Tuesday, 2 September 2014

photography | barcelona - day three

We started our third day in Barcelona with a walk from El Raval up to hill Montjuic so that we could ride the cable cart. The cable cart was the husband's number one request of things to do during our stay, and who am I to say no? Although, as we got closer, I grew more and more worried that those cables would break just when we were up there.

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On our way to Montjuic we passed Portal de Santa Madrona, the remains of a 14th century castle. I haven't been able to find out much about it neither in our guide books nor online, all the info I can find online talks about the saint Madrona and the church in Montjuic. Either way, it's a beautiful building.

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Walking up the hill was a bit of an undertaking, because apparently we chose some kind of backroad on the side facing the water. It started out neatly gardened but looked more and more derelict the further up we got. The only people we saw on our way up were homeless people just waking up. So if you're going, go the other way up the hill. I got a bit spooked.

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Once up on the top, it was beautiful, and the views over the harbour and the city were lovely. We had time for a coffee and a breather at a café overlooking the city before the cable carts opened.

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We got on the first ride of the day and it turned out to be not at all as scray as I had told myself it would be. The view was spectacular.

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We got off at Barceloneta, right at the beach, and even though I am far from a beach and water person, I really liked it. This is a really relaxed and funky part of the city. The weather wasn't really good enough for us to want to get our kit off and hit the water, so we just wandered along the beach and the boardwalk and watched people.

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Under the boardwalk we found a bunch of local elderly men who were very busy playing board games. A young girl walked by and said hello and instantly they all lost interest in the games and yelled "Hola!". It had us laughing; that latin blood apparently boils hot in all ages!

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We had planned to have lunch at Kaiku, as it is said to have the best seafood in town. But, wouldn't you know it? It was closed for summer holiday. I was super bummed, and started to feel like we were really missing out on the best. Food is a great interest of ours and the one thing we spend time, energy, and money on when we travel. That many of the best foodie places were closed was a big mis step for us. But with the help of the Time Out app we found another restaurant close by; Can Ganassa at the cute little square Placa de la Barceloneta.

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The food was great; we had both seafood and serrano ham with tomato bread. It was simple but well made. We found the service stressed and a bit impersonal. We also had to wait a really long time for the check despite asking for it twice. It was a good enough walk in place, but nothing I would go out of my way of to visit.

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We walked around Barceloneta after lunch, and enjoyed a small street food market where the husband treated himself to churros while I drooled and felt sorry for myself.

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We spent the afternoon walking around La Ribera, Barri Gotic, and El Raval, getting lost in small alleyways, and looking into fun little shops. It was nice until we got closer to La Rambla and Placa Catalunya, and all the tourists who were swarming the streets.

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After another late afternoon powernap and shower, we watched a storm hover over Tibidabo for a couple of hours from the hotel roof before we set out for our last dinner of our trip.

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The hunt for a place to eat dinner turned out to be an adventure; an hour's walk in pouring rain to not one or two, but three closed restaurants. Again, all of them closed for summer holiday. Those three restaurants were Quimet i Quimet, Can Lluis, and Mam i Teca. Sigh. In the end we gave up and went back to the hotel to eat in the restaurant B Lounge. The service was excellent, and the wine too. The food was fusion style tapas - a chic twist on the traditional food. I could only eat about half of what were were served, and had to beg them to make me a dessert that was lactose free. What I did eat was good, but not fantastic.

Our last day in Barcelona was spent window shopping. We hit the big shopping streets for a couple of hours until we had to take the shuttle back to the airport. I took no photos at all that day. Kind of a relief to be honest after having had the camera fixed to my face since we arrived!

In conclusion
In conclusion; it was a good and a bad experience for us. We took a chance on me being able to cope with the stress of going to a city destination and it didn't pan out all too great. I didn't do well with the crowds, and I didn't do well with the stress of filling our days in the best way. But then the good parts were really good. I am hoping that the photos we took of that will help to remind us of that in the future.

