Thursday, December 22, 2011

Leaving Barcelona

For Leon it is with a great sadness that we leave Barcelona, for me it is with a thrill to see what hidden treasures Valencia holds. Don't get me wrong, I loved Barcelona as much, but Valencia might be even better. As we leave on the bus out of Barcelona and look outside, we realize and know that there is a lot still to do and see here. When we were standing on top of towers and cliffs we knew Barcelona was too big to see all in 6 days, unless you did it at an amazing race speed. If I had to compare it in size it would be Jhb plus Sandton, Bryanston, Fourways, Randburg together, and then still multiplied by two.

Interesting things we have noticed:
Schools are still in full swing even though Christmas is only 3 days away. Many shops are open from 10 to 22:00, especially restaurants and coffee shops, but most shops operate from 10 to 14:00, and then again from 17:00 to 22:00. Based on this I would then assume that Spaniards are big on lunch and siestas. Many stalls and shops have items that can be used to build a miniature birth of Jesus scene. You can buy the stables, some grass and hay bales, figurines, animals, palm trees, all kinds of other trees, baskets, we even saw miniature fruit and vegetables and farming equipment. It looks like it is a big thing here. They sell lots of Pointsettias with the red leaves on top and green bottom. They also have a thing for tree stumps with a face stuck on the one end of it, the stump propped up by two smaller stumps as if it has arms - I still don't get it...will still google...

There is a very popular song here - Ai se te Pego. We saw it on our tv on their music channel a couple of times (it's the only channel we understood) and could see the girls loved it from the music video - very catchy tune (that today is stuck in my head). We only realized how big it was when a worker at the train station in Montserrat cellphone rang and I realized the ringtone is this song. After some googling we read it is so popular that after a score in some game Ronaldo did the steps to this song, it was released in Nov this year and jumped straight to no 1.

As Leon already blogged, people here are exceptionally friendly and will help out if they see you need some help with directions or to understand something. The people are also very proud of their country and you can see many flags. Lots of hippies, lots of arty Melville type people, my kind of heaven. Shoes are awesome here - yup, I bought too much already. There are one or two franchise type shops - Pans is a sandwich shop, there is Subway, McDonalds, Burger King. We saw one or two Mango stores, but then all of the other shops selling clothes, bakery, take aways, restaurants, shoes, you name it are small self owned shops. There are lots of these little shops everywhere, and this looks like the way most people make their living. This and the market stalls that can be found everywhere. What is nice about this is that you have a huge variety in clothing and places to buy things from.

We also saw a lot more moms with babies out walking, in Italy it seemed that all moms were hidden away from life. There are beautiful women and men here, but fashion is similar to SA in that some people dress according to fashion trends, some classic fashion that still look very trendy and classy, some just where jeans and a top, and some people couldn't care less about looking fashionable. I was surprised at how popular tracksuit pants are here, one item of clothing you'll never see me wear outside of the house. People are generally lean, not necesarily skinny but a healthy weight. There are some overweight people, but obesity doesn't seem to be a problem here. To my dismay, I am a Large when it comes to clothing here... To Leon's dismay, my blonde head got many a glance from guys and girls alike, so much so that Leon was a bit annoyed that the girls rather check me out than him! I'm not sure if it is purely because of my fair head, but that's the story I'm sticking too. There aren't many blondes here, and if there are the colour very rarely comes out as light as mine. There are lots of beautiful dark haired heads though, what's the saying - we're never happy with what we have!

There are many people that commute with bicycles, we saw plenty of roller bladers and skate boarders, many musicians making music inside the metros or on busy streets to make some money. A couple of beggars but not more than I can count on two hands. Lots of bars! The streets however are surprisingly clean, and street sweepers are normal Spaniards same as one that would work in a coffee shop, vegetable market, bank or the JSE.

The weather was good, apparently warmer than usually this time of year, no rain, yay! Temperatures were on average between 14 and 16, with the mornings and evenings very fresh but midday not too cold. Only Montserrat was really freezing to the extent that my shoulder with the plate in gave me some proper grief.

Prices of food is very similar to SA, although Leon thinks a bit more expensive. I must be honest in that I'm not always sure what the prices are of the day to day things we buy at home, so I could be wrong. One thing I do however think is way more expensive than at home are sweets and chocolates. In the market we paid R120 for four strips of about 1/2 a meter long sweets that look like liquorice but the red ones, and another two of the same length but flat thin strips. We also paid quite a lot for strawberries and cherries, but they were huge - strawberries about 2/3rds the size of my fist and cherries very close to that size, and they're delicious! Clothing is also like SA, some shops ridiculously expensive, some on par with Truworths, and then we found some stores where you pay 1 euro for a shirt and 2 euros for a skirt, but better fashion than Mr. Price or Pep. I bought a skirt, two short sleeve shirts, a sleeveless jacket and some winter fashion socks for under 20 euros. Shoes same thing.

I'll finish off my bits and bobs post with something we both think is quite a novel concept. They have a thing here called Bicing. The concept is that all over the city, generally close to metros and train/bus stations there is a station where you can pick up and drop off a bicycle. The idea is that people use these bicycles for short 15 minute trips to get from one point to another. Membership is 35 euros a year, and you get an access card that you swipe to unlock a bicycle. The first half hour of usage is free of charge, every half an hour after 50 cents (i.e. R5), but if you use it for more than 2 hours you get fined 20 euros, and if you do it repetitively they revoke your membership. The idea is to reduce the carbon footprint of people by only using the bicycles for short journeys to get around the city. I would use something like this if we had it in SA, they would just have to increase the 30 minute periods as our style of living means we need to ride a bit further than just 10 blocks to get from one point to another.

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