Thursday, July 28, 2011

Nearing the end

Our journey to the Metro station involved a minor incident. On remembering that Gertrude had possibly forgot her ticket, she rested her bag on a moped to look for it. In the process setting the alarm off. She became the centre of attention and not in a good way. Apologising profusely, they returned to the hotel to find the ticket.

Today we were going to have a gentle day taking in a spot of window shopping. Gertrude purchased some fashionable Barcelonian pantaloons. Bertha causing quite a stir contemplating the belly dancing outfit.

Stopping for refreshments we sat on the fringe of a political protest against cuts in the civil service how apt we thought. We tagged along for a while, noting Cilla Black and Ronnie Corbett crossing the road!

Stopping for lunch, everywhere was terribly busy. The waiter identified a table becoming free and asked us to wait until it was cleared. While waiting two ladies, as quick as jack flash, seated themselves in our place. Gertrude, slightly hypoglycemic, approached the ladies and explained the situation but the ladies were unable to understand English. The waiter approached us all and told them the table was reserved for us. We offered to share but they declined on account of Gertrude being a smoker. Remarkable how quickly they learnt English (seems they were from a country not to far away from England, they were from Wales). The waiter, very good at keeping the peace, reserved them the next available table. Which was right next to ours, how they tut tutted at Gertrudes bad habit, wafting their hats till they blew away in the wind. When Gertrude returned from freshening up, she asked directions to the toillette then became quite forward and requested that Bertha accompany her. Bertha, with impeccable manners, declined her invitation to which she became offensive again. We paid our bill and left promptly hoping to avert an international incident.

Having completed out window shopping we headed once more towards the beach. Its a fabulous place to watch the world go by. Today we were amused by the motorised skateboards, entertained by the DLT band again and watched with merriment as the police moved on the hooky men selling their wares.

We returned to the hotel late in the afternoon for a siesta before returning to our favourite restaurant for our last evening meal in Barcelona.

We discovered there had been an earthquake in Spain during our visit, Gertrude had thought it was Bertha snoring!
We had also missed the tall ships returning on Thursday night.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


If we had realised it was Friday 13th May we may never have ventured to Tribidado.
Sir Prancelot was waiting on tables and breakfast was not up to scratch. Leaving the hotel Gertrude was a little confused, subdued even. She didn't rush at every green man and never questioned why we took the metro at Fontana instead of the FCG at Gracia.
We admired a ladies floral pantaloons and as she and every other passenger got off the metro it dawned on Gertrude that perhaps we should have got off at that stop too. Much deliberation and consulting of maps we got off the next stop. Made sure we were on the correct platform to return to Penentants stop (apt we thought for our misdemeanors), three hail mary's later....
We slowly ambled up hill, then down hill, then up and so on and so on until we eventually asked a German tourist for directions. they pointed us back up hill a short walk they said. We decided to go in the opposite direction and found a local bus which would take us to the funicular.
Spectacular is the only way to describe the view. We could see the beach, Familiar de segrada, twin towers and pyranees. It felt like we were on top of the world. Our only gripe, why oh why had they built an amusement park right beside it! We stopped for a coffee and bumped into Freddy Star/Bobby Davro. We thought it rude to check as they both look so similiar.
Refreshed we bagan to climb the many steps to the church. There was an option to get even higher. For 2 euros we could take the lift to the brassilica and once round the brasillica we could climb the stairs yet again to a higher height of 518.5 meters, we were looking down at the pyranees. Indeed we could see Glorias house in the distance.

Being on top of the world brought on a bit of altitude sickness and we became very giddy.


 Having reached the feet of Jesus we could go no further. We had a need to be on terra firma or tribby-dibby-dado. The descent was slightly more tricky, a kind of abseil down the outside of the steeple, and had to be manoeuvered with precise action. First Gertrude, sliding down on her behind, then Bertha tentatively taking each step with caution. On reaching the bottom we rewarded ourselves with an icecream.

