Monday, January 24, 2011

Barça con mi amor.


Many consider it the most enchanting city in all of Spain.

And for this reason it is probably the most visited city in all of Spain.

From its architecture and history, to its proximity to the water and iconic soccer team, it did not disappoint.

We flew out of Seville early on the morning of December 29 and arrived in Barcelona in the early afternoon. We took a bus towards the center of town and found our hostel. After checking in, doing some grocery shopping, and having a quick lunch, we decided to head out and do some exploring.

Our ultimate destination for the day was going to eventually be the Picasso museum. However, we wanted to see some sights before we made it down there, most notably a couple of Gaudi’s famous houses. We were successful. Check them out.

After seeing the houses we browsed past some shops, doing some window-shopping and gawking at the prices in the high-end stores. We finally determined that shopping wasn’t our thing and began walking towards the Picasso museum. However, we kept our heads up and anything that caught our attention we took a detour and checked out. This included one of Barcelona’s most famous theaters.

And the Barcelona cathedral.

We eventually made it to the Picasso art museum and enjoyed the exhibit. After the museum we decided to continue our exploration and walked down towards the port. On our way to the port we stumbled across another large church, which we later learned was a basilica. We stepped inside and their was a choir singing. We found a seat in one of the pews and enjoyed a free concert. It was an incredible experience, listening to a choir sing in a church over 400 years old. The church.

Now, being the thinker I am, and thinking about what we were planning to do the next day, we passed a La Caixa ATM. We were going to go to the Sagrada Familia the next day, and after witnessing the line at the Picasso museum, I remembered reading at some point that you could purchase tickets for the Sagrada Familia at a La Caixa ATM. So, I told Rachel I wanted to check it out and after exploring the options on the ATM found a way to purchase two tickets for an 11 AM entrance into the famous Gaudi church. More on this later.

After purchasing our tickets we found the end of the famous La Rambla (a famous street in Barcelona) and decided to follow it back towards the center of town towards Plaza de Catalonia. Along the way we experienced the street performers and tourist shops (as well as restaurants) that made this street so famous. We were beginning to get hungry, and after checking out the outrageous prices of the restaurants along La Rambla we took a side street and checked out a few different places. We finally found one, and were planning on only getting tapas, but once we were seated and had ordered drinks, we were told tapas could only be ordered while sitting at the bar near the front of the restaurant. Nuts. We ended up ordering two of the cheaper things on the menu, which were good (we had spent a lot of money in Seville and were going to try and keep it cheap in Barcelona. Our hostel had a kitchen so we were planning on doing breakfast there each morning and only doing low-key meals while out and about).

After dinner we were exhausted from traveling and walking around, so we headed back towards our hostel. But we first stopped in Plaza de Catalonia and snapped a few pictures.

When we arrived I got a text from my roommate Emily and her boyfriend Connor. They were going to be in Barcelona during the same time period and had just arrived. We planned on meeting them tomorrow afternoon at some point.

The next morning we woke up, ate breakfast, and headed towards Sagrade Familia. We decided to buy an underground pass, 10 trips (5 each) that we could use all day. The stop we got off at was located right on the corner of the Sagrada. We came above ground, looked up, and BAM. There it was.

Absolutely incredible. However, the other thing we noticed was the extremely long line that wrapped around the block. I was hoping that since we had bought tickets from the ATM the night before we could bypass the line and get in. We began walking past everyone in line, although not very discretely—Rachel tripped on the curb and fell (she was alright, just had a large bruise the rest of the trip). We eventually made our way to the entrance. Sure enough, we got right in with our prepaid tickets (therefore, if any of you ever visit the Sagrada Familia, find a La Caixa bank ATM and purchase tickets ahead of time. You can do this for the Alhambra in Granada too). After getting in we were blown away. The exterior was incredible, but the interior caused a jaw drop experience I have never had before. Pictures don’t do it justice, but enjoy:

After over 3 hours of wandering and going to the top of one of the towers and touring the museum in the basement, we were off to connect with Emily and Connor at Park Guell, one of Barcelona’s other famous attractions that contains much of Gaudi’s work as well. We ate lunch in the park, which overlooks the city. Enjoy.

