Sunday, August 10, 2014

Spain Part I: Hola Barcelona

Tuesday 10 June 2014
We had a sleepless night. The increasing heat led us to sleep with the windows wide open and there was a lot of noise…people spilling out of bars, insanely loud seagulls, garbage trucks that took forever, etc.

One of the rogue seagulls :D

Goodnight La Grande Motte

Exhausted, we were up early and lugged our bags back to the bus stop and fumbled our way back to the tram in Montpellier. We were all ready with exact change for the bus driver, but apparently the fare had increased 10 cents. This took some time to figure out with neither us, nor the bus driver speaking the same language. Since, somehow, the same bus (#106) took a different route back to Montpellier from the way we had arrived…we had a scare that we were going to the wrong place, but all was well. We returned to the tram and then to the train…feeling all was much easier to navigate on our return.

 I wish that we had time to see more of Montpellier, as it seems a cool town, but we chose instead to spend a few days relaxing by the beach.

We arrived to the train station and found that all trains into and out of the station were stopped due to someone having been injured on the track (!!). We got coffee and croissants in a café and waited.


Ciao for now France

We had arrived about three hours early in fear that something would go awry with our many forms of transportation. So, we sat and sat. Luckily, our train was only about 20 mins late.

Pres and I boarded the train without incident and were on our way for our 3 hour journey to Barcelona.

We arrived to a busy train station and made our way through to the connected metro station. We had only a few stops to reach our B&B, which we found after a few minutes.

The B&B is a cute little place on the top floor of an old building. It has a kitchen, a breakfast room, a nice terrace, and rooms on the floor below…which share a modern bathroom.

Breakfast room

Tired from our sleepless night, we rested a bit and then set out to see some of the city.

From our window, we can see the top of the famed Sagrada Familia, so we headed there.

There it is!!

The walk was only about a ½ mile and we opted to take some pictures from the park below rather than going inside.

The church looks nothing in person like I thought it did from the many pictures I’ve seen. Pictures make it seem so ‘hive-like’, but in person, the church is intricate and grand, despite the cartoonish colors of the spires. I was truly surprised to find that I liked it.

We got some iced coffees to keep us going and headed north through the city on a gentle incline. I’m not sure how to describe it here. It’s more open and inviting than highbrow :P Paris, which can be intimidating.

There are dozens of little markets selling fresh fruit on the sidewalks of every neighborhood. The insides of these markets are like convenience stores.

Despite my lackluster Spanish (four years in school!!), it’s comforting to recognize at least every few words I hear spoken. It’s warm here too…and humid. My fave.

We made our way up and up to Park Guell, which was an outdoor venture of Barcelona’s beloved architect Gaudi.

The park was magnificent…like something from a story. It’s hard to describe. There were flowers, overhanging structures, and old buildings with columns. I didn’t take pictures that do it justice. (In fact, I'm really slacking on the good photos of late. Tired?) 

It’s possible to walk around the park for free, but some areas need tickets. For example, there was a wide terrace that overlooked the city, which required an entrance fee and a wait in a long line. The views were fine from everywhere, so we skipped the terrace.

It was a hilly park. We climbed our way to the top and took in the views of the city. It was absolutely gorgeous…and HOT. We were dripping with sweat :P

We took our time walking back down the hill to our hotel. We stopped at a little market and got some wine to enjoy on the terrace of our B&B.

We had our wine, read books, and ended up going to bed early. Dinner in Spain is traditionally served late (like, past 10), so we skipped it for a good night’s rest.

Wednesday 11 June 2014
We enjoyed a simple breakfast this morning in the breakfast room of the B&B. I chatted with the owner for a bit. He was very helpful and a tad condescending. ;)

We set out on foot towards the Old Quarter of Barcelona, which is just south of where we are staying. We walked down the wide Passeig de Gracia-the main artery of shopping here in Barcelona. We arrived in the tall, old, stone buildings of the Old Quarter soon enough. El Gotic was the first area we explored. The area is very medieval with narrow alleys and old iron accents on the buildings. I loved it.

Kind of a lie about the carros :D

Unbelievably, cars were driving in these tiny streets. El Gotic mostly housed little boutique shops and restaurants with apartments on the top levels.

We strolled around and took a little break by a fountain before walking out towards the water. We walked along the wide pedestrian/bike path and crossed over a bridge towards a shopping center on the pier.

Inside the shopping center, we located the restrooms, but they were pay only. This is common in Europe…and I have to say, a huge diss. :D

On the way back, the bridge we had crossed was opened to let a boat sail through, so we sat and watched for a while.

After wandering back through the streets, we settled on a “Menu de dia”, which is common here. For a set price, you get an app, a main, dessert, and a drink. There are a few options for each and the price is quite reasonable.

We enjoyed rose wine with fish and chicken and headed back towards our hotel…full from our three course lunch!!

We spent the afternoon on the terrace reading again and then headed down the street to have tapas for dinner.

Terrace views

We got a good spread: Catalan bread-olive oil on toasted bread smeared with tomatoes; veggies; and cheesy potatoes-all with red wine.

Mmm bread :D

It was tasty. We returned to the hotel and tucked in for the night.

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