Sunday, August 31, 2008

2008 Barcelona Trip

Last year when we were returning from Rome we were joking about going to Barcelona next year. Well, that actually happened and this time with much better planning. Unlike the last time when all the arrangements were made during the last week, which delayed our departure with a couple of days not mentioning the cost, we managed to make all the bookings a month in advance. That’s a big improvement for us if you know us.

Well, part of the credit goes to me for sure since the travel agency was no help. First, the plane tickets they proposed had horrendous departing and arrival hours. We agreed none of those flights were convenient so after just forty minutes online I found tickets to a Spanish airline with decent traveling hours, no stops, and a price close enough to work for us. We had to delay our departure with one day, we changed the leaving and returning on Saturday for Sunday, but even that worked in our favor and you’ll see soon why.

For the lodging, after our experiences in Greece and Rome we had decided an apartment suited us better than a hotel, I had made a list with apartments that we preferred, they had to be in the Old City, in Gotico if possible, and close to La Rambla too, and I had left it to dad before leaving to grandma’s for two weeks. The agency had to check the availability of the flats and the existence of an elevator and then make the booking but of course they managed to screw up that too. We ended up on the left side of La Rambla in Plaza Vicente Martorell, luckily close to Plaza Catalunya and not too far into El Raval.

So that settled all was left to do was packing. Usually when we go somewhere it feels like moving with all the stuff we carry with us. Another thing to be proud of, we only needed one suitcase, one bag and one backpack for once. The bag was only half filled with food so that could have gone too, but the food was going to be needed at least during the first day until we learned our way around the city. Even with that light packing we worried about how it was going to fit in the car ‘cause, you see, we had to travel all the way to Bucharest and with our Peugeot being in the repair shop to have fixed the damage done to it during a crash while we were leaving for Greece two years ago, don’t ask me why it’s being repaired only now, ask dad, we had to take the Chevrolet Spark, the lady bird as I call it. Now can you imagine a car by the size of a match box? That’s how it feels inside. Mom’s car is better fit for city traffic than the Peugeot monster, must be the reason why dad borrows it so often, and it survived the trip to grandma so it was going to do.

The plan was to leave early morning on Sunday, around 4 AM, good heavens what’s wrong with these people you wonder and so do I, and then drive straight to the airport. This being said it would have been recommended to go to bed early the previous night and get some sleep, but how could one do that when packing wasn’t finished and it was Prestige running on TV? Pass on seeing Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman on the same screen even though I had seen it three or four times before already, I don’t think so. When I went to bed around midnight mom was still not done and arranging things around the house. It was a full moon eclipse scheduled that night but we missed it because of all the packing.

Sunday, 17.08.2008

Since we’d said we’d leave at 4, little brother came to wake us all at 3:30. I don’t think I slept more than two hours and I doubt he slept at all. Good thing mom sent him back to bed until 4. By 5 we were ready to leave the apartment, plants watered, cat fed, turtles brought inside. The cat had slept on top of the suitcase, the poor thing starts to panic when she sees one, and as soon as I got up she climbed into my lap and refused to get down. At 5:30 we were finally leaving the parking lot.

Part of the road was the same as when we went to visit grandma so we were familiar with it, the other part was long and boring. I never liked going to Bucharest, it takes too long and there are no interesting things to see outside. Being Sunday though, and morning, the road was more crowded on the other side while the traffic was rather good for.

At noon we stopped before arriving at the airport and ate and only then we went to the airport. Not long after we got there my cousin and her husband came to join us, they were supposed to take our car and park it in front of their building for the week, and they made us a nice surprise as they brought my aunt with them. We chatted and caught up for an hour or so until it was time to check in.

This was the big and recently reopened airport, not the small one from last year, and we walked around for a bit, a large part of it is still being remodeled, and it doesn’t look anything like it did years ago. While we waited we spotted Petre Roman, an old politician and very much liked by the ladies, dressed in pink and probably leaving on vacation, and a couple of our neighbors from upstairs.

The flight lasted for three hours, rather long, and I had worried my ears might hurt but they didn’t and I didn’t get nausea either, in fact it was more comfortable than last year. We took a taxi and arrived with no problem to Plaza Vincente Martorell a little after 8. This is a rather small quiet square with some trees and a park in the middle. We called the contact number we had been given and a few minutes later two young men arrived on a bike. The one with the papers introduced himself as Benoit, later we realized he was French, and he led us to the apartment.

The elevator was smaller than the one at home and everyone in the building could hear it when someone opened or closed the doors. Everything was built on the narrow side including the corridor, the entrance, kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms and let’s not even talk about the balcony or terrace. The whole place could use a fresh paint but what was worse was the smell, you know that heavy smell of a place that hasn’t been aired in several days. We paid the deposit in case of damages, it was big enough to afford us at least two extra days of staying, and we were told that all we had to do before leaving was to wash the dishes, take out the garbage and leave the keys on the table. Ah, bon.

