My Thoughts · Spain · Travel

Barcelona, A Two Day Whirlwind Tour of the City of Mystery

Barcelona, a city of mystery and mystique! We had two glorious days in Barcelona to discover its hidden wonders. Lin and I explored narrow streets which looked like alleys, saw breathtaking cathedrals and learned about an architect with a dream. Two action-packed days in Barcelona officially started our “Insight Vacations” in Spain, and I fell in love with Barcelona!

Day 1 – February 29, 2020

On our first day of our official “Insight Vacations” tour, we woke up early at 6:15 a.m., adjusting to the time change. Our group planned to meet downstairs at 8:15 a.m. to buy Hop-On, Hop-Off tickets at the desk and tour Barcelona on our own. Everyone showed up and purchased their tickets, except our faithful leaders, Jerry and Mary Beth—they slept in. I loved the group’s response—total acceptance.

Again it was a walk to Diagonal Street, “Avinguda Diagonal (Catalan pronunciation), in Spanish La Avenida Diagonal is the name of one of  Barcelona’s broadest and most important avenues. It cuts the city in two, diagonally with respect to the grid pattern of the surrounding streets, hence the name.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avinguda_Diagonal

 But this trip was leisure stroll, and we caught the bus to go down to the port because Jerry and Mary Beth had been here thirty years ago and wanted us to see the area where they stayed. The Hop-On Hop-Off bus provided a Barcelona guide book and ear buds to listen to the recorded tour guide’s comments as we passed sights. Lin and I wanted upstairs on the top of the open-air bus. Initially I had some problems with the sound but figured it out.

The whole idea of the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus ticket was to see the whole city and then go back to the specific places that caught our eye—we ended up not doing that.

Our grouped stayed on the Red line until the port, passing many amazing sights, but then we left the bus about 11:15 a.m., agreeing to meet back at 12:15 p.m if we were going to continue with the group (who went on to have lunch together and tour the rest of the city on the bus). Lin and I opted to stay down by the port. We first took pictures of the Christopher Columbus (Colon) Monument.

Colon Monument ( Christopher Columbus)

“The Mirador de Colom, also known as the Columbus Monument, is an impressive pillar dedicated to the explorer Christopher Columbus in Barcelona with an observation deck at the top. It stands 197 Ft (60 m) tall and sits at the end of La Rambla, very close to the city’s port.”

https://www.introducingbarcelona.com/mirador-de-colom

Narrow street in the La Rambla Disrict

After that, a flea market caught our eye, and we wandered through it. From there we headed towards La Rambla and then down alley-like streets so charming and alluring. Bicyclists rode by us as we meandered down narrow streets with hanging flower baskets—so picturesque. Needless to say, we didn’t make it back by 12:15 p.m

One more narrow street tempted Lin, so I waited and watched people, one of my favorite pastime in foreign countries. People of all ages on bicycles surrounded me. Lin and I reunited and went shopping. Then we had a delicious lunch outside at the Casa Lola restaurant “in the heart of the La Rambla Catalunya”  in the brisk, cool air, sampling “tapas” which

“. . .are at the very heart of Spanish lifestyle and culture. Everywhere in Spain, you will find lively, noisy bars serving small plates of superb flavours and local delicacies.

It is essentially a style of eating rather than a form of cooking. Tapas mean sociability, friends and family.”

https://www.eyeonspain.com/spain-magazine/all-about-tapas.aspx

Lin Enjoyed La Tapas!

 Our lunch consisted of shrimped with garlic and pepper, patatas bravas (a potato dish but not like our potatoes), and a pasta salad with shrimp, crab and pineapple—can you tell Lin and I like shrimp!

After lunch, we hopped back on the bus and hopped off to see the Basilica of St. Maria del Mar “. . . a church in the Ribera district of Barcelona, Spain, built between 1329 and 1383 at the height of Principality of Catalonia’s maritime and mercantile preeminence. It is an outstanding example of Catalan Gothic, with a purity and unity of style that is very unusual in large medieval buildings.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Maria_del_Mar,_Barcelona

We paid the $7.50 to enter and what a delight it was! I had a big disappointment though. After our trip to Costa Rica, I took my Canon Rebel in to be fixed and thought it was, but at this point, it repeated the behavior from before—so frustrating. I could still take pictures but had to turn it off and on after each shot!

