August 19th to 22nd, 2004
On Thursday I arranged for a noontime flight to Barcelona so we didn't have to get up to early. It had been raining quite a bit the past couple of days, but I didn't think much about it... Afterall, that's the usual for England. We left three hours before the flight and hopped on the tube to get to the train station. At the train station, there was a sign saying about half the trains weren't running due to flooding in the area. Luckily the train we boarded was just about to leave. However, after pulling out of the station, the train just crawled and then stopped... Several times! We left the house with some cushion on time, but the not knowing how much longer we would be stuck stressed me. (I was to meet up with my brother and his fiancee in Barcelona and I had no way to contact him.) Fellow passengers on the train were pulling out mobile phones to try and rearrange things. I heard one guy say that his plane took off in about 30 minutes. Glad I wasn't on that flight! Anyway, what was normally a 30 minute ride turned into about an hour. We got to the airport one hour prior to departure and there wasn't much of a line for our flight, so we made it to the gate on time. Yeah!!!
Once in the Barcelona airport, we boarded the bus to take us to the town center. It was pretty funny because Dave was saying that he thought the bus was pretty full when it pulled up and that we may not make it on. Well the bus driver didn't think so because he let on another 10 people after us. The seats were full, the aisles were full, and bags were everywhere. Not the preferred scenario for 90 degree weather, but it beats waiting for the next bus!
After we dropped our bags in the hotel and freshened up, we ate a late lunch with my brother and his fiancee, and then headed off sightseeing. Per our usual, we just started walking down a street and ended up stumbling onto Los Ramblas. This is the main street that everybody walks down. It has little cafes with umbrellas, street performers, people selling birds, and throngs of tourists!
We headed south on the street, which dead ends into
the marina and a pretty little footbridge called Rambla
de Mar. The tall statue is called Monument a Colom which
was erected to honor Christopher Columbus.
Hello from the Barcelona Lobster!
Quality control... sampling the sangrias on Los Ramblas!
They were really good by the way :)
Friday morning, after a coffee and muffin we headed north from our hotel in the town center. Targeting Tibidabo as our destination, we powered up the foot mobile (walked) and cruised passed all the major buildings of interest!
This first building, designed by Antoni Gaudi, is called Casa Batllo.
Built in 1906, it is said to pay tribute to the Patron Saint of
Catalonia (Sant Jordi) and the dragon that he slayed. The
second building was next door to Casa Batllo.
Casa Mila de Pedrera (the Stone Quarry), also designed by Guadi,
was built between 1905 and 1910.
Temple de la Sagrada Familia is a partially constructed church
which was the life work of Gaudi. Gaudi worked on the project for
over 40 years (1883-1926) incorporating geometrical shapes of
naturalist style as the basis for the structure. Another interesting
note is that all financing for building the temple comes only from
private donations and alms (built as a temple of atonement).
There are stairs and an elevator which go up one of the towers. We took the elevator up this time because strangly enough, the line was way too long for the stairs. I think that's the first time I've ever seen the stairs line longer then the elevator at a tourist attraction! Anyway, when you get out of the elevator there are some stairs and walkways between two towers which give a pretty good view of the city.
Tibidabo is the 1778ft peak of the Collserola range just North
of Barcelona city center. It has a church, communications tower,
and amusement park at the top. Since it was a pretty good distance
to walk from the Temple to the Tibidabo Funicular, we ventured into
the metro underground transportation. It was a little difficult to
figure out what zone we were travelling to/from and therefore
what kind of ticket we needed to buy. As usual the ticket office
didn't speak English and I don't really speak Spanish, but we
muddled through enough to figure out the zone and purchase tickets.
From the Metro train there is a short tram ride up a hill to the
funicular. However, the operator told us our day transportation
passes weren't good for the tram, so we just walked that part instead.
I was actually happy we walked because the houses were pretty and
the tram was slow to leave. We were a little over halfway
up the hill when the tram passed us.
