Barcelona - February 2012
29.01.2012 - 08.02.2012 8 °C
It was with a sense of excitement and nostalgia that I headed to Spain.
This was my final week of my year long holiday...and it was really starting to sink in....wow...After a quick overnighter in Madrid I headed straight on to Barcelona, a city that I've been to before and one full of delights...I couldn't wait!
I was intent on simply feeling the essence of this city. For me this meant, observing daily life in the streets, and indulging myself with as much of the magnificent food I could find!
I stuck mostly to the centre of the city meandering through the streets.
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One thing that always strikes me as fascinating when I get to a new city are the windows. Each city in the world seems to express it's character through it's windows. On one hand you have the influence of the nation that constructed the buildings at that time, and this is blended with the local environment. In Barcelona, the design is intricate, delicate and somehow in unison with nature.
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Even bicycles hangng from windows!
Guadi of course is the model architect that brought the beauty of nature into his designs.
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Contemporary architecture it appears, is attempting this blend as well...
The Lonely Planet's refer to this building as a Giant Cucumber...
Yeah right! Lonely Planet...
The Gothic centre of Barcelona is stunning. The stone masonry and metal work throughout each building changes and each piece appears to be telling a different story. It's truly worthwhile to take the time to stop in front of each piece to spot the differences. It's fascinating what you might find.
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Santa Maria del Mar is a beautiful church with amusing pieces on the main doors!
Then of course there are the street lights, adorning the city like flowers...magnificent.
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I was amused but also pleasantly surprised to see that even the Taggers respect the buildings, only marking doors, and respecting the stone masonry...a shame I could find any real street art to enjoy, in an otherwise artistically cultural city...
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other than this...
One building I particularly took to was Casa de l'Ardiaca.
Although located in the thick of the centre of town it is such a lovely and quiet corner...in fact there are even benches where you can contemplate life on, or log into your laptop in the WIFI corner!
The tiles and stone masonry throughout is gorgeous.
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With one of the nicest pieces I've seen in Barcelona, being it's mailbox...simply beautiful.
Barcelona had a long and profound Roman history. In fact the city centre where the Cathedral is, still has parts of the orginal wall surrounding it.
Many of the other buildings contains Roman artefacts..the most famous being the Columns from the Temple of August
If you have time and interest there is a self guided tour you can take starting at Plaza del Rei at the Museum on the HIstory of Barcelona.
Under Mercado de Santa Catarina, you can see a whole series of other ruins, including a nice little information centre describing the history.
It didn't take long for me to decide that I didn't want to go to any Museums though, even when I knew I was missing out on a few exceptional ones but there was so much to do outdoors!
So with this I headed up to Park Guell.
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Count Guell was the patron who engaged Guadi to design it with the intention of getting the city's elite up this mountain to enjoy the Park lands....it all started out as natural bushland on a bare hill...
And although it might not have quite worked out the way they wanted, today we not only get to enjoy a fabulous view of Barcelona from here,
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But the park itself is full of many niches for you to discover.
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Gaudi loved the use of tiles and mosaics.
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The extensive drainage system that Guadi designed, is integrated into the whole park.
Especially the stunning benches that weave themselves around the Balcony. This is something I love about his work. He not only creates something beautiful but the practicality in his design and engineering is really impressive.
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From here it is a nice walk back into to town...right through the pretty suburb of Gracia
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The clock tower on Plaza de la Gracia still stands proud!
And close by is the Plaza of the Revolution deom September 1868. The streets and squares through out this part of town are really quaint.
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Including some rather good street artist just sitting around!
Barcelona, like Melbourne is a big foodie city, so I was right at home.
It all started with a pleasant Tapas experience for my birthday
Razor clams, Pippis, and chilli..Mmm...
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Then I found a great little cafe, Mirilla, on Calle Regomir that has a delicious daily menu.
Which was trumped by my favourite Tapas Bar in Barcelona "Tapas 24" on Calle Diputacio
And the food...definitely to die for...
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Not only is the food here excellent but the service and atmosphere too. Yummo!
And how could I not stop to enjoy a cooking course that specialises in good local fair. Over the internet I found a local school "Cook and Taste", that I've since learned is well advertised.
This day was wonderful. It's always a pleasure to spend the day with like minded people that appreciate good food. So we met early and headed off to Mercat San Josef la Boqueria.
It's the first time I've ever seen game being sold fresh...really fresh!
How's that for partridge and hare!
One thing that's very popular is salted cod.
And a very specific type of Tomato, that the locals swear is the ONLY one that can be used for that local brushetta style bread that you find everywhere...because it is fleshier and less wet, than any other.