A siesta was definiately called for. We safely made it back to the hotel and fell into a deep sleep. what a fandabbydozy, tribby-dibby-dado day.
Is a funicular so called as it is fun to ride.
Is abseiling down the outside of a church considered an extreme sport, if so would our holiday insurance have covered  us!
518.5 meters, who measured it!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Beach

Normal service was resumed at breakfast this morning. We opted for a slower pace and headed for the Picasso museum. We sauntered through the streets adjacent to Rambla's. Narrowly missing a local protest we stopped for coffee. Picasso is such an inspiration, not every ones taste I know. He learnt from an early age the 4 most important aspects for drawing are: line, space, volume and perspective. This is exactly what Gertrude had read in the book she is currently reading, Drawing on the right side of the brain.
Continuing our leisurely pace we meandered towards the beach. Stopping for an ice-cream watching the world go by. A Band set up in front of us. To our surprise, playing the double bass was Dave Lee Travis. The audience swelled and we were joined by the golden girls who fought for the best seat with the Beverly sisters and won. A very entertaining stop.
As we promenaded to the beach we dodged cyclists, skateboarders, rollerskaters and rikshaws. Stopped to watch the ladies only volley ball and averted our eyes at the site of the man in floral speedo's.

As we continued our way to Joan Miro Parc we happened upon a photoshoot, possibly video, involving a scantily clad glamour model. There was quite a crowd gathering so we swiftly moved on.
The park was laid out with palm trees and parrots were flying above our head. We stumbled across some locals playing a games similiar to boules but involving half coconut shaped wooden tossers and skittle like stumps to be knocked down. Bertha found out it was called Bollo's (anyone wishing to know the rules of the game conact me. I will be only to happy to bring this complicated game to Britain) Leaving the park and heading towards montjuic fountain for the music, light, water display we passed a group of young men practising Cumberland wrestling.
The twin towers, the entrance for the fountain was closed due to an exhibition. The security guard was most unhelpful to us, however he did give directions to a small group of Russians that had the good manners to ask in Spanish. On observing this Gertrude suggested to Bertha 'lets follow the Russians'. The Americans, who also hadn't attempted to ask in Spanish, had the same idea, then decided they would visit another day. Bertha wasn't as enthusiastic as Gertrude to follow quite so closely, so to avoid an international incident we dropped back but kept them in eyesight so we didn't get lost.

It was quite a climb to the top, even with the aid of an escalator and once we reached the top, Bertha decided the best view would be from the bottom. We spent the best part of an hour debating whether we would get wet or not. Then promptly on the hour it began. It was a musical, light and water extravaganza, not unsimiliar to Alnwick Gardens.

We topped the evening by eating out at the restaurant 2 doors away from our hotel. We dined on veal and truffles and steak and exotic fruit and chocolate.
Another fine day.
Barcelona has a varied choice of mode of transport to choose from. We opted not to to attempt the electric 2 wheeled scooters!


This morning our breakfast was marred only by the waiter, sir prancelot, spending far too much time preening rather than replenishing the buffet. After several attempts to get a second cup we decided to retire to our room for it.
The rest of the day was tranquil and serene.
On the underground journey we were serenaded by a man playing accordion. We didn't make eye contact or tap our feet in approval which made us look more like locals and less like tourists. We discussed how easy it was to make a living from the streets. The man pretending to be blind whilst selling paper hankies seemed a better option for making a living for the musically challenged. Alternative way of making a living will be necessary for our gap year.

We were soon on the train heading out of Barcelona. It was interesting to see the landscape unfold. All the allotments along the rail track and the sculptured mountains in the distance. The mountains surrounding Montserrat are truly spectacular and the abbey/church/monastery at the top was well worth the journey. We queued to see the black Madonna and child. Graciously said our prayers. After a picnic lunch we strolled back to the funicular for our journey home.
On the train home we noticed we were sharing a compartment with Bette Midler and Dustin Hoffman!!!

