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Five Days in Barcelona

Well the time has come for another instalement of my travel tales from another new place and this time also a new country. Barcelona, Spain. I must admit that I was hesitant about this trip. If it wasn't for the cheap flight of 50 euro return from Milan I would have stayed in Italy and gone to Tuscany. Oh well now that I think about it, its another feather in my travel cap and an opportunity that not many people have. It also meant that I got to be by myself for four days. Always nice when you live where you work.

Well before I could get on my flight I had to go through what I call the Ryan Air shuffle. Due to their policy of not allocating seats its absolute bedlam when they announce the boarding requests. Combined with the Italian inate sense of not being able to line-up, it really becomes survival of the fittest or pushiest. I am glad though because most of the time I travel solo so I just hang back and wait till final boarding calls. It didn't matter this time where I sat because I was so tired that I hoped to sleep ASAP.

I arrived at Girona Airport approximately 80 minutes outside of Barcelona around 6pm. I caught the airport shuttle into the city and met up with a nice couple from Scotland. We pooled our resources together to figure out how to get to our respective places where we were staying. After a 15 minute metro ride we alightened from Jaime Metro Station in the middle of Bari Gothic. We parted ways and I continued by taxi to my place. Unfortunately I was too tired to really make an effort to get there myself which would have been fine but instead got conned by one of Barcelona's best and parted with ten euro of my hard earned cash and still having to walk nearly as much as I would if I hadn't of caught the bloody taxi.

My hotel turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The location was absolutely brilliant smack in the middle of Bari Gothic, just 300m from La Rambla. The only problem was the mattress, which prevented even the most exhaustive sleep. This resulted in me investing in some heavy duty sleeping tablets for the rest of my stay in Barcelona.

After my rough sleep I managed to get going by 10am for my first day in the city. With no set plan I walked down the La Rambla to see what was around. I came upon some markets but I think I needed to be up very early to get the full effect. I then continued walking through Bari Gothic and came upon a church. This turned out to be Barcelona's Gothic Cathedral.

Sitting on the top of this church reminded me of my first days and time up on Milan's Duomo roof. The same intricate details on the spires, similar netting indicating the continual work in progress that these buildings seem to endure and the amazing roof line that allows the high ceilings and intricate stained glass windows. Just amazing.

The Barcelona skyline is also very interesting. Its a fairly flat landscape of buildings with occasional taller buildings. They seem to roll towards the small mountains and out towards the port. The muffled sounds of traffic is interrupted by horns and the ever present sound of a jackhammer. Once again reminding me that these old countries and cities are in an ever present need of repair.

The weather was amazing. It averaged around 20 degrees each day. Although the days were overcast. I was only wearing a short sleeve shirt and a light jacket. It was fabulous.

After stumbling around the little streets and alleyways I came upon the Picasso Museum. But as tradition goes in Europe most museums are closed on a Monday. So I just had to keep walking. Trying not to look like a tourist but failing miserably I stumbled throughout the rabbit warren of streets and managed to end up at Port Vell.

This great area filled with boats at the marina was lined with restaurants and the Maritime Museum. I followed the walkway trying to find an inexpensive seafood restaurant. Not finding anything I came upon the beach at St Sebastian. Here I found a place to eat but the food was terrible. The only thing going for it was the amazing views of the ocean.

Just sitting at the restaurant and feeling the sun, the fresh ocean breeze and the sea only being 20m away rejuvenated all my senses and empowered me to soldier on. It was not until I get near the ocean that I realised how much I miss it. Even if the weather is only 20 degrees, it is still an amazing feeling to be near the water. It is the only thing I really miss by living in Milan.

I made my way to Port Olympic, which is where there was the Olympic Sailing, when Barcelona hosted the games. This area had been converted into something that reminds me of Marina Mirage. With a marina, shops and restaurants it’s a nice place to sit down and relax. I spent some time here recharging the batteries and then started my walk to La Sagra Familia.

After what felt like a good 4km walk, I finally came upon Gaudi’s amazing masterpiece. I was pretty shocked to see that it really is only an outer shell with the interior only being constructed recently. I knew that the church had not been finished but didn’t expect it to not be able to have mass conducted inside it. The construction site inside showed what they were trying to achieve but it certainly was in stark contrast to what was Gaudi’s inspirational entrance. Even the other side was relatively plain, due to another person’s vision and not Gaudi’s seeing that he died before he could complete his vision.

