Well, it’s been a while since we have last posted, but since then not a great deal has actually happened. Tam has been working hard at her job and Mitch is still on the hunt in a slow moving industry. This has been the coldest March on record for 50 years, so managed to head south for Easter and explore the Catalan port of Barcelona.
On arrival, we were effortlessly transferred by bus to the hostel. Finding the small hostel was a challenge, but eventually found it disguised among the rows of tall blocks of buildings. After unloading we walked to La Ramblas, through the red light district (don’t know how these places find us!) then to a nice bar for tapas. Tapa’s is the main cuisine here. A bunch of small fried dishes, with scarce veg but pretty tasty. To round of the first day some travel to the port to see the retail shopping centres, Africans selling counterfeit goods and shitty little dogs, trying to trip unsuspecting walkers. Mitch found a big metal cat and was about as entertained as the kids in trying to climb over it’s slippery surface. We were probably the few people around wearing shorts and jandals. The locals were still rugged up in coats – apparently 17dg is cold…
After a bit of planning and grabbing a few tourist brochures we managed to plan out the next day. A fair hike around the city looking at architecture and some of Barcelona’s famous monuments. Gaudi’s works are the chief attraction here. A visionary architect with grand schemes, including the Sagrada Familia, a large Art Nouveau and Gothic bascilica that was commissioned in 1882, but is still under construction today long after the death of Gaudi in 1926. 130 years on it is still a way off completion, but the number of tourists must surely slow any major progress.
After queuing to get a slip of paper which told us to join another queue at 1pm, which then took another half hour to get in, we marveled and waited another 2 hours to use our voucher for the tower elevator. The building was filled with columns and geometry which would be unseen in other cathedrals worldwide. The descent almost took as long, following an American family who marveled at every step and window taking four photographs at each…
A further hike through Barcelona’s industrial district, through to the Olympic village found as at one of the many beaches. The build up of marinas and esplanades have resulted in artificial beaches created to capture the sand. Each is a few hundred metres at best. Hardly the sprawling expanses back home.
The following day was forecast as our best day yet, so a train trip to the town of Sitges down the coast, possibly for a swim was on the order. Sitges is notorious as a gay destination. Once we arrived off the train, we followed the big hairy bears and their cubs down the narrow streets to the Mediterranean for a dip of our toes. The water was ice cold, hardly worth bringing our towels. The walk up and down the beaches did make for some good viewing however. Everyone rollerblades. The large concrete walkways make it a rollerblading playground. Tam was giggling uncontrollably at the sight of the nudist beach (no photo’s) and the middle aged mermaids and men playing in the shallow waves (remember, the water was cold!). The bars and cafe’s were packed despite it being Easter, the more central locations observing the festival more strictly.
On return to Barcelona, we found a Flamenco bar, where a man and woman performed a passionate and fast pace show with fast moving feet to a gypsy band. Although very short, it was relatively cheap and we were exhausted. The bars and restaurants in Barcelona only start to open around 10pm and go long into the night.
On Easter Monday we traveled inland to Montserrat, a jagged protrusion of sedimentary rock famous for it’s monastery housing the Black Madonna relic and the rumored hiding place of the Holy Grail by the Knights Templar. We traveled by train and cable car up the mountain and joined the large line to touch the Madonna’s (Virgin Mary’s) orb. Following our most religious experience to date, we continued on to the many hiking paths to hermitages and chapels all over the mountain ranges. After several hours of hiking we didn’t manage to find the grail, but the sun burnt off all the cloud and we found epic views of the surrounding landscape.
On arrival we set out to get another great Catalan meal. However, we found our worst dining experience to date. Despite all the window dressings of a great restaurant a bolshy waiter serving gray steak and fatty lamb chops with fried chips was a far cry from what was expected at €15 each. Mitch was especially miserable for hours after!
Our last day in Barcelona saw us rent some city bikes and venture up to the Olympic Park. Barcelona hosted the Olympics in 1992, however the only organised sport we saw would have been dumpster diving. We gave most of them a 8.2, but found their finishing let them down at each event. A walk around the stadium and a steep climb to the Barcelona Castle, Montjuic, gave us an opportunity to explore the gun battlements and see a good view of the city.
On departure we managed a brief wander through Boquiera Mercat, the markets off La Ramblas. Now open after the Easter break, most of the locals seemed to flood back in and the city was a hive of activity.
Barcelona in sum was thoroughly enjoyed and will be a very hard city to beat! Looking forward to our next travels planned in late April to France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Worst part was arriving back to the snow!