Barcelona - trip report december 2012

Old Dec 26th, 2012, 01:05 AM
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Barcelona - trip report december 2012

I had booked a very short trip to Barcelona, flying with Norwegian from Landvetter Airport in Göteborg on Monday and returning on Friday. That gave me three full days in Barcelona. Since I asked some questions here before the trip I thought I should do a trip report, too.

Monday December 17

Arrived in Barcelona a few minutes early. Long and slightly confusing walk to luggage claim area. I thought it was badly signposted. The luggage was supposed to arrive on carousel 25 according to the info screen, but after a long wait it arrived on carousel 26. Sigh.

No passport control. Ok. Must be because we were going from one Schengen country to another.

Asked at an info desk how to find the Aerobus. Walk outside, turn left and walk ca 150 meters. Easy. And there was a bus waiting there. Bought a return ticket and paid in cash. The bus was almost full.

I’d read somewhere that there were two stops between the airport and Placa Catalunya, but there were a lot more. My map printouts were in the locked bag and they weren't very good anyway. Found an info kiosk and asked for help, the nice man gave me a free map and drew a line to show how I should walk.

Walked down La Rambla. It was very nice weather. Not quite summer weather, but certainly too warm for what I was wearing. Found the Liceu theatre. The hotel, Hostal Operaramblas, is on a small side street right before the theatre when walking from Placa Catalunya.

Checked in and was told that the remaining cost (first night was prepaid) must be paid on the night before I leave. I got a room on the fourth floor. The receptionist told me there is a lift, but one must walk up a short set of stairs to get to it. In other words, people in wheelchairs should not stay in this place. Actually found out later this was not true and the lift does go all the way down to the ground floor. Probably a misunderstanding caused by the fact we were both using English as a second language.

The room is nice, a bit old maybe, but it is clean. Very small, of course, but I don't need that much space. There is a bed, a small bedside table, another small table, a chair and a wardrobe. Plain, but better than expected for the price. It's ensuite and only costs 39 Euro/night. They clean the room daily, but only change towels every second day and sheets every fourth day to save on the environment. Ok. I certainly don’t change sheets or towels every day at home, so that’s fine.

Left my large bag, emptied most things out of my small bag and used the toilet. Left my winter leather jacket in the room and walked out again. Had to leave the key at the reception, but I had a small card with my room number on it.

Decided to walk around La Rambla. It's a long pedestrian street with lots of small stalls and shops and info kiosks. I'd heard there is supposed to be living statues there, but I didn't notice any. Maybe because it was a Monday afternoon. Followed some side streets that looked interesting. Found Palau Guell, but no place to buy a ticket. Found a Servi Caixa terminal where I could get my prepaid ticket for Sagrada Familia, but the machine refused to let me buy any other tickets. Gave up and took another side street. Found Placa Reial.

After some more walking I found Placa St Jaume and Palau de la Generalitat. They had some large round ballshaped things with miniature religious Christmas scenes in them. Very pretty, but I’m not that religious. Somehow I missed the Cathedral. Returning to La Rambla I continued back to Placa Catalunya. Then the light was getting too bad for good photos of the statues. It wasn't dark, yet, but it was best to start on the way back.

I took a quick sidetrip into the metro at Placa Catalunya and bought a T10 metro ticket.

Bought some postcards and stamps for Europe. The stamps cost 0,70 Euro each. Walked into La Boqueria to look around. At least half the stalls were closed, but there were still a lot of things to see. I bought a fruit juice, pineapple/cocos, for 1 Euro that tasted very good. Bought some deep fried fish thingies that looked like thick fish sticks. They were ok, too little taste to be honest, but at least they didn't taste bad.

Ate the fish sticks while I walked back towards the hotel. Went back up to the room.

After about an hour I came to the conclusion that the walls are too thin. It's slightly irritating.

Took the elevator down to the ground floor. There is a room there with one large table, lots of small tables and chairs. There is also free WiFi on that floor, but not on the fourth floor. Some other people were sitting there and had food and drinks, so I guess I can do that tomorrow night instead of eating while walking around. There are two vending machines, one with snacks and one with water/soda.
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Old Dec 26th, 2012, 01:06 AM
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Tuesday December 18

Left the jacket in the room. This may not have been a good idea, because it was a bit colder today.
Took the metro from Liceu to Diagonal. The metro wasn't very full. Walked down Passeig de Gracia to La Pedrera. Actually walked the wrong way first, but found someone to point the right way. Was a little early, but went into the souvenir shop and bought a few things. Then decided to try to get in, even if it was 15 min left until my booked time at ten. It turns out that the entry is at the side of the building. Had to exchange my printout for a real ticket. Then there was an x-ray machine for bags. They have luggage storage lockers, but it's after the x-ray.

