A Travellerspoint blog

Spain

Bye bye Barcelona. 'Ello Edinburgh

Barcelona, Spain

I've seen most of Barcelona, so I wanted to get to Girona today. But in order to get back safely for my flight, I needed to be there early, which meant getting up early. I set an alarm, but went back to bed when it rang. It's really hard to get up before the sun while on vacation.
Instead, I found another free tour that goes to a different part of the city that I haven't spent a lot of time in yet.
University Area

University Area


I checked out of the hostel and headed to the University area for breakfast as it's near where the tour starts. Not a lot of places other than bakeries were open, but I stumbled upon a restaurant called Garden of Eden, which looked a bit hippy-dippy, but had some interesting choices on the menu.
It turns out that apple acai juice is delicious. But their eggs Florentine were the best eggs I've had in my life at any restaurant. Ever. The base was some sort of spinach cream, but it was smooth and soupy. The egg was perfectly cooked and plopped into a waffle, which added a sweetness that I didn't expect at all. The crispy bread chips around the edges were perfect for scooping up the cream. And the tomatoes at the bottom added another dimension of texture and sweetness. Wow. If I had discovered these last time I was in Barcelona, I would have put forth the effort to travel to this part of town every day just for the breakfast.
Best Restaurant Eggs Ever

Best Restaurant Eggs Ever


It was only a few blocks from the amazing eggs Florentine to Plaza Catalunya, where the tour was meeting soon enough. I sat for a few minutes on a park bench, just people-watching. (And pigeon-watching. There are so many of them here!)
Today's tour is with a company called CAT. I chose this tour because it was a bit different from the ones I had already done, at least based on their list online. It didn't disappoint. Yes, we visited a few sights I had already seen, but most of them I hadn't seen on any other tour. And anyway, the stories the guide told were different than the ones I heard before.
Roman Pillars

Roman Pillars


This tour focused more on historical Barcelona (Barcino to the Romans) than on more recent history. He covered the Roman times, Ferdinand/Isabella years, the Jewish expulsion, Colombus, and some of the Franco years. I had never seen the old Roman temple pillars before, nor would I have stumbled upon them on my own, and he took us there. I may have walked by the "expanding houses" before, but if so, I didn't understand why.
Expanding Houses

Expanding Houses


(Short version: the contract with the city said the buildings had to be built within a certain line on the ground. The builders made every floor a bit wider than the first so the side of the building looks a little like an inverted pyramid side. The loophole was that the containment line was on the ground, not in the air.)
Also, I hadn't heard that Franco gave the Italians and Germans permission to test their bombs in Barcelona against his detractors,even though I had been to the square that was damaged before on a different tour.
Cathedral

Cathedral


I learned a lot and the guide was good. I'd recommend the tour.
I also learned about what was going on in the news from the guide. I haven't been checking it at all. I'm on vacation. But apparently the courts ruled against the leaders of the Catalonian independence vote this week. Yesterday, the protesters shut down roads and even the airport for a bit. Our hostel is near the airport, and when I was heading back last night, there was a notice of "limited service" on the metro line to the airport, but it didn't specify what that meant, and I had no issue getting to the hostel, which is 2 stops before the airport. I did see extra police presence in the metro area, but not so many that I spent any time thinking about it. I did notice a couple of teenagers wearing Catalan flags as capes, but they were maybe 3 people in a large crowd, so again, I didn't realize anything was happening.
According to the news, people were walking to the airports because the protesters blocked other ways of getting there. Airline staff couldn't reach the airport, so flights were cancelled. Hundreds of flights were cancelled.
The guide knows a big protest is planned for Friday, and recommended that the people who are still around use that day to go see Montserrat or Girona. For today, nobody really knows what will happen, so he suggested getting to the airport early. Our hotel is actually within walking distance of the airport, but I'm not enthusiastic about having to haul my luggage, minimal as it is, the whole way. So, when the tour was over, I grabbed a quick lunch at whatever restaurant was near the metro and then headed back to pick up my luggage at the hostel. As of now, my flight is scheduled and on time. As of now, the metro line is running as normal. As of now, there's nothing on the news about any issues with the airport today. Let's hope all goes well and the flight leaves on time, or at least leaves.
...
So here I am, Miss "Airport Dash," at the airport almost 3 hours early with not much. There have been no issues at all, thankfully. But I'm glad I got here and I'm glad I have my kindle.

