Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Go ahead, analyze me

I was sweating profusely when I awoke around 04:30. I instantly recalled the bazaar dream that I just had. I was back in Milwaukee in my parent’s house. My mother and father were speaking perfect Spanish to each other. They bragged that it only took them 1 week to learn when told them I was trying to learn. I was insanely jealous, then I woke up. Oddly enough, they were also talking with their neighbors, the Martinez’s, in Spanish. Spanish must be on my mind.

I think a conversation with a friend over dinner last night may have trigger the dream. We discussed how my Spanish was progressing and agreed to start speak Spanish whenever possible. I’ve also been listening to my Spanish MP3s a lot more often.

Very strange stuff. What do you think it means?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Mullet Mondays

Are the Catalan getting ready for the upcoming cool weather by growing their very own neck warmers? Whatever the reason, I've recently seen some really bad ass mullets. This is just one example of many more to come.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

4 countries in 16 days

Just booked a longer multiple country adventure starting on November 28th going through December 14. I get back from London on the 22nd so I'll have a few days to rest up before this trip begins.

I'm flying into Belgium where Zach, a friend of mine lives (whom I met when I was in Amsterdam last May). We've stayed in contact and have mutual friends here in Barcelona & Amsterdam. He's a great guy and will great to travel with. We'll spend one or two days in Brussels and then head off to Cologne, Paris, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, along with many other smaller cities along the way.

I'm very excited for this one.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Quote # 1

I'm a big fan of quotes. After all, "The wisdom of the wise, and the experience of ages, may be preserved by quotations." - Benjamin Disraeli

I have a large collection that I've picked up over the past few years. Starting today, I will post one quote a week...who knows, maybe you may like them as well.

"The object of life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting, 'Holy Shit, What a Ride!!!'' — Mavis Leyrer

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Aroma of Roma

Pre-Trip Planning

My first trip to London taught me several things.
1) Pack light and tight
2) Book an afternoon flight, so you don’t miss your early wake up call.
3) Use the Barcelona Bus to get to Gerona Airport.
4) Leave plenty of time for metro delays
5) Bring food because Airport food tastes really awful and is completely unhealthy

All of these little lessons made getting to and from Italy much easier, less stressful and a lot more enjoyable.

The plan was to connect with a friend of a friend that lives in Rome (Michael). Michael was kind enough to offer his extra futon in his huge apartment within the center of Rome (score!). Even better, he’s a tour guide, so he knows EVERYTHING about Rome.

Destination Italy – Getting There

The bus dropped me off right in front of the arrival terminal. As I walked into the terminal, I noticed a huge mumblefuck of clothes and people. Clothes were everywhere. People did not look happy. I quickly learned that this was due to a strike by the company that handles luggage for all Ryanair flights out of Girona airport. Apparently the strike started with little warning. While the flight itself was not canceled, Ryanair was not able to accept ANY checked luggage. Surprise!

All passengers were given the option to reschedule or receive a refund. Problem was that they were unable to estimate when the strike would end. Some people simply had to make the flight, regardless of what they could or could not bring. This forced those that brought checked luggage to wear 2 or 3 layers of clothing, toss what they didn’t absolutely need, leave the physical luggage behind and carry all other clothing in garbage bags on the plane. I vividly recall a very large man attempting to put on two additional pairs of jeans only to rip a hole in both of them. I also recall a massive pile of orphaned luggage sitting in the corner of the terminal. As you can imagine, people were irate! Thankfully, I’ve become a light packer and only had one small roller suitcase that complies with in-flight regulations (see London lesson #1).

The Arrival

I got into Rome around 23:30. By the time I arrived at Termini station in the center of Rome it was a little after 24:00. Italy lesson #1: book an afternoon flight, but not so late that you arrive to your destination after midnight. Given that I really didn’t know Michael, I didn’t want to call him until the morning. I thought a hostel would suffice for the few hours I needed to burn. Problem was that all hotels and hostels were closed when I arrived. I had 8 hours to burn in the middle of the night/early morning with nothing to do. It was pitch dark, not a single thing was open and homeless, whores and drunks were everywhere. For the next 5 hours I walked around, trying to stay awake and look badass so no monkeys would bother me.

