Thursday, April 16, 2015

Barcelona Day 1 Part 1

Christopher Columbus Monument - Barcelona, Spain
It's been more difficult to post pics than I thought - not because there is no wifi, as it is everywhere - but because we've just been on the go meeting so many great people that we never sit down to post them.

After flying over to Paris on the world's largest aircraft - the Airbus A380 - we changed to a plane that was so old it still had ashtrays in the arms of the seats, and we were off to Barcelona. Having slept very little on the transatlantic flight (on which we watched the good but creepy Foxcatcher), I caught a half hour or so of sleep until we reached the Pyrenees Mountains, and from then on the scenery was beautiful and the skies were clear.

And then I saw it.

It shone beneath us as it always does, the Mediterranean, my own siren that calls for me when I'm away so that I must return again and again. We flew along the coastline over mountains for at least a half hour, and I traced the outline of the bull's head that makes up Spain. Our flight trajectory was such that we had to fly past the entirety of Barcelona and circle around the mountains to the south before heading back to the airport.

Barcelona marina
As a result of EU customs, we received a French stamp in our passports rather than a Spanish one, somewhat disappointing to a collector of passport stamps! (I already have several French ones and no Spanish ones, this being my first time in Spain.) Anyway, we got out of the airport and into the city easily. Barcelona public transport is excellent. Our hotel is a half a block from a Metro stop and quite charming! I was surprised at how nice it is given its pension status.

We were dead tired but determined to fight sleepiness and set out for an aimless walk. We're a block from the marina so we ambled down that way and looked at the millionaire yachts and navigated through myriads of people down to the Columbus Monument.

Copyright violations, anyone?
After this winter, the sun felt exceptionally wonderful, and we were able to walk without jackets and feel the sun on our skin, something I didn't think would happen ever again. Natural warmth? It was shocking. And palm trees. Palm trees.

We had no real destination, which was great, and when we reached the Columbus Monument, we headed up the Rambla, a famous street in Barcelona that is closed to traffic aside from the hordes of tourists of which we were a part. Wow. Talk about crowded.

The bottom of the Rambla is full of street performers painted from head to toe in all colors of the imagination. To be honest, there's not much of interest along the street, aside from the opera house, which we later toured.

Flea market at Columbus Monument
We were running on no sleep but it didn't matter.We were running on happiness.

La Rambla
It didn't take long to get oriented to the layout of the city. I barely used a map. It helped that signs abound. Barcelona is as cosmopolitan as any other large European city, but the people are so nice. I mean exceptionally nice, not like in other big cities where natives will snap at you if you're a tourist. And the Catalan language is, as I found out when we went south, easier to understand than Spanish, at least for me who has a decent level of proficiency in French.

Catalonia independence movement is everywhere.

I knew the independence movement was important in Cataluyna, but I was surprised to see as many independence flags hanging from the windows. They were everywhere. Some people even had printed banners made up. I suppose when your economy is doing so well and the southern part of the country is dragging you down, you'd have feelings of separation. (Sounds familiar to an American...)

Of course I'm going to notice the politics. And of course Chris does not. I think we need fewer borders in this world, not more, so these kind of regional independence movements seem to be counterproductive to me. I was kind of rooting for Scottish independence, but that was more to say shove it to the English, who created so many problems in the world. Then again, so did the Spanish Catholic monarchs from Madrid, who treated the Cataluynans poorly throughout their history.

A building on La Rambla - notice the independence flag hanging on a balcony.

No hand, no problem, I have ice cream!

We spent much of Saturday just wandering and getting oriented. By 5:30pm, we were having a beer next to the cathedral and taking a break, when fellow Reds fan and Barcelonian Carlos messaged me and asked to meet that evening. We were jet lagged and tired, but of course - we had been planning to meet to watch a Reds game since I decided to come to Spain all those months ago.

Plaça del Rei, Barcelona, found on our wandering

Plaça del Rei, Barcelona, found on our wandering
That evening we met for beers at a bar on Placa del Cataluyna. I brought my laptop to watch the Reds game with Carlos and his wife, but the wifi was too slow in the place and endless buffering led us to go to his house in the suburbs and watch the rest of the game. They were so hospital to us. We went out for pizza after even though jet lag was getting the best of us, and then they drove us back to our hotel in the city. It was a fabulous time.

Independence flag on Plaça del Rei

Here are a few more pics from day 1:

Liceu Opera House

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