Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Barcelona! (part one)

I have wanted to visit Spain since I was a freshman in high school. My first day of Spanish, my zaney teacher taught us a song that I still remember to this day:

Yo soy de Cuba
Tu eres de Aruba
El, Ella, Usted es de Vancouver
Nosotros somos de Chile
Vosotros os de Milli Vanilli?
Ellos, Ellas, Ustedes son de...Really?

It makes absolutely NO sense, but nineteen years later, I still remember that stupid song! And I didn't realize how much of my Spanish I would remember until I was actually faced with the challenge of NEEDING it. Granted, I am sure I made lots of mistakes, but I am glad that I did have some knowledge of the language for our first holiday while living abroad. But more importantly, I am glad that we went to Barcelona and were able to hang out and visit with my wonderful cousin, Marie!

I have already written about my impressions of the air travel and public transportation for our trip, so I will try to limit those comments. My first impression of Spain, by the look of the airport in Barcelona was how modern it is. It looked so shiny and new, and was so filled with shops and cafes that I felt like I was in a mall. Our first communication challenge came when we wanted to get some cash from the ATM. There was an icon to get instructions in English, but it still asked a strange question that made David cancel his request and wait in line at the currency exchange instead.

It was dark when we landed, so we didn't get to see much of the city that night. After arriving at the hotel we settled in for the night and all got a much needed rest after our day of traveling. On Sunday morning, Marie met us at our hotel and we went to the cafe on the corner to get our bearings and figure out what we wanted to do with our week. Goodbye English tea, hello Cafe con leche! I was hooked!! And the enseimada (pastry) Marie suggested was DELISH!

The view of Carrer Paris from our hotel room
We set off and walked through town. Our hotel was on Carrer de Paris, which was just a block or two from Avinguda Diagonal, which cuts through the city at a diagonal (imagine that) and stretches for over six miles. We set off in that direction and then turned down Passeig de Gracia. It was so cool to walk down the street and just SEE. To see the shops and buildings and architecture, the cyclists and motorcycles and cars, and the people. I love to people watch, and for some reason ever since I moved to England, I always look at people's shoes. I think it is because we walk so much more here. And I am always amazed at the shoes women are wearing while doing all that walking. I've never really been a "shoe girl" and I'm still not because I would rather spend money elsewhere. I just like to look at them in awe!!

Along Passeig de Gracia we came to several of Antoni Gaudi's amazing buildings. Gaudi was a Catalan architect whose famous works are scattered throughout the city. First we came to Casa Mila, or La Pedrera. This first day we just looked at the beauty of the building, but on our last day in the city I went in to take the tour. It was amazing!

A little further down the street was Casa Batllo. These buildings are so crazy and beautiful and modern; it's nuts to me to think that Gaudi designed these buildings when he did (he died in 1926).
The bright sun, bad angle and my mediocre camera just cannot show the true beauty of these buildings!!

We continued on while Darian napped and took a few turns to head in a different direction in order to get to La Sagrada Familia.  We only saw the outside of this massive architectural wonder, and now I wish I had gone back while the kids napped one day and gone inside.  The church began construction in the 1880s and at the time of Gaudi's death in 1926, the project was only 1/4 complete.  It was a slow process, as the funding was based on private donations.  I believe they are hoping to have it completed in 2026, the centennial anniversary of Gaudi's death.  Again, my pictures do not do it justice!!

There was a small playground right where we took this picture, so we let the kids run around and play for a while to let out that pent up stroller-induced energy.  Then we headed towards the metro to try out what the city had to offer for public transportation.  Most stations (at least all of the major ones) have elevators to help you get to the underground, so with the stroller, that was AWESOME.  We got on at La Sagrada Familia and headed towards Universitat so that Marie could show us where her school building was.
From there we were going to walk to La Rambla, a street lined with trees, shops, restaurants and plenty of people watching.
But when we emerged from the metro the sky opened up and it started absolutely POURING.
We got drenched and took cover, along with dozens of other people taken by surprise on the streets, under the very minimal awning of the nearest building. (Darian commandeered the only umbrella we had!)
The rain had stopped by the time we walked back to the hotel.  Marie left us to nap (which we ALL did!) and get cleaned up.  We tried out the metro again that night without our tour guide and made it successfully to Marie's apartment.  She lives in a nice neighborhood, in a modern, updated apartment.  I am so excited for her!!!

Marie's roommates suggested a nice restaurant for us all to go to that night.  Marie had mentioned that restaurants were easy, because all you had to do was read the menu.  She also told us that if people can tell you speak English, they will speak to you in English, give you English menus, etc.  This does pose a bit of a problem for a student like Marie, living in Barcelona to try and become fluent in the language.  All in all, we had a great dinner and end to a great day, especially when the waiter gave Marie and I roses on our way out!

More about Spain to come!!
If you would like to see more pictures of this awesome day, go to my online album!


No comments: