Starting on the Friday when John went to Northampton to collect his Mum, (again she would be looking after our house and Cats for the ten days we were away). This time we packed our case on Sunday.
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28/7/2002 29/7/2002 30/7/2002 31/7/2002 01/8/2002
22 July 2002 - We were picked up at 10a.m. by taxi and taken to Manchester Airport for our 12.35 flight. The flight was fine, the food was not as good as previous years as the vegetarian meal we ordered for Julie was not provided. We arrived at 3.30 p.m, collected our bags, and got the Aerobus from outside the airport to Placa de Catalunya; it takes about 35 minutes a good service which cost about 4 euros each.
We found the Hotel Meson Castilla at Valldoncella quite easily, about 10 minutes walk from La Ramblas. Our room no.250 wasn't very big but has some unusual features, a painted headboard done in the castilian style with a matching wardrobe. THANK GOODNESS for air conditioning! The adjoining bathroom comes with all mod cons including a bidet in case you want to soak your feet!!! We unpacked as we needed to feel that we were here! In BARCELONA!!
Investigations were imminent but first we needed food, particularly as Jules veggie meal on the plane did not materialise and I had said that the food on the plane wasn't up to much anyway, some 'sort of meat' disguised with bread crumbs. NB. 'Might' have been chicken!
Our first meal was very good and we downed the lot with relish, not literally as we were in an Italian Pizzeria! It was very good. We decided to have an evening stroll down La Ramblas, past a chinse dragon and almost to the waterfront and then to bed. Oops! no toothbrush, it's on the shopping list for tomorrow. First impressions of the area not particularly brilliant surroundings as there is a lot of building and renovation work going on around in particular an extension to the university at the back of the hotel, a bit noisy in the morning. The area seems quite lively, lots of shops and interesting bric-a-brac for sale, I was surprised at the number of music and musical instruments shops. (John bought a blues CD by Keb MO.) La Ramblas was very busy, lots of foods, gifts etc and people mooching about. Dropped into bed at what time 10.30p.m.! It couldn't be!
Apart from the Aerobus I think our next recommendation would be to buy a 2 day ticket, 18 euros and take a trip on both the Red and Blue Bus Turistic which takes you north and south to 27 places of interest, in particular the major Gaudi sites. You can get on and off the bus at any stop look around and get on again all day long. At Placa de Catalunya you can find a very good Information office, where you can buy your Bus Turistic tickets.
Another recommendation would be to use the Metro which is very good with lines colour coded and easy to follow and its cheap, we traveled half-way across Barcelona and back for 2 euros each. With regards to changing money we took euro traveler cheques which we changed at a kiosk and were charged 8% but when we changed them at the bank it was about 3%.
We weren't quite sure where to go today but knew we needed to get our bearings. We walked La Ramblas and at the harbour, Port Vel, bought '2-day' excursion tickets for the 'Bus Turistic'. It was quite crowded but we finally got on one and did the Blue Route, we got quite a good look at some of the most exciting attractions. We went the whole route and part way round for the second time.
We descended for the old Barcelona Cathedral and lunch, we were feeling in need of food and water! We sat outside opposite the Cathedral outside the Hotel Colon, eating cheese Bocadilos and enjoying the sights. This is the life!
The old Cathedral is very big and you have to keep quiet - one party of people were told to 'shut up'! We had a look around - some quite interesting bits but of all I liked the cloisters best where the geese held court. They were very responsive to any food offered by passing trade.
We decided to have a walk around Barri Gotic - the old Gothic part of the city. Very interesting, tried to get lost but failed miserably - John had little faith in me but surprisingly we managed to come back to La Ramblas. We decided not to go back to the hotel to change as it was already 8pm. Instead we both stayed dirty (and happy) and went back to the Pizza Manzano for another pizza - fungi, tonight. John sinned, having the very moorish chocolate ice cream (the little devil). Back to the hotel for 9.45pm. Decided to have a coffee from the lobby - Yuk - bad decision!
Won't do that again! John read about computers and web site design (boring!) and I drew some equally exciting patterns off the bed head. Good night! Lots planned for tomorrow.
The building won't be finished until 2026, a hundred years from Gaudi's death after being run down by a tram. You never know, I may get to see it though I think I will forgo the trip up the towers next time - all 310 stairs and a passage way only just wide enough to pass through!
It was really interesting to see how the workmen / craftsmen created the shapes and mosaics within. There were moulds and casts everywhere to explain the process. Fascinating!
We caught the bus and did the whole route round - I missed some of this due to my uncontrollable desire to fall asleep. The second time round, we alighted at Park Guell - 350 meters set back up a long hill. WOW! You must see the pictures! A massive undertaking full of imagination and vision.
The Salamander was beginning to complain about being photo-shy!
We caught the bus and I saw all the sights I had missed the first time round. It's a big city full of different periods and styles all coming together to create a harmony of differences (not as contradictory as it sounds). Guess where we went for 'Dinner'? Well, we were quite late and didn't really have time to think about it. I had pasta and John had - another Margherita.
The exhibition was wonderful and explained how Geometry had played such a big part in Gaudi's thinking. John was really impressed with all the computer generated images and explanations. Just up his street! I feel that I have under-sold Gaudi at school and will incorporate new understanding into my year 7 3-D project; I might also try to generate some extra curricular work with the Math's Department! Palau Guell sold out for today!!!
Walked to the harbour where we had a picnic, a bit early for tea but I was worried by some threatening cumulus on the horizon (no coats or broils). Arrived back at the Hotel at 7.45pm, unloaded our bits and pieces, phoned John's mum again, still having problems with the washing machine!!! Made some suggestions, it could be a 'Joe' call out yet!! Hope not, though. A slow stroll up the road for a cuppa at a street bar and then to bed, it's not 11pm yet. This is terrible! I'm becoming -n-n-Normal! Actually, I think I'm making up for all those lost hours due to report writing - Ugh! - memories of torture!!! (If you hadn't guessed I'm a teacher).
Bought John some more multi-pocketed jackets, then decided to try once more for the Palau Guell, this was to be our last attempt! Arrived 2.25pm and bought tickets for 4.15pm. Chilled out for a while, It was well worth it! A beautiful building, full of marble, Gaudi arches and ironwork and a sense of history - to think they nearly pulled it down during the last century!! Missed my Spanish omelette as we were at the end of the Ramblas at the wrong time. You know where we went? You've guessed right, another Pizza!!!!!!!!!
Fell asleep very early, I'm not sure if it's the air or the 100 stairs we climbed in the Palace.
Today has been a success from the outset. We headed off for Casa Batllo via the information centre on the corner at Placa de Catalunya, to find out about trains to Figueres. Queue (again) far too long at Info Centre so we moved on to Casa Batllo. Absolutely fantastic! It looked like a building for a fantasy film just finished but was built over 100 years ago; but no photographs allowed unfortunately, so I had to buy an expensive book with all the pictures (I did sneak a couple inside the place, though!) We ate a chocolate ice cream (Yum!) to compensate for all that money we'd just spent on the book.
Onwards, after a lovely ice cold water, to Casa Batllo, loads of chimneys & more chimneys!
WOW! WOW! WOW!
All like sentries standing to attention! They've been photographed from every possible angle and with every conceivable combination that John and I could see them from. We even took a picture of the Sagrada Familia through one of the roof archways! (Not that again!) After a cold drink and a short 'chill out', we finally got round to our Spanish Omelette but it was part of a tapas meal and not quite what we had wanted, the chips were good, however and the coffee was really nice. The meal was very expensive compared with others.
La Ramblas was really busy tonight; one of those nights when you need to watch your belongings. We kept our eyes on what looked like an illegal betting game, they were constantly disturbed by what looked to be undercover police. John was convinced that they were playing '3 cups find the ball! and would have been picking pockets once they were established!! Oh dear! La Ramblas is such a noisy place. The Spanish people all seem to want to talk at the same time, so the sound increases rapidly to a real din!
Caught the train back to Barcelona and chatted with a couple from Norway (he was originally from Lille). They were on their way to see the Sagrada Familia. Enjoyed a cold drink and 1/2 a Bocadillo outside the Cathedral, just watching the world go by - I could get used to this easy life. Went back to the hotel and chilled out for a while then supper at Pizza Marzano, decided not to be adventurous anymore and gave in to John's limited palette - more Pizza. John's foot was bad this afternoon but nurse Jules came to his aid. Went to bed early in order to rest up the said blister and poorly foot.
