Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Barcelona - June 1-4

The plane ride to Barcelona was uneventful if you don't count the fact that I woke up with a cold during the night.  It was really cold on the plane and I layered up and used 2 blankets.  I slept through a lot of 2 movies.  One was Arbitrage with Richard Gere and the other was Argo.  Not that they weren't good, but it was in the middle of the night for me.  We had dinner served on the plane and a big glass of red wine.  And 6 hours later we got breakfast.

We took off a little late because someone who had a seat on the plane didn't have the correct visa so she couldn't go and her luggage had to be removed.

Once we arrived the fun part began.  We got a map and first had to figure the way out of the airport.
I read a post about how easy it was to take public transportation to our hotel and there were even directions.  Well I think the directions were meant for someone who had been here before and knew a lot more than we did,  I would definitely update those directions to:

When you get your bags, there are 2 ATM machines conveniently located as you exit.
Take the shuttle which you get downstairs and across the street from the taxis to terminal 2. This is quite a distance away so don't consider any other way of getting there. After arriving at terminal 2 follow the train signs to go upstairs and through a door on the right that takes you over a bridge to a train station.  Buy the T10 ticket for  7.70 for 10 rides. Take the train 4 stops to Gracie and then exit and follow the yellow lines on the sidewalks to the metro station.
Maybe there was a way to get to the metro station from the Gracie station but at the time we just followed the crowds to the outdoors and the buildings there were worth the emersion to the outer world.

Go downstairs and go 1 stop on the yellow.  As you exit the train turn right to go to the red L1 and take that to Glories.  From there follow your way toward the building that looks like a bullet (the Torre Agbar or Agbar Tower built in 2005)

and that will take you to Av. Diagonal and from there it is a 10 minute walk to the hotel.  Just remember you will be hauling your luggage all this time and sometimes it means stairs and lifting to get on and off the train.  All things to consider, depending on how much stuff you have and how much time you want to kill.  Two days later though, having a better idea of how interconnected all the lines are in the underground we were able to make our way from La Sagrada Familia to Catalunya like pros!

We checked in early and our room was ready.

Then it was time to explore.  We walked down the side street, Rambla del Poblenou and found it to be more than just a street.  In the middle of the road is a wide paved area that is for walking, biking, rollerblading, etc.  On either side are the cars.  Streets like this are all over in Barcelona.  They offer areas for people to sit, since there are often benches or just to enjoy an area without vehicles.

The main road that our hotel was on has one of these going the whole length of the roadway. However, this is a busy road which also includes a Tram line that runs on either side of the walkway as well as bus lines on the roads.
In the morning as we sat to eat breakfast overlooking this road we saw people going to work or school, walking their dogor just out enjoying the day.  They walked, rode bikes, rollerbladed, used scooters or travelled by cab, bus or tram (like a trolley).

But back to our first day.  We walked down the Rambla and after a couple of blocks we came to the restaurant area so there were tables and chairs set uo along the walkway for drinks and meals.
We kept walking and came to a park,  we walked through the park and then across the street was the beach.  We were on the Mediterranean!
From our hotel room we had a view of the Sagrada Familia (zoomed in below) with all the surrounding cranes, but more of that later.
We had signed up for breakfast in the hotel for the 3 morning we were going to be there.  That's when I fell in love with Caffe Americano.  It's equal amounts of espresso and water to make it seem like American coffee, but it's even better with a nice crema on the top.
After breakfast we decided to see Barcelona, so with our Rick Steve's Barcelona section in hand we headed out.  We were able to walk to Sagrada Familia from our hotel but there was a long line for buying tickets so we decided to go back later in the day.
We eventually boarded the hop-on, hop-off bus with a 2 day ticket.  Barcelona looked like a big city to see all on foot so we rode around and got a feel for the city. 

We passed an Apple store as well as Starbucks.

We walked down La Rambla.  From wikipedia - "(Catalan pronunciation: [ɫə ˈrambɫə]) is a street in central Barcelona, popular with tourists and locals alike. A tree-lined pedestrian mall, it stretches for 1.2 kilometers between Barri Gòtic and El Raval, connecting Plaça de Catalunya in the centre with the Christopher Columbus Monument  at Port Vell."
This was the start of the walk from the downtown area.
 We passed many old structures and a cathedral in the historical section.
 Came upon a pyramid competition in the square
 And here is the Christopher Columbus statue at the waterfront.
 By now we were hungry so we went to Tapa Tapa for lunch.
We had some beers
 And paella
It was so good when we found ourselves in the same area the next day
we ate there again.  This time we had tapas and of course the beers.
We eventually headed over to the Picasso Museum to see if we could get in.  Museums are free the first Sunday of the month but the lines are also long, so we went to the bookstore and bought a book.
Got back to Sagrada Familia around 7:00.  There was still a line and it wasn't going to be opened that much longer.  One of the workers suggested getting tickets online for the next day and that is what we did.  We signed up for a guided tour.

Sagrada Familia, so amazing that one man, Antoni Gaudi could design something like this back in 1883.  He took over the project a year after it was originally started and when he died it was only 15-25% complete.  However, he designed it so that others could follow his plans and keep working on it.  By chance, just 6 days after we were there,  Laura told me that 60 Minutes had a piece on it which is interesting and shows it better than my pictures.
60 Minutes
60 Minutes Overtime - the construction
In preparation for our tour
The white portions of this model still need to be completed but it is predicted to be done in 13 years.

In the museum part of the building this model shows how Gaudi designed the building
so that it could support itself by using bags with weights and with everything upside down
 the mirror above it showed how it would look when complete.

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