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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Day 2 Barcelona Trip Review 2010

What a busy day. I got up at 8:15am and went across the street from Hostal Martina for an early breakfast of pan tostado con aceite. Later, I realized it would've been customary to request tomato too, but next time. I'd slept little because I was up so late writing, editing, and making photos for last night's blog entry. And so here we go again tonight. I'm tired. Very tired. Had a long, busy day, much of it spent on my feet.

After breakfast I went directly to the Plaça de Catalunya where I went downstairs in the south eastern corner to the Barcelona Tourist Center. That's not only the main location for tourist information but also to arrange and meet for tours. This morning I was there to take the 10am "Gourmet Barcelona Walking Tour", detailing Barcelona's and Catalonia's most common foods and drinks.

I'd hustled to the information center at 9:45am as expected and then waited another 15 minutes for the tour to start, get instruction about how to turn on and use the individual audio devices. Cristina, our Catalan guide, gave our 2-hour tour in English, which is available only on Fridays and Saturdays at 10am.

Cristina gave me permission to take her photo and use it on the internet. She was a very good, pleasant tour guide and her English was certainly good enough for us to understand her through her microphone and broadcast to our group of 7 persons.

She took us directly down Las Ramblas and through El Raval neighborhood to enter the Mercat de la Boqueria from the "right side". She walked us through, pointed out the typical fruits as well as those which were imported, explained the different types of ham, told about the seasonal "pilgrimages" to collect mushrooms in the mountains, explained how much and how often Spaniards and Catalonians eat fish, and surprised us all with a container of fresh fruit upon leaving the Boqueria Market.

Next, we crossed over into the Gothic Quarter and walked up one street and down the other, stopping at a number of chocolate shops, shops for churros, shops for wines, and other shops for health foods. We ended the gastronomical tour in the other market, recently renovated, the Catalina Market where Cristina presented us all with ticket to have 2 pintxos and a drink at the cafe in the market for free. What a nice detail!

After the wonderful Barcelona food tour I returned to my hostal where I got my thing together to head off to Sitges for the afternoon. Upon arriving by metro to SANTS station, I then began the confusing process of finding out where in the heck the dark green line 2 was. Looking high and low I couldn't find it, just a monitor with confusing directions, so I asked at the information counter and the older woman told me, surprisingly in English, that it left from Via 7. The monitors do not show the line number or color, ONLY the end-stop, and from that you determine your line/via. Happily, walked down the escalator and my regional ceranias train was just arriving. I was nervous. Was THIS the correct train? I wouldn't know until the first stop, to compare to my cercanias regional train map. Sure enough, I was on the right train. Thank goodness.

The train ride, which cost a mere 3 Euros, lasted only 30 minutes maximum to Sitges, a town which has only one station and one cercanias stop. There, a couple of friends were waiting for me and they commenced to tour me around old downtown Sitges and take me from one pintxos bar after another as we talked about life and living in Spain. They're a mixed nationalit couple, one from Finland/England and the other from Spain and they have a small baby which is just adorable.

Sitges is nice. I like it a lot. It seems like a normal town at first glance but upon further inspection you realize it has a certain poshness about it too. They say Sitges is where all the rich and famous live, many business tycoons and Barcelona football players live in the Sitges hills, all with Mediterranean views. Nice. It was a cool, mostly cloudy day but at least it didn't rain more than a few sprinkles. Even with that, there was a very active volleyball tournament taking place across several courts on one of the Sitges Beaches.

We said our goodbyes back at the train station where I got the cercanias train back to Barcelona about 15 minutes after buying the 3 Euro ticket. The double-decker train was almost empty so I had my choice of seats and chose one on the top deck. Getting back to Sants Station, I had to change cercanias trains again for one going to the Plaza de Catalunya, something I didn't realize I could do on the trip out. That was also confusing, trying to figure out which train/via I needed to go from one line to another but I got it right on my first try.

Upon walking up the station steps to the Plaza de Catalunya I realized it was lightly raining, but not enough so that I'd need an umbrella. My walk back to the hostal was slow and my feet hurt, but not enough to keep me from stopping at a bar near my hostal for a couple beers and an order of patatas bravas - which are quite different from those served in Madrid. These are made with a spicy white sauce and is tasty.

I'd arrived at Hostal Martina by about 8pm and saw María, the owner, immediately. She then took me on the grand tour of the entire hostal. I'd seen many of the rooms a few years ago during my last stay but some changes had been made and she was keen to show me. This place is really nice. I'll tell you about it tomorrow night - if I have internet at Pension Bahia, my next lodging establishment. But for now, I'm just going to bed early. Breakfast is served here at the hostal at 9am and I have the "Gothic Barcelona Walking Tour" tomorrow morning at 10am so I'll have to eat fast. Goodnight!