This summer I went to Barcelona for a week, partly since my travel partner and I had gotten a travel coupon from United after we had been delayed on our trip home from the States last year. We had been discussing about where we wanted to go, and finally we both agreed on Barcelona in Spain. I kept a journal while I was there, and have finally gotten around to translate most of it into English, so I can share it with my friends here :) The rest is yet to come at some point! ;)
Wednesday August 4, 2010.
04.20 am is way too early to get up in the morning, but it’s evened out by the fact that my vacation in Barcelona starts today. I got ready in time for when I had booked my cab to arrive, and on the way to Aalborg airport we picked up my travel buddy. We got to Barcelona without any problems, even though the plane we were supposed to fly on from Copenhagen got switched out due to technical difficulties, which caused an about 1 hour delay, but that wasn’t bad at all.
Without much trouble we caught a cab outside the airport, and after about 25 minutes we got to the hotel, and checked in without any problems. It was a rather nice hotel, I’ve seen worse, but I haven’t seen that many that was better (it was also a 4 * hotel after all)
After check in we went looking for a place to eat, and found what looked like a nice place. It was a chain restaurant called Gino’s, with Italian inspired food, which was rather good at the price. After our late lunch, we started walking towards the city center in search of Las Ramblas. We also managed to find it without getting lost, and we only had to look at our map twice to get there! It was very nice to walk around and look at buildings and all other different things there. The trip back to the hotel we also made on foot, and since we didn’t go the same way back, it felt rather long, and we also went a small detour.
Dinner that night was at a sandwich bar not far from the hotel, which wasn’t very good, so we would not go there again, that was for sure!
In our research on-line, and also through some of my friends and family, we had been recommended the “hop on – hop off” bus tour. We picked up a brochure about in at the hotel, and after having looked closer at it, decided that we would buy a two day ticket, since it covered most of the places we wanted to go, so we could use it for transport those two days. They have three routes around Barcelona, and two of them lasts about two hours, and the third last about 40 minutes. After breakfast (again a bad choice of place and food) we hopped on the red route (2 of the 3 routes had a stop close to our hotel, which was very convenient) and rode it all the way around. We were lucky enough to get to sit upstairs, which was great for most of the trip, there was a short period where it rained a bit, but it didn’t last that long.
After having done the first circle on the red route, we continued on it until we came to Poble Espanyol (the Spanish Village). It’s a “village” which was constructed back in 1929 for the International Exhibition, built in the same style as villages usually were built in Spain. In the buildings they have different eating places, art and crafts shops, art workshops and also a glassblowing workshop. Since we were hungry, we soon found a place to eat. They have many restaurants in Barcelona with a menu of the day, where you get 3 dishes for a good price, and we also found that here. We decided to test the sangria out, and it was a good choice since we both liked it, and we had it at least daily on the rest of our trip!
After having had lunch, we walked around the village and looked at the great architecture and in the different shops and workshops. They also had a sculpture garden and a small museum with works by Picasso. It was a very nice place, and I can highly recommend it.
After the village we got back on the bus again, but it was only for a short trip, before we got to Telefèric de Montjuic which is a cable car that brings you to the top of Montjuic (which actually means ”Jew Mountain” since there used to be a Jewish cemetery on the mountain). It was a very nice ride up to the top of the mountain, where there was an old military fort with a great view over the city and the harbor. After having walked around the fort, we walked down the mountain a bit, before getting on the cable car again, about halfway down.
Again we jumped on the bus, until we got to a stop not too far from Las Ramblas. We then explored the area on foot again, and this time we were a bit unlucky, because as we were walking down a street, there suddenly were what we thought was ladies of the night, because there was a lot of them, and they were rather skimpy dressed!
We did however get away from that area without any problems and also found a nice place where we sat down to get a drink and enjoy the great weather. After our drink we continued along Las Ramblas to Plaça Catalunya, where we got on the red line bus again, and rode it until we got to the stop at the hotel. At the hotel we cleaned up a bit, before heading out to Gino’s again for a light dinner, since we weren’t that hungry. And the evening ended not too late, because we were both tired, and needed to relax and get a good nights sleep.
Friday started with breakfast at a bakery/café we had found the day before when we got off the hop on – hop off bus. It was a pretty plain but actually rather tasty breakfast with some great orange juice, and we both agreed that it most likely wouldn’t be the last time we ate there.
