Getting Caught Up–Final Day in Barcelona.

I have previously updated on Barcelona Day 1 (Saturday) and Day 2 (Sunday). Our flight was leaving at 2:45pm, but that gave us several hours in the morning to get out and explore the city a little bit more before leaving. Again, it was sunny and beautiful outside. As a little aside, with the exception of my recent trip to Amsterdam which I haven’t updated about yet, I have had pretty *perfect* weather on all of my trips so far. No rain, generally a lot of sunshine, and in the event it has been cold I’ve been prepared for the cold (ie Switzerland). I’m so thankful I’ve been able to enjoy all of these beautiful places with weather that is conducive to being out on foot exploring. Anyway, back to Barcelona.

First things first: we needed some breakfast. Both of agreed that we needed to find a place with some eggs and meat because, although pain au chocolats are delicious, we were pretty burned out on the typical pastry/coffee European breakfast. Luckily, a few blocks down from our hotel we found what we thought was a cafe (that turned out to be kind of a cafe/bar/casino) that had a great breakfast for only 4.50 euros each. It included coffee, orange juice, eggs, toast, and sausage or bacon. DELICIOUS. We were not only the only white people in there, we were also the only females and the only people under about 40… But it was worth it and it was delicious! Also, instead of playing Zoey 101 dubbed over in spanish like the cafe we had breakfast at the day before, here the TV was playing the news in Spanish (with captions in Catalan). Since we both know some Spanish and I know some French (Catalan is kind of a blend of those) we were able to figure out what a lot of the top stories were about.

Breakfast for 4.50!

Breakfast for 4.50!

From there, we walked back over to the area where we had found a lot of shopping. Becky was really hoping to find some leather boots, but sadly every store we visited only carried up to a 41. Welcome to my world Becky 😦 However, we did find a store for “Martina K” which is a brand of purses/wallets/shoes which I think is only in Spain (?). Anyway, Becky ended up buying a very cool purse, and I bought a new wallet and a little clutch. From there we were on a mission to find a Starbucks because Becky collects Starbucks mugs and had already found one each place she went (France, England, Wales). We walked the direction we thought we’d been before, thinking we were walking toward the cathedral but realized it was a different church. We walked around inside and took some pictures, and then returned to our mission to find the Starbucks.

The Church

The Church

Now, I am a pretty directionally challenged person, but I am also a visual person so if I see things I recognize I can usually find my way back to something I’ve only been to once. So, using those skills I was able to guide us back to the first Starbucks we saw our first night in Barcelona. Inside, the Starbucks was super fancy and ornate. I only have one picture of it (below), but even the floor was fancy tile. Not your typical Starbucks for sure.  We decided to get lunch and coffee there before heading back to our hotel since we weren’t sure when we would get another chance to eat.  My sandwich was mediocre and they forgot to actually add espresso to my iced latte (vanilla milk anyone?) but when I went up to the counter to ask about it they added more espresso pronto.

Barcelona Starbucks

Barcelona Starbucks

On our walk back to our hotel, we passed Las Ramblas again and we saw a man standing in a tank top and underwear washing himself on the street. There was also someone dressed in a crazy costume right next to him, so it took us a minute to figure out what was going on. So we started laughing because we thought the two were somehow connected, but now we’re pretty sure the guy was cleaning himself on the street because he had no other way to clean himself, and the person in the crazy costume was just a coincidence :/

Once we got back to the hotel, we had to hurry to finish packing up and check out of our hotel. We decided to pay the extra $$ to take a cab to the airport rather than public transportation. It would have been about 5 euros each to take public transportation and it was about 15 euros each to take a cab. However, taking the trains involved a walk from our hotel to the metro (which wasn’t short), then we would have to take the metro to this big train station, which involved a lot of walking and going up and down esclators and stairs to get to the main train area, and then waiting up to 30 minutes for that train (it only comes every 30 minutes) and then once it gets you to the airport it’s a pretty long walk up to the terminal. We decided doing all of that with luggage on the way to our hotel was too much work, and it was totally worth it to take a cab which took us door to door in 20 minutes. Also, another bright side of the cab ride was that we essentially got a mini sight seeing tour. The train had taken us through a pretty run down area, but the cab took us on a highway along the harbor which was really pretty and relaxing. And, we got to see this really cool cemetery that is built into the side of a cliff:

Cemetery

Another view from the cab ride

Another view from the cab ride

At the airport we had a lot of trouble with our baggage. Although we had no problems getting to Barcelona with only carry-ons, suddenly they were telling us our carry-on bags couldn’t weigh more than 8 kilos each or we would have to check them. So Becky and I stood in the airport and shifted stuff from our main suitcases into our purses and finally they let us take both on the airplane. (By the way, having a policy like that is STUPID. It’s supposed to be based on size, not weight. The weight is going on the plane either way, and all they did by making us shift stuff is make it impossible to fit our purses under the seat in front of us, thereby taking up more room in the overhead bins which is what they were trying to protect in the first place). Then, when we got to Zurich (we had a layover there), we had to go through security again to get to our gate for our continuing flight, and this time they just flat out said we could not take our roller bags on the aircraft, they would have to be checked to our final destination. So, the woman put tags on our bags and said when we got to the plane, someone would be there to pick up the bags. However, nobody was there, and we didn’t bother asking we just snuck our bags on the plane. We assumed it must be a small plane if they were being so crazy about baggage but NO. It was a full size plane, and it wasn’t even close to full passenger-wise. There were 13 rows of business class and only 3 people in the entire section. Also, coach was less than half full. Swiss Air must have sent out some baggage policy enforcement memo over the weekend or something, because we had no problems at all on the way out, but nobody wanted to let us take our rollerbags on the planes on the way back. I think that is a really stupid policy. When you’re just going somewhere for the weekend, it’s obnoxious to check bags which is why I pack extremely light and only take a carry-on suitcase. I don’t know why they were so insistent about not bringing carry-ons on the flight! That being said, aside from the baggage policies, Swiss Air is really great! They give you food, free beverages (including free wine if you want it) and after the food/drink time they give you Swiss Air chocolates which are delicious. Oh, and the safety video they show is by far my favorite!

My one regret in Barcelona is that we never made it down to the beach! We were staying close to the harbor and it was apparently about a 45 minute walk to actually get down on the beach. Our final morning we were worried it might take us too long to get down there and we wouldn’t get back in time to check out and get to the airport, so we didn’t try. But there is always next time! 😉

I do not have any additional pictures that I haven’t already linked to, but just for ease of access, you can see all of the pictures from our short trip to Barcelona here, here, and here.

Advertisements

Barcelona Day 2.

The next morning, Sunday, we had a confusing 45 minutes or so trying to figure out what time it was when we woke up. Our hotel room didn’t have any clocks, and as it turned out, the time change had occurred but nobody had warned us. Thank you google.com for eventually solving the mystery. It made our heads hurt when we were trying to figure out how both of our watches could possibly be two hours off when Daylight Savings wasn’t for another week. As it turns out, Europe stuck with the old plan back in 2007 when the U.S. started bumping it a week. So that means for one week all the time zones are screwed up due to the U.S.’s energy saving plan. Good times 😉

After we figured it out, we walked down to Plaza Espanyol because we really wanted to see the “magic fountain.” As it turned out, the magic fountain was not on while we were there, but to our surprise there were escalators all the way up to the top of “magic mountain” so we didn’t have to walk! This was especially amazing because it was really hot that day, and we did not have shorts or sandals with us so we were roasting in our jeans and sneakers.  (I’m not complaining though.. the warmth and sunshine was a nice break from the arctic chill of the rest of Europe lately!).  At the top there were several museums and a fabulous view point where we soaked in the great view of Barcelona and then walked over to the Olympic Stadium (Barcelona hosted the Olympics in ’92!).

Me on the Magic Mountain

Me on the "Magic Mountain"

The Olympic Stadium/Village was hosting a huge family event the day we were there. Lots of parents and small children everywhere and all kinds of activities and stages with performances. Basically, we were the only people there that were not there with children. Hopefully we didn’t look too weird. (What are two girls in their twenties doing at a kid convention?) . Unrelated to the thousands of people everywhere for the kid convention, it was a very crazy feeling walking into the Olympic stadium. Now, in 1992 I was too young to really understand or care about the Olympics, but I still felt a wave of emotion as I walked down the stairs. 16 years ago that place was filled with people from around the world—top athletes and spectators—and medals were won and lost in that stadium. People achieved their lifetime dreams on the floor of that stadium (which we were able to walk on!). Perhaps I’m just a big sappy, sentimental person but Becky was pretty moved by it all too.

Olympic Stadium Inside!

Olympic Stadium Inside!

On a less sappy note, they had a big stage with performances down on the floor, which included flamenco dancing, Brazilian battle dancing, and this group which I can only describe as the Spanish version of the Wiggles (3 grown men singing kids songs and bouncing around all enthusiastically). At one point one of them ran off the stage and ran through the crowd.. aaaaaand he totally smacked my butt as he ran by me. I actually found it amusing because it was so random and weird because this was a kids event, but technically… extremely inappropriate!