At 5:30 the Termini station and one café opened. This gave me a place to eat and rest for a few hours before calling Michael. I must have been very tired because woke up twice to a security guard banging on the café table. This is the closest that I’ve been to being a bum.

I got a hold of Michael and we made plans to meet one block from his house. I took a 10 minute bus from Termini to Michael’s apartment. The buses in Rome and no place for germaphobes or claustrophobes. I could barley fit into the bus, yet people continued to pack in. Forget the concept of personal space. Most people looked and smelled awful. On the bus, I recall riding past many historical monuments, finding it very difficult to grasp the history. It was so breathtaking that I felt like I was on a movie set, not in a real city.

The People

The people are a bit crazy. You see a lot of crazy people everywhere. Seriously, people that would get locked up in other counties are free the wonder the city. Like me, you might expect most people to be fashionable in Rome. The reality is that people are either dressed in high-end fashion from head to toe or no fashion. There is not much of a middle ground.

People say that when you leave Rome you enter Italy. It’s true…Romans have a very different vibe than the rest of Italy…it’s not a good thing. Michael and I took the train through Florence and Tuscany to Milan for a day trip. The difference in personality and appearance became immediately evident.

One thing that is the same all over Italy is how the men go completely overboard with the eyebrow waxing/trimming in Italy. I’ve never seen such hideous eyebrows.

I was entertained throughout the trip because of Michael and his cast of friends. I met Romans, Austrians, Americans, Irish, Dutch and a real Lady from England. She’s 22 and a friend of Michaels. Her father was knighted in England, making her a Lady. She does some “secret” work for the Italian government and has her own driver that takes her all around.

The City

The cities number of things to see make it impossible to see everything in one visit. The city has over 900 churches alone. Thankfully, I was able to experience Rome more like a local because of Michael. I owe him – big.

The list includes: Tiber River, Colosseum, Spanish Steps, Castel Sant Angelo, Pantheon, St. Peters, Roman Forum, Pizza Novona (Neptune Fountain), Museum Capitolini, Piazza San Pietro (St. Peter Basilica square area) and the Sistine Chapel where some of Michelanglos finest works are held (Last Judgment, Original Sin and Creating of Sun & Moon). I was in complete awe.

Rome has very few trash cans on the street which encourages people to toss garbage on the street (which is exactly what they do). Dirty birds!

Taxi oddness – Rome has a massive shortage of Taxis. In order to get a taxi, you have to call the cab company directly or go to designed cab stations that are nearly impossible to find. You can’t flag them down as they’re driving. They simply won’t stop for you. This is especially fun at 06:00 when you get out of a disco after dancing for 5 hours and need to go directly to your train heading back to Rome ;).

The Nightlife

We went out in both Rome and Milan. Shockingly, the nightlife in Rome is amazing. Muccassassina, one of the venues in Rome was one of the best that I’ve been to. It is located on the site of an closed 3 story industrial complex. Each massive floor had a different type of music which invites a very fun, diverse crowd.

Disco Billy’s, the venue we went to in Milan was equally huge, but was spread out one massive floor. To give you an idea of the size, the club capacity is over 2,000 people.

Both discos were absolutely packed with people because of special events that were going on at both clubs. Talk about good luck. Email me if you want the details, photos and some video clips.


One word – amazing.
Olive Ascolane – Marinated olives friend into a crispy shell.
Suppli Tomato sauce,rice and fresh mozzarella friend into a crispy shell.
Tiramisu – The best I had in my life.
Fresh OJ – Fresh orange juice made from blood oranges. Orgasmic.
Crepes – perfectly browned crepes filled with nutella. Need I say more?
Pizza – Fresh, natural ingredients on super thin crust. I could not get enough of this stuff.
Gelato – Again, the best I’ve had in my life. It’s so creamy, yet only uses Milk making it a healthier alternative to custard.
Sun dried tomatoes – I ate so many that I got a stomach ach.

