A Travellerspoint blog

Day 2 - Sunday 5 September 2010

Sightseeing, salsa, and my last night in BCN

sunny 30 °C

We were 1 hour ahead here but my BB was still on London time, so I awoke thinking what time is it again? I meant to wake up earlier but a little bit of a lie-in was good. I decided today I would make the most of it so I had a shower and by the time I got ready I ALMOST missed breakfast as it was 10.30am.

The lifts in the hotel were a little slow to arrive and you never really knew if the lift was coming (no light came on).

When I got downstairs to the buffet I saw one of the guys from our group and he was on his way out. I spotted another girl from our group and she had Coco Pops, I thought I would eat quite lightly as well, as I was still fuelled from our monster huge tapas dinner.

I sat with the other girls who were all very friendly then I decided to go off on my own as I wanted to see a lot of the Arty stuff and I think they were just after a more general taster, so they went off to catch a tourist bus.

By the time I'd finished my cereal they had packed up the breakfast table so I missed my chance to have a coffee. Oh well!

Barcelona has two main tourist buses - a red and a blue route. Both of them cover most of the main sights in the city. Tickets were about 22 euros.

PARC GUELL
My first stop was Parc Guell, it was the furthest on my personal itinerary but one of the most essential. They filmed here in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. To be honest, before I came here, I didn't really know too much about Gaudi. I also didn't think I would be so moved by architecture here. But being in Barcelona seemed to awaken my love for Art again, and I had buried this in recent years. I felt whimsical and happy taking in the numerous ornate and old street facades, and everywhere you look you will see something of interest, a shop front, an old looking carving, and every turn I took revealed a multitude of pleasant surprises.

I had read that Barcelona is pickpocket central, but being there I actually felt very safe. You are always among other tourists, locals and I did see a few police patrolling sometimes near where I stayed. The walk to the Liceu station was refreshing and I stopped in some of the little shops on Carrer de Ferran and the surrounding streets on the way to the Ramblas. Gaudi's influence is very eminent here, it positively breathes into every corner. The gift shops sell a lot of cute mosaic types of souvenirs, reminiscent of his style, which is immediately distinctive and colourful. Joan Miro is also very popular here but I was not sure if I liked her art. There were paintings of it in my hotel, and she has a simplistic modernist style. I also went in a few clothes and jewellery shops, in the back of my mind I knew that there were more upmarket shopping districts, and large department stores such as El Corte Ingles, but I never got round to going there. Instead I prefered the character of the local and small boutiques.

The Art Deco influence reminded me of Paris, another city I love dearly!, and coming here made me forget modern aesthetics of everything beige, clean lined and simple. I enjoyed looking at old statues and later on admiring the pure craftsmanship of Gaudi's and other buildings. I got the feeling this was an avant garde city, and I was inspired to read about its rebellious character and spirit of carving its own unique identity from the rest of Spain.

From the Liceu station it felt extremely easy to get around. No long, packed walkways and underpasses like you get in London. Also not as many frequent interchanges. I got off at Vallarca and then looked at the map of how to get to Parc Guell. I followed the slow moving sea of people also flocking to the same spot. You get out of the station and walk left for about 5-10 minutes, and there are clear signage pointing you to the Parc. Turning left and looking up I braced myself for what would be a long and uphill walk. I was sure it would be worth it.

It was soo steeep. I passed some sweet looking houses, some with laundry still hanging out, and locals smiling at us struggling to get up the hill. There were a few escalators interspersed and I heard a family talking in a language I couldn't understand, I think they were saying something along the lines of isn't this tiring lool.

After a seemingly endless series of stairs, hiking and escalators I looked back down and realised whoo I am near! On entering the Parc I realised the area was bigger than I thought and it had lots of little areas to explore. I walked around the whole site and it was easy to get lost in the various routes. I emerged at the higher points of the park so I had to walk to eventually get down to the most famous parts. A number of guys selling art, tshirts and jewellery outlined the main terrace, and I wanted to buy these beautiful earrings, but when I went to get my money out he shouted "Police", packed up and ran off. They were not allowed to be selling there.