We had had an incident free day and back at the hotel rewarded ourselves with a late siesta.

For this evening promenade we turned right, an inclination we hadn't followed until now. We discovered only a few doors from us 3 restaurants and 2 corner shops. Continuing we came across 4 night clubs, 2 for adults only and 1 for members only all brightly neon lit. By the time we had reached the 3rd street away a whole array of restaurants there for our choosing. Again too much was ordered and when not another morsel could be swallowed we admitted defeat and the excess was carefully wrapped in a doggy bag. The jug of sangria was savoured a little longer and when completely empty we staggered the few streets back and collapsed after another most enjoyable day.
Interesting observation
Outside water fountains are highly decorated and often used. Whilst a gentleman was filling his empty bottle today Bertha was quite shocked thinking it was an outdoor urinal!!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The next day

Another hearty breakfast and successfully negotiating the underground, once more getting off at the correct stop. On reaching the the surface we were amazed at the beauty of Casa Batila. Before taking photographs Gertrude stopped for a breath of fresh air break. Immediately she was approached by a homeless person. They exchanged words, he in Spanish, she in English. A lot of hand gestures were involved. Gertrude hadn't grasped what he was trying to say and continued to dismiss him. He was very persistent. Eventually the penny dropped. He wasn't begging for a cigarette but informing Gertrude that she was about to light the wrong end of her cigarette. Panic and apologies over he returned to his spot with his plastic cup and we found an advantage spot for another photo opportunity. The young gentleman ever intrigued, noticed the additions to the attraction shot and promptly reported us to the security officer. Thankfully she was more involved with the traffic build up and although she listened and watched us for a while she soon continued with her work. The young man settled to continue his work. We bade our farewells and waited for the green man to take us to our destination.

After admiring this fine Gaudii work we set off once more to tackle the underground. While ambling round looking for the correct line Gertrude was warned twice by strangers to watch her valuables. Our new found friend (the homeless gentleman) assisted us one final time. He advised us that he could save us 2 euro each. Pointing us in the right direction for what would be a five minute walk, he received a small reward for his thoughtfullness and we had a pleasant walk to Casa Mila
A fabulous building with the most fascinating rooftop and fabulous views. We could see Familiar Segrada, with their working cranes,where we were visiting next and Tribidado where we were hoping to visit on a subsequent day.

Onward bound another pleasant walk, we had a comfort stop and bought strawberries from a grocer. Using the cranes as beacons we soon alighted on the marvel. Our only disappointment was when purchasing the ticket we learnt ther was no longer the opportunity to climb the towers. This disappointment was soon over come by the tremendous near completion of both interior and exterior of this magnificent building to absolute perfection.

From here we once again tackled the underground system heading for Lesseps then continuing on foot to Park Guell. How beautiful the little gingerbread house looked at the gateway. The whole park was alive with tourists, locals and artisans alike. Painters with their pictures strewn across the pavement. Africans in traditional costume, sitting on the sunflowers seat, performing their traditional songs on authentic instuments, inviting their audience to join in.

In the viaduct an unusual arrangement of what looked like a wok turned into a drum accompanied by a violin provided serene music. As we wandered we took in the contrast as we side stepped the array of tat being sold on sheets on the ground. The look out was slow of his mark and there was a scatter of sellers gathering all 4 corners of their sheets containing their wares. They ran like hell in all directions. One unfortunate, not quick enough, was caught. We took advantage of the lull in events to make our way to another part of the park. Not wanting to be a by stander we took the steps to the wave seats with views over the city. Ever watchful of where the scattered sellers where hiding. Concious that the caught seller was perhaps not being searched, interrogated and confiscated of his goods and money by a plain clothes policeman as we first thought. But was in fact in the hands of the mob!

