April 1

Here we are on one of the legs of our all day journey. It went like this:

10 minutes to walk to the tram from the King's apartment; 15 minutes to ride to the main train station; plenty of time to shuffle around and to wait; one and a half hours to ride to the outlying airport with the cheap flights; 15 minutes to a shuttle from the train stop to the airport...and then wait for the plane; then ride the plane for two and a half hours; and then in Barcelona - a bus to the subway; a couple of subway rides involving looong walks; and then a short walk to our destination - Mom, Dad, a 6 year old, a 3 1/2 year old, all their miscellanea for one week, and me.

It went off without a hitch and the children actually, and this is true, never lost their cool once - nor did the adults for that matter. How cool is that!?
Check out the clock - like the clock in the clock forest!
Upon arrival in the Barcelona airport.

You know I'm thinking about Kaitlin too. I'm lucky Anya is here to occasionally stand in for Kaitlin as in 'ooow - look at that! would you go stand over there?!' and 'owww - there's a great shot! would you go stand over there?!'.

Anya too likes to look at the results of her efforts!
We were in dire need of a good city map. The Lonely Planet guide has them all, everything is there, but sooo smaaall I Can't Read It. So while the kids spent the day at the Science Museum for children, I went wandering in search of a map.

Yikes, this is some building but the sign for the program was most unnerving.
April 2

Most of us in LA know at least a little Spanish and can recognize the sounds and simple expressions anyway. Here in Barcelona you don't know if you don't understand because they are speaking that BarTHElona accent or because you don't know the vocabulary or you don't understand because they are not speaking Spanish!

Catalan is the first language in Barcelona. It was one of those Quebec-style revolts that has ended in favor of the non-national language.

This is a good example of the differences, the first sentences being in Catalan and the second in Spanish.
All the grand boulevards in this part of town are shaped like this one - with the corners cut off creating a giant octagon (hey Kaitlin! It's an Octagon!)...

I should mention that all these corners are controlled by signals. Pedestrians pay attention to the signals to the extent that 'green' means that your side has the right-of-way and 'red' means the other side does. So if it's red to you and no car is coming, you can go.

People aren't dodging in and out of traffic like NYNY though. Nor are they waiting-waiting watching grass grow like in Germany.
...many having some lovely decoration in the center.

This is Our neighborhood, called L'Eixample (The Extension, not The Example), was designed in the 1860s as a suburb to the city, built on a nice modern grid and became the home of the middle class. It's a great scenic central place to stay assming you are friends with the subway.

It is also home to the most renouned Modernista buildings including Gaudi's masterpieces, more to follow.
There used to be a story here about my first visit to La Sagrada Familia but since I went back on APRIL 5th, I've moved all the pictures to that day. It's Epic.
More, looking down another lovely avenue.

Speaking of lovely, let's talk about trash. It seemed on every residential street there were at least 4 trash containers the size of a small storage building to collect separately 1) paper products 2) plastic and metal 3) glass 4) garbage.

Everone was doing it and so did we! We had four separate bags in our little kitchen. L&B are well used to it because in Germany they even separate the glass by color and in Germany if you make a mistake and your neighbors see you, you Will be corrected.
After acquiring maps and a dictionary I headed into the subway to emerge here, at the Parc Joan Miro. This sculpture is called Dona i Ocell (Woman and Bird). You may draw your own conclusions.

In the distance you can see what was once the bullring of Barcelona (Placa de Braus Les Arenes), built in 1900 and now being restored as (I'll bet you can guess) a Shopping Center! It is really quite beautiful on the outside, with handsome arches made of brick and elegant colorful designs around the top.
Further on, this is the grand intersection of the Placa D'Espanya leading into Montjuic with all the historic museums, parkland and gardens, and grand it is. In the distance is the Museu Nacional D'Art de Catalunya.
April 3

I'm out for another walking day while the kids go to the aquarium. From tomorrow we have many activities we plan to do together!

I'm not sure about this church. One time I asked the Lonely Planet Thorntree forum to identify a building I wasn't sure of and the answer came back in a flat second. I'll do that again when I get back.

Got from my friends at Thorntree: it's Sant Fransesc de Sales on Paseig Sant Joan.
I'm still in the L'Eixample (The Expansion) district this time walking in another direction.

Here is Gaudi's second most recognizable building - the Casa Batllo.

