Posted by: rkurzweil | 05/18/2009

Barcelona Part III

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

May 4, 2009

Montjuic

Montjuic

Today we have set out for Montjuic. The name means “Jewish mountain,” and comes from the fact that there used to be a Jewish cemetery there. It is no longer there, but the name remains. It is also not a mountain – merely a hill. Montjuic is the area of town where the Olympic Stadium and various other Olympic venues can be found. It is also full of gardens and other major attractions, such as the National Museum of the Catalonian Art (“MNAC”), the Botanical Gardens, Poble Espanyol (a tourist attraction that shows the architecture and cuisines of all of the provinces of Spain), and more. We got to Montjuic via cable car on the Teleferic de Montjuic. There are 3 towers between which the cable cars run. Unfortunately, one of the towers was closed, and we did not find that out until we walked all the way to it. This is something else that we have started to run into a lot. Construction detours are all over the city, but there is little or no warning about them and there is even less guidance on where to go. Again, we found people to not be terribly helpful.

At any rate, we managed to make our way to the second tower and waited in a very slow moving line to get to the cable car. There is an elevator that takes you up to the platform, but it only holds 6 people or so and takes about 5 minutes. Since there were at least 100 people waiting when we got there, the wait was over an hour. And the bad part is that the ride was not really worth the wait. I have been on many cable car rides that were far more enjoyable (such as in Palm Springs).

Olympic Torch at Montjuic

Olympic Torch at Montjuic

Grounds around Olympic Stadium

Grounds around Olympic Stadium

We walked around the Olympic Stadium and made our way to the Botanical Gardens. This was a very different type of Botanical Garden from the ones we have been to in the past. It was set up in “regions” that represented the flora and fauna of distinct regions of the Earth. Included were Australia, California, Eastern Mediterranean, Western Mediterranean, South Africa and the Canary Islands. The place is quite beautiful and very tranquil. It is also very hilly, so we did not walk through the entire facility as we were both starting to have very sore feet. This is a place that you really need to spend a long time in to enjoy fully. There are also some pretty great vistas of the city below you in different parts of the Botanical Gardens.

In the Botanical Gardens

In the Botanical Gardens

In the Botanical Gardens

In the Botanical Gardens

We tried to go to the MNAC (the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya), but it turned out to be closed on Mondays. What a shame. The Museum is housed in a palace (Palau National) that was built for the 1929 Expo. The building is really beautiful. I am not sure what architectural style it is, but it is impressive. Like a lot of the other sites we visited, however, this is under scaffolding and being restored. We found that to be the case all over the city.

Placa d'Espanya

Placa d'Espanya

Leaving the building, there is a set of escalators that take you back down to the main part of the city, into a plaza called Plaça d’Espanya. Unfortunately, this was yet another instance of construction blocking the way, and of a total lack of guidance and information as to how to get around the construction. We asked a few people and were given incorrect information several times. We finally made our way down another route and got to the Plaça d’Espanya. From there, we were able to look up and see the way we should have been able to come down. Oh well.

May 5, 2009

Parc Guell

Parc Guell

Today we are going to see some of the handiwork of Antoni Gaudi. We are going to visit Parc Guell. This was originally meant to be a housing development, but that plan was a failure. Only 3 of 60 or so proposed houses got built. It ended up being donated to the City Council and turned into a park. It has some spectacular Gaudi architecture and is well worth the effort to get there. We took the Metro and then walked about 15 minutes or so to the Parc. It is free to enter (another plus). Again, we found poor directions as to how to actually get to the entrance, and we found several blocked entrances. We did finally make it to the park and, as I said, it was definitely worth the effort. We wanted to go to the Gaudi Museum as well, but had difficulty finding it. We tried to ask one of the guards at the park, but he completely ignored us and would not help us. We finally found out where it was, but it involved climbing back up to the top of the park, so we opted not to do so.

It is worth mentioning that this is an extremely popular destination. It was jam packed with people, including several large groups of school children. It is certainly not the quiet, contemplative type of tourist attraction. That being said, it is still worth going. Wow.

Walking out of Parc Guell, there are dozens of souvenir shops. We stopped in a few and bought some books, t-shirts and post cards. We were trying to find out where to buy stamps. All we could get was to go to a “Tabac.” But no one would tell us where there was one. Again, the locals just seemed to be resentful of us being there. Even in the souvenir shops that rely solely on the tourists for their livelihood, this was the attitude we found. I have loved visiting this city and seeing the many sights, but I really will not be in any hurry to return as a result of the way everyone seems to treat the tourists. I know having so many strangers traipsing through your city all the time can get old. I dealt with it for many years in Miami Beach. But I can honestly say that this is probably the least friendly city I have ever visited (only Prague compares in that regard).

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

Our next stop was Sagrada Familia. This time we went inside. There is construction work going on everywhere, but it is an amazing building. We waited in line to go up one of the towers in an elevator. Again, the elevator is small and only 6 or so people can go at a time. But once you get up there, the view is stupendous and you are able to see parts of the Sagrada Familia up close that you really cannot see from the ground. Our wait was about 45 minutes, but I think that the queues can easily be 2 or 3 hours on busier days.

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

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