After my hour of sitting in the shadow of such a magnificent façade I made my way back into Bari Gothic. This was another hefty walk and I was thankful to finally come upon my hotel. After a wonderful hot shower I made my way for a stroll along La Rambla before finding something to eat.

After a very long sleep (due to my sleeping tablets). I prepared myself for another huge day of sightseeing. I decided to do the tourist bus to save my very tired and sore legs and feet. This enabled me to see all the sights of the city in one day for the low price of 16 euro. My feet thanked me profusely. I found a seat on the open upper deck and took out the video camera for my parents so they could see what I was getting up to.

The tourist bus took me around the city and up to Montjuic, Barcelona FC, various museums and galleries, and any other possible sight that was of interest to tourists. I didn’t bother to get off anywhere because I had already been to the most important places the previous day and would tackle Montjuic the following day.

After a long day on the road I made my way back to La Rambla to enjoy some garlic prawns. I was sitting in the restaurant watching the people stroll down La Rambla and couldn’t help thinking how many tourists were in town. I commented on this to the hotel manager, and he said that he was consistently fully booked for 11 months of the year. I seemed to notice that the majority of tourists were British and Americans. You can pick them a mile away.

One thing that still manages to amaze me is the scams and cons that these tourists fall for. It truly is incredible. I can’t believe how naïve some people are when they travel. Barcelona is notorious for pickpockets and scams and a lot of people had told me of this, and I also read about it in Lonely Planet and on various websites. I still witnessed people falling for the flowers from the gypsies that are supposed donated to you but they then either ask for money or want to get close to you so that they can pickpocket you. I also saw the dice, card and ball games that is done along La Rambla. It still amazes me to see how gullible people are.

After another twelve hour sleep, I once again woke to the sounds of Barcelona waking up. The garbage getting picked up, the delivery trucks dropping off stock, work vans dropping off supplies to have things fixed and workers walking to work. It is incredibly loud and vibrant. Just not good for someone who wants to sleep past 8am.

After getting ready I made my way down La Rambla towards Port Vell. I walked across La Rambla de la mar to the shopping centre and past the aquirium, and Imax theatre and then around the marina. I finally got to St Sebastian to the gondola ride that would take me to Montjuic. It was certainly worthwhile and I encourage everyone to do it. The views were superb and I managed to get some fantastic pictures.

After disembarking, I tackled Montjuic, the main home of the Olympics. It was a decent walk up hill to my first port of call, the Olympic diving stadium. I have always wanted to go there because when I watched the Olympics and this year's World Swimming Titles, the views had been breathtaking. A bit disappointing in real life but hey, at least I can say that I have been there.

My third Olympic stop was the athletics stadium. Definitely smaller than I thought it would be. I then made my way to the pool. I continued my walk past the museum dedicated to Miro and past the National Art Museum. I didn’t stop at either of these two places because I wanted to go to Poble Espanyol.

This place was built for Barcelona’s World Expo a very long time ago (sorry can’t remember the year). It was designed so that foreign visitors and locals could see the different types of architecture that had been developed around Spain. It was interesting and I had a private guide explain to me different aspects to highlight the diversity within Spain. It was nice.

I then made my way back to my hotel and walked around Barri Gothic and spent some time sitting outside the cathedral to watch people and relax.

My final day loomed and I got up nice and early to catch the train out to Montserrat. This amazing monestary that was about two hours away was spectaular. The way the building was constructed at such a high altitude and amongst these amazing rock formations made it a very surreal sight. Probably the highlight of my trip. I wanted to listen to the choir sing but had to get back to Barcelona to catch the bus to the airport.

On my trip back to the city Barcelona’s wonderful metro system decided to shut down leaving me stranded. I could not disembark and was left feeling frustrated and tired because I knew that the inevitable was coming. We finally managed to limp home but in the end it was too no avail. I missed my bus to the airport and tried valiantly to get a train but that ended up becoming another adventure trying to find the correct station. I finally called it quits and went back to find a hotel room for the night and to change my ticket for the following day. I was tired and very emotional. I just wanted to get home and I didn’t want to be in Barcelona any longer.

All in all it was an okay trip. It certainly wasn’t as magical as France or Italy but as I said before I have now been there and done it.


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