Wednesday, September 08, 2010

beyond Barcelona

Life appears to be moving a lot faster than my blog at the moment, there are so many things that I have done, and stories to recount that I sit here wondering where to start.

The rugby weekend?  That was great fun but has been and gone.  I will save the details for  the book. (no, nothing that exciting, unfortunately!)

Dramas with the crane? again back in the past

trip to Andorra? and scary drive home

A follow up to ‘Sex in the Garden’ that so many people enquire about.

No, I have gotten you as far as Barcelona, so I shall continue from there for the moment, the gaps can be filled in later should I have the time and inclination.

The city came as a big shock after two months of staying in remote locations during a cool and changeable summer in France.  It was busy, busy, busy, with people and cars and noise everywhere, the noise itself was different as I suddenly had not a clue as to what anyone was saying, asking directions was a huge challenge, luckily I had a map of the city and and the location of a hostel marked on it, Oh, and the weather, I was sweating buckets by the time I had walked to the first road junction and got my bearings.  Fifteen minutes later I reached the hostel only to discover that my bed had been given to someone else as it was nearly 9pm and I had not paid a deposit.  The receptionist made a couple of phone calls and reserved the last bed in another hostel across town and I headed off again.  Purchased Metro tickets from a machine, all in Spanish, and got to The Mambo tango Hostel just before ten.  Elsewhere in the world cities would be winding down, but not here in Spain, restaurants were just starting to get busy and everyone was out and about, enjoying the relative cool of the evening.

A great find, if not of my own making, the hostel was smart and clean and prided itself in giving good service and maintaining a quiet environment for its guests to relax and sleep.  Its location was also ideal for access to most of the city.  A few blocks up from the harbour and the famous Las Ramblas, a pedestrianised street packed with designer shops, street artists and the most fascinating architecture of all shapes and sizes.  I booked in for two nights, found a great little restaurant for dinner and then hit the sack, tired after a day on the road and in preparation for the sight seeing ahead.

Prior to my visit, I had contacted Donna, a friend and fellow traveller whom I had met last year whilst staying at Nicholas.  She had been working at Agnes’ just down the road and we maintained contact through Facebook.  I knew that she had been in Barcelona and had asked for pointers as to where to visit and what to see.  It transpired that she was still in the city and after a day on my own we met up for lunch, afterwards we explored the 1992 Olympic site which also incorporated buildings from the 1929 World Fair, sharing stories and catching up with events of the last year.  It transpired that she had headed off to explore more of Spain and had returned to settle in her favourite city for a while, earn some money teaching english and have a bit of time not on the road.  I ended up staying at her apartment for the next two nights, sleeping on an airbed on the terrace which was wonderful in the warm night air and exploring the city together.

Donnas interest and fascination on the city made her the most excellent tour guide, we crammed each day with excursions to most of the famous of landmarks, visited her favourite restaurants for delicious and leisurely lunchtime meals, took siestas on park benches in the shade whilst listening to bands playing in the distance, enjoyed the sunsets and early evening activities around the city before returning to the apartment for a light evening meal and to drink wine, listen to music and lightly put the world to rights.

We visited Guel Park with all its amazing Gaudi architecture, rambling paths and panoramic views of the Barcelona, The Magic Fountain that performed a spectacle to music every half hour throughout the evening, the decorated streets for the Fiesta of Gracia where the local inhabitants decorate their streets with recycled materials, to a theme, eat as a community every day for a week, play music and dance into the night and generally enjoy themselves immensely, everyone is welcome, watched a local troupe create human towers in a square outside the town hall, five or six people high, with tiny youngsters scrambling up the outside to reach the top, stopped for beers (Clara, a beer lemonade shandy was the most thirst quenching, and my barcelona favourite) and coffees and watched the world go by.  We caught metros and walked through the narrow streets of the old town to find churches and cathedrals, saw most of the top Gaudi buildings, La Pedera with its underwater theme, the iron work balcony railings formed like seaweed,  Casa Batllo, impressive by night and a true wonder by day, the construction so detailed that I could have stood there for days finding new things to marvel at, bones and sharks jaws, multicolour windows and tilework, all curved lines and interest, beautifully illustrated shop shutters, indoor markets packed with stalls, shoppers and tourists, circumnavigated the largest attraction, la Sagridia Familia, in the bright sunshine, spotting intricate architectural details and wishing that there was a pair of binoculars to hand to see more, strolled through Parc Cuitadella with more architectural gems, vestiges of the 1888 Universal Fair, avenues of clipped trees and manicured lawns.  

Thinking back I am amazed that I had time to stop, let alone sleep, with the number of things that we managed to do in such a short time.  I shall have to return to see more, I made a conscious decision not to go into museums or any of the buildings that were open to the public for fear of mental overload, it was enough to take in all the sights as it was and Barcelona isn’t that far away with the lovely Ryanair!!


Anonymous said...

ooooo. you make me want to go back to visit.....I loved Barcelona! Glad to hear an update and that you are having fun still!
x Moi

Anonymous said...

Wow, all that you do sounds fab but this really is my cup of tea. Have never been to Barcelona but everyone raves and you made it sound fantastic. Big snogs and I hope you get to come and see us soon
A,S and E
PS Emma now proud owner of a whoopie cushion and is loving it which I know you'd enjoy to see