We raced on back to the cooking school with our bounty and got stuck into the menu;
A cod appetizer
Spring Onions with Salsa Romesco
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Tortilla de Patatas
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Paella de Marisco
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And what better way to finish but with Creme Catalana!
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Now I'm telling you, our kitchen ruled that day!
To top things off, Marta, one of the participants and who lives in Barcelona treated us all to a personal tour of the inner city...fabulous...a good way to work up more appetite!
We were having so much fun that a handful of us decided to hit a couple of Tapas bars I'd had recommended to me...and then we topped that of with a restaurant..like we weren't full enough!
And what a great decision. Both bars are very popular with the locals...making the whole atmosphere more genuine.
The first one, Vasconia, has a long list of Tapas. It's on Calle d'en Gignes just off Calle Regomir
Here's a taste!
And then there is La Plata. on the corner of Calla La Plata and Carrer de la Merce
This place is so popular that not only has it been here for years but the owner only makes three types of Tapas...ever!
Beat that for a successful business model!
All very delicious!
There were of course many other funny quirky things around the city.
I took a double take when I walked passed a weaponry store...at first a little bemused by the swords, and Knights...ahuh...and then the...?!!
Somewhat disturbed, I couldn;t help but appreciate the more peaceful walk down by the wharf.
It was time to pack up my things and make my way back to Madrid for my final night of my trip and before I knew it I was back into my comfortable hotel next to the Opera house.
With half a day available, I headed out for a short walk and lunch.
From the little I saw it was clear that Madrid has a very different culture to Barcelona. But that, along with the rest of Spain is something to enjoy on a future trip.
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Much to my delight my walk took me past a little toy shop full of remakes on the toys I'd seen in the toy museum in Munich. Fabulous!
And then at Mercado de San Miguel, I enjoyed my final meal with a glass of wine...evening clinking glasses with a couple of locals to celebrate the final hours of my trip!
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Catarina waved me off as I left for the airport with plenty of time for my flight home.
But like with everything there's always a hitch!
You see, the night before I noticed that my flight agenda had been changed to include two flights back to Australia...odd...
Well, it seems it snowed in England...enough said.
My agent confirmed that I should head to my normal airline and resolve it with them at the airport, which I did.
It only took a two hour wait in line, before I even got to the counter...by this stage the alternate flight was closed...and then it was confirmed, my original flights were definitely cancelled and it seems the second flight I couldn't have gotten anyway because the complete route hadn't been accounted for so it was invalid...ok...
I couldn't help but chuckle...Fate wasn't letting me finish my trip....can't complain about that.
In fact I'd been laughing the last couple of hours. Next to me in line were a bunch of German women...all lovely but really hung up about the issue failing to see that weather is weather...I managed to get them to loosen up, after all they were still getting on a flight that day and had enjoyed a fabulous time in Peru...
One of them, an elderly lady, from a region close to Offenburg, was getting worried because she'd been in Peru, where she was given a plant and she had it in her luggage and concerned it might die...WHAT THE!!!
I burst out laughing, I was so shocked and I swear she was completely innocent and oblivious about what she was communicating...by this stage the others and I had tears running down our cheeks and she was rather perplexed and went onto explain that it is a good herbal remedy for something or other and the Shamana explained the benefits for her mental well being etc etc...oh my...she's planning a trip to Bangkok and hell bent on coming to Australia too!..I just can't get the vision of her being on that show "Border Security".
After wiping away tears and jokingly calling her a smuggler, we had a frank little talk about the do's and don'ts of travel! and I made her promise not to accept any more presents! Too funny.
Eventually at the counter, I was subject to another 3 hours of flight rearranging (no joke) before everything was sorted...amazing. The guy was somewhat rude and condescending..tired from the hoards of tourists I guess...really hard to get a smile out him...then after the first hour and half, when he eventually got me onto Air France flights home, and I insisted he confirm all my luggage would be accounted for by the airline as per my Qantas agreement, he rang Airfrance only to learn they were going on strike the next day...so the whole rigmarole started again. He was somewhat icy, until I pointed out how nice and calm I had been despite the hours I'd been there, he actually stopped, looked up and at me for the first time (!) and said, "yes, actually, you've been really good about it all." Ahh...a slight smile.
Eventually all sorted, with Star Alliance coming to the rescue. So I spent the night at a rather nice airport hotel with a couple of decent meals...no kidding, all expenses paid, and jumped on my flght that was taking me back home and via good old Germany!
And from there I even got in the Airbus 380 for the first time...I wasn't aware until then just how big and curved the wings are..
And no cracks!
Singapore airport was as wonderful as always...and I couldn't resist sending a quick message home!
For homebound I was heading...
All excited about what awaited me.
So farewell Spain! I had a delicious time with you!