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Monday, March 29, 2010

Day 7 Barcelona Trip Review 2010

Today, Thursday, is my last day in Barcelona. It's only a partial day so I can't do any sight seeing as my train leaves from Barcelona Sants Train Station at 3pm so I can't go far. Plus, I have to check out of the Pension Plaza de Goya no later than noon.

I awoke today at 8am, much earlier than I'd hoped, but felt rested. Time to get my "stuff" together. But NOT before breakfast. So once again, I throw on yesterday's clothes and head down for breakfast, this morning choosing another bar on the same bloc, I walk in and the Spanish/Catalán bar tender looks at me like I'm a foreigner. Ha! I order a "pan tumaca" with coffee. He asks me to repeat the order, I do, and he still doesn't understand me. So I say, more simply, a "pan tostada con aceite y tomate". THAT he understands. So I have my breakfast in peace at the bar and then go back to the pension for a long morning getting my stuff ready for the day's travel.

Not quite sure how I'm going to get through the morning before my 3pm train but decide to find a nearby coffee shop to kill some time. And that's just what I do after my noontime checkout.
I found a bakery/café called "Fleca els Angels" at Plaça Àngels, 4, in the upper El Raval neighborhood, not all that far from my pension. Luckily, there was a table in the back corner where I felt comfortable with my suitcase and shoulder bag as I drank my coffee and croissant. There, I spent the better part of an hour writing postcards - so they'd have the Barcelona postmark.

It's time to go at 1pm and and I'm a little nervous knowing I'll have to use their restroom before leaving, me with my suitcase, shoulder bag, and jacket - which won't all fit in the bathroom with me. So I tie the shoulder bag strap around not only the suitcase handle but also around the back of the chair, making it at least a little more challenging for any would-be thief. So that's how I left all my worldly belongings behind, in a public space, while I was behind closed doors - for exacly 25 seconds. And DON'T think I washed my hands, either. And there they sat, everything where I left them. Untouched. And yes, I ALWAYS wash my hands after using the restroom. Something, as I've found, is a rarity in Spanish restrooms at bars or restaurants - or anywhere else for that matter.

Now it's about 1pm, I mail my postcards, and go to a place I'd seen before on my route to/from the pension. It was called Restaurante El Sol, on the Carrer dels Tallers, 75, which has a good-looking menu del día. I've found it's more affectionately known as "Restaurante Pedro y Manolo". This is my kind of place; no-nonsense, very friendly and casual, and a lunch menu for 9 Euros. Can't beat that. Although they have a dining room in the back I put myself next to the open door facing the bar with my suitcase back in the corner, inaccessible to anyone.

Good thing I wouldn't need to use the restroom while here as it's up a narrow staircase and can't imagine having to carry all my stuff up there. Nope. I'm good.

I choose the paella, which was good, and the oven roasted chicken (which turned out to be fried chicken) with potatoes. The chicken was only a little dry inside a little olive oil took care of that. Besides, how can I complain for 9 Euros?! I opt for the red house wine, skip the dessert, and have coffee at the end. It was a good, big lunch.

Time to head to the metro station - which I do at about 2pm. I feel a bit of anxiety for the time, but that quickly passes as I realize the metro will take about 20 minutes maximum and 2 minutes to get through security to my train at Sants Station. This is just what happens - EXCEPT I went to the wrong waiting area, realizing my mistake about 10 minutes before the train leaves and still get there with 8 minutes to spare. Isn't traveling by train great?

My tourist-class car is about half full upon leaving but fills to the maximum in Zaragoza, the only stop along the AVE Barcelona-Madrid route. There's a group of 8 teenagers SEATED in the middle of the aisle in the section between train cars where the toilets are, all playing cards and shouting for the good-or-bad of the game, smacking each other on the head and making all the passengers' heads turn whenever the car doors open. Passing-through passengers literally climb through the game and it never occurs to the kids that they're in everyone's way.

FINALLY, after about 20 minutes of this ruckus, the angry, 50-something train attendant sternly throws them out, marching them all past me, presumably to their seats. I was wishing he'd throw them OFF the speeding train! I thought, man, ONLY in Spain would youngsters brazenly sit in the aisle, totally blocking pedestrian traffic and never think they were causing any trouble. Not their problem, after all. My dad would be proud hearing me repeat his words, "Kids these days."
The nearly 3 hour train ride speeds as I work on this blog and look over trip photos, never once looking up to see what awful Hollywood action movie they're showing on the monitor. My only "break" has been to use the restroom once in the car's "Play Space".

My train arrives in Madrid about 30 minutes from now but we're still traveling at nearly 300 Km/h over flat terrain. It's cloudy, yet again, but I'm happy to be returning home. I only wish my time in Barcelona could've offered nicer weather to get better photos for that I'm a bit disappointed. But it was still interesting. I saw some new things, made some new contacts, tried some new pensiones, and the Alimentaria Barcelona 2010 "scene" was definitely an experience. I can only hope to return to Barcelona again soon.
Final Barcelona Thoughts:
We've all read the cautionary tales about rampant crime, pickpockets and prostitution in Barcelona. But in all my 6 nights, 7-days there I didn't once experience or witness any crime of any kind - but I did see only a few prostitutes. (Remember, prostitution is legal in Spain) Besides, what with the rain and cool temperatures it wasn't exactly "hooking weather".

The food was good enough although my standards aren't exactly high. I rarely choose higher-bill restaurants. Lunches were nearly always basic foods chosen from a "menú del día" and dinners mainly consisted of a couple of "raciones" or "tapas" and an equal (or greater) number of beers to make up a lighter dinner. Just good food at good prices and in comfortable environments.
The weather rarely cooperated. Keep in mind I visited March, clearly part of the rainy season, but coastal forecasts are always unpredictable. Next time I'll try returning in the autumn after the tropical summer passes, when it's less humid yet still green.

Look soon for individual reviews on Hostal Martin, Pension Bahia, and Pension Plaza de Goya, each posted in this chronological order, one entry per day. At the very end I'll also post a number of new photos not yet seen in the previous blog entries.

Thanks for following along with BarcelonaMan!

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