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Published: August 17th 2014
In the afternoons the weather would clear up and it would be fresh and sunny. We walked down to the beach and port area. There is a big shopping mall that seemed to be very popular. We enjoyed all the little markets around the port, selling food, handicrafts, artisan products, even some vintage. One day we had a seafood feast at a portside café. When we were young backpackers, traveling around Europe, we had a budget of about $20 a day, including petrol and camping. We used to sit in cafes and enviously watch the Spanish eating platters of seafood that our budget didn’t stretch too. Now we returned triumphant as “rich” tourists. We pointed to the seafood platters that the diners around us had, 36 euros for the big plate on the menu. The waiter didn’t speak much English. Sounded like he said it was too big and that he would bring us the small plate. The small plate that he brought us cost 19 euros and consisted of mussels, crabs, prawns, two different types of fish, grilled calamari, half a lobster and probably something else that I have forgotten. Amazing. We couldn’t finish.
We also walked along the
promenade, along the beach, as far as Frank Gehry’s fish sculpture, twinkling gold in the sun. Lots of young people on the promenade and beach and people making sand sculptures. One evening at about 10 we went to a famous tapas bar nearby. We were just congratulating ourselves on getting a seat when we were informed that they were closing early because of the holiday and taking last orders. All the bartenders were really drunk and not too inclined to take any orders at all but we managed to get a plate of anchovies and green chillies (usually not hot) and had just enough time to scoff them down before being shown the door. We thought we might come back another evening but there is a limit to how much we can eat and you are so spoiled for choice that we didn’t eat anywhere more than once – except for some tapa bars and markets next to our hotel in El Born, for a late night snack before bed.
Our son is a chef and he wanted us to visit some new cuisine restaurants in Barcelona. He made us a list, we promised, we wanted to go too,
but we didn’t. We mostly ate small tapa meals. Anyway, I am not really impressed with all the molecular cuisine. I don’t even really understand what I am eating. But Barcelona really does have it all. If we go again, maybe we will try some of the new cuisine. Seems like a good place with a very vibrant restaurant scene and lots of young chefs using new techniques to showcase all the Catalan produce. Barcelona is a late night city. We would usually eat dinner close to midnight and there were many people in the bars and streets. One evening we saw a group of young French people on a pub crawl, all dressed up as penguins. Some evenings there would be a soccer match and all the cafes were full of tourists and locals alike, mostly watching the game in solemn silence, not looking at all happy. It didn’t look like anyone was having much fun.
We spent most of our time happily wandering around Barcelona but towards the end of our stay we decided to take the tourist bus and spent one day on the red route tourist bus and the next day on the blue route.
We even took the green route one evening just before dark for a quick tour. I think these bus tours are very good value. You can’t possibly get off at all the stops, there is just too much to see and some of the sites take several hours. You also have to take into consideration that most cable cars, entrances, museums, historic sites, etc. cost about 10 euros. So you really have to choose carefully what you want to see from both the cost and the time perspective.
The green bus route takes you to a prime real estate area along the sea that was previously mostly old warehouses and factories and is undergoing a renewal process. The warehouses were cleared out to make way for the Olympic village and the village was after converted into low cost housing for working people. On the ocean front is the casino and hotels and there is a nice park with interesting sculptures. I was impressed that the city had incorporated their working class back into the city on expensive real estate and not removed them to the suburbs.
One of our best days was at the Olympic village and surrounding
parks. The placa de Espanya is a very impressive boulevard, starting with two huge towers that lead up to the national art museum and to the magic fountain (there is a sound and light show at night). The Mies van der Rohe Pavilion is also situated there. We walked up to the top through the gardens to the Olympic ring and stadium and communications tower. We finished the day with a cable car ride up to Montjuic castle and did a big circle around it by foot. By this time we could hardly walk so we took the bus back to our hotel and crawled back to our room before setting out to look for something to eat. We went to a tapas bar a bit of a ride from our hotel but they had waiting times of more than an hour and a half so we started walking back in the general direction of our hotel, through the light rain in an unfamiliar area. On the way we passed one of Gaudi’s building, lit up and shining blue in the night. We stopped at a nice restaurant and had our only paella of the trip. We ate slouvaki a
couple of times too – a good cheap, tasty meal, when you have had enough of spending time sitting in cafes and restaurants.
We spent the last day just walking around El Born and the Gothic quarter, buying some souvenirs, scouting out the Picasso museum one last time before giving up and settling for buying a poster in the gift shop and sitting in the sun in the port and in Parc de la Ciutadella. Wonderful city Barcelona. Hope to visit again.
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