Archive | October, 2011

#28 Watch a futbol game in Spain – Part 2 (Ibiza)

31 Oct

Due to the delay at the Barcelona airport, I arrived in Ibiza around 10 p.m. I felt bad about getting there so late because I had planned to meet up with my cousin and introduce her to my LA friends Heidi and Ronnie. Well, turns out I had nothing to worry about. Being the social, resourceful people they are somehow the three of them met up on their own. The other problem with being late was that my cell phone didn’t work, so if everyone had already left to go out for the night, there was no way I would find them. I dropped my stuff in my room and quickly ran over to the room registered to Heidi  (no phones in the room, so you have to get off your butt and actually walk over there). To my pleasant surprise, Heidi opened the door to reveal my cousin and Ronnie hanging out and ready to go out for the night.

I was quick to learn that in Ibiza time works on a completely different schedule. Let me walk you through a typical day – wake up at noon, have lunch, take a siesta until 5 p.m., get up and have some drinks, get ready, go to dinner around 11 p.m., go to the club at 3 a.m., go to bed at 11 a.m. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m getting old and I can’t keep up with a schedule like that. Don’t get me wrong, I gave it a shot (literally), but my body quickly reminded me that I’m not 21 anymore.

We went out the first night to one of the big typical Ibiza clubs. The word big doesn’t really do this place justice though. It was gigantic. So many different rooms. At one point we were in a room with a stage and a rock concert going on. This place put Hollywood to shame!

One awesome (read: not so awesome) thing about Ibiza is the cost of a drink. It’s somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 for one drink. And this isn’t even a large, generously poured drink. This is one measured out shot, two ice cubes and a can of coke on the side. Needless to say, I definitely recommend drinking before going to the club.

So after a couple hundred dollars in alcohol, endless rooms of different types of music, dancing on a platform, meeting some of my cousins friends and nearly 100 photos (we tend to take a lot of pics when we’re drunk), we finally decided to head home.

Now while you probably think the next morning is the moment when I remembered I’m not in college anymore, prepare to be shocked. None of us felt amazing, but we did make it out of the room the next day. Here is the mistake though – we started drinking out at the beach (where I met my future husbands – see below) and NEVER stopped!

I realize I’m making us all sound like lushes right now, but understand that’s what people do in Ibiza. We went out that night to a more loungy, Miami-style place, which did indeed close at 2 a.m., but the damage had already been done…

The next morning we woke up early to take a ferry over to the island of Formentera with a group of Brittany’s friends and I was not in good shape. **This is the moment I was referring to earlier.** This was the moment that I wished I could just curl up in my own bed at home. Instead, I made the decision to get on a ferry in incredibly choppy waters. Needless to say, that was not a good idea. We made it to the island and after renting three motos and a car, we made our way to a couple of beaches. It was absolutely gorgeous and the water was so clear that even I swam in it! In retrospect, I probably should have just stayed at the hotel and recovered, but I never want to miss out on the fun.

We made it safely back to Ibiza and parted ways from Brittany’s friends. We decided to just keep it mellow that night and the four of us went to dinner in the harbor. One really cool part about this is around midnight every night all the dancers from the clubs walk through the street singing and performing, basically trying to entice people to come to their club. I think it is a really cool idea and provided for some good entertainment as well.

We had one, absolutely amazing drink and then called it a night.

Well, most of us that is. Brit ran into some old friends from when she used to live on the island and decided to go check out one of the clubs. It was the perfect night for me and Brit got to do what she wanted as well, so it was a win-win for all!

For our next and final day in Ibiza Heidi, Ronnie and I wanted to go do some touristy stuff, so we parted ways from Brittany, who went meet up with her friends. The three of us walked around an old castle that overlooks the island and the ocean. It was beautiful and actually very interesting. I would have never expected to find history on a party island.

It was also a cool experience because it was completely deserted, as we were there during siesta (since we went to bed at a decent hour the night before, we didn’t need a siesta).

After that we did some souvenir shopping and then headed back to the hotel.

I hadn’t had paella yet, so we decided to go out for a nice final dinner. We ended up finding a place that had the most interesting menu I have ever seen. Zebra? Really?

