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April 19th 2017
Published: June 26th 2017
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For this trip we returned to Bunnik's Tours which had served us well when we went to South America. We booked the land content with them and Claire at Top Deck Travel got us some cheaper flights with Qatar Airways.
So on Easter Monday night, April 17th we left Adelaide on a direct flight to Doha where we changed planes and connected to Barcelona. In all it was 20 hours in the air with an hour's break in the middle. My back didn't enjoy all that sitting!

At Barcelona there was a horrendous queue to go through passport control and then we met up with our tour Director, Lucy and several others of the group. There are twenty of us all up and all seem to be about our age and very pleasant. We were then taken to our hotel which is not far from Catalonia Square the main one in the centre of the city.

Tonight we are meeting everyone for a Welcome drink and then we will find somewhere to eat not far away and an early night. The real sightseeing starts tomorrow. An interesting group of fellow travellers!! After our Welcome dink and "lecture" from our tour Director. Lucy we walked around the corner to find a great little Italian restaurant, Davita, where we had a great meal.

This morning, 19th April, we left the hotel at 9am and our first stop was Park Guell. This was designed by Antonio Gaudi in the early part of the 20th Century. It was meant to be a Garden City development bought by Guell with the aim of selling houses to rich clients. Though Gaudi developed and designed a gorgeous space only one house was sold so in 1922 Guell sold the land to the city of Barcelona and it is now a Park mostly open to the public but a section of the area containing the Gaudi "monuments" is not free. A beautiful space with lots of trees and gardens as well as some iconic buildings. The monuments include an area of 100 columns which support a large open square surrounded by curved seating decorated with wonderful ceramic tiles.Under the square is where the markets were supposed to be held for the residents. The two elaborate houses at the entrance to the park are now used as a museum and a souvenir shop. Gaudi's designs are unmistakable and look like fairytale houses. He adopted designs from nature, The arcades around the park have columns looking like palm trees

From there we drove into the old part of the city where we embarked on a walking tour of the oldest section, the Gothic Quarter, so named after the narrow streets and the many Gothic style buildings contained therein. We alighted in Catalonia Square , the central square of the city and then walked along La Rambla observing the various buildings. Barcelona has some of the finest architecture I have seen in a city with some French style wrought iron balconies. This is all done in a style called Catalan Modernism. La Rambla is the main walking area from the square right down to the harbour. There were many people thronging the area, especially as there is a big soccer game here tonight between Juventus and Barcelona. Lots of scarves of both teams in evidence and groups of Juventus supporters singing their team songs.

We turned off into the narrow streets and Theo, our local guide. explained the different areas. We started near the Cathedral where we saw some remnants of Roman occupation the remains of an aqueduct and the original Roman walls.. We then passed the Bishop's Palace which was splendid and then other official buildings including one with a great set of gargoyles protruding out over the street. Certainly Gothic! We emerged into the Square of St James where the central building is the Town hall of Barcelona adorned with a statue of St George who is the city's patron saint. From there we walked to the Square of the Kings which contained the palace of Queen Isabella and where Columbus was presented to the queen after his first voyage to the Americas, The building is imposing with a tall tower and many windows. it is now a museum. Through a small but beautiful courtyard we proceeded to the side of the cathedral itself.

The Cathedral is dedicated to St Eulalia who was martyred for her Christianity during Roman times. It is full on Gothic design though the original church here was Romanesque. The Gothic facade etc was developed from that original. The typical arched windows and doorways are huge and impressive. Our tour ended here with some of the group then heading off to Monserrat for an optional tour. We wanted to stay on in this interesting part so we then went inside the Cathedral The inside of the Cathedral is magnificent with the soaring roof and arches typical of a Gothic Cathedral with 28 side chapels dedicated to many saints. In the centre, underneath the main altar is the Crypt of St Eulalia. Perhaps not as impressive as Notre Dame in Paris but still admirable in its own right.

After our visit there we walked back to La Rambla and along to the Boqueria which is a fantastic market place which we had visited four years before.It was bustling and the many stalls hosted a variety of goods on sale. The meat stalls with their hanging legs of all sorts of animals. the fruit and vegetable stalls teeming with delicious goodies including massive strawberries, the fish market with a variety of seafood, many unknown to us, were all doing a roaring trade. We wandered though the narrow lanes enjoying the sights and sounds, certainly a rival for our own Central Market in Adelaide. For lunch we went to one of the many small restaurants which surrounded the market. This was called Bokat which translated to Steak House. Here we had a great meal, me a burger and Fletcher some veal sirloin. His meat was tender and delicious and my burger was generous in size and very tasty without being swamped in sauce or mayonnaise. Washed down with an Estrella beer and a glass of Vino Blanco, a satisfying meal was had.

We then went back through the market and out onto La Rambla. We walked right down to the harbour enjoying the crowds and the many interesting buildings along the way. La Rambla has several sections. First it is lined with flower sellers, then this gives way to many small restaurants and finally near the harbour there is a section where thee Statue artists gather in their elaborate outfits and pose motionless until someone donates a coin. One very impressive example was a man dressed as Galileo with his telescope and model of the earth all painted in bronze.We needed a toilet stop so had a glass of wine at one of the cafes near the very tall statue of Christopher Columbus. It had been a great day, albeit that the weather remained overcast and the wind rather chilly. We had walked a long way so got a taxi back to the hotel to rest and catch up on the internet and write this. Tonight we have our welcome dinner with the group and tomorrow it is off to La Sagrada Familia which I am very much looking forward to.

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23rd April 2017

Wonderful Colleen! Isn't Spain marvellous!

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