here, there, everywhere

Posts Tagged ‘Barcelona’

One Last Romantic Evening

In Europe, Spain on July 26, 2011 at 3:41 am

The south of Spain was lovely but it was time to head back to Barcelona for one last hurrah.  The morning after we were in Gibraltar I flew with the parents back to Barcelona for one more day before heading home, while Andrew left for two days in Seville. We spent a lovely day cruising the Old City again and finished the day and vacation with a trip to Montjuic, site of the Olympic stadium. At the bottom of the mountain, close to Placa Espanya, are the fountains and even if the music selection is a bit cheesy, the displays with lights are quite fantastic.  Much more elaborate and bigger than the Bellagio in Vegas (did I really just write that???)And after almost 24 hours of travel time, I’m writing this last post from the comfort of my own computer.  About to crash after spending two great weeks of touristing, vacationing, catching up with old friends, and taking in a whole new country, I’m glad we went and the whole trip was worth every second.

That’s all for this trip, hopefully the next adventure is not too far off.

Garbage and Romance

In Europe, Spain on July 12, 2011 at 5:28 pm

Assuming “Moreover” equals “Entrees”. Restaurant menu, Barcelona

First, I have to say once again how lovely the drivers are here.  Really, I cannot get over how friendly they are and not one of them has tried to kill me yet.  Best drivers ever.  I know that Barcelona is lovely, much has been said about it in other blogs and travelogs, but what hasn´t been mentioned much is the garbage situation. I am impressed by the recycling here and am inspired to write about it.  On almost every corner there are 4 to 6 giant bins and each has pictures on it to indicate what you can put inside.  There´s a bin for composting, another one for DIAPERS, others for paper, plastic, and wood.  Watching people use them all convinces me that we can easily learn how to do this back in North America, and yet we´re still waiting for composting bins in urban areas of Vancouver.  I haven´t seen much, if any, trash lying around the streets so it would seem that people here take pride in their surroundings and do a pretty good job of keeping it all clean.  Hats off to Barcelona for that.

Rooftop view from our apartment, Les Eixamples, Barcelona

But there´s another side of garbage, the human side, that´s also quite apparent.  Today we wandered into the Gothic Quarter, lovely medieval streets, lots of pretty window boxes, laundry lines flapping overhead, and the overwhelming pungent odour of raw sewage.  It smells like a few hundred years of excrement in some areas and it doesn´t disappear after just a few seconds.  It kind of hovers around your head and follows you for a few metres until you can gulp in fresh air.  Turn another corner and the smell hits you head on again.  I love the architecture but it´s a little hard to give it my full concentration when I´m checking my shoes all the time to make sure I didn´t step in someone´s crap and am carting it around with me.  However, this is no reason to not visit the neighbourhood and if you can get by the stench you will be rewarded with great sites, pretty shops, quaint cafes, and the 13th century cathedral in the middle which houses some pretty big truckloads of gold.  We spent probably 45 minutes in there capped off with a trip to the roof and a great view of the city.

Gothic Quarter, Barcelona

Fresh smelling street in the Gothic Quarter. Uh, not really fresh. Barcelona

Gothic Cathedral under scaffolding. Barcelona

Looking down into the crypt in the Gothic Cathedral, Barcelona

Afterward we made our way to La Rambla and strolled down to the waterfront and over to the beaches.  Beautiful white sand and lots of people out there to enjoy it.  Eventually we caught the subway home, bought dinner at a takeaway place and ate a delicious meal on the rooftop of our apartment building, looking out to the Mediterranean and all points in between.

This brings me to my second topic of the title of this blog, romance.  It´s alive and thriving here and not just because the Spanish are passionate people as evidenced in their colourful discussions, but because everything about the life here lends itself to being romantic.  Picture wrought iron balconies everywhere, flower shops where the blooms are outside and scenting the surrounding area, wine, good food, and a language that just sounds sensuous.  Can you see the young guy outside on the street, holding a flower and singing to his girlfriend on one of the balconies?  I haven´t see that yet, but I can certainly imagine it happening.  I can´t see it in Vancouver where it´s overcast most of the time and 90% of the balconies are 6 inches wide and covered in green glass.  And for some reason young couples making out on the street here don´t gross me out as much as they do at home.  I hate to say it but I actually find it kind of cute.  And as we crossed the street to get to our apartment tonight, we passed a bride and groom decked out in wedding finery, eating lime popsicles and walking to wherever they were going next.  But the best romantic moment of the day was in the subway station.  As I got out of the train and walked the platform to the exit, I passed an elderly couple saying goodbye.  She was in the train sitting by the window, he was on the platform.  They put their hands together through the glass, holding them there and smiling at each other until the train pulled away.  No words, just looks and years of understanding between them.  The ultimate romance.