They led him our way and we slowed our pace to let them pass. Just as they were a few steps ahead of us he made a successful attempt to break away. I say successful as he managed to get away unscathed as he tried to rip his wares from the man in charge, he pushed them into Bertha before letting go. As they gave chase Gertrude call out 'be careful' as the man in charge tumbled down several hard stone steps before coming to a stop with a thud. His accomplices went to his aid leaving the seller to live and sell another day. Fortunately Bertha was unhurt. The tumbled man was very dusty, mostly his pride hurt. We managed to continue and enjoy our visit, incident free.

And so it began

After waving goodbye to Lennox we agreed a holiday was in order. Brochures were gathered and perused, the Internet was buzzing with ideas. eventually we decided Barcelona looked like the place for a couple of gals like us. Plenty to see if we felt like it, a beach to idly pass the time and loads of outside cafes to watch the world go by.

So with passport, European health card, euros, holiday insurance and cases packed we set off on our adventure.

The flight was particularly uneventful. The usual array of travellers of all shapes and sizes. A group on a stag night were very well behaved. They each had a t-shirt with their name and a short description of their character printed on the back.

Landing in Barcelona, through passport control, collecting our luggage and a taxi ride to our hotel.

The hotel was down a back street in a very nice area (Gracia). Full of shops and restaurants. The concierge gave us directions to the local bus, rail and underground stops only a short walk away. The room was most pleasant with ensuite, a small kitchen area and a balcony (most useful for smoker's)
After freshening up we decided to have a walk around Gracia to get our bearings for the following day.

Following a hearty breakfast we successfully negotiated the underground system. First buying our tickets (without looking like a tourist) alighting the train at the correct stops we visited the tourist information office in Placa de Catalunya. All this without an incident. As we crossed the road onto Ramblas Gertrude did manage to lose a piece of attire. However she did it with such composure that hardly anyone noticed.

Ramblas is a very long busy street, full of shops, market stalls and street entertainers. Where the old and new blend together. We visited a famous indoor market La Boqueria full of fresh produce, vegetables and meat, but also had many hand made chocolate stalls.

We continued stopping to watch a living artist set up his 'arena' and complete his make up. Passing a beautiful mosaic outside drinking fountain we continued to Christopher Columbus  Column at the bottom of Ramblas and a grand entrance to the port.

We discussed his conquests, bringing potatoes to Spain and possibly even being the patron Saint of travel.

The port was bustling with people and full of boats. As  we slowly ambled, admiring the boats on our way, we reached Port Vell where we decided a comfort stop would be appreciated. Consulting our map and tourist guide we were close to the Gothic Quarter with lots of places of interest.

 A brief glimpse of the scaffolded cathedral La Seu bristling with tourists and we began heading in the opposite direction.

Passing a closed Picasso Museum (note of opening times for return visit) we came to the gothic cathedral on Carrer de l'Argenteria

Most impressed by the serenity and the vastness of the somewhat plain interior. The magnificent stained glass such a contrast to the doer exterior which is anything but inviting. A small donation was placed in a recepticle for immaculous conceptious in case we had been sacriligious with our photography. An opinion Bertha had voiced was 'you will go to hell for this'

We stopped for a tapas luch and a jug of sangria left us in need of a more agreeable comfort stop. Streetside cafes may provide delicious food but their toilets leave a lot to be desired.

Passing Palau de la Musica Catalunya for another photo call we headed off for the underground. Travelling back and forth a couple of stations just to get the hang of it before returning to the hotel for a siesta.

When refreshed we went rambling around Gracia again exploring every corner. It was rewarding to happen across a little documented Gaudii building hidden down a back street. After hiking for 20 km with so much choice we settled for a nice looking restaurant, plumping for hot vegetable soup before returning back to the hotel to continue practising with our Spanish diction.....ola

Unusual custom learned today
Strangers approached regularly asking for a cigarette. They were able to speak several languages. Often asking first in German, then French before being being denied in English.