5.10.09 Bedazzling Barcelona!

Barcelona Travel Blog

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5.10.09 Bedazzling Barcelona!


Charles declared Barcelona his favorite city so far!  That’s high praise given the other wonderful major cities we’ve seen so far:  Dublin, London, Paris, Madrid.  It is a young, active, energetic place alright. 


Today was especially fun given Barcelona beat Madrid in the semi-finals for a big football (soccer) championship!  Charles had just bought a Barcelona jersey when we were walking through a lovely square, only to hear a man yell very loudly.  I grabbed Lia’s hand and drug her away, only to discover that the man was yelling “GOAL!” and a cheer went up throughout the city from at least a mile away.  All the bars and cafes were overflowing with people watching the game.  We experienced all 3 goals, finally cheering loudly ourselves when the horns honked and the whole city cheered.  There were celebratory fireworks over the city tonight, which we enjoyed from Sugar, lasting at least 20 minutes! 


We’ve had a terrific time wandering Barcelona, trying the various foods, seeing the sights:


Segura Familia:  a cathedral started it the 1800’s by Gaudi, an architect, and slated to be completed in 2030.  It is very unusual architecture with a “forest” theme inside and the sequence of events in Christ’s life depicted on the front façade with large statutes.  Jazy loved it and thought it was the most interesting cathedral to date.


The squares are old enough to have had Romans playing Forum games in them!  Ironwork on the balconies, along with bouganvilla and lovely flowers pouring off them, provide lovely housing in narrow alleys of cobblestone.


There are many tourists here!  Most of the people in the shops speak some English.  We’ve seen quite a few Americans.  This is all very different from Madrid.


Madrid and Barcelona look very similar in my opinion, but Madrid is larger and has more traffic.  Most of the people in Barcelona also appear to be young, college-age.  We did go by the University, which was rather difficult to see for a campus and quickly ended up in an area that resulted in a u-turn.  There do not seem to be many bad areas of the city near the historical center, but some shops seemed inappropriate for kids to see.  Madrid, on the other hand, seemed a bit edgier, perhaps because it is bigger.


We enjoyed the Picasso Museum today.  While there were a few overview signs in English, all the placards near the pictures had just 2 language translations:  Catalan and Spanish.  We were glad to have our Top 10 Barcelona book with us that described the Top 10 paintings in the Museum.  It was very busy- probably because we discovered that it is free after 3pm on Sunday.  I might just aim to pay next time because artwork is hard to see when there are many people coming and going near it. 


But we were happy to see the breadth of this artist’s work.  Did you know that he was born in 1881 and died just in 1973?  I did not realize that his work was so recent. 


Also, did you know that although Picasso is well-known for his “Cubist” type of geometric shapes art, that he also excelled at painting portraits?  But his early favorites were cityscapes, especially those that appeared as if you were looking out a window.  He also created ceramics, wrote a play, and did set design for the ballet company!  Wow!


As for the language, we find it very interesting compared to Mexican Spanish.  First and most obviously, they say “Gra THeus” using a TH like a lisp in Gracias.  They say “hola” instead of “Buenos Dias” etc. upon meeting someone.  And the sound of the language is sharper than the soft, melodic Mexican diction.  But the good news is that most of the people are eager to correspond in English, probably so they don’t have to suffer our Spanish!


We’ve enjoyed La Ramble, the famous pedestrian walk, with buskers and others vying for Lia’s coins, which she finds very difficult since there are “so many people who need help.”  What do you do?  She seemed to manage by giving small coins to all she saw.


The wonderful, huge food market off the La Ramble (easy to miss if you’re looking the other way), reminded us of Merida, Mexico and wandering through it with Johnna and Mimi.  I admit that we were wistful of Mexico, which we loved.


The Barcelona waterfront area is lovely with a pedestrian bridge, a water walkway, yachts, artesian booths, and dinner boats anchored to shore.


Jazy did a great job reading up on Barcelona, getting us on our touring itinerary, and leading us through the metro.  She took responsibility for the same in Madrid, which is a terrific help to me.  Plus, she’s great at remembering everything she reads, memorizing the metro map, etc.  Having no memory at all, I just marvel at this.


Still, we had a few mishaps at the metro, but nothing major:  I put the card in with my right hand and tried to walk through to the left of the turnstile, which was locked.  Then I did it again- still nothing (this 10-pass card was getting quickly depleted).  Then Lia realized that I need to walk through the turnstile to my right and demonstrated this by turning the turnstile by hand without walking through!


Then you have to be a certain distance from the laser eye on some high-tech entrances so they'll open for you.  And to leave, you walk right up to these glass doors that open in a split second- you walk through- and they jerk back together.  You’d get thoroughly squashed if they slammed on you - I find it frightening to walk though them, although fortunately I never saw them close on anyone. 


I like how you don’t have to put your ticket through when you *leave* the station- only London required the ticket both upon entering and exiting the metro. 


Also, we twice got all ready to get on the metro, only to realize we were headed the wrong direction.  But we figured it all out.  I helped some other tourists out who couldn’t appear to find the exit through some double gates that look locked.  Several times people helped us.  It’s all part of that “no dignity in international travel” deal.


The metro here is just 7.40E for 10 single tickets- great deal and the same as Madrid- very affordable for efficient city transportation.  We’ve never had to wait longer than 4 minutes for a metro train and a clock counts down its arrival to the second!


Our “campsite” is a 24-hour gated parking lot right by the convention center.  Jazy found it in our Spain Aire book.  There are like 500 parking spots for all types of vehicles here.  There is a separate section for motorhomes, which has a dump area and water.  We have long extension cords (and another 10’ extension cord) to plug in.  There are also showers and toilets, although we’re not brave enough to use them.  The place has a lot of trash around (that I hope is just from the weekend) and smells somewhat (literally), but we are right here in Barcelona with INTERNET for 25E a night for motorhomes.  You can’t beat that!


Also, we got to wash Sugar today with their water hose, following the example of several others.  Awesome!  And our parking is on a 24-hour cycle, so we are not required to leave tomorrow until around 5pm.


Why leave Barcelona tomorrow?  Because we’re taking a ferry to Rome!  Jazy and I read on our drive here that ferries leave from Barcelona for Rome- we thought that was a great idea! 


So with internet, I was able to book Sugar on a 20-hour boat ride overnight tomorrow.  We got a 4-berth cabin and have packed our swimsuits for the pool on deck.  The boat leaves at 10pm tomorrow!  Molto bene!  (Better study up on that Italian!)


The ferry between Barcelona and Rome (Civitavecchia is the port) cost 289E, which seems to be about what all the ferries run with 4 people and an RV (119E of it) Sugar’s size (7 meters), regardless of distance traveled.  Given the cost of gas, campsites, and about 4 days of driving to get to Rome, I think it will be worth it.  The kids are thrilled with the thought of a cruise!


While I had internet, I also booked our ferry from Bari, Italy to Patras, Greece for later.  It was only 246E (109 was the RV) and includes “Camping On Board” which is where we get to access and use Sugar anytime during the trip.  I believe all of the ferries between Italy and Greece now allow “Camping on Board” and it seemed that nearly all have electric available for free.  Cabins would be very expensive and the convenience of having everything we need in Sugar makes that option very appealing.


It’s late and I’m fading.  Happy Mother’s Day to everyone!  My kids tried to not argue and be helpful today- it was great!  Maybe tomorrow they can pretend to do the same.  J





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photo by: fivepointpalm