New Apartment

Moving Day! This was fun, exciting, and hot! We packed up all of our stuff last night and this morning so that we could move from our first apartment to housesit for MaryAnn (our friend who just got married).  She left for her honeymoon and while she is gone we get to housesit.  They went to Thailand and will be gone until a day or two after we leave, so it works out perfect! The downside, we have to take care of cats, and neither one of us are cat people.  The upside, we don’t have to pay rent for the weeks we will be living here!  The only requirement is that we keep both cats alive at all costs and keep 90% of the plants alive (they have a garden on their back patio).  Why do we love our new apartment?  We finally have air conditioning!  This is a definite plus since it is still 80 degrees at 11 o’clock at night, not including humidity.  We also have our own private fenced in porch with a grill, a queen size bed, and a few other niceties that we just didn’t have renting a bedroom, such as a dryer, our own fridge and full reign of the house.  The dryer here is very different from the US. I think it is because they don’t have all the vents set up for a dryer. They have a filter in the bottom that the water slowly drains into and once it is full you have to empty it or it won’t dry anything. It makes the apartment awfully hot and from now on we will be air drying everything.

We love the new place! It has a great vibe to it and we decided that if we ever move back to Spain we would like to move into something similar. You know what else we realized?  Since getting married, we have yet to live in our own house!  We have rented out a basement from my aunt, and then we were renting a room in Spain.  This is our first apartment to ourselves…and we only had to move to Spain to find it!

El Draco (The Dragon)

So after looking at our calendar to see what we still have to do before we leave, we realized that we had yet to visit Parc Guell.  For those of you unfamiliar with this, it is a massive garden on El Carmel hill in the Gracia neighborhood.  The park contains Gaudi's house and the rest of his "backyard" is now a garden which Gaudi designed to blend into nature.  (Remember, Gaudi is the artist who designed Sagrada Familia).  Personally, Nikki and I think the house and area immediately surrounding it looked like Candy Land, which is not necessarily bad.  The most famous part of the park is Gaudi's mosaic salamander, more commonly referred to simply as el drac (the dragon).  Basically it's a giant lizard.  Despite the horrendously large crowds, including tour buses, soccer camps, and general tourist mayhem, I pushed through and did pet Gaudi’s dragon.  The park also features a large mosaic bench allegedly representing a sea serpent.  The rest of the park is Gaudi trying to imitate nature and the natural form, for example carving stone columns to look like tree trunks. 

The Sagrada Familia for real this time

Saturday! Woot! Today we finally went to Sagrada Familia, or the church of the holy family. For those of you who don't know this is a basilica that was designed by Antoni Gaudi and has been in construction since 1882. Gaudi is famous for his modernism and so the whole place has that feel to it. In 2010 it was consecrated as a basilica by Pope Benedict XVI. This was when the interior was completed, however the exterior is not expected for completion until 2026! This would be an excellent completion date seeing that Gaudi died in 1926 and this would be the centennial of his death. 

We were lucky to get there as early as we did. We were there about 8 o'clock and the line had already begun to form and was around the corner. We got lucky.

My wife graduated from Utah State and right at the front of the line were a couple of Aggies, so we chatted with them for a bit before heading for the back of the line. Our new friends persisted and the gentleman came to the back of the line. "I asked a few people behind us if it would be okay, they said yes. Come get in line with us." Wow! To the front of the line we went and were through the gates by 9:05am and ready for a tower tour at 9:15! (They open at 9.) We were thankful that the tower has an elevator up and then you get to travel down the steps and look at everything. We spent hours just walking around and taking a ton of pictures.

I was pleasantly surprised and actually like it much more than I thought I would.

One of the cool parts for me was seeing Gaudi’s crypt in the basement.

A Wedding with Red Velvet Cake...Gangnam Style

So our friend got married today and had a huge party!!  The ceremony was short, maybe all of five minutes, but the party went on for hours of just dancing and eating.  They served a full dinner, had a wall of refreshment tables, and the best part was the red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting.  The dance floor was full all night with everything from traditional Spanish music to American pop, and even a few line dances.  Lest we get left out we took advantage of our anonymity and danced until our hearts content, including “Achy Breaky Heart” in Spanish.  However, I think our favorite part was watching everyone dancing to “Gangnam Style”.  When we say everyone, we mean everyone, including 80 something year old grandmas out on the dance floor breaking it down!  A great night, with great food, and plenty of fun!

Beach Party!

