It’s Always Sunny In Barcelona!
We have been to Spain twice before, but never to Barcelona, so we were looking forward to spend a few days amongst the Catalans – to say nothing of the sunshine. So it was that on Thursday, 26th July Iris & I once again headed to Frankfurt International airport to board our Lufthansa flight for Barcelona for what promised to be a fabulous five day getaway!
As it so happened, whilst the weather in Barcelona was a sunny 28-32 every day it was, ironically, the same week that Frankfurt was to record some of the highest temperatures in Europe – maxing at 37 Centigrade on more than a couple of days!
But I digress……
After an uneventful flight we touched down in Barcelona & collected our bags before heading down to the lower concourse of Barcelona Airport to catch the train into the city centre. But we were in for a bit of a surprise – as we came down the second set of escalators into the ticketing hall for trains we could see that the place was packed. There were queues that snaked around the ticket hall with hardly any room for more people & none of the queues were moving quickly.
I made a quick mental calculation & figured that we had a wait of at least 90 minutes just to get our tickets! Ridiculous – so I suggested to Iris that we catch a cab instead, she agreed. Back up the escalator to the taxi rank & we discovered the reason for the chaos in the ticket hall – the taxis were out on strike!
Not to be defeated I opened my smartphone’s “Mytaxi” App but no drivers were available, which I thought was very strange. Not to be outdone I then went for Uber to be faced with a message on the App that advised that Uber services were temporarily suspended! This is a conspiracy!
So, no choice then but to go back downstairs and join the queues. Once we had our place secured I did a bit of a Google search & discovered the reason for the chaos – Taxis were on strike in protest over Uber’s impact on their business &, to make matters worse, Uber drivers were being attacked by striking taxi drivers. So both Uber & Mytaxi suspended services for safety reasons.
The logic of taxi drivers striking because Uber & their like were harming their business is beyond me. If there is one sure way to turn the public against you it is to inconvenience them & this was a massive inconvenience!
So, our trip from the airport to the city took a lot longer than we anticipated. I made sure to phone our AirBnB host to let them know that our arrival time was going to change – which they understood. Eventually, we got our ticket & train & we were in the city a little under an hour after we boarded the regular airport/city service. One transfer of trains later we were at the stop that our host advised us to use & a short 10 minute walk later we were in our apartment – phew!
By now it was after 5pm & we were exhausted! So, we had a bit of a rest up before heading out to find somewhere to have dinner. Found a gorgeous little tapas bar just down the street from our apartment & had a nice relaxed meal before heading back to the apartment & to bed.
Friday & today we are going to have a look around some areas of the city. We’ll be meeting up with our Aussie friends Les & Danielle – they are on the front end of a 5 month motorhome tour of Europe & will be driving from Portugal to meet up with us – it should be a blast as we all get along very well. We arrange to late morning at the Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar – a really nice little church surrounded by narrow streets & small squares. Once we meet up with Les & Danielle it doesn’t take us long to find a café where we have the day’s first drink.
Next stop the Gothic Quarter, some really interesting history here dating back to Roman times. The streets in this section of the city just ooze atmosphere – they’re quite narrow with two & three storey buildings creating shadows in the alleys they create. The rest of the afternoon we spend exploring & doing just a little bit of shopping before we part company to freshen up & prepare for the evening ahead.
Tonight we are going to meet up to catch the “Magic Fountains”.
The Magic Fountains were really good, once we got there – we almost got lost a couple of times before finally finding our way! They are situated at the head of Avinguda Maria Cristina in the Montjuïc neighborhood of Barcelona, not too far for the Placa d’Espanya (which is where we got the train to & walked from). Les & Daniel actually find us amongst the crowds without us having to “Ping” our position!
The Avinguda Maria is a very wide boulevard with water fountains featuring along the top half as you approach the old palace. Each evening, on the hour, the fountains come alive & put on a show in time to music that is broadcast through a PA system. It’s a very popular attraction & the thousands of people there to take a look support that! We have been especially warned about pickpockets in Barcelona so we are super vigilant, but don’t suffer any losses ourselves.
Once we had run through the fountain performance we head off to find somewhere to eat, which doesn’t take long, it seems that the streets here are full of café’s & restaurants! We settle on a little Spanish place near the Placa d’Espanya & settle in for some much need Sangria & Tapas.
Saturday & today we will be meeting up with Les & Danielle at the beach, it’s a little over a five minute walk from our apartment down to the former Olympic area, and past the casino to the beachfront.
