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September 3rd 2009
Published: September 30th 2017
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Roast chicken (breast), and some dry, hard fries. The chicken was very dry, and I didn't even think to ask for dark meat instead of white. The OJ was good, but my meal was typical crappy cafeteria food. The problem was that I looked at the other offerings - pasta, roasted veggies, grilled sausages ... they all looked good, so when I caught a glimpse of roast chicken, I figured it would also be good. Wrong! At least I received a healthy dose of protein, something which has been lacking in my diet the past couple of days, and something which I realized I really needed, after I devoured such crappy chicken so quickly.
Geo: 41.6167, 1.85

Today is a milestone for me - it's my birthday, and though over recent years I've had the chance to celebrate it in Portugal, Croatia, and Estonia, this is my first ever celebration in Barcelona. Originally, I didn't even think I'd be in Europe at all this summer, let alone for my birthday - but when the stars aligned, I made sure I'd be in Barcelona for it.

Truthfully, I've never really cared about my birthday, as it's just like any other day. I never care to make a big deal of it, and when I planned to be here on this day, I had no hope other than to simply be in Barcelona. Turning another year older in the country I love is the best birthday gift I could receive, and I need nothing more. Perhaps I'd feel differently if my friends were here to celebrate with me, but even then, a low-key dinner is all that I could ever want or hope for.

They play a lot of reggae in the hostel - I'm starting to dig it a little, though I've never previously been a fan. Reggae seems pretty fitting for the chill vibe at the
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The cool, refreshing air of Montserrat. Montserrat actually means serrated mountain, which you can see in this photo why it was so named.
hostel, and the sense of camaraderie they encourage. It reminded me of a time in Italy, where I first got into Jack Johnson because of a beautiful terrace overlooking the ocean (see blog entry entitled "Embarrassment - outsmarted by a dog!" http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/pwong/europe_2006/1157816040/tpod.html )

The owners try and foster a sense of +family, and want their guests to be comfortable. It's a little cliche, but paying for beer, water, and pop is on the honour system, where you drop your money into a tiny little locked box, one that anybody could pocket and walk off with. It would seem lame at a lot of places, but here, it seems to work. I like it here because it's a hostel that is greater than the sum of its parts, and attracts a certain type of person that I click with (last night's Chaco girl, being the exception ...) It's a small gesture, but the fact that the staff makes the effort to learn and address you by name does mean something. It's more than I can say for myself, because I don't think I remember anybody else's name from last night's walk, other than Emma and Katsiaryna.

At breakfast, I received some really
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Shot of the cable car.
good news - Emma was originally leaving Barcelona this morning, but decided to stay an extra night. Yaaaaayyyy!!! But unfortunately, she had to change rooms. Boooooooooooooo!!!!! On her way out for the day, she asked if anybody wanted to head to the beach - having already decided on a day trip to Montserrat, I declined, though after she walked out the door, a voice inside my head scolded me "You fool! Why didn't you say yes???" Luckily, I had enough sense to say "What are you doing tonight?" just before she walked out. "Nothing. How about we go for tapas?" Tapas was a great idea, though even if she had suggested something boring like knitting, I still would've been down with that 😊

Off to the station, where I bought my ticket for Montserrat, having to decide which company to go with - there are two options to get to the top from the Montserrat train station, another little train and a cable car. It's necessary to decide when you buy your ticket at the Barcelona train station.

I popped in my iPod - I actually haven't listened to much music this time around, compared to other trips. I've usually got
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The plaza in front of the monastery.
music playing when I'm on public transport, walking around town, or walking around sights and museums. But while in Spain, I'd rather not listen to music all day long, and instead listen to Spanish being spoken, and not in the creepy senorita-obsessed way I normally listen to it, but in a "I love learning this language" kinda way.

On the train, we passed an Atlas-Copco manufacturing facility, a company that manufactures air compressor packages for the oil and gas industry back in Calgary. Maybe I can work here!!!! It's in a tiny little town, but only a short commute from Barcelona. Food for thought ... there was also some really nice scenery on the ride out to Montserrat.

Off the train and up the funicular - yes!!! Lower temps, and fresher air ... much needed! I was starving, the first thing to do was grab lunch at the cafeteria - kinda crappy. Off to the basilica, to see the statue of the Black Virgin - the line was long, taking over an hour to get to her. There were a couple of extremely annoying older Italian ladies behind me in line, pushing up against me every time the line moved
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Cool wall with even cooler views, on the edge of the plaza.
into a new room, because they were so impatient.