In this church, I started a tradition I tried to continue throughout our tour—I bought a candle and lit it for my loved ones. I had no idea how many churches or cathedrals we would visit!

Again, we hopped on the bus again and went to the Barcelona Cathedral where we only took pictures outside. I bought three precious bracelets there. It was here we realized we were running out of time, so we stopped for gelato and some relax time before we rushed back to our hotel for our evening activities. We were able to sneak in a nap!

 Our tour group met downstairs at the hotel—all 39 of us—with our tour guide, Brad Dick. He handed out bags and information, then we boarded our bus for the first time to go to dinner as a group. Our group split up and sat at different tables to meet our companion-travelers. We sat with a couple from Singapore and enjoyed a traditional Spanish meal with a wide variety of small plates. What a nice introduction to our tour group!

Lin and I ended the evening when we returned to the hotel with a walk to the neighborhood “farmacia” (drug store) to buy him Dramamine in case he got motion sickness when we moved around the bus from the seating chart.

What a fascinating first day in Barcelona!

Day 2 – March 1, 2020

Lin and I selected an optional excursion for the morning to Montserrat, an 11th century Benedictine monastery, 38 miles northeast of Barcelona. A local tour guide, Santiago—Santi for short—joined us and pointed out highlights on the trip in Barcelona and then in the countryside.

Montserrat is built up on the side of a mountain, so we took a narrow road that zigzagged back and forth to arrive at this breathtaking place.

Montserrat’s history has mystery to it: “It is not known exactly when Monks first came to Montserrat and began to build a Monastery. However, it is believed that in the ninth century four of the Chapels were built on Montserrat Mountain. . .”

https://www.montserrat-tourist-guide.com/en/attractions/montserrat-monastery.html

My Picture of the Black Madonna & Christ Child at Montserrat

Santi led us on a tour of the outside then we went inside to see the venerated Black Madonna. Afterwards we were given time to explore, shop or grab a bite. I went inside the church and zoomed in on the Black Madonna from the sanctuary, but I got a great close up when I walked by!

Gaudi’s La Casa Mila

We returned to Barcelona, picked up the rest of our tour group and Santi started a tour of Barcelona with a look at one of Antoni Gaudí’s houses, La Casa Mila. Before this trip, I had never heard of Gaudí—maybe that shows my ignorance, but after visiting Barcelona and his creations, I’m in awe of him and his vision.

Antoni Gaudí “. . .was a Catalan architect known as the greatest exponent of Catalan Modernism. Gaudí’s works have a highly individualized, one-of-a-kind style. Most are located in Barcelona, including his main work, the church of the Sagrada Família. Gaudí’s work was influenced by his passions in life: architecture, nature, and religion.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antoni_Gaud%C3%AD

Also we drove by Gaudí’s La Casa Batlló, but I didn’t get a good daytime photo of it.

Our next stop was Gaudí’s most famous creation, La Sagrada Família, “. . .a striking example of Gaudí’s unique Art Nouveau architecture and is filled with religious symbolism and meaning. Eight of the intended 18 towers have been built, which rise to over 100 meters. The towers represent the Twelve Apostles and each one bears the name and statue of its apostle.”

http://www.sacred-destinations.com/spain/barcelona-sagrada-familia

I can not put into words what this structure is like—massive outside with spires, color and small scenes from Jesus’ life, but we as I entered this sacred place, light exploded through stain-glass windows. Santi told us the orange and red on one side depicted the warmth of the south, and blue and green on the other side was the cold from the north. I was speechless! The light streaming through the windows colored the whole inside of the cathedral—it was sensory over load! I couldn’t believe the inside size!

Gaudi’s Workshop

We left through what will become the new entrance which depicts the passion of Christ. To the side was a small workshop where Gaudí lived as a hermit for over forty years, dedicated to the completion of his dream.