So our friend who lives here in Barcelona is getting married this week and hosted a huge beach party tonight!  When we first got there we were the first to arrive and took the opportunity to walk up and down the beach for a while (in the breakers of course).  However, when everyone else arrive we had volleyball, Frisbee, paddle ball, swimming, you name it.  We thought about going for a swim ourselves, but it was so late and the water so cold that it wasn’t worth getting in the ocean.  By the time night fell the party was just getting started; we just planted torches in a large circle around us and finally broke out the food!  For me this was the best part of the night, but I think my wife preferred the company.  Our friend teaches at an international school, which meant that there were people there from all over the world, but most especially people who spoke English.  This was a huge plus for my wife.  We thought we were done with adventures for the night, but on the way home we were actually stopped by the police.  It was a huge group, maybe 20 or so, and I don’t know what they were doing but they stopped to examine our cards and verify who we were.  I think they must have been looking for someone because they weren’t just checking to make sure we had passes; thankfully we got the all clear and made it home safe.

Greek Labyrinth!

Today we went to a park up near the University of Barcelona Mundet Campus.  Why is this park famous?  It is the oldest park in Barcelona dating back to the 18th century and is entirely Greek themed.  The park is essentially a large garden with winding paths and tons of ponds, flowers, and hidden nooks and crannies full of old Greek statues hundreds of years old.  You may call it a fish tale, but some of the coy in the ponds were easily two feet long.

The highlight of the garden, the main reason why it is so famous, is the Horta Labyrinth at its center.  It is ringed by more Greek statues and has a statue of Eros at the center.  You know in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when he is in the maze at the final challenge of the Triwizard Tournament?  That’s what this labyrinth looked like: large hedges that you couldn’t see over that wound their way towards a central destination.  It even had a raised patio on the edge so that you could go and watch the other people getting lost.  We thought it was a blast!  The gardens were nice too, but the Labyrinth clearly took the cake. 

The Sagrada Familia...almost

This morning we got up and headed for Sagrada Familia.  For those of you who have not heard of this, it is a monstrosity constructed by Gaudi.  It is more commonly called a Cathedral.  If you only have one day in Barcelona, the overwhelming consensus is that the Sagrada Familia is the thing to see.  We showed up and apparently everyone else had had the same bright idea as us.  The line circled around the Cathedral!  For the life of me I cannot figure out why people are so enraptured by modernism.  Regardless, we took some nice photos and went to the beach instead.  The beach was great, and the weather was finally hot enough that the water actually felt good instead of freezing!  Waaaaay better than standing in line all day!

Barcino

Barcino was the Roman predecessor to Barcelona.  It’s true that people had lived in this part of the Iberian Peninsula for centuries before the Romans arrived, but Barcino was the very first permanent settlement or city.  It began as a military outpost connecting various networks of roads.  Its placement was strategic since it represented halfway between Rome and its African settlements, while still allowing access to a warm water port.  This latter feature is what ultimately led to the city’s rapid expansion.  Soon, Barcino had become an economic stronghold and a crucial component in the Mediterranean trade networks.  (Even today, Catalunya and Barcelona specifically represent the strongest economy in Spain.  Given Spain’s economic issues and the current political climate, this economic prosperity is one of the key features driving the Catalan independence movement).  Anyway, back to ancient Barcino, the entire city was what today is the Gothic Quarter.  For centuries this section of the city remained the political and economic center despite geographic growth and expansion.  This meant that newer structures were built directly on top of ancient ones, and in some cases even integrated the older architecture with the new.  For example, the current Placa del Rei (Royal Palace) is built on the remains of the Roman palace, which is built on the remains of civilian residences in the original city. 

The Museum of the History of Barcelona is amazing because it takes you on a tour of the ancient Roman city!  You enter and watch a short documentary explaining about the city, and then you take an elevator down to the excavated remains of Barcino well below the modern street level.  You then have the opportunity to literally walk through history.  We started by walking through the textile quarter. This had weaving tools that were incredible. They used stones to weigh down threads, using up to 50 stones just to make a dress. I can’t imagine the time it must have taken! There were also some very fun residual powders and dyes that had been left behind. There was  red, yellow, and an Egyptian Blue.

We then got to see some of the city, such as a part of the first Roman wall where we went inside one of the towers.  We also saw individual houses, roads, and even the sewage system.  The walkway then entered the fishing section of the city where the fish were cleaned and salted, or turned into a fish sauce called Garum.

