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..or more specifically Cataluña

sunny 90 °F
View Post-College Eurotrip on atbrady's travel map.

Boy is our hotel room small. When we woke up around 8:30am, the lights wouldn’t turn on. I think there might have been a “lights out” policy or something because as we were packing up, our lights magically turned on right around 9am. We originally only booked one night because the price for Monday night was cheap but the Tuesday and Wednesday prices were significantly higher. We were planning to try to barter for better prices but Kristine had been so turned off by the (interestingly named) "Pension Miami" hotel's seedy location the previous night that we decided to find an internet café and find a different hotel. It was a minimum 50 euro cents for the internet but the kicker was that for that price, only one of us was allowed to use the internet, so Kristine searched while I had to sit at the entrance which was pretty ridiculous. She booked a place that wasn’t too far away, but check in wasn’t until 12 and there was no front desk to even let us in before that so we had a little over an hour to kill. We made our way to the Arc de Triomf (I guess every city has one) and walked around the Park de la Ciutadella surrounded by government buildings and even the Barcelona zoo. Then we went back and grabbed our bags before heading to our new hotel which is more like a home and is very charming. There is a full kitchen and we have a room with a small balcony that gives us a great view. We met a girl from France and a guy from Korea that were cooking as we dropped off our things. By this time we were starving and went to Tapa Tapa and had some great and cheap Tapas. Tapas are basically like appetizers that are mostly 3-6 euros, so you can get a couple for lunch or dinner. I had a delicious little salad and some kebabs made of some kind of meat that I couldn’t determine.

Afterward, we headed to the tour bus stop and bought a two day pass that will take us all around to the many sites of Barcelona. Its actually run by the same company as the buses I took and London and I luckily found my receipts from London and saved a few euros off my ticket, but they wouldn't give Kristine the discount. First stop was Parc Guell which we thought would be a quick half hour stop. Instead, the bus dropped us off a few blocks from the entrance to the park and the walk to the park was very steep. The park is a failed housing development designed by Antonio Gaudi and his whimsical architecture could be seen throughout the park. The park is absolutely enormous and offers fantastic views of Barcelona since it is on one of the city’s highest hills. At one point we stopped to listen to an authentic little band and after watching a few people give them change, we watched one of the band members plant a 20 euro bill among the pile of change. We both found this quite entertaining and wondered whether this subtle hint really made people give more money.

After another few minutes of an uphill hike we were sitting in a small plaza lined with souvenir vendors listening to another band when we saw a nearby hill with a few people on it. Much to Kristine’s chagrin, we climbed up to the top of this little peak “Tres Cruces” (for the three stone crosses at the peak) for a great panorama of the city. It was pretty steep and were a bit surprised that there were no fences at the peak. We laughed at the thought of how such a spot back home would be surrounded by heavy duty fences to prevent inevitable lawsuits. After spending a few hours more than the planned half hour at Park Guell, we headed back down to the bus stop only to find an enormous line to get back on the tour bus. The line looked to be at least an hour long and I noticed that the previous stop on the route was only about 5 blocks away, so we walked it in about 15 minutes to catch the bus without any line (score!). We rode the bus and listened to the narrative for most of the rest of the blue route loop of the bus tour. We passed by the Barcelona soccer stadium, the largest stadium in Europe. Maybe its because Barca won the European cup this past year, but I have seen more people wearing Barca jerseys per hour around here than I saw over a few days elsewhere in Europe. With all of that support, I can't imagine they have any trouble filling the stadium despite its size. It was getting late, otherwise I would have liked to stop at the stadium as there is supposed to be a cool soccer museum and tour of the stadium.

