Tim likes to travel. Follow his adventures as he explores the world.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Barcelona, Spain: More Coca, Si Us Plau

Ainhoa and I are heading to Barcelona to hang out with her sister, Irantzu, and some other friends we have there. It is also during the fiesta of San Juan (or Sant Joan), so let's see how the Catalans celebrate compared to the Navarrans.
At the national museum of art, looking out on the city
At the national museum of art, looking out on the city (on day 2)

Walking the City under the Heat of the Sun

Catch the 6 a.m. train to Barcelona and sleep a few hours on the way. Arrive at Barcelona-Sants and buy a 10-trip ticket to share, that we can use on the bus and the metro. Hop on the metro to meet Irantzu at her job and to get the key to her apartment, where we'll stay. We take the bus to her house so we can see a bit of the city. En route, we stop at bakery to get bread for sandwiches later.

We eat the breakfast we brought with us at Irantzu's house and then hit the city. First to Sant Pau Hospital, with its ornate rooftops, colorful mosaics, manicured gardens, and red bricks, all unified by the giant clock tower in middle. It is quite expensive, so we just admire from outside. We continue on. It is really hot. There is interesting architecture everywhere. 

Walk up to Parc Guell, but we can't walk into the monumental zone because the next time tickets are available is at 20h30, but we can still enjoy the free parts of the park. Walk around to the Mirador de Virolai for a view of the city. Then, I want to go off the beaten track, downhill to the fountain of Saint Salvador, which is not worth the detour, and I ban myself from further decision making. We climb back uphill to the mirador with three crosses and we get a great view of the city. From there, we find some shade with a decent view of the monumental zone of Park Guell that we couldn't get into earlier, and have lunch. Upon exiting, we go down to the main entrance to see the iconic view of the park. 

Then, walk down Paseo de San Juan to the Sagrada Familia church. Along the way, we see many people buying fireworks for the San Juan fiesta tonight. People are playing petanca in the parks, which I first saw on my trip to Aix en Provence. Passing the cool, egg-holding Plaza de Toros Monumental, we reach the Sagrada Familia and there are tourists everywhere. Understandably, because it is an amazing structure and the detail of the architecture is ridiculously original. Eat ice cream in the park in front of church. 

Walk to Parc de la Ciutadella and it is full of people. There are people playing music, walking slacklines, playing games, and even selling things. We are tired so we stop and lay down for a 5 minute siesta in the park. It's around 19h and we are already hearing fireworks. I've noticed there have been free toilets in many parts of the city.

Head up Paseo Luis Companys toward the city's Arch of Triumph. Meet with Irantzu at the arch and then park her city-bike near Palau de la Musica, designed by the same guy who designed the Sant Pau Hospital, and is equally as interesting. Around 20h the stores are closing because of the fiesta today. 

Irantzu takes us through the labyrinths of the Born and Gothic neighborhoods. Then to the Plaza Real, La Rambla, and Rambla del Raval. We decide on a Vietnamese restaurant for dinner. It's about 22h and it sounds like a war zone outside with all the fireworks. We get to enjoy the ridiculously loud celebration well into the night.
I've done this to so many people, and now I'm getting my comeuppance
I've done this to so many people, and now I'm getting my comeuppance
Parking for dogs
Parking for dogs
It is so hot that ground burns my hands
It is so hot that ground burns my hands
(don't worry, only half degree burns)
Let us into the park!!!
Let us into the park!!!
Everyone else sees we are taking a photo except one _____ (fill in the blank :-P)
Everyone else sees we are taking a photo except one _____ (fill in the blank :-P)
After he passes, we get a good shot
After he passes, we get a good shot
We can see most of Parc Guell from here
We can see most of Parc Guell from here
With the Sagrada Familia from Plaza de Gaudi Park
With the Sagrada Familia from Plaza de Gaudi 
Municipal bonfires by the Arch of Triumph, ready to be lit for San Juan
Municipal bonfires by the Arch of Triumph, ready to be lit for San Juan
Adding some modernism to the statues in the Gothic neighborhood
Adding some modernism to the statues in the Gothic neighborhood

Workout at the Harbor, Montjuïc, and the Improv Show

Wake up early and drink a lot of water since I have a slight headache from being dehydrated. Have a coffee before Pol and Estrella (friends from my recent Andorra trip) come to pick us up to have a workout with them and Estrella's sister, Lucia, and her boyfriend, "Kili" (Carlos). The six of us workout at the Port Forum and afterward, we go to swim in the harbor in front of the wakeboard school.