Battle Dancing!

Battle Dancing!

From there we headed out of Olympic Stadium and walked down to Poble Espanyol which is basically a replica of what old spanish villages used to be like. You have to pay to get in, but then it’s just like a little town in there–lots of shops and restaurants and cool little alleys, and great views of Barcelona. The shops all sell handmade crafts, usually made by the people working there. We saw a man making glass bulls, and it was so cool I was sucked into buying a few. We also saw people making leather goods, jewelry and guitars. I really wanted to buy a guitar (handmade guitar from spain? AMAZING!) but (1) they were pretty expensive; (2) I had no way to get it home safely; and (3) I don’t know how to play guitar! They were really cool though. Becky and I did a little shopping and took a lot of photos before heading back to our hotel (we walked all the way back home).

Lunch at Poble Espanyol

Lunch at Poble Espanyol

Making Glass Bulls in Poble Espanyol

Making Glass Bulls in Poble Espanyol

Our plan was to get home, freshen up, and go back out to explore the city at night but we were both so exhausted from all of the walking (and the heat, and we were a little sunburned, particularly me) so we ended up getting a Pizza from the Pizza Hut around the corner from our hotel and staying in for the night.

For more pictures of this second day, click here, and here.

(the second album also has pics of our last morning in Barcelona, which I will add later)

And Now…. BARCELONA! (Part 1)

First, I would like to say something that may sound offensive, but I don’t mean it that way and I just found it very surprising. Everyone I know who has been to Barcelona just talks about how amazing it is and how much they love it, and I feel a little misled that nobody has ever told me about the “other side” of Barcelona. When we arrived in Barcelona, it turned out our hotel was on the “wrong side of Las Ramblas” as we like to call it, and my first impression was “…what did I get us into?” and “….is this a third world country and/or south Los Angeles?” Granted, all the big cities I’ve been to in Europe have been dirty. ALL big cities are dirty (Los Angeles, Chicago, New York…). When I stayed in Paris the first time, my hotel was in a similar “off the beaten path” area. However, while I thought the area was a little extra dirty and a little on the rundown side, I still felt like I was in Europe. But something about the run down parts of Barcelona really made us feel like we were in Mexico. I guess it just threw me off so much because I really didn’t expect to make that connection at all. I thought it was going to be a glamorous, colorful, Mediterranean city. In many respects, parts of it were. I just really didn’t expect the other part.

So anyway, Becky and I arrived and dropped off our bags at our sketchy hotel and then headed out to find some dinner. Luckily, about a 10 minute walk took us out of South Los Angeles and into the nice part of Barcelona that we’d been expecting. We could see the harbor and the Mediterranean, and we managed to find a cute plaza area and sat outside at a cafe for dinner.

The Plaza Where We Had Dinner (Plaza Reiel I think?)

The Plaza Where We Had Dinner (Plaza Reiel I think?)

After dinner we intended to just find coffee/dessert somewhere and head back to the hotel, but we ended up walking all over the “old town” area, taking pictures and checking things out. Also, we were very impressed by how cheap the drinks are in Barcelona (coffee at the cafe we went to was only 1.15 euros.. in many European cities I’ve been to the cheapest you’ll find is 3 or 4 euros). However, we were thrown off a little bit by asian women in the cafe speaking spanish… whoah. Which, by the way, the people in Barcelona actually speak (castillian?) as a first language, although most of them are also fluent in Spanish. Becky and I noticed that our limited Spanish and French skills were enough to help us read the subtitles for the news on TV, and various signs, so I suppose it’s not too different of a language.

Walking around Barcelona after Dinner

Walking around Barcelona after Dinner

By far the best part of the night was when we happened upon an outdoor concert. It was a band from Spain, and the words were not in english but the sound was amazing! Then, right after the band finished, we found out there was going to be a performance of Thriller (the song/dance by Michael Jackson). As I mentioned in a previous post, it was part of the “Thrill the World” event. By far one of the most random and amusing things I’ve experience yet in my European travels 🙂

Concert!

Concert!

After that we began our sketchy walk back to our hotel, but stopped in a shop on the way home for some snacks. Again, we were amazed at how affordable things were. Everything is usually so expensive in Europe it was nice to find cheap things for once! Much to our surprise, although the street we walked down to get there was pretty bad, when we made it to the actual street our hotel was on it was much more lively and much less sketchy looking than when we’d seen it during the day. You’d think the opposite would be true. Anyway, we were definitely relieved!

A Church on the Walk Home

A Church on the Walk Home

I will save Day 2 for the next post!

For all the pictures of our first afternoon/evening, click here.