Wednesday, August 11, 2010


So for those of you (4) who read this we saved all our pennies and took ourselves off for a big holiday to see some of those far away lands that we travelled all this way to see. Our holiday booked, our packs packed, we caught the train to Gatwick ready to embark on a new adventure, only to turn up and see that our flight had been cancelled. A little confused about this state of affairs we joined a mile long que to find out what was going on. Two hours later when we should have been in the air, we found out that the French Air Traffic Controllers were striking thus causing a ripple effect affecting our flight to Spain. When we asked if we were entititled to compensation (i.e a free flight in the future) we were informed that as it was not the airlines fault we would not, we were only entitled to a rebooking of our original flight which might take off on the Friday, two days later than planned. Slightly dejected we then went in search for food before finding a new train home. As we were leaving the airport Amber's phone gets a text message from Ezy Jet to inform us that that have had to cancel our flight, however this was a little late to be of any use.

Take Two arrived, we had learned from previous mistakes and been checking online hourly the whole morning to make sure our flight was still "on time". Our packs were repacked (a little lighter as in our two day hiatus we had gotten vicious about what we might "need" while away) and once more we were on the train to Gatwick. With trepidation we got through checking in, customs control and lined up at our departure gate thinking that at any moment our flight was still going to be cancelled. Shelley refused to believe that the holiday had started until we arrived in Barcelona as there was probably still a way that they could screw it up, she wouldn't have been surprised if the plane had been diverted to Kumchatka at the last minute. Amber on the other hand was excited when we finally got on the plane!

Boring bits

Saturday the 24th dawned to find us up bright and early so we could partake of the Hostel breakfast provided. Shelley was excited to spot an espresson machine behind the bar in the breakfast area and armed with a ten euro note, was determined to have Real Coffee with her breakfast. The LOVELY man driving the machine informed her she didn't need to pay and handed her two lattes as requested. Shelley was in heaven, as many Latte's as she could drink in two hours, all free! For those who have seen Amber on too much caffeine, you will understand why she is limited on her intake, the Spainish people drink such strong coffee that after two Latte's Shelley was offering for complete strangers to sit on her lap at the full breakfast table and Amber was threatening to "cut her off". Possibly the second best thing about the breakfast at this hostel was the toaster. Now we know you will all scoff at this, however this toaster was seriously cool:

It was as if someone had an old record player lying around and thought, "hey man, this'd make a good toaster" It had an element at the top and an element at the bottom and the bread rotates around between them. As you can see your toast being cooked, you always get it exactly how you want it; no more burnt or uncooked pieces of toast! It was AWESOME!

Right, enough about toast and indeed about breakfast. On to our exciting first full day in Barcelona!
As is our habit in a new city, we like to explore. This involves picking a direction or a specific area of the city, Shelley taking the map off of Amber and walking. Our first explore for Barcelona was of the Gothic Quarter. As you can imagine from the name, it's old, crumbling and labyrinthine.

This last photo was just before Shelley took the map off Amber. . .
Exploring is hungry work and while we were wandering the Gothic Quarter we discovered a tasty looking Bakery/Cakery. Nothing inside was in English and so, based purely on looks, Shelley purchased two "surprise cakes". These are cakes where we have no idea what is in them, what they are made of, or what they will taste like but they LOOK good! We found an out of the way place to sit and eat and found that, in this case, Surprise Cakes were YUMMY!!
It was at this point in our adventures that we discovered why the Siesta came about. There comes a certain point in the Spainish day when it is too hot to do ANYTHING. All you want to do is curl up in a cool place for a little while. So that is what we did. We would like to pay homage at this point to the patron saint of Air-Conditioning which, thankfully, our hostel (Equity Point), had.
Las Ramblas. The Spainish feel it is an important part of the day to go for a stroll in the early evening. It is still too hot at this point to eat, but has cooled enough for socialising with your neighbours/people of the city. In Barcelona, there is a stretch of road dedicated to this past time, knowing as Las Ramblas (The Rambles), there are market stalls and street performers lining the walking area. At this time of year it is also packed with fifty thousand tourists unfortunately.
We strolled, we took in the atmosphere, we ate a late dinner and drank Sangria and then returned to our hostel and bed.