Once inside a room, it would still take a good 5 minutes to get to the next room, so what's the rush to get in there? You're stuck looking at the same thing for 5 minutes! And there was never much of anything going on in the rooms! They became increasingly impatient at the wait, and funnily, ended up leaving in a huff after having waited close to an hour, even though we were only 5-10 minutes from the statue. I laughed and smiled on the inside 😊

After seeing the black virgin, and touring around the rest of the basilica I felt ill, and hydrated with a litre of bad OJ, and snacked on some crappy nut/rice cracker mix, which probably nullified the hydration by the OJ, because of the excessive sodium. Montserrat has a couple of funiculars, the Sant Joan and the Santa Cova ones. I first took the Sant Joan, where you can hike up to a monastery. Partway up the hike, I felt really ill again and wanted to pass out. I ended up just sitting around for a while in the shade, trying to regain my senses.
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The Black Virgin was once venerated as being something miraculous, because it grew darker over time. Unfortunately, my friends have never venerated me as I've grown darker over the years, they've only grown more and more disturbed at the sight of my darkness. I suspect they may even call me the "Black Chino" behind my back ... People later found out the Black Virgin grew darker because of candle soot, so she was actually just very dirty. However, they eventually just painted her black, since she was known as the Black Virgin. It's customary that people visiting her touch the orb in her right hand. Is it wrong that so many people are grabbing a virgin's orb?


Feeling a bit better, I thought I'd try the Santa Cova funicular - there wasn't much time available there, as I needed to time the return funicular to catch the cable car, which I needed to time properly to catch the train back to Barcelona. Montserrat may be considered a holy site, but I had something more divine to return to in Barcelona - a beautiful Aussie girl 😊

I poked around Santa Cova and took a few pictures, but didn't have the time (nor the energy) to do the full hike. Back to the cable car - the guidebook had it wrong with the timing, and the cable car did not meet the train I expected to catch. It would be close to an hour wait for a direct train to Barcelona, but some locals suggested taking a train to Martorell, then transferring to one bound for Barcelona. Now I've always raved about the Spanish accent, but this one girl had such a strong accent, that it was almost over the top and was a bit irritating. Who knew this was possible for me?

Back to the hostel - I was looking forward to tapas all day long, because I couldn't
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These burning candles created a rainbow of colour.
wait for the chance to talk to Emma some more. Montserrat was great, but honestly, for me it was just a prelude to tonight, and felt like something I had to get through as quickly as possible in order to get to see her. Traveling can be a very transient experience, especially for backpackers, so I know it'll be nothing more than a fleeting moment that all us traveling vagabonds have.

You meet travelers from all over, and inevitably meet people you have something in common with, so you end up having a drink, grabbing a kebab, going for a walk, or whatever. You get to know them a little bit, but afterward probably never speak or see them ever again. I've been fortunate during all my travels, because I have met a handful of people that I still keep in touch with, and would try and see if I was ever in their part of the world. There's something about Emma that just makes you want to get to know her better - that's really all I'm looking forward to tonight.

She didn't appear anywhere around the hostel, so I popped down to her new room and left
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The interior of the basilica.
a note suggesting we meet at 7. I really could have used a nap, but decided a shower was a better option, since I didn't want Emma to start retching over tapas. I got ready and headed back to her floor and on the way up the stairwell, I noticed this beautiful girl standing at the hallway sink, getting ready. My first thought was "Damn, who's the new hottie?" Then she turned to me and said "hello". My second thought was "Damn!!! That's Emma!!!" After having a moment to collect myself, my third thought was "Daaaaaaaamn ... now THAT is Emma ..."

I'm usually never at a loss for words, but pretty women always have a way of turning me into a blubbering fool. Emma had straightened her hair, and was completely put together, wearing a light dress that gave her a classy 1960's vibe. I get the feeling this girl could manage to be beautiful in any era. Correction ... I know this girl could manage that. All I could muster was "Your hair ... it's different!" Smooth ... real smooth ... most guys would've been able to formulate some type of compliment, but I think my gaping mouth conveyed
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Some rather giant candles.
to Emma that I thought she looked amazing. She needed another 10 minutes to get ready, so I said I'd return in a bit.

Back down to my room - I'm a total slob while I travel, but I dressed extra nice this evening. Unfortunately, extra nice while traveling for me means wearing a button-up shirt with a collar (though it's still short-sleeved, at least it was brand new!), a less-casual pair of shorts, and a pair of flip flops. I evaluated the situation - I could put on a pair of jeans, but with Barcelona's humidity, I would smell like a men's locker room in no time. I'd still have to wear flip flops, because my sneakers are no nicer, and my sweaty feet would end up smelling like gym socks. So my plan ended up being ... opening up a sample packet of cologne that I found in the bottom of my backpack. Hey, a guy's gotta try something right? As futile as it is, I'm just trying my best to fit the part around this girl.