There is a lift going up to the roof. I walked around up there and looked at the oddly shaped statues. Then there were a other things to see inside in the attic. There were some pretty models of buildings etc. Then I took the lift back down and left, having to go through the shop again. There weren't many people and I was alone in the lift both times.

Walked down Passeig de Gracia to Casa Battlo. It’s on the other side of a busy street, of course. The code on my ticket printout was scanned and I was allowed inside. No bag x-ray. Couldn’t see any luggage storage lockers, either. An audio guide is included in the ticket. There are stairs to get up to the top. I think there is an elevator, too, but it seems to be only for people in wheelchairs etc.

The audio guide babbles a lot, but it gives some useful info that explains the way Gaudi planned the building. It’s quite fascinating, actually. Left Casa Battlo right on time to miss the big crowd of what looked like two school classes lined up outside.

Took the metro from Passeig de Gracia, right outside Casa Battlo, to Paral-lel to take the funicular and cable car up to Montjuic castle. It's clearly signposted. Do NOT leave through the metro turnstiles. The funicular is part of the same ticket system and it would be stupid to pay for an extra trip. There isn't anything to see on the funicular trip. There weren't many people on it, either.

The cablecar ticket office is "upstairs". Cost 9,80 Euro for return trip. There is a lot more to see on that ride. Really nice views, but the windows aren't entirely clean. The cable cars are a little shaky, but they are entirely enclosed and I felt safe enough. I think there is room for six or eight, but I was alone. Lots of cablecars were empty, too.

It turns out that there is no entry fee to the castle. Not much to see, either. Bought a sandwich, water and chips for lunch. Sat outside in the sun.

Walked around some more. I thought it was badly signposted for the way out, but I guess you can't expect everything to be perfect if it's free. Took the cablecar and funicular back down. Took the metro to Liceu and walked back to my room.

Left to go to the evening's entertainment. Took the jacket, in case it would get colder at night. Bought a memory card for the camera in a small shop on the same side street as the hotel.

I am an idiot. I am an idiot. I am an idiot. Okay. Enough of that. But, it’s true. I forgot to charge the battery in the camera. Idiot. What's the use of getting a new memory card when the battery is dead? Well, it didn’t actually die until much later that evening, but it was too early.

Took the metro to Placa Espanya. Walked around like a confused idiot tourist, searching for the right bus stop to get to Poble Espanyol. According to the website it was bus 13, 50 or 61. After asking a few bus drivers I found the stop for bus 50 but that driver said it was bus 150 instead. Ok. Finally found that one, too. Took the bus to the stop right outside Poble Espanyol, well, it's on the other side of the street, but... Saw the Tourist Bus stop at the same place. Ok. Also realized I probably could have walked from Placa Espanya, but my legs were aching from all the previous walking around.

I was over an hour earlier than the free entry included in the Flamenco show, but I didn't feel like standing around outside. Paid the 11 Euro to get in. Asked the info desk where the restaurant was. Walked around, looking at the buildings and shops. There are lots of pretty buildings and I took lots of pictures. Then the camera started complaining about a bad battery. Sigh.
Poble Espanyol is really a tourist trap, of course. Every building is a shop or restaurant. No, there is a museum, too and I think I saw some public toilets, but it looked like every other building is selling something. I’m not saying it’s bad. There’s some very nice art and craft things. But, if you aren’t interested in shopping you could go through the entire place in an hour.

The restaurant opened at 18.45 and there was a long line of people outside. Got a small table up on a balcony. My ticket was for tapas and the flamenco show. A large water bottle was included, so I did not need to buy any additional drinks. At first I got three small tapas plates. Four small pieces of bread, some hard cheese cubes and Iberican ham and sausage slices. Then I got two more, one with champignons and one with fried potatoes under a sauce. I liked everything except the sauce. Then, much later, I got something that may have been calamari/squid or possibly only some fish. The server asked if I wanted something that sounded like chocolate with cream, I think, but I really couldn't eat any more.

The show started. I managed to film maybe half of it with my phone, but the battery wasn't exactly good on that either. Idiot. The music was good, the dancing was mostly good, the sound level got a bit high. I'm sure there are better shows, but this was good enough for me. Well worth the price. Actually, the food was worth at least half the price, I think.

There were only three toilets for women. A bit irritating and a long line after the show. Probably could have gone to the public toilets instead, but I wasn’t going to search for them in the dark.