It worked out well for us though because Heidi wanted sushi, which they had, and I wanted paella, which they also had. I’m not sure if there’s anything this restaurant didn’t have!

It was a great dinner and a perfect ending to the trip.

The next morning I got up and went back to the airport. Three quick flights (Ibiza to Barcelona, Barcelona to Paris and Paris to LA) and I was back at home.

I had the most amazing time in Spain. It was so great to see and experience the culture firsthand. I can’t wait to go back sometime and if you’ve never been I highly recommend it. Just be sure if you’re going to Ibiza, you know what you’re in for!

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#28 Watch a futbol game in Spain – Part 1 (Barcelona)

4 Oct

In a last minute decision, I decided to use my vacation time to meet up with my good friends Heidi Loera and Ronnie Landazuri during their trip to Spain. Since I just started my new job and didn’t have too much vacation time, I wasn’t able to do the exact same itinerary, so I planned to meet up with my cousin Brittany in Barcelona and then head over to Ibiza to meet Heidi and Ronnie for the second half of their trip. The experience was so amazing and I did so much that I’ve decided to break it up into two blog posts, so here goes part 1…Barcelona.

After 15 hours of travel that included short stops in Salt Lake City and Paris, I arrived in Barcelona.

Quick airport tips – you may want to change some money there to get you started. Surprisingly, the airport exchange rate was one of the best I found in the whole city, only second to my cousin exchanging money for me at her own bank. DO NOT make a call from the airport payphone on your credit card unless you really need to. A few minutes=$50. There are a couple of options for transportation from the airport. A taxi will run you about 30 Euro, but I recommend the aerobus. It was only 5 Euro and it was really nice. I was sort of expecting a city bus with 300 people and some chickens, but it was a nice, air conditioned coach that only made a few stops before arriving in Plaza Catalunya.

Upon exiting the bus I heard someone yelling my name, “Nikki!.” Well, not that many people call me Nikki anymore and I don’t know too many people in Spain, so that meant only one thing…it was my cousin! She told her work that she couldn’t come in that day because I was visiting…gotta love that. They even let me store my suitcase there while we went exploring!

We walked around the plaza, checked out some archicture created by Gaudi, a famous a Spanish Catalan architect and stopped to enjoy some tapas and sangria and a cute little outdoor restaurant. That was one of the things I loved about Barcelona…all of the restaurants have wonderful outdoor seating areas. The weather was beautiful, so I thought this was the perfect way to dine. I gave into the jet lag and went to bed fairly early that night knowing I had a couple of big sight-seeing days ahead of me.

On day 2 of my trip, my cousin and her British roommate Emma had to go to work, so I joined some of her roommate’s friends on a little outing to Montjuic, a hill that overlooks the entire city. At the top of the hill there is a massive castle called Castell de Montjuïc.

The views from the top of the hill were spectacular and really helped demonstrate the massive size of the city.

We took several forms of transportation to get to the top – metro, funicular and finally a cable car that was sort of like a small gondola at a ski resort. On the way down though we decided to walk through the beautiful gardens, as this is one of the greenest areas of the entire city.

From there we met up with my cousin and the two of us decided to go on an impromptu bike tour of the city. They have these amazing little bike stations called bicing. If you are a resident, you can subscribe to the service that lets you check out a bike from one location and return it to any other station throughout the city…genius! My cousin’s roommate uses the service, so she let me borrow her card for the day.

The bike tour was one of my favorite things I did on the entire trip. It was unplanned, which I love, and we got to see so much of the city. I highly recommend seeing Barcelona by bike. In the span of a couple hours we saw some amazing churches and museums, the Arc de Triomf (didn’t even know they had one in Spain before this), amazing gardens, the famous Sagrada Familia and so much more. Some guy even asked me if I spoke English…I must have looked incredibly Spanish on my bike.

