Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Barcelona Day 6

La BoqueriaWoke up early (7am) and made one last trip to La Sagrada Familia for a Napolitana (pastry) for breakfast. Went back to Las Ramblas to buy some souvenirs for the kids – Wendy did some good negotiating with some Indian guys to get a magnet she wanted: 1 ½ euros and $1 USD. One last tour of La Boqueria for some fruit salad and we were back at the hotel to grab our stuff and head to the airport. Found some more good music at an airport shop: Jorge Drexler and Amaral.

It’s 10:14pm in the States. Fairly uneventful return. Met a nice guy on the plane. He got a photo of another plane passing beneath us and is sending me a copy. Watched The Chorus (a French film – Les Choristes) and part of Groundhog Day during the 10-hour flight.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Barcelona Day 5

Not as good a night’s sleep tonight. We share a shower and toilet (and bidet) at this place so I had a cold shower after Wendy this morning. Then we went to the Picasso museum. It’s mostly art from his “formative years”, which means “not cubism”. Pretty interesting stuff, though. Visited the Maria del Mar church and had lunch at Los Quinze Nits in Placa Reial – Pan Catalan, salad, tortilla de patata, chicken with cheese sauce, and tiramisu for dessert. (Wendy had pineapple and crème de Catalunya, which is basically crème brulee.

Next we visited Barceloneta, which is a fake beach set up for the ’92 Olympics. The Olympic Village is nearby, but we got the most enjoyment from a quick nap in the park. Some French tourists passed us lying on the grass and said, “The beach must be full.”

Casa MilaThen it was Casa Mila, the last of Gaudi’s creations before dedicating the remainder of his life to La Sagrada Familia. We had some good gelats (Italian ice cream) in the area.

This evening we went to 2 Bach cantatas and a piece by C.P.E. Bach in the Cathedral of Barcelona. I also bought a CD by Lluis Llach and we listened to music and bought a ton of treats to take home from Corte Ingles, including 3 boxes of Cruesli chocolate cereal. We went to the internet café one last time – flight looks good for tomorrow – and walked down Las Ramblas, negotiating with gift shop owners and watching a woman create alien landscape pictures with spray paint. Wendy argued with some Indian gift shop owners who made fun of her for accidentally saying veinto instead of veinte (for 20). We came up with a bunch of comebacks after we left the store.

Day 6

Monday, May 09, 2005

Barcelona Day 4

Slept in even later this morning. I think we left the hotel around 10:30. Took an 11:30 train to Montserrat and then a cable car to the top of the mountain. We spoke with a couple from London on the way there and then a woman from Chicago. It’s a 1,000-year-old monastery built into the mountain. We listened to a boys choir sing a couple of songs in the basilica. The place was packed with tourists. Took lots of pictures up there. We went on a short hike down trails with ceramic plaques with images of Mary decorating every few yards. Rushed past the statue of the Black Virgin in the basilica to catch the 2:30 train back to Barcelona – trains only go once an hour so we pushed our way through a bunch of German kids to make sure we’d get to the cable car on time.

Gypsy beggar womanDid some more wandering this afternoon. Had some thick hot chocolate and a boccadillo (ham sandwich) from Pans & Company on the Block of Discord. I tried a different boccadillo last night and didn’t like it – it was like eating uncooked bacon on cold stale bread. Found the music district down Callera de Tallers and checked out some CD and guitar shops. Asked a guy about a song we heard at Park Guëll. I sang the French version of the chorus to him – "et à nous la liberté" – and he recognized it as l’Estaca by Lluis Llach.

Took the "Short, Sweet Walk" described in Rick Steves’ book and had some horchata (orxata in Catalan) – an almond milk that’s pretty tasty.

Spent about two hours in an internet café because we were dead tired. Tried to see Palau Musica but it wasn’t lit up tonight. 1 ½ days left! We’re visiting the Picasso museum tomorrow.

Saw a Dixieland jazz quartet in front of FNAC. They were excellent – piano, banjo, clarinet, trumpet.

Day 5

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Barcelona Day 3

La Sagrada Familia Nativity FacadeSlept like a rock. Alarm got us up at 8:45. Got to church about halfway through Sunday School (Sacrament Meeting was last). Wendy saw her old bishop and his wife – several others looked familiar. Met a missionary from Georgia. Visited La Sagrada Familia again. Spent a good chunk of the day at Ciutadella Park where they were having a festival of sorts for kids. Took a nap near a magician’s show and watched some people kick a soccer ball around. Rented rowboats for the little lake and saw some baby ducklings. Ate at our first (and probably only) “fancy” restaurant and weren’t that impressed. The smell of the gravy on my chicken reminded me of a stuffy nose. Dessert was good, though: Turron ice cream topped with crema Catalunya (crème brûlée as far as I could tell) and chocolate sauce. Tried to catch a Sardana dance but the guy said they wouldn’t start there until May 15. Tried to see a bull fight but we were late and they weren't selling tickets anymore. (Someone could make some big bucks scalping tickets for latecoming tourists because there were a ton of empty seats.) Stopped by Els Quatre Gats, an old Picasso hangout.

