Day 1 – Leaving Sacramento, arriving in Barcelona We woke up early on the 24th and headed to the airport around 4 am. Our friend dropped us off and we waited for our 6 am flight out of Sacramento. After stops in Houston and Newark, we finally arrived in an overcast and cloudy Barcelona at 9:15 am on the 25th. We got off the plane, a bit tired as time change and jet lag will do to you, and went to get our bags. After going through customs, we headed over to an ATM to get money. However, both of our cards were declined and I had to call the US to try and get our cards to work. I forgot to let them know we are traveling overseas so I went ahead and put the notice on there hoping that we will be able to get money. I was told to call back after 3 pm Barcelona time to get our cards to work. Needless to say, this was not a good way to start and after being jet lagged and tired, I was frustrated. We did end up getting 40 euros and took the Renfe (Spanish train system) to Placa Passeig de Gracia and took the L3 Metro line to Liceu. We walked around La Ramblas for 30 minutes before finally locating Hotel Jardi. By this point, I am really frustrated. We left our bags at our hotel and went to eat (I had tortilla espanola – potato omelet). We walked around Las Ramblas and then down to the harbor and then to the Boqueria market. Las Ramblas is a wide pedestrian street filled with performers, Catalans (tourists and other Spaniards), and La Boqueria market. Always busy, it’s a great scene for people watching and just walking down the 2/3 of a mile stretch from Placa Catalunya to Port Vell. It is both fun and a bit seedy at night so tourists need to keep an eye on their belongings. La Boqueria market is a wonderful market of foods (seafood, flowers, herbs, fruits, vegetables, and more), food stands and small dining places, and various other places to shop including arts and crafts. After our walk, we came back and checked in at 1:15 pm. At this point, we were both tired so we took a siesta – until midnight. I did call back and worked out the ATM issue so hopefully we can withdraw money. As far as our schedule, we fit in what we had scheduled with the Las Ramblas walk and the market. Tomorrow, more walks and the Barcelona soccer game tomorrow!! Lessons Learned – Always let your bank and credit card companies know if you are traveling overseas. Realize that long flights and jet lag may cause you to become frustrated and irritated quickly. Have patience, expect to get lost, and enjoy what you see instead of not getting where you want. Day 2 Seeing Barcelona and a soccer (futbol) match – We started off our day with an expensive hotel continental breakfast of bread, jam, cheese, juice, coffee, and fruit. Afterward, we headed to the TI in Placa Catalunya so we could get directions for the Barcelona game. Then we headed on Rick Steves’ walk through the Barri Gotic area. This is the old area of town known as the Gothic quarter with cobbled streets and old buildings near Placa Catalunya. I got frustrated again as Rick’s directions were wrong forSanta Ana street
as it should have been a right and not a left. We saw a few things of interest on our walk – Catedral de Barcelona, Mont Taber (highest point in Barri Gotic), some old Roman columns, and a bunch of kids at recess in a small little square. To me, this was the most interesting part of the walk. While I enjoyed the sights and the bits of history in this area, I got to see little kids playing and interacting in another culture and language in a small square. It felt like a little glimpse into the life of kids in Barcelona and for a few moments, I wasn’t a tourist. After our walk, I got a Spanish snack – a bocadillo (a sandwich but with Spanish ham and cheese). Then we headed over to the Picasso museum to see his works of art. Picasso was a painter and sculptor who lived from 1883 until 1973. He was known for his variety of styles in his work through the years. Picasso very much had a modern art flair and helped discover the Cubist movement. His best known work was Guernica (which we were seeing later in Madrid). I didn’t realize that he spent a few years in La Coruna when he was growing up. Even a few of his works were displayed from the early years. Since our friend Leah lives in La Coruna and we were heading there next, it was interesting to get a glimpse of the city from Picasso. Picasso had a variety of different styles and experimentations. Early in life he did portraits, had his blue and pink periods, drew erotic and shocking drawings and sketches, dabbled in impressionistic art, and focused on Cubism (which I hated) and ceramics. Picasso had various women in his life and he died in 1973. Picasso was a very diverse artist and while I learned a lot and was glad I got to see his work, I am not a huge fan. After Picasso, we went to the chocolate museum and learned about its history. Chocolate was a bitter drink of cacao fruit offered to the gods by the Mayans and was also used as currency. Nuns in Oaxaca added sugar and this was then transported to Spain. It was experimented and changed in England (liquid), Switzerland (milk chocolate), Spain, and France (bon bons) with each country developing its own specialties. From a luxury of the upper class, chocolate became a staple of common society. As we exited, we looked at the samples of chocolate and even saw a chocolate creation of Ronaldinho, the Brazilian soccer star playing for Barcelona. After leaving the museum, we took the Metro back to our hotel to grab some lunch. Unfortunately for me, we accidentally ended up at a vegan place to eat, Juicy Jones. I had bread and soup while my wife ate the plate of the day. Afterward, we headed back to the room and rested