BY STAN BASHMASHNIKOV — SMB.COM.
Barcelona — July 25th – 31st
I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end my trip. España. A fabled, Spanish land bulging out of southwestern Europe. I’ve been hearing stories about this place my whole life – yet longing to actually one day visit. Hyping things up seems to be my style. Bartha, as the locals call it, was at the top of my list from day one. Something about their culture has always intrigued me. When I look back, I can confidently attest that there was slim, to very, little let down; Barcelona and Ibiza (next section) were the perfect cities to close-out my tumultuous trip.
At this point in the journey – I had seen and been through it all. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating. But I had a head full of stories and a heart full of ideas – all of which I brought back with me. Part of the reason why I am writing a couple months later is because nostalgic reflection and recollection has always been a more rewarding writing experience. A little selfish and slightly self-indulgent. But, I encourage you to try it. Let the events settle in your system for a while. Then, when everything digests, churn out more long-winded, inspired memories. I also procrastinated – but that’s neither here not there! All in all, 5 weeks had now flown by and for some reason – seemed like 5 years. London, where my travels began, seemed like ages ago. I couldn’t believe Barcelona was finally staring me in the face.
First order of business – Tapas. This is all I ate when I was there (as well as a random occurrence of McDonalds). My logic was simple: try as many different tapas as possible in a span of six days. You might have the opportunity back in the States – but surely, it’ll taste different. I won’t list them all out. Off the top of my head, some that stood out include Tortillas de Camarones (Shrimp Fritters), a Prawn, Artichoke, and Bacon concoction, and Lamb Meatballs – I forget the exact Spanish name but they had me balling. You get the picture. There were as many tapas bars there as there are fast food joints here. Sad but true – why is this nation obese again? Make sure to also try the Valencian-originated, customary dish Paella. Paella is a thing of genius. Simple yet complicated, coming in the form of either seafood, beef, or a blend of both. You are given one of these choices over cooked rice, vegetables, beans, delicious red sauce, and various exotic spices. Add sangria to illuminate your taste buds. The service was exemplary. For a skinny guy, you’d be surprised how much I fancy food – and this was a stellar dish.
Prior to visiting Barcelona, I had never specifically heard of Antoni Gaudi. I’m convinced the name must’ve brushed by me in history class. However – for whatever reason, I had no idea who this individual was. All I knew is that he was a god in Barcelona; one of those men who people admired and praised for decades. Before going, people told me to check out this, and that – all designed by him – and I casually agreed. Hell – what was I supposed to expect? Reserving judgment is something I’ve always been keen of. Trust that your intuition is honest enough to judge things for yourself. I must submit though – his work was truly remarkable.
Some of his best architectural creations include the Casa Mila, Park Guell, and Sagrada Famiglia, which is still unfinished. Let me put this in perspective. The scheduled completion date is sometime in 2026. I say again – 2026! I get anxious when I have to plan 6 months ahead. The Sagrada Famiglia is a massive Roman Catholic church and described as “Gaudi’s magnificent archetoric and religious vision.” The completion date is slated to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of his death. Building began in 1882. Do the math, then do the mental math. It will have been built in 144 years . The extensive amount of cultural, structural, and technological changes in Spanish society since construction began is utterly absurd! This being an incredibly ambitious project would be a complete understatement. Hopefully they make their deadline – the primary centerpiece chapel hasn’t even been started yet.
What is an entry about Barcelona without mentioning the nightlife? Quite empty and lacking substance in my opinion. Well – what can I say about the nightlife in Barca – it is on par with NYC, if not better at times. Make sure you are up for it. If New York City is the city that never sleeps, Barcelona is the city the never stops. Seriously. Spanish people don’t eat dinner until around 10pm. And they eat for hours (most European cultures do). They don’t go out until sometime around 1am. And yes – the celebration goes all night. Clubs and Shot Bars rule the realm. Take my word for it – you don’t sleep at night in Barcelona over the summer. You catch up on sleep at the beach during the day.
And what a thing the beaches in Barcelona are. Beautiful, carefree, and extremely welcoming. They are typically very crowded – especially in the summer months. I found the majority of the people to be extremely friendly, contrary to previous destinations on my trip. This is the perfect getaway from noisy, touristy, Barcelona streets such as Las Ramblas. Kick back and stay comfortably-hydrated.
There is a plethora of beach-side clubs and perfectly tucked away shot bars to choose from. Begin the night at the shot bars – they are super laid back and provide a very welcoming atmosphere. Plus, you’ll want to gradually get into party mode before you hit the clubs. I highly recommend one called Gato Negro. Don’t ask me the address. Once again – ask the locals, they’ll know exactly where it is. This was, by far, one of the coolest places to be. One shooter was called the Boy Scout: you are given a marshmallow on a stick and a shot of Tequila. Bartender pours out some lighter fluid and lights a small section of the bar on fire. Roast your marshmallow on the fire, dip it into the tequila, eat the marshmallow, and take the Tequila! Honestly – just one big sugar rush. Those that cringe at the sight of Tequila – this completely diminishes the taste, believe me. There were more too. Lets just say that the bartenders in Barcelona like to get creative with fire when serving you drinks. Don’t forget – moderation always. Undoubtedly something you can’t pass up.