Back up to her room - I think Emma must be related to Superman, because I have no idea how in only
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Cool detail on the flooring of the basilica's inner courtyard.
10 minutes, she could've completed changed her look; she must've stepped into a phone booth, and stepped right out like Clark Kent does. Only three words are needed to describe what I saw - Drop Dead Gorgeous!

Standing before me in a black dress and pearl earrings, Emma had this refined, graceful elegance that honestly, I never even knew existed. Film historians talk of the golden age of cinema, with stars such as Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo being considered the most beautiful and elegant of that era. Coming from a completely different time, I never understood what it was that was supposedly so beautiful about them - it wasn't something I could comprehend.

Well, Emma looked like she stepped directly out of the silver screen, from a movie like Casablanca, which was fitting, since she's soon off to Morocco. I finally understood what was considered beautiful about women from that period - classic, timeless, and stunning ... it's something from a bygone era, and something you just don't see any more. It's quite funny, because after seeing her the first night in Barcelona, you think the girl can't be any more gorgeous, then I saw her in the hallway earlier
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Room where people leave behind offerings - the wax body parts are left by people with ailments. If someone has a broken hand, they'll leave a hand, etc., hoping the Black Virgin will cure them. Perhaps I should've left behind a wax foot, and my traveler's feet will be cured, once and for all: http://www.travelpod.com/travel-photo/pwong/euro-2007/1188080640/dsc08177.jpg/tpod.html
and thought the same thing, and now she managed to top it all!

On the way out, Pablo's jaw dropped as Emma walked by, and I commented "Ella es muy guapa esta noche, no?" ("She's very beautiful this evening, no?"😉 The blank look on his face and slow nodding indicated that he was in agreement. Ok, enough about the beautiful girl (for now ... ) - off to Inopia, for some tapas!

Inopia has a degree of fame, simply because it's run by the brother of Spain's most famous chef, Ferran Adria. More recently, Inopia was featured on "Spain: On the road again", which has attracted tourists from all over to sample their cuisine. Before coming to Barcelona, I was super excited to have the chance to come here, though wasn't sure I would, because it would be a bit odd to be dining at a tapas bar solo. On the show, the food looked to be a modern take on some traditional Spanish tapas. Deep down, I also had the hope that some how, some way, I would see Claudia Bassols dining here ... but having showed up here with Emma, I was left wondering ... "Claudia who?"

Overall, everything
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Creepy statue.
was quite good, a few dishes amazing, a few not so amazing, but still good. Not sure if I would ever come back, but it was something I really wanted to try, and was lucky to do so, especially on my birthday. And I was especially lucky to have such great company this evening 😊

We decided to skip dessert at Inopia, and instead go for a walk and grab some gelato on La Rambla. Between the past two trips to Barcelona, I've probably walked along La Rambla close to 50 times, though most of this was during the first trip, since I've been so ill this time 😞 I've always loved La Rambla, because it probably has the best girl-watching in all of Spain, which by extension, also means that it has the best girl-watching in the world 😊

This was the first time I've ever walked this glorious strip, and did not once turn my head to look at a woman. Why would I want to, with the company I had tonight? This ended up being quite entertaining for me, because it allowed me to watch all the guys turn their heads as Emma walked by. I laughed pretty
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Up the Sant Joan funicular.
hard on the inside, because I realized what a fool I must look like when I stumble through the streets of Spain, checking out all the women. It's quite amusing that for me, Spain is all about the beautiful senoritas and Barcelona is the best of the best, but it turns out that the most beautiful senorita I meet here is actually Australian.

Funny moment walking down La Rambla ... Emma mentioned a couple of local guys were bothering her earlier today, and that she was having trouble telling them off. I told her that I didn't know the correct words to say "Buzz off!", but she could just gesture abruptly with her hands, and say "Joder!!!", which is the Spanish 'F' word. Her voice and accent made it sound more like a greeting, so I told her to bring more emphasis to the word, and practically yelled "JODER!!!" A guy walking in front of us glanced back at me, with a look of hurt that said "What have I done to you that made you say such a mean thing to me?" Smooth ... real smooth ... we laughed about it and continued on our way.

We ended up down
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Little chapel a short hike from the top of the Sant Joan funicular.
on the waterfront, which was a perfect way to end the evening and my time in Barcelona, since it was exactly where I ended up on my first night back in Barcelona. We grabbed a bench, once we found one that wasn't playing host to a passed out homeless man.

Somehow, we got on the subject of future plans. Emma's got a 10-year plan in mind, one that obviously involves much travel. Interestingly, the plan involves living a year in France, and learning French in the process. She seems to have some reservations about the fact that her plans don't really involve career aspirations of any sort, but me having already been a part of the rat race for many years, I suggested that there was nothing wrong with her dreams and plans and in fact, perhaps there was something wrong with the established idea of what a 10-year plan should be.

