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Break Out the Shorts

26 Degrees - NICE!

sunny 26 °C

Sometimes getting to the airport can be a snap or a bit of a challenge…and even more of a challenge when a train strike commences on the morning of your departure. This is another reason to always give yourself plenty of time to journey your way to the airport. This morning we left our apartment en route for Charles de Gaulle Airport for our flight to Barcelona. Who knows what we have in store upon arrival in Barcelona due to the Catalonia protests taking over the streets in and around the city. The airport was a location of the main protests earlier in the week cancelling many flights. We were lucky – our flight left on time. All part of the adventure! Haha. It may make for some interesting blog entries. A.J. was not worried – he figured he did not have to outrun any protestors…just had to outrun ME! haha.

Our flight through British Airways operated by Vueling Airlines (never flown this airline before) left with a short delay. We were able to get emergency exit row seats for a small fee upon check in – but sooooo worth it! Extra leg room and priority boarding. Flight time to Barcelona was 1 hour 30 minutes. We caught the Aerobus to the city centre to Plaza de Catalunya for 6 Euros. From there it was a short walk to our apartment – thank you Google maps! No protestors – no nothing – all good – so far – fingers crossed!

After checking into our amazing apartment we set out to explore this vibrant city. First stop….more gelato! We continued to the port and then up Las Rambla where we enjoyed a great dinner a huge ass pail of sangria. This city has such a great vibe – despite any crap from protestors – we haven’t seen anything out of the ordinary!

A quick walk from Plaza de Catalunya up to Casa Batllo for some amazing Gaudi architecture. This was definitely a must see in this city... we will hopefully see more in the next few days while we are here!

We found a grocery store to stock up on supplies – rum, coke, snacks, ice, milk and of course a jug of sangria – the staples on any travelling journey! We ended the evening with a quick dip in our roof top pool - not heated....so it was perfect for any good Canadian! We took the plunge! haha.

Step count: 16 825…after all it was a travel day!

Posted by moorsey88 13:26 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Sundays in Spain are for Sipping Sangria

First Full Day in Barcelona

sunny 26 °C

We started off the day by joining a free walking tour leaving from Plaza Catalunya @ 10:00 a.m. for the Gothic Quarter (the oldest part of Barcelona). I have taken many of these types of tours all over the world and at the end of the tour, you decide how much it was worth. Keep in mind, if you do not show your appreciation toward the guide with a gratuity, they do not get paid. Our tour last 2 ½ hours and Franco, our guide (originally from Chile), was very energetic and enthusiastic about his city – he made the tour lots of fun! There was an opportunity for a break at a local bar where it seemed very appropriate to get some sangria (only 5 Euros) – and then I was able to put it in a take away cup when the break was over! Who doesn’t love a *traveller*? Haha.

The tour provided a fantastic historical recount of some of the major events in Spanish history - even how the 1992 Summer Olympics were a pivotal factor in the revitalization of this city. There was never a true beach in this city. Prior to the Olympics, they figured they would make a beach. Where would they find that much sand? Egypt. They actually brought in the desert sand - and presto - a beach was born!

Another funny observation I made during the tour about the participants. We were all asked to introduce ourselves and tell everyone where we were from. So here goes….Canada, South Africa, Poland, Germany, Russia, Malaysia, Israel, India…and Detroit. Why??? Americans always do this! It made me laugh.

People have been asking me how safe we are due to the political protests. Police everywhere. I feel very safe. No protests. No bombing. No violence. Does not mean it is not happening – the shenanigans may be happening at night. This morning we noticed a few stores that had broken windows. We have not seen any disturbances and have not been subject to any delays. Guess we are lucky. Earlier last week might have been a different story.

After our walking tour, we headed to Park Güell via use of the city’s metro network. We purchased a 10-ride ticket for 10 Euros (good deal). Park Güell is a public park system composed of gardens and interesting and unique architectural elements. It was here that architect Antoni Gaudí turned his hand to landscape gardening. It is a strange, enchanting place where his passion for natural forms really took flight and the artificial almost seems more natural than the natural. The city of Barcelona is full of Gaudi designed buildings. The design of the buildings are a little *odd* - may not be for everyone.

We stopped at a quaint little restaurant for lunch – tapas and sangria. I think our sangria count is up to 3…and that does not include the jug we bought yesterday that we have chill’n in the fridge! Haha.

Our day did not stop there. Off to the famous Sagrada Familia – the church they have been building for over 100 years. This is another Gaudi design. It is slated to be completed by 2026 – that is the goal. It was very fancy – to say the least. I even noticed a huge difference from when I was here in 2005. I will have to compare my photos when I get home. Just do not call the church *Sangria* Familia…they do not like that! Haha.

Montjuic Castle was the next stop in today’s fun-filled itinerary. Montjuic Castle is an old military fortress, that stands 173 metres above the port, with roots dating back from 1640. It was perched up on a hill for strategic purposes and we used the funicular and gondola to get there. The funicular was included in our metro journey ticket, but we paid an extra 8 Euros for the one-way ride up. The view was pretty amazing. We arrived to the top just in time for sunset. We lucked out…Sunday admission was FREE.

Back to the apartment. Time to break open that jug of sangria! Buenas noches.

Step count: 23 147

Posted by moorsey88 12:25 Archived in Spain Comments (2)

A Great Way to See Barcelona

The Rain has Stayed Away...For Now

overcast 18 °C

We started out our day with a quick breakfast in the apartment and then headed out to another interesting Gaudi building – Casa Mila. You can go inside for 22 Euros which seems a little steep – the exterior was way more unique. Our journey continued up the Passeig de Gracia – which contained many high end shops like Hermes, Gucci, Prada, Rolex, Versace, Cartier, Chanel…you name it…I can not afford it! Haha.

