I learned something today. Skipping my morning stretches a couple days in a row then going backpacking through Barcelona is a REALLY bad idea.
Gill and I ordered a lunch to take with us and left around 10am and were on the train by 11am (we could have been there earlier, but I ended up overshooting the station by several blocks). I took some money out for walking around, but holy crap the exchange rate sucks! It’s almost 1 to 1 (it should be about 1.5 to 1 in our favour). All the more reason that the all-inclusive package was a good idea.
It takes about an hour to get in to Barcelona, and my worry-wart self can’t help but constantly watch the TV display looking for when our stop is coming up. Maybe we’re really heading for France?
I’m reminded of my time in Japan here for several reasons. One the trains, train stations and subway systems all have a similar feels to certain parts of Tokyo. But the other is the language. I remember telling my students that Spanish is generally easier for Japanese people to learn because there is a certain phonetic similarity between them, vowel use and whatnot. Some of the town names we passed through sounded like they could have been Japanese (Okata, for example).
We arrive near the town centre of Barcelona, an area called Catalunya. We get up the escalator and into a bright blue sunny day.
I take a deep breath and say, “Welcome to Barce-” THUD. Gillian crumpled at the top of the escalator like a Jenga stack. Nothing serious, but it certainly was one of our typical moments. In fact Gillian fell again a half hour later, which is really surprising, because Barcelona has the single best city centre for pedestrians anywhere. All the walkways were nice and even, a million times better than anything in London.
The other amazing thing was how many there were. On our map of Barcelona we noticed most of the roads were purple, with only a few white roads. In any other city the white roads would be the footpaths. Here they were the car roads. Easily 75% of the roads in the Old City are pedestrian only, which is awesome.
We walked down Las Ramblas, which is a very very long footpath lined with trees on either side and markets and buskers all the way. The buskers were pretty much the same as those in London, but the markets were almost all selling pets. Rabbits, parakeets, even roosters and hens.
From there we turned off into the Barri Gotic area, full of gothic buildings, some so narrow and so high that the bottoms of the streets have never seen sunlight. There are some nice restaurants here, but we brought our lunch, so we sit at the steps by a large church and find out what it is. I ordered it the day before, asking for two traditional lunch packs (they also had vegetarian available).
Each pack consisted of an apple, an orange, two meat and cheese sandwiches, Melba-like toast, butter, jam, pate (very nice pate, I must say), a bottle of water, and digestive biscuits. Not a bad lunch at all. Gillian, however, didn’t want the sandwiches. In fact the only things she had were the Melba toast (dry) the apple, biscuits and water. Something about that struck me as deeply wrong, perhaps the way alcoholics can’t stand to see an unfinished drink. My nose started to bleed. What the? I remember looking down at my bag as it went splat-splat-splat bright red on the white plastic. I certainly hope I wasn’t that upset about it! It was probably just the really dry Spanish weather, and it stopped after a few minutes, but spontaneous nose bleeds always tend to worry me.
After lunch we visited the Catedral, designed by Gaudi, started in the late 13th century and not finished until the 19th. The stain glass and architecture inside are astounding, and we even got to see it from the roof (an elevator takes you up there). I got a couple of nice panorama shots from there. From there we also saw the hill Montjuic, where there is an old castle, the Olympic stadium and various museums. We didn’t have time to hit all that, but we did go up the hill by
furnicular (kind of like a San Fran cable car) which takes you halfway up. The rest of the way is by ski-slope style cable car, but unfortunately they were closed due to power outage.
So we ended up going back home without reaching the top. It was a full enough day for us and we were exhausted. Gill’s feet are killing her and my back… my poor poor back. I really should have done my stretching today.
I’ve included a few choice pictures from when we left up till now in order.