Ok, not even 2 days, but long enough to know that I want to go back again. I wrote this blog on the train to Toulouse and will post it when I find some wifi.
I arrived via Ryan Air (see note below) at the Baracelona xx Airport and was whisked to the xxx, in the centre of Barcelona and a 10 min walk to my hostel for only 5.65 €. It was just after noon when I settled into my new digs and set out to explore. The first thing I had to do was buy a new camera as the one I had brought somehow had developed a black cloud over one spot on the frame. The camera guy said it was a malfunction of the sensor and couldn't be repaired. The good news is that I was able to purchase a new one - one model up an SX230 - tax free - for 210 €. I was told the price was much reduced since the model came out last year and it certainly was cheaper, as I recall, than the old one I bought just over a year ago. This model features a GPS and so records the location of each picture taken. More importantly to me, I could use the accessories I had for my old camera and best, I don't have to spend time reading the manual.
The Rick Steve's Guide recommends the city bus tours and after looking at the extensive routes for the hop on, hop off double decker bus ride, I purchased a 2 day ticket for 24€, deciding to focus on the north or blue route on day 1 and the south or red route on day 2. The blue route essentially covered buildings which were architected by Goudy and other modernista architects.
Barcelona is a tremendously interesting city architecturally. From wiki:
Barcelona is today one of the world's leading tourist, economic, trade fair/exhibitions and cultural-sports centres, and its influence in commerce, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science, and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world's major global cities.
From the reading I have done, the city may have originated as early as 3 BC and in about 15 BC the Romans redew the town as Castrum. Between 1885 and 1950 the Catalan modernista architects, such as Antoni Gaudi and Lluis Domenechi I Montaner, their work was related to Art Noiveau in the rest of Europe and it left a major legacy in Barcelona. The result is a city which is wonderful to behold by tourists as it is full of magical buildings.
I found this picture of the Sagrada Família with the cranes digitally removed. Gives you a better idea of what he had designed.
After an hour or so on the bus I began to feel a bit sick so I headed back to the hostel to rest. Unfortunately, I think I picked up a little bit of a flu because I ended up in bed for the rest of the day with fever, chills and stomach cramps. I started to feel better during the night and rested easier knowing I would be able to set out to explore Barcelona in the morning.
The hostel was pretty good. I had booked a room in a 4 bed dorm but lucked out with a large 3 bed room with a private balcony. My roommate was a young girl from Scandanavia who had been working in Spain and was visiting friends in Barcelona and attending a rock and alternative music festival for a few days. So she was out most of the night and I pretty much had the room to myself. Not that it would have mattered - I was dead to the world for most of the evening and night.
On Friday morning I felt much better and left to check out the Barcelona Touristica's Red route. The hop on hop bus was perfect as I needed to go to the Sants train station to get information regarding my train trip tomorrow and it was one of the stops. Barcelona sits between two large hills and route took us up to a great vantage point on the hill which also served as a stop on the cable car ride down to the Harbour and Barcelona's World Trade Centre. It would have been nice to have gone on the cable car and I guess that is a reason as good as any to plan to return to Barcelona.
As it was, I was able to get off thie tourist bus and see the panoramic view of the city and in particular see the towers of Gaudi's work in progress, Sagrada Família. Construction is slow as it continues at the pace dictated by the amount of donations made to finance it. When finished there will be 18 towers in all. Interestingly, as I flew into the city I was able to see the distinctive towers spiraling above the Barcelona skyline.
My zoom lense allowed me to take this photo of the towers.
After getting a bird's eye view of the city, the bus whisked off down the hill and we toured the harbour area. There were many things to see.
The Columbus statue is the largest one in the world, which is appropriate since it was here that he arrived to tell Queen Isabella about his discovery of the new world.
After a drive by of the Barcelona beaches we turned back and headed to the Bari Gothic, in the old city. Here I took the opportunity to go to the Piccasso museum. His work was presented chronologically and here I saw how his work progressed from his more realistic portraiture during the late 1800s to the impressionistic and avant guard work through the 1900s.
From here I moved on to The Rambla, Barcelona's main street, (actually 5 streets joined together)- but it is a main street like I have never seen. It winds down from the Plaza Catalunia to the Harbour, but it's more pedestrian walkway than road as there is only a single lane of traffic, either side of the wide pedestrian boulevard down the middle.
I stopped and ordered a sangria and a bowl of gaspacho and watched the world go by. I was struck by how much of the city is geared to being outside, with the numerous plazas and outdoor cafes and this wonderful Rambla.
On my way home I stopped at a cafe and ordered what turned out to be decidedly mediocre pizza and saved half of it for my lunch on the train tomorrow. My research told me that there is no service on the train and I will be traveling all day and didn't want to be without food.
Stay tuned - tomorrow is over the Pyrenees.