We motored on towards the Parc de la Cuitadella; we saw this place when we were on the Bus Turistic tour last week and it looked promising. Indeed it was. There were some Moorish style buildings which had been used by the University at some point in time but now looked a little worse for wear and some others, one of which was a government building which had a guard outside it.
The ducks in the pond were friendly, however; joking apart he did help direct some other people to where they intended to go. We headed off in the same direction. The park opened up into a large, well planted, boating lake, it even had a featured mammoth. The amazement was unparalled when we saw the monument in the centre. It was a vast feature, decidedly over the top, we took many pictures of it as we didn't think anyone would believe us. Victoria would have been proud of it!!
What was great was all the goldfish that were swimming around in the surrounding lake and the ducks and terrapins in evidence, too.
Then the final piece de resistance were the fountains that suddenly shot into the air, from every angle and complete with large multi-levelled waterfall featured at the back. Everyone rushed to the waters edge to look and take even more photos, an amazing sight to see all these people suddenly rummaging and scurrying complete with cameras. Well, when the fun died down and we had watched the Tai Chi, and got mixed up in a pseudo art lesson by some ponsy art teacher trying to give an art history lesson to 2 innocent American students, we moved on to find out about the other buildings we had seen in the distance, one turned out to be a cafe transformed from an extremely large and still productive conservatory / greenhouse and the other fairy tale like building was the zoological museum. We walked back through the Arc de Triomphe, no, not the one in Paris and back across the Ramblas to our hotel, where we had a short rest, a dry off and a clean up before going for our Italian meal. Both tired after so much walking and so much eating, we need another early night.
We went for lunch to see if the queue would shrink any, it didn't, and though disappointed, it seemed a waste of time to hang around in the hope of getting into the museum. The sky encouraged our decision as I could have sworn I herd thunder in the distance. There was nothing else really to do in Figueres so we had a look around the shops, bought yet another book!!! and went for the train.
The idea of coming again for the Dali year sparked inside my head - 2004 - not long to wait. Back on the train with a full scale storm blasting around us. Had we been in that queue we would certainly have been drenched. One and a half hours to get back to Barcelona hot and sunny, we had got on the fast train. Ambled around the shops and went for tea at the Pizza place (Again! well at least we know it is edible!) Still a little disappointed, they don't cater for vegetarians very well. Boy was there a storm tonight, glad were in bed. It was hard to know where one flash of lightning began and the rumble of thunder ended - oooooooooh!
We took the metro, very quick and efficient, to see the Pavilions de Finca Guell. This was an amazing place with the Dragon gate, a formidable and intricate structure made from metal.
Even more amazing, it only cost 1 euro each to get there!! You could see the very strong Moroccan influence as this was one of the first commissions for Guell. One of the Pavilions is a porters house and the other is now the head-quarters of the Royal Gaudi Chair (UPU), institution devoted to research into the architect's work.
We walked back to the Palau Reial Park and Gardens; a beautifully organised area with symmetrical planting, arbour's and lakes. It is a well established garden with bamboo plants as thick as your wrist. We didn't go into the ceramics museum. We caught the metro back to Catalunya (another 1 euro each) and strolled down to the Cathedral for lunch. We were accosted by several groups of 'never be's' singing to us and a variety of other beggars, the usual stuff around here!
We discovered our spiral guide and found some more Gaudi type buildings, so we decided to root them out. On the way we found this building which was supported by stone carved trees, beautiful and finally onto Casa Calvet, a Gaudi building that was a restaurant. Decided not to look inside as it was already getting quite late and we still had some small presents to buy, chocolates and such, and our packing to undertake!!!!! ouch. We managed to pack most of our stuff so despite organising a 6am call from the reception, we should be ready for the off at about 7.45am. Washed and changed for supper but, oh dear, another storm brewing outside. John and I are at present slightly damp and awaiting our Italian. I'm praying for a dry morning tomorrow as it won't be much fun sitting on a plane wet through. Oh well, totally out of our control I'm afraid and not a coat between us. It has stopped raining, arrived back at the hotel for 10pm. Need to get an early night as we are up and out at that god forsaken hour. Good night! Yawn!
Our hotel is part of the HUSA Hotels Group.