Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Travel Tuesday : Barcelona, 2009

When we set off to hike the Carros de Foc back in 2009, we flew in to Barcelona. Here are my notes from that brief visit before our big trek!

HOT. And humid. Uh-oh. Arrived at the airport, collected our bags (phew!), and emerged into the steamy heat and a fog of cigarette smoke. Oh, right -- people still smoke outside of Seattle!

Walked right on to the Aerobus to the center of town, and then the 15-minute walk to the hotel where I didn't really get lost -- we were heading in the right direction -- so much as lost faith in my internal compass. Anyway, we checked in, went straight up to the small but very tidy room, and took showers to wash away the ick of travel. Awesome water pressure!

Walked over to the bus station to sort out tickets to Vielha, where we would start the trek. We had decided to stay a last night in Vielha rather than race back to Barca, given that we almost always prefer smaller villages to larger cities. So we figured out the timetable and the days we wanted. See, we had plenty of time because the queue to buy tickets stretched all the way around the ticket hall. At least the 4 ticket sellers had a system whereby every now and then one of them would go out to the line and look for people who were waiting to buy tickets for buses leaving within 30 minutes. So that was good. We considered just trying our luck the next day, but didn't want to risk missing the bus while waiting in an even longer line. But our main focus today was just to stay awake for most of the day rather than sleep it off.

BTW, I busted out my awesome 5th-grade Spanish to order the tickets. The woman behind the counter kept smiling to herself, probably thinking "Oh, you idiot" but I did feel as if I had made the effort. :)

Spent most of the day traipsing around beautiful Barcelona. We wandered up to Sagrada Familia -- looked very different to my memory of it. More pink? More rainbow-colors on the "sanctus sanctus" art? But I guess that what happens on a work-in-progress after 10 years have passed.

On a whim, and because we were a bit sleepy, we jumped on one of those city tour buses and rode around for a while. We sat in full sun on the top deck -- which felt really nice when we were moving (lovely breeze!) but less nice when we were stopped. I didn't feel like the narration was particulary good -- indeed, when we jumped on a bus later on I noticed that absolutely no one was wearing their headphones. But it was probably a convenient way to move between the sights. Both of us nodded off at a couple of times, so we decided to head back to the hotel for a very brief siesta.

We went through the Barri Gotic, somehow getting completely turned around in the marvellous winding lanes. In a huge comic/manga shop I discovered an interesting new artist/character: Hugo Pratt's Corto Maltese.

 Absolutely beautiful, but we were tired and getting cranky. So we knew the right thing to do was to give in to morpheus and then go back out.

90 minutes later, very refreshed, we walked back out and through the Parc Ciutadella, where we caught one of the tourist buses and rode for a couple of stops. Then we dove back in to the Barri Gotic and wandered around, looking at shops and then settling on a cute little restaurant for dinner. I know, I know -- paella and sangria isn't exactly original, but it was very tasty. And by the time we left, the restaurant was full of locals. Though I did giggle at an English girl ordering the chorizo y jamon pizza, "SIN chorizo". Um, okay.

As we walked back through the winding lanes we stumbled across the Palau de Musica Catalunya late at night, lit up beautifully. Love the green glass newel posts and the floral mosaic pillars.

When we got back to our neighborhood, we joined the people in the plaza across from the hotel. I loved sitting there at 10:30, eating Solera and Magnum ice creams, drinking beer from cans, and discovering what we think might be the hot-climate version of the Kinder Surprise eggs -- the Kinder Joy. It's still an egg, but you pop it open into two symmetrical halves -- one with a toy and a little spoon, the other with a white chocolate mousse/creme and two tiny chocolatey spheres inside -- like tiny ferro rochers. Gorgeous!

I especially liked watching families out with their children in the moonlight -- riding bikes and whooshing around on scooters. I mean, if they take a siesta at 2, then of course they can stay up late. We also saw lots and lots of the same type of dog -- a French bulldog perhaps? -- 3 or 4 at a time. Must be a good apartment dog.

Slept pretty well... at least until 4:15. But then was able to listen to the Now Show and try to get a little more rest. Then we were on our way to Vielha -- on a very long bus ride.

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