The first thing we did after they left was to open all windows and turn on the fans, not the A/C because we don’t like that, although there was one in each room and they were even working. Dad, who has the most sensitive nose from all of us, put some liquid soap in bowls with water placed in each room and the atmosphere became a little more bearable.

We ate and at 11 we went out for a walk. There were lots of people on La Rambla, mainly tourists, living statues and guys selling beer. It was terribly crowded, still it only took us fifteen minutes to get to the shore. We went on La Rambla del Mar up to Maremagnum and from there back home and to bed around 1 AM. Before getting back home I had already decided I love Barcelona.

Both bedrooms contained just one old big and heavy wardrobe, a large enough bed, two nightstands and a chair, the only difference being that ours had the walls painted in dark purple-brown and only one light worked on the ceiling. We found spare lightbulbs in a cupboard but there was no way to reach the ceiling, it was too damn high. Mom refused to put any clothes in the wardrobe so they spent the entire week laying on chairs and armchairs. The bad smell persisted and we went to sleep with the windows open. Bad idea, we couldn’t sleep all night because of the noise coming from outside in the square. The Spanish people are so loud!

Monday, 18.08.2008

When we woke up we were so tired we walked around like zombies. It also must be said that regardless the hour when we woke up I dunno how it happened but we usually left the apartment between 11 and 12 and only once we managed to go out at 10.

Mom and dad had gone to La Boqueria market, which was close to us, while little brother and I were still sleeping and they brought fresh vegetable. We had a big omelet for breakfast with salad and for the first time in a couple of years I ate tomatoes without my stomach hurting. I love their tomatoes.

Just noticed it takes too long to write a detailed description of our trip because there are so many things to say so I’m reverting to the old system.

- first impression: the streets are too crowded.
- too many tourists; I think the amount of Spanish and French I heard spoken are about equal in quantity; also heard English, Russian, German and some other East European language, not as much Romanian as expected.
- too many emigrants and people without a job or purpose in life; no, selling beer on La Rambla at night isn’t a good career making move; selling fake purses isn’t either.
- bad draining system, too close to the surface, the smell that comes out is ewww…
- polite and cautious drivers, they don’t swear at you if the light changed and you’re still crossing the street.
- loved the pavement, sidewalks and the special places to get off the sidewalk, better than in either Greece or Rome; this might be wheelchairs’ heaven and I’ve seen plenty of those, even one that could rise to talk at the same level with the accompanying person without yelling or twisting your neck.
- loved the weather, hot but with the breeze it wasn’t suffocating at all but just niiiiice.
- ok, enough comments for now, I’ll add more as we go.
- first we went to Place Catalunya, the center of the city.
- not impressed, the center platform was okay, but there’s nothing special about it.
- we walked around a full circle looking for a tourist information center a friend had told us about and couldn’t find it.
- eventually we gave up and entered Gotico.
- now that I liked, old narrow streets bordered by cute little shops.
- we walked around the Cathedral, there were works being done at the entrance so we didn’t enter.
- we found a tourist information center on a street in the back and we asked about the museums opening hours.
- stop to eat our sandwiches on the steps behind that and check the flyers they gave us.
- off to the aquarium after a short walk on the shoreline; it was nice but somehow I expected it to be more impressive; kinda disappointed when dad pointed out that one of the plants in an aquarium was plastic being attached with a cord to the rocky wall; the part where there was water all around and fish swam above our heads was nice though; got separated from dad and little brother on our way out so we missed the penguins.
- entered La Boqueria; bought fresh juices with 2 euros a glass and after walking around for twenty minutes we found a stand that sold two glasses for 1 euro, it was close to closing time, so we bought another round; also bought a bottle of Spanish wine, didn’t like it.
- another evening walk on La Rambla.
- we were wise enough to sleep with the windows closed from that night on, but kept the door and those in the living room open.

