It made for an uncomfortable plane ride to Barcelona (even though it only cost us €20 each). To add to the flight experience, Meg had the window seat, I had the middle, my legs had the overhead compartment, and the guy next to me in the aisle seat had a healthy supply of barf bags. He was a good sport about it, but thankfully the flight was only a little over an hour.
Once we did get to Barcelona we were pleasantly surprised. It is a well organized (thanks in part to hosting the Olympics in 1992) and amazingly vibrant.
We did our usual exploratory walk-about to get our bearings
. We stuck to the old town. The major street where all the action centres is called 'La Rambla'. It is actually five different streets that run into one another and stretches from the transportation hub in the middle of the city right down to the port and the monument to Columbus. 24 hours a day you can find yourself elbow to elbow with others meandering down La Rambla. Beside the usual cafés, restaurants and usual shops, you can find just about anything on this stretch. We came across everything imaginable - mimes and street artists, flowers and souvenirs, chickens and rabbits, goldfish and iguanas, fortune tellers and home appliances, all on the boulevard running down the centre of the street!
About halfway down we came across the Market La Boqueria. A huge covered market where you can buy just about any food product you can imagine. From perfect produce to hordes of ham to skinned sheep heads to countless cow parts (even cow face!... P.S. What can you possibly make out of cow face?). It is amazing. There is a constant stream of kitchen staff from nearby restaurants carting their evening specials back to be prepared.
As saving old ladies from speeding buses takes a lot out of you, my back said that it had enough for the day.
The next morning, and feeling much better, we went back to the market for a fresh fruit breakfast
. This fueled us for most of the day as we headed to check out Barcelona. We first stopped at the Sagrada Familia. This is the symbol of Barcelona. It is the most unconventional looking church in Europe. It is the unfinished masterpiece of Antoni Gaudi. He spent the last 16 years of his life living like a recluse at the site. Unfortunately, his passion for his creation outlived him. It is still under construction today. It is interesting to look at postcards in the shops of the church as in almost all of them a building crane is present. We didn't go in as it is expensive (they have to pay for the rest of it somehow), but the outside is remarkable and nothing like we have seen before (see picture). The people outside just stare in awe trying to figure it out.
From there we headed to the Gothic Quarter. It is home to a gorgeous cathedral that was started in 1298 but not finished until 1889. Walking around inside you can see why it took so long. Just beautiful. The narrow and winding streets surrounding the cathedral are filled with a seemingly endless supply of cafés, tapas bars, and the best shopping we have seen anywhere on this trip! As just about every other group of tourists was carrying shopping bags, it is safe to say this is largely a shopping vacation destination.
The next day, and our last day in Spain (for now) we headed to Montserrat by train and cable car. This is the site of a centuries old monastery that sits perched on a 4000 foot high mountain
. It has three noted attractions. It is home to "The Black Virgin" a statue of the Madonna that thousands upon thousands flock to each year. There was a steady stream of visitors lining up to walk by and touch the statue. The second big draw is the 50 - member Escolania, one of the oldest and most renowned boys choirs in Europe. It was founded in the 13th century and crowds have been converging on the Basilica at 1pm each day to hear them sing "Salve Regina" and "Virolai". They were extremely good, but it was hard to concentrate as the church was standing room only packed with chatty tourists and wired up school groups. The final attraction that Montserrat is famous for is the view. We took a funicular (cog train) up to the peak of the mountain to see on of the best panoramic views in all of Spain. It was a little hazy that day, but the views were still breathtaking. We managed to find a spot where it seemed that we were the only ones on the mountain. Just incredible. A fitting way to end our tour of Spain! We finished off the evening back in Barcelona with a local beer and an assorted tapas plate before we got organized for another big travel day tomorrow.
Off to Geneva!
Well our last night in Seville wasn't as smooth as desired. I managed to hurt my back a little saving an elderly lady from the path of an out of control speeding bus... Or I tweaked it lifting the toilet seat in the middle of the night (how old am I again?). We will leave it up to you as to what story you would like to believe.