Friday, November 11, 2011

Our European Honeymoon, Part 3: Barcelona With A London Epilogue!

Well, after spending the first part of our honeymoon in London and the second part in Paris, I learned 3 very important travel lessons:
  1. Do NOT overpack. Ignore the temptation to cram more suit jackets, shoes, and hats into your suitcases than necessary. In fact, skip the hats altogether.
  2. Do NOT create a trip itinerary that will be impossible to follow. It's okay to skip a museum, site, or restaurant. In fact, try for only one major site a day and enjoy the rest of the day just walking around or sitting at a cafe.
  3. And, the most important lesson of all: AVOID FLYING EASYJET for travel within Europe. Take a train instead!
Things had gone very well in Paris and we arrived at the airport ready to check in to our flight for Barcelona. We had things under control and our luggage packed just right: 2 LARGE suitcases, TWO carry-on pieces of luggage, 1 new piece of luggage for checking in, Irene's purse, and a hat box -- yeah, I know. All was well, though, since I had pre-paid for 2 bags and was prepared to pay a little extra for the new piece of luggage we had. Then, we noticed people at some of the EasyJet check-in kiosks struggling to re-arrange their own luggage. Poor saps... probably amateur travelers who hadn't packed their luggage right.

Well, we became those same saps shortly afterward. The horrible, blonde attendant who was 'helping' us, engaged in a back and forth with me that consisted of these lines:
  1. HER: So, how many bags are you checking in?
  2. ME: Three bags.
  3. HER: But you said here you were checking in only TWO bags.
  4. ME: I know, but we picked up a new one on the way. I'll pay extra for the third.
Well, it got worse. Turns out EasyJet only allows ONE carry-on item per person. So, Irene's purse... that was her carry-on. All of a sudden, we found ourselves with FIVE bags to check in! Well, there we were, shoving 2 smaller carry-ons into an already stuffed third bag. In the end, I had to pay 78 euro for this third, overstuffed bag. And this horrible attendant wasn't done... with a snide smirk, she let us know our plane was boarding and we had 10 minutes to make it. Of course, after hustling, sweating, and stressing, we made it to the gate only to find our flight was delayed an hour! Never again, EasyJet, never again...

After that horrible experience, we made it in to Barcelona and up against yet another heatwave! I thought the London heat was bad, but this felt like Greek heat! Again, we'd be spending the next few days hunting down anything short sleeved. Seriously... does Autumn weather not exist in London and Barcelona? Sheesh...

After checking in to the Hotel Continental, we spent the hot evening exploring La Rambla. LOVED IT! Great eateries, great shopping, and great bars all amidst great architecture. And wow, people out there really seem to be in love with the Vespa brand! Everywhere we looked were Vespa bags, Vespa watches, and people in Vespa t-shirts (with Mod imagery). Didn't see as many actual Vespas as I would have thought, though. Go figure.
The lone '60s Vespa we saw on our trip. Beautiful, huh?
We hit up one restaurant and had cheese, sausage meats, salads, and wine. Oh man... I could eat like this everday! After dinner, we followed up on one of the recommendations from our buddy Dean 'The Jab' Curtis of the Le Continental blog. This guy has studied long and hard to earn his degree in Barology with a minor in Pubonomics, so we knew we were in for something good: the Boadas bar.
Small, little place with bartenders in tuxedos who serve the best drinks! We had a couple of their specials, then died and went to heaven.

And by 'heaven,' I mean our hotel. See, our hotel provided a 24-hour free buffet which included FREE WINE ON TAP!!! Yes, you read that right. Rose and white wine and Spanish beers on tap, free, and available all day and all night long. So, we loaded up some cups, went back to our room, and enjoyed the Barcelona street scene from our balcony.
Oh, this old thing? That's just our awesome view from the balcony.
We spent the following day melting under the sun as we walked through the Parc Güell. I'm sure many of you already know, but, man, the surreal landscape there was something else! Sure it was tough to hike through thanks to the weather and the hordes of tourists, but it was so worth it. We made it back to La Rambla, and decided to spend the evening just digging the night-time scene again. We picked up cheeses, meats, and bread and delved in to the all-you-can-drink wine from the hotel lobby. 

The next day, we took another Fat Tire bike tour, but this time through the streets of Barcelona. In Paris, our bike tour felt romantic as we got wet from the rain. In Barcelona, our bike tour felt gross as we got wet from sweating in the heat. Still, we got to see all the beautiful Gaudi buildings, historic churches, and even the beach. By the time it was over, though, all liquids in our bodies had evaporated so we recharged at a local bar and then searched out a shop we had been hearing about: Smart and Clean.