Next we entered the winery. There was a screw press in the corner, and then a whole assembly for distillation. The press was kept in the corner of a room, with a spigot to drain the residue out from underneath and collect it in a stone basin to be funneled into the next room.  This room was full of several vats in which to keep the wine.  In the center of the floor were two holes, which we learned were used as storage tanks for sea salt and honey to add flavor to their wine. Our fun fact of the day is that they drank between ½ of a liter and ¾  of a liter of wine per person per day in Barcino alone!

We walked past the church, the baptistery, and the altar. Sadly, most of this was closed down for renovations. After that was when we entered the remains of the Roman palace. Now, this palace was built much much later than the rest of what we saw and was literally built on top of the previous ruins described. The most interesting thing was that they had set up part of the floor to be see through (with a glass walkway) so that you could see the palace ruins as well as the mosaic from the old floor of the house that it was built above!

The walkways slowly took you on an upward path so that by the end of your visit you found yourself in the modern building.  We finished in the palace entrance hall, which had two rooms either side of the main doors.  On the left we found the private chapel of the Catalunyian royal family. The chapel was built by three separate monarchs and was completed in the 14th century.

However, the coolest part by far was the room on the right.  We found ourselves in the throne room of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella! It was gigantic! This is where they greeted Columbus when he came in from his return voyage from the Americas! When we exited the museum we walked right down the front stairs leading up to the palace. It was amazing!  Easily my favorite thing so far in the five weeks that I’ve been here!

I buy a dress and we attend two weddings!

No, the dress was not for me, but Nikki really wanted one.  The Gothic Quarter in Barcelona is famous for its unique shops that seem to be found in every nook and cranny along the narrow streets.  The good?  There is something for EVERYONE.  The bad?  It is next to impossible to find that something!  We were in an out of so many stores that I lost count, everything from larger department stores to little corner shops with maybe 40 dresses.  The important thing is that we finally found the dress. 

Thankfully, since we were in the Gothic Quarter, the shops were all interspersed among the historic sites.  This meant that I could enjoy the history while my wife enjoyed the shopping.  A great combination!  The only negative side effect was that my wife had to endure a constant narrative of why a particular building or style of architecture was important.  In order to avoid the heavy tourist hours, we decided to visit the churches later in the evening just before heading home.  While we did avoid most of the tourists, we ended up sitting in on two wedding services at two different churches.  That will definitely be something to tell people when we get home: we attended a wedding service in Santa Maria del Mar.  Santa Maria was a large church build right on the waterfront, very close to where the Royal Shipyards were located.  While the large cathedral at the center of the Gothic Quarter was the epicenter of religious life, it was primarily used by nobility and clergy.  The merchants and seafarers who came into port were opposed to the discrimination by the nobility who refused to acknowledge the new status of a wealthy middle class.  As part of the establishment of their identity as a distinct and affluent class, the merchants and traders constructed Santa Maria del Mar using their own funds to rival the cathedral in opulence and prestige. 

A final note on the day, we saw the monument mourning the loss of Catalan independence in 1714 when Catalunya was conquered by the Spanish crown.  Since that date, it has just been an autonomous community within Spain.  This monument/area has received renewed attention as of late in the face of a resurgence in the Catalunyan independence movement.  This movement is one of the primary focuses of politics in Catalunya and will be for some time to come.  (At the moment, a majority of Catalonians are in favor of independence.) 

My Third “Independence Day”

Yes, this is my third “Independence Day” in a row.  We had our Consulate celebration the third, on the fourth we went to the Maritime Museum and ate Dunkin Donuts.  Today we were invited to a movie night at the Consul’s house.  We had a delicious homemade dinner and watched……you guessed it, Independence Day.  I had completely forgotten how funny that movie is!  I have to say, the entertainment factor is definitely increased when you watch the movie surrounded by politically minded people; the side comments and jokes ranged everywhere from DOD budget cuts to public opinion polls.  Also on the plus side, we found a great new recipe for a spicy chicken dish and a new kind of lemon cookie which my wife absolutely fell in love with!  (Needless to say we made it home with our own bag of cookies!) 

Earlier in the day we also had the chance to visit an antique market.  We nearly bought an antique silver ring with a citrine stone, but we did end up buying a nice collection of antique coins.  The coins came from all parts of Spain’s past, King Alfonso, King Juan Carlos, and Francisco Franco to name but a few.  We will definitely be going back to the market to see what we can find as it is sure to be different every day. 

