|June 9, 2011
We are sitting in JFK. And sitting. And sitting. Time goes by slowly when there is nothing to do. I take that back. We are watching the Kindle charge. Such excitement.
Frank has a bad attitude about all things New York and within 15 minutes of landing I was done. First we had to walk through ancient, hot gerbile tubes to reach the terminal from our small plane. Not an attractive entrance to a major metropolis, and what a contrast with the sparkling new Indianapolis airport. Then waiting in line for the bathroom a rude lady jumped ahead of me and was quite offensive when I stopped her. So perhaps Frank had it right all along...We will see how Benjamin and Abigail like their visit to the "Big Apple" next month.
Today we have spent some time trying to figure out the best way to exchange money - always an important travel subject. The exchange rate at the airport isn't great, as expected, and most likely won't be much better at the other end. After a little research I found that going directly to a bank in Barcelona is best - but banks are only open from 8:30 to 2. Talk about banker's hours. We will have to move swiftly from plane to hotel to bank tomorrow.
All that I'm reading and hearing about Barcelona suggests we will barely scratch the surface of this historic and architecturally interesting city. We will have to hit the ground running.
June 10, 2011
We have arrived in Barcelona after what I hope will go down as the worst flight ever. Scheduled to depart at 6 pm, we finally left at 12:30 am, spending 6 1/2 hours on the plane at the gate. We suffered a series of unfortunate events - minor mechanical problems, followed by weather complications, and then losing our "window" for departure. I think we were "next" in line for depature a total of 4 hours, depite hearing other planes taking off. What a frustrating experience.
Our arrival in Barcelona was quite the contrast to that of New York. Known for its architecture, even the Barcelona airport is a delight to the eyes. Clean, modern, with very interesting lines. We whisked through customs and baggage claim before finding the Aerobus into the city. We delighted in everything. The mountains as the city's backdrop, the small cars that fill European roadways, apartment buildings both old and new. The plaza where we made our connection to the subway was open and surrounded by the most fascinating large buildings which we desperately wanted to explore. A short subway ride and we were finally at our hotel. Our small but modern room was just right.
After showers, a change of clothes, and a nap we were ready to explore the food of Barcelona. Too tired to go very far, the hotel staff suggested a small tapas bar around the corner. We were not disappointed. A wonderful glass of sangria, four beautifully prepared plates of fresh, tasty ingredients, tomato bread, yogurt cake with blueberries, and we were two very happy campers. Tapas are a mainstay of food here, and what a nice tradition. We enjoyed fried squid tentacles (really calamari); a summer salad with fresh vegetables, potatoes, tuna, and olive oil; tuna cubes, fresh hunks of tuna with tomato, onion, olives, and olive oil; and a ham and roast potato dish. Yum. We will enjoy ourselves tremendously.
June 11, 2011
Barcelona is more complex, more cosmopolitan, more beautiful, and much more interesting than I had imagined. Perhaps we were exceptionally fortunate, but the cool, clear weather today made the city all the more appealing.
After a wonderful breakfast at our hotel filled with more choices than we could possibly consume, we hopped on the metro and headed to The Ramblas, Barcelona's famous boulevard that runs through the old city to the sea. Even at 10 in the morning, the street was
filled with people. Overhead was a canopy of trees. On either side the street was lined with shops, restaurants, and tourist pits. Down the middle was a wide pedestrian area with little outdoor cafes, and stalls with various and sundry items for the casual passerby.
As we made our way along the crowds kept growing until everyone seemed to surge towards the Boqueria, a covered market filled with delights for the eyes and nose. Fruit stalls, sausages and cheeese, fresh fish, some salted some with eyes staring out at buyers, crabs slowly moving, fresh meat and poutry, olives of all sizes and shapes. Everything artfully placed and begging to be sampled. Too bad we had eaten such a delightful breakfast. Jonathon was thrilled to find freshly squeezed dragon fruit, not tasted since our visit to Laos.
We tore ourselves away from the market and continued our walk. We ventured off the Ramblas and meandered through narrow, winding streets, enjoying ourselves immensely. One shop window in particular called out to us with its bright and unusual bags so we entered. A small company, Vaho takes used (heavy plastic) billboards from around the city, artfully cuts them up and turns them into purses, bags, wallets, and backpacks. We had great fun selecting several items.
The Cathedral Barri Gothic was another surprise. We were drawn down another small street, beautiful jazz music wafting our way. We enjoyed a trio of musicians for a bit, wandered a little, then turned. Through large gates we saw a beautiful tropical garden that turned out to be part of the cathedral. We took our time looking unround. Jonathon's attire didn't quite meet the dress code and so he wasn't able to peek inside the cathedral itself, but I could. It was worth the look: large, stately, and beautiful.
Back on the street for more walking and we found the main cathedral entrance and a small piece of the stone wall that had once surrounded the city. More walking and looking before we decided to return to the Ramblas. This time the street was absolutely teeming with people. And we thought it had been crowded earlier. We finally stopped for a late lunch and enjoyed a mix of "small snacks" and paella. The small snacks were a mix of meats and salads on wonderful bread. The paella had just a bit of spice delivered with rice, bits of meat and seafood. Very delicious. After a bit more walking we decided to head back to the hotel for a brief rest, jet lag mixed with sleep deprivation from our long trip still an issue. Not to mention neither of us is used to so much walking. The brief rest has turned into a much longer one and we will be heading out for dinner before long.