Posted by spsadventures 07:46 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Mary of Montserrat

Montserrat, Spain

Today is my first day without my guy and the only full day I'm traveling alone as I meet up at the end of tomorrow with another friend.
I took this opportunity to get my laundry done in the morning. The washers are good enough that the honey spilled on some clothes totally came out. One run of the dryer wasn't enough, but I was antsy to get out, so I left the damp clothes to hang in the room. Either I'll get back to a bunch of dry clothes, or everything will stink horribly and I'll have to redo everything. Saga to be continued...
Breakfast at the hostel wasn't great, but it was decent for a hostel. I had toast with sliced cheese and a banana in hopes that it will at least carry me over to somewhere with something interesting.
I headed out in slightly damp clothes, but at least I was early enough that my 24 hour metro card still worked.
I was glad they dried quickly as it was a bit chilly on some of the trains, although the AC wasn't blasting like it is at home. I took the train to the Montserrat cable car, and just followed the line of tourists off the train. They all already had tickets and scrambled to get in line. I didn't and took my time to take photos, buy my ticket, and grab a snack before getting ready for a bit of a wait. They had clearly been warned where I wasn't. This line moves sloooooowly.
cable car to Montserrat

cable car to Montserrat


Each cable car fits about 30 people, but there are only 2 cars. They alternate- as one goes up, the other comes down. So you have to wait the whole length of the ride + load/unload time before 30 more people can get on, best case.
Once you actually get on, the view is great, weather permitting. The haze reduced some visibility, but I could see the forest stretch on for miles. Of course, you have just as good a view once you arrive at the top. And once I got there, I saw a funicular that must have taken a different route up, but certainly holds many more people. I'd recommend taking that instead.
View from top

View from top


The area at the top was much larger than I was expecting. The church and monastery are only small parts of a large complex of tourist facilities. Since they were what I had come to see, I started by walking over to the church.
Entrance

Entrance


The courtyard wall decorations are intricate. I suspect that they were created using the sand-on-different-colored-sand method that the guide described to us yesterday. Other than the walls, the rest of the courtyard was typical for a Catholic church- white statues of the apostles, Jesus, and other Romanesque decor.
Courtyard Walls

Courtyard Walls


To the left, a small alleyway smelled strongly of hot wax. Upon investigating, it was obvious why. It was the place people bought and lit religious candles. About a dozen large stands contained at least a hundred burning candles each. The stone "grotto" had a few painted tiles near the stands of candles, and a winged statue that looked more like a Hindu goddess than any Catholic statue I've seen before, but was otherwise bare.
Candles

Candles

Statue

Statue


The church was closed for lunch or a prayer service, but that didn't stop people from standing in line to get in. I checked out the museum instead of waiting.
Modernist statue of Mary and Jesus

Modernist statue of Mary and Jesus


The Montserrat Art Museum is 2 floors of the lesser-known works of famous artists, mixed with Spanish artists, mixed with some seemingly random other stuff. Some sections made sense. They had a room with depictions of Mary with baby Jesus at Montserrat that showed how artists depicted her over the centuries. They had a room full of shiny religious icons. Many rooms contained the works of local artists, and we can see styles progress through time until we see the modern art, including funky yarn art. But I'm not sure what the Egyptian mummy or the Torah scrolls were doing there. The audio guide was helpful at understanding the individual pieces, but not necessarily how they all fit together. I also found that in some areas it was very short, while in others it was too long. Overall, the best part of the audio guide was when it told one legend of how Montserrat got founded. And I didn't find that any piece of art in the museum really spoke to me or stood out. The museum wasn't really worth the price. If you somehow had a 50% discount, then it might be worth it though.
Mosaics to look at while we waited

Mosaics to look at while we waited


Now that the church was open again, I went to stand in line. It was much shorter, but still a line, because they were only letting in groups of about 30 at a time. At some point, I realized that this wasn't the line for the general church, but for the black Mary statue. Fortunately, once we got let into the church, waiting in line became interesting. We passed through some elaborately decorated halls and stairways. One had mosaics of about a dozen female saints. Another area had an amazing ceiling.
art during the wait

art during the wait


As we approached Mary, I could see the reason the line moved so slowly. As people got in front of her, they were kissing the glass case or saying a short prayer. Everyone needed their moment.
Having a personal moment with the Mary statue