for a bit before heading to Barceloneta to see the beautiful man made beaches. The beaches, although man made, were a nice escape from the city. They offered a nice view of the Mediterranean and when the weather is hot, everyone is out. For now, it was peaceful and a chance to get out and relax and take a walk. For a quick dinner, we had tapas (small plates of appetizers in Spain) of chorinzas (sausage, like pepperoni), potatoes, cheese, and wine. Then it was time to put on my Barcelona jersey that I had bought earlier in the day and head to the stadium. From there, we got on the Metro toward the Nou Camp. Unfortunately, we got lost after getting off the Metro and yet again I was frustrated. Eventually, we found a group of people with soccer gear and followed them to the stadium. Our seats were right at midfield and the field was awesome. Barcelona won 4-1 over Zaragoza and could have easily had 10 goals. It was fun to see a crowd which was much like a college football crowd and who sang their songs all evening. Messi scored twice, Iniesta and Marquez once. However, I was disappointed Ronaldinho didn’t play. After the game, we walked back to the Metro with the crowd and all the crazy fans. I realized that with all my frustrations that I am not a very flexible traveler at times. I could blame that on being tired but I get moody if lost or directions are wrong. My attitude at times like these doesn’t make me a good traveler. Lessons Learned – Realize that getting lost and bad directions will be a part of traveling. Be open to art, architecture, and culture that you aren’t used to at home. You may not like it but it teaches you more about the place you are visiting. When following a walk or your planned agenda, be OK with getting lost, stopping to see things you hadn’t planned, or not getting everything on your agenda done. Take the time to connect with the locals. Watching kids interact at recess or going to a sporting event is a great way to connect with locals, get away from the tourist attractions, and create memorable travel moments. Day 3 Gaudi and Montjuic – After a late night because of the soccer game, we slept in until 9:30. After our expensive breakfast yesterday, we went next door to Café Dior for a pastry and café (coffee) for less than 5 euros. I learned something important from breakfast – I still don’t like coffee. We then took the Passeig de Gracia for our block of Discord walk (block of architecture with 19th century facades, noted for the unique artwork of Gaudi). Along the way, we saw various Gaudi houses and his unique architecture. Gaudi was an architect in the period of Art Nouveau and was well known for his individual style. Looking at his designs, Gaudi is unique and easily recognizable. Kristen is a fan of Gaudi and we even went into one of his homes for a view of his work and a rooftop view of Barcelona. After our Gaudi walk, we walked to the famous La Sagrada Familia church to get a look at this unique structure. This was Gaudi’s last great work which he spent the remaining years of his life working on from 1883 to 1926. The church is distinctly Gaudi with his Gothic spires and unique curves and faces built into the façade of the church. While standing in line for over an hour to go up the elevator, it was amazing to listen to all the different languages and see such a mix of people from around the world. And very few of these were Americans. I like the diverse mix of people and languages. When arriving at the top, we got some great views of the city and the architecture. The church remains unfinished and will probably take years to finish. The architecture and design is very unique but not worth the wait for me. Afterward, we took the Metro and began our walk to Parc Guell. On our way, stopped for lunch at a cafeteria and had tortilla espanola, quiche coraine, sandwich, and empanada atun (tuna). The Parc Guell was really beautiful with the great columns, large courtyard, and beautiful views of Barcelona. This was another creation of Gaudi with his unique architecture. This was originally designed as a high income housing community but it failed. Instead, it was turned into a park modeled after English style gardens. With such a beautiful view, I can’t complain about the great weather the last couple of days. As we made our way down, we ran into numerous tourist groups there to gaze and take numerous photos. After the Parc, we walked to the Metro and headed back. In the evening, we took the Metro to Espanya to see Montjuic (Mount of the Jews), a hill overlooking Barcelona’s port and home to the 1992 Olympics. It is a beautiful area overlooking the city from the top of the National building and the fountains below. We got there around 8 and hung out to watch the water fountain show. Unfortunately, we were too far away. We ended up waiting over an hour but again heard numerous different languages around us. We were both frustrated by all the smoking, the bugs, and not really being able to see the light and fountain show. After making our way down and snapping a few pics, we headed back, had some ice cream, and went to bed. Lessons Learned – To save money, eat breakfast at a cafe away from your hotel (unless breakfast is included in your stay – check with your hotel). Each country or region has its own unique artist, painter, musician, or local celebrity. Even if you aren’t interested, check out a museum on famous people from that city or region. In traveling, there will always be things that annoy you about a certain place (like the constant smoking in Spain) and tour groups (which can be good things) can sometimes get in the way. Traveling with flexibility is a must as you adapt to both cultural differences and crowds.