Friday, April 27, 2012

Day Trip to Barcelona

04/27, Thursday
Our train from Figueres to Barcelona departs at 8:17, arriving at 10:09. The train service here is excellent and the trains are in great condition. Our plan is to walk from the station (at Placa de Gracias) to the Placa de Cataluyna, about 15 minutes, for a bicycle tour of the city which starts at 11:00. Not really having Spain on our radar until a few days ago, we now want to capture as much as possible and biking is faster than walking. Sherri loves Spain and Madeliene was born in Spain so we are excited to do some exploring.

We have been forewarned by many people (including Matt's experience here and mine in Milan) to protect our wallet. Mom left her's at the hotel, and I have mine stuffed into the front of my pants. We noticed urban police on the streets in many places.

Everything works out. We meet in front of the Hard Rock Cafe with about 20 other riders. Our guide is Sonia, a German, who moved to Barcelona 6 years ago and loves living and working here...she is a full-time graphic artist. She also speaks five languages ! The tour is conducted in English although there are people from Germany, The Netherlands, Portugal, Australia, England, and the USA.

The tour takes over 3 hours and takes in 15 stopping places. The weather was fantastic, the tour great and the city beautiful. At one point we were riding along, there were sidewalk musicians playing, the architecture outstanding, sun shinning and it could hardly have been better. Even the bike seats were comfortable!

Sonia is a great guide providing lots of interesting stories and facts. Barcelona is a bicycle-friendly city with designated paths most everywhere. Residents can "rent" bikes for 30€/year; red and white bikes are racked throughout the city where one pick-up / let-off rentals. There are plenty of motor scooters, too.

We covered a good part of the old city, many plazas, had a drink by the harbor (included in the tour fee), saw the sight of the Olympic village, and the infamous Antonio Gaudi's unfinished church. Nearly fell off my bike when we first spotted the church since it is such a powerful sight. Started in 1882 and probably has twenty more years till completion.

Much of the harbor area today was industrial and warehouses until the 1992 Olympics when it was cleared for sporting events. People are sunbathing on the man-made, wide, beautiful beach. There are windsurfers using the waves and wind.

The city is a mix of busy streets and nice quiet side walking alleys. It is a very sophisticated city...shops, cafes, clothing styles, theater, music (classical guitars, kletzmer),

Later in the day while fighting the crowds on the Ramblas, we make a turn into the public market only to find more people crowded into a smaller space. The stalls of fresh fruit, vegetables and meat really gave us an appetite. Rick Steves suggests a small restaurant at the rear of the market which we seek out and have lunch/dinner, a 13.5€ menu of three courses (platos) and a drink. Cute place, good food and relaxing. My sangria was exceptional.

One of the plazas was called the plaza of the kings and we sat on the steps that Columbus climbed to tell Queen Isabella of a new land. Lots of these tidbits throughout the tour, which I love. Again thanks for our blog so I can remember
them !

We walk back to the train taking in more wonderful buildings with very unique facades and do lots of people watching on the way too. Barcelona is a great city and we had a super day.

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