Fountain showWent to Plaça d’Espanya for a water fountain light and music show. Called Kevin and our moms with the 2 calling cards we now have. (Thought one said we only had 7 minutes left for 12 euros, but it's still working.) The fountain show was very impressive – it’s a long walk around the auto show. Came back and had a ham sandwich (not good – tasted like raw bacon on stale bread) from Boccata and a hot chocolate (not good – had to have them add some Nesquick to it) from Dunkin Donuts. Wendy had her third falafel in as many days. For breakfast we had churros, Napolitano (chocolate pastry) and a tasty thick hot chocolate and ice cream called Hot Magnum.

Tomorrow we’re going to Montserrat, a monastery on a hill.

Also attended part of a mass in the cathedral under Sagrada Familia. Gaudi’s tomb is there, too.

Day 4

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Barcelona Day 2

Woke up at 9am after a pretty sound sleep.

La Sagrada FamiliaVisited La Sagrada Familia, an unfinished cathedral Gaudi dedicated his last years to. It’s pretty amazing – too many tourists, though. Tried to get into el Templo for free but it’s 8 euros. Some Spaniards were playing petanca in the park. Walked up to Wendy’s old missionary apartment, past a cool hospital. Saw the elders walking out of the LDS chapel and spoke with them for a while.

Gaudi salamanderVisited Park Guëll, another Gaudi creation, intended as a housing complex for the wealthy (but ending up as a park when it didn’t work out). Saw some excellent musicians: a guitar/bass/drums trio and a choir from Avignon doing some singing during a tourist trip. We saw some of them later in the metro, still singing. We took a tour of the Gaudi Museum, one of the only things we’ve actually paid to see. (Wendy says we’ve lived on $12/day so far.)

Montjuic castleVisited Montjuïc and took lots of pictures. The castle has an excellent view of the Barcelona skyline and the Mediterranean Sea. Walked through the park, including a portion with lots of musical art you could step on, push, or pull to play notes. Passed by the Olympic Stadium. Then on to the Palau Nacional, which is currently the site of a big car show that made it difficult to get back to the metro. They were charging 12 euros to see SUVs, which is apparently a novelty over here.

Walked down Las Ramblas again – Wendy had another falafel. They have my favorite cereal here – Cruesli au chocolat – I’ll be taking a few boxes home. Found a cool music store where a guy was playing When I’m Sixty-Four on the piano. Sent and read some e-mail and transferred digital photos to CD-ROM so I can start over on the memory cards. Went to a concert by a German youth choir in the cathedral nearby. Walked down Passeig de Gracia, where there are some fascinating apartments designed by Gaudi (and others) on what’s called the Block of Discord.

We had some tapas today for lunch. And freshly squeezed orange juice from a cool little Zumo machine.

Day 3

Friday, May 06, 2005

Barcelona Day 1

Flew to Barcelona nonstop from Atlanta – 8 hours, 55 minutes. I actually got some sleep.

Port de BarcelonaGot to Barcelona at 11am and tried to stay awake all day for a quick adjustment to the new time zone. Took the train from the airport to Plaça de Catalunya, used the bathroom twice at Corte Ingles, and bought some cheese, a baguette, and a drinkable yogurt for lunch, which we ate outside on the grass, right near the sign that said not to sit on the grass (although everyone else was – same way they were smoking all over in front of the no-smoking signs).

Checked into our hotel – Pension Vittoria – which is pretty dumpy but cheap ($47/night). The door locks but doesn’t really shut all the way so we have a towel covering most of the gap. And we share a shower and toilet and bidet with the rest of the guests. At first, we panicked and tried to find another hotel, but the cheap ones were all full so we convinced ourselves it would be culturally beneficial to stay here. It overlooks a medium-busy street, but the white noise maker we brought seems to be doing the trick.

musicians at La BoqueriaWe wandered down Las Ramblas and saw pet vendors, human statues, street performers, and shady characters. There are a lot of French tourists here. We visited a marketplace (La Boqueria) and watched a very talented group of street musicians. I bought a CD for 10 euros after they sang No Woman, No Cry. A pigeon pooped on my arm. Wendy bought some sliced pineapple for lunch.

We continued down Las Ramblas to the water and a giant statue of Christopher Columbus. We fell asleep on the grass for a few minutes and checked out the aquarium (where there were more French tourists).

Stopped by FNAC (a French department store) and watched the end of a Morrissey concert DVD. There were schools of fish in the waterfront at the bottom of Las Ramblas. And massive amounts of pigeons in Plaça de Catalunya.

For the rest of the day we visited cathedrals (where we heard two mass ceremonies in Catalan) and little shops. Wendy had a falafel for dinner and I ate a Hidalgo sandwich at Pans & Company.

We stumbled on to a concert in the cathedral near our hotel and heard the end of Vivaldi's Gloria and an encore of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah.

Day 2