Afterwards we had a 45-minute lunch break, so part of our group gravitated across the street to small pizza place for lunch. Our next stop on the city tour was the Gothic area of Barcelona, and we revisited the Barcelona Cathedral and the area where Lin and I had been the day before. A gigantic crowd mobbed the area—some sort of walking donation. We returned to the hotel and rested—I was exhausted from our long day of touring, and it wasn’t over!

I thoroughly enjoyed our evening tour, returning to some of the places we had seen during the day and the day before. We returned to the Palau Nacional, the National Palace, “. . .a building on the hill of Montjuïc in Barcelona. It was the main site of the 1929 International Exhibition.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palau_Nacional

I captured the evening view of the palace and then the city from the palace—breathtaking view! I bought a copy of a children’s book about Gaudí in Spanish, Los Sueños del Gaudí, “The Dreams of Gaudí” and look forward to reading it.

On our drive up Montjuïc hill, we passed by the Poble Espanyol museum, the Spanish town with tall figurines of a Spanish man and woman. Then our tour continued on to the “Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys,” originally built for the 1929 International Exposition and used as the main stadium for the 1992 Olympics.

From there we ventured down to the Olympic Village by the pier for a delicious seafood and cheese dinner. We finished this feast with Crema Catalana for dessert, a Spanish delicacy, similar to Crème Brûlée.

We ended the evening driving by Gaudí’s two houses, La Casa Batlló and La Mila lit up at night. Gaudí’s architecture took on a eerie feeling at night! As we drove back to the hotel, Lin and I lamented about all the attractions in Barcelona we missed and vowed to come back—it had been a glorious day!

Our two days in Barcelona started this trip off right!


~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me and my books: https://www.laradasbooks.com

~Whitey & Gladys Puerling were playful friends of Flippo’s who created a Fan Club. I thought it would be fun to recreate this group. Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read interesting posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/

~I HAVE 213 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE MARSHALL FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY!  It will be published in the next monght! You, too, can pre-order this amazing story! You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways!  https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

~Visit my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft for digital or paper copies of all my books: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft

My Thoughts · Spain · Travel

Can You Do Spain in Nine Days?

Spain in nine days! Barcelona, Valencia, Granada, Seville, Cordoba and Madrid! I reveled in the mystery of this gorgeous country and its people, the cathedrals, Don Quixote and La Mancha, Gaudi’s creations and the Moorish influence. Yes, we did it, and it was magical!

Again, I want to share my travel experiences with you. I will group them together in about four blog posts, so off to Barcelona we go!

February 27, 2020

Lin and I woke before dawn at 2:30 a.m. Again, like the night before we flew to Costa Rica a month or so ago, I had trouble sleeping in anticipation of this big trip. We left the house at 3:15 a. m., drove to Jerry and Mary Beth Gilbreath’s, dropped off our vehicle and drove to the airport together.

Our flight left at 6:00 a. m. for Atlanta, GA.  In a way, this was a working vacation for me—I needed to finish the last two chapters in Marshall Flippo’s biography, so I took my iPad loaded with Scrivener and worked anytime I could, like on the flight to Atlanta.

We had a sizable layover there, so we grabbed a delicious meal then scooted off to a table in a coffee shop near our gate to play Cribbage with the ladies playing the gents, and the ladies skunked the guys!

While we were in Atlanta, I downloaded a novel about Spain, Winter in Madrid, by C. J. Sansom. Our tour director, Brad Dick, had suggested a list of three books, so I downloaded one and Lin did another.

Our flight to JFK passed uneventful, and I started my book about Spain and worked on my iPad. We had limited time at JFK but squeezed one game in, and the guys won. While we were waiting for our flight and while playing, Lin obsessed about pizza but didn’t get any.

Then we boarded the plane for Barcelona leaving at 5:37 p.m. We were delayed an hour but still arrived on time. They served a delicious dinner, and it was a bumpy ride. I worked again on my iPad then watched the movie, “Judy” and loved it. I did sleep a little.

