Barcelona, Spain

August 19th to 22nd, 2004

Barcelona view

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.
Barcelona Monument a Colom bottom part of Colom

Rambla de Mar footbridge Barcelona

Hello from the Barcelona Lobster!
Barcelona Lobster

Quality control... sampling the sangrias on Los Ramblas! They were really good by the way :)
Sangria's on Las Ramblas

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 Batllo building next door

Casa Mila de Pedrera (the Stone Quarry), also designed by Guadi, was built between 1905 and 1910.
Casa Mila La Pedrera

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.
Sagrada Familia Sagrada Familia stained glass Sagrada Familia front
V&S at Sagrada Familia Sagrada Familia tree like architecture

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.
bldgs on hill funicular bldg

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.
church inside church

Views from on top of the church!
D & S at top us at top view from top of church
Dave at top of church looking down from top top of 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.
Placa de Toros les Arenes front pillars

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.
Palau Nacional from down street
more fountains us

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 this part.
view looking back at Marina

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.
outside Catedral inside Catedral inside Catedral
cloister cloister geese cloister

Walking in the plazas and streets...
building with pretty painting street

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.
in cable car cable car in cable car

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.
Castell Castell
big guns at Castell grounds overlook ocean little guns at Castell

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 for departures!


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