June 26, 2007

Barcelona Overview: Day One

------------------------it's a long one------------------------

Also: the night-time arrival...

Señor CC and I flew from Málaga to Barcelona fairly late. We arrived, gathered our bags (woot! They both made it!) and exited the posh looking arrivals terminal. Taxis clustered to our right and people lines up towards our left; the latter was the transportation we chose. A special airport transfer bus, called Aerobus, carried us and our luggage to Plaça Catalunya. I had reserved a room at the H10 Plaça Catalunya, so we simply had to walk across the wide spacious pedestrian plaça and we were there.

It was late, but we were both pretty hungry so we walked out of the hotel, turned right, and immediately entered a tapas bar. Granted, the kitchen was closed, but there were plenty of pinxtos to choose from at the bar, and a few hot things had just been placed, so we had a decent snack. The only thing on the agenda after our trip and late snack was sleep.

Our first stop Saturday morning was the Tourism Office under Plaça Catalunya. There we purchased the Barcelona Card. When I was first researching our trip I wasn't sure if the Card would really be worth it since you don't actually get into many sights for free; you pay a reduced price. Once I priced everything I thought we would do and added it up, however, the Card was the cheapest way to go. It included free transportation on all metro, bus and funicular for the three days that we had it. Since I love using the tube, this was fantastic.

Las Ramblas

Plaça Catalunya sits at the northern end of the main street in central Barcelona: Las Ramblas. It is a lovely pedestrian street that follows what was the outer edge of the old walled city all the way to the port. We hopped on the tube to head towards the sea. Then we hopped right back off again because we got on going the wrong way. Oops! The situation was quickly remedied and we made it to the other end of Las Ramblas in no time.


The port was a beautiful sight on such a fantastic morning. We hung around for and watched the boats leave the harbor. There was a mercadillo with plenty of people shopping for trinkets. The port itself looks quite modern compared to most of what I have seen in Spain. I think this is in part due to the fact that the Olympics were held in Barcelona not too long ago. I also got the feeling that Barcelona is just a fabulous mix of the old and the new; there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Land ho!

Our destination was the Cristopher Columbus Monument that sits at the end of Las Ramblas. The statue on top is Cristóbal himself pointing out to sea. Ferdinand and Isabella welcomed him here in Barcelona when he returned from his trip. The monument has bas-reliefs around the bottom that depict Colón throughout the process of planning his trip, asking for money, sailing, landing, and returning with gifts and new people. There is an elevator in the monument, a tiny round one (max. 6 people), that took us up to the top for some fabulous views of Barcelona. We were able to see Las Ramblas, the Barri Gotic and Montjuic.

Our next stop was the mount you may recall from the Olympics. We took the tube and then the funicular up to Montjuic. We walked around to the Poble Espanyol, which I will write more about another time. You're welcome. The area on the hilltop is very nice and it was obvious that some thought and care had been put into planning the area. There are museums, the Olympic Stadium, Magic Fountains, and more.

Once we were done at the Poble we headed back towards the funicular and stopped in the Fundació Joan Miró. That is some crazy stuff. Señor CC and I aren't the most avid fans of Miró, but it was interesting to see his take on the world. I enjoy his sculptures more than anything. Perhaps one of the most fascinating pieces in the museum is the mercury fountain. When we first passed this piece, we didn't even think twice about it; unless you stop and look closely, it appears to be just another fountain. Upon further inspection, we could see that nope, that sure wasn't water - didn't move like water, didn't make things wet like water, didn't remain connected like water. It was very entertaining to watch how the mercury reacted to its path on the sculpture. We could see why people would come to the museum just to watch the fountain.

A temporary exhibit showed everyday objects in action on a very grand scale. In addition to the action, everything was taken in a very literal 3-D sense. One, a music composition, was crumpled a bit and not only had the paper wrinkled and mussed, but the staff itself appeared broken and smooshed off of the page. Notes fell off or were dangling. Another was a quill and ink pot along with paper and writing - this had the same sort of effect; the words themselves were 3-D separate from the paper. Why I enjoyed these two especially could be a whole other post, so I will spare you.

What's That Squirming in Mah Belly?

Señor CC and I have started a tradition. When we go to new places in Europe we find a well-reviewed and recommended sushi restaurant at which to eat. Nagano was the choice in Barcelona. I am not the biggest fan, although I can handle it. Señor CC, on the other hand...well - you can see for yourself.

The Barri Gotic was our first stop after our very filling lunch. We headed first to the City History Museum. This was easily one of our favorite experiences for the weekend. We went into the building, stowed our bags, and then took an elevator about sixty-five feet down under Barcelona. There we found the old city: Barcino. This old city was established by the Romans during the reign of Emperor Augustus. Our tour included the old city walls and watch towers, the laundry, salted fish production, wine production, as well as foundations for multiple other buildings. We walked through the old city ruins on elevated platforms that allowed us to follow in the 'footsteps' of those from long ago. We highly recommend a visit if you are ever in Barcelona.


Our next stop was the Cathedral. I have never been in a more crowded Cathedral in my life. I am sure that places in, Vatican City for example, are more crowded; I would expect them to be. I did not expect the Barcelona Cathedral to be so full. There was no admission charge, which was nice. We entered through the cloister, where the security team is kept. Oh yes, they are. There are thirteen of them, and they do indeed make a racket.

We timed our visit to the Cathedral so that we would be there at 18:00 for a chance at witnessing the time-honored tradition that is the Sardana Dance. Luckily, the band showed and the people, they didn't disappoint.

Slay the Beast!

A tube ride or two later, and we were in the Eixample. This area is outside of the Bari Gotic and just north of the Plaça Catalunya and our hotel. The neighborhood was planned in a grid format and is full of shops and restaurants and also? A little bit of extravagance. Oh yes - that is Casa Batlló, a famous building by Antoni Gaudí. I will rant and rave about him more another time, but I must tell you: George killing the dragon = excellent inspiration indeed.

This One is for You, R-Shelly.

We were a little tired at this point, what with all of the walking on Montjuic and general standing all day, so we headed back to Plaça Catalunya for a rest at the hotel before dinner. Luckily, the fountains were on and it was beautiful. We lingered for a bit, and then headed up to get off of our feet for a while. We ended our evening with yummy dinner, fabulous wine, and a failed search for churros con chocolate. No worries - we decided we'd have to search again on Sunday night.


BU said...

These are always fun, especially since I won't be getting a passport for eight million years -- you should write more often!

P.S. The link for Casa Batlló is busted.

Señora CC said...

Thanks - fixed it for your viewing pleasure.

Brianne said...

Nice! Convinces me even more that I want to go to Barthelona!