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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Day 3 Barcelona Trip Review 2010

Today wasn't a total bust - but it wasn't far off either. I got up a bit earlier to get my suitcase ready for departure from Hostal Martina, shower, and have breakfast in their breakfast room. At mid-day I moved to Pension Bahia, my next lodging establishment for 2 nights. But first I had the "Gothic Walking Tour" given in English by the Barcelona Tourist Office. I was looking forward to that.Yes, I left the hostal a little late but still arrived 10 minutes before the 10am departure. Hmmm.. No one's at the Walking Tours counter. So I go to the other counter and the woman tells me it does NOT leave from the Plaza de Catalunya but, instead, from the Plaza de Jaume I about 5 minutes away. By the time I exited the underground tourist office it was already 5 minutes before 10am but I made my way in that direction, not really sure where I was going. Well, needless to say I never found the plaza because walking tours map the woman gave me doesn't show the street names on it and I'd left my other city map back at Hostal Martina, ready for the move. Hmmm.. So I created my own little Gothic Quarter Tour and walked up and down narrow, empty pedestrian streets on this Sunday morning, dodging the pesky flies.

I actually had quite nice morning even though it was exceptionally cool in the gothic quarter, all that stone pavement and stone walls surrounding you, my breath was fogging up my glasses as I walked, in fact. After an hour of this I was tired and stopped at the Granja Dulcinea on the Carrer Petritxol, 2 - the place our Gourmet Barcelona Tour guide showed us just yesterday, and also the place where I'd visited more than 10 years earlier on my first visit to Barcelona. And I ordered the exact same thing today as I did then; "crema catalana" and a cafe con leche. Although I realized that 11am is NOT the proper time to be eating Crema Catalana I had to order it, I was there, and they're known for their "crema catalana" as well as their Xurros con Chocolate (yes, "churros" with an "X"). But since I'm not such a fan of the latter, I ordered the former. The Granja Dulcinea is a nice old place, founded in 1803 and it looks every year of it. The bathrooms were literally the size of broom closets and the tiny, common sink was just outside, across from the coffee maker.

Rested, I paid and made my way to the Plaça Reial where their Sunday Flee Market was taking place. The Plaza was buzzing so I didn't stay and instead walked down Las Ramblas. It never ceases to amaze me how often we/I see American teenagers in their knee-length shorts, tennis shoes, and sweatshirts on a cold winters (still) day in Spain. What were they thinking when they packed their suitcases?!

My plan was to make a reservation for the Tablao Cordobes on Las Ramblas so I went upstairs and spoke with the man in charge. I asked him if he had a space available for me for tonight and he said he did. I flashed him my Barcelona Press Card and he said that with that I'd get a whopping 20% off - the regular price is 37 Euros per person for the show plus drink. I passed, feeling a bit deceived that they were listed in the "free pass" list for those with the Barcelona Press Card. Oh well, I have another flamenco show, Palacio del Flamenco, reserved on Tuesday night.
Since I was more-or-less in the neighborhood, I decided to check in to my next place of lodging, Pension Bahia, towards the top of Las Ramblas. Almost immediately after seeing my room, I headed back out and back to Hostal Martina to not only collect my suitcase but also to see more of the hostal which wasn't ready to see before. After the tour, I said my goodbyes and offered my sincerest thanks for a wonderful 2 night stay. Back to the Pension Bahia with my suitcase, rolling noisily across the tiles and make it to my pension 15 minutes later.
Now I'm hungry and it's already 2pm so I literally walk circles around the Plaza de Catalunya looking for a simple sandwich shop and can't find anything which A) has a short line and B) gives take-out sandwiches. I must have spent 45 minutes looking for a place. Where are all the cervecerias in this town?? I dart into El Raval where I find a bakery which has hand-made, plastic wrapped sandwiches so I get one and go back to the Plaza de Catalunya.