A quick little thought of home as we passed a Tim Horton’s. True story. The prices were pretty much the same but the hot chocolate was quite a bit more.

The walking continued until we got to the Arc de Triomf – yes, there is one here too. In 1888 Barcelona hosted the Universal Exhibition. The Arc de Triomf was built as the gateway to the fair which was held in the Parc de la Ciutadella. The monument is classical in shape and proportions and features ground-breaking sculptural and decorative finishes replete with symbolism. It has become one of the city's iconic landmarks.

We knew there was something we wanted to do as soon as we got there…once we rounded the corner – boom! There they were…Scooters! We felt the need…the need for speed! Or at least 22 km/h of speed. These battery operated scooters were all over Paris and are in Barcelona too. The rental fee was only 15 Euros for 90 minutes – even from the first 2 minutes down one side of the park - it was super fun! I could have returned the scooter right then and been satisfied. But we wheeled on and saw soooo many places we likely would have not seen on foot. We rode mostly on marked bike paths or wide esplanades and the occasional sidewalk. We didn’t hit anyone nor did we fall off – so…win-win!

Ever drive a Ferrari? Well after today, A.J. can say he has. I was the on-board videographer with my knees folded up to my chin as I sat in the back seat as the instructor was riding shotgun. I did get some good pics during the 20 minute drive thru the streets on Barcelona near the beach. Even though there was a bit of traffic, we could still *open ‘er up* and feel the power. Very cool. Oh yeah….and the roof was down.

We hopped on the metro and headed to Plaza de Espana. Plaza España is one of the most important places in Barcelona. Gateway to the Magic Fountain of Montjuic. Unfortunately, as with our bad luck with fountains, we missed this spectacle. But this is what it would have looked like if we had been here on different days.

We took the elevator (1 Euro – so worth it) up to the lookout point of the Arenas de Barcelona which was a former bullring until 1977 and left to oblivion. The Arenas de Barcelona was then turned into a modern shopping centre (opened in 2011), while retaining the original facade on the outside. The views from the terrace were pretty cool.

Time for dinner. We had scouted out a place to eat earlier in the day to try another Spanish specialty – paella. I had always thought it was made strictly with seafood…but no…I had chicken and chorizo in mine and it was really yummy! It was a good thing we walked back to the apartment after dinner.

Today’s excursions left us each wanting to purchase the vehicle we drove around today. I am thinking I will own a scooter before A.J. gets a Ferrari. Haha!

Step count: 27 571

Posted by moorsey88 13:43 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

It Can’t Rain All Day…Can it?

Last Full Day in Barcelona

rain 19 °C

So we woke to rain this morning, but by the time we left the apartment to head out for the day, the rain has stopped. Awesome! Our first stop was the famous Sagrada Familia – the church that they are still building. Regardless of what faith you believe in, this building is more than that. It truly is a piece of art that began construction back in 1882 by Gaudi.

Antoni Gaudi dedicated 43 years of his life to this project, including the last 12 years of his life as his sole purpose. He left specific drawings and instructions, as he knew he would not see the completion in his lifetime. He died in 1926. He had requested to be buried inside the Basilica. His wish was granted. Completion of the church is expected in 2026 – the 100th anniversary of his death. Many other sculptors, architects and artists have continued to honour Gaudi’s work over the years.

We had purchased our timed entry tickets a couple days before online to ensure we were going to be able to see it. This is really the best way to guarantee your entrance because tickets could be sold out for the day if you just *show up*. The cost was 25 Euros – a little steep but it was Gaudi’s greatest accomplishment and vision – truly a must see.

After we were done checking out Gaudi’s masterpiece, we headed out for our day trip out of the city – Montserrat. Just make sure you get on the right subway line, going in the correct direction to save some time. Metro ride to Plaza Espana to catch the regional train to Montserrat which took just over an hour. We purchased our tickets at the train station – all modes of transport included for 32 Euros.

We connected with the Rack Railway once to Montserrat for an additional 20 minutes up the mountain. This railway is designed to climb steep hills and has a maximum speed of 45 km/h. Half the experience of today’s excursion was the journey just to get there!

When we arrived we were able to appreciate the views and get some great pictures despite being cloudy. We dipped into a café for a hot chocolate – which was perfect timing because it had started to downpour. Once the rain had stopped, we thought taking the Sant Joan Funicular to the Sant Loan lookout would be a good idea… However, going another 1000 metres up into the mountains meant we were entering another microclimate – bring on the fog and more rain – resulting in zero visibility. Oh well, you can’t control the weather.

Once we descended back down the mountain, it was much clearer and no more rain. We were able to walk around the area and appreciate the panoramic vistas before heading back to the Rack Railway and connecting to the train for Barcelona.

We needed to get back to the city on time for our evening’s festivities – Flamenco! We received a discount on our ticket from participating in the walking tour the other day. The cost was only 15 Euros and that even included a glass of sangria! Flamenco clearly tells a story but hard to understand when the singing is in Spanish. The dancing was *foot stomping* good. It seemed like a great cultural thing to do on our last night in Barcelona.

We actually witnessed our first little bit of shenanigans – a pile of garbage was set ablaze on the street. It was a small fire and the police nearby were on top of it. We didn’t stick around.

We walked along La Rambla – had dinner (more tapas and paella) and perhaps even a little souvenir shopping…all for a good price of course. That’s how I roll.

Time to pack and get organized for the journey home. Adios.

Posted by moorsey88 14:44 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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