Barcelona, on the Way to the Camino de Santiago

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September 6th 2016
Published: September 12th 2016
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Bob at the Plaza RealBob at the Plaza RealBob at the Plaza Real

where I had dinner the first night
After more than a year of preparation (read my Planning blog at Planning My Camino de Santiago de Compostela Pilgrimage) and anticipation, my departure date finally arrived. I have to admit I was more than a bit nervous...a lot more than my normal travels. Would the experience live up to my hyper-expectations? Shortly I would begin my walk of 400 kilometers (250 miles) in 28 days. I have never attempted to accomplish such a feat. I had trained for this, but would reality be much more difficult? I planned daily walking distances on the Camino to be shorter at first and then building up to longer distances as my body became use to the routine. But would I be able to accomplish my goal of reaching Santiago by 4 October without damaging my feet, legs, or something else? Many pilgrims experience similar anxiety, so at least I am not alone in this regard.

My anxiety was shared with my family. The day before I departed, I dropped my daughter Rosanna, her husband Evan and son Connor at the Colorado Springs airport following a ten day visit. After the normal farewell hugs and kisses, Rosanna gave me another hug, explaining that the second hug was in case I didn't survive the Camino. Linda chimed in to remind me that she wouldn't retrieve my body...she would send my son Will. So with all this reassurance, I began my pilgrimage...

4 September 2016 Sunday. My original departure time when booked months in advance had be leaving at 2:20 PM , giving me less than an hour layover in Houston to catch the flight to Frankfurt. Now my flight was rescheduled to 8:45 AM, which meant that I would have to set my alarm for 6 AM, and then have a sleepless night wondering if it would go off. But I slept fine and the alarm went off. Linda dropped me off, both of us trying to hold brave faces. We wouldn't see each other for five weeks. My first stop was IAH (Houston, TX) where I now six hours between flights not the original 50 minutes...connections are somewhat like Goldilocks and the Three Bears...either too long or too short but never just right. I recently got a Chase United Explorer credit card and received two passes to the United Club. So I spent six hours in relative comfort. My 6:30 PM departure to Frankfurt, Germany was delayed for 90 minutes reducing the time I had for my layover in Frankfurt to one hour. I don't sleep well, if at all, on planes, so this additonal anxiety of possibly missing a connection led to a sleepless night.

5 September 2016 Monday. I arrived in Frankfurt at 1 PM; caught my 2:00 PM flight to Barcelona, where I arrived about 4 PM. I planned a couple days in Barcelona to get over jet lag and decompress, and to tour what is one of the most beautiful cities of Europe. I had checked in my backpack, so after picking up my backpack at the luggage carousel I took the free shuttle bus from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2 and walked to the adjacent Rodalies train station, paid my 4.10 euros for the half hour train ride to the Sants estatio (station) where I transferred to the metro system to the Drassanes station. My hotel was just a short walk up the Ramblas. I checked into my hotel, the Benidorm, where I dropped my backpack. Based upon the conceirge´s recommendation I ate an early dinner at the Quinze Dits on the Plaza Real and returned to the hotel, washed my clothes in the sink, and turned in at 9 PM.

6 September 2016 Tuesday. I began my one day tour of the most important sights of Barcelona by sleeping in. I had awakend at 3 AM, but decided to try to fall back asleep. I woke up at 9:30 AM, which meant that I had missed my 9 AM reservation at the Sagrada Familia. Nevertheless I took the Metro to the Sagrada Familia station. It was a short walk to La Sagrada Familia, the cathedral considered by many to be Antoni Gaudi's finest masterpiece. At the ticket office I purchased another ticket for 1:30 PM. They said I could get a refund for the original ticket (it has since become so stained from sweat from walking the Camino in high temperatures that it´s not readable...such is life). So I had a couple hours for lunch. I had a jamon y queso sandwich and mango smoothie. I then stopped by a pharmacy to buy some anti-inflamatory cream that isn´t sold in the U.S., which turned out not to be very anti-inflammatory...just smelled like it was. Then it was time to visit Gaudi´s incomplete Sagrada Familia.

Construction began in 1882 according to the neo-Gothic designs of Francisco de Paula del Villar. A year after construction began Gaudi took over. He took a more Modernista approach to the project, which became his life work. Gaudi lived to see only the Nativity Façade, the apse, crypt and one tower complete. Following Gaudi's death in 1926 the building process dragged on slowly until the 1950s when construction began in earnest. By 2000 the roof of the main nave was completed. The building process continues with hopes that construction will be complete by 2026, the centennial of Gaudi's death. In the nave there are pillars which resemble thick trees and the ceiling is a remarkable vaulted structure where the "branches" of the trees meet. The most magnificant part for me was the stainglass windows. Two circles of blue had Camino and Santiago written in them.

I spent about an hour there. I then walked down back street to get to the Casa de Terrades. My next stop was the Casa Mila (also known as La Pedrera), designed by Gaudi. This apartment building was built between 1906 and 1912. The building has no straight lines and no load-bearing walls. Barcelona is certainly an architect's delight. Here I met Petko and Hristina from Bulgaria, but living in Greenwich. We talked for a while.