After a fun day out and about in the city we went back to Brittany’s place to get ready to go out and meet a couple of her friends for some drinks. We got the plaza before the others, so we had the opportunity to enjoy an interesting unique experience. People were just hanging out around big fountain in the middle of the plaza and guys would come up to you and ask if you wanted a beer. For 1 Euro they would give you a beer from their 6-pack and you just stand there drinking it….highly illegal everywhere in the U.S. with the exception of Vegas and I think New Orleans (?). Next we met up with Brittany’s friends Denise and Ster…really awesome girls and I had a great time getting to know. Ster is actually a Spanish clown, so you can just imagine how fun she is to be around!

The next day Brittany took off to Ibiza and I went out to continue exploring the city on my own. I had seen the super-touristy double-decker red buses around the city the previous days, so I determined that would be the best way for me to see as much as possible during my last day in the city. It was an excellent decision. I spent a good 8 hours roaming around Barcelona that day and the bus was the perfect form of transportation. They give you a headset when you buy your ticket (which is only 30 Euro), so you can plug in and listen to a guide explain all the sites your are passing from stop to stop. I had already decided that I needed to visit Park Guell based on everything I had heard, so I made that my first destination. The park was beautiful.

It offered another breathtaking view of the city and is a fantastic combination of peaceful natural surroundings and the artistic style of Gaudi. I hiked around the entire park, which is quite extensive. It was a nice little workout, especially considering the sweltering heat (much better than cold weather in my opinion). Just as I got to an amazing lookout point my camera died (travel lesson for me to charge my camera every night). I’m obsessed with taking photos though, so upon leaving the park I walked around looking in shops until I found a disposable camera to finish out the day.

After getting back on the bus, the next stop I made was at the FC Barcelona stadium. Now it should be noted that the team was not in town, so I didn’t have the chance to see a match in person, but watching it on TV and going to the stadium is enough for me to check this off my list (don’t judge!). Brittany’s other roommate works at the stadium, so she had given me a pass to take a tour of the museum and the stadium. It was an amazing sight to see and I can only imagine what is like filled with thousands of screaming fans.

These photos were taken with an amazing Kodak yellow disposable camera. Not embarassing at all to ask strangers who barely speak English to take a photo of you with that amazing piece of photography equipment. Oh well!

Believe it or not, these two stops had already taken up a good part of the day because I was so into both places that I spent a significant amount of time at each one. I was a little bit tired from all the walking around, so I decided to let the bus and the pre-recorded guide show me the rest of the city. From the gorgeous Museo Nacional d’Art de Catalunya to the stadiums where the Olympics took place to the ports and beach area, I think I saw almost all of Barcelona. I highly recommend the bus tour. It was a great value and an excellent way to see the whole city.

I headed back to the apartment to see if I could catch Brittany’s roommate and her friends before they headed out for the night, and luckily I caught them just in time. We went out to an Irish pub (don’t ask me…I guess it’s the fun locals spot though) and ran into even more of my cousin’s friends. I have to say that they were all super nice and welcoming. It was great to already have a built-in network of people to hang out with.

Next we went to a drum and bass club. Now, if you had asked me what that was a couple of weeks ago I would have had no idea. Now I can tell you it’s a little bit like the band Prodigy. It was definitely interesting. The group I was with though was really fun so I had a great time. I can’t exactly keep up with the Brits though, so I sent myself home in a taxi around 2 a.m. It should be noted that people in Spain operate on an entirely different timetable than we do in the U.S. They are practically nocturnal, but more about that in part 2 of the Spain tale.

The next day I was off to the airport to catch my flight to Ibiza to meet back up with my cousin and Heidi and Ronnie. One last little tip – the Barcelona airport literally has a mall in it, so don’t worry if you get there early….there’s plenty to do. Our flight was actually about 3 hours delayed, so I just did some shopping, posted some very important messages on Facebook and grabbed a beer. I seemed to be a little more calm about the situation than some others though. The cultural difference there was astounding. The Spanish people were up at the counter surrounding the poor gate agent and yelling at her. I felt so bad. I guess it works though because the other day I got an email apologizing for my experience and offering a 25% discount for the next time I fly that airline. It was all very interesting. Eventually, the small riot subsided and we all got on the plane. Off to Ibiza! I had no idea what I was in for…

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