A bit of Barcelona tourism

Trip Start Sep 14, 2011
Trip End Sep 26, 2011

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Monday, September 26, 2011

It was time to go home. Nearly. Our flights were quite late which meant that even after packing we had pretty much a full day in Barcelona with no festival distractions. We weren't able to retain the apartment for the day because someone else was due to arrive, so our first activity was to get down to Sants Station where there is a good left luggage facility. We certainly didn't want to cart backpacks around with us all day.

Hunger had overtaken us but we had some idea of a plan for the day, so we bought a T-10 and got the metro to parallel near the Funicular de Montjuich and quickly found a restaurant where we had an excellent breakfast. Their menu del dia included a couple interesting sounding dishes with rabbit on offer so we made a mental note to check the place out again on a future visit.

The ascent of Montjuich is quite good fun because the first section can be done by funicular and from the top funicular station it is just a short walk to the two stage teleferique that lifts you quickly but with superb views of the city and the sea to the castle at the top of the hill.

Yet again, the weather was lovely so we set of on a circuit around the outside of the castle. There are seats overlooking the port and the Mediterranean and we settled down on one for no better reason to enjoy the view. After a short while a large bird of prey drifted overhead. At first we thought it was an Osprey but upon closer inspection we realised that it was actually a Booted Eagle. Then another appeared. And another. In all we counted 21 birds in about 15 minutes, 20 of which were Booted Eagles (the other went by at eye-level so we couldn't identify it). The species is migratory and breeds in Europe, spening the colder months in Africa. Oddly, these birds were all appearing from the south west and heading north or north east. We guessed that they might be trying to find thermals to take them to higher altitudes in preparation for a long trip towards Gibraltar and then Morocco.

After circumnavigating the castle, where the remnants of the Merce circus were still being tidied up, we started to walk down through the parklands that flank this hill that forms the southern boundary of central Barcelona.

There is lots to see and do around Montjuich. We went to have a look at the Olympic Stadium were we stopped for some refreshments and to watch the cats and kittens that hang around the cafeteria and which show no sign of having any regard for the humans that try to entice them over.

A series of escalators were built from Avinguda de la Reina Maria Cristina to Montjuich for the 1994 Olympic Games to reduce traffic congestion and presumably to prevent numerous heart attacks caused by people struggling up the steep slopes in the city heat and we found our way down to these easily and used them to get back to the city, stopping to admire the grandiose architecture of the National Museum of Art and the pretty prospect from the mirador just below the museum. CC and JD were slightly puzzled by four tall pillars just behind (or in front of, from this vantage point) the famous Magic Fountains. We couldn't recall having seen them before so we were quite pleased when we read their inscription and discovered that they had been erected since our last visit a year before.

The walk down Avinguda de la Reina Maria Cristina is pleasant, especially in weather like this, but you need to take to the tunnels to get to the other side of Placa d'Espanya without walking all the way arounf the outside and waiting at half a dozen pedestrian crossings for a pause in the constant traffic (probably half of it lost or mislaid tourists in rental cars, lke me on the day of our arrival). Catalunya is making a stand against bull-fighting and the former bull-ring on Placa d'Espanya has been converted into an up-market shopping centre, called Arenas de Barcelona. Although I'm not that bothered about shopping per se, we fancied having a look at this interesting development so we paid our €2 each and took the glass-sided lift to the top, from where we were able to get a view across the city from a new direction. Close by was Placa d'Espanya and the route that we had just taken from Montjuich and behind us was the Parc de Joan Miro - and artist not quite as well known as Picasso or Gaudi but whose works are well represented in Barcelona, with a museum dedicated to him on Montjuich which is more than worth a look.

Modern architecture either inspires people or leaves them cold. I was quite impressed by what has been done to the traditional bull-ring, which to be honest is really only notable because it is circular and I particularly liked the gleaming pipes that decorated the roof. The interior has presumably been completely transformed and although I wasn't that interested in browsing in the shops I was quite happy to ride the escalators to the ground level to start a walk down the Gran Via del Corts Catalans, where JD had a shopping order to fill for her sister and brother-in-law.

The Gran Via is a fine street and one that we seldom see at its best. We normally end up going down it in a taxi coming from or going to the airport and we have several times walked along it from Placa d'Espanya to the city centre in the dark after Piromusical but this might have been the first time JD and CC had walked a reasonable part of it in the daytime. It has a decent collection of individual buildings with several minor modernista edifices here and there.

Shopping completed we started to think of going home. We jumped on the metro at Urgell to use the last rides on our T-10 to get us back to the vicinity of Sants Station where we thought we would find somewhere for our final Barcelona meal of the holiday. We got of the train at Placa de Sants station which is a short walk from the mainline station and found a place on Carrer del Riego called El Mon de la Tapa that was advertising something like 70 tapas from €3 each. We thought it sounded good so we went inside. It was good too. If you're looking for something to eat near the station you could do a lot worse than this. Cheap and lots of choice.

Not much else to say. The flight back was on time and arrival was even faster than it had been at Barcelona, with our bags already on the carousel by the time we got there, even though the passage through immigration had been smooth and problem free. A 90 minute drive home and we were all tucked up in bed by 2 a.m.

I'm already missing Tarragona and Barcelona, though. We have big and jungly plans for September 2012 and we're sort of thinking that we should try to do a longer stay in Tarragona
before to long, to experience their correfoc, so it might be 2014 before we return for La Merce. A two year gap is hard to contemplate but Spain has other festivals and there are other chances to hear Amparito Roca, Who knows ...
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