Day 6 – Barcelona

Met up with Claire’s Dad and Maria for breakfast and headed round the corner to a little cafe that served  jamon baguettes, croissants, coffee and hot chocolate.

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Our plan for the day was to buy some hop on hop off bus tickets and tour the city of Barcelona. The shop selling the tickets to the bus was nearby and there was a bunch of people waiting for the bus outside, so after we bought the tickets we waited with them for a bus. Across the road there was a police presence checking what we think were people’s insurance. An entire busload of people watched a poor young lady lose her scooter to the police because we think she was uninsured. She had the indignity of crying while a busload of people looked on. Meanwhile, we were noticing that the hop on hop off bus was bypassing our stop, which made us realise we were in the wrong location. So we headed off to Placa De Catalunya which was the right location for the bus. “Catalonia Square” is thought to be the centre of Barcelona and the perfect place to begin our tour of the city. The great thing about the tour was that there were headphones for different languages, which meant that we could listen in English while Maria could listen in Spanish.

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We were lucky enough to be the first on the bus and got the front four seats. The sun was out, it was warm but not too hot and Barcelona seemed to be showing off. In the 19th and early 20th century Barcelona’s city walls were torn down and an extension called the Eixample was designed to cope with the expansion of the city. It was city design way ahead of it’s time that focused on ensuring that sun still made it to street level and that streets were wide enough to cope with pedestrians, carriages, horse drawn cabs and sewers. It’s this design that makes Barcelona seem like such a livable city today – all the walkways, bikeways, tramways and trees that other cities in the world are now adopting after making the mistake of designing for cars and not for citizens. The bus took us past some amazing buildings that ranged from Gothic Cathedrals, Gherkin like structures, Frank Gehry fish and of course the local star Gaudi. We gawked at beach goers, cyclists, people on their way to work via the trams, huge parks with beautiful flowers and stunning apartments.

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We were happy to just go where the bus took us, but about an hour in the bus reached Gaudi’s unfinished church – The Sagrada Familia. This building can be seen from all over the city thanks to the spires and from what I’ve read, only half the spires in the design have been built. We decided to get off the bus for a closer look here as well as a drink and loo break. We headed in to a baguette bakery cafe for some water and a break, then left Claire’s Dad and Maria behind to walk around the church. The lineup to go in the curved almost halfway around the building which would have been no fun in the sun. We decided not to go in even though we knew the trick to get in faster (by buying online tickets) as Claire’s Dad and Maria weren’t interested. We decided to check out one of the Gaudi houses nearer to where we were staying later.

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Getting back on the buses was a little more difficult leaving from such a busy location, there was an incident where some germans pushed in ahead which pushed everyone’s buttons – especially Claire’s Dad who was perhaps harbouring some additional anger towards them since he is British (don’t mention the war!) – but being appalled by bad manners is universal in any nation. The ride from the Sagrada Familia back to Placa De Catalunya was less scenic and a lot slower – mainly because it goes past apartment complexes and a park designed by Gaudi before returning to the city centre. We stopped back at Enrique Thomas for another jamon/tomato bread lunch and then left Claire’s Dad and Maria for their siesta – arranging to meet them for dinner. Claire and I still had the other route of the hop on hop off tour to do, which would involve a visit to FC Barcelona’s home ground.

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Firstly though the bus had to go up to Mount Juic where a lot of the Olympic Games was located in 1992. I’m not sure the bus had even left the Plaza when Claire was starting to nod off. I guess the jet lag, hens party and early mornings had finally caught up with her. I amused myself taking photos of her in between taking shots of all the interesting stuff up on Mount Juic. We went past the cable car, the incredible diving pool that overlooks the city, the stadium that opened and closed the olympic ceremony and the Modern Art Museum of Miro. I’m pretty sure Claire slept through the entire mountain drive and only woke up when we reached the bottom near Las Arenas – once a bullfighting ring and now a shopping centre.

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A short distance later and we rounded the corner to Camp Nou. The famous stadium and home of the great football club FC Barcelona – current home Lionel Messi. As a football fan I was very excited to be there and as a sneaker collector I was already a huge fan of the Barcelona colours – I had one sample pair of Ronaldinho Nikes as well as some Barcelona Adidas gazelles. The great thing about the stadium is it is not only a place for them to play football, but also a living museum that houses their ample silverware. You can actually get your photo taken in the official press area with a champions league cup and tour the grounds. The museum is really high tech with lots of multimedia, but to me the biggest joy was the tour of the grounds. You get to sit in the seats, go down to ground level (but not walk on the pitch of course) walk up the players tunnel (stopping at the chapel on the way) and in to the visitors dressing grounds. I couldn’t believe they have tvs above the lockers (but I’m uncertain why they are there). There are showers and massage tables and hot tubs as well. You walk through the area where the managers and players do their soundbites standing up and then the big press room for sit down style conversations. Afterwards you go upstairs to where the commentators sit which is essentially the nosebleed section. It almost gives you vertigo. We spent some time in the shop but bought nothing and then headed back to the bus to meet up with Claire’s Dad and Maria again.

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We made it back to the hotel to find Claire’s Dad and Maria in the lobby waiting for us, so a quick stop in the room and then back out again. We had promised them a nice dinner, for which they had dressed up for, but that we hadn’t because we had planned to take them to some restaurants we had seen the day before around the edges of the market. Unfortunately when we got there the market and restaurants were closed – we had neglected to check if they were day only places. We had picked out a backup restaurant on the walk there so headed back, while negotiating a peaceful protest. Claire’s Dad was worried about the noise and the cops, but relaxed a little when he realised it was just old people complaining about some bank.

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We knew that the restaurants on Las Ramblas are more expensive than ones a few streets over, but it is totally worth the little more to sit by the window and watch the people go by. We chose Centonze Restaurant as our location as they had a pretty good set menu at a set price. I chose the salad, fish and had a Creme Catalan for dessert to get my spanish fix. After dinner we headed back to the room to pass out as we’d obviously had a huge day.

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For more photos, check out the Barcelona Flick Photo Set.

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