For those of you who opened the blog dated 11/16/15, we apologize. This is the corrected version which includes pictures.
Rather than continue on our day to day blog, we’ll lump together our last 11 days which we spent in Barcelona.
We arrived at the Sants train station in Barcelona on Friday, October 30. We spent 11 days in and around Barcelona before we left for home on November 10.
Barcelona is like no other city we have visited in Spain. Outside of the “old city” it is a modern, vibrant metropolis.
As we were leaving the train station , we passed another cyclist pushing her loaded bike in the opposite direction toward the train platform. She and Maggie looked at each other for a second, said a perfunctory “hello” then moved on. A couple of days later we got an e-mail from Chris, the woman we had met one and a half months ago in Salamanca and who we planned to meet for coffee in Barcelona where she lives. Chris asking if we were the couple going through the Sants station on Friday about 4:30 p.m. with red and yellow panniers on our bikes. With more than 3 million people living in Barcelona, what’s the chance of a “chance” meeting? None of us had remembered what the other looked like! Chris is French but has lived and worked in Spain for 18 years. When we met in Salamanca in Sept, she was riding her bike on the Camino from Saville to Santiago, not as a pilgrimage, but just to experience the ride.
Once we cleared the train station, our ride to our rented apartment was a bit of an adventure. Ed had programmed the GPS to guide us from the Sants train station to the apt. a couple of days earlier. Part of the route was on busy one way streets going the wrong way (which he did not know when he planned the route). It was dark and rush hour, so the 7 k. ride was a bit hairy and took about 40 minutes.
We completely unpacked and did laundry in the washing machine, something we have not done in the last 6 months. We stocked up on groceries at the market across the street and settled in to relax, unwind and do some planning for our time with Kate.
The next morning it was good to sleep late and enjoy a lazy hour or two in the apt., before walking to the TI for Barcelona info. From there we strolled down the Ramblas, the world famous mile long shopping street that intersects with the epicenter of Barcelona, the Plaza de la Catalunya (hereafter referred to as Pl.C) We did a very quick visit to the La Boqueria Market
which is the large, very colorful covered food market on the Ramblas, but decided not to really explore it until Kate gets here. After lunch we went for an exploratory bike ride in search of a health food market to pick up some items for Kate, a bike shop to see if we could line up additional packing material for our bike boxes for the trip home, and the cathedral so that we could find it easily tomorrow (Sunday.)
On our way we discovered a couple of veggie restaurants that looked wonderful for dinner with Kate tonight. She arrived at the Pl.C
on the airport shuttle right on time at 6:20 pm. Dinner at 8:30 when the restaurant opened and then bed for all of us.
Every Sunday at noon the locals come out to the plaza in front of the Cathedral of Barcelona to dance to Catalan music celebrating their culture and the strong movement by the residents of this region for independence from Spain.
Some of the dancers were in colorful traditional regional dress.
The point was made both by the emotion of the dancers and the Catalan Independence flags that are displayed everywhere. After that we relaxed (Kate’s first day) and got on the Hop on Hop off bus. We got off when we saw a street market and spent the rest of the afternoon listening to music, watching dance, and sampling foods.
Monday was our only rain day of the week. We decided to avoid as much of the bad weather as possible so we extended our tickets for the ” Hop on Hop off” “touristica” bus and toured much of the city under cover. We got off to have lunch and again to visit the replica village showing the architecture and culture of various Spanish villages from different regions of Spain.
The weather the rest of our time in Barcelona was absolutely gorgeous. Every day was in the 70-75 degree range with sunny skies.
One evening we met Chris (the Camino pilgrim and chance meeting in the train station ) at a local Tapas Bar for drinks and dinner. It was great to see her again and swap tales of each other’s bike adventures. We made plans to get together again next week before we leave for home.
During Kate’s visit to Barcelona, we toured the cathedral known as the “Sagrada Familia,” which has been under construction for more than 100 years and will not be completed for another 11 years or more. It is not like any other house of worship that we have been in. It was designed by Antonin Gaudi, the local favorite son and is innovative and striking inside and out. The outside, in part, resembles a religious sand castle dripping with ornamentation and symbolism as well as modern looking statuary which is clean and plain with little ornamentation.
The inside is innovative, light and colorful. Light shines through into the interior through modern stained glass windows.
The roof and walls are supported by interior columns that resemble trees at the base and radiate like branches at the tops which provide the support for the roof.
As a result, there are no flying buttresses on the outside which substantially reduces the church’s footprint. We took the elevator up the Nativity Spire which is so named for the Nativity scene which is created on the outside of the spire. It afforded a view of some of the areas still under construction as well a a great view of the city, despite the humidity caused haze.
We took the circular stairway down to street level
which gave us a great view of the interior of the church from above.
