26 November 2008

Is it gaudy or is it Gaudi?

We started off our first full day in Spain with breakfast in our hotel. Then we headed off to try to find the Museu Picasso. Theoretically within walking distance of our hotel, but through the labyrinth of the Barri Goti so not exactly easy to find.

Eventually, we made it there. Picasso was from this part of Spain so it seemed like a good way to start off the trip. Plus with our Barcelona card, it was half-price!

Leaving the museum and heading to the Metro, we made our first purchase in Spanish. Dos Aguas, por favor.

We navigated the Metro fairly easily and emerged at La Sagrada Familia, probably the most recognized landmark in all of Barcelona. The cathedral was begun in 1882. Gaudi took over the design in 1883 and worked on it until his death. He completed the Portal of the Nativity. The work on the cathedral is ongoing and they expect to finish it by 2026.

Part of how they pay for the building is by charging admission to the cathedral and also by charging to go up one of the towers in an elevator - "ascensor" en Espanol. So, we decided to give that a try. Now, Gentle Readers, most of you know that I have vertigo. I am not afraid of heights, but I am afraid of falling from them. I do not stand on chairs. I have trouble with steep stairs and escalators. But I have been to the top of some pretty tall buildings (including both World Trade Center towers btw). So I decided this couldn't be too bad.

And it was fine, until I had crossed over a little bity bridge to the other tower and had to walk down 10 meters around an opening that went 70 meters straight down. Oh yeah, that was it. I had to beg the lift operator to take me down. (He was pretty understanding in the end.)

After the dizzying depths, we descended to the basement which contains the museum of the cathedral. But our blood sugar was sinking as well so we headed off to the Michael Collins Irish Pub. Recommended by Barcelona Card, it was conveniently just across the square.

After our lunch of fish & chips (and a strange look when we asked for vinegar for same), we set off for Park Guell. We had a vague map in the Barcelona card book, but it wasn't on the city map we got from our hotel and I wasn't carrying my Lonely Planet. So we got off the metro and looked for a sign. We saw one and followed it to a very confusing intersection. And then we chose, unwisely.

We walked up the street whose name we could read on one of the maps and ended up climbing a huge flight of stairs only to end at a large mural depicting tourists being robbed. Hurriedly, we walked down the nearest street. As we approached a cross street, we saw large numbers of people walking up the hill, we followed them and then saw that we were on the right road. We referred to that journey as "The Stairs of Death" for the rest of the trip.

Park Guell is full of Gaudi's handiwork. The Sala Hipostila staircase has a very famous dragon. The house where he lived is also here and we visited that as well. That was where we encountered The Toucher. Seriously, some British woman who had to touch EVERYTHING in the museum, no matter how many signs were posted or how mortified her companions were.

After leaving the museum, we declared that we were "museumed out" for probably the rest of this trip and we found our way back to the Metro without getting lost or going down the Stairs Of Death.

Once back at our hotel, we had a short siesta and then asked the concierge to recommend a place for dinner. He sent us into the labyrinth to find Banys Nous on which was located a restaurant that he highly recommended. There seemed to be a bit too much pulpa on the menu so we decided to keep walking. We stumbled across Campostela and, though they had pulpa in the window, they had a lovely Menu del Noche so we went in.

We had ensalada mixta, gazpacho, steak (the saltiest steak I have ever eaten in my entire life), and helado. Throw in a bottle of tinto and a bottle of agua sin gas and we were very happy.

We strolled back to our hotel via Las Ramblas. Ready for a good night's sleep and our harbor adventure in the morning.

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