Posted by: rkurzweil | 05/15/2009

Barcelona Part II

This is a continuation of my previous post on Barcelona (which can be found here.)

May 2, 2009

Bus Turistic

Bus Turistic

We spent a good part of the day driving around town on the Bus Turistic. There is an option for a 1 day or 2 day ticket. We bought the one day ticket. This allows you to hop on and hop off any of the three lines of the Bus Turistic at any of the bus stops throughout the day. The Bus Turistic is a double-decker bus, with the upper deck being open air. The biggest surprise to me about it was the number of people that were using it. At some of the stops, there were lines of probably more than 100 people waiting to get on. Especially at the stops that allowed you to transfer to another line (Plaça Catalunya, in particular). The good part about the Bus is that it allows you to get an overview of the city and to see what things are worth visiting on our own. There are some drawbacks, though. Aside from the wait at some of the stops to get on the Bus, there is the fact that this is a large bus. It probably holds about 75 people all told. I much prefer to do a smaller group tour than this. Also, you get to see a lot of things, but you fly by them so quickly. And the ride is very bumpy. But for the money, it is a great value.

Placa Catalunya

Placa Catalunya

We were “warned” that the restaurants in Spain don’t really open for dinner until about 10 pm. I was pretty concerned about this, as this is much later than we would typically eat. Fortunately, this really is not true. In fact, we found restaurants closing at 11 or so rather than opening at that time. We did not really go to any higher end restaurants, so this may be something that is more true of a more formal restaurant than the types of places that we went to.

Paella Menu

Paella Menu

I was expecting the food in Barcelona to be really top notch. Everything I read about it seemed to indicate that this would be the case. It is especially supposed to be good for seafood. Unfortunately, this really did not prove to be true for us. We had decent meals, but there was very little that I could say I would really remember after we leave.

One of the things that we started to feel today was an attitude against tourists. We found people in general to be very unhelpful, especially in terms of trying to find something. Store owners and workers in particular were very abrupt, even rude. The Spanish people do not seem to be very outgoing or friendly. And G-d forbid you have to wait in a line. They will just push in at the front and cut in front of anyone in their way. This is true at subway entrances, waiting to get on a bus, or even a line at a food kiosk or a cashier at a store.

Gothic Quarter

Gothic Quarter

One thing that Barcelona is famous for is its varied architecture. This is an area that did not disappoint. From the neo-classical to modern and everything in between, Barcelona’s architecture is truly unlike anything I have ever seen. Just the Gaudi buildings alone would be a treasure. But then there is all the other stuff. Wow! And driving through the Gothic Quarter was breath-taking. I have been to a lot of cities that have buildings from the Middle Ages, but nothing is like the collection that can be found in Barcelona. You really feel like you have dropped into another era and it is incredible and very impressive. The Port Vell (Old Port) is another really cool part of town. In reading about the history of Barcelona, it is amazing that this part of town has only been cleaned up and “rejoined” to the city in the last 25 years or so.

May 3, 2009

We are still not accustomed to the time change (it is 7 hours ahead of Central Time in the US), so we are getting up around 9 or so, but not going to sleep until 1 or 2 in the morning. On top of that, both John and I have been under the weather. I started feeling it as soon as I got off the plane. I had a sore throat and then I started with the draining sinuses. Fortunately, we have lots of Kleenex and both of us are trying as much as possible to not let this interfere with our time in Barcelona.

Barcelona Metro - L4 line

Barcelona Metro - L4 line

This is an extremely easy city to get around. Our hotel is 2 blocks from the L4 line of the Metro. There are 7 or 8 different lines, with many transfer points between the various lines. This makes it easy to get to just about anywhere you want to go in Barcelona. We bought a 5 day pass for the transportation system and we are definitely making extensive use of the subways, trams and buses. We are, of course, doing lots of walking too, but since we both have problems with our feet, it is nice to have other options.

Inside the Cathedral

Inside the Cathedral

We walked all through the Gothic Quarter today. We also spent a good amount of time in the Cathedral (also in the Gothic Quarter). This Cathedral was actually started in 1298. It is massive and breath-taking. There was a Mass going on while we were there, so we were not able to walk around the whole inside of the building until it was finished. There are about 30 altars all around the interior of the Cathedral, many of which date back to the 14th and 15th Centuries. I have visited many Cathedrals all over Europe. I would rank this one as #3 overall, behind St Peter’s in Rome and St. Vitus in Prague. It is definitely not to be missed.

Leaving the Cathedral area, we stumbled upon a string quarter concert in one of the old buildings nearby. Just the setting made this memorable, but the musicians were pretty good too. And it was neat watching a harpsichord being played.

Christopher Columbus Monument

Christopher Columbus Monument

We then made our way through the Old Town towards the waterfront and the monument to Christopher Columbus. This is a 50 meter tall monument. There is an elevator that takes you almost to the top, from which you can find some pretty amazing views of the city. Again, though, it is a small elevator and can only take a few people at a time. The lookout is also quite small and slightly claustrophobic. But I found it to be worth the wait.

After leaving the Monument, we walked up Paral-lel, past some remains of the original Roman wall of the city of Barcino. Again, I have seen Roman remains before, but these are in such great condition. Very cool and very much worth going to see.

To see some of my photos from Barcelona, click here.

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