Tuesday, 19.08.2008

- Gaudi day
- we exited our square on the opposite side and started up north; the Faculty of Geography and History was just up the street and we joked about sending little brother to study there.
- first stop Casa Batllo; nice exterior but creepy with the bone-like façade; the ticket waiting line was too long and we didn’t want to waste time there.
- we waited in a twice as long line to enter Casa Mila – La Pedrera; really loved this one, the seashell-like exterior, the attic with its big arches, the apartment, the interior yard, though I was less fond of the roof terrace, auch; the Japanese exhibition from the first floor was also interesting, I think we have an art album with some of those paintings; should have heard mom’s comments in the erotic section.
- off to Sagrada Familia; big restoring works are being done and more than half of the inside is blocked from tourist access; I liked the big stained windows and the big volume is impressive but as a whole I didn’t like it much, the new sculpted façade and entrance is disgustingly grotesque with its modern style, and for me it will always look like giant ant nests; let dad and little brother to wait in the longest line ever and climb the stairs to go on top while mom and I ate our sandwiches for a late lunch and fed a pigeon with almost half of one right inside the church; the museum was nice.
- we did a wide detour on our way back to catch a glimpse of Akbar; a bunch of rude kids came to dad arguing why did he take their picture, but come on, he’s an architect, who do you think he’d rather photograph, a group of kids wearing football t-shirts or the Akbar tower?
- we passed by the Arc de Triumf and returned home through Gotico.
- tried to catch up with the Olympic Games on TV but they only showed the Spanish athletes so that was no help; at first I didn’t understand why I didn’t understand much of what it was being said but then I realized they were speaking in Catalan and not the Spanish I was used to.
- too tired to go out again so we went to bed.

Wednesday, 20.08.2008

- this was an interesting filled with art day.
- we had planned to visit El Raval; before entering we visited a market surrounded by clothes stands, but we didn’t find anything to buy and mom declared prices were higher than in the market closer to home.
- someone should have warn us about El Raval, that really is a bad neighborhood; we came this close to have a really bad experience; we stopped in a small square to wait on a bench until dad finished taking his pictures and first a black man came to rest against a lamp post then a white guy who could have passed for a tourist got closer too; they kept looking at us and mom nearly peed her pants; the moment dad joined us they left, if that isn’t suspicious behavior then I don’t what it is.
- only a few moments later mom panicked again, one moment she was scolding little brother for some reason and the next he was gone from our side; it turned out he’d gone to dad being sick of listening to her but what a scare, even more later when dad told us he’d just seen a junkie injecting himself in the street.
- as we’d had enough with El Raval we decided to visit the Contemporary Art Museum; I just loved the building, it’s made by same architect who made the white cube in Rome where the Valentino collection was stored last year; neither of us liked any of the exhibitions, the woman was obsessed with sex and the man with war, but that’s not surprising since all the works dated from the 70’s.
- we visited the bookstore that was part of the museum; dad was in heaven with all the architecture books, mom was in hell when she was looking at the prices.
- then we rested for a bit in the square in front of the museum and watched the kids with skateboards putting on a show; there were a few very good, if you can ignore the loud noise made by the boards hitting the ground; little brother was paying attention trying to learn some schemes, and mom announced she wanted one to carry the bags from the market with it like she’d seen a girl do; in Greece she wanted a motorcycle, and last year a Smart, so now it’s better, we can afford a skateboard.
- a quick stop home to eat our sandwiches and then we hurried to see Picasso Museum; I wouldn’t take a famous Picasso painting even if it was given for free, but I loved his early works when he was painting real human beings and not some sort of abstract of a mutant, now that’s an artist!
- we visited Maria del Mar church just before closing and I liked it better than Sagrada Familia.
- in the evening we happened to run into a small modern painting exhibition which frankly I liked the best of them all.
- on our way home we stopped to several supermarkets to buy ice cream but they were either just closing or didn’t have the brand mom wanted.
- heard about the tragic plane crash happened in Madrid, uhhh.

Thursday, 21.08.2008

- in the morning mom and dad went to the market again and bought a rabbit, yey! I haven’t eaten rabbit meat in years and I like it very much; there was also a Carrefour even closer than the market so there was no danger of us starving.
- after getting sick and tired of waiting for dad to take his photos, getting lost and calling him to find out where he was, wasting a lot of money that way, before going out we made him mark the road on two maps and gave him one while we kept the other one with us.
- by the time we left for Park Guel tourist were already returning; there’s a long way to get there and kinda abrupt but it was well worth it; it was cloudy when we left and the sun came out just when we arrived there; I loved the park, the buildings, the rocks, the vegetations, the mosaics; I would have loved it even better if there had been less tourists, it was packed and about half of them were Romanians I reckon.
- lunch break in the park where we fed more pigeons.
- we returned through Gracia; must have been some sort of celebration day ‘cause several streets were heavily decorate, one with butterflies hanged above, one with cardboard kids in dark blue t-shirts, one with wrestlers posters, one with mannequins made of transparent plastic to look like ice, etc.
- bought two pizzas on the way to cook at home.
- in the evening the boys entered to visit a Dali exhibition, but us, the girls, preferred to wait outside and visit some stores instead; I don’t like Dali, another obsessed guy, but after looking at the photos they took I kinda regret I didn’t enter, the works weren’t among his famous paintings but mostly sketches and not bad at all.
- we found ice cream, yey, and we ate it in Place Catalunya; watched the purse vendors run away like a monkey herd when the police arrived.
- we ate rabbit for dinner.