Having a personal moment with the Mary statue


She didn't look different than any other (blackened with soot) Mary to me, but I hope these people's prayers get answered. Also, we had a great view of the church from the Mary area as she is high above the main altar.
a moment with Mary

a moment with Mary


The way out after Mary takes you back through the candle grotto I saw before, and then you can reenter the church through the main doors. It's a typical Catholic church- every inch is covered in art. The stained glass windows were prettier than usual, but otherwise, nothing stood out compared to other Catholic churches.
stained glass at the church

stained glass at the church


Because this is a huge tourist complex, there are multiple lunch choices. Most of them though, are cafeteria-style and didn't seem to have delicious food. However, the souvenir shops and one small grocery store do have tastier-looking food. I got a bunk of goat cheese, some eggplant pate, and breadsticks and sat down for a picnic outside. As I contemplated how different "goat cheese" can be (just like cheddar and mozzarella are so different even though they're both "cow cheese"), I enjoyed the scenery. The view from up here really is fabulous.
I ate by the statue

I ate by the statue


I wandered around the corner to see what else was up here, and almost slapped myself. I saw farmer's market stands, and I had just finished eating. I growled to myself and went to check them out anyway. I quickly went from upset to happy, as they stands didn't really have anything new or different. They all sold the same products as each other and as all of the souvenir shops- local honey, cheese, and dried fruit logs mostly.
Having seen what there was to see, I took the cable car back down. Unlike the way up, this time, there was no line. I think the secret is to take the funicular up and cable car down, at least if you're coming earlier in the day.
I walked the city a bit, keeping my eyes peeled for dinner. Even though it was almost 6 o'clock, almost no restaurants were open. I wonder how they stay in business if they have to pay rent for 24 hours per day, but are only open for making money 5 of those hours. A lot of them didn't open until 7:30, or later, which seems late for families to want dinner.
I found a Chinese restaurant that had just opened, and I have to say that it really hit the spot. It wasn't particularly spicy or flavorful, but the veg mix as just right and I was full enough.
Hours later, at the hostel, I would decide that my dinner was insufficient. I tried to get some hot water for my cup o noodles, and what an annoyance that was. The front desk told me to get some from the cafeteria lady. She said that she wouldn't give me hot water as the cafeteria is like a restaurant, but that I could buy a bottle of water and then use the microwave to heat the water. I took one of their mugs to the bathroom, filled it with free water, and microwaved it. Then I returned the cup for them to wash. It was a lot of unnecessary effort on my part to make more dishes for them. But if that's the way she preferred it instead of what the front desk suggested, fine.
On a side note, my clothes are almost all dry. The few items that are still a touch damp should be good to wear tomorrow.

Posted by spsadventures 07:43 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Andorra to Barcelona

Andorra la Vela, Andorra

This morning, we got up early to have more time in Barcelona. As a result, breakfast came from a vending machine at the bus station. And unfortunately, this was not a French baguette vending machine. This one had carrot sticks with dip and chips. I miss French food.

The drive to Barcelona was pretty uneventful. We started in the dark and ended in the daylight, although the mountains blocked any semblance of a sunrise. We didn't have to stop at the border this time. And the roads turned from mountainous to just hilly, although we could still see the mountains off to the side.
The bus dropped us at the airport. We caught the metro to our hostel to dump our baggage and then caught it back to the center of the city. Last year, I had the most amazing olives of my life here. We decided to start at Santa Caterina market to see if I could find them again.
We found the market. But the market was closed. So much for that idea.
Nearby, we spotted a little restaurant with amazing looking pizza pastries, so we stopped in for our first real meal of the day. The pizza-looking things were more like soft French bread with toppings than actual pizza. They were delicious. The interesting part was that the restaurant also displayed tile coasters people could buy. They were supposedly made of recycled coffee.
After our snack, we started walking toward La Rambla. But we happened to pass the Picasso museum along the way. This time, the Picasso Museum didn't have a line out the door, down several blocks and around the corner. It was short enough that we decided to wait in it and visit the museum.
Painting I liked at Picasso Museum