Hey wait, I’ve seen this before in your other post. Yes, but it’s romantic and deserves to be put in here twice. Flowershop, Barcelona

Barcelona First Days

In Europe, Spain on July 11, 2011 at 2:50 pm

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Mom and Dad have a timeshare that is fairly international and they know if they want us to join them, they need to pick a destination my brother and I are interested in.  This time they picked Spain so on Saturday morning I flew out ahead of everyone else for a two week vacation.  It started well enough on the leg from Vancouver to Toronto, but then took a slight header south due to the Bradley Cooper double header to Barcelona.  I took sleeping pills to knock me out for the 7 hour flight, but each time I woke up to the living nightmare of his blue eyes staring at me either from the A-Team (so very very bad) or Limitless (I can only imagine how awful that one was).  Nevertheless we arrived without further incident and I managed to make my way to our accommodations for the next week.

We are staying in an apartment on Carrer de Valencia and Passeig St. Joan and it is AWESOME.   Wrought iron balconies and a direct view of the spires from La Sagrada Familia which is only about a fifteen minute walk away.  Mom and Dad showed up a few hours later and we went for dinner and then a walk to keep ourselves awake til 9pm.  Because it was Sunday the city was fairly dead and I was looking forward to seeing what happens when everyone goes back to work.  This morning we headed to La Sagrada Familia so the parents could jump on a city bus tour while I´d go in the basilica to check it out.

First impressions of a ´busy´Monday morning – very quiet and relaxed compared to home, and no joke, these are some of the nicest drivers I´ve ever had the pleasure of observing.  Even when you almost get clocked stepping out in front of a moving vehicle, they don´t even honk or yell at you.  They just do that Catalonian wave thing and as soon as you´re safe on the sidewalk they´re on their way.  I´ve heard one horn since being here and have not seen one driver gun for a pedestrian or cyclist.  And speaking of cycling, it is so nice to see parents with young kids riding around the city.  Note to Vancouverites who hate the bike lanes, you´re not very nice.

La Sagrada Familia is wonderful and I didn´t think I´d ever want to spend that much time in a church, even on a Sunday morning.  What they´ve done with the light in there is beautiful and serene, and despite the hoards of tourists it´s all very calming and easy to meditate if that´s what you want to do.  I loved the choir lofts, rooms for 1000 singers, and the 2000 kg bronze statue of Christ outside hovering above the entrance as He ascends to heaven is also magnificent.  I hate using adjectives like awesome, cool, etc., but whatever ones used here are only appropriate for the awe that place inspires.

Then I headed to Parc Guell to see where Gaudi lived and to view some of the architecture in the park.  Once again very lovely, as you step out of the trees colourful mosaic roofs and crosses appear and you can wander down the meandering paths to pass through covered arches where musicians are playing.  My favourite was Yerko who was playing a kora, an instrument from western Africa.  Since I just finished reading ¨The Book of Negroes¨I´m drawn to anything that comes out of the book, and luckily the kora is one of them.

I spent about an hour and a half wandering through the gardens to make the most of the mountainous hike to get up there, and was struck by how many of the street vendors are immigrants from different areas.  Normally in other European places the street hawkers are from one area of Africa but this time there were Afghanis beside Pakistanis beside Ivory Coast beside Korea.  It was a most diverse group of people and I wish I had time to sit down and get all their stories.

It was very warm today which inspired some guys to wander around with their shirts off and I had the (mis)fortune of observing some very odd body hair patterns.  It was all natural as far as I could tell, I´ve never seen hair grow like that on a stomach.  And this was the first time some of them had seen the sun so the white mosaic tiles were not the only things reflecting light in the gardens.  All in all it was a lovely first day in the city and a pleasant way to start the vacation. Barcelona is lovely and I completely get why people decide to stay here forever after arriving.

And now a word about gladiator sandals.  I hate them.