Barcelona and Friends
- written by Kiri and Tasha
After crossing the border between France and Spain, we had to change from the French train to a Spanish train, on which they made all announcements in four languages, including English. When we arrived in the Barcelona train station, we had to find our way to the subway – in Spanish! Fortunately, Tasha had looked up the phrase “where is…?” And luckily, there is a metro stop that joins the train station. (European cities tend to be public transit oriented.) Kiri figured out how to buy a ticket from the machine, and which line went in which direction… When we got to our stop we had a little trouble finding the B&B that Andrea Booth had booked for us all, because there were two buildings with the same number on the same street (and they weren’t even beside each other). But in the end, we settled in to our new home, with its helpful English-speaking host, and all turned out well.
To profit from the remainder of the sunny afternoon, we took the subway down to the seashore (the Mediterranean Sea, yahoo!) and walked along the beach. Barcelona has miles of public beaches. It’s great that they have kept access to the sea public! Kiri couldn’t resist taking her boots off and splashing in the water, even though it wasn’t THAT warm! The soft sand was sure kinder to the feet than the pebbles of Dieppe. Tasha was impressed by the birds flying and squawking around the palm trees: wild green parakeets!
As it began to get dark, we found a small grocery store and bought some food for a quick picnic dinner because Kirianne wanted to be at our guest house when Elizabeth, Andrea, John and Carter arrived. She spent the evening watching out the window, checking the time every five minutes, with mounting anticipation. They arrived actually a little earlier than expected. A storm of conversation consumed the next few hours, but all quieted down around 11:00pm when the jet-lagged new arrivals fell asleep as soon as they hit the hay, or, as a matter of fact, bumped the bed! (Aren’t I great at jokes!) (Kirianne)
Next morning we took our time over breakfast (which included some foods new to us all), and opted to ride around on the open top of a double-decker “Turista” bus, to get the lay of the land and help us decide what we were going to do for the next couple of days we had in Barcelona. John suddenly suggested we get off at the National Art Museum, which is in a classical building on the top of a hill with a good view, because he liked the look of the place! So we all tumbled off the bus and looked around (but didn’t go into the museum – too early in the program to subject the kids to that yet). What we did do was walk down the hill to check out the “Pueblo Español”- the “Spanish Village”, which is an enclosed “village” of perhaps a hundred houses, each representing a different region or epoch of Spanish architecture. The whole thing was created for some Exhibition in the early 1900’s. Within the buildings are restaurants and craft shops and artisans, again representing most conceivable trades, from leatherwork to wine to fan-making. We watched the glass-blowers for a while, stumbled into a modern art museum where we spent quite a bit of time (surprisingly, considering we’d promised not to subject the kids to art museums already!), and ate shrimp and pizza and sangria for lunch. It was quite late in the afternoon when we got back on the Turista bus and completed the tour. It was almost dark when we got off at the famous Gaudi-designed cathedral, interminably under construction. There was a long line to go inside. Apparently there is always a long line to go inside. Guess we’ll never know why; we just circumambulated the perimeter.
That night we had our first feast of tapas – finally, Tasha understands what “tapas” is all about!
The next day it poured rain. This limited our options of what to see and do in Barcelona. So we went to the Aquarium, which seemed to be what everyone else in the city had decided to do! (It was a Saturday.) We waited, no kidding, almost an hour standing in line to buy the entrance tickets! Does everywhere in Barcelona have long queues? We stayed maybe longer there than we normally might have, since the weather was so nasty and we’d spent so long getting in there! Elizabeth and Kirianne went through the shark tunnel so many times they started recognising each shark and naming each one too. They thought the rays were interesting and penguins were cute. Of course, the lunch options were unappealing and way over-priced… (and the Turista bus discount coupon we had was apparently “not the right one”, so the entrance cost was pretty pricey, too).
Stumbling upon a little “hole in the wall” local restaurant with great food and a friendly host put us all in a good mood that evening.
Sunday turned out to be wonderfully sunny, so we went to Tibadabo – Barcelona’s amusement park on a hill to the north of the city. It took some time and shelling out quite a lot of money just to get there: metro (actually good value for money) to the base of the hill, then the “Blue Tram” (old-fashioned expensive special for tourists), and then a funicular (inflated price to be deducted from Tibadabo entrance fee). However, when we explored the amusement park, the kids decided the rollercoaster was about the only ride they were interested in, and it was rather short (one minute duration). And when we discovered the entrance fee was 25 euros - that’s about $35 - each (with the funicular discount!), even the kids decided that was too much to spend to ride the rollercoaster. So they bought candy floss, we admired the view, wandered around, visited the church that crowns the hill, and went back to the city.
From the Turista bus, we had seen a gondola (cable car) that swung from the fort hill over part of the harbour. The kids wanted to ride that. (Perhaps not quite as thrilling as the rollercoaster – one hopes! - but a passable alternative.) We climbed the hill to learn the gondola was closed for maintenance! Not to be daunted at this point, we detoured to the other gondola on the other side of the hill! Finally, we got to ride! (But it wasn’t exactly cheap, either.) We ended the day with a quick walk around the fort, where some Catalan patriotic celebration was just wrapping up.
At least the sunshine was free and we didn’t have to line up for it!
Next afternoon we were leaving for Andorra, so, as often happens, the whole day was a write-off because the few hours we had really wasn’t enough time to visit the Picasso museum or the Zoo…
So 4 hours by bus to Andorra…