One of my favorite food experiences had to have been when I was sitting in the bistro of an internationally known 5 star hotel sipping an espresso and eating assorted deserts with Michael, his friend from NYC and another friend of his who happen to be the hotel manager. All free! She was a really interesting person and we had a great conversation. A commercial was being filmed in the extravagant restaurant. It’s these types of connections that make a good trip a great trip.

Heading Home

I passed the same historical monuments I saw heading into Rome on the bus heading back to Termini. This time, I had a better appreciation of the history and beauty of Rome. I left the movie set and found myself feeling like I was entering Rome for the first time.

Rome has spoken; the case is closed. - Augustine

Random Observations

  1. The Dialing Game: Figuring out how to use my international phone card has become a fun and interesting adventure in each new city. Before each trip, I need to call customer service to get the local access code. When using the card, I need to make sure I use the proper country code, pin number, dialing number and some areas require the local area code. Of course, you never know if you need the local area code until you try and hear a error message that you can’t understand due to it being in a foreign language. Awe, what great fun!
  2. Similar to the U.S, most of the smaller convenience type stores are run by Arabs.
  3. Either I will adapt and my blood will change or locals will think I'm crazy once it starts to cool down. Today it was a bit cooler. It was 70 during the day and I'm writing this at 2:00 A.M and it's still 68 degrees. Anyway, people were walking around the street tonight in clothes that I might consider wearing on a mild Wisconsin winter day.
  4. Super skinny sideburns are very much ''in'' here.
  5. On every flight that I've been on, people have clapped when the plane laned safely. Is this a normal? I find it a bit odd.

Quick Barcelona Fact

The route between Barcelona and Madrid has topped the list of ‘world’s busiest routes’, edging up from second place this time last year. It knocks the Brazilian route between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro off the top spot, based on the number of flights operating per week.

Rounding out the five busiest routes were the following city pairs: Melbourne-Sydney (Australia), Jakarta-Surabaya (Indonesia) and Honolulu-Kahului (Hawaii). No other U.S. routes made OAG’s top ten list. Source

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Rome Update

Rome is amazing (and a bit crazy). Its very difficult to grasp all that you see and photos simply do not do justice. Mike & I took the train to Milan yesterday and went out to the disco at night. The train took us through the hills of Tuscany & Florance. I have been taking lots of photos and will update shortly after I am back and rested.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Barcelona Food

The Catalans obsession with food is extremely evident. For the size and population of the city, it has an amazingly low number of “fast food” restaurants. The idea of food as an experience is embraced by the locals. You can find everything from traditional Catalan dishes to the "food forward" cuisine from internationally renowned chefs.

Eating and drinking at outside cafes is very popular year round. It’s not unusual for people to stay at their table for HOURS after they’re done eating. This can get very frustrating as it causes many of the restaurants & cafes to be constantly full.

Grocery Store

Going to the grocery store is an experience in itself. I like to buy one or two new things each time I go. Sometimes I hit a home run and buy it again and sometime I strike out. As I’ve discussed in earlier posts, the food at many grocery stores is extremely inexpensive, yet very good. Frankly, I get very overwhelmed by the number of seafood choices and I don’t have any idea how I would begin to cook some of the seafood that is available.


I start most mornings with a cafe con leche which is 50% coffee and 50% milk (skim). If I’m out early and need a boost I typically order a cafe cortado which is mostly espresso with a touch of milk.

Tortilla de patatas (eggs, potatoes & onion) has become an obsession of mine. They’re found pretty much everywhere and I eat this dish a lot (with ketchup)!

I also found an amazing cereal that includes an unbelievable amount of dried fruit. I eat this if I’m not in the mood for tortilla de patatas. I’ve gone thought a lot of boxes already. See the photo below. Amazing!

Lunch (between 2pm - 5pm) & Dinner (10pm-12pm)

I was a bit concerned prior to arriving that I would not adjust to the Spanish eating schedule. I was happy to learn that it’s very easy to find snacks throughout the day. Tapas anyone?

Most restaurants feature a menu del dia, which is a set-price meal usually consisting of three courses, with a drink thrown in. This is often your best deal, costing between 6-10 Euro.