Purely from a conversational point of view, I'd much rather hear about plans involving travel and following dreams, than ones like "Own a big house in the suburbs and a BMW. Married with 2.3 kids and 1.5 pets. Be a manager by 35. Blah blah blah blah blah blah
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More beautiful views from Montserrat. No commentary for the next shot, I'll just let you enjoy.
blah ..." Coming to the subject of my 10-year plan, I couldn't really offer anything as grandiose as hers, only that my plan has been to simply be happy. In recent years, this has been about lots of traveling (mostly to Spain), and writing my stupid little blogs because honestly, whether anybody else cares about them or not, writing about my travel experiences always puts a smile on my face.

I also can't say that I have anything near a 10-year plan, it's become more of a one to two year plan. The last time I thought long term, I ended up buying a house out in the suburbs that was bigger than I needed, far away from where I wanted to be, and it ended up being more of an anchor than a home. And after five years, I ended up moving to a small condo in downtown Calgary, which is where I really should've been years ago.

It's interesting how that, for all the traveling I have done the past few years, for all the searching for a beautiful moment that may or may not pass - it's something you end up finding while sitting on a bench, chatting with someone you'd like to get to know better.

It was getting late, and we headed back to the hostel - I left Emma at her room, where we said our goodbyes, as tomorrow she was headed south and eventually, for a ferry that would take her to Morocco, and I was headed north to Andorra, and eventually Paris, from where I would fly home. I wished more than anything that we both had another day in Barcelona, and another chance to get to know each other better, but it wasn't in the stars.

I suppose I shouldn't be so greedy; I just spent a birthday in my favourite country in the world, in one of my favourite cities in the world, having just dined at a restaurant I've wanted to visit for a long time, with a girl that completely took my breath away and left me speechless. I don't know about anybody else, but I can't imagine there being a more perfect way to have celebrated it.

There are beautiful girls, and there are ones that make your heart skip a beat, leaving you unable to say a word or form a thought, and take your breath
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The hike down to Santa Cova is dotted with a number of beautiful statues and monuments. I was too ill and pressed for time to see them all.
away. Without doubt, Emma falls under that category. Try as I might, being a hack amateur writer means that I simply cannot
adequately capture or do justice to explaining it.

But for all my raving about her beauty, it wasn't even the physical that made Emma so captivating; beauty is something tangible, and thus can most easily be described. It was something that you can only feel for yourself, as mere words cannot do it any justice. It's those indescribable qualities that make you say "There's just something about that girl ..."; it's that something in the voice that makes you say "Wow ..."; it's all that which makes a woman so mesmerizing and unforgettable. It feels so real, yet is so intangible ... the intangibility is what makes a woman so alluring and intriguing.

Meeting her was a lot like my first time in Spain, when I first realized how beautiful Spanish women were. It was that moment where you realize "Hmmm ... I didn't think I would find this type of beauty so incredible, but I do!" However, it was much easier to find with Spanish women - I just have to buy a plane ticket to see it
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Looks like the man in the sign is shoveling dog crap.
again. But with Emma, the only way I could find that type of beauty is to build a time machine and go to 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, or 1960s Australia!
Emma and I never did find that gelato tonight ... but hopefully she is one of those people I've met on my travels that I do end up seeing again, and maybe when I do, we can finally have that gelato, and compare where we are at in our 10-year plans.


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There was a long wait to get in to Inopia - we showed up around 7:30, and didn't expect it to be so busy because it was well before the normal Spanish dining hour. However, it is a tapas bar, and they can start getting busy much earlier, since they aren't really places for full-on meals. We waited for over 30 minutes, when ... the host started calling the name of the person immediately in front of us on the list, but he wasn't responding. The host gave up and motioned to us, but at the last possible second, he showed up - noooooooooo!!! Luckily, it was only a few more minutes before we got in, because we started to get really peckish.
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The interior was quite different than expected - I thought it would be cozier, based on what "Spain: On the road again" portrayed. It was probably just mood lighting set up for filming of that episode. We noticed there was no Spanish soundtrack, as the music selections seemed to be mostly North American.
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At the bottom: anchoa (anchovies)/pickled peppers/olive - kinda blah. Neither of us are big fans of anchovies, but they are quite different in Europe. Not big fans of olives, either, but it was worth a try - not as bad as expected. The one in the middle is smoked anchoa, with a tomato paste, on a very light and crisp tostada - wow! At the top - roasted peppers ... I couldn't put a finger on the unique taste, thinking some special vinegar or oil was used, and not balsamic vinegar like Italian-style roasted peppers. Turns out it was roasted garlic - could not have been more wrong about that one!


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