Friday, July 28 –
This morning we arrived by overnight train in Barcelona Sants station around 9:05 a.m. from San Sebastian. We left our luggage at the train station before beginning a walk around the city. First, we needed to find a hotel. After striking out at several hotels, we finally learned that the Hotel Suizo had an opening in an unfinished room for one night. All of the hotels in Barcelona were full! We dropped off our baggage at the hotel and went out to explore the city. The hotel room may have been rustic and had no AC, but it had a great balcony overlooking the Gothic Quarter (old town).
We took the metro to Plaça de Espanya and had our first exposure to the Catalan language. It is somewhere between Castellano and French, but we enjoyed trying to read it and watching the newscasts on the television monitors in the metro stations. Upon arrival at the Plaça, we walked north up and down Barcelona’s grand boulevard, Las Ramblas. On a pleasant summer day, it seems like all of Barcelona is strolling the grand boulevard under its beautiful and famous trees. We looked in some of the shops and toured the fish market and meat stores along the way. We also watched some fantastic street performers and human statues that rivaled those you would see at Pier 39 in San Francisco.
After touring Las Ramblas, we walked south past the statue of Cristobal Colon at the Placa and admired the awesome view of the fountains lining the street across to the National Museum of Catalunyan Art (MNAIC). We toured the fantastic museum and its collection of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque art. We also toured the Museum of Modern Art with its 19th and 20th century masterpieces from Antoni Gaudí, Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso, among others.
Then we took the Teleferico, an urban ski lift (of course, without snow), to Montjuic, the famous mountain in Barcelona overlooking the city and bayfront. The mountain complex of athletic facilities includes the Olympic stadium and other former venues from 1992 Olympics and 1930s era World Fair. We saw where the arrow was shot into the stadium to light the caldron after current IOC Chair Juan Antonio Samaranch proudly declared the games open in his native Spain. The whole complex, which includes the nearby Barça stadium (the largest futbol stadium in Europe), constitutes one of the largest concentrations of sports facilities I have ever seen. It definitely made me excited for the upcoming Sydney Olympics and made me want to attend an Opening Ceremony one day.
We later visited the Arc de Triomf, Barcelona’s Arc De Triomphe, that was built as the entrance to the 1888 World Fair. Nearby we visited Parc de la Ciutadella. We couldn’t believe how beautiful the Cascada waterfall surround by impressive statutes of gargoyles and mythical figures.
That evening after dinner, we took the metro back to the old town Gothic quarter. I had a Guinness at a bar nearby. Many of the winding streets with ancient buildings date the area back almost 2,000 years. Although our room had no door and construction was going on, it was a small price to pay for a cheap room and a great balcony in the Gothic Quarter!