I almost lost my footing and swore lots of times walking down a cobbled stairway with nowhere to hang on but it felt relieved to reach the main part. I stopped to admire the many high vantage points which gave me a good overview of the city and it felt very peaceful with many quiet places, benches to stop and take a breather.

I came across a small rocky type of creation with a Cross on it and people were taking pictures there. I stopped and sat on a bench to hear some Spanish guitar playing, which was loovely... I could see in the distance the blue and white tower which I recognized from my guidebook. I had to ask someone where the main points of interest were because I was starting to feel unsure I was going in the right direction. Eventually I came to the main part of the park and could see in the distance lots of people walking around in a main open square lined with the pretty and famous mosaic benches. Coming here was very surreal but compelling and as I walked around I then saw many things like these walkways lined with sloped and rocky columns. Everywhere here was delightful and looked like postcard material!!! Here I bumped into Frank from the class, and he stayed with me for a bit and we took pictures. I loved the main stairway with the Mosaic dragon and the tall columns with tiled mosaic on the ceiling. The tiles are unique and very distinctive. Sometimes they looked iridescent and like snake skin.

I passed another guy playing Spanish Flamenco music on his guitar and my heart felt fuzzy and happy :) Once my colleague said to me: Isn't music wonderful? And I have to agree! I can't think of many more things so endorphin-releasing..!

There are two houses at the main entrance to the park and I don't know all the details but I believe one of them was Gaudi's house (wowwww) - it reminded me of a giant gingerbread house, so surreal, but I was really starting to like his work. I loved the peace and calm atmosphere despite it being overrun with tourists. I took some pics of the houses and exited through the main entrance onto a rather attractive street and followed the signs to a station called Lesseps where I would resume my journey.

On the long walk downhill I stopped to buy some lunch, a thin baguette sandwich and yeah more water glug I love water.. One thing I love about Spain is that the people are really friendly (from my experience), everyone seems to be smiling at you, even the shop staff and cafe staff were so warm and friendly. Ahhh...I love it!

I got talking to a few people along the way when I was looking for the station and it turns out they were looking for the same thing. When I eventually reached it (after a 15-20 min walk) I took yet more pictures and sat on this bench and just had some quiet time looking at places to go next.

I decided to follow my Gaudi trail and came out to see Casa Mila, an extraordinary block of apartments decorated with twisty and turned iron and a very organic, wavy pattern. The lines are sensuous and curvy. I loved this, a lot, especially the balconies..so unusual.

I also saw Casa Batlo another strange and wonderful apartment block with a rounded and sensuous facade. The colours remind me of the blues and greens you get when you are blowing bubbles.

Walking around Barcelona was very pleasant...

The highlight was the Sagrada Familia. When I got off the aptly named Metro station, I turned around and the sight was simply breathtaking. It is a huge, imposing cathedral, and nothing compares to seeing it in person. By this time of the late afternoon I was hot and sticky so I bought a drink that looked like a slush puppy before crossing the road to admire it in full glory. You can pay to go inside on more of a special tour but I didn't do this at the time. Now I think maybe I should have but I was trying to cover more ground before the dance holiday activities kicked off.

I really was blown away by this building. I am also Catholic so the sort of religious buildings had some significance for me but I have not seen anything like it before. It is amazingly detailed and your eye follows a multitude of figures and scenes built within the structure, which altogether looks to have a natural texture and many allusions to nature (not cold and straight columns). You can spot many things like angels at the top (or doves?), and I wanted to know more about the story behind this building, its history and what Gaudi was trying to say..

I sat outside for a long time just admiring it and it turned the head of everyone, even in passing cars. I saw other groups of tourists, some on their own, some taking jokey pics like putting their arms up to resemble the towers. I was on my own but never felt lonely for a second. I am glad that I was born a very arty farty character because I appreciate beautiful things, places, buildings, etc. I think nobody would go away and not enjoy seeing this site.

I saw another one of his buildings which I cannot remember the name of and then spent a few more hours walking around. I was so enthralled that I missed the afternoon dance lesson as I didn't feel like being in the studio.

My last 'landmark' was the old Catedral which was very beautiful, with super high ceilings, a crypt in the basement, and many interesting displays around the sides dedicated to different saints. I went into a quiet area to pray and felt very tranquil.