A visit to the Reials Drassanes (Royal Shipyards)

Since I had Independence Day off from work, we decided to take advantage of the opportunity and visit the Maritime Museum.  The Maritime Museum had a few special exhibits, including a long tour about Charles Darwin.  (What Darwin was doing in a Maritime Museum is beyond me, but we did pay to get it so we decided to get our money’s worth).  The best part by far was the main chamber.  The museum was built in what remains of the Reials Drassanes, or the Royal Shipyards, which is located on what used to be the edge of the ocean.  This was where the kingdoms ships were built and repaired for centuries.  The interior was full of interlocking Gothic arches with metal rings inset to help hoist the ships free from the water.  The shipyards themselves had been in existence for over 800 years and haven’t undergone any type of renovation or major architectural alterations in the last 400 years.  This alone made the museum really cool, but the final factor that made this museum worth the entry fee was the full scale replica of the Galeria Reial (Royal Galley).  This was the flagship, commanded by Don Juan of Austria in 1571, when the Spanish battled the Turks in the Battle of Lepanto and established themselves as the dominant naval power in the Mediterranean.  Our entry also included free admission to the Santa Eulalia schooner anchored in the harbor.  Before heading home we stopped by to relax on the ship for a little bit and grabbed some Dunkin Donuts on the way home.  (I got my favorite kind, the Boston Chocolate, and enjoyed every bit of it!)

Celebrating: our Nation, the Spanish Nation, and Red Sox Nation

At work I spent most of the past week working on the guest list for our Fourth of July party to be held tonight.  By the time the list was “finished” we had over 1000 invited and initial estimates were over 600 attendees!  Of course, with fantastic food it is hard to have a bad celebration.  We had fried oyster, marinated salmon, gigantic hamburgers, hot dogs with sauerkraut, a desert bar, and best of all Boston pizza!  Many of you may have heard of New York pizza, which is actually very common and can be found any and everywhere.  I would bet that not many have had a Boston pizza, and they are definitely missing out!  Ironically, I had just been telling Nikki the day before how much I wanted a good pizza.  (Strange, of all the things to miss from the United States, one of the things I miss the most is pizza!)  I am proud to report that Red Sox Nation is holding strong, even here in Spain.  Just a quick side note, the Sox are 54-36 and lead the AL, ranking third in all MLB.  Yes, even here in Spain I stay up and check the games every night. 

The event was a success.  We had live music, several restaurants catering, plenty to drink, and several prominent guests of honor.  The event was particularly special since it represented the 500th anniversary of the first Spanish colonies in Florida and the 300th anniversary the first colonies in California, or the Camino Real.  The major theme of the celebration was not only to commemorate U.S. independence, but also to emphasize the hundreds of years of shared history between Spain and the U.S. which has proven mutually beneficial. 

What do Cacti, Jews, and F1 Racing all have in common?

A mountain called Montjuic!

Sunday June 30

Sunday! It sure was…. Quite sunny… enough to get a sunburn. Today was a fantastic day to explore. We spent the day at Montjuic. (The Jewish Mountain in Medieval Catalan.) We started by cable car and went up, up, up to the mountain. The cable car view was beautiful! We could overlook the bay and see all of our favorite beaches! We also got a great aerial view of the city!

Once on the mountain we had some decisions to make. Cactus garden, to go or not to go? We decided why not? We weren’t expecting much but were pleasantly surprised. Who knew that cacti could look so awesome! There were all sorts of varieties and KD kept making sure I wouldn’t back into any prickles while I was trying to get good shots with the camera. I can’t believe we are about to say this, but it was breathtaking!

Onward and more upward we began our hiking journey up to the Castle! Yup, that’s right, the Castle. The mountain was originally settled by Celts before being conquered by the Romans, then the Visigoths, and so on.  Its name comes from the Medieval Ages when the mountain was used as a Jewish cemetery (the Christian ones were inside the city boundaries).  The castle currently on the grounds was built in 1640 and served as a defensive fortress overlooking the harbor.  In 1842 it was even used by Barcelona to defend against Madrid.  During the Spanish Civil War it was used by both Nationalists and Republicans as a sight for executions, and under Francisco Franco the castle served to imprison, torture, and execute political opposition.  Culturally, it has hosted the 1929 World’s Fair as well as the 1992 Olympics.  For those car enthusiasts, the winding roads all over the front face also was the sight of the Montjuic circuit for Formula One racing.  Too bad they closed that down, it would have been awesome to see an F1 race! 