We continued on the bus to Las Ramblas, the main tourist street in Barcelona and from there walked to Cathedral de la Santa Creu. We were a bit iffy on whether to stop there despite Arthur’s recommendations only because we had seen so many churches on our tour and they were all starting to look the same. However, we were happy to have stopped. The gothic architecture of the church was pleasantly unique and there was even a beautiful courtyard with a few fountains and swans. The only disappointing part was that the outside was undergoing renovations. It seems as if every site we visit is under renovations this summer from London to Pisa to Bologna and now Barcelona. Oh well. Kristine had to cover her shoulders at the cathedral but luckily I had a towel in my backpack in case we had time to hit the beach. One funny aspect of the church was that the candles that most churches let you light for a small donation were replaced by little electric candles that automatically lit up when you dropped change in. It wasn’t quite the same. We also saw a poster that announced that the Pope would be there in a few weeks. It was funny because it looked like a poster for a concert and made the Pope look like a hip rock star. Just outside the church was a cool little antique market where I found a few cheap old Spanish coins and Kristine finally found an antique ring that she had been searching for during our whole trip.

We then headed back to Las Ramblas and to the famous La Boqueria, an enormous market with fresh fruit, meat and fish at a variety of little stands. Kristine found a great dried fruit stand, but mostly we just walked around and admired the market. We noticed in Frommer’s that most restaurants didn’t open until 8, so we wandered the market and then Las Ramblas for a while before heading to our restaurant of choice. Since our only map was the free one we were given on the bus tour and it only included the main streets, it took us quite a while to find the restaurant we were looking for only to find that it was closed. We settled on another that yet again took us forever to find and almost caved in to various restaurants along the strip, but Arthur’s description of the restaurant we were searching for sounded so good that we decided to forge on. When we finally found it after asking a cop for directions, we were pleased that we stuck it out and found the restaurant. As we were seated, we walked through the kitchen, which smelled fantastic and looked quite authentic and couldn’t believe that Arthur had classified this as an “Inexpensive” restaurant. Once we sat down and looked at the menu, with the cheapest entre around 30 euros, we realized that it was in fact too good to be true. There was no way we were dropping over 100 bucks on dinner, so I convinced Kristine to walk out and told her that I would follow in 30 seconds. It was a funny experience and we felt a little bad because they had brought our bread out, but we hadn’t eaten any so oh well. At this point, I was a bit fed up with Arthur. I had contemplated it before, but now I was sure that Arthur was paid off by the restaurants and it was nothing more than a book for them to advertise in. While Arthur had certainly told us about some great restaurants, others must have paid to be included in the book and classified as “inexpensive.”

Anyways, we went back to one of the places we had contemplated going to before. When we sat down and saw the prices on the menu, we were again a bit nervous that the 10.95 deal (for paella and two tapas) was too good to be true, as the paella alone was 10 euros and the tapas were around 5 euros apiece. I had a Spanish omelette which was maybe a quarter of an egg with potato inside and I was extremely glad I didn’t pay 5 euros for it. I’m hoping that it was just a small portion because it was part of the special deal-otherwise that is one overpriced omelette. Kristine got a pizza as her main course that was pretty good and I was ecstatic to finally have some paella. My seafood paella had shrimp with the heads and feet still attached which was kind of strange but didn’t bother me much. Kristine, on the other hand, was grossed out, and she didn’t even have to eat them! This was the most full I had been on our entire trip, and for only 10.95 apiece! We topped it off with some sangria, which they kind of screwed us with (7 euros each) but we still had a great and cheap dinner nonetheless. As we walked back up Las Ramblas to turn in for the night, we stopped to watch a variety of street performers, from dancers to one guy who painted himself to look like a statue and sat on a toilet. We also noticed signs hanging from street lamps that detailed some harsh punishments for things like vandalism. The scare tactics seemed to be an effective strategy because restaurants were able to keep chairs out without being tampered with and the strip was mostly spotless. On the way home, we walked through the Placa de Catalunya and admired a beautiful fountain. We got back to our hotel after a long day, admired the view from our balcony, and turned in for the night.

Posted by atbrady 21:04 Archived in Spain Tagged barcelona cathedral gaudi la santa de arc parc guell boqueria triomf tres cruces creu

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