February 28, 2020

Then the cabinet lights came on, and we lost six hours from New York City! How shocking! As we neared Barcelona and the Spanish coast, we photographed a beautiful sunrise. We moved through customs easily and got our Passports stamped and gathered our luggage. Lin and Jerry exchanged dollars into Euros, and we found the man from Insight Travels, our tour company, who take us to our hotel.

While driving I practiced my Spanish with him and did pretty well. When we arrived at the Meliã Hotel, our room wasn’t ready, so we questioned the desk clerk, and he gave us directions to a place to eat breakfast. As I listened to the clerk talk to someone, I realized he wasn’t speaking Spanish, so I asked him. He was speaking Catalan, a dialect of the region, Catalonia. As we traveled Barcelona, I noticed signs in both Spanish and Catalan.

Interestingly, we found out that Spaniards do not eat a breakfast like we do, so that narrowed down the choices. After a short walk, we did find a lovely place, El Fornet, and enjoyed a delicious breakfast and coffee. We rambled around the area and went back to the hotel–our rooms still weren’t ready, so we went to the bar and played more Cribbage. The guys won, so we were even then, and that ended our Cribbage game in Spain–we were way too busy!

Finally, our rooms were ready, so I unpacked and slept hard for several hours.

We were traveling with a group with many arriving at different times. So, early evening, we met downstairs and walked to El Patio restaurant for our first group dinner. Some in the group thought it was “the death march” because we were told it was just 10 minutes from the hotel–NOT! Lin and I feasted on scallops and clams and reconnected with a couple from Maine who used to live in Albuquerque. We walked back to the hotel afterwards, and I hit the bed exhausted and never turned over.

SUMMARY OF OUR TRIP

Sagrada Familia

We spent three nights in Barcelona because we elected to come in a day early and loved having that extra day. The highlights of Barcelona were a city tour, a drive to Montessarat (an 11th century Benedictine monastery with a black Madonna), the Sagrada Familia, the Barcelona Cathedral, a Roman Wall and the Royal Palace.

After that, our driving tour began, and we followed the sunny Costa Dorada and stopped at Peñiscola where El Cid was filmed. Then it was on to Valencia for the afternoon. I wasn’t feeling well, so I didn’t photograph the arts and science complex, but Lin and two friends did. That evening we enjoyed “paella.”

The next day we headed to Granada and visited the Alhambra, a 13th century Moorish citadel. The following morning, we did a walking tour of the Albaicin Quarter, “the oldest section of Granada, with its narrow-cobbled streets and cármenes (Moorish-style houses).” https://www.britannica.com/place/Albaicin

Flamenco Dancers Thrilled Me!

That afternoon we traveled to Seville and spent two nights. We visited the Alzacar and had two special dinners there: one sampling a variety of Spanish specialties with live music and the other while watching Flamenco dancers! Two memorable nights! The first night in Seville we had a carriage ride to our hotel with a stop at the Plaza America! The second one we saw the Flamenco dancers.

The next travel day we stopped in Córdoba and saw the Mosque/Cathedral, and then it was on to Madrid for two nights. The next day was jam-packed. We visited the Prado in the morning and then drove to Toledo and toured the city and cathedral there.

The weather was cool, but we lucked out with no rain. Our tour guide entertained and educated us with his knowledge and humor and made bus rides enjoyable. There were twelve from our group and a total of 39 in the tour. What an exceptional bunch to travel with. We had people from the USA, Canada and Singapore–couldn’t have been better!

Our wonderful Spanish trip ended the next day with a long travel day home, but I will savor the memories forever!

SEE YOU NEXT WEEK!

Next week, I will take you through our Barcelona adventures down narrow streets that looked like alleys and more! I will show off some of my great photos of amazing places–get ready! Barcelona is amazing! I want to go back!


~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me and my books: https://www.laradasbooks.com

~Whitey & Gladys Puerling were playful friends of Flippo’s who created a Fan Club. I thought it would be fun to recreate this group. Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read interesting posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/

~I HAVE 213 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE MARSHALL FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY!  You, too, can pre-order this amazing story? You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways!  https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

~Visit my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft for digital or paper copies of all my books: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft