YouTube Channel:


Monday, April 18, 2011


Barcelona is super different from Madrid.

1. Very touristy.

2. Everyone speaks English to me, even if their English is worse than my Spanish, because they think I don't speak Spanish.

3. Less bureaucracy.

Thursday evening, took the AVE (high speed train) from Madrid to Barcelona. Checked into HelloBCN Hostel, and stayed with five girls who were studying in Bath, England. One was from Lexington, another from St. Mikes, and a third was from Gettysburg and knew Katherine Kreek and David Tekle. Small world, no?

First of all, I LOVE going on trips by myself. Every time I travel alone, I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. If something is lacking, I always end up finding cool people in the hostel to talk to or walk around with. Not that I don't like traveling with friends, but weekend trips always need to consist of so much in so little time, and sometimes other people can be pretty heavy baggage (definitely not always though), and really mess up my plans. Plans definitely including training.

Friday morning, I got up early, found a pool and swam, lifted, and walked around Barcelona for a long, long while. Apparently in Barcelona, women swim laps topless. This made me also want to swim laps topless, but I was already topless...funny how that works.

For lunch on Friday, I went to the local food market, called the Boqueria. First thing I bought was a glass of coconut puree. Recovery me a river. Other things I bought and ate:

Half kilo of strawberries
Good amount of Calamari (SO good)
Kiwi puree
Coconut and Pineapple puree
Coconut and Banana puree

The seafood part of the market was unreal. I wish I had the appetite of a bear (or two bears), and a nice kitchen to cook all of the fish I saw. This guy especially:

Of course after the Boqueria, I had to see Gaudi's houses, and the Sagrada Familia. Even for someone who is pretty sick of cathedrals, this is one of the coolest buildings I've ever seen:

Saturday morning, I went riding in the hills of Cataluña with a guy named Pau. He had a super friendly dog named Chicho, and a bunch of Arabs. I rode a Spanish horse name Xiarello:
He was pretty strong, and liked the throw his head in the air, but that wasn't a big deal. He knew where he was going and didn't buck, so that was good. Really quick turnover, but didn't go that fast. Nothing like Shorty...kind of weird to not have to worry about being killed for just "letting a horse go."

We passed a 900 year old Roman church as well, which was pretty sweet:

Saturday afternoon, I took a two hour commuter train back to Barcelona, and then a 90 minute train to Girona to see Esperanza Spalding:

She won the grammy for best new surprise there. She's honestly one of the best musicians performing today. I had always been cool with big band, but about a year ago I got into jazz here and there. I heard about Ms. Spalding on NPR, and...bought all of her albums. I listen to a ridiculous variety of music, and I can listen to all of her songs without wanting to switch it up. That's pretty uncommon for me.

Sunday morning, I found a covered longcourse pool and got some great kick sets in. My kick is really what I need to work on, and it's actually coming along. Flew back sunday evening after buying an overly european shirt.

On the way to the airport, I saw a sign on the side of the highway that said "Tiempo es Money." Someone from Madrid wouldn't understand this. Barcelona has so much foreign investment because of tourism that the dysfunctional Spanish mentality is partially swept under the rug. People in Cataluña seem to have been able to take the bowie knife out of their pocket and cut themselves our of their red-tape cocoons.

Paris/Normandy/Versailles, and a good amount of life commentary.

France is a nice place. Things to note:

French kids seem to really like scooters. Three-wheeled scooters too.

The food in Paris is amazing, even though it's ridiculous expensive. I ate way too many crepes and chocolate croissants. Literally, anywhere you go to eat will have good food...I guess that's why French food has been declared world heritage. Even simple baguette sandwiches are unreal...why can't food in the United States be like this? I guess we value our dollar more than our health.

Beggars: I'm done getting duped. Occasionally I would give a euro to the guy with one leg, or the woman who was really good at playing the violin, but if I were to give a euro to everyone who deserved it, I wouldn't have any money left. I guess I can still give up what I have to make other people happy, but I had two experiences that really put me off.

1: Deaf girl walks up to me outside the eiffel tower, and makes me write my name on some petition sheet, and sign so that I'll give her money. Was she really deaf? No idea. When I gave her two euros, she shook her head no, pointed to some text that said "min 10 euros," and wrote 10E in the "how much will you donate box" next to my name. I informed her that I was not going to give her 10 euros, and walked away.

2. Man from Senegal walks up to me outside Montmartre. He was good. I'm so peeved that I fell for this: he shakes my hand, asks where I'm from. Holds onto my hand, and ties a shitty bracelet around it, and asks for money. I gave him a euro when he asked for ten, and told him to buzz off.

Gretchen Powers has informed me that I talk to much about fashion here in this's what's apparent's what jumps out.

France is very old-money. They seem to dress well because they think highly of themselves, not because they want other people to think well of them. They're proud to be French, and it shows. I think I'm okay with this. Opposite of Madrid. A lot fewer high-heels. Very interesting.