Painting I liked at Picasso Museum


The audio guide had great information and descriptions, although periodically it told us to look at its screen for something. The screen was about a square inch and impossible to see while listening, so that was a bit odd. I liked the early Picasso stuff ok, but it didn't really seem to stand out from anything of any other painter. The impressive part was that he painted these at such a young age- in his early teens. When the paintings moved to his blue period, they started getting different from other paintings. His pottery was certainly different than pottery I've seen in other museums, but more in a kids-that-made-something-at-camp way than a good way. By the end though, we could see some of his more famous cubist style. I found it interesting that they had 2 and a half rooms dedicated to his version of Velazquez's Las Meninas. He just kept painting the people in it over and over, both individually and as a group. His multiple versions of the same girl look somewhat similar, and yet are so drastically different from each other. In some, you could kind of guess what he was basing it on, others, not so much. But, I liked the shapes and colors.
Room of Las Meninas

Room of Las Meninas


From the museum, we headed toward La Rambla, as I had only seen it sort of dead in the rain last time. But before we made it there, my guy saw some people at some restaurant's street seating with a pitcher of sangria. We stopped for our own. I made sure that we also ate while we were downing so much sangria. We got paella which was just ok. But, it was much much better than the paella I had last time I was in Barcelona and it was better than the prepackaged stuff my guy had cooked on the boat.
We finally made it to La Rambla. At least the portion of it we walked was empty of artists. Restaurant seating filled the areas around where people walked. It seems almost like the locals got tired of tourists taking over their city, so they spread a rumor that everyone had to go here, just to get the tourists concentrated elsewhere. We didn't see any reason to walk several more blocks, so we turned towards the Cathedral, where we were meeting our tour.
My guy had picked the Donkey Tour Modernism + Gaudi tour. Our guide was Eric, and he was amazing. He funnily explained the history of Barcelona (short version: it was small for almost 2000 years from Roman times to the industrial revolution, then more then doubled in size a few times in a few short years), and spent lots of time telling us about modernism outside of Gaudi. He answered questions well, looked at each of us when he talked, and had a ton of energy. He is working for tips, and I'm sure that's why he touched everyone's shoulders (some study showed waiters increased tips by friendly touching the diners' shoulders), but I thought that was a bit much. Still, he did a fabulous job and was one of the better tour guides I've had, paid or free. The tour was supposed to be 2.5-3 hours, but took about 3.5, which was a bit long without a good break. But he managed and I appreciated the bonus explanations.
Gaudi-designed sidewalk stones

Gaudi-designed sidewalk stones


After learning a bit about modernism and the street decor, our first stop was a bathroom break. According to the guide, these are the prettiest bathrooms in Barcelona. They are in an old train station building that had taken turns as a newspaper, parking lot, and (currently) restaurants.
bulb muse

bulb muse


Next, we spent a lot of time on the "block of discord." Here is the block where the rich people started trying to outdo each other with fancy home facades. His description reminded me of The Big Orange Splot, where each home owner saw the other doing what he wanted and decided in turn to fix up his house how he wanted. Except instead of an alligator under a palm tree, a ship, and the Taj Mahal, we ended up with a house that has classic Greek statues holding electric bulbs and a telephone, a house that looks wallpapered (except the design is actually from a very expensive complicated process), and a dragon house.
Discord Street- Amatller

Discord Street- Amatller


Discord Street- Gaudi's Dragon House

Discord Street- Gaudi's Dragon House


We spent a bit of time discussing La Pedrera (Casa Mila, which I had paid to go into last time I was here), and then we took the metro over to La Sagrada Familia.
La Pedrera

La Pedrera


The guide gave us a detailed explanation of the two main sides of the building as well as some history of the building as a whole. I won't go into tons of detail, but if you read my blog from last year, there is more.
La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia


The group was dwindling as the tour was running long, but he had the same energy as at the beginning. When it was over, I got a dinner recommendation from him, and we headed across town to Bormuth.
Newer Facade of Sagrada Familia

Newer Facade of Sagrada Familia


It was a good recommendation. They had a variety of small dishes that were somewhat bigger than a lot of tapas, but still small (and cheap) enough that you'd want to order at least 2 per person. The one that particularly impressed me consisted of crispy thin slices of eggplant in some sort of light honey drizzle.
We came back to the hostel (Esplai Centre Hostel to get settled in for the night (me) and get packed and ready to go (my guy). It's an interesting place. I'd guess it was originally a college dorm or maybe an athlete dorm for the Olympics. The rooms are rather large and everything is super-thoughtful. The quotes on the walls are in Catalan, Spanish, English, and Braille (3x, so I assume in a 3 languages). Our bathroom and whole room was wheelchair accessible. The AC doesn't work when the balcony door is open and the lights of course require a key card in order to turn on to save electricity. The toilets use a greywater system explained in a wall poster. The laundry machines even automatically provide soap. The dryer cycle is super short (10 mins) and does about as poorly as a normal-length dryer cycle (which is to say that you really need to throw everything in twice).
The only negative was that the shower doors and floor didn't touch and the water came out of the shower, but at least there was a sort of channel so it wasn't completely all over everything. It seems good enough.