We were all pretty exhausted, so we planned on meeting again at the Sagrada Familia for some night pictures, and then hang out and do dinner afterwards. Rachel and I went home to take a nap. After we connected with Emily and Connor again at the Sagrada. Night pictures? Night pictures…

We then headed down towards La Rambla to find some dinner. We ended up just finding an Irish bar (lame, I know, but we were feeling hamburgers) and eventually just walked around La Rambla. Tired, we went our separate ways and Rachel and I went back to the hostel.

The next morning we woke up, ate breakfast, and headed out the door for our final day in Barcelona. It was New Years Eve day and we had a set itinerary of things to see before we were going to celebrate the arrival of the New Year in Plaza de Catalonia. First on the list: Camp Nou, home of FC Barcelona, arguably the best soccer club in the world (it sort of helps that they have half of the Spanish national team on their roster and the best player in the world, Messi…). The stadium tour was 19 Euro a person, and with our funds running low Rachel and I decided to just walk around the stadium and go into the team store. Check it out.

Next on the list was Olympic Park, where the 1992 Summer Olympics were held. We were going to meet Emily and Connor there to check it out.

After walking around Olympic Park, we made our way towards the Barcelona/Catalonia art museum. The museum sits on a hill that overlooks Plaza de Espana. It was a pretty cool building with a pretty cool view.

Afterwards we hopped on the subway to the Arc de Triomf of Spain. It is the second largest archway after the original, which is located in Paris.

Rachel and I had wanted to get back to La Rambla and visit the famous market that is located off of the tourist trap street. We had peaked through it earlier, but really wanted to check it out again. We left Emily and Connor with plans to get together later that night for New Years Eve made our way to the market.

The first shop you see in the market is a sweet shop. Rachel’s eyes grew the size of two apples and she looked at the goodies. She then got a bag and went goodie hunting. Pictures? Pictures.

After indulging herself (I actually bought some sweets too) we went and bought 4 bags of 12 grapes. The tradition in Spain is to eat 12 grapes during the last 12 seconds of the year. If you finish them in time, before the New Year hits, you will have good luck (I think you are supposed to make a wish too…). We bought bags of grapes for all of us, walked around the market looking at all the fresh fruit, veggies, fish and meat (including several animal heads, sheep I think, and plucked chickens with either their legs, head, or both still attached. Yum) and made our way home to get ready for the night.

We took off for Emily and Connor’s hotel around 9-9:30 and after arriving decided it was time to go out and find some dinner. Easier said then done. Thousands of people had the same idea and after trying several restaurants we settled on bocadillos from a shop right off of La Rambla. We brought them back to the hotel where we ate and hung out until we decided we should head down to Plaza de Catalonia. This is where we, and thousands of others, rang in the New Year, stuffing out face with grapes and celebrating.

We eventually made our way back to Emily and Connor’s hotel and hung out for a while. We did not become adventurous enough to try the New Year’s bar scene because we needed to check out from our hostel mid next morning and catch a flight to Malaga. We eventually headed back to our hostel around 2.

Thanks to some software flaw the alarm I had set on my iTouch did not go off and Rachel and I woke up at 11, the exact time we were supposed to be checking out. After politely asking the front desk for more time we hurried and gathered our things and made it out the door around 11:30. We stopped and had some coffee before catching a bus to the airport and our 3:30 flight to Malaga.

Everything was on time and after a 5 minute, 20 Euro taxi ride to our hotel in Malaga we settled in to watch my Wolverine’s play their bowl game. However, before the game started, hunger set in and we made our way out to Burger King to grab some dinner, and while we were out made sure we had enough cash for a taxi ride back to the airport in the morning. We made it back watched the game, and enjoyed our last night together. Did I mention what Rachel wore during the football game?

I am slowly but surely converting her from her Michigan State roots… GO BLUE!

The next morning we were up at 4, and had a taxi ready to bring us to the airport at 4:45. It was difficult to say good-bye…

But, I can’t wait for her to come back in April for a week!

1 comment:

  1. I cannot believe that Rachel has that shirt on.
    Great pics and narration.