We decided that one of the best ways to see as much of this amazing city as possible was to get a tour bus, two decker, open aired, hop-on/hop-off two days worth of sightseeing. The first place we hopped off was The Temple of the Sagrada Familia (Holy family) This "church" (for want of a better word) was started in the early years of the 20th Century and is still under construction today. It was designed and started by a very famous architect, Anton Gaudi (who designed 80% of Barcelona it seems) whose vision was so huge that he knew it wouldn't get finished in his lifetime. He was right. They hope to have it completed in 2025 and Shelley and I are already wondering if we can somehow manage to make it back to see the completed product. Here are our attempts at capturing the mammoth building:

We were also lucky enough to be able to go up one of the 100m tall towers (of which there are 8 at the moment and there will eventually be twelve at that height, to represent the twelve disciples, four slightly taller to represent the apostles who wrote the Bible and then one very tall one to represent Jesus). An elevator takes you up 50m and then you climb a flight of stairs to, I think it was 70m, before crossing a bridge to another tower where you then climb ALOT of stairs down to the ground. The views were very worth it though:

By the time we had seen all we could see of this magnificent piece of architecture we were completely shattered so we got back on the Tour Bus and completed the route we were on. We had planned to get off again but were far too tired, and by now, too hot, to contemplate walking around more touristy places so it was back to the hostel for a siesta. (it's a hard life we lead)

As it was a Sunday we didn't get up to much that night after our siesta so we jump straight through to our next day and back on to the Tour bus. We had heard about a giant shopping complex that Shelley wanted to investigate and that our bus went past so we got off at the nearest stop and walked our way towards it. On our way we went past Parc Diagonal which is a public park that "fuses metallic sculptures with water features" it was very odd.

After finding the shopping centre and wandering through it we were hot enough to hunt down a Beach and go for a swim. Unfortunately the beach was covered in those horrible touristy people so it was only a quick dip. Back onto the bus went we. Barcelona has a couple of little mountains surrounding it and halfway up one of them we jumped off the bus and delved through some awesome Gates and into a tiny little Artisan village.

So the story behind this little village is that way back when Barcelona hosted an international exhibition that included a lot of building type stuff and these architects travelled around Spain looking at villages and built this as part of the exhibition to showcase examples of "typical" Spainish villages. It was so popular that at the end of the exhibition they decided not to destroy it (hey, this sounds like the story of some giant thing in Paris . . . ) and instead a whole heap of craftsmen (and women) moved in and set up shop. You can now wander around it and watch these people working and then buy their product directly off them. It was awesome! Unfortunately the day was getting on a bit and most of the really cool places (like the glassblowers) had closed up for the night, but just wandering the village itself was enough for us. We left and went back to the tour bus stop for the last bus home. . .half an hour later and we're starting to wonder if maybe our understanding of when the last bus was due was just all wrong. We start trying to figure out if maybe we can walk back to our hostel from where we are. We joke about the tour bus coming at 9am the next morning and us still being there. . .and then, as if from nowhere, it arrives. YAY! Home James and bed.

The next day (Tuesday the 27th for those keeping track) we investigated our surroundings a bit more and wandered to a Modernista building just down from our hostel that was also designed by Gaudi called La Pedrera. Is pretty:

The entrance fee gets you into the building, through an exhibition on Gaudi, through an apartment made to look like it would have back when Gaudi first designed the building and then on to the roof. You can't tell when you are on the ground; but the roof of the building is HUGE!
This photo was taken with me standing on one side of the roof looking across the length of it, the big sticky outy things show the other end. Those bit sticky outy things are pretty awesome and most of them have faces :)

After our daily siesta, We went back to the Gothic Quarter, attempted to find a post office (which deserves its own Blog) and just hung out the for the afternoon looking at old buildings and listening to buskers.
Our last day in the sunny city dawned and we decided to have a nice relaxing day at Parc Guell, which is this huge park in the city that was originally bought as a housing estate and then converted into a big park. Most of it was designed by some architect guy who is pretty big in Barcelona. . .now, what was his name again? Oh yeah, Gaudi.
The park was stunning and Amber got so distracted looking around at all the pretty stuff she forgot to look down and managed to twist her ankle on one of the many steps. Isn't she clever?
We found somewhere in the shade, made ourselves comfortable and settled in for a couple of hours to read. When we ran out of shade and got way too hot, it was back to the hostel for our siesta. While there we met a rather lovely Australian who looked a little lost and confused and invited her to come for another wander down Las Ramblas with us that evening. Lots of Sangria was drunk and a fun time was had by all. That pretty much brings us to the end of the Barcelona leg of our journey but before we sign off here are some random photos of the two of us around Barcelona:

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