Took a quick look at the bus stop, but I couldn't see any bus that went directly to Las Ramblas and did not feel like walking around Placa Espanya in the dark. Took a taxi instead to Liceu. The trip was quick and the meter stopped at 7.80. Gave the driver 10 Euro, telling him to keep the change as a tip.
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Old Dec 26th, 2012, 01:07 AM
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Wednesday December 19

Needed to get to Sagrada Familia before 9.30, preferably before 9.00. Decided to take my jacket because my nose was telling me I was getting a cold.

Took the metro from Liceu to Passeig de Gracia, changed lines and continued to Sagrada Familia. Got there ca twenty minutes before they opened. Of course the entry is on a different side from the metro station. Two different lines, for pre-bought tickets and people buying at the entry. Looked about equally long with, less than ten people in line before me.

Got an audio guide, but it was babbling too much. Walked around inside while waiting for the time on my ticket to the tower. Finally went up in the elevator at 9.30. Not much to see up there. A small set of really narrow stairs to climb up, then back down to the lift. Nice views of Barcelona, but one should probably have better eyesight or binoculars to really appreciate it. Then one could chose to walk all the way down or take the elevator back. The stairs were narrow and there didn't seem like there would be anything else worth seeing. So I took the elevator. Much better for my feet.

Left Sagrada Familia shortly after ten, I think. Took the metro back to Passeig de Gracia. Changed lines and continued to Valcarca, looking for Park Guell. That was a mistake. Or maybe I just walked the wrong way. It certainly took an eternity to get to Park Guell. Fortunately, there were plenty of benches and chairs to sit and rest at intervals.

Finally reached Park Guell and realized there would be more walking inside. Sigh. At least the entry was free. Walked around a little, bought some souvenirs and decided I'd had enough. I know there were lots that I missed, but my legs hurt. And there was a lot of big machinery doing some major works in the park.

Decided to go back via the Lesseps metro station instead. That may not have been much better. I wonder how close the tourist bus gets. I saw two living statues on the way. The first and only ones I saw on the entire trip, actually.

Took the metro to Placa Espanya to look at the things I didn't have time for yesterday. Found the MNAC. Decided not to go inside, partly because of the cost and partly because I didn't really want to walk around a boring museum. But, since I'd gone all the way up to the entry I decided to get lunch there from the outside food stall.

Took the metro back to Placa Catalunya. Walked back to the room. Went into the Boqueria and bought some totally unneeded nuts and candy and olive oil. Left my purchases in my room, set my camera to recharge and went down to use the Internet.

Went back out. Wanted to find the Cathedral and maybe the Picasso Museum. After lots of confused walking I found the Cathedral. There were at least twice that I thought I'd found it but realized I was wrong when I got closer. There was a big Christmas themed market outside the cathedral. Lots of stalls. Managed to escape without buying anything.

Found a much quicker and simpler way back to Las Ramblas. Felt really stupid when I realized there was a sign showing which side street went to the cathedral. Ok. I got to see some old Roman walls while searching and I probably would have missed those if I'd taken the quicker route.

Went into La Boqueria to buy some things for dinner. Bread, olives etc. Decided to sit in the common room area on the ground floor, since I'd seen others using it as a dining room earlier evenings.
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Old Dec 26th, 2012, 01:08 AM
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Thursday December 20

Woke up an hour early because someone in another room was making lots of noise. Sigh. Well, maybe I woke up someone else one of the previous days.

Asked at the hotel reception about tickets for the tourist Hop-On-Hop-Off bus and got a voucher for 3 Euros, with an actual value of 4 Euros. Walked to Placa Catalunya. Got there a bit early and took a walk around the square while waiting for the clock to turn nine. There are two different bus companies doing slightly different routes. I have no idea which is better, since I only did one of them. Yes, I know they are a tourist trap and not really worth the money, but they do give a nice view from the upper deck.

Got on a red route bus and paid the additional 20 Euros. Sat upstairs for an entire round trip. Realized rather quickly that I really should have brought something to cover my head. Fortunately the jumper has a long throat that can be stretched out quite far. Not sure if it's supposed to be used that way, but it sort of worked, although it kept gliding down if I wasn't holding it up. I'll have to remember to thank my brother and his wife, since it was this jumper I got from them last Christmas.

Got back to Placa Catalunya and jumped on the blue route bus for a complete round trip on that, too. Became rather irritated when the battery in my camera died before the bus tour was over. I did take a few photos with the phone, but it's much lower quality.

Back at Placa Catalunya again I walked around a little and took a quick look at some shops. There were some stalls with craftwork and some stalls with antiquities. I hadn’t seen those on previous days. Not sure if it’s a Thursday thing or an almost-Christmas thing.

Walked back to the hotel. Bought some food in the Boqueria. Set my camera to recharge and went down to eat in the common area.