Posted by spsadventures 07:40 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

The Rain in Spain falls also on Barcelona

Barcelona, Spain

I woke up at 8:30, which is super-late for me. My feet were dead tired from all the walking I've been doing the past few days.
It took a while for me to fully wake up, get organized, check out, and get out the door, so by the time I was at my friend's hotel, the morning was almost over.

From there, I decided to head over to some of the museums that I hadn't seen yet. I really wanted to see the Picasso museum, had free entry, and figured that a rainy day was perfect for it. But hundreds of others thought the same way. The line was out the door, down the block, and then I couldn't see where it ended.
So I stopped by the Chocolate Museum, which I also had free entry to. It was worth it for the entry ticket- a chocolate bar. But otherwise, it wasn't so great. They had a few informational pieces on the walls with a few chocolate-history-related artifacts, but most of the museum was dedicated to sculptures in chocolate. Seeing a mini-Messi made of chocolate isn't really worth the normal admission price.
Chocolate Messi

Chocolate Messi


I grabbed lunch nearby at a restaurant with homemade ravioli that could have been a bit more aldente, and headed over to Montjuic to see the Joan Miro museum via a long detour through town.
Having eaten enough that I wasn't going to want everything I saw, I visited the Santa Caterina market. It's a small market that looks like there are locals as well as tourists. It has enough space to move about and sells meats, cheeses, breads, and produce. I saw an olive stand and thought I'd see if they had the grandma's recipe olives that I loved so much from the other night. By my luck, they did! I got some to take home. If I had checked luggage, I probably would have bought the whole gallon tin.
Uncrowded Santa Caterina

Uncrowded Santa Caterina


I then headed over to the more famous market on Las Ramblas- La Boqueria.
It's a madhouse.
People outside La Boqueria

People outside La Boqueria


Tourists fill every inch of the aisleways. The produce is pre-cut for the most part, so that tourists can grab it an eat as they walk. They also sell some cheeses and meats, but have a lot of little bars selling prepared food. I don't think I saw a single local there, and I understand why. The prices were aimed at tourists, the crowds were insane, and the food didn't look any better or worse than what they had at other smaller markets (like Santa Caterina, which is only a few blocks away.) Personally, I much preferred the Santa Caterina market and would recommend that over La Boqueria, at least until it turns into Boqueria part 2.
I rambled down Las Ramblas, although in the rain, not a whole lot was going on. Mostly tourists bustled from place to place. Even the guys standing outside the tent restaurants weren't putting in effort to draw people in. The restaurants were mostly empty, despite their signs indicating their super-fabulous deal of 2 tapas and a pizza or paella for 10 euro (just like all the rest of the places).
I had been super-excited by the mosaic on Las Ramblas, but wasn't as excited when I finally arrived at the Joan Miro museum and saw what was inside.
Joan Miro Museum

Joan Miro Museum


I enjoy modern art, but not the stuff like White on White that looks like a kindergartner didn't even put effort into it. Also, there was no artsy toilet. It's not truly a modern art museum until there is at least one piece of work that involves a toilet. Fortunately, I also had free admission to this museum.
For anyone thinking about getting the BarcelonaCard- I did the math ahead of time and this was the best deal based on what I expected to do. Overall, I ended up about breaking even on the BarcelonaCard. Had I gotten it at the airport and used the transport for the first day, or gone to the Picasso museum or some of the others I planned on, I would have come out slightly ahead.

At the Miro museum, my friend indicated that she was stuck in the hotel room with the baby again. So, I stopped by Little Italy to pick up some gelato for use to enjoy at the hotel.
My time in Barcelona was coming to an end. I had a good time, saw a lot, but didn't see everything, and am definitely excited to come back at some future date to check out what I missed. I just feel bad that the baby didn't end up traveling better and so my friends didn't get to see quite as much.

