Tuesday, July 19, 2011

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.

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