After the Cathedral I went in some souvenir shops and got something for my nephew, a red t-shirt that said Espana. He is gonna look so cute in it!
I wanted to get more ornaments and things reminiscent of Gaudi but I worried it would eat up the space in my bursting luggage bag. Tomorrow, I thought, I will get the last of my retail fix.

When I came back to the Ramblas I walked for ages looking for a phonebox but my calling card had expired. Oops. I called my sis from my hotel room and rested a bit before night out no. 2!

EVENING: DINNER AND CLUB
I didn't feel too tired but was buzzing over the sights I had covered earlier in the day. At the hotel I wondered if I should take a nap but time went by quite fast so I started getting ready to go out. I decided to make more of an effort tonight so I wore a brown chiffon skirt, my beloved gold shoes and curled my hair.

At 8.15pm we all met in the lobby. Everyone was glammed up and wearing black, our unspoken dress code. Pilar said: "Where were you earlier, I miss you!" lol the good thing was you could do as much or as little as you wished. I thought we were getting cabs down to the pier but ended up walking for about 20 mins through Jaume 1 and finally reaching the Port.. it was so pretty at night. I was so snap happy the whole time, they almost left me behind numerous times but I caught up with them running in heels. :)

On the way to dinner we passed a band playing on the street with around 40 people sitting and watching. You are never far from music in Barcelona and I loved hearing it everywhere. I think they were playing salsa.

We passed a museum which said Musee d'Historia de Barcelona or something like that and it reminded me to try to get to at least one museum tomorrow.

HABANA BARCELONA
We were prompted that this club was very noisy inside so Pilar told us that there was a restaurant upstairs so if you want you could eat or just go into the main club. There were tables outside where we sat and filled up on one (two, or 3) jugs of Sangria and it was hot in there and again quite small. This time there was a live band playing and I liked them very much. It was Cuban style again. I liked this club better than Antilla as it was more lively, fab band, sexy looking people and a beach setting, what more can you want!
I met a few more of the tour guide's friends who again spoke perfect English, there was one guy called Jordi who was pretty entertaining and he told me about live in Barcelona. I told him how much I had enjoyed this weekend especially Artistic Barcelona. We even talked about the film I mentioned earlier and he said he knew a couple of Americans who even moved there because of that film! I wondered if I could live over here. I love London as well though. Maybe?

So Jordi asked me to dance and I spent a few hours in here letting my hair down which was a lot of fun. Was not drinking that much. The band played a mix of salsa, reggaeton but unfortunately I was outside when they played Bachata - and Bachata is probably my favourite at the moment. I danced with some interesting characters, a guy who never opened his eyes (how does he dance like that), I met some guys from Nottingham who were very nice, I danced with other locals who I could barely converse with but danced pretty well, and a few more of our tour hosts friends.

The Oz girls moved onto the other club before us and I mainly hung around with the boys who got hungry and so I joined them for dinner which was 1am at the beach eating Pizza and having funny conversations at our table. We were all in good spirits and the restaurant played English music, this was kind of surreal hearing English music here. We identified it was an old 80s song: I Feel Love hahahah so cheesy. The guys were all very nice and I am glad I booked this kind of holiday. Not everyone would want to travel alone but I think it is extremely liberating and rewarding. You always learn more about the "world" but also yourself, and each time I have done this, this year, I came back happier. The boys told me most museums are closed on Mondays, as it is like their Sundays. But I thought I would try to see some more cultural things before I went home.

After dinner I felt that I got enough of a salsa fix and I decided to skip the 2nd club, instead walking back with one of the other guys. It took about 15-20 mins and there were still quite a few people around. There are many random men who approach you, asking you to buy Roses. The palm trees lining the beach walkways looked very nice and I felt a little bit sad to be leaving the next day. We walked back through Jaume 1, passing through the old square I came to when I first arrived, eventually reaching the hotel.

I watched a bit of TV in my room but couldn't understand much of it. I tuned into first a cheesy looking soap opera, then some sort of game show. They were talking about politics in the Philippines and I tried to understand but couldn't really follow. I packed up most of my things, had a long and indulgent shower using all my mini toiletries and fell asleep.

Posted by moomin82 08:01 Archived in Spain Tagged people parties night barcelona club port habana salsa

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