Off the islands...

Trip Start Dec 30, 2006
Trip End Jul 27, 2007

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Flag of Spain  ,
Monday, March 5, 2007

Arriving in a new city, of any size, at night, can be rather disorientating.

I got into Barcelona not too late - but still late enough that it was dark outside.  My directions seemed simple enough...take the train from the airport to a station called ''Catalunya'', change to a subway for one stop then a quick four block walk.  I even found Catalunya station on the map I picked up at the airport.  No problem...I was set to go.  I'm not sure when but I assume recently, the airport train stopped stopping at Catalunya station.  It must have been recently because even the tourist map I had showed it as an airport train stop. 

Regardless, after four stations of waiting and watching for Catalunya station I had arrived at the end of the line...literally the last stop.  I did know where I was (remember that map?) but the last train station didn't appear to be near a subway stop and it looked like a long walk to where I needed to get to with my pack on.  So I broke down and grabbed a cab. 

I figured this would save me the four block walk too but soon found out where I was staying, in the Gothic District, was pretty much pedestrian traffic only - no cars allowed, so the driver was a little confused with the address I gave him.  When he figured it out I got a look that basically implied "idiot, you should know cars don't go there''.  €6,00 later I was standing outside the subway exit with a four block walk ahead through the Gothic district.  It was here, in the Gothic District, that I saw the nightlife that was only hinted at on Ibiza Island.  Tonnes of restaurants, bars and all sorts of shops lined the small pedestrian only streets and all just starting to get busy around ten at night.  Ditched the bags at the hostel and headed out to explore the area...found lots of great stuff in the little alleys leading off throughout the Gothic District.  Good times.

Hostel was internet but a lot of websites where blocked to prevent people from using it too long which was kind of a pain in the ass.  Also, not the most social hostel for meeting people...I'm not sure if that was just due to the days I was visiting or if that place attracts an older quieter crowd.

I did end up doing one touristy thing during my stay in Barcelona and that was buy a ticket on one of those double decker hop on hop off buses that tour the city.  A bit expensive but it did make it easy to get around for a couple days as I found Barcelona to be very spread out...a lot of sprawl in the city.

I stopped and looked at La Sagrada Familia but did not go inside - too expensive.  It's an impressive structure but I am still left puzzled why, exactly, it hasn't yet been completed.  Construction started in 1882 and is set to go on for another 20 to  30 years, depending on who you ask.  It sounds to me like they need to fire their general contractor and get some efficiency experts in there.  Somebody has been screwing the dog long enough...maybe it's time to give Mike Holmes a call.

Whenever anyone hears about an amusement park on top of a mountain - I think, as a responsible citizen, the first response should be something along the lines of "How do I get myself there in the fastest possible way?"  I know that was my response when I heard about Tibadabo - a funicular ride to the top of, I'm guessing, Tibadabo Mountain, the tallest point in Barcelona.  Also up there is the oft-photographed communication tower designed by Norman Foster. 

Unfortunately the park isn't open everyday of the week until April and, as I didn't go on a weekend, the park itself was closed when I visited.  However, that didn't stop a lot of people walking around and enjoying the views and the (inexplicable) church at the top of the amusement park with probably the best views of the city.

I was hoping to catch a futebol game during my stay in Spain but the big match, Barcelona vs. Real Madrid, was going to occur after I left Spain for France.  When I was in town FC Barcelona was on the road vs. Liverpool (a 1-0 win for Barca). 

Tickets for the game vs. Real Madrid started at €73!  That is impressive, considering they play in the third largest futebol stadium in the world, after Rio De Janeiro and Mexico City.  Over 100,000 fans a game.  That's a bit more than BC Place!  I ended up taking the self-guided tour which gave a suprising amount of access to the stadium since the team was on the road.

One thing that struck me about Barcelona that I wasn't aware of before is the architecture.  It is a city very proud of its unique buildings and its past as a home to Antoni Gaudi, a pioneer in design (think Frank Gehry but over 100 years ago).  I saw his residence, an apartment building and a failed housing project that has been a public park since the 1920s.  All of them (plus other projects) he designed and built over one hundred years ago!  They look like they come out of fairy tales and it's hard to believe they where built with the technology that existed at that time. 

The Gaudi works really stood out as impressive but other more modern structures are also plentiful in Barcelona including buildings like Torre Agbar (somebody was compensating for something) and many other structures built around the time of the 1992 Olympics. 

Only slight downfall was the weather - it wasn't as nice as Ibiza Island was and on the last couple days the weather was pretty overcast and rainy.  I got caught in the rain just after leaving Poble Espanyol, a re-creation of different Spanish villages built for the 1929 world exposition.  I was walking in Montijuic Park, heading to the cable cars that goes over the city and stops in the downtown waterfront area.  Halfway there it started raining...badly.  When I did get to the ticket booth the cable cars where closed due to the weather.  No cover around..was still getting soaked.  I saw a cafe nearby but unfortunately other people had the same idea so it was standing room only which really is the best way to enjoy a €2 bottle of water.  After twenty minutes a few of us got tired of waiting and made a break for it walking down the small mountain side.  Good times.  Needless to say there wasn't too much sun bathing going on at the beach that day.

Despite the slight overcast weather, Barcelona was great, there was a great vibe in the streets, lots of great nightlife - especially in the Gothic District - and lots of sights to see during the day.
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