Another 8 hours of slow trains through south-western France and north-eastern Spain and I was in Barcelona, capital of Catalunya province.
This is one hopping place! I stayed along the Ramblas which is an old waterway that is now a wide avenue with about a 40 meter pedestrian boulevard separating the two directions of traffic. Everything happens on Ramblas – buskers, peep shows, nightclubs, tapas bars, restaurants, hotels, a huge market selling great fruit, vegetables, meat and fish. The action starts slowly in the mornings and then continues until the small hours of the next morning. One could spend a few days on Ramblas and never get board. However, there were other sites to see.
Marg and I met up with Keith on the Sunday morning for breakfast which included hot chocolate with churrios (donuts that you dip in the chocolate). Marg really liked this and has been on a quest to find more every day. We rambled (sorry)down Ramblas over to the Cathedral of Barcelona, where the Sardana dancers were out in full force. This is a dance circle, where people spontaneously come together to dance to a band gathered outside the Cathedral. There must have been five or six circles going in the square outside the Cathedral with five times as mnay tourists looking on. Further down the street towards the Picasso museum there were large puppets (people in costume) cajoling towards the Church with others playing tamborines and drums alongside them. There were more street performers and mimes everywhere you went – one large outdoor show for the viewing. Quite something.
Keith left us to get ready for work (he is a pilot) and we continued to the Picasso museum. I did enjoy the works, but have never been a fan of that style of painting (I don´t get it!), but was impressed by some of his early work which was very realistic and had a lot of depth to it.
In between sightseeing we hit the tapas bars and enjoyed the $1.50 carafes of wine. Barcelona has been the best value for money for food and drink so far this trip, but I hear it is the most expensive place in Spain, so am looking forward to the rest of the trip! We expanded our sightseeing area to visit the Sagrada Familia, which is the Cathedral that Gaudi had a huge influence on designing, and is still being built today. It is very unusual and has a lot of nature inspired beam work. Many more details can be found here.
Today we visited Monsterrat, a mountain monastery about an hour north of Barcelona. The monastery is accessed by cable car and is about 400 m above the valley below. The mountain itself is like a table top mountain with a hoodoo look. The monastery and other buildings appear to be carved out of the mountain when viewed from a distance. Quite surreal. The weather was clear (but smoggy), but we were able to see the tops of the Pyrenees about 70 km away. This was also a very worthwhile day trip.
It has been great having Marg with me for the past few days (especially when visiting restaurants and Tapas bars). Barcelona has been a great introduction to Spain and so we are looking forward to the next week which will be spent in Granada, the Costa del Sol and Seville (all in Andalucia in the south).