Then came our somewhat confusing part of the trip. Other than prices, which are subject to change anyway, our guidebooks have always agreed. Today this was not true. Today our guidebooks told us that the Botanical Garden was in two completely different locations. I mean, literally, across the mountain from one another. It was about 5:30pm and we knew that either location would take us about an hour to walk to. The garden is only open till 8pm so we really wanted to pick the correct location. (You see, on the last Sunday of the month the Botanical Garden is FREE! If we chose the wrong location it would mean waiting another month to go.) Thank goodness I have a husband with pretty much the best sense of direction ever! We found it!

We both had the same, but slightly wrong, impressions of what a botanical garden would be. We both thought that it would mostly be made up of colorful and wonderful smelling flowers, stone walkways, and fountains/streams. We were surprised to find that a majority of this garden was made up of just trees and other plants from Mediterranean climates around the world, including Australia, South Africa, Chile, The Mediterranean, The Canary Islands, and…. CALIFORNIA? Yes, most of California is still being constructed but we found some palm trees. California was its own subcategory.

Highlight for our Botanical Garden adventure was finding the Bonsai trees. They were phenomenal! Although, it wasn’t what we were originally expecting we were happy with the results. To end the evening we walked across the only water to be found; a lily pond, with a few goldfish and a wooden boardwalk. Now that is a Botanical Garden!

La Boqueria

Saturday June 29

Today’s adventure included Plaza de Catalunya and Las Ramblas. Highlight of the day for me: buying an FC Barcelona Spring 2013 Official Futbol Jersey! (For those of you who don’t know, that’s really soccer…. And they happen to be the best team ever!) To add to this highlight, it was 50% off!

Now for Las Ramblas! Las Ramblas were crawling with vendors and people of all shapes and sizes. There were beautiful flower shops, fans, shawls, trinkets, jewelry, and a host of other souvenirs. We stopped for lunch at Restaurante Oriente for the lunch special: 3 tapas and a Paella. We got patatas bravas, salchichas, and croquettes. For the Paella we got the Paella Valenciana, this includes rice, chicken, vegetables, and delicious spices served hot in a skillet. It was highly recommended from some Puerto Rican friends in DC.  Needless to say, they make a great recommendation, and it was delicious!

A highlight for both of us was La Boqueria! Barcelona’s largest outdoor food market. It was closed last time and so we were elated to find it open today! There were rows of fruits, meats, fish heads, candies, ice creams, breads, cheeses, and even Dunkin Donuts! Yep, even in Spain. We’ll have to find an occasion to either lament or celebrate so that we have an excellent excuse to go. Our items of purchase for today were a delicious fruit salad to share, a sour lemon candy for Nikki, and Dulce de Leche/Cookie Gelato ice cream for me.

Once again we loved all of the statues that move! They are fantastic! They sit so still until somebody pays them and then they’ll move around. Our two favorites are probably the golden angel, who tends to look like she is blessing people when she moves, and Columbus, who has the posture down for the REAL statue that he copycats. They are both very impressive. Overall it was a fun day and enjoyable company!

A Spanish style BBQ...toast and all

Friday June 28

Friday was again very busy at work, though I suspect that will be the case for the next week or so.  The big highlight at work was the barbeque.  Yes, we had a staff barbeque in the afternoon, a way of celebrating the calm before the storm, so to speak, and to say thank you for all the hard work that will be put in this next week.  We can’t do it after the 4th of July since July is typically the month in which Spaniards use their vacation days for the year and a large portion of the staff will be leaving afterwards.  The barbeque was great, bratwursts, hamburgers, chorizo salchichas (a kind of spicy sausage hotdog), salad, and toasted bread covered with a traditional sauce made of tomato, olive oil and various seasonings.  Very good food!  It was nice to just get to spend time will all the staff, including those who work offsite.  Nikki came and joined us as well, which made it that much more enjoyable, plus she got to meet Morgan, Michelle, Umberto, and a few others with whom she wasn’t acquainted.  Then it was off to the beach again!  The water is still really cold, but thankfully we still have weeks ahead of us and the water will probably get significantly warmer.  In all we stayed for almost two hours before heading home on account of wind. 

You invited how many people?!

Thursday June 26

Thursday was unusually busy for me, though not by design.  The Consular Section was typical for a Thursday, but I received a call relatively early in the morning because the other sections were so swamped with work for the 4th of July party that they needed help.  I was asked to work with the Consul’s secretary to get everything ready.  Hence, for the next week I will be working as a secretary in addition to my Consular duties.  Namely I was asked to manage and organize the guest list, including RSVP’s and such.  Believe it or not, there are over 1,000 people invited and each can bring a plus one.  (I of course will be bringing Nikki.) Today was also Clyde’s last day of work, so the Consulate staff had a little farewell party at the end of the day for him. 