Then I turned south on Passeig de Gracia and soon arrived at Illa de Escordia (Block of Discord) so named because of three unusual buildings; the Casa Batllo, Casa Amatller, and Casa Lleo-Morera. The Casa Batllo (otherwise known as the House of Bones) reflects Gaudi's fantastic style interpretation of Modernisme or Art Nouveau. The façade is made to curve like a wave and is covered with a mosaic of colored glass and ceramic fragments. The roof looks like the back of a dragon. The adjacent Casa Amatller, owned by a chocolatier, uses architectural elements from Germany and Holland. The German influence can be seen in the Gothic windows and the stepped gable was borrowed from classic Dutch architecture. The Germanic façade includes figures of knights, dragons and other characters. In the foyer there are pillars and a grand staircase reminiscent of story book castles. The Casa Lleo-Morera is a modernist Art Nouveau building inspired by nature and organic motif.

I continued to walk down the Passeig de Gracia boulevard, passing many fashionable stores, to the Placa de Catalunya, the major public square
Sagrada FamiliaSagrada FamiliaSagrada Familia

with the light shining through the stain glass windows
of the city and surrounded by important buildings. From here I entered the ancient backstreets of the Barri Gotic neighborhood, soon arriving at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, not to be confused with Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia cathedral. The is the Archbishop's church. The site where the church stands was also the location of a Roman temple and first century church destroyed by the Moors replaced by a mosque. Construction of the present church began in 1298 and was completed in 1460. A Gothic façade, adorned with statues and figures, was completed in 1889.

I then cut over to the Las Ramblas, the famous walking street with flower stands, newsstands, restaurants, and the La Boqueria Market, an enormous indoor market. The market began as a traveling market in 1200. At first it was an open-air market near one of the city wall gates. By now I was starving so I had a Dunkin Coffee frappe and a cream filled donut...I´m sorry! My next stop was the old port which was totally redeveloped an includes yacht marinas, quaysides with flowers, restaurants, and shops. I walked along the promenade and then returned to my hotel for an early night.

So let me tell you about the hot weather Spain is having. Before I departed the U.S. the weater forecast was for 80 degree temperatures. Well, weather forecasters the world over are liars, except in places where every day is hot or cold, and Iceland where they have every kind of weather every day. When walking down the Passieig de Gracia I noticed that eveyone except a Norwegian stopped about 30 feet from the crosswalk to wait for the light to change. Then I noticed they were standing in the shade. I commented to the lady standing next to me that the Spanish were smart to take advantage of the shade. She told me that the temperature this day was the highest for this date in 50 years...above 100 degrees! Walking along the Passeig de Gracia also had another advantage. Every 10 yards I passed a designer store with its door open and blasting out air conditioning. As for humidity none of my clothes that I washed the previous evening dried. In fact a shirt I hadn´t washed became damp.

7 September 2016 Wednesday. I woke up early due to jet lag and a wake up call, and caught the metro back to the Sants estatio where I caught the 7:30 AM train to Pamplona. I arrived at 11:17 AM and began my pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago.

Additional photos below
Photos: 26, Displayed: 26


Not the Traditional Chinese Medicine Happy PillsNot the Traditional Chinese Medicine Happy Pills
Not the Traditional Chinese Medicine Happy Pills

or the Colorado happy brownies. etc.

12th September 2016

Safe Travels!
Best of luck on your journey! I'm sure you'll do fine and we look forward to your updates along the way. Barcelona is a good choice to visit before you are on your way. Good luck!
12th September 2016

Love the pictures and blog entry. I'm now inspired to visit Barcelona! Enjoy your adventure and keep us updated. Love you, Dad.
13th September 2016

Good to hear you are at last on your journey.We still recount passing pilgrims back in late March tramping through the snow on a mountainous section west of Ponferrada.They were still pressing on even when the amount of snow turned us around to take a route at a lower altitude.We are sure you won't have the same conditions.All the best and looking forward to following your journey
13th September 2016

I would love to walk the Camino one day also, so looking forward to reading your blog about your pilgrimage! Hope it will cool off a bit soon as I did see that Spain was getting temperatures around 40C! Hope that's not the case anymore and you're experiencing some cooler weather... Fingers crossed! Buen camino :)
13th September 2016
Casa Mila

Look forward to reading your blog from the hike
Emma and I have been thinking about hiking to Santiago de Compostela. We still hope we will get there one day. So I look forward to reading about your experience there. By the way, I just love Gaudi's work of art (yes, I call it art rather than architecture) and Park Guell and Casa Mila are my favourites. /Ake
13th September 2016

Hey there!
Bob this is a region of the world that we are dying to take a road trip in. My local friend has been raving about the Andalucia region as well. Looks really awesome, and can't beat the Gaudi style buildings. I'll have to reference your blog when we finally go!
13th September 2016
Sagrada Familia

May the Light be with you!
What a wonderful way to start your journey in beautiful Barcelona! Best wishes on the temperature dropping, or you may be one of the very early morning walkers. I walked the Camino in 2003 when 30,000 people in Spain and France died in the heat. But now it's September, so you hopefully, you'll have a cooler Camino. Best wishes, and I've confidence you'll make it fine, pilgrim! Buen camino!
16th September 2016

Congratulations on heading for the Camino!
I'm laughing about your send off from Rosana and Linda...oh, the love. Glad you planned a couple of days to rest from the jet lag. Well- the Camino adventure has begun and we will be following along each step of the way. This is exciting. Hope all goes well. Eager to hear the ups and downs. And....hopefully a cool breeze will be headed your way soon. enjoy each moment, meditate and take lots of photos.
17th September 2016

All the best Bob!
All the best Bob! Great to hear you are finally on the road, and just about to begin the Camino - I know you've been planning it a while! A great introduction to your trip, spending a couple of days in Barcelona, despite the jet-lag (I totally get you on that one!). Hope the final preparations have gone/are going well, look forward to reading about the journey itself. All the best :)

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