Picked up the camera again and went back to Placa Catalunya. Took the red bus again and jumped off at the port area. I was thinking of going on the cable car, but I couldn't find a ticket office and the stairway up seemed to be blocked. I guess I was too late in the afternoon. Walked past the Columbus monument, actually walked around it looking for a way in because there was supposed to be an elevator inside it, but the only door was a closed shop door. Ok. Continued walking to the next stop for the HOHO bus, a few meters away. Jumped on the next bus and continued back to Placa Catalunya.

Looked in a few small shops, desperately searching for last-minute Christmas gifts.

Bought dinner in a small shop on the same street as the hotel. A small package of sliced Iberican ham, a small package of sliced cheese and a bag of chips, total cost 4 Euro.

Back at the hotel I paid the final bill. Then I ate dinner and used the Internet.
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Old Dec 26th, 2012, 01:20 AM
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Friday December 21

Finished packing. Managed to force everything into my bags and actually had a tiny bit of space left.

Took a quick walk down Las Ramblas towards the port area. Realized that the distance wasn’t that far. Found the Columbus monument again, but it still looked closed. Walked back to the hotel. A lot of the small stalls were closed or only starting to set up.

This has been a nice trip. Not sure how long it will be until I can get back to Spain. Maybe in 2015. It' s Amsterdam and Paris in 2013 and I have something I really want to get to in London in 2014. But maybe I could do another very short winter trip in between.

Checked out. Walked to Placa Catalunya, dragging my large bag behind me. Took the Aerobus, A2 ,to Terminal 2. Got there much too early, of course.

After the check-in desk finally opened it went quickly and I got through the security control. And then I had to wait another eternity for the gate info to show up. I couldn’t get the airport’s free WiFi to work on my mobile phone and it looked like it was impossible to find any chairs that weren’t attached to a specific gate. I think it’s the airport’s way to make people so bored they will go into the shops and buy things.

The plane was late. Not by much, but the boarding started late and we lifted off late. That meant a late landing, too. Fortunately, I’d planned for possible delays when I booked my train ticket home.

In conclusion I will say that Barcelona was a nice place to visit, well worth the trip. I may return in a few years (but I’ve said that about Orkney and Ireland, too, and there are so many places I haven’t seen yet, so it may take a lot of years) and maybe even go into a museum next time.

I had no problems with pickpockets, but I did take precautions. My passport and VISA cards were in a neck pouch under my clothes and most of my money was in a moneybelt, also under my clothes. I kept some coins and smaller bills (five or ten Euro) in outside pockets so I wouldn’t have to reach for the moneybelt when making small purchases. My small messenger-style bag was kept in front of me all the time and I didn’t usually have more than the day’s purchases and entry tickets in it anyway. I did look like a tourist, of course, with a camera in one hand and a map in the other.

I did not see any living statues on Las Ramblas, only on sidestreets close to Park Guell. I did see a lot of police walking around Las Ramblas, maybe they have scared away the statues.

The weather was wonderful. Between nine and sixteen degrees Celsius. A little windy, sometimes, but no rain. That meant I could walk around a lot and actually sit on the upper deck of the tourist bus.

I am the sort of person who gets bored with a museum after an hour. I like walking around on my own, sometimes for hours, but don’t usually want any more difficult activities. I dislike shopping for expensive things, but can easily buy lots of small, cheap trinkets just because they looked cute. I like good food, but I hate sitting down in a nice restaurant. I do a lot of touristy stuff, even if I know they are too hyped up to be worth the cost. As long as the room is clean and safe I am satisfied and would rather take a longer trip than pay for a better hotel.

Next trip will be Amsterdam and Paris at the end of June, beginning of July 2013.
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Old Dec 26th, 2012, 08:17 AM
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Lovely report - thanks for all the detail. Glad it was a good trip.
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Old Dec 26th, 2012, 01:19 PM
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Sounds good - thanks for posting. I also remember walking, walking, walking in Barcelona!
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Old Mar 25th, 2013, 03:32 AM
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Thanks for all your info - very useful in planning my forthcoming trip. Your travel style sounds very much like my own - I could totally identify
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Old Mar 25th, 2013, 04:04 AM
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Thanks for your report and glad to hear that

nobody picked your pocket

nobody murdered you on La Ramblas (oh, believe me, that street is the place of death on this board)

La Ramblas wasn't "too touristy" and that you enjoyed the wonderful city of Barcelona.

Did those living ststues ever finally appear BTW?
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Old Mar 25th, 2013, 06:32 AM
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Enjoyable TR. What a great hotel price but sorry about the noise. DH and I had not pickpocket problems either but he also had a money belt. I wore my photo bag under my coat so looked very lop-sided. Maybe the "bad boys" figured I had enough troubles.
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