Ibiza — August 1st – 4th
Ibiza is the European version of Las Vegas. This coming from someone who hasn’t even been to Vegas. However, this was the general consensus among those “in the know.” When it comes to culture and rich history – there really isn’t anything notable to speak of. If I recall correctly, the land was overtaken by Spanish conquerors many, many years ago. In today’s day and age, Ibiza is known primarily for one thing: the club scene. The city’s economy rises and falls as a function of the revenue from the clubs. It’s remarkable that this little island, 6 hours southeast of Spain, is home to the largest, most prolific clubs in the world. Over the summer, the resident DJs (meaning they play at least once a week at a specific club) are David Guetta, Tiesto, Armin Van Buuren, Paul Van Dyk, Swedish House Mafia, and others. For those that don’t know – these five are ranked in
the top 10 for DJs in the world. It costs anywhere from 40-70 Euro a night for a ticket. Comparatively speaking – and for a lack of a better example (lets use Rock) – imagine if Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Metallica, U2, and Sublime (who were all big at the same time in the early 1990s) all played weekly at a specific location. That never happens. Nor will it ever. Techno, Trance, and House Music is probably the only genre of music where this can plausibly work. But that’s beside the point. Point being – the island is truly an electric place.
Let’s back up a little. Throughout my journey, most of my travel was done by train. Day, night, overnight, day-bleeding-into-night – it always seemed to be a long and arduous journey. Call me corny – but I was ecstatic to take an overnight 6-hour ferry to Ibiza. Me and my travel buddies, who I had only met in Barcelona, decided it would be a good idea to sleep on the top level of the deck outside. Well – it was a good idea. Sure the temp dropped overnight. Sure, comfort on folding beach chairs isn’t ideal. But when else do you get to wake up to a sunrise atop of a massive ship, coasting into the harbor of a remote Spanish utopia? There was no dissent amongst the group.
We stayed in the area of Sant Antoni – which is 15 minutes north of Ibiza City. Truthfully – it doesn’t matter where you are geographically situated on the island. Everything is accessible by cab – as most of the major clubs are awkwardly located between the major cities. Taking cabs, unfortunately, is the only way to go (unless you rent a vehicle). It gets very expensive, very quickly. Even after a few days, you’ll be very surprised by how thin your newly acquired, European leather wallet feels. And no, it’s not because the wallet is a slim fit. Make sure you are going in with a decent amount of spending money.
The beaches. What more can I say? I highly stress – do not miss your opportunity to visit Ibiza’s stunning beaches. Spanish beaches, in correlation with their people, are breathtaking and like nothing you and I have probably ever seen. I am proud to say that I went to the best beach I’ve ever been to in my life, thus far, called Cala Conta. The locals treasure this place because it is yet to be “touristerized.” Words don’t do it justice. But I can try – follow along imaginatively. You are walking down an old, lightly color dirt path. Looking directly ahead – you see nothing. You see desert road and blue skies. But – there’s a cliff in the distance. You begin to see cars parked – one after the other. As you approach closer and closer, you are able to overlook what is beyond the cliff. People. And not in an overwhelming, get-me-out-of-here-it’s-crowded sort of way. Ridiculously attractive ones, at that. Crystal water. Perfect sand. Mojitos made on the spot. Lukewarm water. Swimming with families, and their families, and their families of exotic fishes. Seriously – this place is probably where Microsoft found those default Windows wallpapers that come pre-stocked with your computer. I’ve dreamt of this place ever since, but eventually always seem to wake up.
The clubs. Once again – this is just one of those things where words inevitably fall short. Monday night – we bought tickets to see DJ Tiesto at Privilege, listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest club in the world. Yes. It was massive. I may be wrong but instinct is pushing me to compare it to the size of a football field. I recall watching old concert footage from places such as the Meadowlands or Wembley Stadium. The scope of the crowd was quite similar to this scale. Regardless, there were people everywhere – in the corner’s corners of your eyes. Dancing, jumping, wailing, falling – this was energy to the max. He put on an incredible show. The following night, we saw Armin Van Buuren at Amnesia. Not as big of a club, but not small by any stretch of the imagination. Such a surreal experience – one night followed by another. There isn’t much to say except to submit and acknowledge that every club in Ibiza is worth the expensive price of admission. Don’t miss out.
And there you have it. This concludes the Summer of Europe 2010. Thanks for reading – and as always, stay tuned for future articles in the Travel section.
Stan Bashmashnikov runs stanmichaelbash.com, focusing on industries such as creative marketing, online media, and social networking. Please visit the Contact Me link at the bottom of the page for more info.