LP says the roof represents Sant Jordi (Saint George) and The Dragon. They also say Gaudi was the most well know Modernista, a proponent of the Modernisme movement of 1880-1920 which itself was an offshoot of the Art Nouveau style. I couldn't name an Art Nouveau building, but there you go.
Great street lamps.
The major thoroughfare narrows but the style of the buildings stays.
Here's what you want to see. It is Very rare and when you see it you want to go in there and give them money. It is an oasis, a refuge, a retreat from the cloud of smoke that hangs over the city since every person virtually everywhere, except in these restaurants and maybe at the bank, is smoking.

Yesterday I had a tapas snack at a 'prohibit fumar' which was lovely. The experience of today's meal was a total joy.
The food was delicious and didn't break the bank being a fixed menu 4 course meal for 7 euro of A) toast with tomato and olives 1) green salad 2) seafood paellea 3) broiled fish and potato (especially delicious) 4) fruit compote. Wow.

Isn't it nice inside? That's me and the waiter who was charming and at my first 'buenos dias' answered me in English. And I thought I really did say a great 'buenos dias'...
This is the place and in the lower right corner is the intersection. Forget addresses. The numbers make no sense What So Ever as I learned in my outing to find a bookstore.
More of these irresistible buildings. I was thinking this might be what Havana could have looked like if they had maintained their buildings for the last 60 years.
Anya dressed up in some Princess gear she got as a treat from the Bazaar Chino next door to our apartment.

I went out in the evening to pick up a little snack and brought back from the pub at the corner, this fabulous potato salad that I hope to make. It's basic potato salad with Greek olives, capers, small par-boiled carrots, maybe a very little celery and/or onion, and then some strongly flavored oily canned tuna stired in. YUM!
April 4

We're at the subway stop waiting for Lucas to run back to the flat for a missing item. Time for Photos!

Anya is being a butterfly. She was sometimes Tinkerbell and sometimes a Princess. Butterfly-Tinkerbell-Princess is her basic repertoire.

Xander is being a monster. Also he is being a zombie. Zombie Xander. Sometimes he is a tyrannosaurus rex with laser xray vision. Sometimes he is a kodiak bear with knives for teeth and swords for claws. Sometimes he is a kitted out military policeman with Arnie-worthy weapons and weapon paraphernalia. He has a Vast vocabulary for weapons!
We went to Parc Guell, another Gaudi extravaganza. This is the view from the top of 'The Three Crosses' and that's La Sagrada Familia down there.
It was a fantazmagoric place. You'll see those pillars again.
More pillars in a totally different land of enchantment.
Note all the forms of a medieval castle...but not.
And here we are under those pillars from the earlier picture. It was entirely classical in design and proportion. I have pictures from a temple in India with the same design.

Why is that woman in my picture? There was always someone in this picture doing that, so I had to snap. Here's why...
...wow, the ceiling.
That Gaudi, he really was something special. There's a little Gaudi in Gehry - Gehry has intellectualized the forms but Gaudi has got the fever.

Uh oh, looks like Rain.
So we enjoy our picnic in a bit of hurry under threatening skies and head back. It never does rain.

Check out that plastic box Lucas is holding. It's the magic sandwich box. Everyday it magically becomes full of sandwiches I didn't make. Yum! I'll miss that box!
April 5

I was taking a picture of 'my' internet cafe and the guy in the hat who works afternoons said 'hey, take a picture of Us!', so I did.

He's from Peru and the other guy is from Columbia so they speak a Spanish much more familiar than the usual around here.
I've combined pictures from two days:

And here we are at La Sagrada Familia (Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia) and wow it is. Since the sun was just behind the spires I'm not getting much detail in the facade so I pulled out a little example. These carvings cover the building.

Antoni Gaudi spent the last part of his life devoted to this construction and, in the grand tradition of the grand cathedrals of Europe upon which it was modeled, construction has continued for 100 years.

'They' are hoping to be done in 2020.
These are more details from another day. This face of the structure is called The Nativity Facade. There are at least three planned - this one, The Passion that you will see later, and The Glory that is currently under construction.
Pretty amazing and then...
(an improvement? a different technique...maybe I'll redo them All?!?)
...you can go inside.

I was here in 1991-1992 for work and made a quick walkwalkwalk no time to stop buzz-through of La Sagrada Familia and what I remember is soo different.