We toured the Picasso Museum with it’s many of the artist’s original works and explains in artistic and historic terms the progression of his style from his early years at his father’s feet (his father was an artist and art teacher.) as an art student and as a young artist. Picasso was instrumental in creating the museum and donated many of the original drawings and paintings. No pictures were allowed and none were taken. The museum is housed in four old houses that have been renovated but display elements of the original buildings built hundreds of years ago. Pictures were permitted.
We explored the waterfront a few times including seeing a very large statue with Christopher Columbus at the top pointing west. CC’s (to his friends) voyage to the new world began in Barcelona. To give you an idea of how big the statue is, CC’s pointing finger is 20 inches long.
We ogled the many souvenirs that were displayed on sheets and blankets by the myriad of African immigrants who would pack up at the first sign of the law. Kate and Maggie honed their skills as negotiators and admit to doing a little necessary and cathartic retail therapy.
Kate rented a purple townie bike one day and the three of us rode around the city and up and down the colorful waterfront which stretches for miles. It was fun and of course included a couple of coffee/tea stops.
We managed to do our own “religious” pilgrimage to the Chocolate Museum whose entry bar code is printed on the wrapping on a complimentary chocolate bar. The artistry of some of the creations made of chocolate were lost on us as we were busy salivating and counting calories.
On another beautiful sunny day we walked around Parc Guell, the park which was another creation of the architect Antonin Gaudi. Innovative again with more dripping features.
Gaudi influenced an entire generation of architects, artisans and designers in Barcelona although his style was not evident anywhere else in Spain. Barcelona is full of buildings built following Gaudi’s influence, but there are many, many other buildings built prior to Gaudi which are magnificent and well preserved. The apartment we’re staying in is next door to 2 such buildings and faced 3 or 4 more on the same block. There are examples of this classical architecture.
Similarly, Gaudi’s creativity, innovation and influence are present in many area of Barcelona.
As a whole, our preference was the buildings with the more classic facades but one should not minimize Gaudi’s influence.
Other activities we enjoyed were the tour of the Santa Maria del Mar Cathedral, and other churches,
strolling the Ramblas, and walking the short, narrow streets of the El Borne and Barri Gothic sections of the medieval city.
We returned to the La Boqeuria Market and also the Santa Caterina covered markets for lunch a couple of days. The displays of fruits, vegis, nuts, meats, fish, spices, etc. are fabulous. Very fun to walk through and sample things.
Thursday afternoon we took a 3 hour walking tour of the old Jewish quarter with an emphasis on Jewish history in Barcelona. Our guide was very knowledgeable and interesting. It was past dark when we finished. As a result of the Inquisition, which began in the 14th century and continued until the 19th century, there is no significant Jewish population in Barcelona or Spain for that matter, but there remains evidence of Jewish life.
Our last afternoon with Kate we did some serious Retail Therapy for gifts to bring home. Kate and Maggie were trying to find a small leather artesian shop in the Medieval city that we saw a few days ago. After a lot of walking around we finally found it in a tiny street near the Picasso museum. Perseverance and success!
Sat. Morning we walked Kate to Pl C where we said our goodbyes and put her on the shuttle to the airport.
We are members of an international organization of touring bicyclists known as Warmshowers. Through Warmshowers, we have played host to many touring cyclists from all over the world. We have also been guests of many in our own travels. At 09:00 we boarded a train bound for Taressa, a town in the foothills about 30 k from Barcelona to visit Warmshowers friends Gaelle and Pau who stayed with us in GJ 4 years ago. Gaelle is from France and Pau is Spanish. We took a 2 hour hike with Pau and Gaelle and their 2 year old son, Adria, who also hiked to the top of a mountain called La Mola. We had lunch at the top at an old monastery which is now a restaurant.
The day was very warm and beautiful, but with too much humidity in the air to see the Pyrenees clearly off in the distance. We could however see the rock formation of Montserrat when we got up high. It was a fantastic day with them which brought back many memories for all of us. We had coffee back at their apt. and looked at maps and pictures of their trip in 2010. They made a beautiful book of pictures and stories of their journey around the world. It was great fun to see the ones of our area and Colorado. They rode over 14,000 km in 13 months!
The next day we got on our bikes and spent the whole day riding all over Barcelona just enjoying the sunny day and winding down from our six months of travel. That evening we packed the bikes in their boxes and organized our things for the flight home on Tues.
On our last day we were both a little down knowing it was almost over. We decided to join a free walking tour of the Medieval city for some fun and any last bit of history we may have missed. The tour was really interesting and lasted 2 ½ hours. We met Chris again for Sangrias then dinner at an Italian place. It was another wonderful 3 hours spent laughing and chatting. We agreed to stay in touch via Skype and e-mail.
Our check-in for our flight home and the flight across the Atlantic were uneventful. Our flight from Newark to Denver however was 4 hours late so we had to stay in Denver overnight to catch our final flight to GJ. We awoke to snow,
however, our flight was not delayed. We and all of our gear arrived home safely with just a few more dings on the bikes and gray hairs on our heads. It is good to be back home to acclimate in time for ski season.
We can’t believe the great adventure is over!