Pork is the most popular meat in Barcelona. Jamón serrano which is a leg of ham cured and then hung out to dry a common sight in stores and restaurants. The Spanish also love bacon, longanissa, and chorizo. Steak can easily be found, but it tends to be expensive. Chicken is priced similar to the U.S.


Beer - The largest brewery in Spain is Estrella Damm. They’re extremely good and very inexpensive. I’m drinking one as I write this.

Cava – A sparkling wine that is very similar to Champagne. Many think it’s better than Champagne. I still need to try it.

Wine – Very good and ridiculously inexpensive. Nuff said.

Fresh Juices – It’s very easy to find freshly squeezed 100% juices (Orange, Strawberry, Mango, Kiwi, Coconut, etc). They’re a flavor explosion and cost only 1 Euro. I’ve enjoyed the Kiwi and coconut/mango blend. Words can not descrive the flavor. I’ve seen them being made and the amount of fruit needed to make just one serving is crazy.

Barcelona defiantly has my taste buds hooked. Click here for all the food related photos.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Bye Bye Beach - For Now

Jose & I got on our bicycles and headed towards the Mediterranean. The route was amazing. We started on Gran Via, a very popular street where there’s a lot of high-end shopping. Grand Via lead us through the breathtaking Passeig Lluis Companys. I remember looking up in awe while sailing under the Arc De Triomf as we flew past hundreds of people walking by. The sun was shining and the palm trees slightly swaying from the light costal breeze. The Passeig lead to the entrance of the giant Parc De Cascada . We explored the Parc for 20 minutes, enjoying the people, sights and warm sun. Initally, going to the beach in the middle of October felt so strange. Being at the beach felt so good.

The surfers were out in full force banging away at the huge waves. I gave in and decided to enjoy a massage from one of the many Thai women offering their services at a rate of 5 euros per 10 minutes. It was simply amazing.

Yesterday was probably the last beach day for the summer of 2006. Damn, I’ll miss it. Still, I’m very happy that I got a taste of the summer life here in BCN…I’m hungry for more.

It will be very interesting to see what I’m doing six months from now.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Parc de Joan Miro - Barcelona Spain

A 5 minute walk from my house, the Parc de Joan Miro is housed where an old 19th century slaughterhouse was located. It's constructed on two levels; the lower is devoted to palms, pines and eucalyptus trees. The upper level is paved and houses the amazing 1983 sculpture "Dona i Ocell (Woman & Bird) by Catalan artist Joan Miró. It sits in the middle of a pool and is covered with amazing glazed tiles.

All of the photos can be found here.

Look for my next post shortly (food in BCN).

Friday, October 13, 2006

Quick Update

Quick Update

I've been very busy the past few days. I went to a birthday party on Sunday, met a lot of very nice people, ate some amazing Peruvian food and had a really great time. Photos to come soon…

Barcelona hosted Europe's HUGE International Erotic Film Festival. I did not go but I wish that I would have after hearing what some friends said about it. Apparently, it was totally and utterly crazy. Live shows, product demos, various sex “classes”, photo ops, etc. I think that I would have pissed my pants. It could have been worth it just for the shock value alone (not to mention the photos, which were allowed).

Montjuïc Photos

Above is a photo taken from Montjuïc. Montjuïc is a very large hill located near the center of Barcelona. It has some of the best views of Barcelona and features a lot of popular sights including the Modern Art Museum, Palau National, the Olympic Ring (where the 1992 Olympics were held) many beautiful gardens, Castle de Montjuïc (which was built in the 18th century) along with many more.

All of the photos can be viewed here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Barcelona Apartment Video

I've already posted a few photos, but the video below will give you a better idea of my apartment in Barcelona. The balcony is my favorite! I spend a lot of time relaxing, thinking and reflecting on that balcony.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Mullet Mondays

This follicle phenomenon is straight out of the 80s', as is his t-shirt and sun glasses....not that there is anything wrong with that. I believe this mullet would fall into the "rock star" category. Party on, Wayne. Party on, Garth. Clearly, I'm not worthy. For those of you that have no clue what I'm talking about, there is always google. Happy Monday, friends! ;)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Parc de la Ciutadella & La Cascada Arch

I don't know how the explain the Cascada arch in the Parc De Cascada. It's loco!. I continued to be amazed by the beauty in Barcelona. The park is a perfect place to relax, play freesbie, grill out or people watch. My flickr page has more photos. Below is some additional history compliments to http://www.aviewoncities.com/.