Took the train to Bayeux from Saint Lazare. Bayeux is a great little town. It's where the Bayeux tapestry is kept. The aforementioned "tapestry" is a 224 ft. cloth depicting the Norman conquest of England.

Took a tour of Pointe du Hoc, where the rangers scaled the cliffs. The bomb craters were incredible...small I guess for today's standards, but interesting nonetheless.

This is the Pointe du Hoc Monument:
It represents a dagger sticking out of a German bunker:

Omaha beach was long and flat. It just goes on forever.

The American Cemetery was breathtaking. 9,387 graves. Found this grave which was rather heavy:
Reminds me that had I been born 65 years ago, my name could have been on one of these crosses:

Before leaving the cemetery, got to see the flag being lowered. Really powerful stuff. Cried a few times throughout the visit. As much as I'm against the current attitude of the U.S. military, I'm extremely patriotic, and I love my country. I have the utmost respect for the 18 year old men that gave their lives for a cause across an ocean, just to make our world a better, freer place. Even with the state of corruption in our government from 2001-2009, being in Europe really makes me appreciate all that we stand for. I wish everyone could see the difference between real patriotism and blindly supporting the republican party because they like fighting wars that don't make any sort of sense.

Here's the "Spirit of the American Youth Rising from the Waves:" Probably my favorite part of the cemetery:

Normandy has pretty significant tides. It's at 49N latitude, which is roughly equivalent to Newfoundland, but the Gulf Stream warms it up.

Saturday night in the hostel, which was a lot nicer than the thursday night hostel, I met a woman named Lucinda from Argentina, who was working in Spain, and a guy named Alfredo from Peru, who was studying for his MBA is The Netherlands. Together, we headed to Versailles, and spoke Spanish the whole day in France. Even though I can communicate in French, I much prefer Spanish, perhaps because I'm better at it, but all things considered it just makes a lot more sense in the random mess of pure-logic that is my mind.

Versailles was pretty cool...the gardens were my favorite. Lucinda's camera took panoramic photos, and she let me steal her memory card for 30 seconds, because the camera that I have with me right now is pretty bad.

After Versailles, on the walk back to the train station, I stumbled upon a car show. Lotuses, Aston Martins, old Mustangs...all of the cars I would buy if I had a good amount of excess money. In all honesty, if I ever feel the need to buy a nice car that isn't useful at all, it's going to be a Lotus. I'll be that guy who drives an ancient volvo station wagon, has long ratty hair and wears cut off jeans, but has a Lotus in his garage. It'll come after a paid-off mortgage, a nice boat, a few dozen windsurfing sails, and a nice horse though. Spending a lot of money on things I really don't need/depreciating assets isn't something I'm into. Shoes aren't expensive ITLR, and they last a really long time if you rotate them often enough. I think I'm into things that either have zero resale value, or really good resale value. Food, food, shoes, stocks, land etc. even though I don't have any land. Generally people who throw money at things aren't happy with their riches, because there's something else missing in their life. I want to always be able to enjoy one week per year kayaking in Canada as opposed to a nice car. Even though the two aren't nearly comparable in price, the former is infinitely better. Okay, this is a HUGE tangent, but I'm going to keep going with it, because this is what this blog really is... In 25 years, my kid should never point to something extravagant that I spent money on in my youth, and say, "but you wasted money on this," in response to me saying that I couldn't spend money on something else that would better him/her, such as fencing camp, a better horse, COLLEGE, etc. Saving for the future is a good thing. All of this is in my mind right now, because so many people in Madrid live by the phrase, "Bread today, hunger tomorrow," meaning that they spend all of their salaries on stupid things, and just make it to the next month. I swear they all want to bounce their last check as they fall into their graves. The Nouveau Riche concept, and not thinking about the future is part of the reason we're in this economic's why I put it down so often.

It's been a while...general update. Granada first.

So since London, a lot has happened. Granada, Paris, lots of Madrid, Barcelona, some Tenerife, and commentary on Spain are to come.


3/25-3/27, IES took a trip to Granada. I hate being that guy, but I was the last one on the bus. Woke up at 7:27 for a 7:30 bus, ran out to Angel who gave me five minutes, packed everything, and sat down to keep sleeping on the bus. Amazingly, I didn't forget anything except my memory card, but I bought a cheap 16 Gig one when we got there. In Granada, got some good handstand pics, found a pool to go swimming at, visited the Alhambra, went to the arab baths...good stuff. At the Arab baths, everyone got massages with olive oil, which was pretty legit, but I couldn't get the damn oil off of my skin. It's not really a bad thing to have on your skin, but it's really...oily.

Granada is a much chiller city than Madrid. It's quite a bit smaller, and the people are nicer. The guy who sold me the memory card told me I spoke with a good accent.

It's too bad I'm writing this so after the fact...when I update the blog right afterwards it's always a ton better.