Posted by spsadventures 07:53 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Gaudi

Barcelona, Spain

This morning, I decided to catch the sunrise over Sagrada Familia and then head to the Montjuic area. Sagrada Familia is wonderful at night and during the day and at sunrise, but not sunrise isn't a particular bonus.
I metroed over to the Montjuic funicular, excited for the view that just didn't happen. It's basically just an angled subway train.
Olympic Flame

Olympic Flame


However, the Motjuic area in general has a nice view of the city. I ambled through, noting the Olympic stadium with the large flame statue, passing through a statue garden, and then being confused because I thought I saw a grand palace, although I didn't remember seeing one on the map. It's actually an art museum.
Art Museum

Art Museum


Finally, I arrived at Poble Espanyol, one of the first attractions to be open. It opens at 9, and I wasn't there right at the 9, but it was still deserted. I was literally the only person around for the first 20 minutes I was there, until people started to trickle in. I used that time to explore the "village." Basically, they made replicas of the facades of buildings from all over Spain and put them together in this village. Each building is labeled with where it came from and when the original was built, as well as any interesting stories related to it. The first floor of most of them looked like it contained a small shop of some kind, but all of them were closed. How can this place purport to open at 9, when nothing is actually open? I enjoyed the architecture, but would have loved to be able to see the movie about the festivals (opens at 10:30) or the demonstrations of crafts (starts at 10, but there is no schedule or map to tell you when or where). Around 10, I popped into the modern art museum.
The top floor didn't really impress me. One painting was done in Picasso's style, but it wasn't his. The next floor down had some weird and interesting pottery that caught my eye. Those were the Picassos. I didn't know he did dinner plates before today.
I saw a few other pieces that caught my eye to the point I want to look up the artists when I get home- Joan Miro, Equipo Cronica, Anna Chromy, Joan Ponc.
Poble Espanyol street

Poble Espanyol street


On the way out, some shops started opening, but still I didn't see the demonstrations. Some of the shops looked like local artists made the goods, but a lot seemed to have the same mass-produced souvenirs as everywhere else in town.
I made my way over to meet for the Runnerbean free Gaudi tour. First, I want to take back what I said earlier about managing the subway with a stroller. One guy on our tour was in a fancy motorized scooter thing and he managed just fine. The guide found us elevators everywhere. And since it wasn't rush hour, the trains weren't so packed that people couldn't make room for him.
The tour was neat. We saw the lampposts that Gaudi designed for the city, the Guell house, La Pedrera, Casa Battlo, and La Sagrada Familia from the outside, while learning about Gaudi's life and style.
Casa Amatller

Casa Amatller


In the process, we saw some other modernist homes, like Casa Amatller. Basically, the whole street that those homes are on was built around the same time as it was part of the expansion that happened when they tore down the old medieval city walls. The various rich industrialists hired architects to come up with increasingly fancier and fancier homes, making for lots of fun and unique designs. Even now, it's a pretty expensive and fancy street. It's wide so everyone gets lots of air and light. The stores that line it are either so fancy I've never heard of them or names I've only heard about in context of celebrities and extravagance. Two UNESCO world heritage sites sit closely by on it (the Gaudi houses).
Batllo skulls and bones

Batllo skulls and bones


The guide did a good job of pointing out some of the fun features of the homes to us. I thought that the Casa Batllo pillars looked like bones, but didn't know that was intentional. The whole house is the story of St. George and the dragon, and after the guide explained it all, I saw the rest- the bones and skulls of the dragon's victims, the scales at the top, the lance. It's pretty amazing.
While I had been to Sagrada Familia yesterday and listened to the audio guide, the tour guide still covered things I hadn't heard about. I didn't know that when the front facade is done, the buildings on that side will be torn down to make a park like on the other sides. It's in their rental contract, so in theory everyone knows, but I can still see it being a problem one day. Also, the audio guide covers the two finished facades in detail, but doesn't really take you to the one in progress. I always wondered how they get all those stone statues to stick to the walls, and here, you can see the rebar spikes they must be meant to sit on.
After the tour, I was hungry, but again, I didn't want to eat at a tourist trap. Instead of walking a lot of blocks, I decided to metro to somewhere further out, mostly because my feet hurt. I ended up at the University station. Right at the exit stood a hippie vegan restaurant, probably aimed at students, so I went in. For under 10 euro, I got a yummy pumpkin soup, some noodle pie, and a water, which filled me up just fine. I also appreciated the chance to sit, as my feet were starting to die on me.
As such, I decided to just hop on a bus and see what I could see for a while. The area mostly has classic stone buildings, although a couple were more interesting. One was patterned and textured as if it had been wallpapered on the outside.
On the Gaudi tour, I has asked which Gaudi building to go into, if I could only pick one. The guide had said La Pedrera, so I headed back over to LaPedrera (Casa Mila) to finally suck it up and pay the admission to go inside. I opted for the stairs over the elevator, because I thought it was just one floor. No, they start you at the top, so you have to climb 5 flights, but since I didn't know, I didn't count the steps.
The roof is amazing!
roof of La Pedrera

