placa espanya and the museum of national art of catalunya
venetian towersolymic torch monument
track and field for modern day 1992 olympic games.
Sagrada Familia (by Gaudi) in the far distance. by far the coolest piece of architecture i have EVER seen.
Thursday & Friday, June 9th – 10th: Barcelona, Spain
Espana! This was the definitely the most livable city we visited. When we arrived early Thursday morning we signed up for the “express walk off”, meaning we carried our own bags off the ship. The cruise line really advised against this (probably bc everyone is so old and cant handle luggage) but also that taxis are scarce. We walked out of the port to about 50 cabs. Again – happy with our choice.
Our taxi took us straight to our Novotel Hotel, in the business district of Barcelona (right next to the Agbar Tower, which is a newly constructed circular tower that lights up with many colors at night). We dropped off our luggage, then just started walking. We walked to the Sagrada Familia, one of the archetect, turned artist, Gaudi’s work still in progress. It is a cathedral and basicilia, where Gaudi is also buried. They anticipate it to be completed in the next 30 years. All his work looks like something out of a dream. He was inspired by nature and he combines nature and religion on the Sagrada Familia. From far away it looks like a melting candy wonderland – I have never seen anything like it.
We bought a hop-on, hop-off bus pass at the square and began our days journey. First stop – Placa Espanya with the Venetian Towers, which hosts many outdoor concerts and events in front of the Magic Fountain (or Font Magica) with the Museum of National Art of Catalunya as a grandier backdrop. It was beautiful. We didn’t enter the museum, but made plans to come back in the evening for the Magic Fountain show.
We then bussed on over to the arenas that hosted the 1992 Olympic Games! We saw the Olympic Torch Monument, the stadium that hosted the track and field events, and all the outdoor squares. It is quite the facility. Warren’s coach from BYU ran at these Olympics on this track, so it was pretty cool for him to see.
By this time I was starving (of course), so we skipped a few stops to get to Las Rambles, the main shopping and eating district. It is a long street lined with cafes and street performers. Our lunch was nothing to write home about. So after our meal, Warren was on a serious hunt for some street food his friend Ernesto recommended called shwarma. We asked a couple locals who looked very confused and then a couple guys seemed to know what it may be. They referred us to a Turkish eatery with pigs and chicken roasting. They would razor off some meat and basically make a burrito. It wasn’t called shwarma, I think it was what Ernesto was talking about, but Warren is still not convinced.
We wandered through the narrow streets to find the Gothic area, which had a cool bridge, a church, cathedral and tons of museums. We saw signs for “tapas” everywhere. We then strolled to the public park to see the Arc de Triomf. There were a bunch of guys in the park practicing their bartending tricks with bottles and shakers - throwing and juggling them everywhere. None of them were very good, but it was interesting to watch.
The coolest thing about Barcelona is that they have a public bike rental for the local residents. There are many different stations, so you can pick one up, ride it around town, then drop it off where it is convenient for you. Each bike has a GPS tracker, so if someone tries to get tricky, they can locate it. Everyone uses them. We wished they offered them to tourists. There is even a designated bike line on all the streets, separated from the sidewalks and driving streets by its own curb lined with trees.
We walked through the Placa de Catalunya to find some sort of strike or movement going on. There was a ton of hippies camped out in the square, even some had made tree houses. Who knows what it was all about. Warren tried to listen to the guy preaching to everyone, but they speak so fast. Our Spanish is very limited. But I have to say I was more than impressed with how much Warren could speak and understand, or he just fakes it really well. :-)
We grabbed one of the last buses leaving from the Placa to get back over to the Magic Fountain area. We asked a local late 20-something guy on a scooter a good place to eat. He told us Sylvester’s down the street with “jamon, jamon, jamon” hanging in the windows. And he wasn’t exaggerating. There was so much pork hanging from the ceiling. I ordered a sausage with potatoes and veggies (safe) and Warren ordered some arroz negro (black rice with fish). When our food arrived, I couldn’t even look at Warren’s. We should have taken a picture. It looked like black tar with scary shelled creepy crawlers on top. He felt obligated to eat it, since we were paying for it, but it was a lot of work. He had to de-shell the creatures. It was so gross to watch – the color was the worst part. And that the black would get stuck in his teeth – haha.
Thousands of people were gathered at the Magic Fountain for the late night water and light show coordinated with music. It reminded me of the Bellagio water show in Vegas, but not as cheesy. The music was from all over the map. We retired home by taking the metro (best decision). We were able to purchase 10 trips for around 8 euro. It went right back to our hotel in just a few stops.
The next morning we woke up early to meet up with a Gaudi tour we signed up with. We met at the Placa de Catalunya when is started raining! Luckily we were prepared this time. There were lots of old people on the tour (the norm) and we had a nice airport bus to guide us around town. We journeyed by the Casa Batllo and also one of his most famous works, La Pedra.
We then drove up to Park Guell, which was a community Gaudi had helped with the irrigation and city planning, that never really took off. All his architecture is beautiful and dream-like. There were two gingerbread-like houses, a market 80-something columns and a decorated roof and walk-ways that fit into nature.
The tour ended at the Sagrada Familia, where we were able to skip the line to go inside. The inside reminded me of a light-colored Tim Burton movie style. The pictures just do not do it justice. The tour was well worth the price we paid.
We stopped for lunch back at the Placa at a side street cafeteria type café. The food was actually very good. Warren tried some traditional pizzas on a flat baguette and I had a ham and cheese sandwich with a fried egg atop and Italian pasta salad. Muy bueno.
We had planned on renting bikes in the afternoon and relaxing on the topless beaches, but the rain was relentless. We retired to our hotel for an afternoon nap. We were able to connect with Eugene and Andy and planned to meet them for a very late dinner. In Barcelona, people start eating dinner around 8:30pm and restaurants serve dinner until 2am. We planned to meet them at 9pm. I found a restaurant online that was listed in many guidebooks. The main reason we chose it was because on the review sites the management of the restaurant had actually taken the time to rebuttal against the bad comments made. And their rebuts were hilarious. We decided it was a must.
It was called Taller de Tapas, located on the windy back streets of the Gothic area. I don’t think I gave Andy and Eugene great directions (granted it was a little difficult to find) bc they never showed. Unless we totally just got stood up by our new bff’s. Lame. Maybe we wont be visiting them in Miami after all.
Warren and I ordered the following traditional Spanish style tapas (which is basically a small plate or appetizer size): pebrots de padron (hot and spicy green fried peppers), brocheta de pollo marinado con finas hierbas y vino blanco (grilled chicken kebabs marinated with white wine and herbs), patates braves (fried potatoes with garlic mayonnaise and spicy smoked paprika sauce), xoricets de Pamplona a la sidra (sizzling chorizos braised in asturian cider), and of course the traditional bread with a light tomato sauce. It was delicious. Best food in Barcelona we had during our stay.
And that’s it!! That was our trip, the abridged version (believe it or not). :-)