what happens in barcelona

This weekend, a friend and I opted to forego the Stanford-organized trip to Barcelona to go with the guys from the engineering school that the Stanford program is housed in. (Apparently the guy-to-girl ratio in techie schools is the same everywhere: only two French girls went with us, and they were both girlfriends.) Their fare was cheaper: 150 euro for the whole trip– half the cost of Stanford’s trip, which was half the reason why we wanted to go with a bunch of French techies. Because it was the first-ever trip organized by the bureau des élèves (student council), it wasn’t strictly organized and we were seventeen in total. This made our 50-seat bus pretty comfy.

From learning how to say “drunk” (bourré) and “weed” (le shit) to learning what a French impression of Borat sounds like, friend and I were entertained for hours on end during the fourteen-hour bus ride to and from Barcelona (when we weren’t sleeping, of course).

The boys were loud, and the jokes revolved mainly around bad puns, many in English:

Guy 1: “Madame Fly a trois fils. Comment s’appelent ils?
(Madame Fly has three sons. What are their names?)
Guy 2: “Shais pas (Je ne sais pas). Quoi?
(Dunno. What?)
Guy 1: “Abdul, Yves, Hakim. Abdul-Yves-Hakim Fly!”
(sing “Abdul-Yves-Hakim Fly” to the tune of “I Believe I Can Fly“)

They also watched a dubbed version of Dumb and Dumber on the way back. Thank you, globalization.

Barcelona was great. We stayed at a hostel off La Rambla and the boys (the couples, mostly) graciously ceded the only two-person room to said friend and me. We perused La Rambla and the Barri Gòtic at length, shopped for clothing, and dealt quite well with my gelato timer (in Europe, I crave ice cream at set intervals of the day).

I usually hate being a tourist, but I figured hanging out with a bunch of French guys in a foreign country wasn’t a bad way to learn a little more French. This was true, although it was hard to just approach a bunch of guys and start talking to them— like in most schools, they already have established cliques. Since we were both girls, friend and I waited patiently until they came up to us and broke out with their best English. (Which wasn’t bad at all, considering how bad it can get in Japan.)

Thankfully, alcohol seems to loosen everyone up the world over, and the drinking age in Europe is eighteen (eighteen months, that is– some French families dilute wine for baby bottles!). So we went bar-hopping with a few of the guys and had a ridiculously good time, with the booze greatly improving their English and bolstering our French. The end!

Food notes: if you’re vegetarian, fear not: there’s a whole chain of Maoz shops in and around La Rambla. I hope you have a hearty appetite for falafel, because you’ll have slim pickings at tapas restaurants.

And ohhhhh GELATO. I went to Barcelona four years ago and still remember the heavenly tiramisu gelato from one gelato shop two blocks away from the edge of the beach in Barceloneta. It’s still there! I think it’s called Dino’s Gelato (it’s a chain– there’s one in La Rambla), and the prices are reasonable (3.50 euro for three scoops in a large waffle cone? Unheard of in Paris). Taste-wise, it almost beats Berthillon‘s. Oh man, I got to try Roquefort-flavored gelato. (It’s not as sharp and moldy as it seems.)

But I’m back in Paris, safe and sound, and today is May 1– La Fête du Travail (Labor Day), when Parisians get the day off and of course turn to their second favorite hobby: protesting!


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This is a blog of things place-related, by a cash-strapped Stanford grad who's lived in various places and writes about life. She's currently looking for a job in Manhattan or the Bay Area.

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