We ask a wakeboard school lifeguard if we can swim, since everything is blocked off, and he says it's prohibited but that the police won't stop us or give us a ticket. So we jump in! The water feels so good. Drying off in the sun, we watch the first-time wakeboarders try their best not to kill themselves. Héctor, my buddy from Córdoba, comes out to the harbor to say hi and chat. 

Later, the six of us have lunch in Eixample, at an (authentic?) Catalan restaurant near the Hospital Clinic. It is pretty good and we enjoy pan tumaca and Catalan style ceviche. After eating to our heart's content, we say goodbye, and Ainhoa and I continue on our self-guided/ "I-think-we're-lost" walking tour.

Walk up Avenida Mistral to Plaza de España. We enter the Arenas de Barcelona, the city's former bullring turned shopping center, and go to the top to have a great view of Plaza de España. After photos, we go to the Magic Fountain (magically doing nothing until 3 hours from now), the National Museum of Art, and walk up Montjuïc to the castle. 

Head down to town and we go to see an improv show, which is hilarious - and makes me happy about my level of Spanish, since I understand quite a bit. We have an ice cream as we head back to the house.
After a hard workout, we have to cool off
After a hard workout, we have to cool off
From the top of Arenas de Barcelona, looking out on the plaza
From the top of Arenas de Barcelona, looking out on the plaza
Showing some locals how to dance the Sardana
Showing some locals how to dance the Sardana

A Cool Day for Horchata

Wake up to a rainy day and we go out to get some Coca de San Juan (which is normally eaten the night of San Juan) for breakfast, and bring it back to Irantzu's house. We try a chocolate filled one and a cream filled one, and they are both quite good. I like it better than the roscón that you have on the night of the Three Kings

Miguel, Irantzu's boyfriend, comes in by train and after breakfast, we go uphill, walking uphill, to Parc Guinardo that's all uphill. Then, more uphill to Turó de la Rovira. There is quite a lot of anti-tourist graffiti, but once we reach the top, we see it clearly hasn't stopped tourists from enjoying the site. There's a free museum with exhibitions about the industrialization of Barcelona and its involvement in the Spanish Civil War. Like any major city, tourism abounds on Sunday, but there's seems to be more today than on Friday.

Pass through Parc Guell and there's way more people than Friday. Briefly stop at Real Santuario de San José de la Montaña, a church that looks like a bee hive. Continue through the city and stop for lunch at an Ethiopian restaurant. Head down Passeig Gracia and see a few of Gaudí's houses (all of the Gaudi sites we've seen charge an arm and a leg to go in, plus long lines) as we walk, and then stop in at El Nacional, a former parking garage, now hosting several cafés and restaurants. 

Crossing through Plaza Catalunya, we go to a nice little place Irantzu likes, to try horchata and ice cream. Walk around awhile until my foot hurts so much that we decide to catch a bus back to the house. We make dinner to take with us and say goodbye to Irantzu and Miguel. From there we catch the metro to the bus station and then catch our night bus back to Pamplona. 

Gray skies don't limit the great views from the top of Turó de la Rovira
Gray skies don't limit the great views from the top of Turó de la Rovira
A handstand a day keeps the doctor away  (or closer, if you're not good at them)
A handstand a day keeps the doctor away
(or closer, if you're not good at them)
Beautiful girl in a beautiful garden (@ Sanctuary of Saint Joseph)
Beautiful girl in a beautiful garden (@ Sanctuary of Saint Joseph)
Enjoying one of Gaudi's many houses... from outside
Enjoying one of Gaudi's many houses... from outside
She carried me all around Plaza de Catalunya
She carried me all around Plaza de Catalunya
The Horchata was nice, but the ice cream was really good
The Horchata was nice, but the ice cream was really good

TMax Tidbit

We did not go into any museums or pay to see any monuments. Living in Barcelona is not overly expensive, but the tourist attractions are. I'm sure many of them are worth it, but we still enjoyed the city being Catalán (Spanish stereotype that means "cheap").
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Location: Barcelona, Spain

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