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Monday, 30 April 2012

Three days in Barcelona

Arriving at the airport you always seem to be a bit concerned about where to go next, which is the logical way to go. Not so in Barcelona, the bus terminal is right outside the airport's exit. When a bus pulled up, I asked in my best Spanish if this bus would go to downtown, or "ciudad centro". The bus took us straight into town and the bus stops were announced by a display visible to the passengers. We left the bus at Pla├ža de Catalunia and started walking. We had a reservation at a hotel just off "Las Ramblas", the main drag through the city. Hotel Moderno is a three star, very comfortable place and comes highly recommended. Our walk lasted only ten minutes and we had arrived at our home for the next four nights. Once settled into our room we wasted no time and got to exploring the city...

Along the Malecon

It becomes quite clear that the city's main drag "las Ramblas" divides it into a left and right, or yin and yang. The west side seems to be more seedy, where sailors look for entertainment, and the east side seems more touristy. We strolled along the narrow side streets, looking at everything with wide open gringo amazement. Graffiti all over the place, but it is beautiful graffiti. Not just simple tagging.

Damn good graffiti

A few hours of sauntering brought on an appetite and we soon found a place to rest our laurels and order some vino tinto and a pizza. The small plaza contained a random selection of visitors from all over the planet. Our pizza was delicious as was the wine. During our dinner we were entertained by a couple of quite talented musicians playing guitar and accordion. As time progressed the sides of the plaza became occupied by people waiting for a place to sit and order drinks and food, some people would leave and their seats would be filled immediately. It is a brisk business, this wining and dining in Barcelona.

Las Ramblas

We were immediately at home in this city, the cultural energy is enormous and you can't help but to be enveloped by it. Young artists and musicians are everywhere as well as travelers with backpacks loaded to the brim with stuff, pots and pans dangling from beneath, looking for the local hostel or just to sleep on the beach. Strolling along Las Ramblas you come upon "tableaux vivants" or living statues, people posing motionless, 'till someone drops a coin in their basket, then they come alive and take on a new frozen stance. Vendors selling anything from cheap kitchey tourist crap to budgies.

Las Ramblas is a wide centre walkway with traffic on both sides. Restaurants have tables set up "al fresco" in the center and the waiters serve you while dodging traffic, playing "frogger", with your order from the main establishment across the street. The service is old fashioned European style, where the waiter will bring a dish from the kitchen and serve it onto your plate. We ordered a couple of Sangria and a large Paella to share. The food and wine were excellent although a bit pricey.

Delicious Paella

We were told by my brother Bart, and his wife Wilma, that there are two tourist bus systems operating in the city; the red line and the blue line. During our first day strolling through town we came upon a kiosk selling tickets to these busses. The tickets are valid for as many days as you purchase and are quite good value. One system stays closer to the coast, while the other goes more into the hills. You can hop on and off at any stop, and the route covers pretty much all of the things you would want to see in Barcelona. At some stops the red and blue lines converge and you can step over onto the other line.

Our first afternoon in town was amazing and once back at the hotel we crashed into bed with big plans for the next day...

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