We got back on the bus after breakfast, and rode the red route to Barcelona’s Aquarium. It was rather nice to walk around and look at the different settings they had for the fish and all other different creatures of the ocean. They also had a basin, in which they had a glass tube at the bottom that you can walk through, and look at the fish, sharks and different kinds of rays.
After the aquarium we got back on the bus until it got to Port Olímpic (the Olympic harbor during the 1992 Olympic Games) where we changed to the green route on the hop on – hop off bus. It was the shortest route, which took about 40 minutes, where we got around a newer part of the city. When we got back to Port Olímpic, we got off the bus again, and went down to the harbor area to find something to hear. There were a few restaurants that had outside seating with a view over the harbor, so we picked one, where we had a pretty good paella, but it didn’t taste as good as one I had had some years earlier when I were in Malaga. After lunch we took a little walk around the harbor, before we got back on the bus to Plaça Catalunya, where we switched to the blue line on the bus route. That line passed by La Sagrada Familia, which is Gaudi’s amazing incomplete church, that they are still building on, and hope to finish in 20 years time! We had planned to get off at the church, but there were a long line to get into it, so we decided to stay on the bus. The bus later came to a the Tramvia Blau tram. It runs part of the way op the Tibidabo, which is an old amusement park, and we thought it would be fun to ride it. It wasn’t that unique since the tram was pretty new, and only decorated to look like an old one. After we rode the tram down again, it was back on the bus around Barcelona. We both agreed that the red line was the most interesting to ride, since there wasn’t that far between the interesting places.
We got off the bus at the stop close to our hotel, and since we both needed to get our legs exercised a bit, we went to an English book shop that we had found by coincidence on our first day in Barcelona. We both found a couple of books there that we wanted before we headed back to the hotel.
We had a little siesta at the hotel, before we went down to the restaurant in the hotel for dinner. Most restaurants have a siesta after lunch, and don’t open again until 7.30 – 8.00 pm, and we saw that it was mostly tourists that came there at that time. If you want to eat at the same time as the Spaniards, you probably wouldn’t get there before 9.00 pm, so we tried to get used to a late dinner. After we had dinner we went out and found a bar not far from the hotel, were we could sit on the sidewalk and have a drink. It was a very nice evening, and we both enjoyed relaxing with a drink, before we headed back to the hotel sometime after 11.00 pm.
Since we didn’t get to visit La Sagrada Familia on Friday, we started the day by taking a taxi to it, since we really wanted to see it. But when we arrived there, the queue was just as long as the day before (halfway around the church). So after having looked at our map, we took a quick decision and headed for Parc de la Ciutadella (the Citadel park), which we also had on our list. It’s a very nice park with both a Zoo, and a Natural Science Museum. There’s also La Cascade, which is a big and amazing fountain and waterfall. It was a pleasure to walk around in the park, and find nice surprises here and there, like a stone mammoth. The museums were unfortunately closed, and the Zoo a bit too expensive in our opinion. But we still had a nice time there.
Once we had seen what we wanted to see in the park, we headed towards La Ramblas again, and we then passed through the La Ribera quarter. By coincidence we came by the Piccaso museum, which we didn’t visit, and also by Santa María del Mar, which is a beautiful gothic church. During our further expedition we also came by a nice place for lunch, before we were back at La Ramblas again. Once there, we visited the Boqueria marked, that have all kind of Spanish specialties, and a lot of people visiting and shopping there.
We then headed back to the hotel, since we had booked tickets on the Night time bus around Barcelona, which takes you around Barcelona after sunset, so you can see the lights and colors of the famous buildings there. The tour started at 21.30, and we had to be there 20 minutes before that. Even though we were there in plenty of time, it still took a while before we got going, since they needed to get hold of two more busses, than the two they started out with, to accommodate all that wanted to go. Again we rode on double decker busses, and they made sure that everybody could sit on the top deck, so we all had a great view. I really liked that about the company.
It was amazing to ride around Barcelona, and see all the lights at night. We also made a stop so we could enjoy the lights and sounds of the Montjuic Magic Fountain. The tour ended shortly after midnight, and we went to get a bite to eat at a Spanish fast food chain, which wasn’t very good. We both agreed that we had tried it, and we didn’t want to do that again. Then we went back to the hotel, and at 2.00 it was lights out.