So after a little perseverance, we finally reached
Church of El Sagrat Cor de Jesus at the top of Tibidabo.
Built in the first half of the 20th century, it's a
beautiful church with magnificent views of Barcelona.
Views from on top of the church!
After a quick ice cream break, we jumped back on
the metro and headed for Placa Expanya. At the northern
side of Montjuic, this was a really grand entrance to the
area where much of the 1992 Olympics took place. This
building, Toros les Arenes, was on the corner
upon exiting the metro station at Placa Espanya.
We crossed the street from the Toros les Arenes and walked
through the two pillars and came face to face with Palau Nacional
and Font Magica. As the sun set, it provided some beautiful
pictures illuminating the Palau Nacional building.
Around back of the Palau Nacional are the Olympic Stadium and
the Torre de Calatrava communications tower. My brother had seen
the telecommunications tower when he flew in, but didn't know what
it was or where it was exactly. He was telling us about it and we
were teasing him that he imagined it. Well, finally when we were at
the church we saw it off in the distance and so we had to believe him.
Then as we came around the backside of the Palau Nactional there it was
behind the trees... just a little bit further away. Well it was like
the quest for the grail! We couldn't leave until we found the tower!
We accomplished so much on Thursday and Friday, that we decided to
spend Saturday at the beach. Oh and since I haven't had a proper summer
yet, I was dying to spend some time in the sun. When planning the trip
to Barcelona, I never even thought about the beach. All of the tourist
shows talk about the buildings and nightlife, but the beach was really
pretty. It's not tropical or anything, but it's a great alternative
to spend a day of rest in Barcelona.
After the beach we decided to take the cable car between the beach
and the bottom of Montjuic for views of the marina. The wait for this
ride was painfully slow. We waited an hour in line and then there are
so many people packed in the car that you can't move, much less get
pictures of anything. I think we would have been better off walking
The Catedral was begun in 1298, but there were churches on this
same site previously. The final Gothic facade was not completed
until the end of the 19th century. (Currently the front of the
Catedral is undergoing renovations, so I didn't get any pictures
of that.) The crypt contains the remains of Barcelona's patron
saint and martyr Santa Eualai. According to the books, there are
13 white geese in the Cloister which are said to represent her
purity and the age she died.
Walking in the plazas and streets...
Sunday our flight didn't leave till late in the afternoon, so we
decided to take the cable car to the Castell de Montjuic at the top
of the hill. This cable car was a lot more fun then the previous
one and the line was really short. It's an open four person type car
and gives great views of the city.
View of Barcelona from cable car
Castell de Montjuic, built in 1640 on top of an ancient Jewish
cemetery, has served as a military base and prison. It's cannons
have been fired on the city to put down rebellions in the 18th and
19th centuries. Also Lluis Companys, president of the Generalitat
of Catalonia during the Civil War, was executed here in 1940 on
Franco's orders. Today it houses a military museum.
When it finally came time to head back to the airport, we
did have a little bit of drama. We had decided that it might
be quicker and little more pleasant to take the train back to
the airport instead of the bus. That was a mistake! According
to the transportation map, it looked like we could just pick up
a line out of the Plaza Catalunya (city center area). Well we
went down in the metro and couldn't find the right line. Some
attendants who didn't speak English tried to point us up and
outside in the right direction, but we still couldn't find
where we needed to go. Finally, since it was getting so late,
I suggested we just get on the metro to the main train station
and then pick up a train to the airport from there. So with a
plan in place and several metro stations later, we made it to the
main train station. We asked for help from the information booth
and made it down to the platform to await our train... Well other
trains came and went, but not our train. We were contemplating
whether we were in the right place when somebody asked if we too
were waiting for the train. We said yes, then somebody else said
that the trains were frequently late and to wait till the right one
appeared on the board. Finally about 30 minutes late our train
pulls up to the platform. We jumped on and made it to the airport
45 minutes before our flight. That was a little close for my
comfort, but the flight personnel didn't seem too stressed about
it. They checked us in and told us to make our way to the gate
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