dirty hostel route. And between the 7 of us, it actually cost us much less - a mere 411 pounds total for the whole weekend.

The place was great - exactly the kind of European flat I would love to own, with floor-to-ceiling glass doors and multiple balconies. Not to mention the fantastic weather that allowed me to wear sunglasses outside and only one layer of clothing. I could totally live there. ;P

Barcelona is an interesting city. Oddly enough, it was a bit reminiscent of Manila, Philippines (I can definitely understand the Spanish influence in Philippine architecture and cuisine now) - except it's cleaner and more European. It's significantly more humid than London or LA, has bright skies, has a giant mall with a supermarket on the bottom floor and sometimes, I'd catch a whiff of the same mixture of city pollution (and I mean that in a completely endearing way).

It was also nice being able to use those 3 years of high-school Spanish. And to top it off, it was the first time since being in Asia that the majority of people around me were brunette instead of fair-haired. I felt right at home... especially when I found out that I was a local biscuit celebrity.

Since we arrived after 8 p.m. on Friday evening, and the marathon took up a good portion of Sunday (including post-race recovery and nap time), we only really had Saturday to do anything else.

I got to try some authentic seafood Paella (which was delicious alongside my glass of Sangria).

Then I bought a new pair of jeans for 19 euros on Las Ramblas (we reveled at the "cheap" prices until we realized our excitement was only because we'd been living in one of the most expensive cities in the world for the last 6 months). We ate WAY too much ice cream (fueled by the marathoners' justification of needing the extra calories to burn).

Actually, it seemed like we just kept eating for no good reason - because we could and because the "potatoes in spicy sauce," an appetizer that was on every restaurant menu we saw, were to die for. Lots of tapas, lots of sangria, and lots of dessert. Aside from the marathon, eating seemed to be our common goal.

Sightseeing was a secondary venture. And for the most part, the only thing we kept coming back to was Antoni Gaudi architecture.

La Sagrada Familia (Cathedral of the Holy Family)

Casa Batllo (which looked like it jumped out of a Dr. Seuss book/Tim Burton movie)

It's kind of funny to see Gaudi's buildings because they don't match with anything else around them. They look like beautiful cartoons juxtaposed with the boring real world.

For example, across the street from La Sagrada Familia was a bustling KFC. I don't know what Europeans are thinking - but man, do they love KFC. London, Paris, Barcelona - KFC!!! Yet, obesity is NOT a problem here. Hmmmm.

Okay, sorry for the tangent. But yeah, Gaudi is incredible. Even the insides of these buildings are artistic - with rumpled stone pillars, intricate carvings and ceilings that look like upside-down sand dunes. No wonder the guy has been Spain's national hero for the last century and a half.

Well, even though I didn't get to witness a bull fight this weekend, I'm still pretty happy about crossing off one more city from my travel to-do list. Maybe I'll come back one day (I still need to make it to Espit Chupitos - an unfortunate but necessary scheduling sacrifice this time around). The good news is that my passport's continuing to get a healthy accumulation of stamps... it's only a matter of time before I've conquered the world. :)

1 comment:

Kimberly said...

I <3 Gaudi! And Dali...and Picasso...And Tapas and Goffre (PLEASE tell me you ate goffre!)

I will return to Barca with you. Many things to see and hiking the foothills of Mt. Tibidabo (10 points if you get this reference!)

Glad you had fun! xx