I decided to try going up to the amusement park peak of Mount Tibidabo. This was my only opportunity as the Tramvia Blau cable car only runs up the Avinguda del Tibidabo on Saturdays and Sundays during the "winter months" so here was my chance. I took the L7 train (not metro, but my T10 pass is good for these local trains too) from Plaza de Catalunya to the Avinguda del Tibidabo and ate the sandwich on the way, then crossed the street upon arriving and there was the blue Tramvia pulling away so I'd have to wait 'til the next one. No problem. I'd get my choice of window seats since I was first in line. While waiting, heeeere comes a large group of Germans towards me, they crowd around me, no queuing or any form of a line, just a mob. I tried to tell one, in English, that *I* started the line and the tram would be there in 20 minutes. She nodded her affirmation and nothing changed. No order whatsover. The tram came and everyone pushed for the door - but I didn't realize the entry door was the one on the down-slope so I was out of position and the others, which were "Johnny Come Latelys", got on first and took all the good seats. Common queuing courtesy went out the window.

So we all get up to the first level of Tibidabo where the funicular is located. The Germans, being their first visit, didn't know where to go - but I did and made a beeline to the ticket line. And don't think they weren't quick to follow ME. Ha! Eat my dust! The funicular tickets are 4 Euros for the go-and-return ticket. I paid it and got my choice of seats. Once up top, next to the Amusement park is the beautiful Sagrat Cor Church (beautiful inside and out!). You can go to the top of the church in the elevator (2 Euros) but today there wasn't much point, it was misty, foggy, windy, and darn cold and not likely to see anything from up above. As it was, I couldn't even see the coast line, barely making out Barcelona's skyline.

Needless to say, I didn't stay on Tibidabo very long and took the funicular back down 30 minutes after arriving. Got the waiting Tramvia Blau back down to get the L7 train at its end point at Avinguda del Tibidabo to Plaza de Catalunya once again.

NOW it's raining and I pull out my umbrella and think. What's a good thing to do on a rainy day? Aha! A museum! Or... Antonio Gaudi's Casa Batlló!! Got there and apparently everyone else had the same idea so I had to wait in line for about 20 minutes. The Casa Batlló is REALLY something special. Definitely a MUST-SEE, although it's expensive at 17.80 Euros per person. Luckily, my Barcelona Press Card got me in for free. I took A LOT of photos, really pretty photos, and left happy with my new collection of inside, rooftop, and outside photos just after the lights turned on the façade. It was then when I was walking away that I realized that... get this.... back in the Avinguda del Tibidabo train station, while waiting for the train, I was taking some silly photos of the signs and of myself in the mirror and, as I said, silly stuff. And when I take such silly photos I always take them in low-resolution to save memory card space, and took these at 640 by 480 pixels - and FORGOT to change it BACK to HIGH resolution! So all those "great" Casa Batlló photos were taken in low resolution, not even big enough to make a banner for the website - and that was my plan for some of them. Guess that means now I have to return but will have to go at the same hour to have the same light. UGH!!!!! What an idiot. What a waste of time. Sure, it was beautiful and I got in free, but come on! Now I have to go back and do it all again!!!

I'm frustrated, angry with myself, a little hungry, and nearly desperate for a big, cold mug of beer. Again, this town must only have ONE cerveceria - and I still haven't found it. I walked for an hour and a half looking for a suitable, basic bar with bar food and beer, walked much of the upper Gothic Quarter and El Raval too. Sure, there are lots of nice, somewhat fancy restaurants and loads of places for pintxos but they were all high-style-types and I wanted something more no-nonsense. Again, I walked for-ever until I found one place in El Raval which LOOKED like what I wanted - but was far from it. Sure, the beer was cold and good but the bocadillo de calamares was not only VERY chewy but I counted ONLY 7 rings of squid - and two of those were very small!! The ones at El Brillante in Madrid are so much better, bigger, and cheaper. So there!

Somewhat fed, less angry with myself after the mega-beer, and still under rainy skies, I decide to go back to the Pension Bahia at 8pm and get to work writing my blogs. No Internet here, unfortunately, so the posting will have to wait until who-knows-when.

Tomorrow starts the Alimentaria Barcelona International Food & Beverage Exposition! That should be nice. Gotta work in another visit to the Casa Batlló sometime this week, as well as a visit to Gaudi's La Pedrera and Sagrada Familia temple, Poble Espanyol, the Gracia neighborhood, and a few museums too. Man, I just don't see how I'm going to be able to get it all done - but I'll try!!!