My advice would be:
- Don't go to Barcelona in August if you don't like tourists and crowds.
- Don't go in August if you are a foodie and want to go to really good restaurants.
- Don't feel like you need to visit all the big sights and museums if you only have a few days
- Don't be afraid to venture off the beaten path; there are hidden gems to be found.
- Learn a bit of Catalan. It's different from Spanish and even though you can get by with English, it will help you.
- Walk around as much as you can. We did get a two day metro pass, and used it enough to save money, but walked a lot. Walking gives you the chance to really see the city and all the beautiful details. We never do those hop on/hop off tour buses simply because we want to be in the town, not be driven around it.

If you want to see my two other posts on Barcelona, you can do so here:
Day one
Day two

Saturday, 30 August 2014

photography | barcelona - day two

Our second day in Barcelona started with us sleeping too late because we both forgot to set an alarm the night before. To be honest, I didn't really mind because I had almost no sleep the night before we left, and after a long day I needed it. Let's be honest, being 40 is not at all like being 20! LOL!

Park Guell
Our plan for the day was to cram in a bunch of touristy things, and we did, starting with Park Guell. We entered the park from the back (at Passatge de Sant Josep de la Muntanya), at the top of the hill it's on, and then walked through to the monumental area where Gaudi's famous moasic benches are. The view over the town and park from up there was quite lovely.

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This photo might not be the best ever, but I had to include it as it shows how big Sagrada Familia is, and how much it dominates the surrounding landscape. It's not even finished!

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The area around the benches and the museum was filled with people, and we decided to not enter the paid area. That might have meant we missed out, but it was hot and being around all the people was starting to get to me. We just got a few shots, and decided to start heading towards the next big thing.

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The streets surrounding Park Guell were quite nice with a very different look and feel than downtown.

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On our way to our next stop I had my first, and I hope only, big panic attack as we were heading down the steps to the metro. It was absolutely horrible and meant we had to adjust our plans a little bit. First, I needed rest. Then I needed food. After that I needed to avoid stress.

The restaurant we had planned on eating at (La Taverna del Clinic) was closed for holiday so we walked around for a while and found a small place near Sagrada Familia (but far enough away to not be a super super touristy place - there were lots of local looking people there when we arrived) to have lunch at called El Bon Menjar. Again, we had to wait a while for a table, but we sucked it up. The food was good, I thought the potato tortilla was the best I've tasted, and our server was very friendly and forthcoming. We had a funny and interesting coversation with my bad Spanish and his bad English, which resulted in him offering the husband a second glass of wine on the house. I didn't take any pictures here, apart from one with my phone and it sucks, so you are just going to have to take my word for it that it was a cute little rustic place.

Sagrada Familia
After getting some much needed downtime and chance to rest, we hit the crowds again when we walked over to Sagrada Familia.We decided right away that no way would I be able to stand in line for hours or squeeze around in the church so what we did was spend time looking at all the amazing details of the façade before moving on.

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We went over to La Pedrera after this, but the whole exterior was covered for some kind of renovation or construction. We were very disappointed - this was the thing I had looked forward to the most before arriving, and after seeing yet another long line of tourists waiting to go in, we decided to spend the 16,50 Euro (per person) on something else.

We walked along Passeig de Gràcia on our way back downtown, and it was a much calmer experience. I guess this had a bit to do with the fact that the shops on this street is much fancier than the ones around La Rambla. The houses lining the streets were beautiful though, and so was the pattern covering the pavements.

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We spent a good amount of time sitting outside the Bulgari store (we were resting our tired feet). Not one person went in during that time. Nobody came out either.

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Bar Lobo
After returning to the hotel, taking a power nap and a shower, we watched the sunset on the hotel rooftop bar with some drinks. It was magical. I wish the photos could convey it.

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We had dinner at Bar Lobo, sitting outside watching the night life on the street. We were lucky and got a table as soon as we walked up. First time on the trip, LOL! I had read it was a popular place with the young, cosmopolitan crowd, and didn't really expect the food to be the thing worth remembering. Oh boy, was I wrong. The Tuna Tataki and the fried eggplant with honey? Best dishes I've had in a long, long time.

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(Please excuse, these food shots were taken with my phone camera)
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We ended the night with some more magical moments on the roof of the hotel. A good ending to a long and hard day. I love how the lights from Tibidabo (at the top of the first photo) and the Palau Nacional (the palace with the blue beam in the second photo) shines in the dark.

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Do you want to check out my other Barcelona posts?
Day one
Day three