I saw some pictures from the status of construction in the 1940s and that looked more familiar than this because what I remember is that most of the walls were not filled in - it was an almost open air erector-set vision of strange and psychedelic arches and carvings.
I'm sure there are amazing views from wherever this lift is taking all these people who are waiting for more than an hour, but I'll not know since I couldn't bring myself to get in that line.
There are paragraphs and paragraphs in the guide books describing the construction, materials, symbolism, Gaudi's original ideas, history, future plans etc etc. It's a big deal.

This is a view from 'the other side' where the carvings were created by Josep Subirachs (I guess Gaudi didn't leave designs for these details?). LP says it is incredibly controversial...
...'like 'em or loath 'em' they say. I think it looks like a cathedral as imagined by George Lucas in his Star Wars period. Check out those storm-troopin' crusaders. This face is The Passion Facade. (I think it has all the stations of the cross?)
This guy stands right in the front, holding up the place?

A Thorntree reader said this is 'Jesus Christ tied to the column during the flagellation'. It's really a very big piece, Big, and very very Mel Gibson I'd say, now that I know what it is.
This is a repeat of the shot from the top of Parc Guell. It seems the 2020 date for completion is pretty optimistic since...
...it's supposed to look like this when it's done and there are whole spires, including the big one, left to do!
A side street right off the plaza of La Sagrada Familia and it looks so appealing, so quiet and calm, just steps from the hysteria of the biggest tourist attraction in Barcelona, a town bursting with tourists.
This afternoon we went for an outing to the castle - Castell de Montjuic. First we rode the subway, then we rode the funicular...
...then we rode the Telefiric! Up to the tip-ity-top we went.
A castle tunnel.
Tourists braving the wind.
Views to the sea. I don't know the year the castle was built to guard this port but LP says that for most of its history it has been used as a 'political prison and killing ground'. The city of Barcelona is trying to get the governing authority to give it to them so they can make a peace memorial out of it.

And on that note, we're off for dinner and an early sleep.
April 6

We all headed out to see the Barri Gotic, the Gothic Quarter, site of the original Barcelona, but first a visit to one of the innumerable pastry shops. This is the high end of the genre with savories on one side and sweets on the other, going all the way down to a simple bread stand, all very lovely and delicious.
Tootling around a corner we came to a surprising view of the main cathedral of Barcelona, the facade of which is entirely covered and under restoration.
Inside.

The cathedral was begun sometime in the late 1200s and the final bits were added in the 1800s!
Leaving Barri Gotic we came to the grand Placa de Catalunya, gateway to La Rambla. Note this building - Burger King on one side and MacDonalds on the other. On the whole though, it seems the chain food plague is kept to a minimum.
Along La Rambla, the tourista trail from the Placa de Catalunya to the port. There were literally dozens of these folks lined up to get your attention and releave you of a few euro.

You could have bet the house on which Xander would choose and which Anya would choose.
Me in La Rambla.

Now I can say with some degree of certainty, you are not gon'na find street food in Barcelona. This was the last likely place, and it's not here. You can get take-away pastry, both sweet and savory, and ice cream from shops, but that's about it.
These are bottle caps. Really. And there was a huge gorgeous plaza, Huge, full of buyers and sellers of bottle caps. Wow.
Here it is. Nice.
At the end of La Rambla, the base of the signature statue.
April 7

Today is our last full day in Barcelona. Tomorrow we go our separate ways, the Kings back to Dusseldorf for 2 weeks and then they're Coming Home while I go on to Southern Spain, Morocco, and Portugal.

Today is our last full day in Barcelona and we did pretty much of a lot of nothing. It was cold and windy and all the Kings just stayed in, preparing the packing, watching videos, goofing around.

I took one quick outing. Here is a view of La Sagrada Familia from the pedestrian walkway Ave. de Gaudi (and more killer lamp posts!), leading to...
...Hospital de la Santa Creu i de Sant Pau. It was another one of those modernista masterpieces, a whole complex that makes your eyes bug and you inhale little inadvertant gasps. There was so much to look at my eyes glazed over and started to buzz and it was cold and windy and I just didn't have the energy to take on another Major Edificio. I've left something for another trip!

So I went back for nice food and conversation and stories with the kids. It was our adios night!
April 8

From our last afternoon, Adios! Muchas Gracias Familia!!

I spent the rest of the day In Transit and arrived in Granada after dark in the rain, but all went very easily and I spent a comfortable night in my little cozy room at the hostel.
HomeEurope • Spain • '08 Apr: Barcelona, Spain


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