Barcelona, Spain Day 1 - Arrival and La Rambla
Trip Start Jun 25, 2008
77Trip End Sep 01, 2008
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
We woke up bright and early in Pie de Concha, scrambled around the house to tidy up and get things in order, and then packed the car. Mariangles said goodbye to us, and we headed out to Santander to pick up Martin's niece who escorted us to the Bilbao airport after a quick gas and bank stop. (Frustratingly, we found that one of the credit cards I had hoped to use while traveling is constantly being refused in both banks and atm's. Grrr....). It was a sad thing to be driving out of the hills of Cantabria, knowing that it will be quite some time before we will return. We really enjoyed our time there in a very special way. ... But, I will be honest, I'm also quite excited about the next leg of our journey. Next stop ... Barcelona, Spain ... just a quick 45 minute plane ride away
As soon as we land in Barcelona, its clear that 'we aren't in Kansas anymore'. This airport is pretty darn big. The people are all different colors. And we are surrounded by languages from all across the globe. Sculptures and artwork all over the airport. The air so thick with culture ... reminds me of SF. Our first goal is to make good on some vouchers I have purchased ahead of time for "The Barcelona Card". It wasn't cheap. Something like $190 for all four of us, for the five days we will be here. It includes all buses, trains, and metros (including airport connections) ... as well as free admission to 16 different smaller museums, ... and discounts at other places. Time will tell if it was a good purchase. My guess is it will be a wash. ... On the positive side, we basically have unlimited prepaid Metro cards, so as long as we don't lose the suckers, it will add to the convenience factor which is pretty important since we are traveling with the little munchkins.
And then on to the Metro. What an amazing experience. Supposedly, Barcelona has a remarkably strong reputation for several things, one of which is that they have a great Metro system that is easy to use and connects the whole city. ... While that may be true, walking through the cramped tunnels that connect trains to busses to the Metro was bizarrehttp://lovingbarcelona.com/Barcelona_apartment_2206.html)
Our plan is to hit La Rambla for a stroll as the evening winds down, grab some grub, hit up some ice cream stands, ... etc. ... But, a quick pit stop as we head out. A quaint looking barber shop. Just what I need! Its been nearly two months since I've chopped the mop. But I'm not getting just any old haircut. I decided a couple of days ago (while lamenting the fact that my attempts to delay my balding are failing miserably) that now is a good time to do a test run. Now is good, because if I hate the bald look, the hair will grow back. Most of it will. I hope
And the boy will join me.
And so we head in to the barber shop, tell him our story, and the ceremony begins. Laughing, giggling, a mohawk for 30 seconds, teasing, scaring Ella telling her that she is next. Its a grand time. First me. Then Sam the man. Its hilarious. ... First thought as I saw my shaved head self looking back at me in the mirror: "Its Richard!". I look SO much like my older brother now. Jeez. I really wish I hadn't teased him so much about losing his hair. Look where thats gotten me. Karma perhaps? : D ... I have like a million pictures and loads of video of the experience, but I'll just post a couple on here to give a taste.
And then, another Metrotrain trip to the top of La Rambla (which is actually quite close to our apartment, but we Metro it this time to try to conserve the kids' dwindling energy after a day of travel). La Rambla is a shoulder to shoulder, jam-packed promenade of tourists, thugs, tourists, thieves, tourists, ... and more tourists. Don't get me wrong. Its a grand experience. But its not exactly where the locals come to hang out. Perhaps they come to gawk and people watch. Its great for that. But traffic is slow, prices are high, and the offerings of the vendors have that unique feel of 'tourist junk' about them
The kids LOVE La Rambla for one reason. Well, two actually if you include the fact that we gave them their second McD's stop of the trip. ... But what they really love are the plethora of street performers. They aren't particularly talented (again, being honest here). But they certainly are different than what I've seen in the states. Yes, you have the statue dudes, and you have musicians, and you have clowns and magicians. But also, there are people dressed in fairly elaborate costumes on stilts moving about in creepy, mysterious looking ways
If you haven't seen this one, its stupidly simple. But just like a fat kid falling down never fails to get a laugh, ... this thing is a sure winner. There are different setups, but basically a guy hides in or behind a box or blind of some sort. As an unsuspecting tourist walks by, the hiding guy jumps out and scares the hell out of him. Its hilarious to watch, and the previously ignorant tourist is now 'in' on the joke and finds a place to watch the next victim. Lots of fun. After watching several people get scared, we try to coax the kids in to donating some coins. This particular version of the hiding dude ... he has a little mask thing that allows him to bite contributors for a photo shoot, but our kids get nowhere close to waiting around for a bite. Ella is feeling a little more brave tonight so she runs up while holding mom's hand to put the coin in the bucket, and sure enough the guy pops out to scare her (and Janice!). Everybody laughs, she starts bawling
Other notable winners for the kids were The Invisible Man (Sam figured out the gig within 1 minute saying, "Dad, thats just a short guy hiding in the shirt!"), ... and the biggest favorite of the night, the singing and dancing Skeleton puppet. Very simple stuff. I've got tons of video of the Skeleton, but its too big to post online. Great fun.
We top the night off with a stop at The Travelers Bar. Its crowded (a good sign here) and the menu looks great. But alas, no tables. Just a couple of minutes after asking if there was a waiting list (there wasn't. its first come, first serve.), two college students from Austria invited us to join them at their table
Last stop before bed is for a dessert crepe. Its 1am. The streets are still full of people of all types. Families, club goers all dolled up looking to START their night, and people ending a long day of touristing (like us!). All of the side streets that were earlier filled with shops and vendors are now empty and a bit scary looking, but we navigate home without any problems.
First day pretty good. No bombs at the airport in Bilbao. A successful coordination for our apartment rental. No robberies on La Rambla. And some great memories.