In 1714, after a 13 month long siege, Barcelona fell to the army of Philips V during the war of the Spanish Succession. In order to keep firm control over Barcelona, King Philips V built the largest fortress in Europe, a star-shaped citadel or 'Ciutadella'. A large part of the the Ribera district was demolished for this fortress. Only 30 years later was the neighborhood rebuilt at another location as the 'Barceloneta'. Besides museums, the 74acre large park is home to the Parc Zoologic, the Barcelona Zoo. The most famous of its 7000 animals was the albino gorilla, 'Floret de Neu'. Unfortunately, he died in 2004.The park also features a small lake, a popular spot where you can hire a rowing boat.There are several statues in the park, the ones that stands out most are a large stone mammoth.

At the northern corner of the park is the Cascada, a triumphal arch with waterfall and fountain built for the 1888 Universal exhibition. The baroque construction designed by Josep Fontsère, responsible for the conversion of the citadel site into a park, took six years to complete. The design was loosely based on the Trevi Fountain in Rome. The architect was assisted by Antoni Gaudí, at the time still a student.

Passeig Lluis Company & Arc de Triomf

I intentionally found the Passeig Lluis Comapany while I was coming out of the Parc de le Cascada. Many people have commented on how nice the photos I've taken are. Believe me when I say that the photos do not do them any justice. Seeing them in person would raise the hair's on your arm. The full photo set can be viewed on flicker. History is below.

The design by Josep Vilaseca i Casanovas stands out from other well-known arches - in particular the Arc de Triomphe in Paris - by its Coat of armscolorful brickwork in mudéjar style, a style which has its origins in Moorish architecture. The arch is decorated with stone carvings. The front frieze by Josep Reynés shows the city of Barcelona welcoming visitors. The other side, designed by Josep Llimona shows a prize-giving ceremony. The crown of the arch is adorned with a stone carving of the Coat of Arms of Barcelona. Statue on the Arc de TriomfAll the other Spanish provinces are represented as well on either side of the crown. The arc is also adorned with twelve statues of women, symbolizing fame.

The avenue is dedicated to the memory of Lluís Companys, President of the Generalitat de Catalunya between 1933 and 1939, who was executed by the Franco regime in the trenches of Montjuïc castle.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Rome - The Eternal City

It's official - I'm going to Rome! I booked my flight to Rome, along with a 2nd trip to London.

Rome: October 18th-24th (yes, in two weeks)
London: November 16th - 22nd

Getting there is basically free. My round-trip flight to Rome set me back a total of $25.00, including fees & taxes. London will be $75. I will be in Rome for 5 days, so I hope to enjoy most of what Rome has to offer. Below is currently on my agenda. Please let me know if you have anything you think I should add, remove or substitute.

  • St. Peters Basilica
  • Colosseum
  • Fontana dei Fiumi (Piazza di Trevi)
  • Pantheon (Piazza della Rotonda)
  • Forum Romanum (Coliseum nearby)
  • Galleria Borguhese (Villa Borguese Park)
  • Piazza Novona (according to many, it's the most beautiful square in the world)
  • Botanical Gardens (Lungotevere Farnesina)
I've read that I need to eat cene (italian for dinner) at Dar Poeta and Ditirambo. Finally, I did some research on some discos (clubs) and found that Rome has a surprisingly good nightlife. I'm very excited. I'll make sure to take a lot of photos.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

London Photos

London Photos

Mullet Monday

I saw this magnificent mullet on the metro on my way home from the beach (P.S it's 78 degrees today and was 75 yesterday...beach anyone?). She didn't catch me, but another person saw me take the photo and started to laugh. Enjoy!

Parc Recerca Biomédica

Here is a slideshow of some photos of the amazing medical research center located on the seafront by the Barceloneta beach. The building project was carried out by a team of two prestigious architects: Manel Brullet and Albert de Pineda. It's simply amazing.