Changing of the Guard

Wednesday June 26

Wednesday Clyde took the staff out to lunch to say goodbye since he leaves on Friday.  The food was delicious, and after the tapas last night I felt like it was an all-you-can eat buffet.  I got a really good omelet thing, some delicious rice and vegetables, bread, and arroz con leche.  For those of you who don’t know, arroz con leche is my absolute favorite Spanish dessert!! 

Nasty Pumpkin Soup

Tuesday June 25

Tuesday Nikki came to work with me.  We talked to the proper people and got her access for the duration of her stay so she can come visit me any day she wants!  As an additional note, work was crazy today.  With the holiday weekend there were soooooo many people who came in needed help of one kind or another. 

It also happened to be Megan’s, another intern’s, birthday today.  She invited the interns and their significant others to a place called La Pepita for a birthday dinner.  Apparently this was a nicer restaurant in the Gracia area famous for its tapas.  A tapa is basically a very small plate of food, akin to what we would call sliders in the US.  Here they translate it as appetizers, but I dare say that the appetizers in the US are quite a bit larger!  We went three for four on the tapas.  We enjoyed the patatas bravas, the Argentinian beef with olive oil on a bed of wheat, and the glass of chocolate mousse.  Unfortunately, the cold pumpkin soup with cured ham and some green vegetable thing was a failure.  We made it through over half, mostly because I was too stubborn to pay for something and not eat it! 

Angels and Aliens

Monday June 24

After the late night last night, it should come as no surprise that we woke up late.  During the afternoon we decided to head down Las Ramblas to see some of the markets, though we will have to go on a different day to see La Boquetaria since it was closed for the holiday.  In theory, by going on the holiday we could avoid most of the major crowds.  This theory proved accurate.  Unfortunately, by avoiding the crowds we also avoided many of the attractions and markets which are usually there.  This means that we will just have to go back on another day to see it all again! 

A few cool things we did see were some human statues, among them a golden angel, an old green man, a bronze Columbus, a gargoyle, a greek philosopher, a weird alien lady, and a knight.  We both agreed that the angel and Columbus were the best!  My personal favorite was the art section of the Ramblas.  Most were doing caricatures and portraits, but one man was doing landscapes and I though his work was phenomenal!  The one he was working on was a black and white painting of a mountain range fronted by a lake, with a waterfall and some foliage in the foreground, plus a massive moon in the background.  (It kind of looked like a landscape from the fourth moon of the planet Yavin when you look back at the planet).  I was quite impressed by both the quality as well as the speed with which he was able to complete the painting.  After a final walk around one of the beachside parks by the marina we came home for dinner and to call it a night.

El Dia de San Juan...and a Noche de Petardos

Sunday June 23

The night of the 23rd is actually a major holiday in Catalunya, as it represents the night before el Dia de San Juan.  People party until 6 in the morning, and spend all night blowing up fireworks, firecrackers, and all manner of explosives.  Nikki and I decided to head back to the beach where they have the largest party, although they celebrate in the streets throughout the entire city.  Unfortunately, on our way down the metro lines ran into technical difficulties and we ended up on the streets trying to figure out the buses.  This unexpected adventure proved successful and we found bus 17 to Barceloneta, where we walked along the marina promenade and ate waffles from a street vendor.  The waffles were actually surprisingly good, though I still do not know why they gave us a little plastic spoon.  It couldn’t even cut through the waffle!  Regardless, after finishing the waffle we walked through the old fishing district to the beaches and walked up the boardwalk along San Sebastian, San Miguel, Barceloneta, and to Somorrostro. 

Apart from the stupid petardos, (firecrackers), that people kept throwing randomly into crowds of people, it was actually quite enjoyable.  All the chiringuitos were open, selling food and drink and playing music all along the beach for people to dance too.  The beach itself was also full of bonfires from people just digging pits and roasting willy nilly.  The fireworks themselves were decent.  No organized show, but as anyone could walk down the street and buy massive fireworks, the beach was full of entrepreneurs.  We actually saw one idiot who set of a firework that didn’t actually get up into the air and blew up on the beach, clearing a significant section.  Luckily, by this point, Nikki and I had made it out to one of the piers and were sitting on the rocks overlooking the bay and watching the beach from a distance.  When the clock struck midnight the party really got going!  We finally made it home about 2 am, right when all the younger, single, crowd showed up (tongue in cheek) and sat on the porch to watch the fireworks next to our house before calling it a night.