Day 3: Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain – Parks, Free Tours, a Magical Fountain and our worst meal in Spain!

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October 18th 2015
Published: April 4th 2016
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Our first stop, this morning was Park Guell. Park Guell, located in the Gracia district of Barcelona, is a fair distance from the city center. We booked our tickets to the monument region of the park online to avoid the queue and save a dollar. We had to take the metro to the Vallcarca station and then follow the signs to the park. After walking uphill and taking a set of escalators, we finally reached the park in about an hour after we left the hostal. We just made our tickets window in the nick of time.

At 8:30 in the morning, the park was fairly calm. It was nice to walk around the park in peace and quiet, without the large tourist crowds. As it is located on a hill, the park provided wonderful views of the city. The monument zone, another of Antoni Gaudi’s works reminded me of The Lovers Park we visited in Lima, Peru, with its long mosaic bench. As we wandered past the monument zone, there were even more unique areas to explore. It would have been nice to spend more time in the Park but we planned to go on a Sandelmans free walking tour of the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona.

We left the park as the tour groups started to pour in and started heading downhill to the Lesseps, metro station, or so we thought. We got hopelessly lost with Renata’s phone GPS providing little help. Luckily, one of the locals noticed that we were lost and provided us with directions to the nearest metro station, which was Alfonso X.

When we reach the starting point for the Sandelmans Gothic tour, we had enough time to grab a bite to eat at a nearby café. Then, it was off on our free tour of the gothic quarter in Barcelona. We learned that it was considered an honour to get a defecating figurine of yourself. Caganer, which means ‘Crappers’ in English, is a centuries-old Catalan tradition that sees a defecating figurine added to the traditional Nativity scene. The characters are meant to symbolise fertilization, hope and prosperity for the coming year. A lot of famous football players in Barcelona have their own Caganer figurine, including Messi, Neymar Jr. and Suarez.

With old world charm, cobblestone streets and medieval traffic free quarters, the gothic quarter gave one the impression of waking up in old Europe. While winding through various streets and alleyways, we discovered hidden restaurants and inviting boutique shops. One can observe through the windows chickens roasting over an open fire and the various delicious pastries. Yum! Street performers played traditional Spanish guitar in many of the little squares and children used the uncrowded plazas for impromptu football games. If you’re lucky, you may witness in the main squares the building of castells: human towers, a Catalan tradition. Many gothic churches and museums are hidden in the maze that is the Gothic quarter, including the Cathedral, Church of Santa Maria del Mar, the Picasso Museum and the Museum d’Historia de la Ciutat, to name a few. It is definitely an area one would not mind getting lost in.

After the Free walking tour, we headed to Tapeo, a restaurant I heard had good reviews on Tripadvisor. We had our first taste of Jamon iberico, a type of cured ham made from acorn fed black Iberian pigs and bombetas, a potato and meat fried croquette. The meal was expensive but so good!

Then it was off to stand in the abnormally long line for the free entrance to the Picasso Museum. We managed to get into the Picasso Museum after approximately a 2 hour wait. Apparently, they have certain entrance time slots and when they are filled, the rest of the people in the line need to leave. So you can be waiting in line for over 2 hours and not even get to see the museum. We were lucky to get one of the coveted time spots.

The Picasso museum was well worth the wait. Definitely, the second best museum I visited in Spain. I loved how they arranged the museum chronologically outlining Picasso’s earliest works to his latest. One can see how Picasso’s artwork evolved throughout the years. Unfortunately, I could not take pictures inside so you need to take my word for it.

After the Picasso museum, we headed to another free museum in the gothic quarter, the Museum d’Historia de la Ciutat. It took us a while to find the museum. The entrance was not in the place we thought it would be. While we walked in circles, we got to see various street performers, and go inside the Barcelona Cathedral. The cathedral was very interesting and big. There was also a section where there were swans walking in an enclosed mini courtyard.

By the time we found the museum we only had about an hour before it closed, so we headed down to the main attraction, the basement. The basement of the museum reveals the Roman archaeological site that was discovered underneath the city of Barcelona. Some of the interesting roman ruins that we saw included remnants of surrounding walls and parts of heating, water and drainage systems.

When the museum closed, we headed off for dinner. Renata wanted to go to this restaurant that her Boss recommended when he came to Barcelona, so we headed towards the Port Vell area. We could not find the restaurant with the location that he provided and we were starting to enter sketchy territory. So we ended up eating at a restaurant along the pier.

This is where we had our worst food experience in Spain! We went to a restaurant called Cal Pinxo. When we first arrived at the restaurant they asked if we had a reservation. When we told them no, they rudely told us that they only take people with reservations. They then seated us at a table in the corner. Um ok! My sister ordered the Fiduea and I ordered the black noodles with clams. It took over an hour to get our food and when it arrived we were not pleasantly surprised. The Fiduea is a plate of pasta with nothing, I mean nothing on it! It is plain pasta with a fish sauce. It is served with a weird garlic butter, which should be placed on bread not pasta. My meal was not much better. The black noodles came with 4 clams and that it was it! The rest was pasta in black squid ink sauce. The waiter did not really acknowledge our complaint about how bare the pasta was and told us rudely that we should have read the menu. For 15 euros a plate, I expected more. The only redeeming quality was the crème catalan we ordered for dessert. The waiter avoided us for the rest of our meal and we had to flag down another equally rude waiter for the bill. When the bill arrived, we had difficulty flagging down the waiter to get change. So we got fed up and left a considerable tip on the table.

The night ended off on a positive note as we hurried over to watch the end of the magic fountain of Montijuic water and light show. The beautiful water and light show was accompanied by both modern and classical music. It was nice to relax to take it all in; we were in the incredible city of Barcelona.

When the show was over, we headed back to our hostal. Tomorrow, we head out on a day trip to Codorniu cava winery and Montserrat Mountain. Then, it is more Gaudi works of art!

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