Remember how you used to feel walking in to Toys'R'Us as a child? That's how I felt walking in to Smart and Clean. Wall-to-wall Mod-related imagery and vintage clothing that was predominantly, if not completely, Mod-related! The clothing was either used or deadstock, yes deadstock! They even had children's Mod stuff... lil' suede shoes for boys and lil' mary-jane style shoes for girls. We couldn't believe what we had walked in to.

Unfortunately, that darn Barcelona heat had defeated us. After a day of sweating on bikes, we felt too uncomfortable to try anything on. We were stuck in an existential hell. Cool clothes everywhere that the heat was keeping us from. But I was still on a mission... I needed short-sleeve shirts to survive this climate. And what did I find at Smart and Clean?

Yup, a whole wall of Britac shirts! I think I felt the Big Man Upstairs wink down at me. After going through the many patterned shirts, I finally picked up a couple and sadly looked upon the rest of their stock, swearing to return some day. Guys, I've never seen a vintage shop like this. These days in the Bay Area, we're stuck with a vintage market where 1980s clothing now dominate the clothing racks. There are a couple of shops that stay away from the '80s look, but even those shops stock only about 20% 1960s stuff with the rest concentrating on 1920s-1950s. Smart and Clean somehow have managed to buck all of that and provide you with 1960s-1970s goodness! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Our final night in Barcelona was spent on a Lonely Planet 'Modernisme Walking Tour' (thank you, Karen!). We saw more of those great visually-stunning buildings and ended with the Casa Batlló and La Pedrera. Oh, you've seen photos of these places countless times... so how about a couple more?

On our final evening in Barcelona, we hooked up with our contact, Jane (thanks to Gabriela!), who showed us a part of La Rambla we had missed out on previously. We sat out enjoying the warm night in a town square, drinking and talking all night long. Her daughter was with us coloring and laughing and her friend joined us later in the evening. A great way to end our stay and only left us wanting to come back soon.

We ended our 2-week honeymoon with a short return to London. We arrived at our hotel, the Mad Hatter, and breathed a huge sigh of relief when we saw their elevator. That evening we met up with our American friend Syd to check out a night of live bossa nova. We were looking forward to mellowing out, having some drinks, and digging on those smooth, soft sounds.

Well, turned out it was at a Brazilian dance club! Meaning, the DJ was blasting these crazy dance beats LOUD. I will tell you, though, this DJ was good. I'm not super tuned in to the Brazilian dance scene, but this music was pretty infectious. In fact, all around us people would spontaneously burst in to dance! Whether they were sitting, waiting for the restroom, or just having a conversation, every so often they'd just start dancing on the spot.

Then, the woman we came to see jumped onstage and, again, we expected those soft bossa nova sounds. Well, this woman (the name escapes me at the moment) rocked it! She was blasting her voice out and the sound coming out of her sparse band was thumping! The whole crowd was dancing, including the DJ and bartenders ON THE BAR. Unfortunately, the music became a bit too thumping for us, so we left and walked back through the London streets with Syd laying down some local history on us.

On our final day in London, we took a nice tour of the Tower of London (which I loved) followed by a sightseeing bus tour ride throughout the entire city.  This was just what we needed after 2 weeks of action. We just sat there learning about Hyde Park, Paddington Station, Big Ben, and the London Eye. Once it was all over, we headed back to our hotel.
Full tourist-mode at the Tower of London.
Our honeymoon ended on a nice note that made us feel that, yup, all was right with the world. As we ate our final meal at the Mad Hatter pub in our hotel, The Mohawks' "The Champ" burst out through the pub's speakers.

We looked at each other and smiled. And grooved in our seats.

London, Paris, and Barcelona... yes, they're all they're cracked up to be!


  1. Thanks for the shout out! And wasn't the London sightseeing bus awesome? I know it's not exactly the Lonely Planet way to travel, really, but it was a perfect way to get around.

    Now let's hang out in your hometown!

  2. I'm enjoying catching up with your blog after my vacation. So glad you got to visit Boadas in Barcelona! And the "cocktail del dia" specials are the way to go! Somewhere I have a book of Barcelona called "City In Space" (where I heard of Boadas) and it gives a bit of history about the bar. In short, Miguel Boadas, head barman at the famous El Floridita in Havana, opened Boadas in 1933, bringing over scores of unique Cuban cocktail recipes with him. Now his daughter Dolores Boadas runs the bar.

    I have to make a note of your hotel. 24-hour wine and food buffet! And I never had a bad glass of wine in Spain.

    Thank you for the mention of my blog!