Friday, 22.08.2008

- realized mom and I got sunburns from the previous day spent in the park; technical problems slowed us down all day.
- through Gotico, around Barcelonetta, to the beach and from there to the telecar tower.
- two hours of waiting to get on the other side on the mountain; there were four very tall Scandinavian guys waiting in line before us and little brother wanted to know how did they grow up so tall, we assured him they did a lot of sport that didn’t include regular trips to the fridge.
- after we got off the platform we stopped in a small park to eat and of course feed the pigeons, I could swear they were stalking us; furthermore I think I saw at least ten cats there.
- stopped by the Olympic pool on the way down hill to see it.
- visited Juan Miro Museum and froze inside, it was much warmer outside although it was preparing to rain; after this last museum little brother became firmly convinced that all artists were nuts.
- stopped by the football stadium and San Jordi Palace; liked the television tower.
- we arrived to the Magical Fountain just in time to occupy the last empty places on the stairs in front; the first half an hour only the light and water shape changed so when it stopped we thought it was over and prepared to leave, but then it started again with music; the first classical piece I didn’t recognize, then there was Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On without lyrics though, then something I often hear at skating competitions, then something from a 50’s or 60’s movie soundtrack, and it ended with Barcelona sung by Freddie Mercury and Montserat Caballe, wheeee; we were preparing to leave again when the second show started, different music, more opera this time, but I can’t swear the water and lights show wasn’t the same.
- by the time we got to Place d’Espana it was raining for real so we run and hurried home; people we giving us odd looks being the only ones running like crazy and hiding under an umbrella while everyone else had gathered in store entrances waiting for the rain to pass.
- we were soaking wet when we arrived to the apartment; I got the proof that my new shoes were waterproof, meaning that all the water that had run down my legs had gathered inside and I felt like swimming in them; I had to take a hot shower because I was frozen and then I borrowed little brother’s jacket and we turned the A/C to hot; it’s a miracle I didn’t catch a cold.
- we ate the pizza bought the previous day, one was so so, the other one was disgusting.

Saturday, 23.08.2008

- watched reports about the atypical storm from the previous night; no, we didn’t appear on TV.
- a slow day, started with Gotico, bought some books about Barcelona for home, visited another market, quite a nice one, to the Arc de Triumf, got ice cream, visited the Olympic Village, saw again the Akbar aka “the vibrator” from closer, it looked even worse.
- saw perouches eating with pigeons.
- saw National Theatre of Catalunya.
- it was getting clouded and the wind started making me feel cold.
- when I looked for my long sleeve blouse I discovered I had forgotten it at home, so we headed back along the shore.
- noticed more Romanians in town during the weekend.
- once we entered Gotico it was warm again and we stopped to do some shopping; mom got a big pink and white striped purse, dad got a shirt, and little brother a short necklace, I bet he didn’t think how it would look like once he changed his t-shirt.
- they nagged me about getting something for myself but I couldn’t find anything that I really liked and with a good price; we even entered a jewelry store to see if I could find to add a ring to my collection of rings from foreign countries but none of them appealed to me and one ring with emeralds was ridiculously thin even compared to my regular thin rings.
- we went home to eat because there was still food left in the fridge and then we went out again.
- down La Rambla to the sea and on to La Rambla del Mar to Maremagnum, the same road as during the first night, where mom and dad had a beer, little brother had ice cream with macadamia nuts and I had Cream Catalan, mom make’s it better.
- back home we packed our luggage.

Sunday, 24.08.2008

- easily found a taxi to take us to the airport; lots of Romanians going home there.
- the flight back was much more bumpy, the pilot must have been dancing salsa in the cabin, and I got nausea the last half an hour before landing.
- the heat in Bucharest was suffocating and I already missed the wonderful weather from Barcelona.
- my cousin and her husband were waiting for us having brought back the car; she also made a very good pizza for us and prune pie.
- around 6:30 we were leaving Bucharest; stopped to eat shortly; the opposite side of the road was packed but our line was nearly empty so dad drove without too many sudden breaks and we arrived home at 12:30 AM to a very distressed cat.

OK, I think I’m done. I’m sure there are lots of things I forgot mentioning but I’ll stop here. I went through all 4 GB of photos and made a small selection so now I’m working on uploading them.

Not sure where we’ll go next summer. Personally I’d like Vienna, mom also said something about Budapest, but it’s nothing settled so far. One thing is sure though, there won’t be just seven days, but ten. Yes! Until then be good all.

See ya!


Anonymous said...

Well, let me congratulate you on the way you explain your experience, it may help other visitors for sure.
As for what to do and places to stay, there are lots of websites to find out about it, some, like ours, are locally managed and researched. We are a travel agent... but a local one, so you can ask our people about tips, and if you let us know clearly what you want, we can help (is there a lift or not in your Barcelona apartment, etc...)

Weird Vision said...

Thank you, we may try it next time. :)