roof of La Pedrera


You have an amazing view of the city and La Sagrada Familia, but those are dwarfed by the amazingness of the sculptures on the roof.
These are all functional- chimneys, airshafts, stairwell exits, but they are also highly artistic. The roof itself undulates up and down and round and round. I wonder if my favorite artist/architect (Hundertwasser) was inspired by these types of architectural waves.
The roof is the best part of the museum.
The next floor down is the attic, and has interesting curves and arches. It also has a bunch of displays showing how Gaudi worked, got inspired, and did calculations- hanging strings upside down and then using a mirror to flip the designs. What I didn't like is that the audio guide was location-based, so you'd be listening to an explanation and walking around, and suddenly a different recording would start before you finished the last. In order to get back to the spot it ended at, you'd have to listen to the whole thing all over again.
The next floor down is set up as it could have been during the time the Milas lived in the house. The furniture is functional and pretty, but the house doesn't look too drastically different at this point than any other old fancy house put back into time for museum purposes.
The last floor has an exhibition of modern art. You can't really tell anything special about the house from this section- it just looks like any normal art museum. The pieces were all illusions that seemed to move as you walked by, or actual pieces of moving art, but nothing really stood out.
Overall, I loved the roof, but was relatively disappointed with the rest of the building. For what you got, the price of admission was a bit steep.
It was about this time that I got news that I could go visit my friend at the hotel. I hung out with her a while, hoping to convince her to come on the evening tapas tour or to go to the Magic Fountain show later with me. But, it seemed that the baby was keeping her in again tonight.
I met the guide from Strawberry tours on Las Ramblas. Per the website, this was going to be a great chance to learn about local food, even if we didn't want to eat everything. But right from the start, it wasn't quite like other free tours I've done. The guides always do an introduction where they get names and countries from the tourists and share a bit about themselves. Our guide didn't get names, did a rough "continent check" and shared absolutely nothing about himself. I don't even remember him sharing his name.
Tapas

Tapas


We were brought to the first bar and told about their deal: 2 tapas and a drink for 6 euro. And we were told to sit down. Then we were told that we shouldn't be seated if we wanted food, we had to pick it up at the counter. The counter held dozens of plates, each holding little bites of food held together with a toothpick (pinchos). When some of the non-Spanish speaking tourists asked the guide which of the choices were vegetarian, he said to ask the guys behind the counter. I thought it odd he didn't recognize the choices or at least offer to translate, but didn't think too much of it.
My tapas- an artichoke/pepper/bread and cheese something- were great. I met the other tourists in my group and enjoyed the stop, although I wanted to know more about what we were seeing/eating/visiting. At the next bar, when he announced the deal: a tapas and a drink for 3.5 euro. Here, I had patatas bravas, which were actually not too different than the ones I got on the street the other day- still tons of mayo, just regular potatoes instead of fries, and a pepper sauce instead of the sprinkled paprika. I tried to ask questions about the food and locations, but didn't get any real answers from the guide.
We headed off to the next bar, but were told to turn around because they didn't have room for us. I'm confused- if you do this tour 3 times a week, you would think that you would call the bars at the beginning of the evening (maybe while we're socializing and you're ignoring us at the other bars) and let them know how many places to save since you're bringing paying customers who won't be there too long. In any case, we skipped the third and went straight to the last bar to get our potato pies with the tomato-rubbed bread. Some people asked if there was wifi, and he told them to ask the bar people. At this point, I'm beginning to wonder if he is a substitute guide thrown into this at the last minute, or maybe he's running a psychology experiment to see how bad service can be before people don't tip.
Despite the bad guide, I enjoyed myself because the other people on the tour were quite friendly. That being said, a group of people could just go wander the streets and get tapas on their own and have an equally fun an enlightening time as what the guide provided us.

Posted by spsadventures 20:59 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 7) Page [1] 2 » Next