Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Barcelona, Spain: Part 1 of 2: 7 nights total, September 30 - October 7, 2015

Our journey to Barcelona from Avignon entailed us getting up before sunrise and walking to the older central train station just a 10 minute walk through the city wall. Here we caught a shuttle train to take us to the new main train station that we had come in at. The new station is extremely modern, comfortable and efficient!

The sun had risen by the time the train came in for our 3.5 hour trip. I used this time to write more of the blog while it was still fresh in my mind. All the time, I was still enjoying the scenery along the way.

We arrived in Barcelona to some pretty soaking rain and chillier weather than I had expected or wanted. After doing our normal routine of getting the city map and metro line map, we were off to catch the metro.

Our stop was in the middle of one of the largest and busiest squares, Plaza Catalunya, in the old town center with probably 12-14 streets coming off of it. While trying to stay dry in the windy rain, we misread the map a couple of times and headed off in the wrong direction. After one block, we took stock again and headed back to where we had come from.

Orienting the map correctly was quite the challenge and very frustrating to these two old avid map readers! Finally, we got it right and off we went. Again, our location was incredibly good. Down a narrow pedestrian alley for a couple of blocks right off  La Rambla, the premier pedestrian walkway through Old Town.

This time we were truly disappointed in our hotel accommodations. The place was not as clean as we would have liked, the room small, the bed extremely hard, the bathroom teeny tiny, and the internet sucked big time! So for one full week, we endured. But, hey, it's BARCELONA!!!

The rain continued our first afternoon and night so we walked down the Rambla and happened upon the Market, Mercat de la Boqueria. Oh my!! It was eye candy as far as you could see. Our meanderings through it was done with wonder and amazement!

Our exploration took us to the other side of the Rambla into the heart of the Gothic District. Narrow streets and alleys lined with bars, restaurants, shops of all kinds, and many colorful people. I can tell you that October is NOT low season. And, if it's the cusp, I can't even imagine how crowded it must get during true high season.

While walking down an off the beaten path alley, we came up a cheap appliance gadget store and I spotted an instant hot water maker that was small and only 10 Euros ($11US), so in we went and bought it. I then purchased some wonderful tea bags. I was now a happy camper and could have my tea in the morning while working on the internet all without having to get dressed and leave my room. Plus, it would was less expensive than buying a coffee every morning.

We had made arrangements to meet up for brunch with our friends, Tessa and Jim Armstead from PV who were also traveling in Europe. It was good to see them even if only briefly. They were traveling throughout Europe but doing it in a whole different way than us. They were going to be on a train 30 out of 40 days spending many nights on the train instead of in a bed and all throughout Europe. Their schedule made us dizzy and totally exhausted!

The first thing on our agenda was to catch the Hop On, Hop Off bus. Time to see what this much talked about town was all about! We managed to ride all of the routes before heading out to meet up with a friend of a friend.

Yup, that's how we roll. Our friend, Steve Owen, that lives in Granada, Nicaragua has a high school friend that he hasn't seen in 30 years who lives in Barcelona.

Jay Lawrence and I had become Facebook friends and made arrangements for him and his wife, Mary Beth, and us to get together to meet that evening.  A delightful time spent together on the beautiful Plaza Real having drinks and eating tapas. Unfortunately, they were in the middle of moving into a new apartment, so we were never able to get together again. Somehow I know we will continue to be friends and our lives will probably cross again.

Mike was still a bit hungry, so off we went back into the Gothic District to find a new experience. He chose another tapas bar where we plopped ourselves down at the counter. As far as you could see, there were different tapas to choose from. And, as were finding, my glasses of wine were getting larger with very generous pours for very few euros.

This actually is a good time to talk about the differences that we encountered in our libation excursion. In London, each wine glass was clearly marked 175ml and 250ml. Based on the size of pour you ordered, they would fill to that mark. In Amsterdam, Belgium and France, my glasses were generally quite small but they poured close to the brim. However, in Spain and Portugal, I was in heaven with the size of the glasses and the pours, as you can see below. I always ordered the house wine because it was in all but one situation scrumptious!!

WOW!!! That's quite the glass & wine pour!

We set out the next morning to see as much Gaudi as possible. For those that aren't familiar with him, he was an architect with a truly unique artful style. I'm going to let the pictures speak for themselves. All I will say is that I couldn't get enough! Maybe after all of our pictures, you will be tempted to go see these buildings for yourself. Truly awe inspiring!  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antoni_Gaud%C3%AD

Casa Batllo:https://www.casabatllo.es/

Our plan for the afternoon was to make our way by foot to Gaudi's church, Sagrada Familia. What we were realizing is that the architecture of most of Barcelona central and old town area was one marvel after the other.

Upon reaching the church, we found that they were sold out for the rest of the day. Bummer!! So we stood on the sidewalk and used their free wifi and booked our tour time for the next day at 1pm.

Time for another noted observation of our trip.  Seniors do not get discounted tickets for anything in London, Amsterdam, and Belgium. In France, we found a few that offered it to us. However, in Spain and Portugal, it was always offered with the few exceptions that you had to be an EU resident. And, it should also be noted that 65 was the age required so we always saved on Mike's tickets.

We decided since we were at the Sagrada Familia and it was a beautiful sunny day, we would take all of our outdoor pictures of this absolutely magnificent structure.http://www.sagradafamilia.org/

Rather than walk all the way back, we took the metro and went to see Casa Mila (also known as La Predrera, the quarry), another Gaudi masterpiece!https://www.lapedrera.com/en/home

We were more than tired after all of this visual stimulation so we decided it was time for a libation at one of the sidewalk cafes. Feeling refreshed, the walk back to the Rambla was a beautiful walk.

The next morning we decided to head deeper into the Gothic District. Our first stop was at the National Cathedral. Stunning, incredible, beautiful, etc, etc. http://www.catedralbcn.org/index.php?lang=en

I think you've had enough of Barcelona, Spain for one read so I'm going to end this post here after 3.5 days. With 3.5 days left, you'll be glad that I broke this city into 2 parts.

For those wanting some more pictures: https://app.sugarsync.com/iris/wf/D646513_05977316_6886503

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