It’s crowded! But there’s still enough room for us to find a spot and catch some sunshine. Iris & Danielle head into the water, joined 15 minutes later by Les. I decide to remain on land. After a couple of hours we decide to call it a day so we parted company to get freshened up for later – we will be heading out to the movies. Iris & Danielle are busting to see Mamma Mia II & there’s an English language cinema that has been sourced just for the occasion. We made it to the cinema with just minutes to spare before the session started. Luckily for Les & I there was a screening of Mission Impossible – Fallout, that had only just started so we were spared the agony of watching Mamma Mia with the girls!
Once out of the cinema (we all enjoyed our respective movies) we make our way to La Rambla, a massively wide boulevard where people go to be seen, that is full of restaurants, bars, shops & tourists (like us!). It’s interesting to stroll down the boulevard & simply observe. We also had dinner here, before we parted company & headed back to our apartment.
Sunday has come around all too quickly! We have decided to head once more to the beach – may as well take full advantage of the opportunity ‘cause there are no beaches in Frankfurt! It’s a beautiful day & the beach is crowded but not uncomfortably so. I could certainly get used to this lazy sunbathing! The passing parade is also very entertaining, especially watching the cat & mouse game between the beach police (yep, there is such a thing here) & a couple of drinks sellers who are (illegally) selling alcohol infused drinks. The sellers have a couple of “Spotters” strategically placed to warn them when the police are approaching, which gives them time to hide the alcohol before the cops search them again! It’s almost as good as a Keystone Cops silent movie!
Once we’d had enough sun we headed off the beach & found a nice bar close to the casino where we could have a couple of cocktails – very nice. Time to head back to our respective “Digs” to shower & change for this evening’s adventures!
Having agreed a time & meeting place for drinks – dinner would be decided on once we had a drink in our hands. Terazza 360 at the Hotel Barcelo had been highly recommended as a great spot for a drink with panoramic views of the city – it didn’t disappoint. We had two drinks there before deciding to head out into the street to pick tonight’s dining spot.
Monday & today will be our last day with Les & Danielle. They will be heading off to meet up with their youngest daughter, Tennison, who is working as an assistant teacher in a small Spanish school, in a village that I can never remember the name of!
We meet up (late morning again) at La Rambla do to some more exploring and to visit the famous markets there (they weren’t open yesterday). We were going to check out the Familia Sagrada cathedral but couldn’t get tickets (sold out) so I have booked a couple for Iris & I tomorrow. The markets are interesting – especially with the high visibility of the “Tourist Police” who are there not to keep there eye on tourists but to discourage the pickpockets from plying their trade here!
Of course, we had to have a Sangria at the markets before we moved on to Montjuic to ride on the famous arial cable car that links the Barcelona hills district to the main area of Barcelona. The views were spectacular!
We also took the opportunity to visit the Castel Montjuic – an old military fortress that dates back to the early 17th Century. I was disappointed to discover that there were no old cannons here, but there were some more modern artillery pieces. Still, no cannonsurfing for this little black duck!
Once all of that was completed it was time to farewell our Aussie mates – they wanted to get a start on their drive inland & would pull up later that evening to rest up before heading onward & meeting their daughter. When you are driving a motorhome you can do that sort of thing!
Iris & I headed back to our apartment & we had a quiet evening.
Tuesday & we will be visiting the Familia Sagrada today before packing up & heading to the airport for our trip back to Frankfurt. Getting to the church was pretty straightforward using the city Metro train service. A 5 minute walk from the station & we were at the meeting point for our tour. It’s certainly an impressive building – which is still a work in progress. Only half of the exterior spires are complete so the outside view is framed with a few cranes as work moves slowly toward a completion date projected to be in 2020. I have my doubts that they will make that target!
The building is still mightily impressive & the interior, which is now complete, is amazing. There’s not a column in sight as the building’s design was specifically made so as columns would not restrict your view of the interior – it also emphasises the massive cavern that is the interior & the stained glass work is awesome, casting a blueish light in the mornings & an orange light in the afternoons. The attention to detail in the sculptures on the façade is amazing, with many different artistic styles being featured. The whole building is a massive tabloid of biblical stories.
Our guided tour lasts just over an hour & our guide provided us with so much background on the history of the building & the stories it portrays. Once the tour was completed we spent another hour wandering around under our own steam, savouring every moment.
Time passes too quickly when you are enjoying yourself & we found ourselves having to cut short our visit here so that we could head back to our apartment, grab our things & head off to the airport.
We made our way to the Metro station where we would catch our first train to the Placa d’Espanya but from there got a little lost until we discovered that, despite what our Google maps app was telling us, we need a different station to be able to catch the train that services the airport.
Having got that sorted we still made it to the airport with plenty of time up our sleeve.
What a great five days – time spent with good friends creating lifelong memories. Fabulous weather, great food & an ample amount of alcohol – oh, yes, & another destination added to our increasingly crowded travel diary!
Thank you Barcelona.