Thursday, July 26, 2012

Barcelona July 2012

One of our goals in Europe was to visit new places. In July 2012 we added Barcelona to our list. Nicky was very keen, Stuey less so. It's the sort of place that doesn't sell well in guide books, but as we found out, was well worth the trip. It's the 4th busiest tourist city in the EU after Paris, London and Rome. And we've been to all them. It's 17th in the worlds most livable cities, Melbourne coming top, of course.

We left Bristol early on Thursday 19 July 2012, at the end of two months rain and cloud in the UK - the Poms were at thier whinging best. The jet stream passed north of Barcelona so we were greeting by welcome sunshine. It was 23-30 degrees for our stay, Noice.

Our first arvo was spent getting our bearings on the open top tourist bus. Nicky got into the swing of things with a siesta, then G and T, then a walk down La Rambla to Port Vell. The Regina hotel (highly recomended) is just off Placa de Catalunya, at the top end of La Rambla, which is the main tourist artery thro the old city, tree lined and packed with shops, tourists, pick pockets and police. The guide books and locals warned about the crooks but the police seem to be on top of it.

Supper was black paella (calamari ink) on the beach at Barceloneta, at Kaika. Yum. We strolled back thro Barri Gotic, the old city and had a cold beer in the bar that was to become our local, Bootleg. We got chatting to a few poms, one of them damon, a jazz trumpet player who has worked with our old friend Jonny Scott and the Jules Holland band. What a small world?! The trip back was the first of many thro winding narrow alleyways that often lead to open placas. Stunning.

Friday was the day to start Barcelona in details, and first up was Anton Gaudi's magnificent Sagrada Familia. We ignored advice to book tickets online which cost us a 45 min queue. Everything is much quicker if booked online in Barcelona, largely due to the locals tendency to chatter, to anyone, before tending to customers. Mañana indeed!!

Sagrada Familia is Barca's icon. It's huge and awe inspiring. Most cathedrals were built over many decades and SF is no exception - a church, tourist attraction and building site all in one. It's very much work in progress, being built to the Designs gaudi left behind having died after being hit by a tram in 1926. Barca's architectural style is Modernista, Gaudi being its most famous architect. Gaudi's main influence was the natural world and the video shows a good example - the internal columns of SF branch off like trees at the top.

After 3 hours at SF we headed north to another popular Gaudi site, Parc Guell, for more groovy Modernista designs including the mosaic lizard and some real live parrots. PG was packed, hilly and bakingly hot, so the ice cream shop at the end of the no 24 bus home was very welcome.

After a siesta it was off to supper. Reader might start to see a theme here. We stopped at a small wine bar and tried a catalunyan red, yum once more. Next was Nicky's choice of restaurant, an excellent one, Señor Paradella, but it wasn't open til 8.30 - the locals eat SO late. So we had tapas instead. When in Rome and all that...but Stuey didn't consider it a proper meal!! Back to the hotel via Bootleg.

Sat 21st was Cooler, overcast. After a later start and obligatory tea from Starbucks we cut thro La Rambla, Barri Gotic, to the La Ribena walk, Museo Picasso (which we saved for Sunday due to the queue), antic market, more laneways and Santa Maria del Mar. 

Lunch was at the Santa Catarina market, bread, jambon, queso, bread, yumo. Next we headed north to Palau de la Musica Catalana, an awesome modernista concert hall, by Lluis Domenech i Montaner not Gaudi. What an awesome concert hall - now that would be a great place to work

But we were soon back in a Gaudi building after a tube ride to Diagonal. La Pedrera or Casa Mila is remarkable, especially the out of this world roof and attic. Most designers treat the roof as a functional space rather than aesthetic - not Gaudi. The chimneys are works of art and the roof undulates rather than being flat. Inside is an apartment in period style.

The 28 bus got us to Starbucks for refreshments prior to our siesta. then it was back to the Bootleg and a local tip for dinner, El Salon to sample Catalan food, with a local Chardonnay, yum yum.

The locals are seriously into dogs, but not so into rules - check out the No Dogs sign just by the Catalan to in the photo!

Sunday started with tea, then the Cathedral. As with every other building there are many Catalan flags and crests - locals are Catalans first, Spanish second.

After a croissant it was off to the Museo Picasso, which focused on a few early periods. Stuey doesn't really get the cubist and later stuff. His early realist and impressionist work matches the masters - remarkable that he was only a teenager. Some of the late stuff looks like the work of a 6 yr old!! The blue period It was a great insight into P, or Pable Ruiz, as he signed his earlier work, using his fathers surname.

After a baguette lunch we walked thro the La Raval region before watching Sir Wiggo win the tour de France at siesta time. Next was the metro to the beach - packed with young bodies. It's very like Sydney with glorious beaches in the city. Stuey had a dip in the Med. It's great for people watching, and some of them had clothes on! Picasso would have been confused as all noses seemed to be between eyes, ears on side of heads etc...

After cleaning up it was off to Señor Paradella for a magic yummy dinner of jambon, seafood both and roast lamb with a big ballsy Priorat red.

Monday was our final day, which started with smoke haze from bush fires further north near Figuiras. After tea we rambled La Rambla picking up wine and jambon to take home.

And when the lovely folk at Eastjet delivered us in Bristol the sun was shining - in fact it was only 1 degree cooler than Barcalona. We shall have to go again!!

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